Is the album dead? In today’s age of split-second attention spans, many music commentators and critics question if listeners still have an appetite for full-length albums. When audiences are bombarded continually with new music amidst other forms of media, do they have the time or patience to listen to a dozen or more songs?
While album sales are at an all time low (with Taylor Swift’s “1989” being a huge exception) due in a large part to the rise of streaming and piracy, there is still something to be said for keeping the format alive. Whatever method they are distributed, quality albums can deliver more than even the best single.
As a larger body of work, the album allows the artist the freedom to experiment and take risk. Not every song has to be catchy and easily appeal to a wide audience. The artist can take the time to tell a story or set a mood, both through the lyrics and musical arrangements.
Amidst the discussion on the future of the album, Jasper Jams this week highlights some notable deep tracks. These are records that received minimal to no radio play when they were first released. An artist’s dedicated fans will know all of his or her music. The casual listener, however, is only exposed to the prominent hits from even the most critically acclaimed albums.
Here is just a handful of some hidden gems, both recent and from many years past.
1) “Dragon Days” by Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys’ 2003 album “The Diary of Alicia Keys” spawned four singles. While there is no denying the magnificence of “You Don’t Know My Name” and “If I Ain’t Got You,” “Dragon Days” is unfortunately often overlooked on the album. Also be sure to check out “Wake Up” that immediately follows on the track list.
2) “3-Minute Rule” by Beastie Boys
This song comes from “Paul’s Boutique,” arguably a deep album in its own sense. While the New York based group rose over the years from their initial punk rock roots to hip-hop royalty, the Beastie Boys’ sophomore album did not see wide commercial success. “3-Minute Rule” features a funky old school hip-hop beat amidst the album’s diverse sounds. Ad-Rock’s name-check of Jack Kerouac after calling out a “false fake sucker” sums up the Beastie Boys pretty well.
3) “Take It All” by Adele
The album “21” earned six Grammy Awards for the British singer with powerful pipes and timeless talent. “Take It All” is one of the seemingly few songs from the album that did not get a lot of airtime here in the states. The whole album fully deserves its commercial and critical success.
4) “Had I Known You Better Then” by Daryl Hall & John Oates
Hall & Oates. As true fans know, they preferred to be called by their full names, but it just doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as well. The masters of blue-eyed soul are recognized primarily for their smooth and infectious pop hits such as “Rich Girl” and “Maneater.” Yet even early on, they already had a little funk mixed in with their soft rock sound. “Had I Known You Better Then” is from their second album, “Abandoned Luncheonette.” Even as Oates takes the lead (a relative rarity for their tracks), the two still complement each other strongly.
5) “I’ve Loved These Days” by Billy Joel
Everyone knows “New York State of Mind,” “Uptown Girl” and the rest of the greatest hits from the “Piano Man.” Even with a ridiculous total of 33 Top 40 hits, Joel has a massive catalog that is worth exploring for deep tracks. This one comes from the 1976 collection “Turnstiles,” an album with the iconic cover of Joel in the subway turnstiles, fitting for the theme of mainly New York oriented songs.