What's the LATEST Book You've Read? MUSIC-RELATED ONLY!


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I'm usually disappointed by memoirs and bios, but these reviews--the last one, especially (which says more about the bio's subject, and says it well, than about the book itself)--almost have me wanting to get Sly Stone's memoir, written with Ben Greenman:
Ellen Willis (1941-2006), Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis On Rock Music (U of Minnesota Press, 2011).

This is essential reading for anybody interested in the history of rock criticism, an arena where Willis--one of the founders of the genre--usually gets upstaged by her male peers (Christgau, Marsh, Bangs, etc.). It collects almost all of Willis's music writing for The New Yorker, where she was hired after her brilliant 1967 debut, a self-published essay on Dylan in the forgotten/short-lived magazine Cheetah, and it throws in a few other important pieces, too. (After seven years at The New Yorker, she went on to work at the Village Voice and Rolling Stone, to write on a host of other subjects, and to found the program in Cultural Reporting and Criticism at NYU.) I like Willis as a sociologist, a political theorist, and a cultural critic more than I like her taste in music: her personal icons--Dylan, Joplin, the Stones, the Who, the Dolls--aren't mine. But she writes unapologetically as a fan--a deeply engaged, self-aware, skeptical, politically astute fan--and these short essays are all gems worth studying and coming back to.

Thank you so very much for ALL of your posts. On the strength of this one, i scored a copy of Out of the Vinyl Deeps and devoured it on my recent flights to and from Phoenix! Essential, indeed!
Michelle Mercer, Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell's Blue Period (Free Press, 2009). I didn't like this as much as I hoped I would. I like Mercer a lot--I subscribe to her Substack, and I've found her recent pieces there really incisive--but maybe her strength is short-form stuff, or maybe she's become a better writer over the past 15 years. Or maybe I'm hypercritical and/or I expect too much from biography. Anyway, I didn't find the critical insight I was looking for--musical, lyrical, or cultural. That said: even here Mercer is a discerning fan who knows how to leaven her passion with distance. And winning Joni's trust long enough to write a deep dive based on extensive firsthand interviews must have been no mean feat. (At least Mercer doesn't seem to have been wounded by the experience in the way that, say, David Yaffe was.) Not without merit, then. The final chapter on Hejira is the strongest, I thought.

Mercer also has a well-regarded bio of Wayne Shorter that I want to check out next.
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Or maybe I'm hypercritical and/or I expect too much from biography.
With the many different ways a writer can can go with a music biography, I can imagine how tough it is to satisfy all readers.

I’m struggling through an artist biography now... parts I love and think are very insightful, and parts where I simply have to skip pages when it goes into areas I have no interest to know that deeply.
I’m currently reading the Moby Grape story, “ What’s Big and Purple and Lives in the Ocean”. After that, this baby:
Other recent and recommended reads;

"Fire And Rain - The Beatles/Simon & Garfunkel/James Taylor/CSNY and the Lost Story of 1970" Rolling Stone journalist David Browne threads together some very interesting connections, both personal and professional, between these artists & others during a watershed year for music. A compelling read.
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"Me, The Mob And The Music - A Helluva Ride with Tommy James and the Shondells" A great look into the career of Tommy James and his sometimes funny but mostly terrifying relationship with his label (Roulette) owner, Morris Levy - a notorious East Coast mobster who also ran the Strawberry's chain and was the inspiration for the character "Hesh" on The Sopranos - you can't make up stuff like this - it would make a great movie (or cable series).
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The Tommy James book will open your eyes to the music business. At least back in the 60's in New York. Talk about pressure to come up with a hit record? Hit or face the mob.
The Tommy James book will open your eyes to the music business. At least back in the 60's in New York. Talk about pressure to come up with a hit record? Hit or face the mob.
Ordered the Tommy James based on your comments. Looking forward to it. Then, ordered this one by Al Kooper while I was at it.
I did it! I finally finished this 1000+ page monster. I can related to the subtitle... Anguish and Triumph.

This felt like two books... a biography of Beethoven and a rather deep analysis on a number of his works. While not totally ignorant on music, I was more interested in his life than key changes in his music and all other details that made it almost read like a textbook.

Here’s a sample:

The final chord of the second movement places G-sharp on the top in strings. The piano picks up that note and turns it back into A-flat to begin what will be a lilting and playful rondo, despite the C minor. Again the piano leads the symphonic dialogue; we hear echoes of the first movement in dotted rhythms, down-striding figures, uprushing scales from the soloist. A couple of times, the piano interrupts with mini-cadenzas before the middle section in A-flat major—the starring note now with its own key. As a kind of musical pun, Beethoven turns the A-flat back into G-sharp and on that pivot thrusts us for a moment into E major, the key of the slow movement, and for that moment the music recalls that movement. In the expansive coda, the 2/4 main theme is transformed into a presto 6/8, driving to the end in C-major high spirits. The main feature of this new incarnation of the rondo theme is a wry flip on G-sharp–A, the last disguise of the leading pitch, finally resolving into C major.

That’s great info if I’m reading to deeply understand specific pieces. But I really just wanted the “life” part of his story. That part of the book was very enjoyable.

But after trying to initially power through page after page of what I quoted above, I decided life is too short and started skipping big chunks. I wish the analysis had been at the end of the book where it would be separate and easier to refer to if it was easily broken down by works.

Next music book will be a lot more fun and less of a chore.

The University of Texas Press has become kind of a powerhouse for book-length critical writing on rock and pop; they published Alex Pappademas and Joan LeMay's amazing Steely Dan book, Quantum Criminals, and they have a "Why __ Matters" series that's at 13 titles and growing. Their holiday sale, which runs through January 31, starts today: 40% off all print titles, 50% off ebooks, free shipping on orders over $75. Use code UTXGIFTS.

Geesus. Holy effin.................
My Effin Life. Geddy Lee. A powerful book that I HIGHLY recommend.

And if you have read this book - or even not - here is a 38 minute interview - an incredible and powerful interview - that talks about the book and then
focuses on the passing of Neil Peart. I have ALWAYS had the utmost respect for Geds. This video had me shed a tear for the upstanding man that Geds truly is, and as he himself sheds a tear or two in the interview. Carve out 38 minutes to watch this

here is the vid

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