All reviews follow a standard format:
Artist Name (Country/Second country [if applicable]/and so on): Album Title (Label catalogue number, format if not LP, any extra packaging, country [if different from artist’s country], year of release)
Musical style/Second musical style [if applicable]/and so on
First female musician (contribution), Second female musician [if applicable] (contribution), and so on
The artist name is exactly as stated on the album, with any errors corrected.
The country of origin is where the artist was born, as opposed to her or his official nationality or country of residence. All countries are given the name they held at the time the album was released (so for example, East Germany and West Germany merge to form Germany for all albums released from 1991 onwards). Where a band was multinational, all the countries of origin will be listed.
The album title will be given as listed on the label and sleeve. Where the label, sleeve and spine contradict one another, I will make a judgment.
The label and catalogue number will be the first release, with a hierarchy of formats, as follows: hi-res format (SACD, SHM-CD, Blu-Spec CD, etc.) > CD > LP > cassette > any other physical format (minidisc or whatever) > download. I recognise that many collectors buy their music on vinyl, but CD tends to be my format of choice for new releases. (In addition, many modern metal albums are released in a confusing array of different vinyl colours, so chronicling them would be a nightmare.) Where an album received a simultaneous multinational release, I will choose the release from the country in which the band was based or from where most of its members hailed. Where one first pressing of an album features more tracks than another, I will always list the most comprehensive first issue (irrespective of the format and the country of issue).
Next, I list the album's musical style. Many albums cross genres and hence have a number of styles listed. I do not use specialist terminology here, but will include terms such as ‘Canterbury’ (a playful form of jazz/rock that evolved in the city of that name), ‘zeuhl’ (a unique style of rock, classical and jazz fusion pioneered by the groundbreaking band Magma) and ‘RIO’ (Rock In Opposition, an experimental form of jazz/rock, often with Brechtian song styles and left-wing lyrics) within album descriptions.
Finally, before the review itself I list the female musician(s) involved and the contribution made. All instrumentation is listed in a standard order: vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, percussion, then anything else. ‘Lead vocals’ means the musician concerned sings all the lead vocals on the album; ‘principal vocals’ means around two-thirds or upwards (sometimes everything except a verse or two on one song); ‘joint lead vocals’ means anything between 20% and two-thirds of the lead vocals; and ‘occasional vocals’ means less than 20% of the vocal leads (very often, one song, although it could also mean only part of a song).
All reviews end with a grade: the system is explained below.
After each entry for an artist or band, there may be a comment beginning ‘See also…’. This indicates other bands or projects involving the same female musician(s). In some cases, these will lead to other reviews; in other cases, they lead nowhere, as I have not yet reviewed the albums in question. These are not hyperlinks, so you will need to check the sections concerned manually.
Every review ends with a grade, theoretically between A+ and E– (though grades at the extremes are uncommon and most albums fall somewhere between B and C). My interpretation of the grades is as follows:
An A+ is among the dozen-or-so greatest albums I own.
An A is an unalloyed classic of rock music, with few if any weak moments.
An A– is also a timeless classic, but will contain the odd cut that is good rather than great (or occasionally even mediocre rather than good).
A B+ is mostly excellent and sometimes really stupendous.
A B is a genuinely excellent album: a superb example of its genre or era. These are records that all serious collectors of the style should hear.
A B– is a very good LP. These albums are too derivative, too unassuming or too inconsistent to be considered among the all-time greats, but are still fine examples of their style. A B– should be considered a compliment for any record.
A C+ is a pleasant listen: an album I enjoyed my time with, but which isn't hugely distinctive or original. If a C+ album contains several truly great tracks, these will be counterbalanced by a similar amount of filler. More than half the LPs I've reviewed have been graded C+, and these records should be of interest to those who love a particular artist or genre.
A C is a mediocre album: nothing unlistenable or offensive, but not a disc I'd go out of my way to hear again, given that there's so much more interesting music out there.
A C– is below average, verging on poor; however it will still have some merit.
A D+ is mostly dull and uninvolving, but will contain one or two tracks that work better.
A D is an album that I found tedious or uninteresting; some albums at this grade may also be quite incompetent.
A D– is mostly dull and sometimes even worse.
An E+ is mainly execrable, but will contain one or two songs of merit that may sound as though they belong on a different record entirely.
An E is a wretched piece of work: often a cynical cash-in by a once-talented artist making a bid for the commercial mainstream.
An E– is the equivalent of aural torture, either because it falls into a style that I hate or because it offers the unusual combination of being boring, cynical and inept.