Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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To Do: Consumer Guide

We have started a couple of pages for background information on Consumer Guides, but these haven't progressed very far:


The Consumer Guide database currently has all CG entries and reviews that correspond to the three published decade books plus any additional entries/reviews from posted Consumer Guide columns (almost complete from late-1983, plus some early columns from 1969-1970 and the retrospective Consumer Guide to 1967). This represents a drop from 5274 missing reviews on Nov. 11, 2001, to 0 on Mar. 2, 2002 (so yes, we're working on this).

There are a relatively small number of CG reviews in missing columns between 1969-83 that still need to be added.

Data Problems

The Consumer Guide database was assembled rapidly from several sources, and has not been proofread for accuracy, consistency, and conformance to conventions. Each source brings its own set of problems:

  • The first pass at the CG database was to import similar data (some 4500 albums) from Tom Hull's Music DB, which followed slighly different conventions for artist name, dates, and labels. Many (probably most) of these have been corrected (i.e., changed to reflect the CG books) in subsequent reviews.
  • The second major source was WP files for CG columns starting in April 1988. The main issue here is that some of these reviews were subsequently rewritten for the CG books.
  • The CG books were then combed for all missing albums. These have been typed in.
  • Some additional records were added from Neither, Duds, and HM files.
  • Some additional reviews have been added from the '90s CG book WP files.
  • We've started to look through old (1969-88) CG columns to add in albums that were reviewed but not collected in the CG books.

Everything needs to be proofread. Some problem areas by field:

  • Artist names: CG standard is to use artist names as they appear on albums. TH tended to consolidate these (e.g., Dwight Twilley Band would be filed under Dwight Twilley). The main reason for the consolidating names is to simplify searching. How important this is depends on how good the cross-referencing system is (see below). These will probably remain a mishmash until cross-referencing is sorted out.

  • Album names: These are sometimes unclear, and the inclusion or exclusion of subtitles is often a matter of taste.

  • Sort fields: There are some inconsistencies here. The most common problem is that the convention for handling artist names was changed from "lastfirst" to "last,first", but not all instances were converted. This may result in a sort error.

  • Release dates: TH kept two dates (a recording date, and a release/reissue date), either of which could be used, and either of which could be out of sync with the CG date (usually first U.S. release, rarely a specific reissue release).

  • Labels: TH tended to use current labels; CG uses original (preferably U.S.) labels. (These are probably the most common TH-derived errors, possibly affecting 1000 albums or more.) There are also questions about multiple label affiliations (e.g., Earthworks is also listed as Earthworks/Caroline, Earthworks/Virgin, Stern's/Earthworks, and not infrequently as Virgin). There are also variations (Editions EG vs. EG; First Priority vs. First Priority Music), confusion (50 Kazillion Watts vs. 50 Skadillion Watts vs. 50 Skidillion Watts; EastWest vs. East West), and things that must be typos (Fat Possum vs. Fat Posssum, FFFR vs. FFRR). What about RCA vs. RCA Victor? (Pre-1990 is now RCA Victor.)

    Another issue: CG has always flagged "import" albums, but this information has not been maintained. My thinking is that common names (e.g., Columbia) should be listed as separate labels for each country: Columbia, Columbia (U.K.), Columbia (France), etc. Alternatively, we could add a nation field to the label field.

  • Grades: Grades have been pretty thoroughly checked, with most recent applied. Occasionally you may find a "HM" grade, which is an honorable mention that has not yet been graded using the { *, **, *** } notation. (Currently there are