Last Sunday came with a triple shot of Prince--his new albums Lotus Flow3r, Mplsound, and Elixer (credited to vocalist Bria Valente, but produced by Prince) went on sale exclusively at Target. Such fecundity is nothing new for Minneapolis's finest: In 1996 he released Emancipation, a triple album. 1998's Crystal Ball did that one better.
But Prince is not the first artist interested in, shall we say, challenging the idea of quality over quantity. Some of rock and pop's biggest names have looked down their noses at the already flabby double-disc and opted for the monolithic triple. Below are my picks for the eight best. (In no particular order.)
1. George Harrison, All Things Must Pass
Unlike many of the other albums on this list, the quiet Beatle's first post-Fab Four effort is a tightly focused work of lush, spiritually themed folk and melodic rock--until you get to the end, when it devolves into a series of half-baked studio jams that almost, but not quite, sour the memory of what came before.
2. The Clash, Sandinista
Rap, reggae, fiddle-led folk--the London punk heroes tried it all, and tried it again, and tried it some more on this classic of fearless experimentation. Do we need as many druggy dub songs as are featured here? When they share space with a firecracker like "Police On My Back," the answer is yes.
3. Stevie Wonder, Songs In The Key Of Life
This was originally released as a double-album with a "bonus" EP. Where I come from, that's called a triple album--though, in this case, "great" works too. Dance to "I Wish," cry to "Pastime Paradise," and thank Stevie for giving you the rest.
4. Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
The title is no joke, though the album is full of them. It's also heartbreaking, catchy, and perhaps most impressively, never boring.
5. Led Zeppelin, How The West Was Won
Live Zep = glorious overkill.
6. Neil Young, Decade
This compilation covers the mercurial singer-songwriter's career from 1966 to 1977. By including everything from orchestral pop, to fragile stoner ballads, to drifting guitar excursions (without favoring any one style), Decade showed how beautifully of a piece Young's career was. His eclecticism is one of style, not sensibility.
7. Tom Waits, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards
Much like the above record, this collection (comprised largely of songs that didn't make it on to prior releases), is the best presentation of Waits' beautifully ragged, sozzled, and sentimental aesthetic.
8. Grateful Dead, Europe '72
It's hard to recommend an album this unwieldy to someone who's not a Deadhead, but the way that this live set balances shorter, spirited country rock with long, wonderfully intuitive improv explorations makes it a good argument for why this band deserves attention from stoner and teetotalers alike.
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