Maxim director says reviews were actually previews, apologizes to bands

Thursday, February 28, 2008

NEW YORK -- Facing more criticism over rating albums without listening to them, Maxim magazine now says it was previewing CDs in its March issue, not reviewing them.

Maxim editorial director James Kaminsky said Wednesday the magazine had erred in treating unreleased albums by the Black Crowes and Nas as reviews and judging them with star ratings.

"This is a mistake," Kaminsky said. "It's a mistake that won't happen again, but it's not a mistake that appears in other parts of [the magazine[']s entertainment section]. ... There should be no blurry line between what's a preview and what's a review."

The fiasco started last week when the Crowes posted a statement on their Web site lashing out at Maxim for publishing a negative review of their new album "Warpaint" by a writer who hadn't listened to the full disc. The assessment said: "They sound pretty much like they always have: boozy, competent, and in slavish debt to the Stones, the Allmans, and the Faces."

The band said such a verdict -- two-and-a-half stars out of five -- was impossible because advance copies of the CD, out next Tuesday, weren't made available.

Kaminsky issued a statement apologizing to readers for the review and wavering from the magazine's policy of only rating albums that have been heard in their entirety.

Tuesday's mea culpa wasn't enough for the Crowes' manager, Pete Angelus, who later responded that Maxim was doing "self-serving damage control."

"It comes as no surprise that Maxim has elected to apologize to their readers now that the world has been informed of their deception; however, that is not full accountability," Angelus said Tuesday.

Wednesday, Kaminsky officially apologized to the Crowes -- and again, to the readers. He said that to his knowledge, this was the first time Maxim had rated an album in a preview, under the heading "Playlist."

"We have often run previews, which are based on the fact that an album is coming out ... but (those in the March issue) should not have had star ratings attached to (them)," he said. "There was a bit of a breakdown that led to that happening and I'm looking into it and, as I've said, we've already put measures in place to ensure that that will not happen again."

Rapper Nas told Wednesday's New York Post that he was surprised that Maxim had given his unfinished album a 2 1/2 star review. His representative said it has not been played for anyone, but the "preview" in Maxim described some of the music as "downright radio friendly."

Jason Fine, executive editor of Rolling Stone magazine, said its magazine reviewed the Crowes' "Warpaint" only after listening to it: "We never review a record without hearing the whole thing."

Fine said magazines are hitting roadblocks nowadays since full albums are being held from reviewers because of piracy concerns.

"It's becoming more and more difficult for publications ... to review records because the big records are the most difficult ones to get," he said. "The record labels are increasingly worries about leaks."

Sean Fennessy, associate music editor for Vibe magazine, agreed. Fennessy said Vibe reviewers often attend label-run listening sessions to hear an unreleased album.

The Associated Press does not plan to review the Crowes' disc because it is not being provided prior to the release date.

"Warpaint" is the Black Crowes' first album in seven years. The blues-rock group, fronted by Chris Robinson, has released only one song from the disc, "Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution."

The band's hits include "Hard to Handle" and "She Talks to Angels."

As far as the Crowes' reaction to the controversy, Angelus told the AP on Wednesday: "They don't really read musical reviews. But of course they are very aware of this situation, and you know, they think it's highly unethical."


On the Net:

The Black Crowes:

http://www.blackcrowes.com/

Maxim:

http://www.maxim.com

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