Friday, July 25, 2008

Reinventing "The Rising"

It took a while to take hold, but one of the biggest impacts of the evolution from vinyl records to compact discs was that it expanded the potential length of an album. Once upon a time, 40 minutes was viewed as the "perfect" length for a single album, although a number of classic albums were closer to the 30-minute mark (and for the Ramones and a handful of others, below that).

Compact discs can easily hold more than 70 minutes of music, which most people would probably think is a good thing - "Wow! 16 songs from my favorite band, instead of just 9 or 10!" Unfortunately, what the move ultimately proved was that most artists, even the best ones, didn't have the ability to churn out 16 songs of equal quality on a regular basis. So on a lot of albums you ended up with 10 great songs, with the rest falling dangerously close to filler territory. Sure, there have been exceptions. And artists like Neil Young solved the dilemma to some degree, simply by making each song longer. So where "Cortez the Killer" and "Like A Hurricane" probably clocked in at a little over seven minutes, some of the songs on albums like Ragged Glory were well over 10. Not a bad solution, especially for fans of Neil's electric guitar playing, but far from a perfect one. You've got to have a damn good song to make it worth listening to for more than 10 minutes.

Now, the pendulum has begun to swing the other way - two of this year's best albums, by R.E.M. and Beck, total right around 33 minutes. And neither suffers from its relative brevity.

While I definitely would call it an outstanding album, I think Bruce Springsteen's The Rising is the perfect example of an album that suffers from excessive length. Not only are a couple of the songs well below the best songs in quality, but there are also several good songs that dilute the power of the album, and its thematic unity. Since I mostly listen to home-made tapes in my car, I decided to do something about it, and created what I call The Rising Redux - 9 songs, just over 40 minutes, creating an album that I think can stand alongside any other released this decade in terms of greatness. It leaves you wanting more, which I always thought was the key to an album's success.

So without further ado, I present The Rising Redux:

1. The Rising
2. Lonesome Day
3. Nothing Man
4. Empty Sky
5. The Fuse
6. Paradise
7. My City of Ruins
8. You're Missing
9. Mary's Place

In the future, I'll give other favorite albums a similar treatment. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

1 comment:

Tom the Dog said...

I know this is an old post, and you probably won't ever see this comment, but: there is no way I would leave "Further On (Up the Road)" off my version. Possibly my favorite song on the album. So creepy and intense.