A lengthy feedback on your site

A lengthy feedback on your site

Joined: October 26th, 2011, 8:22 am

October 26th, 2011, 8:34 am #1

Hey

I'm a long time reader but first time commenter on your website. I first discovered your website a year ago which is long after you stopped working on your old site.

First I want to say what a great site you have and in terms of influence over my musical taste, your website is second only to my brother who actually introduced me to the greatness of rock music (although mostly with various 90's music). So I want to thank you for introducing me to some of the great bands and I wouldn't have became a fan of The Who, Rolling Stones, Genesis, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Can, The Flaming Lips, Nick Cave, Bob Dylan etc if it weren't for your site. I tried getting into classic rock artist and I heard some of those artist before but I never knew where to start with them and following the Rolling Stones top 500 album list (or the Pitchfork top 100 albums) didn't exactly align with what I like with music but your album recommendation has far greater correlation to my own taste (about 70% of your rock anthology albums I like and about 80% of your 13+ scores at least were at least decent if not awesome albums to listen to which is a remarkably high proportion). So thank you for introducing my to such great bands and I can't imagine what my musical taste would be like without it and I still used your website even now to help me discover music (I'm mostly scouring your bands you haven't given a grade yet now as I basically went through most of your band reviews).

One of the things I like about your review states your subjective criteria and judge music objectively to those standards (well as objectively as possible as all of those criteria have an objective component and a subjective component) which I believe that all reviewers should have one nowadays. As your paradigm in judging music were similar (although not entirely the same, I view originality as a secondary criteria in judging music and I judge it as a competency of minimum standard of originality instead of a grade and I also consider diversity to be a secondary criteria as well) than your recommendation have some predictive qualities in how much I would like the album. Even in situation where our paradigm to differ and we rate the album differently (mostly bands you give high grade due to originality even though they don't offer much in terms of listenability and emotional resonance and vice versa), at the very least I understand why we rate the album differently and your clear criteria gives me a clear indication when I should take your recommendation seriously in terms of albums I should buy or at least download next and when not to take your reviews as useful for me to find music that I would enjoy (although I usually still give those albums a few listen though). One of the things I'm wondering is do you still believe in your old criteria (Listenability, Emotional Resonance, Originality, Adequacy, Diversity) or has it change?

I also found your reviews to be funny and entertaining to read and I cracked up laughing reading your REM and Smiths review. it's a bit shame that you never finished those band review.

My only real criticism is that sometimes your reviews is a little bit confrontational and that sometimes it gives an impression that the reasons you rate or not rate an album is objective (even though I know you don't think that as you state that on your website, but other people can easily get that impression reading your site). Probably the best example of a review that avoided that pitfalls was John McFerrin band introduction to Rush. He gave out his opinion on the type of paradigm that would rate Rush high but then reveals his own paradigm (with a clear indicator that his own paradigm is not objectively better than anyone else) in judging music and explain why Rush doesn't match up his own paradigm that well. Therefore even people who don't share his paradigm in judging music could still read his reviews on Rush and then still decide that Rush could be a band to check out despite his lukewarm opinion on that band. Sure John still got flamed for that band introduction but I felt that if you (well back when you were still operating that old site) did a similar page you would have got far more complaints. It's probably the type of diplomatic writing style that was missing in some of your reviews (mostly the whole Bruce Springsteen and Pink floyd although I did enjoy reading it). Although I prefer your recommendation in music over John I do think he has it over you in terms of diplomacy.

Although funny enough I give you credit that you did the opposite in your Beatles review where you state certain paradigm in judging music that wouldn't rate Beatles particularly high and then gave a good explanation on why some people rate Beatles as the best band in history and why other people think they are gruesomely overrated. You showed a hell a lot of respect to the critics who believed the beatles were overrated whislst strongly defending your opinion.

Also I believe that you should change your band rating so it becames tiers of greatness (1st tier of greatness, 2nd tier of greatness etc) as it a far more accurate terminology in your band rating and it's just flamebait giving popular artist a rating of D and C as a D implies a bad band and a C implies a mediocre band even though you clearly rate those band a lot higher than that. Sure you would still get flames but I would argue you would get less flames if you rate it that way instead of the school grading system.

In any case you stop updating your old site and you have now replace it with the new reviews site that I find rather puzzling. I still have no idea why you replace numerical rating system with a thumbs up and thumbs down and replace the band rating system with a smily face and an anti-smiley black face (wow, not very PC) for band rating.

The only think I found was that you were tired of the old system in the message board and this statement "rating the value of any re­cord on a numeric scale is fun, but not necessarily harmless fun" without justifying WHY rating via a numeric scale is somehow harmful. Considering that the vast majority of reviews including your old reviews used a numerical rating system then I think that statement needs a bit more explanation why it is harmful instead of just stating that as fact. When John changed to a hexadecimal system, there was a detailed reason why. There isn't a case here and I do think it would be useful for detailed explanation (or even a lengthy essay if you like) on why there was a change.

I suspect (although correct me if I am wrong) that it has something to do with avoiding endless debate about whether an album deserves a particular grade instead of talking about what is just written in the review. Also perhaps this is your way in making your reviews more diplomatic and less confrontational as I have stated.

Although if that is a case then I believe it went overboard. It seems absolutely crazy that a thumbs up encompasses an album that just pass and is merely competent to all time classic.

I think I have a personal problem with this system because when you believe an album is great, I tend to think the album is at least good if not great or all time classic. However if an album is merely good (9, 10 or 11 in your scale) then there are much less correlation whether I would like those middle of road album. Your reviews now has far less predictive qualities in whether I would like those album then it used to be. A two thumbs up and down would be far more useful to point out great albums. Now I admit you shouldn't change your review just for me but I felt other people may feel the same way as well and a bit more precision to how much you like an album isn't too much to ask I hope.

Now I just want to comment on your Pet Sounds review which I have mixed opinions on. I just want to respond to this statement from the Pet Sounds review regarding the question whether it is the best album of all time.

"I don't think one can answer this question directly without getting po­liticized and ostracized. It already gave and continues to give plenty of happy fodder for all the «Beatles vs. Beach Boys», «UK vs. US» etc. discussions that are never conclusive be­cause it is never clear what exactly is the object, or what exactly are the criteria for the discus­sions. It's a great way for normal people to turn into obsessive trolls overnight."

Hence I think you just dodge the debate and refuse to wade in it which I felt was a bit of a cop out. Sure there are many paradigm to judge music and therefore any objective measure in the greatest album of all time is pointless. However what is the greatest album according to my paradigm isn't pointless to me and what is the greatest album according to your paradigm isn't pointless for you. Expressing where it fits in the all time classic according to your paradigm isn't pointless to your readers if you express it a clear, diplomatic, informative and entertaining way even if the opinion doesn't match with the readers (I do believe that criticism of art is an artform itself and is much of self-expression as the art the person is reviewing).

There is no objective good or bad music but there is music that objectively suits certain paradigm and although it was awesome that you point out what type of people would think it is the best album ever and what type of people would think this album can't qualify (which did address my previous complaint about your old site). I'm not too sure where it fits in for you judging solely from your current review either than the fact that it seems like Pet sounds is a great album due to outstanding vocals, lyrics and atmosphere but it doesn't completely fit your paradigm as it is "formulaic". I really wouldn't mind removing the whole numerical system if we can easily tell where you stand with the album just by reading the reviews but I'm not entirely sure whether your opinion of Pet Sounds has significantly improved since your original mark of 13.

Ultimately, we don't read your reviews to see you rate music by other people paradigm (even though it is useful to point out the paradigm that would love or hate the album), we read your reviews to see how well it matches to your paradigm and it just seems jarring that your brought out the "best album ever" discussion without going through with it. It's hard to believe that this review was written by the same person who in the old site has clearly stated where any album stand within their own personal taste and willing to defend his own rating quite vigorously. In any case you were willing to stick out your neck and declare "The Action" as the "Best 60s Band To Never Release An Al­bum" so why not wade in the "best album of all time" debate .

You succeeded in making that review more diplomatic and you certainly avoided the flames you got from your old site but I can't help feel you have limited your own self expression in the process.

In any case, I would just want to say I will keep on reading your old and new reviews. I would just hope you consider having a bit more precise rating system in the future.
Last edited by phantomdasilva on October 26th, 2011, 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

October 26th, 2011, 11:02 am #2

With your permission, I'll sum it up much more briefly:

I really think there's no middle ground in this thing. Either one does music reviewing "scientifically" - and that would involve lots more research (including historical, technical etc.,), a very meticulous segregation between all objective observations and subjective emotional assessments, which is a thing that neither myself, nor John, nor anyone else, in fact, has ever done...

...or it makes little sense to bother about too much detalization at all.

That said, I am, at present, trying to come up with an entirely non-numeric system of tags for the albums reviewed, that would be more precise than whatever it used to be like on the old site, but at the same time, not too "pretentious". I still believe in the old criteria, but I'd like to try and express it in a different way.

As for the "diplomatic" aspect, yes, some of the old reviews are too harsh. But that's a stage in life through which may of us have to pass (some never do, though, see Brian Burks).
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Joined: August 30th, 2004, 10:19 am

October 26th, 2011, 8:56 pm #3

Not a binary system of orthogonal tags like thumbs, head, dick up/down? Non-numeric i.e. by necessity redundant and at the same time more precise than any numeric? God, if that will be expandable beyond music ratings you are going to be a new Messiah
Last edited by bird3000 on October 26th, 2011, 9:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: October 27th, 2011, 9:53 am

October 27th, 2011, 9:56 am #4

With your permission, I'll sum it up much more briefly:

I really think there's no middle ground in this thing. Either one does music reviewing "scientifically" - and that would involve lots more research (including historical, technical etc.,), a very meticulous segregation between all objective observations and subjective emotional assessments, which is a thing that neither myself, nor John, nor anyone else, in fact, has ever done...

...or it makes little sense to bother about too much detalization at all.

That said, I am, at present, trying to come up with an entirely non-numeric system of tags for the albums reviewed, that would be more precise than whatever it used to be like on the old site, but at the same time, not too "pretentious". I still believe in the old criteria, but I'd like to try and express it in a different way.

As for the "diplomatic" aspect, yes, some of the old reviews are too harsh. But that's a stage in life through which may of us have to pass (some never do, though, see Brian Burks).
I think music/film/book critics SHOULD be harsh, categorical, etc. - maybe that's the reason why I could never get into John's reviews. Leave diplomacy out of it, I say - weather you love or don't love a record. A reviewer should sound convincing and make it sound like he is bloody right (even if it means that everyone else is bloody wrong). So I'd rather take Mark Prindle bashing my beloved Quadrophenia than someone's insipid, meandering, diplomatic praise of it.

Also, George, good to know about this non-numeric system of yours! Hopefully you'll work it out - this thumbs thing seems somewhat vague to me.
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Joined: October 26th, 2011, 8:22 am

October 27th, 2011, 11:11 am #5

With your permission, I'll sum it up much more briefly:

I really think there's no middle ground in this thing. Either one does music reviewing "scientifically" - and that would involve lots more research (including historical, technical etc.,), a very meticulous segregation between all objective observations and subjective emotional assessments, which is a thing that neither myself, nor John, nor anyone else, in fact, has ever done...

...or it makes little sense to bother about too much detalization at all.

That said, I am, at present, trying to come up with an entirely non-numeric system of tags for the albums reviewed, that would be more precise than whatever it used to be like on the old site, but at the same time, not too "pretentious". I still believe in the old criteria, but I'd like to try and express it in a different way.

As for the "diplomatic" aspect, yes, some of the old reviews are too harsh. But that's a stage in life through which may of us have to pass (some never do, though, see Brian Burks).
Thanks for the reply

Personally I like reviews to be informative. So a good description of an album so the reader would get a good idea whether you like the album or not. I also like reviews to be self-expressive in a sense that when you read a review, you have a good idea why that person rates that album as high or as low as it is. So I don't want a review that is somehow purely objective, rather a good mixture of objective description of an album and subjective emotional reason why you like or dislike the album.

In any case, I'm still in the dark about why the numeric tags were ditch and I have no idea how your previous categorization was somehow "pretentious". Categorising your bands and albums according to your own taste and paradigm is a pretty normal and expectant thing to do and it is hardly harmful or showing off etc.

Nevertheless, I'm highly curious about your new non-numeric categorisation system. I have no idea how that will be more precise than a numeric scale but
I'm eager to find out. I just wish that a temporary two thumbs up or something similar would be put in place to have a greater precision

Alexey P
Being diplomatic and being self-expressive are not contradictive qualities. You can say, I think this is the best album of all time according to my taste and explain in detail why this is the best album of all time according to my taste but recognise that people with different paradigm will see things differently.
Last edited by phantomdasilva on October 28th, 2011, 8:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: October 27th, 2011, 9:53 am

October 27th, 2011, 12:25 pm #6


But then they often are, maybe more often than it would seem. Self-expression has this very annoying tendency to hide behind diplomacy. It's all views and opinions, of course, and we are all different - but is that even worth mentioning? Surely one must be too insecure about his tastes to get offended by things like another reviewer's harshness, don't you think?

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Joined: October 26th, 2011, 8:22 am

October 27th, 2011, 1:41 pm #7

It's true that people shouldn't get offended by a review but I do think that expressing your point of view clearly in a diplomatic way without losing the message (which is also important and is a pitfall of being diplomatic) is a good skill to have. Really, one of my annoyance is when people start expressing their opinion "as fact". It's not so much as it's offensive but rather it present the person as closed minded that if someone makes a really good counterargument, the person would still wouldn't even consider changing their opinion as their opinion is set.

I also believe that mentioning difference in opinion is worthwhile and actually improves the review. I guess I kind of buy into what school taught to me about writing any humanities essay. Take in consideration all points of view but then defend your own opinion. Taking in consideration alternative views gives your own review a complete picture. It also makes your review far more useful to a wider demographic. It is also more likely that people with different points of view on the album are more likely to change their mind on the album if you at least acknowledge that you have considered their complaints.

I do think that George Starostin's The Beatles review was improved drastically by pointing out that people with certain paradigm (especially people who have different definition on originality) would consider the beatles to be drastically overrated.

Take that part out and it would make George's introduction look like writing from a fan boy.

From a flip side, John's review of Rush is a good counterpoint of writing a negative review whilst taking in consideration difference of opinion on the band.
Last edited by phantomdasilva on October 27th, 2011, 3:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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John Mc
John Mc

October 27th, 2011, 2:39 pm #8

I think music/film/book critics SHOULD be harsh, categorical, etc. - maybe that's the reason why I could never get into John's reviews. Leave diplomacy out of it, I say - weather you love or don't love a record. A reviewer should sound convincing and make it sound like he is bloody right (even if it means that everyone else is bloody wrong). So I'd rather take Mark Prindle bashing my beloved Quadrophenia than someone's insipid, meandering, diplomatic praise of it.

Also, George, good to know about this non-numeric system of yours! Hopefully you'll work it out - this thumbs thing seems somewhat vague to me.
This is definitely the first time I've ever been accused of being too diplomatic. I guess I've mellowed a long way from the days of "This is a guy who can inspire dangerous reactions in people." My original Rush page was definitely more along the lines of what you're seeking from a reviewer.
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Joined: October 26th, 2011, 8:22 am

October 27th, 2011, 3:01 pm #9

Well I don't know what was your original Rush page was but your current Rush introduction essay to me seems like a perfect balance of being diplomatic whilst at the same time expressing your opinion strongly. yeah you still got flame but I think you couldn't have done much more in minimising the abuse you get without compromising your expression of your opinion on the band (ok perhaps a little rewording or stronger justification that Rush writes dumb lyrics. Although I guess you saved that for the album reviews)
Last edited by phantomdasilva on October 27th, 2011, 3:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: November 13th, 2010, 8:45 am

October 27th, 2011, 3:07 pm #10

Hey

I'm a long time reader but first time commenter on your website. I first discovered your website a year ago which is long after you stopped working on your old site.

First I want to say what a great site you have and in terms of influence over my musical taste, your website is second only to my brother who actually introduced me to the greatness of rock music (although mostly with various 90's music). So I want to thank you for introducing me to some of the great bands and I wouldn't have became a fan of The Who, Rolling Stones, Genesis, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Can, The Flaming Lips, Nick Cave, Bob Dylan etc if it weren't for your site. I tried getting into classic rock artist and I heard some of those artist before but I never knew where to start with them and following the Rolling Stones top 500 album list (or the Pitchfork top 100 albums) didn't exactly align with what I like with music but your album recommendation has far greater correlation to my own taste (about 70% of your rock anthology albums I like and about 80% of your 13+ scores at least were at least decent if not awesome albums to listen to which is a remarkably high proportion). So thank you for introducing my to such great bands and I can't imagine what my musical taste would be like without it and I still used your website even now to help me discover music (I'm mostly scouring your bands you haven't given a grade yet now as I basically went through most of your band reviews).

One of the things I like about your review states your subjective criteria and judge music objectively to those standards (well as objectively as possible as all of those criteria have an objective component and a subjective component) which I believe that all reviewers should have one nowadays. As your paradigm in judging music were similar (although not entirely the same, I view originality as a secondary criteria in judging music and I judge it as a competency of minimum standard of originality instead of a grade and I also consider diversity to be a secondary criteria as well) than your recommendation have some predictive qualities in how much I would like the album. Even in situation where our paradigm to differ and we rate the album differently (mostly bands you give high grade due to originality even though they don't offer much in terms of listenability and emotional resonance and vice versa), at the very least I understand why we rate the album differently and your clear criteria gives me a clear indication when I should take your recommendation seriously in terms of albums I should buy or at least download next and when not to take your reviews as useful for me to find music that I would enjoy (although I usually still give those albums a few listen though). One of the things I'm wondering is do you still believe in your old criteria (Listenability, Emotional Resonance, Originality, Adequacy, Diversity) or has it change?

I also found your reviews to be funny and entertaining to read and I cracked up laughing reading your REM and Smiths review. it's a bit shame that you never finished those band review.

My only real criticism is that sometimes your reviews is a little bit confrontational and that sometimes it gives an impression that the reasons you rate or not rate an album is objective (even though I know you don't think that as you state that on your website, but other people can easily get that impression reading your site). Probably the best example of a review that avoided that pitfalls was John McFerrin band introduction to Rush. He gave out his opinion on the type of paradigm that would rate Rush high but then reveals his own paradigm (with a clear indicator that his own paradigm is not objectively better than anyone else) in judging music and explain why Rush doesn't match up his own paradigm that well. Therefore even people who don't share his paradigm in judging music could still read his reviews on Rush and then still decide that Rush could be a band to check out despite his lukewarm opinion on that band. Sure John still got flamed for that band introduction but I felt that if you (well back when you were still operating that old site) did a similar page you would have got far more complaints. It's probably the type of diplomatic writing style that was missing in some of your reviews (mostly the whole Bruce Springsteen and Pink floyd although I did enjoy reading it). Although I prefer your recommendation in music over John I do think he has it over you in terms of diplomacy.

Although funny enough I give you credit that you did the opposite in your Beatles review where you state certain paradigm in judging music that wouldn't rate Beatles particularly high and then gave a good explanation on why some people rate Beatles as the best band in history and why other people think they are gruesomely overrated. You showed a hell a lot of respect to the critics who believed the beatles were overrated whislst strongly defending your opinion.

Also I believe that you should change your band rating so it becames tiers of greatness (1st tier of greatness, 2nd tier of greatness etc) as it a far more accurate terminology in your band rating and it's just flamebait giving popular artist a rating of D and C as a D implies a bad band and a C implies a mediocre band even though you clearly rate those band a lot higher than that. Sure you would still get flames but I would argue you would get less flames if you rate it that way instead of the school grading system.

In any case you stop updating your old site and you have now replace it with the new reviews site that I find rather puzzling. I still have no idea why you replace numerical rating system with a thumbs up and thumbs down and replace the band rating system with a smily face and an anti-smiley black face (wow, not very PC) for band rating.

The only think I found was that you were tired of the old system in the message board and this statement "rating the value of any re­cord on a numeric scale is fun, but not necessarily harmless fun" without justifying WHY rating via a numeric scale is somehow harmful. Considering that the vast majority of reviews including your old reviews used a numerical rating system then I think that statement needs a bit more explanation why it is harmful instead of just stating that as fact. When John changed to a hexadecimal system, there was a detailed reason why. There isn't a case here and I do think it would be useful for detailed explanation (or even a lengthy essay if you like) on why there was a change.

I suspect (although correct me if I am wrong) that it has something to do with avoiding endless debate about whether an album deserves a particular grade instead of talking about what is just written in the review. Also perhaps this is your way in making your reviews more diplomatic and less confrontational as I have stated.

Although if that is a case then I believe it went overboard. It seems absolutely crazy that a thumbs up encompasses an album that just pass and is merely competent to all time classic.

I think I have a personal problem with this system because when you believe an album is great, I tend to think the album is at least good if not great or all time classic. However if an album is merely good (9, 10 or 11 in your scale) then there are much less correlation whether I would like those middle of road album. Your reviews now has far less predictive qualities in whether I would like those album then it used to be. A two thumbs up and down would be far more useful to point out great albums. Now I admit you shouldn't change your review just for me but I felt other people may feel the same way as well and a bit more precision to how much you like an album isn't too much to ask I hope.

Now I just want to comment on your Pet Sounds review which I have mixed opinions on. I just want to respond to this statement from the Pet Sounds review regarding the question whether it is the best album of all time.

"I don't think one can answer this question directly without getting po­liticized and ostracized. It already gave and continues to give plenty of happy fodder for all the «Beatles vs. Beach Boys», «UK vs. US» etc. discussions that are never conclusive be­cause it is never clear what exactly is the object, or what exactly are the criteria for the discus­sions. It's a great way for normal people to turn into obsessive trolls overnight."

Hence I think you just dodge the debate and refuse to wade in it which I felt was a bit of a cop out. Sure there are many paradigm to judge music and therefore any objective measure in the greatest album of all time is pointless. However what is the greatest album according to my paradigm isn't pointless to me and what is the greatest album according to your paradigm isn't pointless for you. Expressing where it fits in the all time classic according to your paradigm isn't pointless to your readers if you express it a clear, diplomatic, informative and entertaining way even if the opinion doesn't match with the readers (I do believe that criticism of art is an artform itself and is much of self-expression as the art the person is reviewing).

There is no objective good or bad music but there is music that objectively suits certain paradigm and although it was awesome that you point out what type of people would think it is the best album ever and what type of people would think this album can't qualify (which did address my previous complaint about your old site). I'm not too sure where it fits in for you judging solely from your current review either than the fact that it seems like Pet sounds is a great album due to outstanding vocals, lyrics and atmosphere but it doesn't completely fit your paradigm as it is "formulaic". I really wouldn't mind removing the whole numerical system if we can easily tell where you stand with the album just by reading the reviews but I'm not entirely sure whether your opinion of Pet Sounds has significantly improved since your original mark of 13.

Ultimately, we don't read your reviews to see you rate music by other people paradigm (even though it is useful to point out the paradigm that would love or hate the album), we read your reviews to see how well it matches to your paradigm and it just seems jarring that your brought out the "best album ever" discussion without going through with it. It's hard to believe that this review was written by the same person who in the old site has clearly stated where any album stand within their own personal taste and willing to defend his own rating quite vigorously. In any case you were willing to stick out your neck and declare "The Action" as the "Best 60s Band To Never Release An Al­bum" so why not wade in the "best album of all time" debate .

You succeeded in making that review more diplomatic and you certainly avoided the flames you got from your old site but I can't help feel you have limited your own self expression in the process.

In any case, I would just want to say I will keep on reading your old and new reviews. I would just hope you consider having a bit more precise rating system in the future.
Yes, I agree with most of what you say.

I posted a message some months ago giving my opinion about new ratings, it was shorter (i wish to be able to speak a better english to do it in your lengthy way). I find myself always a bit shy doing this since I know it is george's page and he can do whatever he wants with it, but this board is intended to be used to talk about stuff and George reviews, so let's go to the point.

I believe a 14 is too high for "Ramones" and "Zenyatta Mondatta", for instance, and a 13 too low for "Back in Black" and "Pet Sounds". This is the way a number helps talking about music. I don't see pretentiousness in that. If I want to know what George thinks about these albums I'll read the review and my vision will be complete, but in my opinion the rating adds precision.
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