About: Ratings and terminologies

Album years

All years quoted for albums refer to the first known commercially available issue, with no regards to format or country.


Song years

Up to and including 31 December 1949, all years quoted for songs refer to the actual recording date.
From 1 January 1950 onwards, all years quoted for songs (with the exception of those whose recording predates 1950) refer to the first known commercially available issue, with no regards to format or country.


Song ratings

I rate individual songs (or pieces) on a 101 point scale from 0 to 10, incrementally rising by one decimal place. Simply, these ratings express how strongly each track impacts on me.

To assist myself in the ratings task, I drafted up my own personal guidelines as follows:

10 – “Utterly perfect”
9.5 to 9.9 – “All-time classic”
9.0 to 9.4 – “Classic”
8.5 to 8.9 – “Excellent”
8.0 to 8.4 – “Fantastic”
7.5 to 7.9 – “Great”
7.0 to 7.4 – “Really good”
6.5 to 6.9 – “Good”
6.0 to 6.4 – “Quite good”
5.5 to 5.9 – “Alright”
5.0 to 5.4 – “Average”
4.5 to 4.9 – “Unaffecting”
4.0 to 4.4 – “Lame”
3.5 to 3.9 – “Very poor”
3.0 to 3.4 – “Terrible”
2.0 to 2.9 – “Dire”
1.0 to 1.9 – “Embarrassing”
0 to 0.9 – “Pathetically abysmal”


Album ratings

Album ratings (aka Rebel Ratings) couldn’t be simpler. They are calculated as the average rating of the songs contained within. To assist with chart order, I run the ratings to 2 decimal places. Bonus tracks and recorded silence tracks are always excluded from the calculation.

9.50 to 10 – “An elite masterpiece”
9.00 to 9.49 – “A masterpiece”
8.51 to 8.99 – “A classic”
8.00 to 8.49 – “Excellent”
7.51 to 7.99 – “Brilliant”
7.00 to 7.49 – “Really good”
6.51 to 6.99 – “Good”
6.00 to 6.49 – “Decent enough”
5.51 to 5.99 – “Average”
5.00 to 5.49 – “Below average”
4.51 to 4.99 – “Poor”
4.00 to 4.49 – “Lame”
3.00 to 3.99 – “Terrible”
2.00 to 2.99 – “Dire”
1.00 to 1.99 – “An embarrassment”
0 to 0.99 – “Pathetically abysmal”


Country of origin

I assign a country to each and every artist in my database. Where the artist is a solo act I adhere to their country of birth. Groups are assigned the country in which they were formed and originally based, irrespective of member’s individual nationality or where they’ve re-located. Collaborative projects between artists are assigned multiple country tags as required. In exceptional circumstances, a single group can have more than one country tag if their base has never been fixed. Internet-based dual or multi-national collectives would serve as such an example.


Runtime / No. of tracks

I attempt to base this data on the original primary release of the album in question. This usually, though not always, means first pressing in the artists home territory. I always exclude bonus tracks, limited edition tracks, and hidden tracks. Generally speaking, I regard the LP as the primary release up until 1985 and the CD from 1986 onwards. As regards minimum requirements for tracks / runtime to qualify for album status see “A-list”.


“A-list” albums

Fed up of befuddled lists and sites trying to sell me CDs, I've compiled my own discography for all the artists for whom I own at least one album. Many discographers have different ideas about what should be in these lists. From my point of view, I wanted to make a clear distinction as to which were the primary albums of new music. Working these discographies has gave me great clarity – not only can I see each artist’s primary works at a glance, it also gives me the ability to determine end of year charts which are free from repackaged, older material.

To be deemed a proper full-length “A-list” Album, the set must include at least:

1 to 4 tracks, with a minimum of 40:00 minutes run-time.

or

5 to 10 tracks, with a minimum of 30:00 minutes run-time.

or

11 to 99 tracks, with a minimum of 25:00 minutes run-time.

Ideally, the album should come out in the year it was recorded; however a 3-year gestation period is perfectly normal and acceptable, and there can be many valid reasons why that is the case. I use my own discretion to ignore this 3-year rule in certain instances. For example, in the 1950s it was customary for the debut LP to serve as a roundup of the artist’s singles from the preceding years. If those are mostly within the last 5 years or so I can just about live with it as an “A-lister”. When they start to select material which is several to ten years old then it’s more likely to be “B-listed”. The other main exception to the age of recording rule is for those instances where a wholly shelved cohesive album project is brought back to life. Examples of this would include Woody Guthrie’s “Sacco and Vanzetti” (recorded in 1947 and released in 1960) or Department S’s “Is Vic There?” (recorded in 1980-81 and released in 1993 with a change to the originally intended title of “Substance”). Such albums must still adhere to the other “A-list” rules to qualify.

Generally, all tracks must be new to the artist’s album discography. However, discretion, again, must come into play or many proper albums would lose out and it wouldn’t feel right. A maximum of two recompiled or reworked tracks (from the artist’s existing back-album catalogue) are usually about the acceptable limit, although 1 in a 3-track album would not be allowed. I’d also be very reluctant to allow 1 in a 4-track album – it would have to be an incredibly short piece to survive the culling. Going up the scale, 3 out of 15 would just about be ok. I take each case on its merit and the world’s perception of the album’s status has a bearing on my thoughts, but these are my general guidelines and I stick to them more than 95% of the time.

Live albums and compilations are perfectly acceptable for the “A-list” – as long as they fit the above criteria then there’s no problem. However, by their very nature of their usual composition, the vast majority of such albums land naturally in the “B-list”.

To be deemed a proper “A-list” mini-album, the set must include at least:

1-4 tracks, with 24:00 to 39:59 minutes run-time

or

5 tracks, with 20:00 to 29:59 minutes run-time

or

6 tracks, with 18:00 to 29:59 minutes run-time

or

7 tracks, with 15:00 to 29:59 minutes run-time

or

8 tracks, with 13:00 to 29:59 minutes run-time

or

9-99 tracks, with 12:00 to 24:59 minutes run-time

(in each case, albums exceeding these run-times have full-length status).

There is one major exception to the mini-album rule, designed to accommodate the pre-LP album books of the 1930s and 1940s. Any sets from this period which include at least 3 separate discs are classed as a mini-album, even if there run-time falls short.

Normal “A-list” conditions (as previously outlined for the full-lengths) apply to all the mini-albums. Almost always, 2 or 3 remixes of the same track mean that the release will be considered a single and not given an album status at all.

If any of the tracks come from full-length studio albums of the same period, then the potential mini-album is usually deemed to be a “single” and I don't generally include it. The exception to this would be where the full-length studio album is released 3 or more years later - in this case I would say that the mini-album stands up on its own and that the full-length must stand secondarily to the mini before its list status is determined.

One final exceptional rule applies to both full-length and mini-albums and it concerns split albums. In order to be classed within the “A-list”, the artist’s portion of the split must adhere to all the criteria on its own; often meaning that there is insufficient run-time to qualify. Such non-qualifying splits are placed in the “B-list” even if all the content is brand new.


“B-list” albums

All officially released albums which do not meet the “A-list” criteria, fall into the “B-list” category. Without exception, this includes all various artist compilations. As far as artists go, it usually includes greatest hits sets, live albums and other compilations. This category can occasionally include newly recorded artists albums which are reworking or recycling too much older material from the artists existing back-album catalogue.


“C-list” albums

All albums which are unrecognised officially. This category can include bootlegs or self-made compilations.


“D-list” albums

Purely for my own benefit, this category has been created to keep the above lists visually “clean and presentable” when database lists are created. Primarily used to house my “doublers” although it is occasionally used as a place to put territorial variation releases to save confusion with the primary “A-list” albums.


“E-list” albums

Are few and far between. I never own any albums in this category. This is the place where I list mystical albums of which very little information is known. They may, or may not, exist at all in reality. They are at least placed here on the off-chance that they may assist with future discography research.


Album type

Designed to describe the composition of an album “at a glance”. There are hundreds of permutations in the way that this description shows itself. I try to explain these with some examples below:

studio album • new music
The most common description for an album in my database. It’s a studio recording, it’s a full-length and it consists of titles which are new to the artist’s album catalogue.

studio mini-album • new music
It’s a studio recording, but with a limited number of tracks or run-time. It consists of titles which are new to the artist’s album catalogue.

studio collaboration album • new music
An adjective is added where necessary, in this instance to convey the fact there are separate artists working together in this creation. The adjective could just as easily read “split” for instances where separate artists are contributing separate tracks to the album.

studio album • new music / reworkings
The forward slash is commonly used in these descriptions. It depicts instances where more than one thing is happening. In this instance I am conveying the information that the album consists of both titles which are new to the artist’s album catalogue and titles which have been re-recorded or otherwise re-worked from the artist’s existing back-album catalogue. The before or after placement is significant; here, new music is in the majority. Also, it’s near certain that there are at least two titles which are reworkings. If there were only one I would not use the reworking term at all (unless it was only 1 of 3 or 1 of 4 tracks).

studio album • reworkings / new music
Here, reworkings from the artist’s back-album catalogue are in the majority on this new studio album (as can be discerned from the terms placement before the forward slash). Also, there are at least two titles which are new to the artist’s album catalogue (if there were only one the “new music” term would not be used at all.)

studio double album • new music
The “double” being another example of a placed adjective which could just as easily read “triple”, “quadruple” etc. As an aside, the double applies to LPs until 1985. CD takes the primary position from 1986. I would therefore not describe a 60 minute single CD as a double album, even if it had a double LP equivalent.

studio album • new music • film soundtrack
Occasionally I go beyond the third bullet point for an exceptional important description such as “film soundtrack”, “tv soundtrack”, “theatre play soundtrack”, “art exhibition soundtrack”, “megamix”, “minimixes” etc. etc.

studio album • compilation
The most common description for a single various artists compilation. When it comes to interpretation as an artist’s album, almost always, the straight compilation term means that the recordings are more than 3 years old. The tracks may, or may not, have featured in the artist’s back-album catalogue, but it’s most likely that they do.

studio / live album • new music compilation
Just one of many permutations. Here, I convey that this album mostly consists of studio tracks (as “studio” comes before the slash), and that it consists of at least two live tracks (if there were only one live track I wouldn’t bother with the term at all). I’m also saying that although it wasn’t conceptualized as a regular new album, the recordings are all fairly recent. Usually, this signifies that the album qualifies for “A-list” status even though it’s regarded as a compilation. That said, I have not always utilised the “compilation” term for these non-conceptualized albums, as such status can often be subjective.


Prevalent genre(s)

Each individual song (or piece) in my collection gets one genre tag (in hindsight I wish I had allowed multiple tagging but, alas, it’s too far gone for that). The current tags are as listed in this section. For simplicity, I’ve stuck with major genre tags; each of which could easily (and rightly) have tens or even hundreds sub-genres in the eyes of musicologists. My genre tagging is not, therefore, ideal for finely-tuned niche analysis, but it does a fairly competent job of separating the general stylings.

When it comes to describing the “Prevalent genre(s)” of any given album, it’s the tags for these individual tracks which are referred to. Isolating the tracks which qualify for the album’s rating (see “No. of tracks / Runtime”) the genre gets a quote in the album’s summary if it appears on at least three of the qualifying tracks. There are no limits to the number of genre tags which can appear in the album’s summary. In the album’s summary, genre tags appear in an orderly sort of “most prolific” followed by “alphabetical order”. If no single genre tag is identified three times in the album’s tracklist, then the required number of tracks tagged falls to two; or ultimately just one if necessary.

The current list of single genre tags is: African; Alternative Country; Alternative Dance; Alternative Folk; Ambient; Asian; Avant-Garde; Big Band / Jive / Swing; Blues / Rhythm n Blues; Blues Rock / Soul; Rock; Caribbean; Cerebral Pop; Classical; Club; Comedy; Contemporary Classical; Country; Crooner / Cabaret; Disco / Funk; Dream Pop / Shoegaze; Drum n Bass; Dubbeat; Electronica; Film Score / Incidental; Folk; Folk Rock / Americana; Hip Hop / Rap; Indian; Indie Pop; Indie Rock / Alternative Rock; Jazz; Jingle; Latin; Lo-Fi; Middle Eastern; Moody Chops; Native Americas; New Wave; Noise; Novelty; Operatic / Choral; Orchestra Dance; Oriental; Pacific; Poetry; Pop; Pop Ballad; Post-Punk; Prog; Proto-Punk; Psychedelia; Punk; R n B; Reggae; Rock; Rock n Roll / Rockabilly; Rock n Roll Ballad; Ska / Rocksteady; Sketch / Skit; Slowcore; Soft Rock / A.O.R.; Songwriter; Soul; Soul Ballad; Speech / Chat; Speedcore; Storytelling; Traditional Band; Trance Rock; Tripbeat

In the instances above, the forward slash indicates that the track in question may be described under one or all of the terms described before or after each forward slash. This tagging policy was adopted as the lines were so often blurred between the relatively close genre descriptions in question. In the early days, for example, “Blues Rock” and “Soul Rock” were two different genre tags. I felt that I was mis-tagging some of them and ended up confusing the picture for myself. I therefore decided to re-tag all of the tracks as one “Blues Rock / Soul Rock”. Same goes for “Folk Rock” and “Americana”; two became one. It soon became apparent that this solved problems for a few difficult genres which were closely related, as can be determined by the list above. Although they never all started out separately, the forward slash thing meant that I could be a bit more widespread with my descriptive terminologies.


Jukebox picks

This term is used in my summaries to identify the three highest-rated tracks on any given album (excluding bonus or limited edition tracks), whether I like them or not. For the higher-rated tracks, I have a behind the scenes fine-rating which places tracks of equal face-value rating in order of preference. Each of the three tracks are listed in the album summary with their standard rating (out of ten) in brackets.