Saturday, April 18, 2009

On the first day, God played a flat

On the blog today, ashenfacedsupremo noted of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks that In vinyl times the first side was entitled In The Beginning and the second side Afterwards and there is a feeling of a journey through life and even of death and re-birth.

Because this week's Album of the Week was a story and needed to be listened to in order, it had to have a Please Play in Order label.

Life in the digital age, I guess. Question is, does song order matter on an album anymore (indeed, did it ever honestly in most cases)? Do any of us play album tracks in order, or do we just listen to whatever order our media player chooses?

15 comments:

ToffeeBoy said...

I love the shuffle feature on iTunes but I would never play the tracks on an individual album out of order. There are tracks on some albums where nothing else could come next. The artists/producers put thought into the track order and although we are of course free to play them in any order we want to, personally I won't mess with it.

Japanther said...

I've only had an iPod since December, but I haven't "shuffled" once and hopefully never will.......when i'm not on the move, as has been well documented on these pages, it's all vinyl for me, effectively taking away the choice!

As Toffeeboy rightly points out we are free to play tracks in any order we like, once the album is out there, it's out of the hands of the artist, but for me too I don't want to monkey with something that people put a lot of effort and thought into, I remember Michael Jackson talking about it a bit in his autobiography "Moonwalk".
Except that now artists are not expecting people to play it in order, so they probably don't put as much thought into it as they would have done in the past.

tincanman said...

wish i knew how to switch your comments around. Now that would be funny.

CaroleBristol said...

I think it matters a lot, to be honest.

I first noticed the importance of track listings when I sold off all my vinyl and replaced it with CDs.

The two albums where it made the biggest difference were Dark Side Of The Moon and Led Zeppelin's fourth album.

With DSOTM it sounded better, lots better because the music just flowed from one thing to another and it became more of a complete experience (OMG is that worthy of Pseud's Corner or what?).

With LZ IV it was weird because it had the effect of making Stairway To Heaven seem less of an event. It was no longer the climax of Side 1, it was kind of demoted to "just another track on the CD" status.

I have noticed similar things with lots of other albums, sometimes it is better and sometimes it's not.

goneforeign said...

Total agreement with Toffee. Catch a Fire for example, No more Trouble is a prelude for Midnight Ravers, the one flows into the other, likewise with Kind of Blue, So What flows straight into Freddy Freeloader like it was one piece of music.
Similarly I love 'Shuffle', it's really all I play now. It's like having a DJ with perfect taste, [well he must be perfect since he plays tunes exactly like yours] I've chosen every cut on my iPod so I know I'll enjoy listening to them, but it's the order that's so interesting. Japanther, weaken, give yourself a treat!

Abahachi said...

The shuffle on my mp3 player is basically crap - it tends to play the same, relatively small number of tracks again and again in exactly the same order - so I don't use it very much. I would if it worked, to produce the equivalent of a radio station on which I liked all the tracks, but if I'm listening at home I go for whole albums in the order they were recorded. Back in my own recording days, I spent so many hours agonising over the order of tracks and the dynamics of the two sides of a C60 (even on occasion writing and recording new tracks because the overall arc of the album seemed wrong), so I persist in the belief that all artists do the same.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ CaroleBristol - spot on. And although, it's always good to get bonus tracks on CDs (rare B-sides, demos, alternative versions etc, etc) it's annoying when the track which was designed to be the culmination of forty minutes of heaven, is now followed by a couple of tracks which weren't considered to be good enough to be included in the album in the first place!

My favourite example of a track which just has to follow on from the previous one is Labelled With Love following F-Hole on Squeeze's seminal East Side Story.

The last lines of F-Hole are:

I learnt to play her favourite country songs,
With one or two chords always going wrong.

... which then goes straight into everyone's favourite country song (well, mine anyway)

goneforeign said...

One other thought re. the order of music, or rather how it's played.
The difference between great DJ's and mediocre ones is the way that they build a set, the good ones give thought to how the individual pieces relate to each other, the duds just throw anything on. I've heard sets that were works of art created from totally disparate pieces.

tincanman said...

@ goneforeign
I had a friend who made amazing mixtapes. You'd have punk followed by traditional country followed by folk - and usually he'd have plucked the best song from an album not the 'hit'. And it would all flow and work somehow.

The only problem was that the tapes would condition you and it began to pass that if you heard one of those songs in another context, you were disappointed when his choice from the tape wasn't played next.

[I won't name any songs to increase the chances that google won't delete my post. Similary I haven't named my friend, even though it was John and I have a sworn statement from him allowing me to refer to his mixtapes as long as I don't reveal more than one third of the song titles.]

Japanther said...

Alright alright, I tried it, I put my iPod on shuffle today and I have to admit it was quite fun! The first 5 out of the box were:
Johnny Rivers
Jungle Brothers
The USA Is A Monster (weird stoner noise rock)
Bon Iver
Annotations Of An Autopsy (insanely brutal death metal)

....which is a pretty eclectic mix and took me to songs that I hadn't listened to in a while......hmm....I may be a convert.....

goneforeign said...

There you go, it's your music after all whichever way you cut it. I enjoy shuffle when I'm outside working in the garden or in the early hours in bed, it comes up with wonderful combinations.
Tin: your friends tapes sound like what I enjoy, last night I had a mix which included Dylan, Darko Rundek, Yabby You, Astor Piazzolla, Gilberto Gil, the Paragons and Dennis Brown amongst many others, I always rewind the playlist in the morning to check some cuts that I don't recognize.

goneforeign said...

Just one more, I listened to the Beatles 'Love', the George Martin re-mix and you MUST play them in order, every cut, all 26 merges, with the next one.
Does anyone else love Love?

saneshane said...

I love things exactly how someone has ordered it on their work.. sometimes it adds so much to the understanding of the words or music...

but I'm also a mix freak and love the contradictions that emerge when they have been thought about well.

so to sum up..ALL GOOD!

..and now with random the juxtapositions that are thrown together are interesting.. and as with most of us I sometimes have to find out what on earth a tune is that has just been lost in the amount tracks I have.

goneforeign said...

One last detail, I've stared at that picture on the post and wondered why anyone would make a table/stand specifically to support a Scotch tape dispenser?

Blimpy said...

I'm pretty inconsistent in my listening habits, but if it's an album I like, I will try to stick to its order. Easier with the vinyl, I find.