Albums By The Year: 1961

Welcome back to this special retrospective music-posting feature. The gimmick is simple — each week, you post a list (ranked or unranked) of your favourite 25 (or however many) albums of a given year. We are now moving backwards through the early days of the LP era. The video below, originally posted by Eexalien in the Weekly Music Thread provides valuable context about the early days of the LP.

Cliff notes:

  • Following the Edison cylinder, the first agreed upon recording format was the 78 rpm record which became the standard around 1910. These records were made of a very fragile material called shellac (a resin secreted by the lac bug). A 10″ 78 rpm record held about 3 minutes per side and a 12″ one between 4 and 5 minutes but the 10″ was the more popular format
  • The concept of the music album originated when 78 rpm records were issued in multi-disc packages similar to books. In terms of packaging, these aren’t dissimilar from what we now think of as box sets but in terms of length, most could easily fit on a single 12 inch or even 10 inch LP hence the persistence of the album misnomer in the LP era (the fact that LP was Columbia’s proprietary term contributed greatly to this phenomenon as well).
  • By the 1930s, the industry was well aware of the limitations of the 78 rpm record and wanted to use microgroove technology (224 to 300 grooves per inch rather than the previous 90) to replace it. The first 33 1/3 rpm records were issued by RCA Victor in 1931 . Their records held 15 minutes per side but the records were too fragile to support multiple playbacks and the format was abandoned by 1933. WWII got in the way of further developments.
  • In 1948, Columbia records launched a superior version of the 33 1/3 rpm record which they dubbed the LP (for long player). In a display or remarkable foresight, they actually began mastering records for the new format as early as 1939 giving them access to a considerable back catalogue right at launch. The 12 inch version of LP is essentially the 45 minute album as we know it now but the 12 inch was initially mostly reserved for classical music. Nearly everything else was issued on 10 inch LPs because of the popularity of 10 inch record players with backwards compatibility with 10 inch 78 rpm records. The 10 inch LP was only phased out around the mid-fifties.
  • RCA responded to Columbia’s 33 1/3 rpm format by launching the competing 45rpm format on 7 inch records, a format which they had started developing before the war. The only problem was the 45 rpm record had been initially designed as a less ambitious improvement over the 78 rpm record than their own abandoned 33 1/3 format not as a direct competitor to Columbia’s LP. It had the very glaring limitation of being quite short. This meant that RCA was trying to compete with single disc releases by issuing multi disc sets not dissimilar to those previously issued on 78 rpm. These sets proved to be unpopular and as we now know, the 7 inch 45 rpm format nonetheless found it’s calling as the preferred format for single song releases while the term album became synonymous with the 12 inch 33 1/3 rpm record.


Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: A Night in Tunisia

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Impulse!!!!! Art Blakey!!!!! Jazz Messengers!!!!!

Ray Charles: Genius + Soul = Jazz

John Coltrane: Africa/Brass

John Coltrane: Coltrane Jazz

John Coltrane: Lush Life

John Coltrane: My Favorite Things *

John Coltrane: Olé Coltrane

John Coltrane: Settin’ The Pace

John Coltrane and Milt Jackson: Bags & Trane

Ornette Coleman: Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation by the Ornette Coleman Double Quartet

Ornette Coleman: This Is Our Music *

Miles Davis: Someday My Prince Will Come

Miles Davis: Steamin’ with The Miles Davis Quintet

Eric Dolphy: At The Five Spot

Eric Dolphy: Out There

Kenny Dorham: Whistle Stop

Bill Evans: Explorations

Bill Evans: Waltz for Debby

Gil Evans: Out of the Cool

Dizzy Gillespie: Carnegie Hall Concert

Elmo Hope: Homecoming!

Ramsey Lewis: Sound of Christmas *

Booker Little: Out Front

Junior Mance: Trio at the Village Vanguard

Henry Mancini: Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Music from the Motion Picture *

Shelly Manne & His Men: At the Black Hawk 1

Shelly Manne & His Men: At the Black Hawk 2

Shelly Manne & His Men: At the Black Hawk 3

Shelly Manne & His Men: At the Black Hawk 4

Charles Mingus: Mingus

Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane: Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane

Oliver Nelson: The Blues and The Abstract Truth *

Oliver Nelson: Settin’ The Pace

Gunther Schuller: Jazz Abstractions: John Lewis Presents Contemporary Music: Compositions by Gunther Schuller and Jim Hall *

Nina Simone: Forbidden Fruit

* edited