I love albums. You can create a much more expansive and complex picture with ten songs rather than one. And there’s something about the length of a 33 RPM LP, which is roughly 45 minutes, that works very well for listeners. 45 minutes is a good amount of time to sit and listen to music. I always get fidgety if I have to stay still for much longer than that.
If you go to a classical concert, it’s often split into two parts of roughly 45 minutes each, with an intermission so you can stretch your legs and go find the ladies room. And for rock bands, a set is generally considered to be 45 – 50 minutes.
Of course, there are a lot of other factors that make up a great albums. It can’t just be 45 minutes of crap. You need great songs that are played really well, and beautifully produced. Some kind of continuity between songs really helps, whether it’s musical personnel or a single composer. And there really needs to be consistency of production to hold the whole thing together.
Over the next few posts, I’m going to write about a few albums that I really love; ones that work as albums rather than being a collection of unrelated songs that happened to wind up on the same playlist/LP/CD/etc. (That being said, there is absolutely room for albums that are a collection of unrelated songs, and I plan to write about them someday.)
Jazz Samba, featuring Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz, was the first album I thought of when writing this. Released in 1962, It was one of the first records to introduce the Bossa Nova sound to an audience outside of Brazil. Now this album is only about 33 minutes long, but trust me – it has 45 minutes of awesome packed in there.
This is actually a really good headphone album. You can pick up a lot of detail from the guitar and bass, which don’t pop out that much on the recording.
For me, one of the things that really holds the album together is the fact that it was all recorded on the same day. They did it in an old church. Especially if you’re recording something like this that’s essentially live, doing it in the same space with the same mic placement and recording levels helps to create a good continuity between songs.
Performance-wise, recording the album in one day can also be a terrific idea. Just as long as the vibe is a good one; no one wants to listen to a bunch of musicians having a bad day. Fortunately, the musicians on Jazz Samba were having a very very good day.
“Samba De Uma Nota So”
Damn, listen to the bass on this one. It’s amazing, and perfect for the song. And the guitar solo is beautiful.
I can’t leave out Stan Getz of course. But both in volume and billing, he tends to take center stage in this project. I want to point out some great work from all the musicians here.
I love “Samba Triste” so much that whenever I hear it, I will stop whatever I’m doing to totally focus on it. It’s just heartbreakingly beautiful. So excuse me while I check out Charlie Byrd’s guitar solo (and Stan Getz’s), and I’ll be writing about more favorite albums in the future.