Saturday, February 27, 2016

Something Good

At last, something good to talk about. Let's start with the FAQs.
PINK FLOYD FAQS (by Stuart Shea, 2009) and THE WHO FAQS (by Mike Segretto, 2014) are two in a series of 30+ 300-to-350-page books published by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard, in which writers try to tell you more about your faves than a mildly interested fan would already know.
If you're a rabid fan, you might not find all that much new here. So the secret then is to do the job with a little style and a sense of humor. Shea and Segretto have both.
Shea does a great, detailed job -- in part because he admits up-front that he's not the world's biggest Pink Floyd fan. He thinks their post-Roger Waters studio albums are no big deal, and their albums before DARK SIDE OF THE MOON are criminally overlooked by most so-called fans. I'm OK with that.
Shea also has little use for Floyd tracks like "The Great Gig in the Sky," "The Final Cut," "One of My Turns" and "The Trial" -- some of my favorite Floyd songs ever. I'm OK with that, too.
Because one of the ways Shea Does The Job is to point out the overlooked stuff -- in fact he has several lists of great overlooked tracks that a sometime-fan like me should look into -- all from Floyd albums before DARK SIDE.
Shea thinks there's a ton of great stuff hidden away on the Floyd's early movie soundtracks. He also thinks there's a fair share of hideous garbage on MEDDLE and ATOM HEART MOTHER and UMMAGUMMA. Pointing those awful tracks out makes for good comedy.
Segretto points out lots of great lost Who songs, too -- it was especially nice seeing "Zelda" and "Melancholia" mentioned. You can hear excellent demos of those songs on Pete Townshend's SCOOP.
And I am loving the long lists of great forgotten gems from the '60s and '70s, best Who solo albums, etc.
Overall, both books are good solid value for the money, if you're a fan of either band.
ROCK CHRONICLES (Second Edition, 2015, general editor David Roberts) is a sort of triumph of design and layout, in which a couple dozen contributors give you short histories of 250 top rock acts -- accompanied by beautifully-reproduced photos, band-membership timelines, mugshot photos of the most important members, etc. You probably don't want to see pictures of some of these folks -- look anyway. Rock and roll is a hard road.
This is definitely a ROCK encyclopedia -- it starts with AC/DC. Abba ain't in here. Which makes it a mystery when A-Ha turns up a few pages later. I assume Elton John and Paul McCartney were too big to ignore. So why no Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Janet Jackson? If this isn't a "pop" encyclo, fine, but they should have said so. I don't get what their dividing-line is.
I could bitch a lot about who they left out, so let me bitch some more: Soft Machine, Can, Magma and Popol Vuh are all in here. So why not Gong? Or Amon Duul II? Richard Pinhas? There are also Japanese and Chinese bands here I'll bet no one in the States has ever heard of.
To get a little more obvious -- why isn't Joan Jett in here? Also not included: John Mellencamp, Bonnie Raitt, The Rascals, Janis Joplin, Rod Stewart (he was a rocker for awhile, here only mentioned while he was with Faces), Sly and the Family Stone.... You see what I mean about not knowing where their cut-off is?  
Iron Butterfly hasn't released an album since 1976, so why are they in here? Why Moby Grape and not It's a Beautiful Day?
There are sometimes TOO MANY photos of the bands performing or backstage -- do we really need double-page spreads on Kiss, Alice Cooper, AC/DC, Guns 'n' Roses, Black Sabbath, Scorpions, etc., when the editors could have fit in more band bios?
I don't know if I learned much new, but the book looks very good and it reads smoothly. The band histories -- though brief -- are detailed and accurate. This is a pretty good place to start, if you want to learn more about any of these folks.
There are occasional typos here and there. The only "major" error I found was the mugshot photos were shuffled-up in the entry on Men at Work.

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