I recently began looking at the songs we have for this record and tentative track listings and ideas, and I was surprised that we've come far enough in the writing process that we have nine songs. In order that they were presented as somewhat completed history songs, they are
Bring Out Your Dead
The Great Stink
Election of 1800
Know It All
Let's Go to War
We began discussing what this means for the project from a lot of angles. Kelly and I discussed how the perfect track listing is thirteen songs and forty-six minutes, but that being between forty and forty-six minutes is more important than the track number. Since most of the songs we have will run between two and three minutes, it's safe to assume that we may need more than thirteen songs to reach that kind of time frame, although we've agreed we won't hurt the project by adding a sub-par song just to fill out the track listing. I over-estimated the length of the four we've recorded at twelve minutes and forty-eight seconds, as I noticed that they have periods of silence before and after the music that will be shortened on the mastered version.
More importantly, being around two-thirds finished with writing the record has meant, for me, taking a step back and asking what kind of scope I had envisioned for such a grandiose concept as a "history album" and the discrepancy between what we have and what we want it to be. I have always approached this record in its timeline form, and I believe that if we call this a record about history, then it needs to cover diverse topics over a long period of time. Kelly's interest is on earlier American history, and the songs he has written have focused there. I threw a wrench in my own concept by writing "Bob Dole," meaning that the latest song chronologically goes up to the elections of 1996 and 2000 (the latter was also referenced in "Election of 1800"). If it hadn't been for that, I would have been content to have let it go up to the early 20th Century.
The result of this has been that I have moved my focus from simple events to epochs. I think this will broaden its scope to the whole of something as lofty as "history" a little better, but they will serve to compliment the individual events.
We have many pieces of songs and ideas in various stages of development, some I'm more excited about than others, and I wonder if all of it will be able to work and how the whole thing will play out in the end. It's funny how being where we are in the record limits the possibilites of what the record to be (as opposed to what we could dream of the record being back when we had only two songs written for it), but we really have more questions to ask about the concept than when we were just throwing out ideas and writing songs about them.