Players seem to be different about this but most I am familiar with sort the way your Rio does. Many home audio (DVD, etc.) players sort alphabetically regardless (within a folder, if you wrote the MP3 CD-R that way) no matter what the track number is. THis means albums all play in alphabetical order rather than in track order. This is common on simpler CD/DVD players that play MP3s. Some of these you can "trick" by adding a track number to the tile--ie 01 Ma Ma Bell--ELO . Then they play in alpha-numeric order, so you can retain the album ordering.
Purpose of the "year"? They include many fields in a tag often enough so you can search and sort by various criteria. Say you wan't a '70s theme for something--then sort by year and pick them out. You can really fool around with stuff like this in Windows Media Player, creating playlists, auto playlists, etc..