Any Old Way You Choose It
Rolling Stone Raves: What Your Rock & Roll Favorites Favor
compiled by Anthony Bozza, edited by Shawn Dahl
Morrow, 400 pp., $30 (paper)
The latest in a never-ending quest to dumb down music, Rolling Stone marginalizes rock & roll even further in this ludicrous volume of hot air quotes from its mind-numbing "Raves" column. So many of the names within the book are such strong candidates for the next decade's where-are-they-now file that Rolling Stone should electronically ear-tag them now just to keep track. Think I exaggerate? Guess again. Where else will you get to read the likes of Lil' Kim yammering about how much she spends on Chanel clothes or the Cardigans' lead singer ruminate about touring? How about Axl Rose talking about wanting to see two women get it on? Thanks, Rolling Stone. Good to see the monster my subscription dollars helped create all those years ago.
In the Spirit: Conversations With the Spirit of Jerry Garcia
by Wendy Weir
Harmony Books, 288 pp., $24
A bit rashly and loudly, I swore in the offices I was not reviewing any Grateful Dead books this year. I am therefore compelled to avoid mentioning this book written by Bob Weir's sister, who talks to the Dead man enough to write a book.
London Live: From the Yardbirds to Pink Floyd to the Sex Pistols: The Inside Story of Live Bands in the Capital's Trail-Blazing Music Clubs
by Tony Bacon
Miller Freeman Books, 192 pp., $19.95 (paper)
As slender a volume as London Live is, it gets right to the heart of live music in England's capital. Its 192 pages are filled with engaging and informative text, splashy photos in color and black & white, and an exhaustive index of all the bands to play the famous Marquee from 1962 to 1979, a remarkable period of time. This particular way of micro-examining musical scenes is relatively new to non-academic audiences, but Bacon makes the time trip through London's influential pubs and venues thoroughly enjoyable.
Punk Rock: So What?: The Cultural Legacy of Punk
edited by Roger Sabin
Routledge, 240 pp., $22.99 (paper)
Editor-writer Roger Sabin collected essays from a number of British writers about the cultural legacy of punk for this academic publisher; it's not as dry as it sounds. Although most of the writers are unknown on these shores, their grasp of the American translation of punk is flawless, nailing its cultural as well as social genesis in a generation of TV babies. Surprisingly readable.
Dave Matthews Band: Music for the People
by Nevin Martell
Pocket Books, 168 pp., $14 (paper)
Did we mention slim volumes previously? This cover-the-bases book on the popular MTV band certainly loves its subject. Martell follows the DMB up the charts and across the country in their climb to success with enough journalistic integrity to keep the book from being too fawning. The only problem is that there isn't much of a story to tell here. DMB is a very decent, listenable band, but hardly a book.
They Can't Hide Us Anymore
by Richie Havens with Steve Davidowitz
Spike Books, 331 pp., $24
Although it would appear Richie Havens spun an entire career from the few minutes of fame he got in the film Woodstock back in 1969, he has written an engaging account of a well-spent life. From his childhood in the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant to Greenwich Village in the Sixties right through the environmental work and conservation efforts he dedicates himself to today, Havens comes off as dedicated, admirable, affable, and unassuming -- rare qualities indeed.
All About the Dixie Chicks
by Ace Collins
St Martin's Griffin, 192 pp., $9.99 (paper)
That the Dixie Chicks are such cutie-pies should not diminish their estimable talents as musicians and singers, and yet with every passing photo session and Candies ad they become more one-dimensional as performers. This fans-only tale peeks into the Grammy Award-winning trio's short life in the glare of the spotlight and offers little else of interest other than a lot of pictures of the girls' charming 100-watt smiles.
The Phish Book
by Richard Gehr and Phish
Villard, 192 pp., $20.95
The phenomenon known as Phish shares spiritual ... oops, wait. Phish = Grateful Dead Jr. Sorry, can't write about them, either.
Echoes of the Sixties
By Marti Smiley Childs and Jeff March
Billboard Books, 352 pp., $10.95 (paper)
That where-are-they-now file attracts a surprising amount of interest, mainly because of the one-hit wonders that fall into it. Echoes of the Sixties concentrates on a handful of bands and performers from the swinging decade by following up on as many members as possible. The results are uneven -- you frankly don't care about many of them -- but the concept is executed well and usually offers a uniquely full-circle look at the career of rock and pop stars from Country Joe and the Fish to the Angels.
The Encyclopedia of Record Producers
by Eric Olsen, Paul Verna, and Carlo Wolff
Billboard Books, 893 pp., $24.95 (paper)
"Do you know who producer Bob Johnston is?" asked my friend Harold. "He lives here now." The name was familiar, I told him casually, but said I'd look him up in this book. Holy moly. Johnston worked on some of the most incredible albums in rock history, with artists including Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, the Byrds, Aretha Franklin, and Moby Grape. Did I need more info? No, but there it was in this excellent reference of major producers from Tom Dowd to the Dust Brothers. Nice work, Bob.
Unbroken Circle: A Quotable History of the Grand Ole Opry
edited by Randall Bedwell
Cumberland House, 272 pp., $10.95 (paper)
"Roy Acuff said it would ruin the Opry forever. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard something like that." That's what Minnie Pearl said about Bob Wills' electric fiddles onstage at the Ryman Auditoriumx, and it's that sort of flat, down-home bluntness that makes this collection so much fun to read. Its cornpone wisdom beats the hell out of that Rolling Stone collection; you can just hear the drawls rolling off the pages.
Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Pop, and Rap
edited by Evelyn McDonnell and Ann Powers
Cooper Square, 496 pp., $16.95 (paper)
This hefty paperback reissue remains the definitive collection of women writing on music, but is just as wanting as it was the first time around. Co-editor Ann Powers may be the best of the ripening female critics, but the book needs more of her love of music. Maybe it's just because a definitive collection of female rock criticism is so desperately lacking that this book is a poor substitute, trading commentary for passion. But the writing styles vary wildly from academic to journalistic to first-person experience, and the writers range from bell hooks to Patricia Kennealy-Morrison to Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon. That scope of Rock She Wrote is where its strength and power lies, and until a better collection comes out, this one will have to do.