Double album

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A double album on compact disc CD double album.jpg
A double album on compact disc

A double album (or double record) is an audio album that spans two units of the primary medium in which it is sold, typically either records or compact disc. A double album is usually, though not always, released as such because the recording is longer than the capacity of the medium. Recording artists often think of double albums as being a single piece artistically; however, there are exceptions such as John Lennon's Some Time in New York City (which consisted of one studio record and one live album packaged together) and OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (effectively two solo albums, one by each member of the duo). Since the advent of the compact disc, albums are sometimes released with a bonus disc featuring additional material as a supplement to the main album, with live tracks, studio out-takes, cut songs, or older unreleased material. One innovation was the inclusion of a DVD of related material with a compact disc, such as video related to the album or DVD-Audio versions of the same recordings. Some such discs were also released on a two-sided format called DualDisc.


Depending on the media used, some releases were double albums in one format and single albums in another. For example, a gramophone record (vinyl LP) consisting of two discs of less than 80 minutes in total could be fit onto a single standard-length compact disc (CD). Other times, track order could vary between two different media by rearranging the tracks in one medium, or a more efficient use of space could be made; for example, reducing a double album in LP format to a single cassette tape.

The same principles apply to the triple album, which comprises three units. Packages with more units than three are often referred to as a box set.


Cover for The Beatles (1968), colloquially known as The White Album, one of the best-selling double albums of all time TheBeatles68LP.jpg
Cover for The Beatles (1968), colloquially known as The White Album, one of the best-selling double albums of all time

1948 to the early 1970s: long-play records

The introduction of the long-play or LP record in 1948 allowed longer tracks or a greater number of tracks per record, with approximately 22 minutes of music per side, for a total of 44 minutes. [1] Despite this, recordings of entire classical or operatic pieces were often too long for one LP disc, thus albums of two or more discs were made. As they were costly to make and sell, double albums and multi-record releases were largely limited to long works such as classical music and, later, to live recordings and compilations. One of the first live double albums, and one of the earliest double albums featuring non-classical music, was The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert by Benny Goodman, a concert recording released in 1950 on Columbia Records. Studio recordings of operas have been released as double, triple, quadruple and quintuple albums since the 1950s. [2]

As record costs reduced over time and greater thought was given to the album as an artistic piece, double albums became more common. One of the first examples consisting of new studio recordings is 1956's Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book . [3] Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde , released on June 20, 1966, is widely considered to be one of the first double albums in popular music with complete original recordings by the artist. It was followed just a week later by the Mothers of Invention's debut album Freak Out! , which was released on June 27, 1966. [4]

In the years following, original double albums from pop and rock artists became more common, and were often released at the height of the artists' careers. Notable examples include The Beatles' eponymous 1968 album, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road from 1973, and Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti from 1975. Additionally, the rise of progressive rock at the time, which often involves complex and long tracks akin to classical music, and concept albums often made a second disc necessary. Notable examples include Yes’s 4-track Tales From Topographic Oceans from 1973 and Genesis’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway from 1974. The best-selling double album of all time is Pink Floyd's The Wall , from 1979 with over 30 million copies (60 million units) sold worldwide. [5]

Late 1970s–1990s: compact cassette tapes and CDs

In the latter half of the 1970s, as technology advanced, the Philips corporation's compact cassette tape began to supersede LPs as the dominant pre-recorded music format. The tapes allowed for a much longer 30 to 45 minutes per side, for a total of 60 to 90 minutes total, doubling the length available for music storage. In 1982, Philips introduced the compact disc, with a continuous length of 74 minutes (later developed to have 80 minutes). Artists could put far more on one unit, rarely exceeding the runtime available on a cassette tape or CD, and double albums became uncommon. The extra space also allowed many earlier double albums to be reissued on a single disc: Blonde on Blonde, for instance, was reissued on a single cassette [6] and a single CD. [7]

Despite the greater length, there were some issues with the length and track order of albums, both reissues and new releases. The Beatles, originally released as a double LP, remained split across two units for both its cassette [8] and CD [9] reissues, with the tracks in a different order on the pair of cassettes to ensure equal tape length. Meanwhile, 1988's He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince was released on both vinyl and cassette. At 85 minutes, the vinyl record was released as a double album, making it the first double vinyl LP release by hip hop artists, while its single CD release was truncated by 13 minutes. Other albums originally issued as double LPs, such as Mike Oldfield's Incantations (1978), Chick Corea's My Spanish Heart (1976), Fleetwood Mac's Tusk (1979), and The Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime (1984) were likewise shortened for their 74-minute CD release, though both were later reissued in their entirety when 80-minute CDs were available.

While not as common since the advent of these formats, particularly for studio albums, double albums continued to be released, particularly for live recordings, classical music, soundtracks, compilations, reissues of double-LP albums that still exceeded the 80-minute CD limit, and a number of popular studio albums were released as double albums on these formats at this time, such as the Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995) and Michael Jackson's HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995) which sold over 20 million copies (40 million units) worldwide. [10] The following year, Tupac Shakur became the first rapper to sell a double album globally with All Eyez on Me , becoming his best selling album by the time he died in 1996.


With regard to records, most double album sets are organized by manual sequencing, where the order of sides played are laid much as they are on a single LP; Side one and two are organized back-to-back on the first disc, as are three and four on the second disc and so on. However, some releases up to the 1970s are optimized for automatic sequencing. On a double album, this would have had sides one and four on one disc and sides two and three on the other. This sequencing, used previously in multi-disc albums in the 78rpm era, let the listener play through the entire double album and only need to flip over the records once, compared to manual sequencing where the listener would have to change the side or record three times. The use of automatic sequencing gradually declined during the 1970s as automatic record changers fell out of favor. High quality manual turntables became more affordable and are often preferred because they cause less record wear.

After a company decided on manual or automatic sequence, production of that title generally stayed in the same configuration indefinitely. Notable examples of albums using automatic sequence include the 1968 Reprise Records release, Electric Ladyland , by The Jimi Hendrix Experience which was still sold in automatic sequence well into the late 1980s. Other common examples include Frampton Comes Alive! by Peter Frampton, Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder, Tommy and Quadrophenia by The Who, and Bad Girls by Donna Summer.


There are only a few examples of a sesquialbum (i.e. one and a half records).

Johnny Winter released what would be the first three-sided rock album, Second Winter , on two 12-inch discs, with the flip side of the second disc being blank. A 1976 live concert recording by Keith Jarrett and his quartet, released as Eyes of the Heart by ECM Records in 1979, Joe Jackson's 1986 release Big World , and Pavement's Wowee Zowee are other examples of this.

In 1975, jazz artist Rahsaan Roland Kirk released The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color which apparently had only three sides, but on closer inspection, there were a small number of grooves pressed on side four with a few short "hidden" conversation snippets; the CD reissue includes all of them.

In 1982, Todd Rundgren and his band released the self-titled album Utopia featuring one full LP of 10 songs, and a second 12-inch disc with five bonus tracks, the same lineup on each side.

The Monty Python album Matching Tie and Handkerchief was originally issued with two concentric grooves with different programs on the second side, but this was done for comedic rather than practical reasons. The 2019 vinyl issue of Monty Python Sings (again) comprises two discs, with the flip side of the second disc featuring exclusive Monty Python 50th Anniversary artwork.

The Stranglers, Elvis Costello and The Clash (amongst other 1970s/80s acts) would sometimes release early pressings of their albums with extra material on a 45 RPM single. The Sunlandic Twins by Of Montreal features a third side officially called a "bonus EP", essentially offering an alternate definition of an EP, a single 33+13 RPM side instead of a two-sided 45 RPM record.

The 1992 Julian Cope album Jehovahkill contained three sides, or "phases", with a laser-etched fourth side which was unplayable, which also occurred with Norwegian band Motorpsycho's vinyl releases of Motorpsycho presents The International Tussler Society and Heavy Metal Fruit , and Excepter's 2014 album Familiar (the third side, with only one track, being shorter).

Seattle band Alice in Chains released their first two EPs, Jar of Flies , and Sap on two vinyl discs in 1994, with three sides on vinyl, while the fourth side contained a laser etching of the Alice in Chains logo. The vinyl pressing of the My Chemical Romance album The Black Parade also has three sides worth of content, with side four being a laser etching of a portion of the limited edition album art.

Genesis' Three Sides Live , Kiss' Alive II , Donna Summer's Live and More , and the Moody Blues' Caught Live Plus 5 are examples of double albums with three sides of live recordings (i.e. one and a half albums) and one side of studio recordings.

The vinyl reissues of two albums by The Tragically Hip, Trouble at the Henhouse and Music @ Work , are on two discs, but the fourth side is blank. In the 2010s and 2020s, as more digital era albums from the 1990s and 2000s were issued on vinyl, often for the first time, blank sides became more common and often included etchings into the fourth side, such as the reissues of EART HL I NG by David Bowie (previously released on 1LP in 1997), Alice by Tom Waits and soundtrack albums such as The Crow and School of Rock .

Triple album

Among the first successful triple albums (or triple records) were Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More , released August 15, 1970, and George Harrison's All Things Must Pass , released November 27, 1970. A triple album may be live, such as The Band's The Last Waltz (1978) and Led Zeppelin's How the West Was Won (2003); or a compilation of an artist's work, such as Stevie Wonder's retrospective anthology Looking Back . Yes's live album Yessongs was made a triple album owing to its inclusion of many of the band's longer compositions. With the longer time available on compact disc, many albums that spanned three vinyl discs are able to fit on two compact discs (an example being Nine Inch Nails' The Fragile).

Triple albums are released across genres, including punk with The Clash's Sandinista! ; alternative rock with Pearl Jam's 11/6/00 – Seattle, Washington ; and mainstream pop with Prince's Emancipation .

Frank Sinatra's Trilogy: Past Present Future was originally released as a three LP set in 1980. Compact disc pressings of the album combine the triple vinyl set onto two CDs, with "Past" and "Present" taking up the first disc.

The first triple hip-hop album was American Hunger by New York City rap artist MF Grimm which was released in 2006. It contains 20 songs on each disc.

American hip hop artist Lupe Fiasco's canceled third studio album release LupEND would have been a triple album, composed of discs titled "Everywhere", "Nowhere", and "Down Here". Joanna Newsom's 2010 album Have One on Me is a triple album; due to the unusual length of the songs, there are only six tracks on each disc.

Escalator over the Hill , Carla Bley's jazz opera (lyrics by Paul Haines), was originally released in 1971 as a triple album in a box which also contained a booklet with lyrics, photos and profiles of the musicians.

The Great Concert of Charles Mingus by Charles Mingus was recorded in 1964 and released in 1971.

The Weeknd's compilation album Trilogy was released as a triple album in 2012, comprising his critically acclaimed 2011 mixtapes House of Balloons , Echoes of Silence and Thursday .

The Knife's 2013 album Shaking the Habitual is spread across three LPs and two CDs, being an hour and forty minutes in length. (Although a single-disc edit exists omitting the 19 minute track, "Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized").

Swallow the Sun's 2015 album Songs from the North I, II & III is divided into Gloom, Beauty and Despair. In total, each disc contains no more than 8 tracks and no less than 40 minutes.

In April 2021, Eric Church released a triple album set, Heart & Soul . Each album Heart, &, and Soul, was released separately, with & being a vinyl-exclusive release. [11]

Christina Aguilera's Spanish-language ninth studio album, Aguilera (2022), was separated into three parts: La Fuerza , La Tormenta , and La Luz . Each part receive its own independent release as a separate project, before being included as separate discs in the album's digital version. [12] Physical versions of the album include all the parts in one disc. [13]

Box set

When albums exceed the triple album format they are generally referred to as box sets. Normally, albums consisting of four or more discs are compilations or live recordings, such as In a Word: Yes (1969–) and Chicago at Carnegie Hall , respectively.

Studio albums with more than three discs are very rare. Notable examples include:

Simultaneous releases

Some performers have released two or more distinct but related albums simultaneously (or near-simultaneously) which could be seen together as a double album. Moby Grape's Wow/Grape Jam (released in 1968) is an early example. Others include:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Single (music)</span> Release with one to three tracks

In music, a single is a type of release, typically a song recording of fewer tracks than an LP record or an album. One can be released for sale to the public in a variety of formats. In most cases, a single is a song that is released separately from an album, although it usually also appears on an album. In other cases a recording released as a single may not appear on an album.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Extended play</span> Musical recording longer than a single but shorter than a full album

An extended play (EP) is a musical recording that contains more tracks than a single but fewer than an album or LP record. Contemporary EPs generally contain four to five tracks, and are considered "less expensive and time-consuming" for an artist to produce than an album. An EP originally referred to specific types of records other than 78 rpm standard play (SP) and LP, but it is now applied to mid-length CDs and downloads as well. In K-pop they are usually referred to as mini albums. Ricardo Baca of The Denver Post said, "EPs—originally extended-play 'single' releases that are shorter than traditional albums—have long been popular with punk and indie bands." In the United Kingdom, the Official Chart Company defines a boundary between EP and album classification at 25 minutes of maximum length and no more than four tracks.

This is the discography of Apple Records, a record label formed by the Beatles in 1968. During its early years, the label enjoyed a fair degree of commercial success, most notably with Mary Hopkin and Badfinger, as well as discovering acts such as James Taylor and Billy Preston who would go on to greater success with other labels. However, by the mid-1970s, Apple had become little more than an outlet for the Beatles' solo recordings. After EMI's contract with the Beatles ended in 1976, the Apple label was finally wound up. The label was reactivated in the 1990s with many of the original Apple albums being reissued on compact disc, and the company now oversees new Beatles releases such as the Anthology and 1 albums as well as the 2009 Beatles remastering programme. In 2010, Apple set about remastering and reissuing its back catalogue for a second time.

<i>Lawn Boy</i> 1990 studio album by Phish

Lawn Boy is the second studio album by the American rock band Phish. It was released on September 21, 1990, by Absolute A Go Go Records in the United States, with distribution by Rough Trade Records. The album was reissued on June 30, 1992, by Elektra Records.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Album</span> Collection of audio recordings

An album is a collection of audio recordings issued on compact disc (CD), vinyl, audio tape, or another medium such as digital distribution. Albums of recorded sound were developed in the early 20th century as individual 78 rpm records collected in a bound book resembling a photo album; this format evolved after 1948 into single vinyl long-playing (LP) records played at 33+13 rpm.

<i>Red Rose Speedway</i> 1973 studio album by Paul McCartney and Wings

Red Rose Speedway is the second studio album by the British–American rock band Wings, although credited to "Paul McCartney and Wings". It was released through Apple Records on 4 May 1973, preceded by its lead single, the ballad "My Love". By including McCartney's name in the artist credit, the single and album broke with the tradition of Wings' previous records. The change was made in the belief that the public's unfamiliarity with the band had been responsible for the weak commercial performance of the group's 1971 debut album Wild Life.

<i>Biograph</i> (album) 1985 box set by Bob Dylan

Biograph is a 53-track box set compilation spanning the career of American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on November 7, 1985, by Columbia Records. Consisting of 53 released and unreleased tracks from 1962 to 1981, the box set was released as a five-LP set, a three-cassette tape set, and a three-compact disc set. Biograph reached No. 33 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. and has been certified platinum by the RIAA.

<i>Odds & Sods</i> 1974 compilation album by The Who

Odds & Sods is an album of studio outtakes by British rock band the Who. It was released by Track Records in the UK and Track/MCA in the US in October 1974. Ten of the recordings on the original eleven-song album were previously unreleased. The album reached No. 10 on the UK charts and No. 15 in the US.

<i>Heart and Soul</i> (Joy Division album) 1997 box set by Joy Division

Heart and Soul is a box set by English rock band Joy Division containing nearly every track the band recorded between 1977 and 1980. The first two discs contain almost their entire studio output, including the albums Unknown Pleasures and Closer, along with singles and compilation appearances. Discs three and four collect rare demos and live recordings, many of which were previously unreleased. All tracks are digitally remastered. It reached #70 in the UK.

<i>Zappa in New York</i> 1978 live album by Frank Zappa

Zappa in New York is a double live album by Frank Zappa released on his own DiscReet Records label. It was recorded in December 1976 at a series of concerts at the Palladium in New York City.

<i>A Date with Elvis</i> 1959 compilation album by Elvis Presley

A Date with Elvis is a compilation album by American singer and musician Elvis Presley, issued on RCA Victor in July 1959. The album compiled a selection of previously released material from multiple sessions at Sun, an August 1956 recording session at 20th Century Fox Stage One and two from Radio Recorders in Hollywood. The album reached #32 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart.

<i>Levitate</i> (The Fall album) 1997 studio album by The Fall

Levitate is the 19th album by The Fall, released in 1997 on Artful Records. Levitate became the last album to feature two long-time Fall members, drummer Karl Burns and bass player Steve Hanley.

<i>His Hand in Mine</i> 1960 studio album by Elvis Presley

His Hand in Mine is the fifth studio album by American singer and musician Elvis Presley, released on November 23, 1960 by RCA Victor in mono and stereo, catalog number LPM/LSP 2328. It was the first of three gospel albums that Presley would issue during his lifetime. Recording sessions took place on October 30 and 31, 1960, at RCA Studio B in Nashville, Tennessee. It peaked at #13 on the Top Pop Albums chart. It was certified Gold on April 9, 1969 and Platinum on March 27, 1992 by the Recording Industry Association of America.

<i>Elvis Golden Records</i> 1958 greatest hits album by Elvis Presley

Elvis' Golden Records is a compilation album by American rock and roll singer Elvis Presley, issued by RCA Victor in March 1958. It compiled his hit singles released in 1956 and 1957, and is widely believed to be the first greatest hits album in rock and roll history. It is the first of five RCA Victor Elvis' Golden/Gold Records compilations, the first four of which were issued during Presley's lifetime. The album peaked at number three on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart and was certified 6× platinum on August 17, 1999, by the Recording Industry Association of America.

<i>Breathe</i> (Mike Peters album) 1994 album by Mike Peters

Breathe is the debut solo album by Mike Peters. It was released on compact disc, cassette and double vinyl LP.

Weathermaker Music is the record label owned by the American rock band Clutch and their manager Jack Flanagan. Weathermaker Music LLC was formed in June 2008. Weathermaker Music was mostly known to work with Clutch and their side project, the psychedelic jazz-rock alter ego The Bakerton Group.

<i>Elvis</i> (1968 album) 1968 live album by Elvis Presley

Elvis is the soundtrack album for American rock and roll singer Elvis Presley's 1968 television special of the same title, released by RCA Records. It was recorded live at NBC Studios in Burbank, California, with additional studio work taking place at Western Recorders, in June 1968. The album peaked at #8 on the Billboard 200; along with the TV special, it revitalized Presley's career after years of diminishing commercial and critical success. It was certified Gold on July 22, 1969, and Platinum on July 15, 1999, by the RIAA.

<i>The Original Mono Recordings</i> 2010 compilation album by Bob Dylan

The Original Mono Recordings is a box set compilation album of recordings by Bob Dylan, released in October 2010 on Legacy Recordings, catalogue 88697761042. It consists of Dylan's first eight studio albums in mono on nine compact discs, the album Blonde on Blonde being issued on two discs in its original vinyl format. It does not include the singles collection Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits released during the same time span. The set includes a 56-page booklet with photographs, discographical information, and an essay by Greil Marcus. It peaked at No. 152 on the Billboard 200.

<i>The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions</i> 2006 box set by Miles Davis

The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions is a four compact disc box set of recordings by the Miles Davis Quintet released in 2006 by the Concord Music Group. It collates on three discs the entire set of recordings that made up the Prestige Records albums released from 1956 through 1961 — Miles, Cookin', Relaxin', Workin', and Steamin'. The track "'Round Midnight" was released on the album Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants. The fourth disc contains live material from a television broadcast and in jazz club settings. It peaked at #15 on the Billboard jazz album chart, and was reissued on December 2, 2016, in a smaller compact disc brick packaging.

<i>Stand by Your Man</i> (album) 1969 studio album by Tammy Wynette

Stand by Your Man is a studio album by American country artist Tammy Wynette. It was released in January 1969 via Epic Records and contained 11 tracks. It was the fifth studio album of Wynette's career and was named for its title track. The title track became Wynette's signature song and most successful single of her career.


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