Thursday, December 20, 2007

The process

A commenter recently wondered how many times I listen to each record before I write each piece, so I figured now would be as good a time as any to explain the process by which I do each piece of this project. I think it's a pretty good procedure and has produced some decent results.

The first thing I do is, of course, get the album. At the beginning of the project, I printed out the list and went to my CD collection (approximately 1,700 CDs and 250ish vinyl records with a lot of overlap). If I didn't have the album, I would borrow it from a friend, take it out from the library or (mostly) buy it. This, so far, has meant many hours at the thrift store by my apartment and at CDepot. also, a great deal of money spent at the iTunes store. At the start of the project, I had about 250 of the 500 albums. I currently have about 425, including all the albums I've reviewed so far with a few notable exceptions:

  • Jackie Wilson's "Mr. Excitement" and Jerry Lee Lewis' "All Killer No Filler" are way out of print and I was not willing to pay over $100 for each. I obtained two different copies of other greatest hits collections for each artist and was able to get all the tracks on each collection.

  • The Robert Johnson collections were not out of print, but I already had two different Johnson collections with the exact same songs. So, I just made a different playlist on my iPod with the songs sequenced as the RS-approved collections have.

  • I borrowed, but did not rip, the "Anthology of American Folk Music" and the Ray Charles box set.

Everything else is either in my iTunes library at home or on a vinyl record on my bookcase.

The next step, of course, is listening to the record. I listen to every record at least five times (if I'm not already familiar with it. If it's something like "Nevermind," any of Beatles records or "Metallica," I already know it and will only listen two or three times). Most of the time, two listening are on my iPod (yes, I know. The sound quality isn't as good.) in transit. Being that most people experience music in this way, I find this to be a great first look at any record. Similarly, it's easy to concentrate on the music while walking to my office from the Metro station, as that route is etched into my brain. I will also listen to the record while playing Playstation (normally FIFA 2007, in case you care).

(For vinyl, I do all of the listening while eating dinner or playing Playstation.)

Finally, I'll take one or two more listens while I'm writing the review.

As for the actual writing, I like to read a little bit on each record. This includes looking the record up on following Web sites:

  1. Rolling Stone's 500 album site (obviously)

  2. Wikipedia


  4. Robert Christgau's site

  5. (if applicable)

  6. Any genre sites (The Source, for example)

The research is often done while writing the review, so the composiution of each review takes about two hours each. Some take considerably less time (seriously, I listened to that album probably 10 [!] times and couldn't think of anything to say). Some take more. I even farmed a few out.

Sometimes, I don't have a lot to say and often, I don't have the time to write as much as I'd like (I have a full-time job, after all).

I then will put the review down and revisit it the next day (I write everything a two days or so before they're posted). This is when I'll do my final edits, mostly on spelling, grammar and such. Stuff, of course, falls through the cracks.

I try to write about my personal experiences with records and mix it with some fun(ish) facts about each record. If I find something interesting in my research, I'll write about it, but I'm not trying to be some sort of repository of album history. The Web already has too much of that.

I hope everyone enjoys my nonsense. I'm enjoying writing it and I'm glad more than five people are reading it.

1 comment:

kellydwyer said...

The work is much appreciated. Out of habit, it's usually the first site I pull up that day, after email. No newspapers, no sports rumors, no porn, not my own site, no fantasy leagues, just this site. It's legitimately what I want to see first. Then I ruminate on a comment for the next five hours, and post that.

Five times? Because of the sheer amount of classic rock albums on this list, that's about 45 minutes an album. Two albums a day, and that's seven and a half hours of listening to this stuff.

Impressive dedication, terrific writing ("terrific," I say!), great site. Much appreciated.