Examples of epic albums?
May 18, 2011 3:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of ambitious, epic albums - ideally double albums - that stand as cultural and musical touchstones of generations or moments in time; albums that, while being of one genre of music, nevertheless won legions of fans outside that genre.

Some examples I can think of to give you an idea of sort of what I'm looking for:

Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti
Pink Floyd - The Wall
Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

I think of those as being ambitious, long, epic albums that ended up one way or another on the stereos, record players, CD players, whatever, of just about everyone in the generations to which they were released. I'm looking for examples of those sorts of albums from any genre at all, from any time period at all. They don't have to be the best albums ever or anything - the standard here is that they defined the era for that sort of music, spoke to a generation, and were huge commercially and/or culturally. Ideally, I'm looking for examples of double albums or very long albums. They don't have to be concept albums necessarily, but concept albums would fit in some cases.
posted by The World Famous to Media & Arts (82 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below by OutKast
posted by carsonb at 3:49 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Allman Brothers - At Fillmore East
Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
posted by Clustercuss at 3:49 PM on May 18, 2011


Oh, and er, The Beatles (White Album), of course.
posted by carsonb at 3:50 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and Grateful Dead - Europe '72
posted by Clustercuss at 3:50 PM on May 18, 2011


London Calling by the Clash, definitely. (Sandinista! is longer, but I don't know that it won over quite as many people as London Calling.)
posted by scody at 3:52 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not a double album, but otherwise, I can't think of anything that fits this better than The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:52 PM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Magnetic Fields -- 69 Love Songs
posted by phelixshu at 3:52 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


use your illusion 1 & 2 by guns and roses
posted by ultrapotato at 3:53 PM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Again, not a double album, but Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell is definitely epic in its own way.
posted by pdb at 3:54 PM on May 18, 2011


The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld - The Orb.
posted by pompomtom at 3:56 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


List of double albums
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:57 PM on May 18, 2011


Not a double album, but Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison fits.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:58 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Decade by Neil Young
posted by supermedusa at 4:01 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also:

Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Tom Waits, Franks Wild Years
Paul Weller, 22 Dreams (okay, not even on the radar screen over here, but wildly critically acclaimed in Britain and otherwise fits the bill!)
posted by scody at 4:03 PM on May 18, 2011


OK Computer by Radiohead.
posted by kindall at 4:04 PM on May 18, 2011


oh my god, and of course The Who's Tommy and Quadrophenia
posted by scody at 4:05 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Birth of the Cool, Miles Davis

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, The Beatles

4 Way Street, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Tommy, The Who

Pictures At An Exhibition, Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Running On Empty, Jackson Brown

Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, The Sex Pistols
posted by likeso at 4:06 PM on May 18, 2011


Sign O' The Times, by Prince was created to answer this question in every way.
posted by smoke at 4:07 PM on May 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life.
posted by Balonious Assault at 4:09 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan.
posted by joannemullen at 4:11 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


All Things Must Pass by George Harrison?

oops, I guess it is a triple album. does that count?
posted by ian1977 at 4:14 PM on May 18, 2011


Queensryche Operation Mindcrime (1988) and Operation Mindcrime II (2006) could be considered a double album. The first one's awesome, haven't bothered to listen to the second.
posted by jaimystery at 4:16 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


oops, I guess it is a triple album. does that count?

Triple albums totally count.
posted by The World Famous at 4:19 PM on May 18, 2011


Wheels of Fire - Cream

Uncle Meat - Mothers

Rock of Ages - The Band

Layla and other Love songs - Derek and the Dominos
posted by Freedomboy at 4:27 PM on May 18, 2011


Not a double album, but I'd vote Joshua Tree by U2.

And Kind of Blue would be my Miles Davis selection...although truthfully, he has a bunch of epic recordings.
posted by smirkette at 4:32 PM on May 18, 2011


Tubular Bells.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:32 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Minutemen--Double Nickels on the Dime
Husker Du--Zen Arcade
posted by Papaver somniferum at 4:39 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation
posted by facetious at 4:42 PM on May 18, 2011


Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds. Prog-tastic.
posted by holgate at 4:42 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do mashups/bootie count? Just today have been re-listening to The Kleptones' 24 Hours. (Wikipedia calls it a "mashup double concept album".)
posted by attercoppe at 4:48 PM on May 18, 2011


albums that ended up one way or another on the stereos, record players, CD players, whatever, of just about everyone in the generations to which they were released

If you're serious about this criterion, looking at bestselling-albums lists would probably be a good place to start.

Also: the soundtracks to West Side Story and Saturday Night Fever.
posted by box at 4:55 PM on May 18, 2011


Wait, are those double albums? SNF is two records, anyway, if memory serves.
posted by box at 4:56 PM on May 18, 2011


Both "Grease" and "Saturday Night Fever" were double albums.

Ditto "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Sir Elton John. It certainly defined MY generation--or maybe just me, but epic it is.

It is the only album other than Led Zep IV I've replaced THREE times.
posted by PixieS at 4:57 PM on May 18, 2011


Waiting for Columbus - Little Feat.
posted by alphanerd at 5:04 PM on May 18, 2011


+1 Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life. Very important and great listening.

Chicago Transit Authority. I don't think this music has stood the test of time, but they had monster hits, and brought jazz and brass into the pop/rock music scene. I never heat them anymore. I'm tempted to listen again.

+1 Saturday Night Fever. Iconic. And fun.

Also... anything by The Grateful Dead.
posted by valannc at 5:08 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blonde on Blonde - Dylan

Live/Dead - Grateful Dead (legions of fans, to be sure; this is the album that launched a thousand trips. Not sure how long a shadow it casts beyond those already predisposed to listen to it, however.)
posted by mosk at 5:23 PM on May 18, 2011


"Frampton Comes Alive" said something to a great mass of people, I'm not sure what it was.
posted by canoehead at 5:24 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not a double, but sort of epic: Neutral Milk Hotel's album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.
posted by bibliogrrl at 5:24 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


::sigh::

Let me try the Dylan link again:

Blonde on Blonde - Dylan.

If a mod wants to help me and fix my bad html in my earlier post, I'd be ever so grateful.

posted by mosk at 5:25 PM on May 18, 2011


Not a double, but Michael Jackson's Thriller is probably so obvious as to not need pointing out.
posted by Gator at 5:27 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh shit! And Cheap Trick! How could I forget them! At Budokan is what you're after.

Have we talked about Frampton Comes Alive! yet?
posted by bibliogrrl at 5:27 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sasha and Digweed - Northern Exposure
posted by empath at 5:45 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It doesn't count yet, but I believe time will tell:
Janelle Monáe - Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase) + The The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III)

relevant videos of awesome
posted by nicebookrack at 5:46 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ Superstar ruled our household, kids & 'rents alike, for what seemed like years in the 70's.

I think Purple Rain, though not a double LP, had a lot bigger cultural impact than Sign 'O The Times. Maybe the movie helped?
posted by Bron at 5:51 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


MMV, but perhaps Blue Oyster Cult's Workshop of the Telescopes
posted by jgirl at 5:55 PM on May 18, 2011


Excellent answers so far, everybody. Thanks!

I just thought of another - Front 242 - 06:21:03:11 Up Evil and 05:22:09:12 Off

And, although not a double album, The Downward Spiral fits what I'm looking for, too, I think.
posted by The World Famous at 5:57 PM on May 18, 2011


I feel like Green Day's American Idiot album fits your criteria; it captures the angst of the Dubya era pretty well, and while it's more of a concept album (and not a double), at times it flirts with epic poetry (whenever the St. Jimmy character is invoked). It peaked at #1 on 19 different music charts worldwide and ended up becoming a Broadway production.
posted by krippledkonscious at 6:00 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Actually, those Front 242 albums don't quite qualify as cultural or musical touchstones - but I do like them and they're an epic double concept album.)
posted by The World Famous at 6:02 PM on May 18, 2011


Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile
posted by thewalledcity at 6:02 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Smashing Pumpkins. I don't know anyone who didn't own this!
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 6:17 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't believe nobody has mentioned the Electric Light Orchestra Out of the Blue just on the epic double-album front. Side three (on vinyl) is a mini concept album of its own called "Concerto for a Rainy Day" (and you probably know Mr. Blue Sky from it even if you're not an ELO fan).
posted by immlass at 6:20 PM on May 18, 2011


Kruder & Dorfmeister - K & D Sessions
posted by gnutron at 6:34 PM on May 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Love me some Bat Out of Hell. He did, like 10-20 years later put out an album called Bat Out of Hell 2. Never heard the whole thing of album 2, so I don't know if it continues the saga (if you could call it that...it was more like "grease" than an Epic adventure; basically about girls & motorcycles & coming of age & the things that go right & wrong about relationships). Three songs that did make it onto the airwaves that you might have heard: Paradise by the Dashboard Lights, 2 Out of 3 Ain't Bad (a biting, but uncharacteristically quiet ballad) and from album 2, I Would Do Anything for Love [But I Won't Do That]. I understand the female singing with him is his wife, Annie Wilson of the band Heart.
posted by Ys at 6:35 PM on May 18, 2011


Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges - Clube da Esquina. There isn't a Brazilian alive who doesn't know "Cravo e Canela."
posted by hydrophonic at 7:05 PM on May 18, 2011


All 'n All by Earth, Wind, and Fire.
posted by alms at 7:16 PM on May 18, 2011


Yes' Tales from Topographic Oceans
Dan Fogelberg's The Innocent Age
Donna Summer's Once Upon a Time
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 7:19 PM on May 18, 2011


Freedom of Choice, Devo
Heavy Weather, Weather Report
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Genesis
Quadrophenia, The Who
The Nightfly, Donald Fagen
Aja, Steely Dan
Brain Salad Surgery, ELP
posted by luckynerd at 7:34 PM on May 18, 2011


I think the recent thread on Graceland established just how epic that album was.

The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin is the most epic album I know.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:43 PM on May 18, 2011


I can't believe that this has 60 answers and no one has mentioned Tupac's "All Eyez on Me" or Biggie's "Life After Death" - both double albums and everyone I knew had a copy.
posted by milkrate at 8:26 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not a double album and I didn't see it mentioned but I think Nirvana's Nevermind qualifies.
posted by AskGMoney at 8:46 PM on May 18, 2011


"Jagged Little Pill" by Alanis Morissette. It seems like almost everyone in Canada had that album (well, she sold 2 million in a country of 30 million)
posted by davey_darling at 8:56 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix.
posted by and for no one at 9:14 PM on May 18, 2011


Off The Wall--Michael Jackson
Pet Sounds--Beach Boys
Surf's Up--Beach Boys
The Soft Parade--The Doors
posted by luckynerd at 10:16 PM on May 18, 2011


What about the Body Talk album(s) by Robyn?
posted by rossination at 10:32 PM on May 18, 2011


Roni Size Reprazent - New Forms
posted by gnutron at 11:37 PM on May 18, 2011


Nitty Gritty Dirt Band & many friends: Will The Circle Be Unbroken (a triple!)

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass: Whipped Cream and Other Delights

Enigma: MCMXC a.D. (I'm still amazed by how huge this was at the time, though when I really need a Sandra/Cretu fix I go to Into A Secret Land first.)

Also strongly seconding Sasha & Digweed's Northern Exposure (the original, two-disc version) and The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (ditto), both of which are utterly epic.
posted by Lazlo at 12:12 AM on May 19, 2011


Metallica's s/t "black" album. Seems like it was everywhere, forever.

And The Cure's "Disintegration" is pretty epic.
posted by doogan nash at 1:35 AM on May 19, 2011


The Doors - Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine
Yes - Yessongs
Kiss - Alive!
Deep Purple - Made in Japan
posted by alfanut at 6:29 AM on May 19, 2011


Joanna Newsom's triple album Have One On Me might not be there yet, but it will be.

It will be.
posted by davidjmcgee at 6:30 AM on May 19, 2011


Pink Floyd - The Wall
posted by rjs at 9:53 AM on May 19, 2011


The Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique

A landmark in hip-hop as well as the art of sampling.
posted by sciapod at 10:50 AM on May 19, 2011


You guys are awesome. Thanks!
posted by The World Famous at 10:53 AM on May 19, 2011


(And I mean "guys" as a gender-neutral term.)
posted by The World Famous at 10:53 AM on May 19, 2011


Not a double-album, and perhaps premature, but Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is probably the first hip-hop album that literally everybody I know has and loves (since maybe The Fugees' The Score).
posted by AceRock at 12:11 PM on May 19, 2011


Jimi Hendrix - Live at Woodstock
James Brown - Live at the Apollo
Radiohead - Kid A/Amnesiac
posted by Locobot at 12:22 PM on May 19, 2011


Not yet mentioned
1969 Ummagumma - Pink Floyd
1972 Exile on Main Street - Rolling Stones
1974 It's Too Late to Stop Now - van Morrison
posted by adamvasco at 12:39 PM on May 19, 2011


One More: 1971 Mad Dogs and Englishmen - Leon Russell and Joe Cocker
posted by adamvasco at 12:54 PM on May 19, 2011


Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
posted by Foam Pants at 2:29 PM on May 19, 2011


Moby - Play
posted by oulipian at 5:38 PM on May 19, 2011


Stretching "double album" to "consecutive albums": Queen, A Night At The Opera and A Day At The Races.

(Could maybe argue the same for the first two Oasis albums.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:50 PM on May 19, 2011


Velvet Underground - 1969.

Love - Forever Changes (not double, but utterly seminal)

Public Enemy - It takes a nation of millions to hold us back

Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica (not his greatest by a long way, but seminal)

seconding Bitches Brew and I would add Birth of the Cool.

I sort of think Arcade Fire's Funeral will go down as one of these.

Marvin Gaye - What's Goin' On

Joy Division - Closer

I could probably go on for several hours in this vein...
posted by unSane at 6:56 PM on May 19, 2011


This is a hell of a playlist by the way.
posted by unSane at 6:57 PM on May 19, 2011


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