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When Albums Ruled the World
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When Albums Ruled the World

Fri Feb 8, 9-10.30pm, BBC4

By Phil Harrison
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Sometimes there’s a sense that BBC4’s once formidable music department is doing little more than casting around for new ways to tell the same old stories. This lengthy doc could have been an alternative history of the rock and pop era, told via changing delivery formats. Instead, it feels stodgy, enervated and shapeless, as lacking in urgent nimbleness as an ELP organ solo.

The general thesis is that, as singles turned to albums, artists stretched out, produced concept albums and rock operas and generally began to enjoy (or indulge) themselves. Thus, the music expanded by following the format. As a theory, it probably holds water; as a documentary reality, it simply leads to the retelling of some very familiar stories (‘Sgt Pepper’, ‘Tubular Bells’, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’) in a less than involving way. It’s at times like this that BBC4 feels dangerously in thrall to its target demographic – in musical terms at least, it badly needs to start casting its net a little wider.

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