Good news, bad news.
I brilliantly inspected material I was trying to sort and missed that, as a temporary fix, all of the "albums" share a common album name. That is the "sub-albums" become tracks in a super-album. Ddatws become irrelevant in that mess. Strike that part of the issue.
Now, good news, checking some other material, the list is ordered by year. Yea! The bad news is the sort is in descending order - newest first, oldest last. I looked in preferences, grouping/sorting. I tried year in ascending order and then checked a few artists whose albums definitely are dated by year only. No change.
Some days I have no idea about what I'm doing. Other days I wonder why I'm doing it.