Words to Live By

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As a music enthusiast, I have enjoyed the Decatur, GA published Paste Magazine which in finding their niche, has expanded to film and culture (filler) as well. But it's primarily about tunes, and it includes a (awesome, interesting, ho-hum, etc. depending on the month) sampler CD of music I probably wouldn't hear otherwise.

My formative years were based on the Rolling Stone Record Guide, 1979 edition. This well-worn nugget was written by a variety of reviewers, and it had a sensible rating system of virtually all rock/pop albums to date, which at the time might be measured from Elvis to Talking Heads or so. As a mental help, these definitions have carried with me through the years, though quoted from the source text below.

5 Stars meant "Indespensable: a record that must be included in any comprehensive collection."
4 Stars: "Excellent: a record of substantial merit, though flawed in some essential way."
3 Stars: "Good: a record of average worth, but one that might possess considerable appeal for fans of a particular style."
2 Stars: "Mediocre: records that are artistically insubstantial, though not truly wretched."
1 Star: "Poor: records in which even technical competence is at question, or which are remarkably ill-conceived."
And lastly, the dreaded square block (think Osmonds...): "Worthless: records that need never (or should never) have been created. Reserved for the most bathetic [sic] bathwater."

(See title above!) With book in hand and used record stores galore, I got eddukatd. Sadly, Rolling Stone is now no more vital than the latest in celebrity perfumes, so there is a place for Paste.

Paste has demonstrated a changing vision that earnestly seeks to arrive at a destination the editors believe is out there, but haven't been able to find. In the course of this development, they recently retreated from assigning ratings to their CD reviews. Hogwash! My first reaction was what kind of reviewer is afraid to assign a rating? A bad review may literally mean a change of career to the musician. Are they wimping out?

On the other hand, it might seem that the reviewers were getting too close to the artists, as they focus on independent label music, primarily. They gave 4 stars (with unknown definitions) to many artists who were definitely in the 2-3 star category.

What does this mean? Must I now actually read a full review to see if it might be of interest? Nope. I just skip to the last paragraph, where even if they were afraid of assigning a rating, they're still forced to offer an opinion.

Oh, and Steve Winwood (review below) is 3 stars, at best.

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