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Monday, Dec. 14, 2009

Clarence Clemons: Born to be fun?

Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales (Grand Central) is the first autobiography written by an E Street Band member. Remarkably, it’s by Clarence Clemons, not Little Steven or even Bruce Springsteen himself. Big Man has a foreword by the Boss, who says in bemused reference to the cover photo for his...
Monday, Oct. 5, 2009

An insightful history of recorded music

Greg Milner’s Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music (Faber & Faber) is a brilliantly researched and mindfully provoking text on the history of capturing sound. A genealogy of recorded music, it stimulates awareness of the evolution of recorded sound and how we have deployed it in our own lives. Perfecting Sound...
Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009

Author James E. Perone misses the mark

Purporting to be an analysis that places the British Invasion within musical as well as cultural contexts, with a special emphasis on exactly why certain British bands dominated the charts and how these artists influenced American music of the era, Mods, Rockers, andthe Music of the British Invasion (Praeger) is...
Monday, July 13, 2009

David Robertson explores the genre’s origins

W.C. Handy is called the "Father of the Blues," but what he fathered might have been something else again. W.C. Handy: The Life and Times of the Man Who Made theBlues (Knopf) grapples with the music's origins and definition. In a telling anecdote in this well-researched and -written book, rife with copious notes and cogent text, Mississippi bluesman Charlie Patton...
Monday, June 22, 2009

Barry Mazor documents this chameleon of authenticity

The period when Jimmie Rodgers changed American popular music was one of immense cultural and social upheaval. During his lifetime, he achieved prominence concomitantly with the rise of radio and moving pictures, the popularity of the phonograph and a huge interest in live entertainment by commoners with uncommon songs...
Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Out from under their thumb

At age 16 in 1978, Bill German began to steal time on his high-school mimeograph machine to produce the magazine Beggars Banquet-and for the subsequent 17 years, he kept at it...
Friday, April 3, 2009

The mania of collecting

Tony Bacon's intriguing book, Million Dollar Les Paul: In Search of the Most Valuable Guitar in the World (Jawbone Press), is based on the reality that one day a Les Paul will sell for a million. But the text is about much more than guitar collecting, exploring the players who made these guitars famous in ways nobody could have predicted. It is ultimately about a generation losing its collective peace of mind and winding up as collectors of...
Monday, March 23, 2009

Digital killed the musical star

Psychoacoustics is the study of how the brain perceives sound. One point of Steve Knopper's insightful Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age (Free Press) is that psychoacoustics also has to do with sounds the brain leaves out. As early as the 1930s, all sound transfer media were dedicated to cramming into their designs as little information as possible...
Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009

Book Review

This is the definitive text on Delta blues, impeccably researched and written. Ted Gioia shines an equal light on folklorists and artists, historians and critics, until they all cast a single, recognizable shadow upon the development of an idiom that has been dimmed through far too many texts that obscure actual origin and evolution. Much of the material has been covered in other books, but without Gioia's grasp of history. His superior scholarship becomes...
Monday, Dec. 1, 2008

Rediscovering a lost gem

During a recent interview regarding Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric (Simon & Schuster), a book that collects Bob Dylan's early-1960s writings inspired by Barry Feinstein's celebrity photographs, Dylan was asked, "Do you consider these poems?" He answered, "You'd probably have to ask some academician about that." In the introduction for Foto-Rhetoric, the wrong academic was queried. In the misleading and inaccurate essay prefacing the book, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins rightly declares that poetry is not...

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