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A double album is an audio album which spans two units of the primary medium in which it is sold (especially records and compact discs). A double album is typically, though not always, released because the recording is longer than the capacity of the medium. Recording artists often think of double albums as a single piece artistically; however, there are exceptions such as Pink Floyd's Ummagumma, one live album and one studio record packaged together, and OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, consisting of one practical solo album by each member of the hip-hop duo.

Particularly with 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. A new innovation is the accompaniment of a CD with a DVD of related material, such as video related to the album or DVD-Audio versions of the same recordings. These could be regarded as a new form of double album; some such discs are also released on as a two-sided format called DualDisc.

The same principles apply to the triple album, which comprises three units. Packages with more units than two are often packaged as boxed sets.



The first double album was Benny Goodman's Live at Carnegie Hall, released by Columbia Records in 1950.[citation needed] The first rock double album, and first studio double album was Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde in 1966,[1] also on Columbia, although at the same time the Mothers of Invention (featuring Frank Zappa) were preparing the double album Freak Out!, released two months after Blonde on Blonde.

The best-selling double album of all time is Pink Floyd's The Wall with over 30 million copies (60 million units) worldwide.[2][3] The best-selling double album for a solo artist is Michael Jackson's HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, with over 20 million copies (40 million units) sold worldwide.[4][5]. Other best-selling double albums are The Beatles' White Album and Billy Joel's Greatest Hits I & II.

The double album has become less common since the decline of the vinyl LP and the advent of compact discs. A single LP had two sides, each of which had a capacity of up to 30 minutes (although shorter sides are more typical to avoid compromising sound quality), for a maximum of 30 to 50 minutes per record. A single CD has a capacity of 80 minutes (originally 74 minutes until the 1990s), thus many old double-LP albums have been re-released on a single CD. However, other double-LP albums are re-released as double-CD albums, either because they are too large even for a CD, or simply to retain the feeling or continuity of the original.

There are also double-LP albums, such as Mike Oldfield's Incantations and Chick Corea's My Spanish Heart, for which some tracks were removed or shortened for a single 74-minute CD release, though both were later re-released in their entirety when 80-minute CDs were developed.

Though the average album length has increased since the days of LPs, it remains rare for an artist to produce more than 80 minutes of studio material for one album. Thus, the double album format is now more commonly used for several formats other than studio albums. Live albums which either present all or most of a single concert, or material from several concerts are commonly released on multiple CDs. Compilations such as greatest hits records can often comprise double albums. Soundtracks and scores are also commonly released on two CDs; particularly soundtracks to musicals, which typically last longer than 80 minutes, are commonly released in their entirety as double albums, occasionally offering a second single-disc version featuring the most notable songs. The double album format is also frequently used for concept albums.

The double album is not entirely obsolete when it comes to studio albums, however. Some artists still occasionally produce a large enough quantity of material to justify a double album. For example, Barenaked Ladies recorded 29 songs (initially intending more than 30) for their first original album following the completion of their contract with Reprise Records, including several songs that were cut from past albums under that contract. Without needing to get a label's approval, they were able to release a 25-track "deluxe edition" double album Barenaked Ladies Are Me, as well as releasing the album as two separate single albums, as well as a variety of other formats. Nellie McKay reportedly fought with her label to get her debut album, Get Away from Me released as a double album, even though the material would have fit on a single disc. She has been said to be the first female artist to have a double album as a debut.

Esham was the first Hip hop artist to release a double album ("Judgement Day") sold separately, Master P presented the Down South Hustlers Compilation, the first double CD album packaged together, later followed by 2Pac with All Eyez on Me and Notorious B.I.G. with Life after Death, the latter becoming the first gangsta rap album to be certified diamond.

Many albums since the recent rise in popularity of vinyl records, while released as a single disc on the CD version have been released as double albums, typically because they may slightly exceed the limitations of a single record. Many of these releases stretch the album to cover four sides, while some only fill three sides and leave the last one for a bonus track(s), or occasionally an etching. These albums are usually released as two 12" records but occasionally as two 10" records.

Manual Sequence and Automatic Sequence

Similar to single disc albums, most double sets have sides 1 and 2 on the first disc, followed by sides 3 and 4 on the second disc, etc. The record industry term for this practice is "Manual Sequence." However, some double album sets have sides 1 and 4 pressed on one disc along with sides 2 and 3 on the other. This practice, known as "Automatic Sequence", began in the early 1960's and was intended to make it easier for listeners to play through all four sides of the album on automatic record changers. The use of Automatic Sequence gradually declined during the 1970's as automatic record changers fell out of favor and audiophile quality manual turntables became more affordable. Automatic record changers also sometimes caused additional wear on records. Though manual turntables are not always of high quality the best turntables have always manual models.

Once a record company released an album in a particular sequence it usually remained that way for many years. Notable examples of albums using Automatic Sequence include the 1968 Reprise Records pressing of Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix which was still sold to the public in the United States using Automatic Sequence well into the 1980's. Another very common example is the 1976 release Frampton Comes Alive by Peter Frampton as released in Automatic Sequence the United States on A&M Records.


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 on two 12-inch discs, with the flip side of the second disc being blank. Joe Jackson's 1986 release Big World is another example. 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 5 bonus tracks and the same 5 tracks on the flip side. The Monty Python album Matching Tie and Handkerchief was originally issued with two concentric grooves with different programs on side B. Elvis Costello and The Clash (amongst other 1980s acts) would sometimes release early pressings of their albums with extra material on a 45 rpm single. In 2005, The Mars Volta released their album Frances the Mute, on which the vinyl pressing spans five sides of vinyl, the sixth is an etching of tree roots. In 1994, the Norwegian band Motorpsycho released their album Timothy's Monster, where the vinyl edition contains three LPs - five sides with music, the sixth side has a drawing/etching. They used the same technique for Motorpsycho Presents The International Tussler Society (four sides of vinyl, three with music and one with a drawing).

Triple album

Among the first successful triple albums were Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More, released 15 August 1970, and George Harrison's All Things Must Pass released 27 November 1970. A triple album may be live, such as Led Zeppelin's How the West Was Won; or a compilation of an artist's work, such as Stevie Wonder's retrospective anthology Looking Back. Yes' live album Yessongs was made a triple-album due to it including many of the band's longer compositions. However, due to the extended space on CDs as opposed to LPs, many albums that once spanned across three discs have now been able to fit on two discs.

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.

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 & Down Here. Joanna Newsom's upcoming Have One On Me has been announced to be a triple album.

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. In a very rare move, Pan sonic released a four-disc studio album named Kesto (234.48:4), as did avant-garde guitarist Buckethead with his 13-disc set In Search of The in 2007.

Simultaneous releases

Some performers have released two or more distinct but related albums simultaneously which could be seen together as a double album. Examples include:

See also




External links

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