Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ratings, etc.

Here's a good 1 4 discussion: Has NE1 out there ever stumbled over a good, reliable, reasonable, defendable shorthand system 4 rating albums?
I useta think critic Robert Christgau's letter-grades (in his CONSUMER GUIDES & elsewhere) were a pretty solid way of showing an album's overall quality -- even if I hardly ever agreed w/ him -- & I liked the way he could sum-up the effect of an album in a quick 100-word capsule. The fact that he hated mosta the stuff I loved was way 2ndary. Shit, he was even funny....
Then I got familiar with the "star system" used in latter-day issues of ROLLING STONE & in lotsa review sites on the Internet -- U know, ratings of from 1 to 4 or 5 stars -- a 5-star album meaning (I assume) An Album That Will Change Your Life, & a 1-star rating indicating an album that could possibly end it.
With the site-browsing I've done over the past coupla yrs (which reached its peak over a yr ago when I had the audacity 2 review a bunch of other music-review sites), I've found on-line reviewers who have developed their own odd formulas 4 trying 2 Xplain how good (or bad) an album is -- something about adding-up the # of worthwhile songs vs. the # of total tracks & dividing that against a sliding scale of 47 or something....
There's also the popular # system, 1 thru 10 on the scale -- 10 being stunning & 1 being stunningly useless, I assume....
4 awhile I tried my own rating system, ranging from "*" 4 discs of utter brilliance down 2 "-" 2 indicate albums I'll never willingly sit thru again unless held at gunpoint. 4 awhile this satisfied me, tho I don't know how many of my mythical readers understood why those dots & squiggles & +'s & *'s were there, or whether they cared or not. Cos I was still gonna babble about stuff whether NEbody noticed the ratings or not. & of course I never took NE time 2 discuss my rating "system." Why bother when I could B writing something funny or outrageous instead....
I would much rather read some deeply sincere, thotful review of some overlooked album -- like the long in-depth essays magazines like ROLLING STONE & TROUSER PRESS & CRAWDADDY & others useta run & that some on-line reviewers still post -- rather than scan thru somebody's star-rating list of the ELP catalog. I'd also Njoy much more some reviewer's hilarious thots on said catalog rather than what they think of an album as Xpressed by a letter-grade or #.
But lately I've bn wondering if there's some way 2 combine these approaches in a reliable way 2 shorthand the overall quality of a release but still highlight what makes an album unique. I've thot the fraction method might work -- count worthwhile trax versus the overall # of trax, w/ a point thrown-in 4 each "life-changing" song.
Under this system, Gryphon's pretty-brilliant RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE gets 4/4ths, while their slightly-above-avg MIDNIGHT MUSHRUMPS gets 3/6ths, & the mostly-marvelous TREASON gets 6/7ths. Hmmm. That almost works.
Providence's classic EVER SENSE THE DAWN scores 10/12ths, while Group 87's classic 1st album bags 10/9ths -- every track's a winner, at least 4 me, & the closer is stunning. 2 bad nobody else ever heard it....
Xpanding this a bit farther 2 include releases somebody may actually have HEARD OF, the Beach Boys' CD version of PET SOUNDS gets 14/16ths. The Who's WHO'S NEXT gets 11/9ths. Nick Drake's BRYTER LAYTER gets 9/10ths. Bare Naked Ladies' pretty-great STUNT earns a rating of 9/13ths, but Coldplay's A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD ends up with 2/11ths -- which I'm actually OK with.
But this mayB doesn't work so well on albums of Xperimental stuff where there R longer & fewer pieces of music. King Crimson's IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING gets a mere 3/5th's under this system (which is fine w/ me), but David Sancious and Tone's sometimes-brilliant TRANSFORMATION (THE SPEED OF LOVE) rates only 2/4th's. & side-long Xperts like Mike Oldfield really suffer: TUBULAR BELLS & OMMADAWN both rate only 1/2. INCANTATIONS gets 1/4th. & HERGEST RIDGE gets 0/2.
Actually, this is working fairly well so far. But I know there R flaws: Caravan's rather brilliant FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT rates 7/8ths, while their nearly-as-good BLIND DOG AT ST. DUNSTAN'S picks up 6/6ths on my scale, mainly just 4 having fewer actual songs (& medleys) on the album. So something's wrong here.
Pink Floyd's DARK SIDE earns 7/10ths from me, while WISH YOU WERE HERE gets 3/5ths. Hmmm....
NEbody out there found a simple rating system that really works without a long justifying supportive Xplanation...?

2 comments:

Perplexio said...

I generally leave ratings off the album reviews I do unless the album is stunningly bad or exceptionally good. For example a couple months back I gave Steve Hackett's latest album, Out of the Tunnel's Mouth a perfect score (5 out of 5 or a perfect 10 depending on what scale you prefer to use) because it was the first time in a long time that music had actually given me chills up and down my spine (good chills).

R Smith said...

I don't know if there's a surefire rating system out there to review albums. I usually go between the A-F grading that Christgau does or the 5 Star rating. Seems like anything I review falls between either 2 and half or 4 star rating of albums or A- to C+, that it takes a lot to get a A rating from me but if I rate something a C or below takes a lot for me to bash it.

Sure it's easy to bash a rap album or some Auto Tuned POS on the radio so I avoid the obivious (Jay Z, Kanye West, Carrie Underwood, Celine Dion, Sugarland) and focus on the bands I review. However, if a band that I do support comes up with a really bad album (Goo Goo Dolls, Let Love In, Train-Save Me San Francisco) it's then no holds barred.