Write Album Reviews? No Thanks

SKF NOTE: At some point, starting in 1980-1983, Modern Drummer magazine’s editorial staff decided the magazine needed record reviews.

Record companies, and drummers, were mailing us their new vinyl LP releases when MD wasn’t reviewing records. We might feature one notable album in one of our industry news columns, but we had no regular column dedicated to reviewing albums.

I remember moments of an editorial meeting in Founder/Publisher Ron Spagnardi’s office with Features Editor Rick Mattingly, Ron, and me.

Not one of us, as I recall, was excited. Writing positive reviews about albums we valued was easy.

Citing the old adage, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything,” I was not going to write negative reviews about albums. None of MD‘s editors wanted to write negative reviews. In the end we chose to write only brief, positive summaries of albums; with maybe 12 albums per column.

The whole business of ruling for or against someone’s music felt too subjective. How many times in my personal life had I dismissed music after one hearing, or with no hearing at all, only to reverse my opinion somewhere up the road?

All musics don’t speak the same to everyone. It doesn’t mean the music I don’t like deserves a public putdown.

Hearing is an art. Some music affects me immediately. Some music takes years and concerted effort to appreciate. Recently I listened again to music I was crazy about when it first came out in the 1960s. In 2021 or 2022 the music sounded dated.

For awhile I did co-write, and MD continued publishing, a record review column. But, it was soon no fun to write, and most certainly no fun to read. Writing and publishing only positive reviews grew boring.

My memory is the column died from lack of interest.

I do enjoy reading some music reviewers. The best of them know music well, have a respect for the music and musician(s) under review, and offer interesting analysis to their readers.

I can trade notes on albums all day with someone who has also heard the same albums. But, as for writing negative reviews about a musician’s album? I never had the stomach for it.

About Scott K Fish

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