Thu. May 30th, 2024

There is something particularly pleasurable about the thought of editing a double (or simply long) album down to a single album. Among all the online debate about what is the perfect album length, and the fact that we can stream and build any kind of playlist we like, it shouldn’t really matter. I guess we do it because, as I’ve written elsewhere, we strive for perfection, and a double or long album, no matter how good it is, somehow needs shrinking. We abhor the bloat. I have played this game many times. And I’m sure you have too. So let’s give it a go with some choice double albums of the past (we are definitely talking vinyl here!). But before we start, there must be rules, and I’m going to make them. Disagree with me if you will, but this is my game, my house and we play by the house rules.

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The Single Beatles White Album

The obvious first choice. Ever since it was released people have argued about whether it should have been a single album or a double. Even George Martin said in the Anthology documentary that he’d have preferred it was a single. Me, I like every song (except Revolution #9, but is that a song anyway?), but I have my favourites. The rules I insist on for this outing are these: 14 songs allowed. 6 must be written by Paul, 6 must be written by John. The other two must be George or Ringo songs. And (wild card) Ringo must sing on one song! Here is my selection:

  • Back In the USSR
  • Dear Prudence
  • Bungalow Bill
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  • Happiness Is a Warm Gun
  • Martha My Dear
  • Blackbird
  • Piggies
  • Rocky Raccoon
  • Julia
  • Helter Skelter
  • Mother Nature’s Son
  • I’m So Tired
  • Goodnight

Then of course you can go The Shitty Beatles White Album, which is everything you just took out. Which, surprisingly, still sounds pretty good.

Extra note: I own one of the original vinyl pressings of the White Album. It is number A57783.

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Exile Edit, The Rolling Stones

Exile On Mainstreet is considered by many to be the best Rolling Stones album. I won’t argue with that, though I prefer Sticky Fingers. I think there is some bloat here, but not much. I’m not really a fan of Tumblin’ Dice, either, though I’m including it. I actually prefer the live version on the extras disc of Hackney Diamonds. I’m weird, but you knew that. The thing I would say about the full double version of Exile is it’s very cohesive, it feels right the way it is. Isolating certain tracks the way I do here breaks the flow a bit, but I’m damn well doing it anyhow. My rules for the single version of this album is that there must be 12 tracks. Wild card: all the songs from side four must remain intact. Here’s my version:

  • Rocks Off
  • Tumblin’ Dice
  • Sweet Virginia
  • Torn and Frayed
  • Sweet Black Angel
  • Loving Cup
  • Happy
  • Let It Loose
  • All Down the Line
  • Stop Breaking Down
  • Shine A Light
  • Soul Survivor

Why all songs from side four, you ask? Because it’s perfect!

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Single River, Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen’s The River seems to have had a troubled birth. There were so many different ways it could have turned out. It was going to be a single album called The Ties That Bind at first. I made this playlist a few years ago after I listened to the album when I bought it on CD. Not sure what I was thinking. There’s no Out In the Streets, no Wreck On the Highway, no Stolen Car. I just thought it was right to finish it with Drive All Night. It was a song I’d previously thought was too long and overwrought, but listening to it again, I realised how good it was. ‘Heart and soul… ‘ I think I just had a strong sense that these were the best songs, even though not all my favourites were among them. I don’t have many rules for this one. 11 tracks. Must have The River and Drive All Night.

  • The Ties That Bind
  • Sherry Darling
  • Two Hearts
  • Independence Day
  • Hungry Heart
  • The River
  • Point Blank
  • Cadillac Ranch
  • Fade Away
  • Ramrod
  • Drive All Night

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Single Sandinista, The Clash

By single, I really mean single CD with this one. The original Clash album was a triple LP. That’s too many songs, even for a band as prolific and at the height of their powers as they were at this point. There is some bloat, but not much, which is why I can’t get it down to a single LP. Like London Calling before it, it’s a brilliant double album. I actually like it more than LC. One of my great concert regrets is I never saw the Clash when they came to Melbourne to perform at Festival Hall on their Sandinista tour. My mate Ken did see them, the bugger, and he said when they came on, the entire crowd stood up out of their chairs. And stayed there. My one rule for this one is just 20 tracks, no more, no less.

  • The Magnificent Seven
  • Hitsville UK
  • Junco Partner
  • Rebel Waltz
  • Crooked Beat
  • Somebody Got Murdered
  • One More Time
  • Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)
  • Corner Soul
  • The Sound of the Sinners
  • Police On My Back
  • Midnight Log
  • The Call Up
  • Washington Bullets
  • Lose This Skin
  • Charlie Don’t Surf
  • The Street Parade
  • Version City
  • Silicone On Sapphire
  • If Music Could Talk

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Single Tusk, Fleetwood Mac

A lot of people were disappointed with Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, coming as it did after the phenomenal Rumours album. And it is pretty patchy. So a single album makes for a good patch up job. There are way too many Lindsay Buckingham songs, for starters. My playing sequence for this single version is quite specific and designed to ‘flow’. The rules are 12 tracks, 4 from each of the songwriters, Nicks, Buckingham and McVie. Which means all of Stevie’s songs are there, and they’re so damn good.

  • Think About Me
  • Sara
  • What Makes You Think You’re the One
  • Never Make Me Cry
  • Sisters of the Moon
  • Not That Funny
  • Angel
  • I Know I’m Not Wrong
  • Beautiful Child
  • Brown Eyes
  • Tusk
  • Over and Over

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Single Fantasy, John Lennon

This one’s a little different. Taking John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s two albums, Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey and making one album from just the John songs. I actually like some of the Yoko songs, especially Kiss Kiss Kiss from Double Fantasy; but let’s face it, it’s the John songs that history pays attention to here. You can, of course, do a similar album with just the Yoko songs. Single Honey? Rules: just the John songs. Or feel free to make some. 10 songs only?

  • Central Park Stroll
  • Just Like Starting Over
  • Cleanup Time
  • I’m Losing You
  • Beautiful Boy
  • Watching the Wheels
  • Woman
  • Dear Yoko
  • Nobody Told Me
  • Borrowed Time
  • I’m Stepping Out
  • Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him
  • Help Me To Help Myself
  • Forgive Me My Little Flower
  • I Don’t Wanna Face It
  • Grow Old With Me (with orchestra)
  • Stepping Out (home version)

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Preservation, Acts 1 and 2, The Kinks

In the early Seventies the Kinks, under the guidance of their leader Ray Davies, produced a series of concept albums. The first two were the political satires Preservation Act One (a single album) and Preservation Act Two (a double album). Together, they told the stories of a certain Mr Flash, a devious and exploitative politician of the right, and a certain Mr Black, a devious and exploitative politician of the left, and their attempts to gain control of a country called the Village Green (or, England). There was also a character called the Tramp, a kind of neutral observer of events in the Village Green. They were interesting albums, full of wit, humour and melody, but they were also flawed. Some songs, especially on the first album, did not really fit into the story, and some songs, especially on the second album, weren’t very good. Added to this was the fact that the story was somewhat jumbled, and certain plot points didn’t really satisfy – especially the bit near the end about Mr Flash getting turned into an ‘artificial man’.

I decided I could whittle the three long players down to a very reasonable single cd version. I took out all the songs that I felt weren’t really part of the main storyline or that just weren’t particularly good, re-sequenced much of what was left, and added two songs that weren’t on the original albums. The two songs, sequenced at the end, were the Ray-sung single version of Scrapheap City (not necessarily better than the album version, but I prefer it and think it better fits the mood at the end), and Get Up, a song that actually appeared on a much later Kinks album, but which seems to concisely sum up the album’s themes.

I don’t know what Kinks fans would think of this tampering, but it works for me.

  • Morning Song (Chorus)
  • Daylight (the Tramp)
  • Here Comes Flash (Chorus and Scared Housewives)
  • Demolition (Flash)
  • Sitting In the Midday Sun (the Tramp)
  • There’s a Change In the Weather (Upper, Middle, Working Class Men)
  • Money and Corruption/I’m Your Man (Chorus and Mr Black)
  • Announcement #1
  • Introduction To Solution (the Tramp)
  • Secondhand Car Spiv (Flash)
  • Announcement #2
  • Shepherds of the Nation (Mr Black)
  • Scum of the Earth (Flash)
  • He’s Evil (Chorus and Mr Black)
  • Where Oh Where Is Love (the Tramp and his Girl)
  • Announcement #3
  • Nobody Gives (the Tramp)
  • Announcement #4
  • Flash’s Confession (Flash)
  • Nothing Lasts Forever (Flash and his Favourite Floosie)
  • Announcement #5
  • Scrapheap City (the Tramp)
  • Get Up (Ray)

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