Why do so many artists do double albums -- and what are the best double-album ideas? Check out today's Ask the Critic question and post your own

By David Browne
Updated March 23, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST
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Credit: The Red Hot Chili Peppers: Lester Cohen/WireImage.com

Why do so many artists do double albums?

I hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers are doing a double album. Ben Harper just did one, too. And last year the Foo Fighters did. Why do so many artists do double albums — and what are the best double-album ideas? —Adam Michaels

I’ve been wary of double discs right from the start: CDs are padded enough as it is, so how many acts can justify twice as many tracks, or roughly two to three hours of new music? For better or worse, I’ve been proven right most of the time: From Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion sets to Wu-Tang Clan’s Wu Tang Forever to Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile, far too many two-fers should been sliced down to one, solid disc. In the MP3/iPod era, double sets seem even more like unmanageable behemoths (or indulgences). As for why musicians do it, it could be creative overflow or, if we want to be cynical, the possibility of making twice the song-publishing income. Me, I prefer double-disc packages that are, in essence, two distinctly different records stuck together: Nick Cave’s Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus is a fine recent example, along with Hank III’s new Straight to Hell (honky-tonk redux on disc one, avant-garde song cycle on disc two). As for those reports about two CDs of late-period Chili Peppers: Now you’ve got me worried….

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