Sunday, May 31, 2009

Best Album Closers

I'm not a musician, but if I was one, I think that I'd want each album to stand on its own as a complete work instead of just being a random bag of singles. I'd want people to know the album ("Sgt. Pepper") and not a few songs from it ("the album with A Day in the Life on it"). I'd want to be recognized for having excelled at the difficult task of putting together an hour or more of music that people want to hear. Not to mention that being known for making great albums makes it more likely that those albums will remain available instead of disappearing as the singles are rolled up into "Greatest Hits of the 21st Century" collections.

By the way, this idea of an artist either being known for complete works or for singles is hardly new. Bach is known for complete works. Other composers are forgotten but for an entry in the encyclopedia and one or two pieces in the local symphony's "An Evening of Baroque" program (the classical music equivalent of those "Greatest Hits" collections). Search for Jean-Joseph Mouret on iTunes and you'll find dozens of performances of the same two-minute piece of music, which you might recognize as the theme from Masterpiece Theater.

I think that the last track of an album says a lot about how the composer approached the work. One random-bag albums, the first track is usually the strongest song, so as to pull in people who are only giving the album a 30-second preview, and the last track is usually nothing special, since nobody is expected to listen to the album all the way through. But when the composer is taking the album as a complete work, the last track is important because it's the last thing that listeners will hear.

So I like albums that have a good closer. I've put together this list of them. Please comment and add any that you know, so I can check them out.

  • Billy Joel, Piano Man (Captain Jack)

  • The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (A Day in the Life)

  • The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema (Stacked Crooked)

  • Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run (Jungleland)

  • Foo Fighters, The Color and the Shape (New Way Home)

  • Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head (Amsterdam)

  • Rush, Signals (Countdown)

  • Jackson Browne, Running on Empty (The Load-Out/Stay)

  • Nirvana, Nevermind (Something in the Way)

  • The Shins, Wincing the Night Away (A Comet Appears)

  • Oasis, (What's the Story) Morning Glory? (Champagne Supernova)

  • Tori Amos, Under the Pink (Yes, Anastasia)

Here are some albums that have the title track in the last position.

  • Sarah McLachlan, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

  • Sinead O'Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got

  • Stars, In Our Bedroom After the War

  • Steely Dan, The Royal Scam

  • Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes


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