Keys to a good album?

Keys to a good album?

I don’t know if this is a clear question but what do you look for when listening to an album? What makes an album memorable?

Re: Keys to a good album?

Obviously were talking ITM

Re: Keys to a good album?

Walking into very deep water wearing concrete shoes…

My favorite ITM album is "Beyond the Watery Lane" by Loretta Egan Murphy & John Brennan. The playing is magnificent, the backing musicians are fabulous and are many are cream of the crop ITM musicians. The arrangements are (to me) superb and yet… whoever set the final levels for the recordings to their final state - set them too high and the music is a bit compressed and clipped. That’s a terrible thing to do to an appreciative audience. I bought the downloaded album after hearing the YouTube version in hopes that the audio quality would be better. It isn’t. If there were liner notes, I would try and contact the recording studio to see if there were any possibility of getting a better recorded version. Despite that, I listen to that album several times a week. It’s that good. YMMV.

Re: Keys to a good album?

@callison She’s leading our local session in two weeks. I’ll be sure to tell her!

Re: Keys to a good album?

Minus the mastering issues. Never mind maybe I shan’t say anything.

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I obviously live in the wrong state. Ah well, she’s an inspiration. I can almost, just almost, play one of the tunes off of her album. I wish I had the dots to "El Vals De Dolores" but it’s close enough to Dark Island that I’ll figure it out eventually.

@Arthur: Go ahead and tell her it’s my favorite album - you don’t need to mention that the final product suffered at someone else’s hands.

Running an incredibly close second place is: "Patty Furlong - Irish Traditional Music on Button Accordion".

If you had to ask why, it goes beyond the skills and production values. These two fine accordion players are really good musicians whose tune selections aren’t played at speeds where a beginning player would listen and never consider learning them. Well-paced and played exceptionally well. There are a lot of box players I’m discovering on YouTube that possibly play better but there might be some production values that detract from the quality of the actual playing. There are others that are better but they’re technique level is so advanced that I doubt I’ll ever get to that level so they get set aside for the moments I just want to enjoy listening for the sake of listening.

Re: Keys to a good album?

In the decreasing factors’ importance order:
* Traditional sound and arrangements (the closer to pure drop - the better).
* Lift (not the same as tempo)
* Inventiveness (but keeping the tune first and foremost)
* Technical excellence

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Re: Keys to a good album?

Generally D and G, and their related minors. Generally speaking.

Re: Keys to a good album?

You’re going to get as many different answers as there are grains of sand on the beach. It’s a very subjective topic and as such, everyone will have differing views/opinions. First, do you like/follow/fan of the artist/group? Some folks will buy every album a particular group or person puts out. Second, are you buying the album for a particular piece(s) of music? Is it a compilation/collection or thematic album? A collection of various artists or a Christmas/St.Patrick’s Day or Compositions of album. And so on.
I pose my answers like that, simply because I can name albums that while they’re technically good, one might not care for every song/piece on the album, for whatever the reason. Just as there are albums where every track is outstanding. Is it a live album or a studio album, because (and not with ITM/STM so much) if an artist/group is incapable of reproducing their studio sound live or a reasonable facsimile thereof, it’s hard for me to get excited about it. Sometimes live albums stink not because of the music, but because the recordings themselves are inferior for whatever reason.
I can remember a few Chieftain’s albums, that I was unimpressed with their selection of various guest artists coverage of traditional songs were less than stellar, and a few that just outright sucked so bad you regret hearing it, let alone buying it.
Kind of like the old K-Tel records sold in the wee hours o’ the night years ago "Zamfir plays the Beatles Greatest Hits on His Electric Panpipes," you just shake your head and wonder WTH.

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Oh dear, "Zamfir plays the Beatles Greatest Hits on His Electric Panpipes". I remember Zamfir now. I wish I didn’t.

Re: Keys to a good album?

Once upon a time, if you weren’t familiar with the artist, you could trust the fellow musician(s)/the producer/the record label… hey, even the tunes or songs on the album could be a good indicator.

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I don’t have any fixed preconceptions about what kind of ITM (or related) album I’ll enjoy. I like both straight, no-nonsense sets of tunes the way you might hear it in a session, like the recent "The Drunken Gaugers" by Kevin Crawford, Dylan Foley, and Patrick Doocey, and also more "out there" albums like Brian Finnegan’s "The Ravishing Genius Of Bones."

As with a live performance, I like to hear a good pacing of the tune selection so they’re not all in the same tempo and keys. I like clean production without excessive reverb or compression. A few of the recent albums I’ve bought have done better at avoiding the recent trend towards heavy compression. I’ve noticed a few are also getting back to a more dry sound, with less artificial reverb.

Another thing I like, although it’s not essential, is hearing one or two tunes on an album that I know how to play, or at least have heard in local sessions. Like "Joy of My Life" and "Contentment is Wealth" on that Drunken Gaugers album. Or "Porthole of the Kelp" on Matt Malloy’s latest "Back to the Island."

I know most artists select lesser-known tunes so their albums can be distinctive, and I love hearing a great tune I’ve never heard before that motivates me to learn it. But it’s still fun to hear something I’m familiar with once in a while. It can remind me to dust off a tune I haven’t played in a while.

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I rarely listen to albums after many years of playing. As albums, they just don’t hang together as works I want to listen to from end to end. I listened when it was a novelty and to learn from, but not so much now. Now, I prefer compilations or my many recordings from the first ten years of The Thistle and Shamrock. Much more interesting and entertaining to yours truly.

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Re: Keys to a good album?

One thing my favourite albums tend to have in common is, how can I word it?
A lack of gimmickry.
Sticking to the core aspects.
Having focus/homogeneity.

I just can’t get into the albums where every track is a law unto itself, where the album is all over the map and doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be.

I’ve seen too many times where somebody is going to do an album and they want to play a different instrument on every track and/or invite all of their friends to join in on various instruments here and there.

So one track our man is playing along with a friend who plays harp, on another track a friend who plays pedal steel guitar, and so on.

I might like a track or two of those sorts of albums, but I’ll probably not love the album as a whole.

The best albums are the ones where I start listening and I can’t stop. Every track is coming from the same core essence.

That certainly doesn’t mean that every track sounds alike! Not at all. Albums where every track is a re-tread of the first track are tedious and unlistenable.

That sounds like an oxymoron and perhaps it is. There can be stylistic homogeneity yet tremendous variety. I happen to think that the one launches the other.