Online Database Aids Music Search

Questions for music lovers: 1) Have you been racking your brain trying to remember who recorded Ruby Vroom? 2) Do you know how many Tim Hardin recordings are available on CD? 3) Which album featured Head East's "Never Been Any Reason," considered by some connoisseurs the greatest rock song ever?

Answers: 1) Soul Coughing. 2) 22. 3) Flat as a Pancake. If you knew these off the top of your head, you probably don't need an online database. If you didn't, you might want to click over to cddb.com and do a little exploring. CDnow, which bills itself as the "World's Largest Music Store," ties into this amazingly extensive database. Curious as to how many CDs feature works by Niccolo Paganini? Just type in his name and hit "enter"---up pops a list of over 300 discs. Ever ask yourself how many versions of "Muskrat Ramble" are available on CD? Probably not, but the database yeilded an astounding 102 entries. (Like all search engines, cddb's is totally intolerant of typos and spelling errors. If you don't know how to spell what you're looking for, you may be out of luck.)

Obscure performers are easily found, provided their recordings have been transferred to CD. For example, Barbara Dane, an almost-unknown '60s folk singer whose albums have never been released on CD, can be found on two "Various Artists" compilations simply by entering her name. Both of them are available through CDnow, one featuring her disturbing version of "Trouble in Mind." Hardin, the grizzled troubadour and mostly forgotten songwriter who wrote "Reason to Believe," one of Rod Stewart's biggest hits, produced a surprising volume of work---a fact not apparent when browsing the bins of even the largest brick-and-mortar music store.

Not everything in print, of course, can be found in cddb. Enter "Terminal Cheesecake," and up pops the group's CD King of All Spaceheads, but not Pearlesque, King of the Jewmost. Such oversights are to be expected. Updating the massive database must be a full-time job. Of course, all the discs in the database can be ordered online.

Of further interest to music fans are 20 varieties of downloadable freeware and shareware programs for managing CD collections. Most, like Audiofile 3.2, reviewed by Dan Buckley in the March issue of Stereophile, will help you organize and cross-reference every disc in your collection---by artist, label, album name, song title, band members. Some have other fields---theme or subject, for examples---that can aid your organizational efforts.

There is also CD-player software to enhance the music-playing performance of computers equipped with CD-ROM drives and sound cards.

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