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EdB's Corrections to the Rolling Stone Album Guide

OK, here I go proving my arrogance once again. But I couldn't help, upon perusing my friend's copy of the Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992 edition), taking exception (some quite significant) to the ratings given certain artists and their albums. So, for posterity's sake, I've taken upon myself to offer corrections to this compendium.

I am not so naive to think my ratings are "right", per se, as subjectivity obviously plays a big part in determining a selection's ranking. However, even with a cursory glance, it seemed apparent that certain reviewers had tendencies to over- and under-rate on a predictable basis. I took most exception to reviewer M.C. as he seems to regularly under-rate 70's power-pop, easy-listening, and progressive bands (e.g., Styx, The Carpenters, Jethro Tull). What was surprising, though, is that the majority of times I did agree with the ratings, which I note as well.

As my small mind began to challenge certain scores, I began to wonder what constitutes a great album versus a poor one. I propose the following Album Rating Guidelines as criteria to help in more objectively assessing such.

The Rolling Stone Album Guide uses a five-star rating system, with the scale indicating the following: 5 - "Classic; essential", 4 - "Excellent; peak performances", 3 - "Good/Average; of interest to established fans", 2 - "Fair/Poor; below artist's standards; failures", 1 - "Disastrous; wastes of vital resources."
(See John Scott's Rolling Stone 5 StarList -> for which albums the Rolling Stone Album Guide rated a 5)

So, for what it's worth, here is my offering of corrections to the Rolling Stone Album Guide If I didn't comment on an artist in the book, that's because I wasn't familiar enough with them to make a judgement. For this reason, Blues and Jazz artists are not included in my commentary.

Greatest Hits: These types of collections should be full of 4 and 5 rated cuts, and therefore merit less serious attention than period efforts by the respective artists. Several GH collections are noteworthy on their own merits: The Eagles Greatest Hits, The Best of the Guess Who, and Neil Young's Decade come to mind.

Omissions: Several notable and favorite artists were not included in the Album Guide: Clannad, Renaissance, The Outlaws, Alan Parsons Project, Karla Bonoff, Jon (Anderson) and Vangelis, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Olivia Newton-John, The Guess Who, and Seals & Crofts.

If you get the yen to buy any of these albums, look for them at CDNow...

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Artist
Album Title
Song Title



KEY: *** for an album, I refer to the artist and reviews in general.

+ in the R.S. Rating column means I heartily agree with the given ratings

X in the R.S. Rating column means I vehemently disagree.

Artist Album R.S. Rator R.S. Rating My Rating Comments
AC/DC *** MC + . .
Aerosmith Pump MC 3.5 3.0 Let's not go overboard.
Alarm Change PE 2.5 3.0 Though tinges of The Alarm's dronability haunt this collection, it has strong rock n' blues material that carries it firmly to "good" ground.
Allman Brothers *** MC + . .
America *** PE X . Ignore PE's whining, and give em each an extra point.
Asia *** JDC + . .
Bachman- Turner Overdrive *** MC + . .
Bad Company *** MC + . .
Beatles, The *** PE + . Well done!
Black Sabbath *** MC + . .
Blondie *** MC + . .
Boston Boston MC 3.5 4.0 This is a historically impactful album, epitomizing the power-pop genre. You can't take that away from Scholz and Co.
Boston Don't Look Back MC 2.5 3.5 Epic sophomore effort. Didn't we really want more of the same?
Boston Third Stage MC 2.5 3.0 Not quite the trump the first two releases were, but still notably good.
Bowie, David Diamond Dogs MC 2.0 3.0 Dogs rocks!
Bowie, David (post Station to Station releases) MC X . All ratings on albums after Station to Station really need to be downgraded by a full point, mostly because of poor production.
Browne, Jackson *** MC + . .
Carpenters *** MC X . MC disdains Easy Listening/Adult Pop, as is obvious here. Up these each by two points.
Cars, The *** MC + . .
Charlie Daniels Band *** MC + . .
Clapton, Eric *** JDC X . Don't get me wrong, I like EC, but I always felt he was over-rated. Someone once said, 'if you get enough at-bats, you're bound to get a hit.' Except for the collections, I would take one star off each of JDC's ratings for EC.
Clapton, Eric 461 Ocean Boulevard JDC 5.0 3.0 Some good songs and writing, but hardly excellence. Sound production is often sparse (Mainline Florida, Willie and the Hand Jive).
Clapton, Eric Slowhand JDC 5.0 3.5 Wonderful Tonight and Cocaine are EC hallmarks, but a 5.0?
Clapton, Eric Journeyman JDC 4.0 3.5 Proving that albums can be over-produced, on this one EC seems to be working too hard on the sound of the band.
Clash, The *** JDC + . .
Cockburn, Bruce *** JDC + . .
Cocker, Joe *** MC + . .
Cooper, Alice Muscle of Love MC 1.0 2.5 It's really, no really, not that bad.
Costello, Elvis Armed Forces MC 4.0 4.5 .
Cream *** JDC + . .
Creedence Clearwater Revival *** PE + . .
Crosby, Stills, & Nash CSN PE 4.0 4.5 .
Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young Deja Vu PE 4.0 5.0 This is a rock standard classic. Period.
Crowded House *** JDC X . Minus 1 across the board.
Deep Purple *** MC + . .
Denver, John *** MC X . MC consistently under-rates Easy Listening artists. Denver moved folk in a new direction, and should be recognized for such. His Greatest Hits albums, at least, deserve a 4.0 to 5.0 star rating in their genre.
Derringer, Rick *** PE + . .
Dire Straits *** JDC + . .
Doobie Brothers *** . X . On these four albums, The Doobies synchritized rock n blues, pop, and guitar rock like no other band did. When Johnston suffered a nervous breakdown, and McDonald took the lead, the entire sound of the band changed, and they should have changed their name. Takin' It To The Streets and Minute By Minute are OK, I guess, but these aren't Doobie albums.
Doobie Brothers Toulouse Street MC 3.0 3.5 Listen to the Music could carry this LP on it's own, but Roll On Down the Highway, Disciple, and Jesus Is Just Alright put it securely in the above-average range.
Doobie Brothers The Captain and Me MC 2.5 4.0 This is a near 'perfect' album. Two great singles (China Grove and Long Train Runnin'), a formidable power-rocker (Without You), mellowtones (South City Midnight Lady), and thoroughly satisfying inter-fare make this album excellent.
Doobie Brothers What Were Once Vices MC 2.5 3.5 Black Water, the single off this one, is probably it's worse track.
Doobie Brothers Stampede MC 2.0 3.5 OK, so Templeman Spector-ized the Doobies on Take Me In Your Arms (and the album in general), but Sweet Maxine and Neil's Fandango earn this LP a high mark.
Doors, The *** PE + . .
Duran, Duran *** JDC + . .
Dylan, Bob *** PE + . .
Eagles *** MC + . .
Electric Light Orchestra *** MC + . .
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer Emerson, Lake, and Palmer MC 3.0 3.5 This debut release re-defined, or even defined, Progressive Rock, and is easily rated above average in writing, scope, skill, diversity, and impact.
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer Brain Salad Surgery MC 3.0 4.0 Excellence. Check this out: a hymn (Jerusalem), a ballad (Still...You Turn Me On), honky-tonk (Benny the Bouncer), classicism (Ginastera's Toccata), and pure progressiveness (Karn Evil 9 in three movements). Case closed.
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer Works I MC 2.0 3.0 The strengths of this LP (Emerson's Piano Concerto/Fanfare/Pirates) more than outweigh it's weaknesses.
Enuff Z'Nuff *** JDC + . .
Enya *** PE + . .
Fletwood Mac *** MC + . .
Fogelberg, Dan Home Free MC 2.0 3.0 Along with Jackson Browne, this debut LP helped set the direction of Southern California Rock.
Fogelberg, Dan Souvenirs MC 3.0 3.5 .
Fogelberg, Dan Captured Angel MC 2.0 2.5 .
Fogelberg, Dan Netherlands MC 2.0 3.0 .
Fogelberg, Dan Phoenix MC 2.0 3.5 Though maybe not his best, this is Fogelberg's strongest LP.
Fogelberg, Dan Innocent Age MC 2.5 3.0 OK, maybe most of us were getting a little tired of Fogelberg by this time, but this double album can not be written off as just another Fogelberg album.
Foghat *** MC + . .
Forbert, Steve *** MC + . .
Foreigner 4 PE 3.5 3.0 Urgent and Waiting for a Girl Like You make this good, average Foreigner.
Foreigner Agent Provocateur PE 3.5 2.5 I Want to Know What Love Is is this LP's highlight, the rest is been-done drone.
Foreigner Inside Information PE 3.0 2.0 Give me a break. PE must be a Foreigner aficionado.
Foreigner Unusual Heat PE 3.5 2.0 Ditto. And with the departure of Gramm's pipes, even more so.
Frampton, Peter Frampton Comes Alive MC 3.0 4.0 This album inspired a generation, and could possibly be the last great rock n' blues LP of the 70's.
Frey, Glenn *** MC + . MC is right -- solo Frey just ain't that great.
Gabriel, Peter *** JDC + . JDC is right -- solo Gabriel is quite good.
Genesis ??? JDC ? . JDC rates these fine up to Duke. But Duke and on all deserve a point subtracted.
Grand Funk *** MC X . Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Just add half a point to each album.
Grant, Amy Straight Ahead DM 4.0 3.0 Fan I was, and this album was OK, but it was under-produced making it merely average on second look.
Grant, Amy Lead Me On DM 3.0 4.0 Easily her best. Her best rocking (Wait for the Healing), her best crooning (If These Walls Could Speak), her best writing (1974), her best convicting (What About the Love), her best production (Lead Me On). I think John Lennon would have approved!
Grateful Dead *** PE + . (Dare I disagree -- I don't, anyway).
Griffith, Nanci *** DM + . .
Guns N' Roses *** JDC X . Taking an entire point off each -- no staying power.
Hall & Oates *** MC + . .
Harrison, George Cloud Nine PE 3.5 2.5 I really want to like Harrison's solo work, and agree with PE on all the other albums, but this one's got to go.
Heart *** MC + . .
Henley, Don *** MC X . Slightly over-rated solo career -- minus one star on all.
Hooters *** JDC + . .
Hornsby, Bruce *** PE X . All three of his first albums are above average -- givin' em 3.5s.
Humble Pie Smokin' PE 1.0 2.0 Not great, but it gave us some good times.
Humperdink, Englebert *** PE X . Now, my parents practically weaned me on this stuff. For adult balladeering, it's good, and I still take my hat off when After the Lovin' fills the dancefloor at a family wedding. Add 2.0 stars to each of these ratings easily.
Indigo Girls *** PE + . .
Iron Butterfly In a Gadda Da Vida PE 2.0 3.0 I don't care what you think.
Jackson, Joe *** MC + . .
Jefferson Airplane After Bathing at Baxter's PE 4.0 3.0 Whatever...
Jefferson Airplane Volunteers PE 4.5 3.5 Whatever...
Jefferson Starship *** PE + . .
Jethro Tull Thick As A Brick MC 1.0 3.0 I think MC's giving this a 1 totally disqualifies him from rating Tull in general.
Jethro Tull Living In The Past MC 4.0 3.0 Why a 4.0? Because it's a greatest hits album?
Jethro Tull Passion Play MC 1.0 2.5 Get a clue.
Jethro Tull War Child MC 2.0 3.0 There!
Jethro Tull Minstrel In The Gallery MC 3.0 3.5 At least you got close on this one.
Jethro Tull Songs from the Wood MC 3.0 3.5 Whatever...
Joel, Billy *** PE + . A generally over-rated artist, but I think PE picked up on that.
John, Elton Goodbye Yellow Brick Road MC 3.5 4.0 This was a monstrous album. Give it it's due no matter how fatigued you are of it.
John, Elton Captain Fantastic MC 3.5 3.0 Fell short all over the place. Sparse production, slack song-writing, and incohesive.
John, Elton Rock of the Westies MC 3.5 2.5 R. Dwight tries a change in direciton, but we're left unsatiated..
Journey Escape MC 2.5 3.0 This is a solidly "good" album.
Journey Frontiers MC 2.5 3.0 This is also a solidly "good" album.
Kansas Leftoverture MC 2.5 3.5 Kansas gave Prog Rock a stateside flavor that still rings true. The Livgren/Walsh team was and is an above average talent in rock music, and Leftoverture established that as fact.
Kansas Point of Know Return MC 2.5 3.5 What Leftoverture established, PoKR confirmed. Kansas continues to show maturity in their interpretation of Prog Rock.
Kansas Vinyl Confessions MC 2.0 3.0 Leans towards pop. You can feel the angst in the Livgren/Walsh wars, and it gives this album a quality worth noting.
King's X Faith, Hope, Love JDC 4.0 3.5 This one gets a bit droney in places, but it's distortion-laden strengths keep it above average.
King, Carole *** MC + . .
Kiss Destroyer MC 3.0 4.0 Hallmark Kiss, defining a genre.
Kiss Love Gun/Alive II/Double Platinum MC 2.0 3.0 These are "good" poseur-rock albums.
Led Zeppelin Presence MC 3.5 2.5 I've been around enough to know that denial is not a good thing. This album basically is good to own just so you can have the complete Zeppelin collection.
Lewis, Huey *** PE + . .
Lightfoot, Gordon *** MC + . .
Loggins & Messina Sittin' In MC 3.0 4.0 OK, I'll admit my bias upfront: L&M is one of my favorite bands, and this one of my top 10 LPs of all time. But I defend this album on it's craftsmanship, production, diversity, and freshness. If you're a fan of folk rock, here's it's apex.
Loggins & Messina Loggins & Messina MC 2.5 3.0 Good sophomore album with incredible strengths (Angry Eyes, Golden Ribbons).
Loggins & Messina Full Sail/Motherload MC 2.0 3.0 Excusing Lahaina, these albums represent inventive pop, and Sailing the Wind/Be Free are ethereally wonderful.
Loggins & Messina Native Sons MC 2.0 2.5 Not as strong, but not deserving a full 2.0.
Los Lobos *** JDC X . I'm a fan, but minus one across the board.
Lowe, Nick *** MC X . Had a chance to dig into Nick while DJing college radio. Good pop, but it left me wanting. Take a point away from each album.
Lynyrd Skynyrd *** MC X . Knock Street Survivors from a 5.0(!) to a 3.5, and take a point off each of the rest. What were you thinking, Mr. MC?
Marshall Tucker Band *** MC X . I'm not sure MC has a good appreciation for Southern Rock, as in Skynyrd above, though he did the Allman's justice. (I doubt he has an over-appreciation, as The Outlaws are not even included in this book.) I'm docking these each one half point.
Mason, Dave *** PE + . .
McCartney, Paul Tug of War PE 4.0 3.0 It's really not that good.
McCartney, Paul McCartney II PE 3.0 2.0 It's really that bad.
McMurtry, James *** PE + . .
Meatloaf *** MC + . MC put this over-bloated, I mean, over-egoed, I mean, over-rated artist in his proper place.
Mitchell, Joni *** MC + . .
Molly Hatchet *** MC + . .
Moody Blues Days of Future Past PE 3.0 3.5 Now I've met many a reputable amateur rock critic who just do not like the Moody Blues sound, and they had the sense to humbly refrain from criticism. I wish PE did the same. On that note, I'm not going to give reasons, but simply correct the ratings as need be.
Moody Blues In Search of the Lost Chord/

On the Threshold of a Dream/

To Our Children's Children's Children

PE 1.5 2.5 (see above)
Moody Blues Question of Balance/Seventh Soujourn PE 1.5 3.0 (see above)
Moody Blues Every Good Boy Deserves Favour PE 1.0 2.5 (see above)
Moody Blues Long Distance Voyager PE 2.0 3.0 (see above)
Morrison, Van *** PE + . .
Nash, Graham *** PE + . .
Nilsson, Harry *** MC + . .
Pearl Jam *** JDC + . .
Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here MC 5.0 4.5 Not quite as cohesive or strong as Dark Side, but still outstanding.
Pink Floyd The Wall MC 4.0 3.5 Over-rated, over-rated, over-rated.
Poco Legend MC 2.5 3.0 Poco peaks, and does it well.
Police, The *** JDC X . I'll be hated for this, but I'm sorry, no Police album deserves a 5.0 rating. I liked them, they were a great band, but we can guiltlessly take a half star off each LP.
Pretenders *** JDC X . The Police were a great band, The Pretenders were a good band. Sorry JDC, but I've got to take a half star off each of these LPs too.
Prine, John *** MC + . .
Pure Praire League *** JDC X . I'm a lover of country and southern rock. Pure Prairie is a staple, but their albums always left me just on the edge of being satisfied. JDC gives a 3.0 to each, but I need to take a half off each.
Queen *** MC + . .
Queensryche *** JDC + . .
REO Speedwagon You Can Tuna Piano... MC 2.5 3.0 Roll With The Changes/Time For Me To Fly carry this LP to solid "good" standing.
REO Speedwagon Hi Infidelity MC 2.5 3.5 They made us enjoy listening to pure pop all over again!
Rolling Stones *** PE + . .
Ronstadt, Linda Hasten Down the Wind MC 3.0 3.5 With Linda, I'm an expert. Though hardly her most popular (That'll Be The Day was the only single and weak point off this LP), it is her most cohesive and expressive offering. Linda borrowed heavily from Karla Bonoff's debut LP (buy it! if you like Linda), making this album oh so special.
Rush 2.0112.0 MC 2.5 3.0 This album works, and that from a used-to-be-Rush-hater, now-Rush-lover.
Rush Moving Pictures MC 3.5 4.0 Ughh. If Red Barchetta was the only cut on this album, it would earn a 4.0. But Tom Sawyer, Limelight, and YYZ secure this LP over the top.
Rush Power Windows MC 2.5 3.0 This album falls off towards the end, but that's what keeps it from greatness. It defines a turning point in Rush music, and the one-two-three-four punch of The Big Money/ Grand Designs/ Manhattan Project/ Marathon settles this as a good album.
Rush Presto MC 2.0 3.0 Once again, Rush launches into a new direction, maturing wonderfully. Rush fans in general don't even like this album, but it really is very good.
Simon & Garfunkel *** JDC + . .
Simon, Paul *** JDC + . .
Springsteen, Bruce *** PE + . .
Steely Dan Countdown to Ecstasy MC 4.5 4.0 Let's not get carried away. This is a terrific LP, but not nearly of such definitive status.
Steely Dan Pretzel Logic MC 5.0 4.0 Does Rikki, Don't Lose That Number carry this one to perfection? No, and neither do the rest of the songs carry it that close to a 5.
Stewart, Rod *** PE + . .
Stryper To Hell With The Devil PE 2.5 3.0 Yeah, this is good "Ratt" good.
Summer, Donna *** MC + . .
Supertramp *** MC + . .
Talking Heads *** MC + . .
Taylor, James *** MC + . .
Thin Lizzy *** MC + . .
'Til Tuesday *** JDC + . .
Toto *** MC X . MC dismisses Toto as a pop-fluke band, which makes me wonder if he based his ratings on their most popular 1st and IVth albums. Regardless, the pop is good pop, with a progressive edge, and you can comfortably add 1.5 to each of his ratings.
U2 *** JDC + . .
Van Halen Women & Children First/

Fair Warning

Diver Down

JDC 3.0

3.5

3.5

2.5

3.0

3.0

The saviors of R&R didn't save it that much...
Van Halen 1984 and the rest JDC X . Take em down a point.
Walsh, Joe *** MC + . .
Who, The *** PE + . Good job!
Wings Back to the Egg JDC 2.5 3.5 JDC rated Wings well, except for this one.
Wright, Gary *** MC + . .
Yes Fragile MC 4.0 3.5 Though Heart of the Sunrise/ Long Distance Runaround/ and Roundabout are outstanding, the between song ditties make this a just above average album.
Yes Close to the Edge MC 2.5 4.0 The first band to pull off an album-side long song. Yes's best.
Yes Relayer MC 2.0 2.5 So tempted to up this to a 3, but only a real Yes fan can see how it merits that rating.
Yes Going for the One MC 2.5 3.0 Over-produced and poppy where it shouldn't be, this is strong material.
Yes Tormato MC 2.0 2.5 Possibly Yes's worst effort, but still good stuff.
Yes Drama MC 1.0 2.0 Just because J.A.'s vocals are missing here doesn't make it a waste of resources.
Yes Big Generator MC 2.0 2.5 Yes turned power-pop gets old here.
Yes Union MC 1.0 3.0 1.0?!?! You have no idea...
Young, Neil Harvest PE 4.0 4.5 Tempted to 5.0 this alongside After the Gold Rush.
Young, Neil Tonight's the Night PE 5.0 3.5 Sparse and dark, but that doesn't earn it a 5.0!
Young, Neil Comes A Time PE 2.5 3.0 .
Young, Neil Ragged Glory PE 4.0 3.0 .
Young, Neil Weld PE 4.0 2.5 .

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