The Sweet Spot

The sweet spot.

The Little piece of time when “albums” were released.

Artists were able to take their time.  Make a complete work.  Even try make a true piece of art if they wanted to.

It probably started slowly around 1965, with the release of Rubber Soul.  It was the first time The Beatles were not running into the studio in between shows and tours and throwing down what they had written on the road.  They specifically laid out some time to make a complete record.  They didn’t really know it, but they were laying the groundwork.  Brian Wilson heard Rubber Soul (probably while The Beatles were back in the studio creating the even MORE albumesque Revolver), and made Pet Sounds.

The stage was now set.  The record company HATED Pet Sounds, there was no surfing songs.  And it didn’t sell as well as all other Beach Boy albums.

But the right people heard it.

Without Pet Sounds, George Martin says there would have been no Sgt.Pepper.

And with Pepper everything went Technicolor.

Artists were able to experiment with music, noise, content, flow, and album art.

It was possibly self-indulgent at times, but isn’t all great art?

But when did it stop?  When was this “sweet spot” over?  Some would argue that there are still people making great albums, but they know it’s not the same.  It’s not communal.  It’s not a happening when a great record comes out.  It’s….

Well, it’s not the same.

“Albums” were made well into the seventies.  Disco tried to kill it, but was only a blip on the cultural radar.  And some disco doesn’t suck, by the way.  Some.

“Born to Run”, “Exile on Main Street”, “Rumours”,  “Innervisions”, and many others by classic artist wouldn’t let disco kill the album.  The 80’s was a tougher time but still produced “Thriller” (The biggest selling album in the known universe), Purple Rain, and albums from such artist as AC/ DC/, REM, Guns and Roses and more. But it was getting more and more corporate.

In the 90’s U2, Radiohead, Nirvana,  Pearl jam and the like tried to keep the motor running, but the art form was dying.

Blame it on downloading, blame it on the record companies taking over where artist used to have more control, blame it on the rain like Milli Vanilli did, but it is what it is.

Someone once told me that the men in suits got involved after ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ sold so many records.  They finally figured out there was a lot of money to be made if this was run like a business and by businessmen.  Oh, and FOR businessmen.  I don’t know.

But I miss the sweet spot.  I miss an artist coming out with an album.  A package.  Something that hung together.  Something to look at while listening.  Something….special.

Something that stirred the soul and senses.

Paul with his very own copy

Brian with his very own....

What Stirred you?

 

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2 responses

  1. Shawn Ryan

    As anyone who works in the creative arts knows, once the suits get involved, the creativity is sucked out by sheer banality, play-it-safe fear and just plain stupidity. Bean counters are the least-creative people on the planet. They’re the ones who describe albums, movies, artwork as “product.” A pox upon their souls.

    February 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm

  2. JOHN MANN

    Yep, Brian “wanted to top Rubber Soul” so he did Pet Sounds (complete with Banana’s barking) and the Beatle’s heard Pet Sounds and were inspired to do Sgt. Pepper’s… They ditched the cute suits, similar haircuts AND the corporate suits and said: We are not just performers, we are artists and we have something to say.

    When performers become successful enough to take their lives back from the corporate suits, if they are indeed artists, the results are still phenomenal. Shooter Jennings’ Black Ribbon is a good example of a great album, with a singular theme and continuity running through it. Most new groups struggle to reach that point of success so they can create a purer form of art. When they reach that point, if they REALLY are artists, the results can be breathtaking!

    February 3, 2011 at 5:01 pm

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