The Musical Art of Obligation: 30 Surprising Albums Recorded To Fulfill A Contract
By Sarah Norman | December 28, 2023
2 Pac - All Eyez On Me
Prepare to delve into a world where creativity knows no bounds, where musicians, in the face of contractual obligations and unexpected circumstances, transformed their duty into artistry. These albums, born from the necessity to fulfill contracts or settle disputes, emerged as astonishing feats of musical innovation. As you journey through this gallery, you'll uncover the mesmerizing stories behind these remarkable records, each a testament to the indomitable spirit of musicians. From rock legends to iconic pop stars, these artists defied expectations, proving that even under pressure, brilliance can flourish. Don't miss out on the chance to unravel the captivating narratives behind these extraordinary albums. Keep reading and be prepared to be captivated by the unexpected gems that emerged from the world of contractual obligations.
Tupac Shakur's album "All Eyez On Me" is a remarkable testament to his rapid-fire creativity and the intriguing circumstances surrounding its creation. Released in the aftermath of his release from prison, thanks to the formidable Suge Knight of Death Row Records posting his bail, this double-album stands as a monumental achievement in Tupac's career. With the weight of his contractual obligations to Death Row hanging over him, Tupac wasted no time, recording a staggering 27 tracks at breakneck speed. The intensity of the recording process is palpable in the music itself, as each song feels like a thunderstorm in the desert. Tupac's raw vocals and unflinching lyrics bear the mark of someone who had recently experienced the harsh realities of incarceration. "All Eyez On Me" not only showcases Tupac's artistic prowess but also serves as a vivid reflection of the urgency and tumultuous period in his life, making it a must-listen for fans of the iconic rapper.
Willie Nelson - The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?
Willie Nelson's album 'The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?' is a fascinating chapter in the iconic artist's life story. In 1990, the IRS seized the majority of Nelson's assets, claiming a staggering $16 million in unpaid taxes—an issue exacerbated by the negligence of his accountants at Price Waterhouse.
Additionally, Nelson's investments from the early 1980s had soured, adding to his financial woes. To address this crippling debt, Nelson took a unique approach by recording this album, featuring just him and his guitar, without his usual band accompaniment. The album is a compilation of Nelson's beloved hits, presented in an intimate and stripped-down fashion. It stands as a testament to his resilience and artistry, offering fans a chance to support the musician during a challenging period. 'The IRS Tapes' not only showcases Nelson's enduring musical talent but also shines a light on the very real struggles that even legendary artists can face.
Aerosmith - A Little South of Sanity
After reuniting in 1984, Aerosmith found themselves locked into a contract with Geffen to produce six albums. While they successfully delivered three studio albums, they eventually struck a deal with Columbia Records in 1991. 'A Little South of Sanity' was born as a bridge between these eras, showcasing the band's enduring spirit as they navigated the intricacies of label obligations and creative evolution.
'A Little South of Sanity' stands as a captivating musical journey that reveals the band's resilience and evolution amidst the ever-shifting landscape of the music industry. Released in 1998 by Geffen Records, this two-disc live album captures the raw energy and undeniable talent of Aerosmith during their Nine Lives Tour, which had begun in 1997 and continued as the album hit the shelves.
David Bowie - Scary Monsters And Super Creeps
David Bowie's album "Scary Monsters and Super Creeps" carries a fascinating backstory. Bowie, believing his contract with RCA had ended after the release of the live album "Stage," was eager to move on to new creative horizons.
However, RCA had a different perspective, counting "Stage" as just one record. This contractual disagreement led to the creation of "Scary Monsters and Super Creeps," often hailed as "David Bowie's Last Great Album." Despite the label's demands, Bowie channeled his artistic genius into this work, producing iconic tracks like "Ashes to Ashes." The album marked a turning point in Bowie's career, showcasing his ability to reinvent himself and redefine the boundaries of popular music.
"Scary Monsters and Super Creeps" is not only a testament to Bowie's musical prowess but also a testament to his determination to maintain creative control in an industry dominated by record executives.
Neil Young - Everybody's Rockin'
Neil Young's Everybody's Rockin' is a captivating musical journey that delves into the intriguing clash between artistic vision and record label demands. Released in 1983, this 25-minute gem marked a radical departure for Young, as he ventured into the rockabilly genre with a band called the Shocking Pinks, specifically formed for this project. It all began with Young offering his label, Geffen Records, a country album titled 'Old Ways,' only to face rejection and a demand for "a rock & roll album" in the aftermath of the previous year's 'Trans.'
Determined to defy expectations, Young swiftly crafted an album that harkened back to the early days of rock & roll, featuring classics like Jimmy Reed's "Bright Lights, Big City" and Elvis Presley's "Mystery Train." With '50s-style vocal reverb and backing choruses, Young's vision for a concept album with deeper layers was cut short when Geffen Records abruptly canceled the recording sessions and released the album as is. In 1995, Young discussed his idea behind the album, stating:
there was very little depth to the material obviously. They were all 'surface' songs. But see, there was a time when music was like that, when all pop stars were like that. And it was good music, really good music. Plus it was a way of further destroying what I'd already set up. Without doing that, I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing now. If I build something up, I have to systematically tear it right down before people decide, 'Oh that's how we can define him.'" He also said of his rockabilly persona, "I was that guy for a year and a half, almost like being in a movie.
Van Morrison - New York Sessions '67/The "Contractual Obligation" Session
Van Morrison's New York Sessions '67 offers a tantalizing glimpse into the tumultuous chapter of a legendary musician's career. After signing with Bang Records in 1967 and achieving immense success with "Brown Eyed Girl," Morrison's world took a dramatic turn when label boss Bert Berns passed away, sparking a fierce dispute with Berns's widow, Ilene.
Warner Bros eventually stepped in to buy out Morrison's contract, leaving him with one last obligation — to produce 36 songs for Ilene's publishing company. In an audacious move, Morrison recorded all 36 songs in a single session, a testament to his artistic prowess even when his heart wasn't entirely in it. The result is a mysterious and almost forgotten album with tracks like "Ring Worm," "Scream and Holler," and "Big Royalty Check," which, um, curiously, never saw the light of day. Meanwhile, Morrison's first release for Warner Bros, the iconic 'Astral Weeks,' marked a stark contrast, cementing his legacy as a musical genius. Van Morrison's New York Sessions '67 unveils the enigmatic tale of an artist caught in the whirlwind of contractual obligation and artistic ambition, making it a treasure trove for music enthusiasts and curious minds alike. Just don't expect to hear Morrison's lyrical genius on a song like "The Big Royalty Check."
Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music
Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music is a sonic enigma that continues to baffle and intrigue music enthusiasts to this day. Released as a double album by RCA Records in July 1975, it was promptly pulled from the market just three weeks later. A radical departure from Reed's conventional catalog, this album defies all expectations, offering no recognizable songs or structured compositions. Instead, it plunges listeners into a mesmerizing abyss of modulated feedback and noise music guitar effects, manipulated at varying speeds by Reed himself. The album's polarizing reception raises questions about Reed's intent—was it a stroke of artistic genius or a deliberate attempt to break free from his contract with RCA? The fact that Reed staunchly defended the record until his passing only deepens the mystery, leaving us to ponder whether he was dead serious about the album or simply had an unparalleled talent for playing a long-running musical joke. Metal Machine Music is a testament to Reed's audacity and willingness to challenge the boundaries of conventional music.
Frank Ocean - Endless
Frank Ocean's album "Endless" is a fascinating departure from the norm, as it's a video album that serves as a bold move in the artist's quest for independence. Just 24 hours after fulfilling his final contractual obligation with Def Jam Recordings, Ocean unleashed "Endless" into the world, making it abundantly clear that this unconventional release was his way of breaking free from the label's constraints. While critics initially overlooked the video album in favor of its successor, "Blonde," "Endless" deserves recognition for its conceptual brilliance. It's a mosaic of half-songs and intricate overlaps, creating a mesmerizing and immersive listening experience.
Frank Ocean seems to have crafted "Endless" with the intention of taking his audience on a surreal journey, making it far from a mundane contractual obligation and instead a captivating artistic statement.
The album's release followed a period of public controversy and marked a significant chapter in Ocean's career, sparking widespread media discussion and leaving a lasting impact on music enthusiasts.
"One Down" is one of the compositions he created to meet this contractual obligation, and its lyrics candidly delve into the absurdity of having to write a precise 4.6 songs. Folds humorously explores the temptation to fulfill this requirement by producing something subpar. Despite the seemingly forced circumstances, "One Down" turns out to be a delightful song with Folds' signature piano artistry and cleverly self-reflective lyrics. It's a testament to his talent that even in the face of contractual constraints, he could create something both musically appealing and tongue-in-cheek about the industry's peculiar demands.
Neil Young - Old Ways
Neil Young's 'Old Ways' offers a fascinating glimpse into the artistic evolution and creative tension that defined his career in the 1980s. In January 1983, Young embarked on a journey into the realm of country music, recording several heartfelt songs at David Briggs' Nashville studio, House of David.
With a stellar lineup of seasoned collaborators, including Ben Keith, Tim Drummond, and Spooner Oldham, who had previously worked with Young on 'Comes a Time,' the album came to life. Songs like "Old Ways," "Depression Blues," and "Are There Any More Real Cowboys?" emerged from these sessions, showcasing Young's deep connection to the country genre. However, the story takes an intriguing twist when Young's record label, Geffen, objected to the country album, prompting Young to shift gears and deliver the unexpected 'Everybody's Rockin'' in 1983. Young later said of Old Ways:
There was a whole other record, the original Old Ways, which Geffen rejected. It was like Harvest II. It was a combination of the musicians from Harvest and Comes a Time. It was done in Nashville in only a few days, basically the same way Harvest was done, and it was co-produced by Elliot Mazer, who produced Harvest. There's Harvest, Comes a Time and Old Ways I, which is more of a Neil Young record than Old Ways II. Old Ways II was more of a country record – which was a direct result of being sued for playing country music. The more they tried to stop me, the more I did it. Just to let them know that no one’s gonna tell me what to do. I was so stoked about that record. I sent them a tape of it that had eight songs on it. I called them up a week later, 'cause I hadn’t heard anything, and they said, "Well, frankly, Neil, this record scares us a lot. We don't think this is the right direction for you to be going in." The techno-pop thing was happening, and they had Peter Gabriel, and they were totally into that kind of trip. I guess they just saw me as some old hippie from the Sixties still trying to make acoustic music or something. They didn't look at me as an artist; they looked at me as a product, and this product didn't fit in with their marketing scheme.
Led Zeppelin - Coda
Led Zeppelin's album "Coda" offers a fascinating glimpse into the legendary rock band's final chapter. Released in 1982, the album was not crafted as a traditional studio release, but rather as a compilation of previously unreleased tracks spanning the group's illustrious twelve-year career. What makes "Coda" intriguing is the backdrop behind its creation. Following the tragic death of drummer John Bonham, Led Zeppelin decided to fulfill their contractual obligations with Atlantic Records and settle some outstanding taxes by putting together this album.
The tracks on "Coda" capture Led Zeppelin's signature sound, from the punk-inspired energy of "Wearing and Tearing" to the folk-infused menace of "Poor Tom." While it may not be considered their finest work, "Coda" remains a solid snapshot of Led Zeppelin's musical prowess and a testament to their enduring impact on rock music.
The album's release was also a response to the rampant bootlegging of the band's unreleased material, making it a must-listen for fans and rock purists alike.
The Strokes - Comedown Machine
Comedown Machine, the fifth album by The Strokes, may be the definitive contractual obligation LP. Released in 2013 with minimal fanfare, no tour, and barely any promotion (bassist Nikolai Fraiture gave one radio interview), it's a shock that anyone even heard the 11 tightly wound tracks that make up this farewell to the band's original contract with RCA.
The intriguing part of this album is that RCA ended up distributing the band's 2020 follow up, "The New Abnormal," after it was released on Cult, a label founded by none other than singer Julian Casablancas.
The Band - Islands
The Band's 'Islands' is a musical puzzle born from the intricate world of record label politics and artistic transitions. Comprising primarily of previously unreleased tracks, including their 1976 rendition of "Georgia on My Mind," recorded in support of Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign, this album emerged as a means to fulfill the Band's contractual obligations with Capitol Records. The real intrigue lies in the backdrop of their farewell concert, 'The Last Waltz,' where Robbie Robertson made the bold decision to step away from the wild life on the road. 'Islands' became the last album featuring the original lineup, capturing a band in transition, straddling between their illustrious past and an uncertain future. While the album may seem uneven and occasionally somber, it remains a testament to the Band's enduring artistry and the complex negotiations that often shape the music industry. It's a glimpse into the twilight of an era, offering both devoted fans and curious listeners a unique musical snapshot of a legendary group at a pivotal crossroads in their history.
John Lennon - Rock 'n' Roll
John Lennon's 'Rock 'n' Roll' is a musical journey that unfolds against a backdrop of legal battles, creative exploration, and personal transformation. Released in February 1975, this album is a unique collection of late 1950s and early 1960s songs, reimagined through Lennon's distinctive lens.
The story behind its creation is nothing short of intriguing, as recording the album spanned an entire year and involved the enigmatic Phil Spector, who produced sessions in 1973, and Lennon himself, who took the reins in 1974. What makes 'Rock 'n' Roll' even more captivating is its connection to a legal dispute with Morris Levy over copyright infringement, resulting in Lennon's inclusion of three Levy-owned songs. With Spector's disappearance and a subsequent motor accident, the album's tracks were briefly lost, adding an element of mystery to its production. Against the backdrop of personal upheaval, including Lennon's separation from Yoko Ono, this album captures a moment of nostalgia in the midst of cultural shifts, making it a captivating chapter in Lennon's musical legacy that invites listeners to explore the intricate interplay between art, life, and the ever-evolving world of rock 'n' roll.
Jimi Hendrix - Band of Gypsys
Jimi Hendrix's 'Band of Gypsys' is a mesmerizing musical journey born out of both pragmatic necessity and artistic brilliance. In 1969, facing mounting pressure from his manager and record company for a follow-up to his highly successful 'Electric Ladyland,' Hendrix formed a new band, aptly named the Band of Gypsys, with the sole aim of delivering a new album swiftly.
Recorded over two electrifying nights at New York City's Fillmore East on New Year's Eve 1969 and New Year's Day 1970, the album captures Hendrix at the zenith of his powers, unleashing incendiary guitar work and mesmerizing performances. What makes this album particularly intriguing is its role in Hendrix's evolving career; it signaled a departure from his Experience format and a desire to explore new musical horizons.
Despite the band's short-lived existence, barely six months later, Hendrix's untimely death would forever cement 'Band of Gypsys' as a remarkable and enduring testament to his unparalleled talent and the creative restlessness that defined his artistry. It's a sonic adventure that invites listeners to witness Hendrix at a pivotal crossroads in his career, with all the raw energy and innovation that made him a legend.
R.E.M. - New Adventures in Hi-Fi
R.E.M.'s album "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" is a captivating chapter in the band's discography. Released in 1996, it marked their fifth major-label album for Warner Bros. Records. What makes this album particularly intriguing is the circumstances surrounding its creation.
It was hastily assembled while the band was on the road, primarily to fulfill their existing contractual obligations with Warner Bros. Records. However, what started as a contractual obligation turned out to be a remarkable musical achievement. Many fans and critics regard "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" as one of R.E.M.'s last great records before what was perceived as an artistic shift in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The album showcases the band at their peak, and its unexpected success in capturing their essence on the road while satisfying a contract makes it a standout in their discography.
Neil Young - Landing on Water
Neil Young's 'Landing On Water' is a captivating chapter in the iconic musician's career, marked by creative rebellion and a struggle to find his artistic footing. As his last studio album for Geffen, it arrived amid a backdrop of legal battles with label head David Geffen, who had sued Young the year before for deviating from his signature sound. 'Landing On Water' may sound like Neil Young on the surface, but it's a reflection of a jaded and disillusioned artist.
It represents a striking departure from the country and doo-wop experiments of his previous albums, opting instead for a contemporary rock sound imbued with the synthetic textures of the 1980s—prominent drums, synclavier, and synthesizers create an atmosphere that's often described as "claustrophobic." This album showcases Young's determination to chart his own musical path, even when faced with industry pressures. In 2009, Young discussed the sound of the album, saying:
One record company president in Europe told me it was the most claustrophobic record he had ever heard, and I thought that was pretty cool. He put it on in his Porsche and would turn it up real loud. He just felt like it was all over him.
Meat Loaf - Meat Loaf Live at Wembley
Meat Loaf's album 'Live at Wembley' is a thrilling sonic time capsule that offers a tantalizing glimpse into the dramatic twists and turns of an artist's career. Recorded at London's iconic Wembley Arena on March 1-2, 1987, this live album captures Meat Loaf at the pinnacle of his stage prowess, backed by arrangements from a talented team including Steve Buslowe and Bob Kulick. What makes this album all the more intriguing is the backstory of Meat Loaf's tumultuous journey. As he embarked on a quest to rejuvenate his career, Meat Loaf began performing in intimate venues, from pubs to clubs, slowly but steadily building a dedicated following. This grassroots movement grew to astonishing proportions, ultimately leading to sold-out arenas and stadiums.
'Live at Wembley' represents a pivotal moment in Meat Loaf's resurgence, as he and Jim Steinman, inspired by the success of their touring, would go on to create the iconic 'Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell' in 1993, marking a triumphant return for the artist after years of ups and downs. This album is not just a live recording; it's a testament to the resilience of an artist who defied the odds to make a spectacular comeback, leaving listeners eager to experience the electrifying energy of Meat Loaf's Wembley performance.
Buffalo Springfield - Last Time Around
Buffalo Springfield's 'Last Time Around' is a captivating musical testament to the intricate dynamics of a band on the brink of disintegration, wrapped in a story of contractual obligations and creative resilience. Released as the band's third and final studio album, it was, in essence, a compilation of recordings from up to a year earlier, meticulously stitched together to fulfill contractual commitments.
By the time 'Last Time Around' was completed, the group had virtually disbanded, with the cover photo itself being a montage, a visual reflection of the band's fragmented state. The five original members only united on a single track, "On the Way Home," showcasing the band's struggle for coherence. However, amid the chaos, the album unfolds as an often enchanting and occasionally brilliant collection of songs. Richie Furay and Jim Messina painstakingly assembled the album from tracks recorded by various band members, breathing life into Buffalo Springfield's legacy even as they faced their imminent end. 'Last Time Around' is a compelling musical journey that invites listeners to explore the complexities of creativity and collaboration in the face of contractual constraints.
Prince - Come
'Come' is a musical enigma that unfolds against the backdrop of a dramatic public dispute between Prince and Warner Bros., adding layers of intrigue to its story. Released at a time when tensions between the artist and the label were at their peak, the album faced a lack of promotion from both sides, resulting in underwhelming chart performance in the US. Yet, what makes 'Come' particularly captivating is its international success, soaring to the top of the charts across Europe and claiming the number one spot on the UK Albums Chart. This album marked a significant turning point in Prince's career, as it would be his final Warner Bros. release under his own name. He famously adopted the unpronounceable "Love Symbol" and became "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince."
The album's cover, featuring the declaration "Prince: 1958–1993," suggests a rebirth, with Prince emerging under his Love Symbol alias. The intriguing fusion of musical artistry and the tumultuous relationship between artist and label make 'Come' a compelling chapter in Prince's discography, inviting listeners to explore the complexities of his ever-evolving identity and artistry.
Anthrax - Live: The Island Years
Anthrax may not have been directly involved in crafting this album, its release was driven by the need to fulfill lingering commitments to their former record company, following their signing with Elektra.
What makes this album truly intriguing is its eclectic tracklist, drawn from two distinct sources. The first part showcases the energy of their earlier live performance at Irvine Meadows, California in 1991, while the latter captures an intimate concert staged for college radio WSOU at Electric Lady Studios in 1992. One standout moment is the rendition of "Bring the Noise," which features both Anthrax and Public Enemy, kicking off with Flavor Flav's infectious "Too Much Posse" before seamlessly merging with Anthrax's dynamic beats. Do you need to hear this album? Not really, but who complains about more Anthrax?
Stray Cats - Rock Therapy
The Stray Cats' album 'Rock Therapy' emerges as a fascinating chapter in the band's history, driven by the need to reform and recapture their rockabilly magic. Released in August 1986, this album marked a reunion for the trio, driven by Brian Setzer's previous solo endeavor, 'The Knife Feels Like Justice,' and the collaborative effort of Phantom, Rocker, and Slick.
Despite reaching only the No. 122 position on the Billboard 200 chart and failing to make a significant impact outside the United States, 'Rock Therapy' carries a unique spontaneity and sense of whimsy in its creation. Produced by the band themselves, the album reflects the Stray Cats' raw, unfiltered energy. Greg Quill of the Toronto Star hailed it as "probably the best Stray Cats album to date," a testament to their ability to recapture the essence of their rockabilly roots. 'Rock Therapy' is a musical journey that invites listeners to explore the band's rekindled spirit and rediscover the magic that made them a rockabilly sensation, despite the odds stacked against them.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Love Beach
Emerson, Lake & Palmer's album 'Love Beach' is a captivating musical artifact that emerges from a tumultuous period in the band's history, marked by internal tensions and contractual obligations. Released in November 1978, it serves as the band's final studio album before their impending split.
The story behind the album's creation is absolutely bonkers: As the band's North American tour in 1977-1978 strained internal relations, they found themselves obligated to produce one more album. Seeking refuge as tax exiles in Nassau, Bahamas, the trio recorded 'Love Beach' with the assistance of lyricist Peter Sinfield, credited as a co-writer on each track.
However, the album's production was far from harmonious, with Greg Lake and Carl Palmer leaving the island after completing their parts, leaving Keith Emerson to finish it alone. Encouraged by Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegun, who reminded them of their contractual obligation, the band reluctantly agreed to create a more commercially appealing album, which was a departure from their usual progressive rock style.
The Mamas & The Papas - People Like Us
The Mamas and the Papas' album 'People Like Us' is a musical swan song that unfolds against the backdrop of contractual obligations, legal disputes, and a creative spark that had long dimmed.
Released in November 1971, three years after the group's original split, this album was born out of necessity rather than artistic inspiration. The former members found themselves still under contract with Dunhill Records, a label they had originally signed with when Lou Adler was at the helm.
However, by 1971, Dunhill had been acquired by ABC Records, and a contractual clause surfaced, requiring the group to produce one more album to avoid potential fines of up to $1 million. As a result, 'People Like Us' emerged, a collection that bears the weight of contractual obligations rather than the creative passion that had once defined the band. Despite its lukewarm reception and disappointment among fans and critics, the album offers a unique glimpse into a band trying to navigate the complexities of the music industry while their creative spark had already started to wane. It's a testament to the challenges faced by musicians when artistry meets contractual obligations, and a fitting final chapter in the Mamas and the Papas' storied career.
Bob Dylan - Dylan
Bob Dylan's album 'Dylan' is a musical bummer that shows that the dark side of the music business even effects an iconic artist's career. Released on November 16, 1973, this thirteenth studio album is a collection of outtakes from earlier recording sessions, compiled by Columbia Records without any input from Dylan himself.
What makes 'Dylan' truly intriguing is its timing—it came on the heels of Dylan's departure from Columbia for Asylum Records and marked the announcement of his first major tour since 1966.
Marvin Gaye - Here, My Dear
Marvin Gaye's album 'Here, My Dear' unfolds as a captivating musical tale of heartbreak, conflict, and an unexpected artistic triumph. The circumstances surrounding its release are the stuff of musical legend. In the midst of a tumultuous divorce from Anna Gordy Gaye, who happened to be the sister of his record company boss, Marvin Gaye was facing financial woes due to his cocaine habit and the impending alimony payments. To settle the divorce, a unique agreement was reached—Anna would receive half the royalties from Marvin's next album. Intent on creating a deliberately "lazy and bad" record as a spiteful parting shot, Gaye ended up crafting a masterpiece that laid bare the disintegration of his relationship with raw candor and genuine anguish. The album's release met with bewilderment from his fans, and it sold poorly at the time. However, in the years following Gaye's death, 'Here, My Dear' underwent a remarkable transformation, earning recognition from critics as one of his finest works. It's a testament to the power of music to channel personal turmoil into artistry and create enduring beauty from the depths of heartbreak.
Monty Python - Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album
Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album, a release that emerged against the backdrop of reluctant studio returns and contractual commitments, offers a peek into the comedic genius of Monty Python in the face of duty. After a hiatus from an all-studio album since 1973's 'Matching Tie and Handkerchief,' the group embarked on a fascinating journey. As the title suggests, this album was born out of necessity, but what makes it truly intriguing is the eclectic mix of material that ranges from re-recorded gems from their pre-Python days to discarded drafts from 'Life Of Brian' and the seeds of what would eventually become 'The Meaning Of Life.' The album's quirky cover, featuring a fake track-listing related to the contractual obligation, is a nod to the group's irreverent humor. With John Cleese making appearances on just three tracks and Terry Gilliam notably absent, Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album becomes a delightful puzzle of creativity and obligation that Monty Python fans won't want to miss.
Frank Zappa - Läther
Frank Zappa's album "Läther" is a musical shot across the bow wrapped in a legal battle. In 1977, Zappa was determined to break free from his contract with Warner Bros. Records. To fulfill his contractual obligation for four separate albums, he recorded "Läther," an ambitious eight-sided, three-hour quadruple album of entirely new material.
Warner Bros. initially rejected the release, leaving Zappa stuck in a contractual quagmire. Frustrated and unable to get his music out through official channels, Zappa took matters into his own hands. In a bold move, he played the entire "Läther" album on KROQ radio in Los Angeles and encouraged fans to record it, effectively giving his blessing to bootleggers.
This unconventional saga sheds light on the complex relationship between artists and record labels and showcases Zappa's determination to share his music, even if it meant defying industry norms. "Läther" eventually saw an official release more than 30 years later, but its journey to the public remains a fascinating chapter in Zappa's career.
Todd Rundgren - The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect
Todd Rundgren's album "The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect" is a curious chapter in the artist's career. Released in 1982, it came across as more of a contractual obligation than a passion project for Rundgren. With a somewhat cynical title, the album's creation was marked by Rundgren spending minimal time on it, which is surprising considering the pop sound that he was renowned for. However, the result was far from a throwaway effort, as the album was met with a positive reception. Notably, Rundgren achieved a hit with the catchy and somewhat novelty song "Bang the Drum All Day." Despite the initial lack of enthusiasm, "The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect" turned out to be Rundgren's last album to break into the US Top 100, leaving behind an intriguing and unexpected legacy.
The Artist Formerly Known As Prince - Chaos and Disorder
Prince's album 'Chaos and Disorder' is defined by both its unconventional release and the intriguing backstory that surrounds it. Unveiled on July 9, 1996, by Warner Bros. Records, the album represents a unique chapter in Prince's career. Despite being one of his least commercially successful releases in the United States, it climbed to number 14 in the United Kingdom. What makes 'Chaos and Disorder' particularly captivating is Prince's refusal to promote it, as he continued to wage a battle against his Warner Bros. contract.
The album was unleashed simply to fulfill his contractual obligations, and its inlay sleeve carries a cryptic message that hints at its private origins. Although Prince claimed the album was created hastily, more than a third of its content dates back to earlier sessions for 'The Gold Experience' and 'Come.' This album served as a pivotal moment in Prince's career, marking the end of an era with Warner Bros. and laying the groundwork for his eventual return to the label after 18 years, under a new deal that granted him control of his masters.
'Chaos and Disorder' is not just a collection of songs; it's a testament to the enigmatic genius of an artist who never ceased to challenge conventions, leaving listeners intrigued by the mysteries that shroud its creation.
Bonzo Dog Band - Let's Make Up and Be Friendly
The Bonzo Dog Band's album 'Let's Make Up And Be Friendly' is a musical curiosity that unfolds against the backdrop of an unexpected reunion and contractual obligations. As their fifth original album, it marked the end of an era for the band, but the story behind its creation is anything but conventional. The group had already disbanded, but when United Artists Records reminded them of an outstanding obligation to deliver one more album, the Bonzo Dog Band reunited for this unexpected farewell in 1972.
'Let's Make Up And Be Friendly' encapsulates the quirky and offbeat spirit that defined the band's earlier work, yet it's imbued with a sense of finality and the intriguing circumstances of its creation. This album invites listeners to explore a unique moment in the Bonzo Dog Band's history, where musical artistry and contractual obligations converged, resulting in a memorable musical farewell that defies easy categorization.