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Hidden Tracks

PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 3:11 pm
by Charlie
I don't mean hidden tracks in the sense of songs hidden away as part of another track on a CD, but albums whose best track is not among the first five or six.

In the days of vinyl albums, there were some whose second side seemed much better tan the first, notable the Bobby Charles album on Bearsville. It's sometimes a shock to realise that 'Small Town Talk' was on side two.

Sheryl Crow's song which started 'This ain't no disco' was track 9 on her album. Did they have any idea how good it was, how much better than everything else?

I'm listening to The Jimmy Giuffre Trio's 1957 album on Atlantic, which noodles along pleasantly enough until it gets to the last track, 'The Train and The River'. This became the most famous song of Jimmy's career. I wonder what made them leave it so late - perhaps they felt that noting could comfortably follow it.

Are there other examples of an album's best song being so far down the running order (vinyl or CD)?

PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 4:21 pm
by Ray the Red
One that springs to mind (for me at least) is All Blues on Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blueâ€

PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 4:53 pm
by Des
I suspect many artists choose to put their best work towards the end of the album as it is likely to be more memorable. 'A Day in the Life' and 'Caroline No' are obvious examples of this. Beethoven did it with his 9th Symphony as well of course.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:56 pm
by Adam Blake
Having grown up on the Beatles, Stones, Who and Kinks I think just about all their 60s albums have good tracks lurking about two-thirds, three-quarters of the way through. (I'm thinking of the original UK pressings, not the weird US rip-off versions.) I wouldn't be surprised if the Beatles (being slightly ahead of the others) and George Martin initiated this procedure.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 8:27 pm
by Alan Balfour
I bought Dr John's 1968 Gris-Gris LP after reading a favourable Blues Unlimited review. "I Walk On Guilded Splinters" was consigned to the last track on the album, probably due to its length (7+ minutes), but what a masterpiece of performance. Harold Battiste was producer so little wonder there. Marsha Hunt's minor hit the following year came nowhere near capturing it. I guess there have since been others foolhardy enough to try.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 8:34 pm
by Ray the Red
(I'm thinking of the original UK pressings, not the weird US rip-off versions.)

Adam, as a young Beatle fan in the 70s those American albums were the ones I had access to, and I listened the heck out of them. When the Beatles came out on cd they rectified it so that the discs reflected the true intent, but the correct versions just seem so weird. For example, for me anyway, I've Just Seen a Face seems more natural on Rubber Soul (where it was originally placed in the US) than on Help. It's just odd that the records that were just cynical rip-offs are more natural to me than the compilations that were the Beatles' intent.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 10:06 pm
by Nigel w
It's decidely odd that live albums always have to end on a high (like the concerts they commemorate) but studio albums so often peter out, isn't it? But Dylan has regularly placed - I wouldn't say hidden - some of his greatest songs at the very end of his studio albums.

Another Side Of... closes wth It Ain't Me Babe.

Bringing It All Back Home ends with It's All Over Now Baby Blue

Highway 61 Revisited climaxes with Desolation Row

Blonde On Blonde concludes with Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands.

You could argue that every song on these albums was a work of genius, so of course the closing tracks were great. But on the other hand, ol' Bob was still doing it in the 80s (the fairly dire Shot Of Love ends with the album's best song, Every Grain Of Sand, for example - although to be honest, that was probably by accident rather than design because by that stage he'd lost the judgement to tell which songs were any good and which were not).

I have another kind-of-related theory, which is that older albums don't have the soggy centre that means so many CD-era releases lose their way somewhere around track six or seven. The reason for this is simple. When constructing a vinyl LP, artists and producers used to position everything around four key fixed points - opening and closing tracks of both sides. Obviously on a CD, the discipline of this internal structure no longer applies.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 10:20 pm
by alex stewart
I remember a radio 1 DJ from the distant past saying that he always went to the 7th track when first listening to an album, and that this gave a pretty clear idea if the rest was worth a listen!
Surprisingly it does seem to have good results.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 11:25 pm
by Hugh Weldon
I remember a radio 1 DJ from the distant past saying that he always went to the 7th track when first listening to an album, and that this gave a pretty clear idea if the rest was worth a listen!
Surprisingly it does seem to have good results


Elvis Costello has a slightly different opinion. In his '500 Greatest Albums Ever' piece for Vanity Fair a few years ago he wrote:

"...head straight for the title track or assume that the whole damned thing is irresistible. When in doubt play track 4 - it it usually the one you want."

I followed that advice for a while with some good results. Though maybe I should try a few 7s to test that particular theory.

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 12:23 am
by Ted
Alan Balfour wrote:I guess there have since been others foolhardy enough to try.


Who could ever forget Humble Pie's version?

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 9:25 am
by Charlie
nigel w wrote: Obviously on a CD, the discipline of this internal structure no longer applies.

Funnily enough, I find that with compilations of 15, 16 or 17 tracks, there is a sort of ebb and flow that results from stringing several clutches of tracks together, usually 3 or 4, an acoustic sequence followed by a bunch of busier productions.

But back to the main point: I should have made clear that I was talking about albums that were not otherwise remarkable, having their best track surprisingly far down the running order. So this category wasn't intended to embrace the Beatles, or Dylan at his peak. On the other hand, it is interesting that you found so many masterpieces ending several albums when BD was at his best.

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 10:58 am
by Nigel w
There is indeed a skill to sequencing a CD in the way you describe Charlie, and it's abundantly evident on your annual Sound Of The World compilations.

But there's another point strikes me about the closing tracks to the Dylan albums of the mid-60s I mention above. They weren't just masterpieces. They were also signposts. Dylan used his closing tracks to convey a message of closure/moving on/apocalyptic finality - It Ain't Me Babe, for example, was a goodbye to the folkie/protest world. The preceding album, 1963's The Times They Are A Changin' also ended with a song called Restless Farewell.

After the motorcycle crash in '66 he stopped moving at such a frenetic pace and retreated to domestic comfort in Woodstock. And that was reflected in the closing tracks of the albums he made then ,too. John Wesley Harding ends with I'll Be Your Baby Tonight ("close your eyes, close the door... shut the light,shut the shade") and the follow-up, Nashville Skyline, with Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You ("throw my ticket out the window, throw my suitcase out there,too"). Suddenly he's not going anywhere and all those amphetamine-fuelled messages of restless motion are replaced with images of stasis... fascinating, eh?
At least it is to a sad old Dylan obssessive like me...

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 11:23 am
by Des
Oh no not another Bob Bloody Dylan thread!

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 11:23 am
by Ian A.
Charlie wrote:Funnily enough, I find that with compilations of 15, 16 or 17 tracks, there is a sort of ebb and flow that results from stringing several clutches of tracks together, usually 3 or 4, an acoustic sequence followed by a bunch of busier productions.


I agree entirely - but I think that could be because you and I come from the discipline of putting radio programmes together, where (maybe subconsciously) we want to grab them to keep listening, take them on a journey, and end with something interesting enough that they'll want to come back for more. I often find that zoning tracks together as you describe - in the same way that we'd segue them together without speaking in a radio show - makes much more listening sense than deliberately always going for variety between tracks as many compilers do. It gives a sort of aural narrative to it as well. And yes, that often means that the best tracks are "buried" at track 7 or 13 . . .

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 1:06 pm
by Charlie
nigel w wrote: It Ain't Me Babe, for example, was a goodbye to the folkie/protest world.

John Wesley Harding ends with I'll Be Your Baby Tonight ("close your eyes, close the door... shut the light,shut the shade")

Very nice observations, Nigel.

Certainly does add more weight to that line, 'it ain't me you're looking for.'

And yes, the last two tracks of John Wesley Hardin had a very different instrumentation from the rest of the album, and gave a clue as to what direction he was about to take on Nashville Skyline

But I wonder if Dylan himself had any interest in this kind of sequencing. It's the kind of thing the producer would think about, whereas everything we know about Dylan suggests that he prefers a more accidental way of doing things. I don't think there's any reference in Chronicles to planning the running order of his albums.