All At One Time

Sometime way back (likely about ten years ago, but I’m not going to go dig), I wrote that one of the benefits of the digital age was getting away from the album format and being able to structure a playlist of separate tracks.

Back in the LP days, if there was a horrendous track right in the middle of Side One of a generally great album (friends of mine in those days might have nominated “Octopus’ Garden” on Abbey Road), one had to either endure the track or go to the turntable and actually lift the tone arm to set it down at the start of the next track.

As I explored that idea back then, I wrote something (maybe) about being freed from vinyl tyranny.

About six months ago, as I puttered here in my corner of our downstairs room. I thought, “Y’know, it might be nice to listen to Abbey Road all in order.” (Or it might have been Blood On The Tracks or maybe A Question Of Balance.) I had two ways to do that. There’s a large CD player on the other side of my desk, but I’d have to pull the CD from its spot in the stacks and walk around the desk and the keyboard.

Or I could have the search function in the RealPlayer find the tracks that made up the album and place them in running order and then listen.

And then I wondered: Does my new CD ripper allows me to rip an entire CD into one mp3? For years, I’d used a freeware program that allowed me to do that. I’d not done entire albums but I’d done large mp3s of suites, like the medleys on Side Two of (again) Abbey Road. And maybe five years ago, when I got a new computer, that freeware program and Windows 10 didn’t like each other. So for a few years, I used RealPlayer to rip mp3s, and as much as I like most of what that program does, its ripping function is clunky and slow.

But about eighteen months ago – six months before this inner conversation took place – I’d invested in a new suite of mp3 management tools, including an mp3 ripper. I’d not dug into it very much, as I was still trying to catch up on replacing the single mp3 rips lost in my external drive crash the autumn before we moved. Maybe it had a function to rip whole CDs as one mp3.

Well, as readers might expect (or there would be no point to telling the story), it does, and at odd times over the last six months, I’ve been doing just that.

There are currently eighty-seven tracks tagged “Full Album” on the digital shelves. The selection is heavy with the Moody Blues (part of the long-delayed project here reviewing all of their albums), Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. None of that is a surprise, I’m certain. Those are my mainstays, along with the Beatles, who will soon have many more albums in the section than they do now.

What I find more interesting are some of the other artists whose works have come to mind and wound up in the “Full Albums” section: Three Counting Crows albums from the 1990s; two from 1969 and 1970 by Brewer & Shipley; Jim Croce’s three major label releases from the early 1970s; three by Dan Fogelberg from the 1970s (one of those with flautist Tim Weisberg); two from the 1970s British folkie Shelagh McDonald; Dusty Springfield’s Dusty In Memphis; Steve Winwood’s Arc Of A Diver; and David Gray’s 200 album Babylon, just to mention a few.

I let the albums play on random as I read news or putter or play tabletop baseball. I don’t always listen purposefully, but I hear the music roll by (just like it used to in the rec room back home on Kilian Boulevard), and I’m learning some things: I don’t really like Roxy Music’s Avalon beyond “More Than This” and the title track. The Fogelbergs wear thin after a few listens. August And Everything After by Counting Crows is a far better album than I recall. So, too, is The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby & The Range. And Steely Dan’s Aja remains a sonic masterpiece.

It’s a long-range project, adding three or four a week. Where will it end? I dunno. Right now, I still have more than two terabytes free on the external hard drive. Will I get rid of the CDs and LPs if I get them all ripped as albums? Hell, no.

Here’s a full album from 1989 I posted at YouTube almost three years ago that will soon be in the “Full Album” folder on the digital shelves: Evidence by Boo Hewerdine and Darden Smith, one of my favorite obscurities.

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