The cram factor

The first CDs for musical use were specified as 74 minutes/650 megabytes; eventually these discs were supplanted by 80-minute/700-MB discs, and there are techniques to squeeze in a couple more minutes, at the risk of possibly making the disc unreadable in some players. (Bear Family’s compilation of tobacco-related tunes, Smoke That Cigarette, reportedly crams 87:34 onto a single disc.)

This is a boon for the archivist, except of course when it isn’t. Roger explains a couple of instances where it isn’t:

One of the things I’ve realized is that because the artist, or the record company, CAN put more music on a CD, they DO. And some 14-song, 70-minute albums are just TOO LONG. It’s even more true on rereleases. I was listening to Who’s Next one morning — my family was obviously away — and I LOVE that album, but the rest of the “Lighthouse” project, save for “Pure and Easy” I could have done without. Lots of albums have alternative versions, which are historically interesting but do not enhance the listening enjoyment of the album; the second The Band album, which I also love, falls in that category.

The rule with alternative versions is that there’s a reason they weren’t released as the original. The Band runs a peppy 43:50 or so, and there’s a reason “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” is parked at the end of side two; I can see the reason for adding “Get Up Jake,” which was pulled from the original album before release, but you don’t need half an album’s worth of outtakes.

Incidentally, Who’s Next in its original form runs 43:38. Is this some sort of Golden Mean for the LP? I note for, um, record that Smoke That Cigarette is as long as two 43:47 albums.

1 comment

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