The best double albums of all time
27 November 2023, 10:37
One artist. Four sides of vinyl. Once the embodiment of the progressive rock act, the double album soon found its way into every genre possible. Here are some of the best.
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The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street (1972)
Now 50 years old, The Stones' famous double album doesn't feature any of their most well-known hits (Tumbling Dice aside), but this decadent 18-track set, recorded when the band were tax exiles in France, is perhaps their most accomplished collection. One of the high points is Keith Richard's number Happy.
The Cure - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987)
Decamping from London to the South of France, Robert Smith and co had such a good time in the studio, they came out with this 18-track double set that ranges from the screeching wah-wah rock of opening track The Kiss to the sweet pop of Catch and Just Like Heaven.
The Clash - London Calling (1979)
On 14 December 1979, punk legends made the rather un-punk move of releasing a double set at the height of their fame. The title track kicks off proceedings, the excellent Train In Vain closes and in between we get Lost In The Supermarket, Guns Of Brixton and more.
Prince - Sign 'O' The Times (1987)
The Purple One's 1999 album three years earlier was also a double, but this is his definitive four-sided work. The title track, If I Was Your Girlfriend and U Got The Look were the singles, but there's much fun to be had among the 16 songs. Hey, he even throws in a live track too. What a legend. What a talent.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland (1968)
The Experience trio of Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding made their swansong a double - after this, Jimi played with a series of different musicians, but this was his definitive statement. Full of 1960s studio trickery, it features the epic Voodoo Chile (and its equally epic Slight Return) and the apocalyptic Dylan cover All Along The Watchtower. And, if you lived in the UK, it came packaged in a tacky gatefold sleeve, featuring a load of naked ladies - the new version showcases a nice photo of the band by Linda McCartney.
Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (1995)
Coming in the dying days of grunge in 1995, this double platter seemed like a bit of a retro step for Billy Corgan, but this 28-track marathon features some of their finest moments. Originally divided into two volumes - Dawn To Dusk and Twilight To Starlight - the vinyl version was actually spread out over THREE sides of vinyl, with two extra tracks, including a beautiful acoustic reprise of Tonight Tonight.
Pink Floyd - The Wall (1979)
In the late 1970s, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters was an ANGRY man. When a fan spat at him during the Floyd's 1977 tour, he came upon the idea of building a wall between the band and the audience - which he did, literally, during the live dates supporting this mammoth double-LP which featured Another Brick In The Wall and Comfortably Numb. A story of personal alienation writ large, it was the band's farewell to the 1970s and their last great work.
Biffy Clyro - Opposites (2013)
Divided into two volumes - The Land at the End of Our Toes and The Sand at the Core of Our Bones - and featuring the likes of Black Chandelier and Biblical, the Biff's 2013 album was also available as a condensed, single disc version for those who couldn't take too much Scottish rock in one sitting. We say: lightweights!
The Beatles - The Beatles (aka The White Album) (1968)
The grandaddy of all rock double albums, this 30-song collection was the result of the time the Fab Four spent in India in the Spring of '68. They came up with enough tracks to fill a triple, but honed it down to four sides - and still people complained it was too self-indulgent. The penultimate track, John Lennon's avant garde sound collage Revolution 9, is probably the most-skipped track in musical history. Brilliant cover, too.
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
A sprawling 17-track set which propelled the funkateers into the big league, this features the timeless Under The Bridge, the antsy Give It Away, the saucy Suck My Kiss and the ponderous Breaking The Girl. Stadium Arcadium was another double, but wasn't as perfectly-formed.
Manic Street Preachers - Generation Terrorists (1992)
What better way than to launch your recording career than with a double album? The Manics, cheerfully arrogant as ever, stuck two fingers up to convention and released a mammoth 18 tracks as their opening salvo. It sounds self-indulgent, but the track listing is strong: You Love Us, Motorcycle Emptiness, Love's Sweet Exile, Slash 'N' Burn…
Guns N'Roses - Use Your Illusion I OR Guns N'Roses - Use Your Illusion II (1991)
Take your pick. At the height of their fame in the 90s, Axl Rose decided his band should release not one, but TWO double albums… on the same day. If he was really serious, he'd have done a quadruple album. Volume I features the epic November Rain and the preposterous cover of Live And Let Die, while Volume II boasts You Could Be Mine and their version of Knockin' On Heaven's Door.