Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll By The Numbers – Make Mine A Triple

cam

I think it is fair to say the triple album is officially on the endangered species lists. For the most part this beast roamed the earth during the sixties and seventies and by the time the eighties turned into the nineties it was overshadowed by its bastard cousin the double CD. Since then the CD has been replaced by the download and the download now finds itself struggling to swim up the stream. So many changes and so quickly, no wonder the record companies are having a hard time.

Much like the fifties and sixties we have once again returned to a “singles” market when the song trumps the album.

If you wanted to make a statement, and perhaps stretch your ego a little bit, a double album seemed to be the ticket. The Beatles proved the formula worked with their self-titled “White” album and some of the best records from the late sixties were in fact doubles.

Beatles White Album

The first triple album I remember seeing was the soundtrack to Woodstock. When it was released in 1970 the only acts really knew anything about were The Who, and, thanks to television, Sha-Na-Na. Hey, I was only ten years old when it was released in May of that year. A great majority of the triple albums that would be released after Woodstock would be live albums and very few artists released studio triples. Record companies realized that triples were a great way of capturing an artist’s greatest hits and soon started cranking out anthology packages (which I don’t consider true triple records as they were not recorded with being a triple in mind). Kiss showed off their marketing prowess when after the success of the “Kiss Alive” record re-packaged their first three albums as “The Originals” suckering early hard core fans like myself to pay for the records all over again. Once again, doesn’t count. Here are some of the triples that influenced my ears.

Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More

I never had much time for hippies, and, as previously stated, was not too up on who was on this recording when it was first released. I am more from the Woodstock LPs AtlanticAlice Cooper generation and was proud to be a billion dollar baby when he stated “we drove a stake through the love generation”. Looking back there were some great performances on these live albums, and I ended up working with some of the artists.  Alvin Lee and Ten Years After killed with “I’m Going Home” and the track made him a guitar god. I would also end up doing a little work with Carlos Santana in the distant future and Woodstock was the stage where he earned his major league status. The third guitar god featured on the record was Jimi Hendrix and his live instrumental version of “The Star Spangled Banner” has never been matched. Because of the success of Woodstock a second double album, “Woodstock 2”, would be released the next year.

Yes – Yessongs

Yes – Yessongs

I am pretty sure this was the first triple record that I ever purchased. At just over two hours this baby was a marathon but a huge staple of my prog-diet. I tended to spend most of my time with sides three and four which featured excerpts from Rick Wakeman’s “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”, the hit single “Roundabout”, “Long Distance Runaround” and the finest song ever written about chess “I’ve Seen All Good People”.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – “Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends”

ELP Welcome Back

What I most distinctly remember about this album is the three records in the gatefold were individually housed either under the letter E, L or P. I thought the silver three-D shaped letters were pretty cool so I carefully cut them out of the jacket and taped them over my bed. My room walls very the same deep blue colour as the album jacket and they were also covered in posters from Circus, Creem and Hit Parader. Musically, even if you were a fan, this one should have been cut down to a double-album minimum. A tad self-indulgent, but with a great intro.

PiL – “Metal Box”

PiL

At just over 60 minutes in length it is a bit of a stretch calling this a triple album but the fact remains that it was released on three pieces of vinyl, and in an industrial metal box. This came out on import well before it was released domestically and I never found the funds to buy one of the originals. Although it confused critics, some still pining for John Lydon to return to his Rotten Sex Pistols persona, the records have aged very well and are an important post-punk document.

The Smashing Pumpkins – “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”

Smashing Pumpkins

It’s not often that a triple album (double CD) is a bands commercial breakthrough but Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins were (are) never a very conventional rock band.  With hit singles such as “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, “1979” and “Tonight, Tonight” the band moved from college darlings to arena headliners. This is their finest moment.

George Harrison – “All Things Must Pass”

all things

George was the first, but not the last, former Beatle to release a triple album. Containing the hits “My Sweet Lord”, “What Is Life” and “Isn’t It A Pity”, the records were produced by George Harrison and Phil Spector and featured guest appearances by everyone from Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Billy Preston to Phil Collins, Badfinger and Ginger Baker. Harrison’s next release would also be a triple album “The Concert For Bangladesh”. Clapton may hold the record for most appearances on triple albums.

Wings – “Wings Over America”

Wings – “Wings Over America”

Having the biggest ego of any of The Beatles Paul McCartney was not going to be overshadowed by George and in 1976 released his live triple album “Wings Over America”. McCartney and his band performed five Beatle’s tracks on the albums (“Lady Madonna”, “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, “Blackbird”, “Yesterday” and “The Long And Winding Road”) and on the credits attributed the songs to “McCartney-Lennon” as opposed to the long standing “Lennon-McCartney”. Yoko was not amused.

The Band – “The Last Waltz”

The Band – “The Last Waltz”

For their final performance The Band (Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson) decided to do a couple of special things. They booked the Winterland Ballroom (run by Bill Graham) in San Francisco, invited 5,000 fans, served them all a turkey dinner (it was Thanksgiving), got their pal Martin Scorsese to film the event and, had a few special guests join them on stage. The guests included Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Dr. John, Ringo Starr, Emmylou Harris, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Hawkins and Ronnie Wood. It may go down as the greatest collection of Canadian talent ever on one stage on the same night.

Joel Plaskett – Three

Joel Plaskett – Three

Speaking of Canadians leave it to Joel Plaskett to keep up with the triple album concept. Joel took the concept to the extreme with each of the three albums containing nine songs (3 times 3), ten of the song titles are one single word repeated three times (“Stay, Stay, Stay” etc.), two are single words joined with an & (“On & On & On” and “Through & Through & Through”) and one song title is “Shine On, Shine On, Shine On”. It was his third solo album (he also records with The Joel Plaskett Emergency) and the release date of 3/24/09 consisted of numbers all divisible by three.

The Clash – “Sandinista!”

The Clash – “Sandinista!”

Saving the best for last. The Clash closed the seventies with their double album “London Calling” and opened the eighties with the sprawling 36 song triple album “Sandinista!” Many critics argue that this could have been their definitive recording if it would have been pared down to a single or double album but it is the one record on this list that I can listen to, and enjoy, front to back and in one sitting. It rocked, it was political, it was world music before it had a name, and it offered some jazz, reggae and dub. All of the bases were covered and they would never again record anything nearly as important.

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Sugar Hill GangSorry to learn of the passing of Big Bank Hank earlier this week. Hank was part of the amazing Sugarhill Gang who topped the charts with the groundbreaking “Rapper’s Delight”. I had a chance to work with the band in the very early days when they performed a show at the old Roehampton Place Hotel.

Also, happy birthday to Lava Hay’s Michele Gould! We will be celebrating with a big party this Saturday night at her venue The Kensington Lodge. Come on by for a drink and some bad ass seventies tunes.

=CC=

Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll are proud to be presented by The Bovine Tiki Bar and The Bovine. The Tiki Bar welcomes the mild to hot weather and The Bovine presents great bands downstairs at the legendary rock bar. Fill up next store at The Rock Lobster and then get your rocks off at The Bovine. 

DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian

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