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Sometimes one disc isn't enough for an artist. Their artistic vision is so big, it cannot be condensed to 80 minutes. This is where the double album comes into play, where two CDs (or LPs/cassettes before the coming of the digital era) are packaged together and released. According to The Other Wiki, a double album is typically, though not always, released because the recording is longer than the capacity of the medium. Recording artists often think of double albums as a single piece artistically.

The second CD is often times just an extension of the first or just a simple "bonus" disk, but some musicians and artists take it a step further and make two distinct CDs. This can range from the second CD being live, or older material, or different themes and experimenting with different sounds.

A similar approach can be taken for a double-disk Greatest Hits Album: Most likely, the first contains the greatest hits, while the second contains all- or mostly-new material.

Examples of the Distinct Double Album include:
  • Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde from 1966 was the first ever double LP in popular music, beating out Frank Zappa's Freak Out! by a couple of months. Side two of the second LP was entirely dedicated to "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands", Dylan's ode to his wife Sara, making it the first pop song to cover a full side of an LP (even if it was technically cheating, as the songs could've been more evenly divided over the four sides of the album, but Dylan likely wanted to make it stand out).
  • Michael Jackson's HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I first CD (HIStory Begins) was a collection of his greatest hits, and the second CD (HIStory Continues) was all new material.
  • OutKast's double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below also functioned as solo albums for the group with Big Boi's Speakerboxxx being a traditional hard-hitting Hip Hop album and The Love Below saw Andre 3000 experimenting with different genres.
  • Beyonce's I Am...Sasha Fierce with the I Am... disc being filled with introspective ballads and Sasha Fierce seeing Beyonce's signature R&B/Pop style complete with a new persona, Sasha Fierce.
  • Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics album. Disc one was standard pop with a throwback to jazz, funk, and soul and disc two being comprised of live music reminiscent of the The Twenties and The Thirties.
  • Nelly's Sweat and Suit were not packaged together, but released simultaneously. Sweat was Hip Hop party songs and Suit was traditional R&B music with Hip Hop rhymes.
  • The Yellow Magic Orchestra's album Naughty Boys has a disc of vocal songs and a disc of instrumental remixes of the same songs.
  • Shania Twain's Up! was apparently released as a double-disc thing with the same track listing on both discs but one disc being a pop-mix and the other disc being either a country-mix (in the US) or a Bollywood-style-mix (everywhere else). Proof that there is no format of music Shania Twain cannot make more complicated.
  • When the Red Hot Chili Peppers' album Stadium Arcadium came with the discs Jupiter and Mars. It was originally planned to be a trilogy of albums, but those plans fell through. Either way, Jupiter was more single-heavy while Mars was. . . not.
  • The first two discs of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass are standard songs; the third is improvisational music ("jams" to old-school rock fans).
    • With the very punny name Apple Jam.
  • Quoth Wikipedia on Pan sonic's Kesto (234.48:4): "Each of the discs reflects elements of their style of music, with the dynamics and tempi generally decreasing throughout. The first CD consists largely of shorter compositions, reminiscent of the synthesis of pop structures and electronic noise found in industrial precursors like Suicide, while the second consists of less intense, electro influenced songs, using the same processed sine tones with more restraint and rhythmic consistency. The third and fourth C Ds are more amorphous, the former incorporating Musique concrete elements and the latter is a single hour-long track that recalls early electronic composer Eduard Artemyev."
  • The Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness is one of these. They're even titled differently - Disc 1 is 'Dawn to Dusk', and Disc 2 is 'Twilight to Starlight'.
    • The vinyl version takes this even further, with six seperately named sides: Dawn, Teatime, Dusk, Twilight, Midnight, and Starlight
  • MC Solaar's "Le tour de la question" was released as a double album, mostly because he couldn't stand his record label anymore and his contract specified he still had two disks left to release with them.
  • The Foo Fighters' In Your Honor has a first disc with a harsh sound, and a second disc of more mellow music.
  • Jay-Z's The Blueprint 2: The Gift And The Curse was spread across two discs, one labeled "The Gift" and the other labeled "The Curse" (hence the title). The Gift is a lighter, more radio-friendly disc (with a blue label), while the material on The Curse is a bit darker (with a black label). Interestingly, the album's reception was mixed because many felt that it had too much filler, so Jay-Z took the best bits from both the Gift and the Curse, put them on one disc, and released it as The Blueprint 2.1.
  • Tori Amos' To Venus and Back has one disc studio recordings of new songs with an electronic sound quite unlike her normal fare, and one live disc of more familiar songs.
  • The Sigur Ros double album (really a double EP, all the tracks could fit on one disc, if barely) Hvarf/Heim has one disc (Hvarf) of unreleased songs and re-recordings of old songs, and one disc (Heim) of stripped-down live versions of previously released songs.
  • Therion's double live album The Miskolc Experience has one disc featuring metal covers of classical/opera pieces and one disc of original songs accompanied by a full orchestra.
    • Their two albums Lemuria and Sirius B were recorded together and released as a double album, but each one is structured like a distinct album.
  • Opeth's Deliverance and Damnation albums sort of count, as they were recorded together but released a year apart: Deliverance contains some of the band's heaviest metal songs, while Damnation consists entirely of mellow progressive rock.
  • Showbread's Anorexia and Nervosa were released simultaneously, and featured songs by the same names, however, every song is completely distinct from "Anorexia" and "Nervosa"; for example, "The Beginning (Anorexia)" is an instrumental piano aria, while "The Beginning (Nervosa)" is not instrumental and features multiple movements by multiple singers.
  • Jars of Clay's first retrospective, Furthermore: From the Studio, From the Stage. The first disc had re-recordings of prior songs, and the second disc was a live recording.
  • Charlie Peacock's West Coast Diaries had three volumes released over the course of two years.
  • Emerson Lake and Palmer's Works, vol. 1 was effectively four half-albums. The original double LP was arranged into one side each of individual works - a piano concerto by Keith Emerson, five songs by Greg Lake, six percussion-heavy pieces by Carl Palmer - and one side of collective works, including an interpretation of Fanfare to the Common Man.
  • Yes released the two Keys to Ascension albums as double albums, each containing a live disc and a disc of new studio recordings. (The new songs were later released one on album as Keystudio.)
    • A more noteworthy example of this by Yes would be the monstrous Tales from Topographic Oceans, which stretched out a mere four songs over two LPs, one on each side.
  • Pink Floyd has two them:
    • Ummagumma: The first disc is a live album, while the second disc is a studio album. All four members of the band have one fourth of the studio disc all to themselves, and the results are mostly lengthy experimental pieces with one actual "song", Roger Waters' "Granchester Meadows", thrown in to start off his quarter of the album.
    • The Wall: The first half covers the building of The Wall, the second half covers what happens behind The Wall.
  • The album Hotel by Moby is another classic example. The first disc is mainly rock-oriented songs, all with vocals (except for the intro, coda, and hidden track), while the second disc is entirely ambient techno.
  • Neil Young's Arc/Weld: Weld was a straightforward live album, while Arc was a 35 minute sound collage of tune-up's and big rock endings from live performances that verged on Sensory Abuse. They were originally released as one two CD package, but later got individual releases.
  • Metal band Rosetta's double album Galilean Satellites becomes a third album when both discs are played simultaneously.
  • Progressive Metal musician Devin Townsend is in the process of releasing a Distinct Quadruple Album under the moniker "The Devin Townsend Project": A series of four albums, each with a different set of session musicians and a different musical style. The first two, Ki and Addicted, have been released so far; the former is described by Townsend as "tense" and "quiet"; the latter is "commercial, yet heavy"; the third, Deconstruction, will be "chaotic"; the fourth, Ghost, will be "ambient".
    • And once all four albums are out, Townsend plans to re-release them together as an eight-disc box set.
  • Black Metal/Dark Ambient band The Axis of Perdition have the Urfe album, which is actually the first two installments in a Concept Album trilogy: Disc one, Grief of the Unclean, consists entirely of ambient music with dramatic narration, telling the first part of Urfe's story; disc two, The Great Unwashed, uses a combination of metal and ambient and tells the next part of the story. The conclusion, Tenements, will be released separately in 2011.
  • Dream Theater's album Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence has two discs. One contains a collection of experimental, contemporary sounds, the other contains the 42-minute long title track - a classically-influenced progressive rock opus and one of the band's greatest pieces of Crowning Music of Awesome.
    • Dream Theater's Greatest Hit is split into a "Dark Side" covering the more metal influenced material and a "Light Side" covering their Lighter and Softer tracks.
  • Cream's Wheels of Fire: the first disc is "In the Studio," the second is "Live at the Fillmore."
  • System of a Down did a variation of this trope with Mezmerize/Hypnotize. It would have qualified as a standard double album, if not for the fact that the discs were released 6 months apart.
  • Nellie McKay's first two albums were both double-discers, even though each CD only had about a half hour of music on it. The reason for the multiple discs was to simulate (sort of) the act of turning over a vinyl record mid-album.
  • An unusual example with the Flaming Lips: In 1997 they released "Zaireeka", which is technically a quadruple-album as it comes on four discs; however, the discs are meant to be played simultaneously on separate CD players, making it a regular single album after all.
  • Thrice's collection The Alchemy Index, released as two double disc sets: Fire & Water, and Air & Earth. Each element was represented on it's own disc, each showcasing a different musical style. Fire contained harder hitting songs, with the only screamed vocals in the set. Water was mostly electronic based. Air was a softer alternative rock sound. Earth was purely acoustic with an echo-y sound to it.
  • The Silent Hill 4 soundtrack has two discs: the first is the soundtrack itself, and the second is an unrelated audio drama called Inescapable Rain in Yoshiwara.
  • Canadian singer/songwriter Joel Plaskett released a distinct triple album, appropriately entitled Three. In addition to overlapping lyrical motifs, the discs were described by accompanying press as respectively about "Leaving, being gone, and coming back."
  • Experimental rock band Have A Nice Life's debut Deathconsciousness came in two disks: the shoegaze-meets-drone The Future, and the decidedly more post-punk-influenced The Plow That Broke The Plains. In a release packed with weirdness and innovation, that it's in two distinct-yet-complimentary volumes is the least strange thing about it.
  • Frank Zappa had a number of them, the most notable being the soundtrack to 200 Motels and Joe's Garage(a triple album, originally released as a single LP containing Act 1 and a double LP containing Act 2 and 3 - though now as packaged on CD just a double).
    • Zappa and The Mothers' Freak Out! was the second double album ever released, beat out by Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde by a couple of months.
  • Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion, both parts released separately. (it also tried to separate by content, but with exceptions - "November Rain" is on the hard rocking I and "You Could Be Mine" on the softer and grandiose II, for instance)
    • And each part is too long to fit in a single vinyl LP, which means that, with vinyl still being a viable format in 1991 (at least in Europe), may people saw it as a quadruple album.
  • Not unlike OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Hella's Church Gone Wild/Chirpin' Hard functioned as one solo album each from the two members. Zach Hill's Church Gone Wild is the more chaotic and noisy of the two, while Spencer Seim's Chirpin' Hard is more melodic and often gets compared to music from 8-bit video games.
  • The Trope Maker, as it applies to House Music and Trance Music, is the Global Underground series.
  • David Sylvian's album Gone To Earth was released as a double album with the first album having vocals and the second being purely instrumental. The initial CD release crammed the entire album on one disc by dropping four of the instrumental songs; subsequent releases have restored the two-disc format (with some versions adding bonus tracks.)
  • Frank Black's Frank Black Francis was a two CD set where the common thread was versions of his Pixies songs: The first disc consisted of acoustic solo demos that had been recorded shortly before Come On Pilgrim. The second was a set of new reinterpretations of Pixies songs that Frank Black recorded in collaboration with Keith Moliné and Andy Diagram from the band David Thomas And Two Pale Boys.
  • Frankie Goes to Hollywood's debut album, Welcome to the pleasuredome, was in its vinyl release a double album. The labels on the four sides of the records spelled "FGTH" (instead of using numbers). The CD version of the album, released almost simultaneously, had a different version of Two Tribes (the longer Annihilation remix), missed San José (The Way), but got an other track in its place (Happy Hi!)... and was made to fit on a single disk.
  • To celebrate its 20 years of existence, metal label Nuclear Blast released two albums made by musicians on the label, under the moniker Nuclear Blast All-Stars. Both albums are two-disc compilations with one disc made of exclusive songs and the other being a recompilation of singles released by the label throughout the years; the first album, Into The Light, is focused on the more traditional heavy metal and power metal and the such, and the other one, Out Of The Dark, features melodic death metal and similars.
  • Instrumental group Sky's second album, the imaginatively named Sky 2, has four distinct sides. Side one has rock-and-roll numbers similar to the first side of their first album; side two is the progressive rock symphony "FIFO". Side three has one piece for each member: John Williams and Kevin Peek play classical guitar pieces, Franis Monkman a harpsichord gavotte, Herbie Flowers plays "Tuba Smarties", and Tristan Fry abuses the drum kit for five minutes in "Tristan's Magic Garden". Side four has their electrifying covers of "Vivaldi" and Bach's Toccata in D minor.
  • Animal! and Not Animal!, simultaneously released by Margot & The Nuclear So And So's, are sort of an unusual case because they're actually two different versions of the same album: The band and their label disagreed on what songs should make the album and what the track order should be, so Animal! was the album as the band wanted it, whereas Not Animal! was the album as the label wanted it. A handful of songs are shared between the two versions, but each also has an equal number of exclusive tracks.
  • Deathconsciousness by Have a Nice Life. The first half, The Plow That Broke The Plains, is mostly downtempo and shoegazey. The second half, The Future adds fast-paced, almost punk numbers, while maintaining the same overall style and atmosphere.

Compilation examples:

  • Wingspan was a Greatest Hits double album. Disc 1 was (almost) all of Paul McCartney and Wings's biggest hits. Disc 2 was History, containing other McCartney and Wings songs of varying catchiness and historical importance.
  • Alan Jackson has a rare double-disc Greatest Hits Album. The second disc of Greatest Hits II... and Some Other Stuff includes eight previously-released album cuts.
  • Rascal Flatts took a similar approach, with the second disc of its first Greatest Hits comprising Christmas music to coincide with its late-year release.
  • Pearl Jam's rearviewmirror has an "Up" disk with rockers ("Even Flow", "Do the Evolution"), and a "Down" disk with calmer songs ("Black", "Last Kiss").
  • Mariah Carey has released two of these: One is the typical Greatest Hits album that simply required the space of two discs, and was released as a contractual agreement beyond Carey's control and had no creative input or personal touches from her. The other is a Remix Album that she was more enthusiastic about promoting and plays this trope straight: the first disc contains dance mixes, while the second contains hip-hop mixes and collaborations (though some famous remixes are conspicuous in their absence, probably due to licensing).
  • Rod Stewart's 2001 UK compilation The Story So Far had uptempo numbers on the first disc, "A Night Out," and slow numbers on the second disc, "A Night In."
  • Pet Shop Boys' 2003 Greatest Hits Album, PopArt, had a "Pop" disc with their upbeat dance-pop numbers and an "Art" disc with their more introspective, artsy stuff.
  • For Metallica's 1998 compilation Cover Album, Garage Inc., Disc 1 consists of new covers, while disc 2 consists of covers recorded by the band over the years.
  • Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection: disc 1 is studio tracks, disc 2 is live tracks.
  • On the exact same date Eels put out both the best of album Meet The Eels and the two cd b-sides/rarities collection Useless Trinkets.
  • Muse have Hullabaloo - one CD is live recordings from the band's concert in Paris, 2001, while the other CD is a collection of B-sides.
  • Starflyer 59's compilation Easy Come, Easy Go. Disc 1 is Greatest Hits. Disc 2 starts with b-sides and rarities, then ends with a live show.
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