3×3

vinyl LP
Original photo found on Vinyl Revinyl

I grew up listening to music on vinyl records – 45’s, 78’s and 33 1/3’s. From the time I was just a kid listening to those Disney songs, then graduating to pop music, rock and roll and heavy metal, I loved putting a record on the turntable and playing my favorite artists.

As a teen, my favorite was always to play the entire side of an album, letting each song track into the next. By the end of the last track on the album, I was in musical ecstasy.

Going back as far as thirty-two years, there have been three albums that I listen to on a regular basis where I really love the flow of the last three songs on each of these albums. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t listen to all three and sometimes more than once [seriously]. There’s just something about each one of these that really resonates and connects with me.

But it goes beyond how these songs sound to me. It’s how they were originally placed onto the album by the band. They are all connected, running from one song to the next without a break – most prominently on two of the three albums. The term is called gapless playback and the design of many albums that incorporated this were most likely attempting to connect them all together in a way to create a musical montage – a story to be told, note by note – without interruption.

So without further explanation, here are the 3×3 albums/songs.

The Cars

The Cars “The Cars” – 1978

Click the album name above to link to the MP3 album page and listen to samples
Track 7“Bye Bye Love”

This song and the two that follow it were sung by Benjamin Orr, who was the bass player for the band. While he is most famous for the lead vocals of the song “Drive” on the album “Heartbeat City”, it was his powerful voice, which is similar to that of Ric Ocasek’s, that cemented the beauty and awe of this song as a stand out track on this debut album. “I can’t feel this way much longer/expecting to survive” then the common musical keyboard riff on repeat. Add in a guitar solo, the enunciated and sped up vocals “Substitution/Massconfusion/Clouds Inside Your Head” and then bring back the repeats towards the end of the song as it works right into the next track.

Track 8“Moving In Stereo”

The last few bars of “Bye Bye Love” flow into the eery and haunting reverb of this song. The lyrics are simple, yet strong. “Life’s the same/I’m moving in stereo”, brilliantly mixed in stereo. Listening to this song in an acoustically-sound room [or at least a nice room with hardwood floors] provides a type of echo that only this song can be enjoyed in. Now put on a pair of nice headphones, preferably over the ear. Wow. Just Fucking Wow. The back and forth stereo mix adds a trippy level as the sound moves from left to right.

Track 9“All Mixed Up”

As “Moving In Stereo” fades out it’s psychedelic sounds, it’s morphs into the calming “All Mixed Up” Part love song, part regret and part guitar solo genius. But all of the keyboards and synths are where the real meat of the song takes place. Benjamin sings “She tricks me into thinking/I can’t believe my eyes” on the vocal track, keyboards in unison on another. Let’s add the sythesized cymbal tings and the repeated ending lyrics of “she said to leave it to me/it will be alright” and you have one of the best endings to an album.

Songs From The Big Chair

Tears For Fears “Songs From The Big Chair” – 1985

Click the album name above to link to the MP3 album page and listen to samples
Track 6“Broken”

Technically speaking, it’s the last four songs that are connected without gaps on this album, but for me specifically, it’s the final three that have always spoken to me. Not that I don’t like “I Believe”, it’s just a bit out of place when played with the final three. “Broken” is one of those tracks that starts off strong and ends strong. The repeated chorus of “We Are Broken” flows well with the musical arrangement and I always like the vocals of Roland Orzabal sung as powerful as the music builds.

Track 7“Head Over Heels”

As the words “.. funny how time flies” escapes the lips of Roland, the first keyboard strikes of this song quickly rolls into the depth of this track. It’s another Roland lead vocal masterpiece. But then we add the harmony vocals of Curt Smith throughout each lyrical segment. Not to mention Curt’s bass notes adding even more to this popular yet addictive song. The lyrics don’t make much sense, which is sometimes the case with love songs. “This is my four-leaf clover” starts the end of the song as the multitude of “La La La La La La” chant easily moves into a final, yet fast arrangement.

Track 8“Listen”

Towards the end of “Head Over Heels”, you think the song is just going to end, with the crowd cheering. But as it migrates into a zen-like atmosphere of sound, “Listen” becomes pretty much the only lyric you remember from this calming tune. Not much more to say about this song. It’s nice. It flows. It has some oddness to it. And yet, it’s the perfect ending to a great album.

OK Computer

Radiohead “OK Computer” – 1997

Click the album name above to link to the MP3 album page and listen to samples
Track 10“No Surprises”

The first time I heard this album wasn’t until it had been out for almost three years. Tracking through the first nine songs left me breathless. But once the defined guitar picking notes of this song start, it quickly becomes obvious that this is the beginning of the end. The song builds into multiple facets. It’s bright and cheery, even given the gloomy vocals of Thom Yorke. Like a walk in a field of flowers, you want to jump around and smile and enjoy each and every note.

Track 11“Lucky”

While there is not a gapless transition from the previous song to this one, the flow of happy to a sonic sound of deep guitar and defined vocals begins to tell a story… “Pull me out of the aircrash/pull me out of the lake”… Doesn’t sound happy, but it is. It’s the hope of being the superhero that saves someone. And at the end of the second chorus, when the solo guitar strums take center stage, it speaks out… “We are standing on the edge” at least in musical form.

Track 12 – “The Tourist”

Again, lacking a gapless transition, the soulful guitar of Jonny Greenwood starts, soon to be joined by an even more soulful vocal yearning. “Hey man, slow down, slow down” The song is already pretty slow at this point, even with the guitar kicking it up a notch. The low and faint tone can seem to be a drop off. But just as it starts to drop, the guitar once again picks up and keeps going, right up until you hit the last few notes. Then we have that slow down that Thom has been singing about, ending with a single hit of the chimes.

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Any albums or sets of songs that you like? Please share. And go into detail. As a music lover, I want to hear.

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