FAQ CD Database
What is the CD Database?
The Rock 'n Soul Alley CD Database provides complete access to Gator's personal CD collection so you can easily browse, analyze, extract, and print factual data and ratings for over 2700 CDs. Beside whatever intrinsic value it may have for some visitors, its primary role on the site is to provide a good starting point for discussions about albums/CDs among music enthusiasts.
Why should I care about the CDs in Gator's personal collection?
Scope, selection, and depth. Back in the day I wrote bimonthly columns for Digital Audio and Rock & Roll Disc called "Reissue Issues," which covered all genres of American popular music since the 1920s. Over a period of seven years record companies sent me hundreds of promotional CDs, including dozens of box sets I could never afford to buy myself. Since then I've kept up with new music and upgraded reissues as better selection or sound quality became available. So, unlike the rest of Rock 'n Soul Alley, the CD database includes all eras and genres of American pop music, split about half-and-half between the rock-soul universe and a mix of jazz, vocalists, blues, gospel, country, folk, and mainstream pop. It features many comprehensive single-artist compilations and multi-artist collections, both reflecting and feeding my passion for compiling mixtape playlists.
Why should I care about the data in the CD Database?
Early on, the database was a way to keep track of my music and sound quality ratings. Entering each new CD, I added factual details from liner notes, CD booklets, and my own research. I've kept it up to date. The facts and ratings may help you find the right CD to buy or to use as the best source material for your own projects. For example, facts include the range of years covered by compilations and collections, the original date(s) of live recordings, and which CDs are sound quality upgrades. Music and sound quality ratings are notoriously subjective. You can easily get a bead on my biases and quirks in the Pantheon (artist rankings) and in the Bits & Pieces article on Sound Quality Ratings.
What is the purpose of the tool panel at the top of the database?
These tools allow you to specify the results you want to see in the search report before clicking on the Search button. If needed, Database Help above the tool panel offers basic tool instructions and examples. Help in decoding database notes and abbreviations is also available above the tool panel at Details.
How do I comment on albums or artists?
Click on the album's title or the artist's name.
What kinds of data are available for each CD listing?
For each listing (aka each "item" or "record") in the database, nine kinds of information are presented in eight fixed columns with these headings: Genre, Type, Year, Title/Artist, Label & Number, Music, Sound, and CD Year. Below are descriptions of the different kinds of data to be found in each of these columns and suggestions for how you might use them. The relevant data vary depending on whether the item is one CD or a multi-CD set, an original album or compilation or collection, and so forth.
What data are in the Genre and Type columns?
Genres are musical and cultural styles that can be helpful in classifying CDs for marketing purposes. Each item in the CD database is assigned to one of 20 distinct genres, which are listed on a drop-down menu in the tool panel. Versatile recording artists may have CDs assigned to more than one genre. For example, of the 13 database listings for Ray Charles, five are R&B, two are Jazz, five are Vocalists, and one is Pop.
Types identify different musical configurations: original studio albums, live performance albums, single-artist compilations, and multiple-artist collections. For example, there are 6 originals, 2 lives, and 5 compilations among the Ray Charles listings. Infrequently one listing needs two classifications: a CD or set that compiles multiple live performances would be both types, "live" and "compilation." Types refer specifically to the listed CDs, which do not necessarily mimic original LP configurations. These kinds of details are provided in notes found in the Title/Artist column, as described below.
You can use Genre and Type data to limit which CDs are included in the search report, or as a basis for sorting the report, to break it down for analysis by genre or type.
What data are in the Year and CD Year columns?
Let's do the easy one first. CD Year is simply the calendar year when each CD was released. It is for information only; you cannot use these dates to limit your database search or for sorting purposes.
Year is the date of first release on LP or CD, whichever is earlier. Release dates are often used in customizing search reports of original studio albums and live albums. But they are of limited use for lists or analyses of compilations or collections, because comp and coll release dates don't usually tell us when the individual recordings on those CDs were released. For example, the "Elvis At Sun" CD compilation of Elvis Presley's 1954-1955 recordings was first released as the "Sun Sessions" LP in 1976. Details like these are provided in Title/Artist column notes, as described below.
Because Genres like Rock and Soul cover such long time periods, it often makes sense to limit a search report on one Genre to a limited span of years. For example, you could use the 3 factors, Type, Genre, and Years, to search for original Soul albums from 1970-1979. Sorting first by Year Asc. and then by Music Rating Desc. produces a report broken down into 10 yearly sub-lists, each year ranked by Music Rating.
What data are in the Title/Artist and Label & Number columns?
Besides the obvious factual information, both columns contain notes providing additional details. Taken together, the two sets of notes tell you everything needed to identify each listing uniquely. The Database Notes Table fully explains the notes.
Longer Title names -- especially two-part names of compilations and collections -- are condensed to fewer words in this database, a legacy of space limitations when it was first set up. For example, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow: The Golden Age of Hollywood Musicals" is entered here as "Hollywood Musicals." Note that if you were to include "Golden Age" in a search for "Hollywood Musicals" it would not find a match, illustratating an important point about searching for Titles: It is generally more effective to search for one key phrase than for every word in the title.
Label names longer than six letters are also abbreviated. Most of the abbreviations are easy to figure out, like Col for Columbia and Univsl for Universal. The Full Label Name Table should help with the more obscure ones. I will gladly add any particular abbreviation(s) to this list on request.
Title and Artist names are useful for setting up search reports. The other data -- Label & Number, and both sets of notes -- are for information only; they cannot be used for searching or sorting purposes.
To create a search report for an artist who recorded albums under more than one name, you may need to experiment with search terms to get the best result. For example, "Neil Young" won't pick up "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young," whereas "Young" catches them all but also produces a dozen extra results. Most commonly, individual artist reports are sorted by some combination of Type Desc., Year Asc., and Music Rating Desc.
To find a particular title try using a key word or two, like "picture" for "Every Picture Tells A Story." Key words can also be useful or just fun for browsing, for example: "complete," "ultimate," "best," "DVD," and "soundtrack." These kinds of lists are often sorted by Artist Asc. Genre lists, like "Soul," are also often sorted by Artists and then by Year. Looking at the results, you may notice that individual artists are sorted by last name and groups are sorted without "the" -- due to an invisible "artist sort" field.
What data are in the Music and Sound columns?
These are the musical value and sound quality ratings I assign to each listing as I enter the item into the database. Many ratings are tweaked as weeks (or years) go by. Of course, they are all "just my opinion." My musical preferences and prejudices are offered as an invitation for you to express your own, either through your lists (which may include rankings or ratings) or through comments in the relevant blog topic (depending on how broad or specific you want to be). Other places on the site directly relevant to these ratings are the Pantheon (Gator's artist rankings) and the Bits & Pieces article on Sound Quality Ratings.
I first began assigning these ratings over 20 years ago. I can't swear by all of them anymore! For one thing, my sound listening equipment has been upgraded several times. Each time every CD sounds at least somewhat better than it did before, compelling me to mentally "recalibrate" the whole scale. Inevitably I fix some of the sound ratings that should be changed but not others. If you think I need to revisit any of these sound ratings, please comment on it. Music ratings aren't written in stone, either. We've all had listening experiences that changed our perception of an album for better or worse.
The Music and Sound Rating Scales Table puts the 100-point scales into more familiar contexts.
I wish the Music Rating and Sound Rating scales could be made more similar, but each one reflects the discriminations I actually make. I don't split the hairs as finely on the sound quality side. The CDs with lowest-ranked musical value are mainly comps and colls I've kept around for one or two tracks. It's only a matter of time before I put those tracks on my iPod and recycle the discs. The "75" Sound Rating was fairly common up through the mid-1990s; since 2001 only the bottom 3% of my CDs rate that low in sound quality. The only 50 - 70 sound quality CDs I've kept or added since the mid-1990s are irreplaceable archival recordings. The CDs with lowest-ranked sound quality are there for their musical value despite how they sound.