Status Report (September, 2014)

I have completed a first run through the artists with ten or more songs in my iPod collection. Along the way, I have refined the profiles and added some features. The newer profiles are generally superior to the earlier ones. Partly that is because artists with fewer songs demand less representation.

Song Ratings

The average song rating is falling, while the quality of songs in the collection is improving. The rating criteria has gradually changed. Compare the breakdown of ratings since the last update at the end of 2012:

On December 29th, 2012:

Total Songs: 9465 songs

5 star songs: 98 (1.0%)
4 star songs: 843 (8.9%)
3 star songs: 2534 (26.8%)
2 star songs: 4106 (43.4%)
1 star songs: 1832 (19.4%)
0 star songs: 52 (0.5%)

Average Song Rating: 2.22 stars

On September 13th, 2014:

Total Songs: 9646 songs

5 star songs: 77 (0.8%)
4 star songs: 679 (7.0%)
3 star songs: 2136 (22.1%)
2 star songs: 3996 (41.4%)
1 star songs: 2736 (28.4%)
0 star songs: 19 (0.2%)

Songs Currently Under Review: 21

Average Song Rating: 2.10 stars
Total Length/Size of The Perfect iPod Collection: 24.9 days/46.7 GB

Since December 29th, 2012:
1264 songs added to the collection
1083 songs removed from the collection.

Since September 20th, 2009, 3175 new recordings, both new songs and better sounding recordings of existing songs, have been added. In other words, almost a third of the collection has been replaced. I removed songs I considered non-essential, and added ones I either missed or didn’t know about. I continue to study artists and music that deserve to be represented, and add songs accordingly. When I first completed initial ratings for all 8244 songs in August, 2009, the average song rating was 2.44.

The number of one star songs has increased dramatically. The defining attributes of the one star song have changed; now it generally means “a song I like, good enough to be in the collection”, whereas it used to mean something closer to “a well known song I don’t particularly like, one that often results in changing to a new song.” For major artists like the Beatles, or Elton John, the one star rating includes many good songs not considered essential pieces of work. The one star rating also includes popular standards I find less appealing. Also, new additions to the collection, deemed good enough to be in the collection, often earn one star, with the possibility of upgrade with repeat plays.

The four and five star rating is becoming less common, now only 8% of the collection, versus about 11% five years ago. How many favorite songs can one person have? I now have 756 songs rated as great songs, and the 77 five star recordings, which include a few redundant mixes, are those rare songs I never grow tired of, assuming I don’t wear them out by listening to them repeatedly. If I listen to one of my favorite songs about once a month or so, it always sounds as good as it ever did.

However, in general I am growing somewhat tired of researching music, and that contributes to less enthusiastic opinions. It gets harder to find music that sounds exciting and new to me. My plan remains to add more instrumental and jazz music, and fill in any major areas of folk music I’ve missed, once the countdown of artists is complete. The song ratings are less important than the list of suggested songs. It’s still fun to listen to music with friends and loved ones, see what they think, and then assign a simple rating based on a wide variety of factors. Usually the opinions line up pretty well.

★★★★★ – An all-time great song, reserved for the top 1-2% of the collection. These top songs that usually personal favorites, but it also includes songs (“Stairway To Heaven” is an example) widely accepted as great performances.
★★★★ – An outstanding song, possessing great lyrics, structure and/or musicianship. These tend to be the best songs in their respective musical genre. This category tends to include fewer instrumentals and fewer long pieces of music.
★★★ – A very good song, highly recommended. Both three and four songs also include historically significant performances.
★★ – A good song. The definition of the two star song remains tied to the concept of “not changing the radio station”, or “not fast forwarding to the next song in iPod shuffle mode”. How much joy a song brings when presented randomly is a good measure of a song’s value.
★ – Good enough to be in the collection, with the potential for advancement. This category also includes non-essential but pleasing songs from major artists. Many good songs are found here.

There are still a few songs with zero stars, but these tend to be short pieces of little value, except to provide an amusing interlude between songs while in iPod shuffle mode.

New Artist Profiles

Over the last five years, a new group of artists have enough songs to qualify for inclusion. The next project is to review these artists, and create profiles for those with ten of more songs. Neither Joni Mitchell nor The Smiths currently have ten songs, but their popularity and critical acclaim suggest I should review them, too. Billie Holiday has about thirty-five songs, and in a final ranking of artists, will be among my top fifty favorites. Once these profiles are complete, I’ll make a final list of artists covered, and do the countdown once more, rating the artists by the total number of stars, rather than by the number of songs. Most artists will maintain their position pretty closely, other like Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis move up significantly.

Upcoming profiles will include most of the following:

Albert King
Anita O’Day
Billie Holiday
Booker T. & The MG’s
Buck Owens & The Buckaroos
The Carpenters
The Coasters
The Drifters
Elmore James
The Four Tops
Jeff Beck
Jimmy Reed
John Lennon
Joni Mitchell
Loggins & Messina
Lou Reed/Velvet Underground
Mose Allison
Nick Lowe
Robin Trower
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
The Smiths
Stanley Turrentine
Tom Jones

The 100 Most Played Tunes

iTunes keeps track of how many times each song gets played, a nice feature. With one iTunes library on my desktop computer, plus a secondary copy on my laptop, the iTunes play count is not reliably accurate, but it still gives a good idea of which songs get played the most. Here is the current list of the 100 most played songs in my collection, with analysis to follow.

First 50 Most Played Songs:

Have I Told You Lately (Vegas)(Live), Van Morrison ★★★★
Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)(Live), Van Morrison ★★★★★
In The Midnight (Live), Van Morrison ★★★
Bright Side Of The Road (Live), Van Morrison ★★★★
All My Loving, The Beatles ★★★★★
I’m Happy Just To Dance With You, The Beatles ★★★★
For Once In My Life, Stevie Wonder ★★★★★
Tighter, Tighter, Alive And Kicking ★★★
Make You Crazy, Brett Dennen ★★★★
Off The Wall, Michael Jackson ★★★★★

The Devil & Me, BR5-49 ★★
The Road To Gila Bend, Los Lobos ★★★★
Everybody Knows, Ryan Adams ★★★★
Someday Baby, Bob Dylan ★★★
One Time, One Night (Live), Los Lobos ★★★★★
Got To Move, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Gentle On My Mind, Glen Campbell ★★★★★
Whining Boy Moan (Live), Van Morrison ★★★
I’m A Loser (Live), The Beatles ★★★★
Since She Started The Ride, Jonathan Richman ★★★

My Maria, B.W. Stevenson ★★★★
Catch My Disease, Ben Lee ★★★
Deathly, Aimee Mann ★★★★★
Work To Do, The Isley Brothers ★★★★
Call Me The Breeze, J.J. Cale ★★★★★
Only In America, The Drifters ★★★★
Everywhere I Go, Eilen Jewell ★★★
Victoria, The Kinks ★★★★
Hope Of Deliverance, Paul McCartney ★★★★
Runnin’ Wild, Sidney Bechet ★★★★★

And The Healing Has Begun (Live), Van Morrison ★★★
Like A Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan ★★★★★
1234, Feist ★★★
The Dark End Of The Street, James Carr ★★★★
Sea Of Heartbreak, Don Gibson ★★★★
Side Of The Road, Lucinda Williams ★★★★★
The Afterlife (Live), Paul Simon ★★★★★
Little Village (Live), Van Morrison ★★★
Jackpot, The Derailers ★★★
Somewhere In Time, Los Lobos ★★★

Uptight (Everything’s Alright), Stevie Wonder ★★★★★
Midnight Rider (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ★★★★
Loan Me A Dime, Boz Scaggs ★★★★★
Let It Rain, Eric Clapton ★★★★
I Wan’na Be Like You, Louis Prima & Phil Harris ★★★★★
Multiplication, Eric Gale ★★★
I Know You Rider (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Everlasting Love, Robert Knight ★★★★★
Sweet City Woman, The Stampeders ★★★
Duquesne Whistle, Bob Dylan ★★★★

Second 50 Most Played Songs

Soul Limbo, Booker T. & The MG’s ★★★★★
That Summer Feeling, Jonathan Richman ★★★
Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears For Fears ★★★★★
Hey Jude, Wilson Pickett ★★★★
Brian Wilson, Barenaked Ladies ★★★★
My Back Pages, The Byrds ★★★★
Can’t Do A Thing (To Stop Me), Chris Isaak ★★★★
Crowded In The Wings, The Jayhawks ★★★
Precious Time, Van Morrison ★★★
Girl From The North Country (Alt), Bob Dylan (With Johnny Cash) ★★★★

Every Night, Paul McCartney ★★★★
Just Like A Woman, Bob Dylan ★★★★★
Saint Behind The Glass (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Good Morning Aztlan, Los Lobos ★★★★
Start Again, Teenage Fanclub ★★★★
How Long, Ace ★★★★
One Way Out (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ★★★★
I Loved Another Woman, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
A.B.C., Jackson 5 ★★★★
You Didn’t Have To Be so Nice, Lovin’ Spoonful ★★★★

Pineola (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★★
Roll Over Beethoven, Chuck Berry ★★★★★
Long Grey Mare, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Found Out About You, Gin Blossoms ★★★★
Solitary Man, Neil Diamond ★★★★★
Brown Eyed Girl (Live), Van Morrison ★★★
The Weight, The Band ★★★★★
As Hard As It Is, Fine Young Cannibals ★★★★
Bertha (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Still I Long For Your Kiss, Lucinda Williams ★★★★★

Love In A Trashcan, The Raveonettes ★★★
Bend Me Shape Me, American Breed ★★★★
Only The Good Die Young, Billy Joel ★★★★
Nadine (Is It You?), Chcuk Berry ★★★★
Bring It Up (Live), James Brown ★★★
Let Yourself Go (Live), James Brown ★★★★
Today Is Mine, Jerry Reed ★★
Bad, Michael Jackson ★★★★
Somebody Cares For Me, Nick Lowe ★★★
Late In the Evening, Paul Simon ★★★★

I’m Movin’ On, Ray Charles ★★★★
How Do I Let A Good Man Down?, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings ★★★
Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, Steam ★★★★
Raincheck, Van Morrison ★★★
Blue Sky, The Allman Brothers Band ★★★★★
I Fought the Law, Bobby Fuller Four ★★★★
Crying, Waiting, Hoping, Buddy Holly ★★★
Backwards Walk, Frightened Rabbit ★★★
New Kind Of Neighborhood, Jonathan Richman ★★★
Smile, Lily Allen ★★★

I tend to “wear a song out” when a good one comes along, so many of these are ones I found over the last ten years, played a lot, and now I don’t listen to them much anymore. Far more impressive are the famous songs that made the list. Those are among my all-time favorites. The top four songs on the list are Van Morrison concert performances that I acquired in recent years, and their newness influenced the number of plays, though “Jackie Wilson Said (Live)” in the #2 spot is an all-time favorite. The up-tempo “Vegas” version of “Have I Told You Lately (Live)” provided spiritual sustenance for a couple years solid. It has 130 plays logged in the collection, though the total number of plays must be closer to 200. However, it eventually lust its luster, and no longer sounded like an all-time favorite, hence the downgrade to four stars. In my experience, a hot new song sounds great about the first 50-100 times, and then slowly begins to lose its appeal. Or it doesn’t, and becomes a favorite for life. They are such a gift. Most five star songs in my collection did not instantly become a favorite song. They grow on me over time.

According to the library, I just listened to Lily Allen’s “Smile”, the 100th most played song, for the 27th time. Hot dance beat from 2006 with a killer opening phrase: “When you first left me I was wanting more, but you were fucking that girl next door, what’cha do that for?”

The list looks some kind of alternate pop music universe, not unlike an AM/FM radio show, but with different choices from a broader cross section. In the wintertime, I use the iPod to power me through gym workouts, so many of these songs are upbeat dance numbers that excite and propel me. If I ever try being a local disk jockey again, I think I shall try to design a musical format that features these types of alternate pop music, with passages of jazz and instrumental music inbetween. I think the simple messages conveyed by songs with words will have greater weight when delivered in smaller doses.

The Most Popular Posts

Finally, here is a list of the most popular artist profiles:

37. Sidney Bechet (777 views)
74. The Crusaders (722)
30. The Kinks (528)
68. David Grisman & Jerry Garcia (447)
58. Sam Cooke (442)
61. Django Reinhardt (Quintet of the Hot Club of France) (386)
59. Artie Shaw (288)
9. Elvis Presley (259)
72. Janis Joplin (Big Brother & The Holding Company) (238)
39. Chris Isaak (222)
14. Ray Charles (193)
84. Bill Monroe (& His Bluegrass Boys) (171)
23. The Allman Brothers Band (162)
69. Miles Davis (120)
42. Randy Newman (111)
75. Louis Armstrong (109)
82. Marvin Gaye (104)
24. Stevie Wonder (Stevland Morris) (100)

In addition, the home pages and introductory pages are also commonly viewed, along with a heartfelt post about Raphael Saadiq’s “Love That Girl” during a lonely trip to the desert in early 2009.

The number of hits the blog receives is far from impressive. I like it that way; no need to publicize at this point. I hope you enjoy it. In the meantime, I’m busy building a broad, solid collection of music. It’s getting better all the time.

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