At least I got this cheap. Goodwill's a really good source for cheap rock and roll books.
VH1's 100 GREATEST ALBUMS (2003), edited by Jacob Hoye, is a little CD-sized gift book published for Hallmark by Pocket Books. Inside you'll find essays on what are supposedly the 100 greatest rock albums ever, which VH1 compiled by polling musicians, rock critics, etc.
After ROLLING STONE's various shots at creating an "All-Time Best" list, VH1 probably felt they had to do this. They probably made an hour-long TV show out of it, too. Or a mini-series.
Pretty much what you'll find in this book are The Usual Suspects that you run into in any kind of list like this -- REVOLVER, PET SOUNDS, SGT. PEPPER, WHITE ALBUM, ABBEY ROAD, BLONDE ON BLONDE, HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED, BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME, WHO'S NEXT, JOSHUA TREE, NEVERMIND, RUMOURS, DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, RUBBER SOUL, EXILE ON MAIN STREET, ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?, BEGGARS BANQUET, LET IT BLEED, STICKY FINGERS, ZIGGY STARDUST, WHAT'S GOING ON, etc etc. etc.
Wow, that's 21 albums already. You could probably come up with a "100 Best" list off the top of your head.
First thing that jumped out at me is that LED ZEPPELIN 4 isn't here. Which is strange, because 1 and 2 and PHYSICAL GRAFFITI are.
The second thing is that I didn't learn much. Most of these albums have been written about SO often that it's difficult to bring anything new to them.
In many ways, the best essay in the book is editor Hoye's introduction, where he talks about hearing ABBEY ROAD as a 5-year-old -- and how it sounded to him like a child's wonderland. Who wouldn't want to go with Ringo to the Octopus's Garden?
And though many of these are life-changing albums, few of the writers write like their lives were changed. They just aren't that enthusiastic.
There are other signs of a lack of enthusiasm. Musicians' names are spelled wrong, or spelled differently the second time they're mentioned. The punctuation and grammar aren't always real solid. This might have been a rush-job.
There is too much Eagles/James Taylor/Carole King/Joni Mitchell/'70s California rock included. But it could have been worse -- at least there's no Jackson Browne. Or Linda Ronstadt. Neil Young isn't here -- except as a member of CSNY on DEJA VU.
It was nice to see The Pretenders' first album here -- a record that really did change my life. And I would have been surprised if PET SOUNDS wasn't here. But only a couple of the other records that changed my life are here.
The best line in the book, the one that gets closest to why anyone would buy and read a book like this, comes from Mac Randall. Writing about BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME, he says: "What a song means doesn't matter much. What matters is that it makes you feel."
If you're a real beginner, this is an OK place to start. If you've been around for awhile, you're not gonna learn much new from this.
I don't think a book like this is very USEFUL. It's not even authoritative -- too many minor errors.
A useful book would be a list of the 100 WORST rock albums ever -- like a warning to stay away or else risk your sanity. Somebody should write a book like that.
Maybe even me.
COMING NEXT: Phil Spector -- Talented, or just a piece of shit?