Monday, April 11, 2011

The All-Time Top Albums Coming Next Month!

Alright, the people at Rolling Stone magazine (and other organizations) have tried to tell you what the top all-time albums are.  Despite their best efforts for 30 years, those albums STILL aren't selling--people don't want 'em, don't need 'em, don't have any use for 'em!

So beginning in May, I will publish "Your Top Albums of the Rock Era", not yours personally but collectively.  I will do two versions--one the top albums in America and one the top albums in the world.  There are similarities but they certainly aren't carbon copy lists.  

There are several things that make my charts different.  1)  I don't get a panel together to "discuss" the albums, then put out the list of albums that THEY like (as Rolling Stone does).  While the methods that I use are chosen and devised by me, I make every attempt to take me out of the equation--more on that later.  2)  For most of the charts that I do (with the Top Underrated Songs of All-Time being the exception), the entries in the list and the order therein are the result of a formula, a mathematical equation.  I have come up with mathematical equations, both for top songs and top albums; that is both a disclaimer and something I take pride in.  It is a disclaimer because all of the bias that is in the list is in the formula.  That said, I don't use my own opinions to rank the albums but rather statistical data, taken from albums that you buy and listen to.  3)  I don't rank the albums based on sales; any accountant can give you a list showing the top-selling albums of all-time.  I don't rank them on chart activity; Billboard or Joel Whitburn can spit out that information.

The reason I don't use those sales figures exclusively are many.  If you rank the top albums based on sales, you're going off in a direction you don't want to go.  First, if an album sells 20 million copies in the United States, that means that 280 million people don't like the album enough to purchase it!  Think about that for a second...  #2, there are people that might love the music on an album but cannot afford it; that's just the plain truth.  Third, many people will buy an album based on word of mouth and then when they get it home, they play it one time, don't like it, and never take it out again.  Yet sales figures would have you believe all those millions of people actually like the product.  We've all been there before so I know you know what I'm talking about.  Fourth, many people will choose to buy a "Greatest Hits" or boxed set of an artist because they like all of their songs. It doesn't mean the individual albums are not great; they just make a different purchase decision.

I don't use the Billboard data (or any other chart for that matter) because of several reasons also.  First, to do that would be to trust that the information gathered is accurate.  I was a DJ for 10 years and I know the methodology of the charts.  Despite their best efforts, there are some fatal flaws.  Second, even if you give them the benefit of the doubt, the charts were put together at a specific time--much has changed since those charts were released.  An album that may have sounded good when it came out may not sound the same now; it could be much better than first thought or much worse.  Third, the charts take only sales into account, and we've already shot that down in the above paragraph.

What you have to do in any kind of all-time list is you have to take into account how those albums have stood the test of time.  You do this by actually listening to each and every album under consideration, carefully and critically.  You listen to each track, and the "Track Rating" in my album chart, and the accompanying formula that determines not only the top albums but their order in the chart, is what distinguishes it from the others.  When I listen to an album for this purpose, I don't listen as a potential buyer of the product, but rather as a professional evaluator.  I may not like the album, but I've been in music long enough to know what type of people like it and what they are looking for.  I rate the track based on two variables; 1) Does the track or will the track appeal to the audience it's going for and 2)Would the track appeal to the general public at large? (something any all-time album list worth its salt is going to consider--I realize Rolling Stone does not.)  Sales and chart information should be considered, and it is in the formula, but the Track Rating, which is more important to music consumers, is a bigger part of the equation.

 Again, this list isn't going to tell you what albums I like that you should like; I wouldn't be so presumptuous.  Rather, the list tells you what albums America likes and the all-time top albums of the world will tell you what albums the world likes.  I make no judgements as to what type of music is good and what is not.  Possibilities include everyone from Air Supply, Barbra Streisand and Josh Groban to AC/DC, Metallica and Iron Maiden, from Kenny Rogers and Garth Brooks to 50 Cent and Eminem.  If it's good enough, if it's better than the other all-time albums, it will be there.  If it isn't, it won't.

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