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T3: The Best Double Albums Rock n’ Roll Has To Offer

John’s review of The White Album got me to thinking about what double albums are actually worth listening to all the way through and what albums really use their lengths to their advantage. I do realize that this list is kind of bias towards artists from the 60’s and 70’s, but it seems that there’s only been a handful of decent double albums that have been released since the birth of cd’s.

10. Prince – Sign ‘O’ The Times (1987)

Coming after the albums “1999” and the hugely successful “Purple Rain”, this album further proved that Prince was one of the most important musical artists of the 1980’s. The album has some of Prince’s funkiest numbers to date, such as “Housequake” and “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night”. It also has some delicately soulful ballads like “Slow Love” or the Indian influenced “The Cross”.

9. Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

This album really shows Elton John at the height of his powers in the early seventies, it’s too bad he hasn’t been able to do anything as great as this since then. The album starts off with the 11-minute triumph, “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” and the songs remain consistently solid throughout. With hits like “Saturday Night’s All Right For Fighting”, “Candle In The Wind”, and the title track, this album really shows what a great songwriting team Elton and Bernie Taupin were.

8. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland (1968)

Even though Jimi Hendrix’s debut “Are You Experienced?” seems to be the most celebrated LP in Jimi’s catalog, I think Electric Ladyland is definitely in the same league as that classic. You can really see that Jimi is branching out from the 3-minute song formula seen on his first two albums with much longer songs like the 15-minute “Voodoo Chile” or the experimental “1983…”. The album is probably the most psychedelic of Jimi’s albums despite featuring his biggest hit, his version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower”.

7. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975)

Probably Led Zeppelin’s most underrated album, and just further proof that Zeppelin’s greatness cannot be denied. Physical Graffiti shows the band experimenting with different styles such as rockabilly (“Boogie With Stu”), country (“Black Country Woman”), and the heavy blues of their first album (“In My Time of Dying”). They also have plenty of hard-rockin’ tracks like “Kashmir”, “The Wanton Song”, and “Custard Pie”, which are all further proof that Jimmy Page could come up with a great riff like nobody’s business.

6. The Who – Tommy (1969)

The first self-proclaimed “rock opera”, The Who’s Tommy transformed The Who from being known simply for being Britain’s loudest, most destructive band to being one of the world’s best rock bands. Even though the story’s a bit hard to follow, the songs are notheless fantastic, and it’s one of those albums that achieves being a cohesive piece of art instead of just a collection of songs.

5. The Beatles (The White Album) – The Beatles (1968)

After the monumentally influentual Sgt. Pepper, I liked seeing that the Beatles took it in a more simpler direction. They each seem to be much more content on doing their own thing on this album than doing the kind of experimenting that was seen on Sgt. Pepper. It’s also quite amazing to me that this album features 30 songs, nearly all of them are exellent, and yet not one of them was released as a single.

4. Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

It really is staggering how completely brimming with creativity Stevie Wonder was when he made this album. The fact that this is 2 LP’s plus an EP, and that every song is great just adds to this. Stevie builds on his funk/R&B sound with such memorable hits as “Isn’t She Lovely” and “Sir Duke” while also continuing to be very socially conscuious with songs like “Pastime Paradise” and “Village Ghetto Land.”

3. The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main St. (1972)

I wasn’t that crazy about this album when I first heard it, but it has definitely grown on me over the years. Exile On Main St. is The Stones in their most raunchy, unpolished state, which is how the Stones have always sounded at their best. Besides their signature rock numbers, the album shows them returning to the country style present on Beggar’s Banquet with songs like “Sweet Virginia”, “Sweet Black Angel”, and the gospel-like “Shine A Light”.

2. Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde (1966)

The first double album to be released commercially by a pop artist, Blonde On Blonde showed that an artist at the peak of their creativity could create 2 discs full of compelling music. This album shows Dylan building on the folk/rock sound of his Highway 61 and Bringing It All Back Home, and has some of his best songs from this period. Dylan’s lyrical brilliance reaches new heights on songs like “Visions of Johanna” and “Stuck Inside of Memphis With the Memphis Blues Again”. The album is basically the peak of Dylan’s creative streak in the ‘60s, seeing as though he became withdrawn and secluded after his motorcycle accident in 1967.

1. The Clash – London Calling (1979)

The Clash reached new heights by expanding on their punk sound to create one of the great rock albums, and one of my favorite albums of all time with London Calling. The album shows them combining their sound with reggae (“Rudy Can’t Fail”, “Revolution Rock”), rockabilly (“Brand New Cadillac”), and even disco (“Lost in the Supermarket”). And yet they do all of this without losing sight of their core punk sound. I don’t think there’s really anything on this album that even remotely resembles filler, and that’s why I’m putting it at the number one spot.

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