Album overload: How Bob Dylan and others take music to extremes…..

From the Independent

At 75, Bob Dylan is releasing his first triple album, a mammoth 30-track undertaking

 

Thrilling news for Bob Dylan fans: the Nobel laureate returns in March with yet another collection of covers culled from the Great American Songbook.

With Triplicate, though, comes the twist that this is the 75-year-old’s first triple album, a 30-track behemoth that, while a novelty for Dylan (not including his mammoth box sets), is nowhere near the year’s longest album, let alone quantity of music promised by one act. In length, Triplicate will be surpassed by 50 Song Memoir, an autobiographical marathon also due next month from US songwriter Stephin Merritt, recording as the Magnetic Fields (one track for each year of his life, most full of his usual wit and panache).

Even that is set to be dwarfed by the incredible five albums promised in 2017 by Australian psych-rock outfit King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. It is enough to make you wonder if the creative freedom afforded to artists by the decline in power of record companies has been entirely worthwhile. Once, stars such as Prince and George Michael complained of being serfs at the mercy of their contracts, unable to release product until given the go-ahead by overbearing label bosses. Now the balance has shifted so acts can put out as music as they like.

’50 Song Memoir’ is an autobiographical marathon from US songwriter Stephin Merritt, recording as the Magnetic Fields

While such autonomy may be welcome, we should caution against the danger of overload, swamping us with material of variable quality. Putting out a large amount of music in one go is usually a sign of high aspirations, that your ambition can not be encompassed within the bounds of the humble 12” or single-disc album, and Dylan himself was there in 1966 with rock’s first major double album, Blonde On Blonde. Four years later, George Harrison went further with triple set All Things Must Pass, his first since The Beatles split. Admittedly, this was a stunning rejoinder to former bandmates that had carefully rationed his songwriting contributions, meaning he had a vast backlog to choose from.

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