For those of us who grew up with the option to listen to music either on AM/FM radio, a vinyl long-player or an audiotape cassette, it's pretty heady to realize how many options we have these days, even if most of us never listen to anything other than our phones. I recently discovered a new option, one I have been taking great advantage of: listening to entire albums on YouTube.
The album as a sequential art form is more or less dead at this point. If we don't shuffle through them on our iPods, we stick a CD into the car's dashboard and pick through the songs we want to hear. When I want to hear a record in its original entirety, I generally have to make the necessary adjustments on my iPod, and even then it's not foolproof. For some reason, the stupid thing seems to think that "Baby Stop Crying" is the leadoff track on Street-Legal.
But when you listen to a whole album on YouTube, you listen to the whole thing, straight through, no picking up the needle and putting it down after "Wild Honey Pie" is blessedly over. Your choice is to hear the whole record, as the artist intended, or to stop listening altogether.
It doesn't seem natural to me at all that people would post entire albums to YouTube, so I don't know how the whole thing started. But there are quite a few of them out there now, mostly of the classic rock variety. It sure is fun to listen to something that you might have passed over for the subsequent greatest-hits package, or something that somehow never made it onto your iPod. Or that you just haven’t heard for a long time. Like After the Gold Rush, maybe, or Music From Big Pink. Or Remain in Light, which deserves to be heard in a single sitting.
And there's some great obscurities out there, ones that I bet aren't in your collection. All four of Brian Eno's ambient-music series are available, even though the first one, Music for Airports, is the only one you need. Eno and Fripp's Air Structures is also on there, and well worth hearing. And that stuff sounds great when you're forced to listen to it all the way through.
I don't pretend to know how YouTube works, so I don't know why these things have waivers from the traditional YouTube ten-minute limit. But that allows me to watch old-timey football games on there, so I’m not complaining.
I encourage you to give it a try, listen to What's Going On all the way through - I'm sure you haven't done that in decades. And tell me what else you find out there.