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Album Rating Guidelines

The following criteria can help to more objectively assess what constitutes a great album versus a poor one. I think it's safe to say a perfect album embodies all these qualities.

A good exercise in giving an album a thorough rating is to assess it's characteristics in each category, and then take an average or something.
    1. Listenability - Simply put, is it a good listen? Or does it take some strain to get through parts or songs? The best test I've heard for this category is, does the first listen leave you with the impression that the album is good? For example, I remember clearly my reaction the first time I heard Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon: whoa!
    2. Creativity - Look for uniqueness or maturity in the genre or catalog of the artist. I think of Paul Simon's Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints here.
    3. Production - This is what gives an album that special sound, often attributed to the album's producer. Gus Dudgeon of Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Ted Templeman of the Doobie Brothers' The Captain and Me, and Daniel Lanois of U2's The Unforgettable Fire and more recently, Emmy Lou Harris' Wrecking Ball are good examples of high-quality production.
    4. Diversity - Does the album move through styles and textures (The Beatles' Abbey Road), or is the album one, long drone (George Harrison's Cloud Nine)?
    5. Continuity - Is the album a unit (Jethro Tull's Aqualung), or is it choppy (Linda Ronstadt's Living in the U.S.A.)?
    6. Popularity - How did it sell in it's day? Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive was the first platinum-selling live album, I believe.
    7. Appeal - Does the album have appeal to a broader audience outside of it's genre? The Allman Brothers reached beyond it's Southern Rock audience with Brothers and Sisters, as did New-Agey Enya with Watermark.
    8. Cultural impact - What did the album do for the music culture? Did it affect the direction of a particular genre? Kiss's debut launched quite a hard rock/poseur sub-culture.
    9. Longevity - Are we still listening and are subsequent generations still buying? Anything Led Zeppelin works here...

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 gave a 5.0 rating

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