How exciting! In April, I am going to meet up with some old friends to see the Genesis tribute band, ‘The Musical Box’ play the whole of the ‘Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’ show, complete with costumes and back projection, at the Shepherds Bush Empire. Our little band of gig-goers first met up in the mid-1970s during the Genesis prog years but never saw them in their original line-up with Peter Gabriel, so this should be an interesting exercise in nostalgia. Watch this space.
In fact, the anticipation prompted me to dig out my Genesis Archive 1967-1975 Box Set and listen to the live version of the Lamb recorded at the Shrine Auditorium, LA on their ’75 tour of the
USA. I say ‘Live’ but many of the vocal and some
guitar parts were re-recorded to replace indistinct or error-strewn originals. Egos eh?
As a double studio LP, I always felt that ‘The Lamb…’ was a bit front
loaded, with all the good stuff on the first 2 sides and the remainder waning
towards side 4 where it ends on the less-than-impressive ‘It’. Which got me thinking about other studio
double LPs – those much maligned products of the vinyl age.
Elton John’s ‘
Yellow Brick Road’ suffers from the same malaise
whereby each of the first three sides has an ambience and continuity all their
own but the fourth is a bit of a dumping ground for a rag-bag of
left-overs. And don’t get me started on
Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ which is great for three sides then after ‘Run Like
Hell’ descends into pseudo-operatic boredom on side 4. Some doubles are a little short of material,
full stop. Joni Mitchell’s ‘Don Juan’s
Reckless Daughter’ is barely 16 minutes a side and those Dutch
instrumentalists’ magnum opus, ‘Focus 3’ runs out of steam on side 4 with just
the drum solo and reprise continuing from the previous track on side 3 and an
old unrelated song (left off the CD reissue!) bolted on to make up the running
time to about 14 minutes. Hmm.
Even The Beatles weren’t immune from the falling off side 4 syndrome as the inclusion of ‘Revolution 9’ on side 4 of the White Album shows. In fact, barring ‘best of’s’, I can’t think of a single double album where side 4 is the best. It may be a deliberate ploy by the record companies, knowing that no-one ever gets as far as side 4 so why put all your best stuff there? It begs the question: is the natural length of an extended musical work is nearer to three sides than four? Since the advent of the CD this assertion has legs, as many albums issued since the mid-80s have a running time of 50-55 minutes, approximately equivalent to three sides of vinyl. Q.E.D.