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11 Great Albums That Open With Their Longest Song: Black Sabbath, David Bowie, And More

by Joey DeGroot   Jul 15, 2014 17:11 PM EDT

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When an artist writes a lengthy song for an album, they usually place it towards the end of the album, long after the listener has already settled in. However, these artists chose to place their album's longest song not only close to the beginning, but as the album's opener.

1. Crosby, Stills & Nash - Crosby, Stills & Nash (1970)

For the opening to its eponymous debut album, CSN went with what would become its most famous song: "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," a seven-and-a-half minute song suite written by Stephen Stills about folk singer Judy Collins.

2 & 3. Black Sabbath - Paranoid/Black Sabbath Vol. 4 (1970/1972)

In the eight minutes it takes Black Sabbath to perform "War Pigs," Tony Iommi plays more classic riffs than most guitarists play in their entire careers, and that's just at the beginning of the album. Black Sabbath would again choose an eight-minute opener for its 1972 album Black Sabbath Vol. 4, the also-excellent "Wheels of Confusion."


4. Genesis - Nursery Cryme (1971)

Genesis was no stranger to lengthy songs, and to open its third album Nursery Cryme, the band went with the ten-and-a-half minute "The Musical Box," one the greatest pieces of music the band ever wrote.

5 & 6. Yes - Close to the Edge/Relayer (1972/1974)

At the height of prog-rock's popularity, it was common for bands to have one song that took up an entire side of the record, which Yes did with the 19-minute, album-opening title track to 1972's Close to the Edge, but took to a bloated extreme with 1973's Tales from Topographic Oceans, which features no less than four sidelong songs. Yes did it again the following year with the 22-minute "The Gates of Delirium" as opening track of its album Relayer.


7. Brian Eno - Discreet Music (1975)

The opening title track to Brian Eno's Discreet Music is arguably ambient music's mission statement: a relaxing 30-minute piece of minimalist synthesizer music intended to be played in the background. The album's second side features three interpretations of Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major," which clock in at 23 minutes, shorter than the entirety of "Discreet Music."

8. David Bowie - Station to Station (1976)

David Bowie had used the "lengthy opener" trick before on 1970's The Man Who Sold The World, but used it to its greatest effect on his 1976 classic Station to Station, which opens with the ten-minute title track, an experimental hybrid of rock, funk,and electronic music.

9 & 10. Rush - 2112/Hemispheres (1976/1978)

Continuing the prog tradition of sidelong songs was Rush, who proved to be a major force in progressive rock with its fourth album 2112, which opens with its 20-minute sci-fi epic title track. The band would take its progressive leanings to the extreme with its 1978 album Hemispheres, which opens with the 18-minute "Cygnus X-1: Book II - Hemispheres."


11. Public Image Ltd. - Second Edition (1979)

Being a ten-minute jam of throbbing bass, metallic guitars, and dissonant vocals, Public Image Ltd.'s "Albatross" basically sends a message to listeners that if they can't handle this song, maybe the rest of the album isn't quite for them.

What other albums open with their longest song? Let us know in the comments section!

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