What is the point of making albums in this age of the single? Few people are going to listen beyond the first three songs, and many will flip through those three songs in less than a minute. If you don’t turn them on in that first minute, you have lost any chance at reaching them. So would it not be smarter to take that time you spend in making an album and put it all into one song, a song guaranteed to hook even the most fragmented listener? Well, I suppose that depends on who you are, and why you are writing songs in the first place. For those more interested in taking people’s money than giving people a memorable listening experience, making albums may seem an archaic absurdity.
Why take a chance with 12 untested songs when you can beat the odds with one tried and true formulaic hit? Maybe because some of us don’t equate making music with playing roulette. I, for one, have always thought in terms of albums. Although I grew up during the infancy of rock music, when singles were the currency and albums usually consisted of one hit, one potential follow up hit, and ten songs that were just filler.
The typical teenager of the fifties and early sixties measured their record collection in terms of singles, not albums. You might find a few greatest hits collections and maybe an Elvis soundtrack or two, but there was as yet no concept of a thematically unified album, unless it was one of your moms Sinatra records on Capitol or your little brothers Songs of the Civil War. It wasnt until 1965, with Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, that a rock and roll album came out in which every song was a crucial pat of the album as a whole.
In the wake of that album’s success, record companies jumped on the album oriented rock bandwagon. Fewer and fewer songs were popping up intermittently as stand alone singles. FM radio began playing albums in their entirety on new release night. Concept albums became popular, and albums without a concept were being listened to and appraised on their entire contents, not just the hit song. Of course, the hit song hadn’t lost any of its importance. It still took a hit single to sell the album, and people still bought singles, but the album was the medium, and the best of the post Dylan artists were thinking in album terms. as were most of the serious listeners.
And it went on this way for the next 30 years, the last masterwork of album oriented rock being Suedes Dog Man Star, although it certainly wasnt the last time a band released a great album of thematically related material. But it may well have been he last album the general public listened to in the sequence intended by the artist, and the last time an album was universally experienced as a unified work of art.
So why waste time making albums that nobody will listen to in the preferred way? It’s the way I think. I’ve been sequencing imaginary albums since I started writing songs. And when I write songs now, they come in batches that have some underlying commonality. Each song might be a chapter in a novel, or a scene in a movie, and sometimes an essay in a series of think pieces. I don’t think hearing just one of my songs, or anybody elses for that matter, is going to tell anybody what im about, either as a writer, musician, or performer. You have to listen to one of my albums, from start to finish, alone with headphones on, to get to know me and my work.
Why Blue Tower Records? Over the last few years I have been participating in various song writing challenges, which have led me in and out of the music of dozens of songwriters whose work is as good as anything I have heard through a lifetime of working, in one way or another, in the music business.
With so many people complaining that there are no good songs being written anymore, I had to do something to back up my feeling that there is plenty of excellent music being made, every day, all over the world. So I came up with the concept of Phase4Music as the music of the present with roots in the past and hands on the future, and got the idea to disseminate some of this music through a monthly audio magazine, inspired in part by Fast Folk magazine from NYC in the late 80s, which introduced several of the songwriters who emerged as the leading talents in the Northeastern Folk Revival of the 80s and 90s.
So I ask you to give it a chance. Listen to the January issue of our songladder audio magazine. It is possible that, taken individually, many of these songs might have been blown away in the wind of a few airings on college radio, but there is strength in numbers and, if listened to in sequence, may well reward the listener with a memorable journey through the diverse creations of these 11 handpicked performing songwriters…..and you may even discover someone who wins your heart and mind with their offering.
When you go to the bandcamp site to listen to the album, you will see the download for sale for $10. Ignore that. If you would like a free download, send me a message at BWhi51@yahoo.com and I will send you a code for a free download and if you then want to subscribe, you can send $10 to BWhi51@yahoo.com via paypal to receive a full year, 12 issue subscription. or if $10 is more than you can afford, send what you will. As I said earlier, we are more interested in giving you our music than in taking your money.