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Struggling with Dowland


I can't remember now how I discovered John Dowland but I suspect it was as a result of buying a CD of works by Weelkes1. Anyway Amazon had John Dowland's "Collected Works" by The Consort of Musicke available as a 12 CD set. It wasn't cheap mind you. The price seemed to drift up and down. I see it's £67.39 today. So I sat on my hands.

Dowland: The Collected Works Then one day I was on Amazon and I saw one of their partners had it one sale for £29.90 so I was on it like a shot. Time passed. It didn't arrive. In the end I had to get a refund.2

So by now I was annoyed, not least as I'd told my parents I'd spent part of the cheque they'd given me for my birthday on this set of CDs. In the end I bit the bullet and bought the MP3s from Amazon.

This is not something I'd normally do to be honest as I prefer to rip my own MP3s for the Squeezebox Server but at least this way I got the music (and it wasn't that much more expensive at £36.99).

If only it was that simple.

The first, and most fundamental problem, was that Amazon had decided in their wisdom to set some rather odd ID3 v2 tags. This meant that all 282 tracks appeared to be on one album rather than 12. So I had to write a script to:

  1. Rename the files to get rid of the high bit characters and spaces in the file names (bloody Windows users)
  2. Strip out some ID3 v2 tags which were confusing the Squeezebox Server
  3. Rewrite the title tag (TALB) so that the Squeezebox Server knew to break the tracks into 12 albums
  4. Manually rename the 12 albums with their contents

All of this was done over multiple iterations and several passes when I've felt up to it. Testing each time meant getting the Squeezebox Server to rescan our MP3 library and, as we've got 5515 files in there, that takes a while.

It was also not helped by a weird bug where if I used id3v2 to change any ID3 v2 tag it apparently made all the other tags look corrupt to Squeezebox Server, but not to id3v2. In the end I switched to eyeD3 which didn't exhibit this behaviour and finally today I've succeeded in breaking up the collection into 12 albums and I can listen to it without having to commit to listen to all 282 tracks at once.

So what's the moral to this tale: well largely that Amazon MP3 downloads are a bit sucky in their ID3 tagging if you're using a Squeezebox Server3.

Oh yes, and John Dowland: very fine indeed. Check out the samples on Amazon.

  1. Which is very fine incidentally, and has the added spice that Weelkes was, judging by Wikipedia, a bit of a character.
  2. This was the third item ordered via Amazon and despatched here via Royal Mail that got lost in the post over the summer period, the first two were from Amazon themselves. Very unusual: our post here is normally very reliable. I don't know if Amazon contacted Royal Mail but I did. I've not heard anything back since.
  3. Which reminds me: during the course of sorting this mess out I also discovered why my "Elvis 30 #1 Hits" album( which was another download, it was on special offer) was filed by Squeezebox Server under "Various Artists" (two tracks had a TPE1 of Elvis and someone else). It turns out that the key setting is that in "My Music" under "Compilation " you need to check "Treat TPE2 MP3 tag as Album Artist".

Tags: linux, music Written 20/10/12

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