Listening music: Albums you can listen to all the way through
Listen to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” It’s impossible to skip a track, said Sean Flanigan, an assistant professor in Colorado Mesa University’s music department.
John Anglim, a musician in the band Flat Top Reed, feels the same about every Santana album. Ever.
Then there’s Alicia Mitchell, music coordinator at KAFM Radio, who considers the 2013 self-titled Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros album a superb listen from beginning to end.
With a slew of new albums scheduled to hit the market in October and into November, it’s a great time to look at what it takes to make an album so good a listener needs to listen to it in its entirety.
Who knows? Maybe one of these new albums will become “listening albums,” in other words, an album so good it must be listened to in its entirety.
Flanigan, who teaches a course about the history of popular music, credited Beach Boys’ 1966 release “Pet Sounds” as a game-changer historically for its conceptual format designed to be listened to in its entirety.
The concept inspired The Beatles’ 1967 release, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and the aforementioned 1973 Pink Floyd album, Flanigan said.
However, an album doesn’t have to be conceptual for it to be a great “listening album,”
For example, Calvin Hofer, head of the university’s music department, considers Boston’s self-titled debut album, Maynard Ferguson’s “Chameleon” jazz album and Andrea Bocelli’s “Aria — The Opera Album” among those albums he can listen to in their entirety. None are conceptual.
“They are just albums of great songs,” he wrote in an email.
The sign of a great “listening album” that isn’t conceptual is it plays like a band’s live set, Flanigan said, because great albums are put together similar to how a band builds a set list, with thought, cohesion and a balance of speeds and lengths.
“There’s a whole bunch of albums, which even if you like certain songs more than others, you can say, ‘Wow, this was put together well,’ ” Flanigan said. “I don’t think there’s a focus on that album idea these days as much as there has been.”
Today, the music industry appears more driven by singles sales than album cohesion, he said.
Case in point, Katy Perry has released three singles off her Oct. 22 “Prism” album.
Although today’s culture may be singles driven, great albums still are being released, agreed Mitchell and Rock Cesario, owner of the independent record store Triple Play Records and Daily Sentinel music columnist.
The chance a listener will hear them, however, “comes back to the attitude and patience of the listener,” Cesario said. How does he or she listen to music? Does he or she have favorite “listening albums?”
To find out what kind of listener you are or to discover a new-to-you “listening album,” consider this sampling of favorite “listening albums” suggested by Mitchel, Anglim and The Daily Sentinel’s newsroom. (FYI: Greatest hits, live albums and holiday mixes weren’t counted as great “listening albums.”)
From Mitchell: The Beatles albums are works of art, but “Revolver” (1966) is a good one for “those who aren’t completely obsessed.”
She also likes The Avett Brothers’ “The Carpenter” (2012), and The Black Keys’ “Rubber Factory” (2004).
From Anglim: In addition to every Santana album, he listed his top “listening albums” as Darrell Scott’s “Theatre of the Unheard” (2003), Gerry Rafferty’s “City to City” (1978), and The Grateful Dead’s “American Beauty” (1970) or “Workingman’s Dead” (1970).
From The Daily Sentinel newsroom, in no particular order:
Steely Dan, “Aja” (1977).
Michael Jackson, “Thriller” (1982).
Dixie Chicks, “Home” (2002).
Pixies, “Doolittle” (1989).
Jack Johnson, “Sleep Through the Static” (2008).
Beatles, “Abbey Road” (1969).
Guns N’ Roses, “Appetite for Destruction” (1987).
Rolling Stones, “Let It Bleed” (1969).
Josh Groban, “Closer” (2003).
Alanis Morissette, “Jagged Little Pill” (1995).
Sonic Youth, “Daydream Nation” (1988).
The Doors, “Soft Parade” (1969).
Guy Clark, “Old No. 1” (1975).
The Like Young, “So Serious” (2004).
The Civil Wars, “Barton Hollow” (2011).
Adele, “21” (2011).
Bob Dylan, “Blood On the Tracks” (1975).
Isaac Hayes, “Hot Buttered Soul” (1969).
Bad Religion, “The Dissent of Man” (2010).
Willie Nelson, “Red Headed Stranger” (1975).