CDs, Albums And Value
Planet Telex is a great blog, but I couldn’t agree less with Darren’s post on the relative value of CDs “Money‚Äôs Worth.” CDs, in real-dollar terms are cheaper today, especially with heavy discounting, than old 33rpm vinyl albums were in my teen years. Moreover, most CDs today contain over an hour of music – something […]
Planet Telex is a great blog, but I couldn’t agree less with Darren’s post on the relative value of CDs “Money‚Äôs Worth.” CDs, in real-dollar terms are cheaper today, especially with heavy discounting, than old 33rpm vinyl albums were in my teen years. Moreover, most CDs today contain over an hour of music – something that was unheard of in the black platter days.
Vinyl had an absolute time limit of 50 minutes, but most albums ran closer to 40-45 minutes. Let’s not forget that 90 minute cassettes were deisgned to hold two albums worth of material.
In fact, some really great albums ran even shorter than that. Van Halen’s blockbuster album, 1984, ran under 33 minutes. In fact, it is a very revealing exercise to grab the best pre-CD albums in your collection and look at the total running times.
With the advent of CD, the available recording time increased (past 70 minutes). Not all artists or labels took advantage of this, but it soon became popular and expected for labels to add more tracks, alternate or live versions and even past hits. You got more songs for your money, but it has always been questionable if this increase in playing time was really good value in an aesthetic or musical sense. Editing and self-censorship are sometimes a good thing.
Consider the double album, which had always been the domain of the over-indulged big-name artist. Double albums are sometimes great, but often nothing more than bloated examples of hubris. For example, I really like some of Christina Aguilera’s latest album, Back To Basics, but my goodness, I wish she had only chosen to release the best 8-9 tracks and left the rest in the vault. Fact is, very few albums in my collection (single or double) are great anyway. Most only ever have a few good songs (yes, I’m still a compilation/mix kinda guy).
Personally, I would always rather the artist, or producer or label do some editing. I’m more than happy to pay for fewer, better produced songs on an album, more than happy not to have to skip through the ill-concived or poorly executed “filler” tracks more than happy to get better value in terms of quality – regardless of the running time.