Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Public v Critics...1969

As you may recall, 1969 was the best year in the 1001 Albums You Must Hear, with 35 entries. The public likes 1969 too - with 41 entries.

So can we tell any more about the taste differences by comparing the lists for these two years?

There is a good degree of overlap - with 25 entries on both lists.

There were 16 entries on the Public list that didn't appear on the Critics list:

Caetano Veloso - Caetano Veloso
Catherine Ribeiro + 2 Bis - Catherine Ribeiro + 2 Bis
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Willy and the Poor Boys
Czesław Niemen - Enigmatic
Don Cherry - Eternal Rhythm
Fleetwood Mac - Then Play On
Gal Costa - Gal
Gal Costa - Gal Costa
Moondog - Moondog [1969]
Pharoah Sanders - Karma
The Allman Brothers Band - The Allman Brothers Band
The Firesign Theatre - How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All?
The Who - Tommy
Townes Van Zandt - Our Mother the Mountain
Townes Van Zandt - Townes Van Zandt

There is a few there with which I am totally unfamiliar. Looks like I'm not as well versed in the music of that era as I thought.

There are 10 entries on the Critics' lists that do not appear on the public list:

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band - Trout Mask Replica
Chicago - Chicago Transit Authority
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bayou Country
Leonard Cohen - Songs From A Room
Quicksilver Messenger Service - Happy Trails
The Bee Gees - Odessa
The MC5 - Kick Out The Jams
The Temptations - Cloud Nine
The Youngbloods - Elephant Mountain

The result is similar to the favourite artists analysis, and somewhat counter-intuitive. Where the two lists don't overlap the Public tastes seem to be more diverse and obscure than the Critics.

The table below shows the full 1969 comparison:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Public v Critics...favourite artists

The public's favourite artist (based on number of entries in the 1001 favourite albums as voted at Rate Your Music) by a mile is...

Miles Davis

with 21 (!) entries.

In second position with 16 entries is John Coltrane. Followed by Dylan on 13 entries.

Ok - so is the RYM user base a bunch of bearded, cardigan wearing old fogies?

But equal on 11 entries are Frank Zappa and Neil Young.

Mingus is next with 10 entries.

Then The Beatles and Thelonious Monk with 9 each.

Hendrix and Zeppelin score 8 each to round out the top ten. Hmm - where did all those Hendrix Albums come from? The Public know their Hendrix and are up on the more obscure concert albums, in addition to the four classic studio albums, that the Public rates highly.

King Crimson pop in with 7 entries.

With 6 entries each are:
Black Sabbath
Bruce Springsteen
David Bowie
Ennio Morricone
Grateful Dead
Iron Maiden
Pink Floyd
Talking Heads
The Rolling Stones
The Who

Iron Maiden and Morricone?! This is a diverse list.

With 5 each are:

Duke Ellington
Johnny Cash
The Kinks
The Velvet Underground
Tom Waits

Now things really start to open out. With four entries:

Bill Evans
Brian Eno
Fela Kuti
Judas Priest
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Ornette Coleman
Otis Redding
Steve Reich
The Allman Brothers Band
The Fall
Van der Graaf Generator
Van Morrison

And with 3 appearances things get really interesting:

A Tribe Called Quest
Alice Cooper
Art Blakey
Bill Withers
Bob Marley
Cecil Taylor
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Curtis Mayfield
Deep Purple
Ella Fitzgerald
Elvis Costello
Fabrizio De André
Frank Sinatra
György Ligeti
Herbie Hancock
John Fahey
John Williams
Joni Mitchell
Jorge Ben
Joy Division
Morton Feldman
Muddy Waters
Nick Drake
Porcupine Tree
Sonic Youth
Steely Dan
Stevie Wonder
Talk Talk
The Band
The Doors
The Stooges
Tim Buckley
Townes Van Zandt
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Straight away its clear that the Public list is blacker, jazzier, heavier and generally more diverse than the Critics' list. Not bad things.

The table compares the two lists for artists with 3 or more entries.

Public v Critics: Over time

Lats begin our Public v Critics smackdown by looking at which years had the most listings.

The chart shows the Publics 1001 top rated albums over time.

At first glance it looks similar to the chart for the Critics. It has a big peak in the late '60s to early '70s - and another smaller peak in the late '90s.

But there are some significant differences.

The oldest Public entry is 1940 vs 1955 for the Critics. But the Public also have the newest entry - to be expected, given publishing lead times.

The table below shows the public has more entries for the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The Critics have more entries for the 80s, 90s and 00s.

So are the Public just older than the Critics?

I think not for two reasons. Firstly, a poll relying on internet participation should be skewed towards younger listeners. Someone who was a teen in the 1950s is now in their late sixties - hardly the biggest net demographic.

Second, look at the peak in 1994 and the smaller peak in 1998. Regardless of their age, the Public is hip to some pretty recent music.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A new geek mine: Public v Critics

Hang onto your seats - I have just discovered a motherlode of musical mayhem.

I just stumbled on Rate Your Music - RYM - http://rateyourmusic.com/

To quote from the site:

Rate Your Music (RYM) is an international metadata database where musical albums, EPs, singles, videos and bootlegs (collectively referred to as "releases") are added, rated, and reviewed by users. This data is then used to generate automatic music recommendations for users, create lists of compatible users, and to create lists of top-rated music albums. Weighted averages are used to calculate the ordering for these lists; regular members who write reviews and rate more albums have a greater weight applied to their ratings.

Because users can add, rate and review any album they know of without site approval, RYM can be used to quickly and easily to rate any music collection. A welcome side effect of this policy is that the RYM database is extremely diverse, limited only by the collective knowledge of its users.

RYM is also a community, with extensive message boards and the ability to send private messages and music recommendations to other users.

Sure there are other sites (such as Amazon) that allow user rating, but RYM is a dedicated rating engine - as such it benefits from specialisation, which makes it much more convenient to use than other rating sites. It has a wide range of search options to allow you to generate album charts - for time periods, genres, artists, etc.

Yes - I have a new favourite music exploration tool!

1001 Best Albums anyone?


How will the public ratings (from RYM) compare with the critics ratings from 1001 Albums You must Here Before You Die?

Let's find out!

Friday, January 8, 2010

1001 Albums You Must Hear....the producers

Its taken a while but I finally have a definitive analysis of producers. There were a couple of major problems in the original data. Firstly multiple attributions meant that I had to go through the data and create separate entries for each producer where there was more than one producer on an album. Secondly, inconsistent spellings meant that I had to review the data to ensure that a producers name was spelt the same each time - e.g. Brian Eno rather than B. Eno or Eno.

So now you appreciate he gargantuan task (cheer here), here are the results.

There were 900 different producers accredited amongst the 1001 albums.

672 producers had only one album on the list.
144 producers had exactly two albums on the list.
42 producers had exactly three albums on the list.

Only 42 producers had four or more albums on the list.

So who are the uber-producers?

First by a long way is Brian Eno - with 13 entries as follows:

Ambient no.1: Music for Airports Brian Eno
Another Green World Brian Eno
Before & After Science Brian Eno
Here Come the Warm Jets Brian Eno
My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts Brian Eno / David Byrne
Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! Devo
Schleep Robert Wyatt
Fear of Music Talking Heads
More Songs About Buildings and Food Talking Heads
Remain in Light Talking Heads
Achtung Baby U2
All That You Can't Leave Behind U2
The Joshua Tree U2

Even this understates his influence - as he didn't receive production credits for Low, Heroes and Lodger with Bowie.

In second position is Rick Rubin with 9 entries:

Licensed to Ill Beastie Boys
American IV: The Man Comes Around Johnny Cash
Blood Sugar Sex Magik Red Hot Chili Peppers
Californication Red Hot Chili Peppers
Raising Hell Run-DMC
Reign in Blood Slayer
System Of A Down System Of A Down
Electric The Cult
De-loused at the Crematorium The Mars Volta

Sharing the bronze medal with 8 entries each are two Davids, Bowie and Briggs. As you would imagine, many of Bowie's entries are for his own albums:

Aladdin Sane David Bowie
Heroes David Bowie
Hunky Dory David Bowie
Low David Bowie
Station to Station David Bowie
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars David Bowie
The Idiot Iggy Pop
Transformer Lou Reed

Most of David Briggs's are for his work with Neil Young:

After The Goldrush Neil Young
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere Neil Young
On the Beach Neil Young
Ragged Glory Neil Young
Rust Never Sleeps Neil Young
Tonight's the Night Neil Young
Henry's Dream Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus Spirit

With 7 entries each are Bob Johnston, George Martin and Steve Lillywhite.

Bob Johnston has worked with an interesting range of singer-songwriters:

Blonde On Blonde Bob Dylan
Highway 61 Revisited Bob Dylan
Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash at San Quentin Johnny Cash
Songs From A Room Leonard Cohen
Songs of Love and Hate Leonard Cohen
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme Simon & Garfunkel

George Martin's are all with The Beatles:

A Hard Day's Night The Beatles
Abbey Road The Beatles
Revolver The Beatles
Rubber Soul The Beatles
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band The Beatles
The Beatles (White Album) The Beatles
With The Beatles The Beatles

Steve Lillywhite has an interesting assortment of UK bands:

Vauxhall and I Morrissey
III Peter Gabriel
Talk Talk Talk Psychedelic Furs
The Scream Siouxsie And The Banshees
The La's The La's
If I Should Fall from Grace with God The Pogues
War U2

Here is the full list of producers with four or more entries:




Brian Eno


Rick Rubin


David Bowie; David Briggs


Bob Johnston; George Martin; Steve Lillywhite


Chris Blackwell; Chris Thomas; Neil Young; Nigel Goodrich; Paul Simon; Scott Litt


Bob Ezrin; Daniel Lanois; Gary Katz; Jimmy Miller; Jimmy Page; Joe Boyd; John Leckie; Ken Nelson; Nick Lowe; Sonic Youth; Stephen Street; Todd Rundgren; Tom Dowd; Tom Wilson; Tony Visconti


Arif Mardin; Dave Fridmann; Dr. Dre; Flood; Gil Norton; Glyn Johns; John Cale; John Simon; Ken Scott; Mike Hedges; Paul Rothchild; Phil Spector; Robert John Lange; RZA; Shel Talmy; Stevie Wonder

Sunday, January 3, 2010

1001 Albums You Must Hear....how long?

My final post on the subject of length.

The median length of albums on the list is 43 mins.

50% of albums run between 38 mins and 52 mins.

This changes over time - below is the median length for each decade:

1950s 38
1960s 38
1970s 39
1980s 42
1990s 54
2000s 52

The increase from 39 mins in the 50s - 70s to 53 mins in the 90s - 00s was due to the rise of the CD as the dominant medium.

Did creativity change such that everyone had an extra 14 mins of juice in the tank? No.
Were artists constrained by the limitation of vinyl? Not in a way that impacted the quality of their output.

Albums got longer because there was more space available. The curse of the CD.

Does anyone feel ripped of buying a classic album that is only 40 mins long? No. (Sure we'd like to hear more, but thats different.)
Is anyone totally over a not so classic CD that runs over 60 mins? Yes - give me less and make it better.

Tip for artists: Make your next opus "short" enough to fit on a single vinyl LP - it didn't hurt most of the artists on this list and may enhance the quality of the finished product.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

1001 Albums You Must Hear....short and sweet

What are the shortest albums to make it onto the list?

Group Sex by The Circle Jerks (1980) is the quickest to get its rocks off - 15 mins. Next quickest is Mudhoney with Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988) - 21 mins.

There are 37 entries on the list that run for less than 30 mins.

Friday, January 1, 2010

1001 Albums You Must Hear....epics

What are the longest albums on the list? Surprises coming up.

Elsewhere I will rant about the curse of the CD. But for now we will look at epics that worked. By Epic I mean an album that runs for longer than 90 minutes. This is double album or more in vinyl. And you can't fit it onto a C90 cassette.

There are only 17 epics on the list. Perhaps this is an indication of how hard it is to sustain a creative high for such an extended period.

From shortest to longest the 17 Epics You Must Hear Before You Die are

Van Morrison - It's Too Late to Stop Now - 1974 - 92 mins
A stunning live double LP - some say the best concert album of all time.

Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway - 1974 - 92 mins
In the same year that Van was getting real, prog was at its zenith. This is the last album that Peter Gabriel recorded with them.

The Beatles - The Beatles (White Album) - 1968 - 94 mins
Yes, of course.

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew - 1970 - 94 mins
What a cast - Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, Chick Corea, Miles, Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter, Joel Zawinul

Drive-By Truckers - Southern Rock Opera - 2001 - 94 mins
A country rock band releases a double CD rock opera in 2001. And its good. Who woulda thunk it?

Bob Dylan - Live 1966 (Royal Albert Hall Bootleg) - 1998 - 95 mins
An acoustic set followed by an electric set with the band that became The Band.

Goldie - Timeless - 1995 - 113 mins
Another surprise - nearly 2 hours over 2 CDs of jungle/breakbeat. Gotta say I'm sceptical - I need to check it out.

Hawkwind - Space Ritual - 1973 - 116 mins
Double live album while Lemmy was still on bass.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Will the Circle Be Unbroken - 1972 - 119 mins
A triple studio LP with NGDB and country luminaries recorded in Nashville.

Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - 1995 - 121 mins
Double CD in which Billie Corgan puts his money where his mouth is.

George Harrison - All Things Must Pass - 1970 - 126 mins
Triple LP - tough to get a look in when the other two songwriters in a band are Lennon & McCartney.

Metallica - S&M - 1999 - 133 mins
2 CDs or 3 LPs - another "who woulda thunk it" moment as Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra combine metal and symphony and emerge with reputations in tact.

Roni Size/Reprazent - New Forms - 1997 - 134 mins
Man, I've really gotta scrub up on my drum'n'bass.

Outkast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below - 2003 - 135 mins
One way of keeping a duo together in the face of musical differences - make an album each and bundle them together.

LTJ Bukem - Logical Progression - 1996 - 141 mins
Released a year after Timeless (see above) - like 113 mins is for wimps.

The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs - 1999 - 173 mins
Three hours in 3 CDs of indie pop?! Another one I need to check out.

Ella Fitzgerald - The George Gershwin Songbook - 1959 - 194 mins
At 5 LPs / 4 CDs easily the epic champion and a fitting one at that. Take that, drum'n'bass guys.