"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." Elvis Costello
Coming of age in the 1970’s, the AOR, or Album Oriented Rock, radio format defined a large portion of the listening publics tastes during the decade. Eschewing the hits-only model of Top 40 stations that formerly had the lion’s share of listeners, AOR concentrated on just what its name implied, the deeper cuts found on increasingly literate and musically progressive albums by artists who were tired of the concept of a release that contained a couple of hoped-for hits and beyond that mostly covers of other artists songs, or “filler”, as the term was used. It more accurately reflected the taste of growing numbers of the music buying public, who were just as eager to listen to Joni Mitchell sing “Down to You” from her 1974 hit album Court and Spark as they were to hear the top ten “Help Me”. As time went on and the business end of radio became dominant over the music, the format changed, expanded and fragmented, but a case could be made that today’s satellite and internet genre-specific and focused stations have evolved from the AOR format that took off forty-five years ago, and there generally are no filler-heavy albums released in the modern age. In fact, many established artists, as well as many indie bands, release whole albums without any expectation of a traditional “hit”, so in essence the entire thing is an album cut. Which, after all that as an intro, leads to the main point of this ramble, the fact that we now have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to album cuts, almost 50 years’ worth in fact. Take a look at the list below of top selling albums and the requisite track that you may not know, available from your library as CDs or digitally through Hoopla, to see what we mean. Then, take a voyage of discovery to see what else you can find.
Everybody can sing along to “Help Me” and “Free Man in Paris”, but the gems are buried deeper – such as this take on messy modern love on which Mitchell also plays clavinet.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 1976 “The Wild One (Forever)”
Coming two albums and three years before their breakout classic Damn the Torpedoes, the TPH debut contained not only the definition-of-rock classics "Breakdown" and "American Girl", but also this lesser known number that possibly better defines the band itself.
25 Adele 2016 “Sweetest Devotion”
An album cut on an Adele disc? Well, why not? This track wasn’t released as a single, and may not have become the pop juggernaut that was “Hello” even if it had been, but it’s a solid blue-eyed soul number with way less pretension and a killer hook to boot.
No Jacket Required 1985 “Long Way to Go”
In amongst all the synthesizers and drum machine effects on Collins’s most popular album is this four minute and twenty-three-second commentary on the tendency to selfishly tune out the problems in our larger world while focusing on only what affects us personally. It’s been used for television soundtracks, including Miami Vice and Cold Case, but was never a single.
Cabretta Mink Deville 1977 “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl”
Spawning one minor hit, Mink Deville’s debut album was nevertheless packed with good stuff, like this description of a girl and relationship bandleader Willy Deville recalls with tenderness and swagger.
Funeral Arcade Fire 2004 “Haiti”
How was this not released as a single? Perhaps it has something to do with the other five songs on the album that were, including “Rebellion (Lies)”, which this song leads into.
Eric Molinsky selects and purchases music for JCLS. He considers himself a musician, since he once sold a guitar because he needed the money.
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