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Defend an album with the fewest 'stars' on AMG


Rooster_Ties
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Jazz, Rock, Pop - pick any genre. Go to the AMG, and sift through several of your favorite artist's/band's bios, and take note of which album(s) of theirs get the very fewest number of 'stars' of any in their entire output. Presumably that would mean that the AMG considers that album (or those albums) to be that artist's/band's "WORST", out of their entire recorded output. (And let's stick with actual "albums", and not mess with compilations ("Greatest Hits" and such) ---- although 'live' albums do still count.)

Anything stand out to you as just being plain "wrong"??? - in your own opinion, of course. Or are there any that you really like, even though it appears nobody else does???

I'm sure there are many. Here's one of mine...

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R.E.M. - Monster (1994)

The AMG only gives it a measly 2 stars, the least of any R.E.M. album. And yet, "Monster" really is my all-time favorite R.E.M. album. Do I think "Monster" is R.E.M.'s very 'best' album?? - well, probably not. But "Monster" really is my favorite (and to various degrees, I really like most of R.E.M.'s output). "Monster" seems to me, to be the one that is least full of clichés, and it has the most 'left turns' in it for me, of any R.E.M. album.

==========

By the way, the actual AMG review of "Monster" isn't all that bad, really - though it isn't exactly 'glowing' either.

So, my guess is that the AMG "star ratings", however, are not solely determined for each album by the critic who reviews each album. In other words - we all know that the AMG "star ratings" are supposed to indicate the relative importance and/or "goodness" of each album within an artist's/band's entire recorded output.

And thus, my guess is that there is some sort of editorial review done for the "star ratings" of each artist/band (beyond just each reviewer of each album assigning their own "star rating" for each album they review). The purpose of such a review would be to make sure the "star rankings" truly reflect their opinion about the relative ranking of each album (with a particular artist's/band's output). I have no idea if this is how they actually do it, but it would make sense for them to do it that way, so perhaps they do.

IN ANY CASE, it's probably a safe bet that whichever album gets the least number of stars, is an album that certainly isn't "beloved by many", at the very least.

SO, the purpose of this thread is to identify who here loves an album that appears to be universally underrated, at least based on the AMG "star ratings", which -- I know, I know -- many of you don't think are even worth two cents each. (And neither do I, which is also part of the reason I started this thread.)

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One more thing. If an album doesn't get any stars at all - then that doesn't necessarily mean that that really is a "no star" album. I suspect 99.9% of the time (on AMG), "zero stars" just means that an album hasn't been given a star-rating at all, or at least not yet anyway. So, what you should be looking for is the album that got the least number of stars (but still got at least half-a-star).

Edited by Rooster_Ties
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As I've stated elsewhere, AMG is all messed up on Big John Patton's stuff.

They give "Blue John" 5 stars and "Let em Roll" 5 stars while only giving 3 stars to:

"That Certain Feeling"

"The Way I feel"

"Memphis to NY Spirit"

"Accent on the Blues"

"Boogaloo"

This is unpardonable. Those later Patton sessions represent some of the greatest examples of Rare Groove sound in the Blue Note discography. :tup

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3 Stars or less for almost ALL of John Patton's releases. Jesus, 2 Stars for "Understanding???" Are they on crack. They've got some serious Big John issues over there. However, I'm sure the Patton Mosaic Select will get 5 stars as all Mosaics do over there. :rolleyes::tdown:angry:

Wow, SS and me on the same wavelength.

There's injustice out there! Jazz fans, UNITE!! :g

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Actually, just after I started the thread - I also looked at Patton's AMG entry too, and they only give 2 stars to Patton's "Understanding" - which is totally whack!!!!! :wacko::wacko::wacko:

Hell, "Underststanding" and "Boogaloo" (both from 1968) are my all-time-favorite John Patton albums.

Harold Alexander (who's on both of those albums) is da bomb!!! B) :bwallace: B) :bwallace::tup:tup:w

Edited by Rooster_Ties
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Bill Evans 'Alone'

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AMG Rating: st_r4.gif

The recording date of this solo outing by pianist Bill Evans has been listed as both September 1968 and December 1969; the latter seems the more logical entry. In any case, Evans' final Verve album is one of his weaker dates. He plays five often-rambling solos (including a 14½-minute exploration of "Never Let Me Go") and one senses that he misses the usual interplay that he had with his sidemen. In addition, the repertoire (which also includes "Here's That Rainy Day," "A Time Ffor Love," "Midnight Mood" and "On a Clear Day") is not too inspiring and lacks much variety. This set is therefore only recommended to Bill Evans completists who already have 50 of his other recordings. — Scott Yanow

"...often-rambling solos"? "The repertoire"..."is not too inspiring"? This is one of the best solo piano albums I've heard! But Yanow perhaps thinks solo piano is only good for background music?

Edited by Daniel A
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Albert Ayler - First recordings Vol.1

1 1/2 stars - The problem with the trio recordings heard on this LP is that bassist Torbjorn Hultcrantz and drummer Sune Spangberg sound as if they are completely ignoring what tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler is playing. While Ayler improvises quite freely on a lengthy "I'll Remember April" and versions of "Rollins' Tune," "Tune Up" and his original "Free," Ayler's sidemen just play conventionally, never reacting to the tenor's flights or any of his ideas. It is a pity, for the lack of interplay weighs down what could have been an innovative outing. The second half of this interesting but flawed session has been released on CD by the Japanese DIW label. -- Scott Yanow

http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&u...l=Aydud6j5771u0

Albert Ayler - First recordings Vol.2

1 1/2 stars - This should have been a memorable and possibly innovative session since this CD reissue features the avant-garde tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler interpreting four standards ("Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," "Moanin'" and "Good Bait"). Unfortunately, the Swedish sidemen (bassist Torbjorn Hultcrantz and drummer Sune Spangberg) completely ignore what Ayler is playing and just act as if they were backing a conventional bop musician. The lack of communication between the musicians defeats this effort, although Ayler collectors will find the results quite interesting. -- Scott Yanow

http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&u...l=Ant3m96oodep5

I like these early Ayler sessions a lot. They are imperfect, but the opposition between the straightforward rhythm section and Ayler's free blowing creates a very interesting tension. It reminds me of the Cecil Taylor Candid sessions, which have a similar contrast. Recommended for everyone interested in Ayler's playing, and not just for completists.

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I think I've bitched about this one before, back on the BNBB...

But Greg Osby's "Symbols of Light (A Solution)" only get 2-stars, whereas I think it's easily one of the most amazing jazz albums of the last 20 years.

Saxophonist Greg Osby's previous efforts as a bandleader have included forays into song forms and jazz-funk, and have been notoriously uneven. This one, which prominently features a string quartet, is similarly frustrating. At his best, Osby demonstrates a talent that is not only open-minded but also structurally insightful; his playing on the head and in the quartet sections of "Repay in Kind" are both gorgeous, and his solos can be world-class. Similarly, the lush ballad "This Is Bliss" finds him integrating saxophone and string textures into a dense and kaleidoscopically lovely whole, layering syncopated rhythms on top of stately chord progressions and creating a work that continuously reveals itself. On the other hand, "3 for Civility" is a disaster, exactly the kind of self-indulgent noodling that drives intelligent listeners away from jazz, and "Minstrale Again (The Barefoot Tap Dance") demonstrates conclusively that Osby needs to spend less time trying to shatter expectations and more time pursuing compositional coherence. Unfortunately, the latter two examples are more typical than the former. There's no questioning either Osby's playing ability or his mastery of harmony and theory, but there's more to music than chops, harmony, and theory, and life is too short for music that's no fun. — Rick Anderson
:angry:

Obviously the reviewer didn't have any "fun" listening to this album, but I certainly do. I still hear new things in "Symbols..." every time I put it on.

I should mention, however, that a couple of Osby's very earliest albums only get 1-star each. Still, "Symbols..." is way better than a 2-star album.

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Andrew Hill - Smokestack Even though they give it ***, I think the review does this session an injustice:

Trimming away some of the overt Afro-Cuban rhythms that distinguished Black Fire, Andrew Hill turned in a dense, cerebral set of adventurous post-bop on his second Blue Note session, Smoke Stack. Comprised entirely of original Hill compositions, Smoke Stack is in the middle ground between hard bop and free jazz — it isn't as loose and dissonant as free, but with its long, winding modal improvisations and hazy song structures, it's a lot less accessible than bop. It also isn't as successful as Black Fire, which worked similar territory with edgier results. Part of the problem is that Hill simply meanders throughout most of Smoke Stack, wandering off into quietly discordant sections that turn in on themselves. It's subdued music that requires concentration, but doesn't necessarily reward such effort. Even with its faults, Smoke Stack is far from an unworthy record — Hill's insular, intellectual style may be occasionally frustrating, but his playing is frequently provocative and challenging, and his backing group of Richard Davis (bass), Eddie Khan (bass), and Roy Haynes (drums) offer sympathetic support. However, it's an album that promises more than it delivers. [blue Note's CD reissue of Smoke Stack included four alternate takes as bonus tracks.] —
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Actually, personally I think that review of "Smokestack" is really pretty much the same way I would review it -- and you all know I'm a HUGE fan of Andrew Hill. I've never gotten into "Smokestack" as deeply as many of his other albums. I don't think it's a bad album, but there's something about it that has always been difficult for me to really wrap my ears around.

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Nice idea for a thread, I wish I could participate but I'm having a hard time finding really questionable reviews of personal favorites. Maybe that's a function of the fact that I sometimes use Yanow as a proxy-he and I have largely similar taste and therefore if he likes something I often like it, so there aren't many albums we disagree on?

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I have a theory that the folks at AMG vote on album ratings while leaving the review to, say, the album's biggest fan. I say this because often an album will have just two or three stars, yet will be heralded in the review as one of the artist's/group's best. For an example, click here:

http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&u...l=Ad7xvadskv8w6

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Nice idea for a thread, I wish I could participate but I'm having a hard time finding really questionable reviews of personal favorites. Maybe that's a function of the fact that I sometimes use Yanow as a proxy-he and I have largely similar taste and therefore if he likes something I often like it, so there aren't many albums we disagree on?

Surprised you can't comment on some of the ratings on Three Sounds sessions, Dan.

Many of them are given only 3 stars. Which of those do you feel deserve more?

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Well, Conn. I don't think of three stars as the kind of gross injustice that Rooster is after here. I think we're looking for the 2 or fewer star dates that are clearly better. But in general, they've really gotten it right on the Sounds; some might even say they've swung the pendulum to far. You see, before I got online, I relied on the AMG book and I was quite distressed to find there wasn't even a Sounds entry, but the next edition really made up for that by publishing one of the longer profile sections, and lengthy reviews of the BN titles from their first tenure on the label. And if you check the actual reviews, they get it largely right, pointing out the overall consistency of the band from album to album, so I really don't have much argument.

But if they don't give 5 stars to my avatar, them's fightin' words! :D

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Sun Ra: Solo Piano, Vol. 1 - (IAI, 1977): 2-stars

IMHO, it's quite a bit better than the measly 2-stars they give it. I'm not saying it's a 5-star album, but I'd probably at least give it 3 or even 3 and 1/2 stars.

And then they give it's companion volume 4-stars (from a different reviewer).

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Sun Ra: St. Louis Blues (Solo Piano, Vol. 2) - (IAI, 1977): 4-stars

Edited by Rooster_Ties
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Speaking as someone who writes record reviews, let me remind you that it's all subjective. I've given CDs some pretty bad reviews in my time, and I don't expect anybody to make a final judgement based on my subjective opinion. In the end, only your ears can determine what recordings are best for you. A review is an indicator, but it should never be taken as the last word on the subject.

I also try, as a reviewer (and I'm sure a lot of people here find themselves in the same situation), to find some redeeming quality in every album I write about. I have a line that I haven't used yet about "wanting to chew my own foot off in order to escape from this album," but I'm saving that for a recording I really dislike.

I find the AMG to be a useful tool. I don't think I have a problem with any of their reviews.

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I think Yanow/AMG, etc take an unfair hit from fans. The site is usually reliable and Yanow is a very good "generalist".

This is not a "fan site", but an attempt at a critical evaluation of works. We will always have disagreements.

Remember, Scott/Tom/others are rating Patton, etc against Armstrong, Bird, etc. This is tough for any writer.

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Ok, I'll bite...what's wrong with the review?  I guess I'm completely ignorant about the album (only having it in my collection for the last ten years or so), because I didn't see anything wrong with the review.  Very positive.  Five stars.  What don't you like?

There's nothing "wrong" with Jurek's opinion that the album is a five-star album. Of course it is. But the review is RIDDLED with errors of fact that call into question how closely Jurek listened to this album.

I'll ignore the error that requires one to know a little history, namely that Red Garland is comping on "Sid's Ahead"--It's Miles playing piano; Red had left in a huff during the session after Miles criticized him (at least, that's how Miles tells it in the Troupe autobio). Even so, anyone who's heard more than a tiny bit of Garland would suspect that that is not him playing piano on this cut. I'll also ignore the ignorance of musical terms that Jurek displays in a lame attempt to wax poetic over the course of several paragraphs, as well as the numerous typos. I'll also ignore the fact that Jurek never even mentions Billy Boy, one of the greatest piano trio tracks of all time, which makes me wonder if he just skipped it entirely while listening to write the review. Assuming he actually did listen to the album.

Let's cut to the egregious stuff:

1) Miles does not solo on "Two Bass Hit." Somehow, Jurek believes that "Davis blows his ass off in his solo."

2) Jurek uses "Straight No Chaser" as an example of how the band was fluent with Monk's "unusual harmonic structures." Great, except Straight No Chaser, though it has a rhythmically tricky head, is a plain old 12 bar blues harmonically. Jurek is just showing off his "knowledge" of Monk's music rather than adding anything meaningful; in an attempt at sounding like a critic who's hip to music theory, he comes off as a moron who has no knowledge whatsoever of harmony.

3) Jurek claims that everyone solos on Dr. Jackle except Philly. Wrong. Garland does not solo. I'd like to try whatever mind-altering chemicals Jurek's on that make him hear Garland soloing here. The side effects would be worth it just to hear Red burning at this tempo.

If it wasn't such a lengthy, flowery review, I'd let some of this crap slide. But if Jurek's going to be a pedant, he should at least make sure he knows exactly what he's talking about.

Edited by Big Wheel
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Well, Conn. I don't think of three stars as the kind of gross injustice that Rooster is after here. I think we're looking for the 2 or fewer star dates that are clearly better.

To me a 3-star review is bothersome. Why? It leaves me with the feeling that many of the sessions with this type of rating aren't critically judged at all. If the reviewer doesn't have the time or inclination to really listen to a session, it is so much easier to paste it with an average 3-stars. In other words, he is taking a pass on the session.

At least the reviewer takes a stance with 2-star ratings. There may be those who disagree but at least the reviewer can claim he listened and rated.

Of course, there's got to be a lot of sessions that are genuinely worth 3-stars, but one gets suspicious when these are liberally doled out, especially with no accompanying text review. The critic is taking a pass on the session.

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I like the AMG site a lot. I use it quite a bit. But honestly, I NEVER take a reviewer's take on anything as a final judgement. Like Alexander said, it's ALL subjective. So, Scott Yanow doesn't dig Patton. Well, he probably just wrote up a rave review for some garage rock band who I think sucks. It's all relative. ;)

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Horace Silver's Trio LP, his Blue Note debut as a leader, received 2 1/2 stars (without a review): It is much better than that. Not five, but 3 1/2 or 4. I don't know any other piano trio LP like it. Maybe they'll give it another listen when the RVG appears.

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Well, Conn. I don't think of three stars as the kind of gross injustice that Rooster is after here.  I think we're looking for the 2 or fewer star dates that are clearly better.

To me a 3-star review is bothersome. Why? It leaves me with the feeling that many of the sessions with this type of rating aren't critically judged at all. If the reviewer doesn't have the time or inclination to really listen to a session, it is so much easier to paste it with an average 3-stars. In other words, he is taking a pass on the session.

At least the reviewer takes a stance with 2-star ratings. There may be those who disagree but at least the reviewer can claim he listened and rated.

Of course, there's got to be a lot of sessions that are genuinely worth 3-stars, but one gets suspicious when these are liberally doled out, especially with no accompanying text review. The critic is taking a pass on the session.

I've had the same thought that three stars is the "default" rating but I've never sweated the fact that so many seem to have that rating. I chalk it up to the fact that there is simply a vast amount of solid, decent jazz albums recorded by competent professionals. I do expect that a 3 star album is going to reach at least a certain minimum standard of decency. I've never encountered one that wasn't at least three stars; can't think of one that really should have been four or five.

I think the three stars is really shorthand for one of Yanow's favorite comments:

"Fans of this artist will enjoy this disc" or "fans of this style of music will enjoy this disc"

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