Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Last Word (maybe....)

OK, 1 last bash: Will Romano's illustrated progressive-rock history MOUNTAINS COME OUT OF THE SKY is worth getting. It's worth keeping. In terms of the artwork & graphics & overall attractiveness of the package, it's the best coffee-table-style book 4 ooohing-&-aaahing-at that I've seen since Hipgnosis's WALK AWAY RENE & Roger Dean's VIEWS.
But I wish some1 had proofread the gol-darned thing. There R MANY proofreading/typesetting errors, some fairly major. Many words are mis-spelled ("scared" gets turned into "sacred"), at least 1 band member has his name mangled, 2 composers have their names messed-up, album titles R botched or mis-identified, many small words R left out ("and," "of," "in," "to," etc.), there R punctuation errors, & Romano doesn't help when his sentences go on&on trying 2 cram-in more data.
& then there's my favorite typo in the entire book, a reference 2 famous English science-fiction writer "H.G. Well," author of THE TIME MACHINE & WAR OF THE WORLDS. Well....
I hereby volunteer 2 proofread the next edition of this book. Romano has said in a discussion at that he may get a chance 2 update & Xpand this book at a later time (if it sells enuf copies, I assume), & I hope he gets the chance. & if you want somebody who will actually READ your book & catch the mistakes, Will, drop me a line....
& 2 prove this.... Well, I said I didn't want 2 nit-pick this book 2 death Bcos it's so much better than NE previous attempts 2 cover the same ground. But here's a list of positive & negative impressions I've picked-up from 3 weeks of reading this epic:
* An index (of band names, band members, song titles & album titles) would have helped immensely.
* Rush gets 15 detailed pages of history & analysis of their songs. Only King Crimson gets more. Not that Rush doesn't deserve it -- at this point they've probly sold more albums than anybody else in the book Xcept Pink Floyd. But it seems just a bit 2 much in a book that's only 245 pgs, especially when the entire "Canterbury scene" only gets 12 pgs total.
* There's LOTS of detail on Pink Floyd, Yes, ELP, Genesis, Crimson, Jethro Tull, Rush, & good histories on all. Crimson's 1st album gets 2 pgs of detailed analysis of its songs. There is MUCH less detail on some other bands. Some acts get their entire careers summed-up in 2 paragraphs (Nektar, Henry Cow). Can gets 4 paragraphs. Tangerine Dream gets 7 paragraphs. Kraftwerk & Neu! get mentioned, & that's all. Hawkwind is never mentioned in the text, tho they R mentioned in Romano's "Top 300" "essential prog-rock listens" at the end of the book.
* Romano has a big blind spot 4 prog's "poppier" side. The Moody Blues R ignored after DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED, Genesis is glossed over after 1977, Procol Harum is ignored after "Whiter Shade of Pale." Also ignored: later Camel, Supertramp, ELO. The Alan Parsons Project gets a "sidebar" write-up.
* The chapter on American prog profiles only Kansas & Styx. No mention of Happy the Man, Dixie Dregs, Utopia, Starcastle, Group 87, Glass Moon, Providence....
* Some of Jade Warrior's album artwork is used; they're not in the text.
* Some of Nektar's album-cover art is blown-up big 4 the Krautrock chapter -- they get 2 paragraphs at the end.
* Gryphon R briefly mentioned & their album-cover art is used, but their music isn't discussed.
* Fairport Convention gets more than a page. Pretty great folk-rock band. Was the Incredible String Band prog?
* 1 of Illusion's album covers is included, they get 2 paragraphs of history.
* Van der Graaf Generator is listed 3 times in the Top 300, & their music isn't discussed in the book. Romano has said at that VDGG's chapter was cut.
* Steve Howe & Steve Hackett's GTR is discussed in a late chapter on "commercializing prog" -- but tho Asia is mentioned, their music is never discussed ... tho Romano sez 1 of their songs was an inspiration 4 his book.
* Histories of the Strawbs, Tull, Gentle Giant, ELP, Genesis, Yes & Crimson R all solid & detailed. Camel's history is solid up til 1978 when the band got "poppy;" their proggy NUDE album is virtually ignored. Their STATIONARY TRAVELER album art is used, but the album isn't mentioned in the text; Romano notes their sound was moving closer to that of the Alan Parsons Project.
* Kevin Ayers is mentioned (as a member of Soft Machine), & 2 of his album covers R used, but his music isn't discussed.
* Mike Oldfield is basically ignored after TUBULAR BELLS. He's done many more albums since then, & at least a couple R worth hearing. But Oldfield also tried 2 go "poppy" in the late '70s....
* Curved Air is mentioned sevral times, but their music isn't discussed.
* Henry Cow is mentioned & they get 2 paragraphs of historical detail, but their music isn't discussed.
* Solo keyboardists R virtually ignored, other than Rick Wakeman. Basically overlooked in the text R the music of Patrick Moraz, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Synergy, Bo Hansson, Edgar Froese. Klaus Schulze gets a 6-paragraph sidebar in Krautrock.
* U.K. gets 3 detailed pgs, almost all about their 1st album.
* Kansas's history is better than the 1 included in their best-of box-set. The Strawbs' history is better than the 1 included in their HALCYON DAYS best-of.
* Included in the "Top 300" but not discussed in the text: Ethos, Cathedral, Jade Warrior, Gryphon, Magma, Procol Harum's SHINE ON BRIGHTLY, Utopia, Todd Rundgren, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Happy the Man, Amazing Blondel, Van der Graaf, Hawkwind, Family, Traffic, Stomu Yamash'ta, Mahavishnu Orch., Curved Air, Focus, Patrick Moraz, Uriah Heep, Saga, Wigwam, The Band's MUSIC FROM BIG PINK (under the rationale that The Band were doing in America what Fairport was doing in Britain, taking American folklore & melding it 2 rock&roll), Dixie Dregs, Kayak, Spooky Tooth with Pierre Henry, King's X, Hawkwind, Supertramp, Roxy Music, Be-Bop Deluxe, Jimi Hendrix's ELECTRIC LADYLAND, ELO, Queensryche, Captain Beefheart, The Enid, Bowie's LOW, Bo Hansson, Asia's AURA, Jean-Michel Jarre, Tool, Aphrodite's Child....


Perplexio said...

U.K. gets three pages?!?! I was underwhelmed by their debut. There was a general lack of chemistry on that album. The music was good but it didn't sound like a band-- it sounded like 4 individuals playing their instruments on the same songs. All 4 had/have great chops but there was no real sense of the guys playing off of each other. It came across rather sterile-- at lest to me.

TAD said...

Plex: Romano talks about this, about how the diffrent personalities clashed & pulled the band in diffrent directions. & drummer Bill Bruford sheds more lite on this in his AUTOBIOGRAPHY. I still thot the 1st UK album was pretty good (tho maybe as you say almost "too perfect," production-wise), the 2nd album had 2 good songs & was sorta a preview of Asia 2 me, & their live album was a waste. Worth a chapter in Romano's book, but not "Prog's Last Great Gasp" or whatever....
Thanx 4 commenting!