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A double album (or double record) is an audio album which spans two units of the primary medium in which it is sold (typically two records or two compact discs). Common reasons to release a double album include artistic purposes or format constraints. Albums with three units are referred to as a "triple album"; typically an album with more than three unit is compiled and packaged as a box set.
Certain releases use the second unit to feature supplemental material to the main album such as live tracks, studio outtakes, cut songs, older unreleased material, music videos, or filmed live performances.
Recording artists often think of double albums as being a single piece artistically[who?]; however, there are exceptions such as John Lennon's Some Time in New York City and Pink Floyd's Ummagumma (both examples of one studio record and one live album packaged together) and OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (effectively two solo albums, one by each member of the duo). Another example of this approach is Works Volume 1 by Emerson Lake and Palmer, where side one featured Keith Emerson, side two Greg Lake, side three Carl Palmer, and side four was by the entire group.
The first double album was The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert by Benny Goodman, released in 1950 on Columbia Records. The first rock double album was Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde released on June 20, 1966, with The Mothers of Invention's debut record, Freak Out!, released only a week after on June 27, 1966.
The physical limitations of the vinyl record only allow for about 22 minutes of music, or up to 30 with decreased sound quality. The double album format allowed artists to release longer albums without sacrificing sound quality. Typically these albums are released in a gatefold jacket.
Occasionally, records released as double albums were released with sides one and four on one disc, and two and three on the other for turntables with automatic sequencing.
Since the 1980s, many older double albums have been re-released as a single CD, as the format allows for 80 minutes on one disc without affecting sound quality. However, some albums, such as The Beatles' The Beatles ("The White Album"), are over 80 minutes and must still be published as two discs.
The double album is commonly used for live albums to present an entire concert recording. Compilations and greatest hits records can also often be double albums. Soundtracks and scores are also common; particularly soundtracks to musicals, which typically last longer than 80 minutes.
In some cases, an album that would technically fit on one vinyl record is given a double album release to preserve fidelity. One example is The Beach Boys' The Smile Sessions, which had its main track listing spread out over three sides, and bonus tracks added to fill out the fourth side.
There are only a few examples of a sesquialbum (i.e. one and a half records).
Johnny Winter released what would be the first three-sided rock album, Second Winter, on two 12-inch discs, with the flip side of the second disc being blank. A 1976 live concert recording by Keith Jarrett and his quartet, released as Eyes of the Heart by ECM Records in 1979, Joe Jackson's 1986 release Big World, and Pavement's Wowee Zowee are other examples of this.
A triple album (or triple record) is simply an album with three units of audio. Some notable early examples include Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More, released August 15, 1970, and George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, released November 27, 1970.
Similar to a double album, a triple album may contain studio recordings, live recordings, a combination of the two, or a compilation of an artist's work. Due to the physical size a triple album warrants, the album may be released as an extended gatefold sleeve or cardboard box.
With the longer time available on compact disc, many albums that spanned three vinyl records are able to fit on two compact discs.
When albums exceed the triple album format they are generally packaged and referred to as box sets. Typically albums consisting of four or more discs are compilations or live recordings rather than studio albums, such as In a Word: Yes (1969–) and Chicago at Carnegie Hall.
Studio albums with more than three discs are very rare. Notable examples include:
- French singer Léo Ferré's four-disc studio concept album named L'Opéra du pauvre (1983)
- Pan Sonic with a four-disc studio album named Kesto (234.48:4) (2004)
- Esham released a four-disc box set in 2006, which was a re-release of his 1992 album Judgement Day.
- British singer-songwriter Chris Rea with his 11-disc set Blue Guitars (2006)
- Avant-garde guitarist Buckethead with his 13-disc set In Search of The (2007)
Unusual examples of double albumsEdit
In 1975, jazz artist Rahsaan Roland Kirk released The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color which upon closer inspection actually contains four sides of audio, as there are a few conversation snippets pressed onto side four; the CD reissue includes all of them.
Artists such as The Stranglers, Elvis Costello and The Clash would sometimes release early pressings of their albums with a "bonus" 45 RPM single of extra music. Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life similarly included a bonus EP of songs that were later included at the end of the album on CD reissues.
The 1992 Julian Cope album Jehovahkill contained three sides with a laser-etched fourth side which was purposefully unplayable. Other examples include My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade, Norwegian band Motorpsycho's vinyl releases of Motorpsycho presents The International Tussler Society and Heavy Metal Fruit, and Excepter's 2014 album Familiar.
Genesis' Three Sides Live, Kiss' Alive II, Donna Summer's Live and More, and the Moody Blues' Caught Live Plus 5 are examples of double albums with three sides of live recordings and one side of studio recordings.
Some artists have released multiple related albums simultaneously which could be seen together as a double album. Moby Grape's Wow/Grape Jam and Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion I/Use Your Illusion II are notable examples of this.