8 Double Albums Worth Another Listen

8 Double Albums Worth Another Listen

led zeppelin
Led Zeppelin, 1975. Photo by Laurance Ratner/WireImage/Getty Images.

Double albums are few and far between these days. In a world where streaming numbers and playlist inclusions is key to commercial success, the double record has fallen by the wayside. While some have attempted to harness their wild ideas across two records, such as the Foo Fighters with In Your Honour and Arcade Fire on Reflektor, these albums often fail in execution, coming across as bloated self-indulgent records without direction. Despite the lacklustre efforts over the last few decades, throughout music history, several bands have managed to achieve the unthinkable and release a double album that not only lives up to expectations but also helped solidify their legacy. Here are 8 of the best well worth another listen.

The Clash | London Calling

Not only is London Calling The Clash’s best record, but one of the greatest rock releases in history. Merging the punk rock of their early albums with elements of post-punk, rockabilly and reggae, The Clash found the sound that would propel them to the top of the charts. Across 40 tracks the UK icons address everything from the Spanish Civil War (“Spanish Bombs”) and consumerism (“Lost In The Supermarket”) to police brutality (”The Guns Of Brixton”) and the nuclear era (“London Calling”), crafting a protest album that also serves as an incredible rock record.

Led Zeppelin | Physical Graffiti

This is Led Zeppelin at the height of their powers. Collecting eight new songs and several outtakes from previous studio sessions, Physical Graffiti is a behemoth of a record displaying all facets of Zeppelin’s diverse rock-heavy sound. The bluesy “In My Time Of Dying,” organ freak-out “Trampled Under Foot” and rock bluster of the “Wanton Song” are just some of the album’s highlights. Then there’s “Kashmir,” eight minutes of rapturous rock revered by Zeppelin’s four members as one of their greatest songs. Hard to disagree with.

The Rolling Stones | Exile On Main Street

When you read about the debauchery that ensured during the recording of Exile On Main Street, it’s hard to imagine how The Rolling Stones managed to produce such an incredible album. A bunch of session musicians and famous musos (including Dr. Hook and John Lennon) decamped to a villa in the south of France to begin recording this famous record that’s steeped in blues, rock and gospel. Although lacking a smash hit single, Exile In Main Street is a cohesive collection of songs without a weak link and favourite amongst Stone’s fans.

Bruce Springsteen | The River

Originally recorded as a single album titled The Ties That Bind, Bruce Springsteen’s fifth long-player morphed into a fully-fledged 20-track epic. Re-named The River, this monstrous double album finds Springsteen tackling the struggles of Middle America and human connection on tracks like “The Ties That Bind,” “Hungry Heart” and the emotional title-track. A fantastic double album that still holds up today.

Pink Floyd | The Wall

Concept albums don’t come much more out there than this beauty from Pink Floyd. The Wall is a rock opera focusing on Pink, a character loosely based on former member Syd Barrett who builds a metaphorical wall around him due to the trauma in his life. The record features a complex story conveyed through Floyd’s art-rock compositions. While there are a few moments of confusing experimentation, for the most part, The Wall is all killer and no filler, producing 70s classics “Comfortably Numb” and “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2).”

The Beatles | White Album

The White Album marks the beginning of the end for The Beatles. Creative differences, the presence of Yoko Ono and problems with producer George Martin meant the foursome hardly saw eye-to-eye during the recording process, particularly Paul McCartney and John Lennon, who spend most of the time arguing. This resulted in the album being less of a collaboration and more of a compilation of each artist’s own tracks, with the White Album containing a wide range of genres and styles. Despite the troubles, the double album is highly regarded by critics and fans alike. Each Beatle gets his chance to shine, with George Harrison’s rock balled “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and McCartney’s acoustic “Blackbird” two of the clear standouts.

The Smashing Pumpkins | Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

How do you follow-up your first critically and commercially successful album? If you’re Billy Corgan, you go all out and record a double album. Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness is two halves representing the day and the night, with Corgan writing songs expressing his feelings on youth and nostalgia. A sprawling 28 tracks covering alternate rock, grunge and experimental soundscapes, the album is chock full of hits (“Tonight, Tonight,” “Zero,” “1979” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”) and gets better with every re-listen.

Prince | Sign O’ The Times

It might not have resonated as well with listeners when first released in 1987, but Prince’s ninth studio album is a brilliant collection of songs from one of pop’s most ambitious artists. A melting pot of funk, pop, electro and R&B, Sign O’ The Times features extensive use of the Linn LM-1 drum machine and sped-up vocals, creating distinctive songs like the slinky “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker” and harmony-filled “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man.” This is Prince at his most inventive and a wonderful reminder of why he’s regarded as a music icon.

Get Sign O’ The Times on vinyl, here.

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