Most helpful critical review
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
One of those books you must skip to save your time.
on 13 November 2014
Arbitrary, uneven and unbalanced selection, and shallow comments that will teach you nothing. The Rolling Stone Magazine cohort and its disciples telling you what to listen to, and, by default, what music and artists to ignore. It would be nice if it was done with intellectual accuracy, but this is just a product, one destined to create opinion trends and to shape (or reaffirm) people's tastes without any artistic argument or any sense of historical significance. Buy it if you like the Rolling Stone magazine ways, trust the "best of" lists resulting from its nonsensical surveys, or think that the Grammy awards mean anything. Otherwise, read books by Ted Gioia, Charlie Gillett, Simon Frith, Peter Guralnick, Clinton Heylin and many other serious writers, read iconoclastic critics like Robert Christgau, use the All Music Guide site and Amazon's customers reviews as a loose reference when it comes to buy records, and listen, listen, listen ... Be curious, investigate, seek, and build your own musical background.
Editing on 16 November 2014:
I'm afraid of some people could think I'm just a hater, a troll ... or, who knows, a resentful musician ignored by the Rolling Stone Magazine. So, I just want to complement my review with some specific information.
I'm talking as someone who's been an engaged music listener since his early teens, back in the 1970's. I've got a pretty respectable collection of about 4000 records: roughly speaking I have 3200 albums between rock & pop, 400 blues' albums, and another 400 of jazz. Of course it doesn't make me the bearer of "the gospel truth" ( I'm very aware of the subjectivity factor ), but it does make me feel free to have one opinion or two about the relative value of many albums, and makes me also a bit less prone to be cheated by, let's say, "obscure marketing manoeuvres".
A book intended to be used as a listening guide will always be an imperfect one, no matter how well researched and written it be. A work like that should be considered just a very loose reference, a point of departure. However, the least we should demand to a work of that kind is a minimun of artistic rigour and historic perspective, for the book not to become a misleading one, instead of a rough guide.
Thus, I'll remark some facts regarding the book we're talking about.
1) These are a few examples of rock and pop (or vaguely related to those genres) artists who have been totally overlooked (0 album selected). All of them are first-rate artists, otherwise they're artists who at least have contributed some essential, landmark works, to the history of popular music:
Amon Düül II, Asian Dub Foundation, Bad Religion, Botch, J.J. Cale, Calexico, Terry Callier, Camel, Canned Heat, Caravan, Cluster, Bruce Cockburn, Converge, Crass, Karen Dalton, The Dead Boys, Ani Di Franco, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Dr Feelgood, Earth, Family, Robben Ford, Rory Gallagher, Gogol Bordello, Gong, Ben Harper, Roy Harper, Horslips, Humble Pie, Little Feat, Gordon Lightfoot, Guru Guru, Isis, Magma, Melvins, Mission of Burma, Morbid Angel, The Move, Neurosis, New Model Army, The Nice, Opeth, Oregon, Pink Fairies, Poco, Popol Vuh, Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM), Primus, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Russian Circles, Joe Satriani, Klaus Schulze, The Seeds, Shellac, Sleep, Steeleye Span, Steppenwolf, Strawbs, Swans, The Jesus Lizard, Tool, Warren Zevon ... and, not forgivable distraction ... Chuck Berry (what a calamitous beginning really).
2) There are many great artists of whom an excessive number of albums have been selected: David Bowie (8), Elvis Costello (6), Sonic Youth (5), Iggy Pop (4, 2 of them with The Stooges), Metallica (4), The Byrds (5) , P. J. Harvey (4), Nick Drake (3) ... I love all of them, however it's apparent to me that for a list of only 1001 entries, there are too many albums by the aforementioned artists. The question is: in case you listen to only 1001 albums, do you need 6 by Costello, 5 by The Byrds and 5 by Sonic Youth, seriously ?
3) On the other hand, artists with a massive and varied discography are very poorly represented: Lou Reed (2: Transformer and Berlin), Van Morrsion (3), Frank Zappa (3), Jethro Tull (1) ...
Also should deserve a much better description: The Allman Brothers (1), Jeff Beck (1), King Crimson (2) ...
However, we see The Pixies (3), My Bloody Valentine (3), Wilco (3), Blur (3), U2 (4) ... all of them have made great, or at least interesting albums (well, ahem, Wilco really not) but, let's say, ¿ Do we need 3 albums by My Bloody Valentine, really ? Not enough with "Loveless" ? Yet while we are missing Jeff Beck's "Blow by Blow", Allman Brothers' "Brothers and Sisters", Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Second Helping", or Lou Reed's "New York" ?
4) Besides that, the authors select a laughable little quantity of blues and jazz records (i.e. Muddy Waters (2), J.L. Hooker (1), B.B. King (1), T. Monk (1), Mingus (1) and Miles Davis (4)). I don't get the point. What about the rest of not less important and equally well known blues and jazz artists ? There are no albums by Ornette Coleman, Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, ...., Big Bill Broonzy, Albert Collins, Lightnin' Hopkins, Son House, Howlin'Wolf, Robert Johnson, Skip James, Elmore James, Albert King, Charley Patton, Otis Taylor, Stevie Ray Vaughan, T-Bone Walker, Sonny Boy Williamson I & II, Johnny Winter ...
5) More or less the same could be said about the selection of, for example, African and Brazilian artists. The book sticks to the three or four well-known names. Not even all of them. Where are Angelique Kidjo or Gilberto Gil, just to name two of the ignored ones ?. Still more: why not, just saying, Argentinian, Spanish or Italian artists then ?
6) Regarding the points 4 and 5, I can't help but thinking that by mentioning a few blues, jazz, African and Brazilian trite artist's names, the book pretends a supposed open-mindedness which is really a reaffirmation of the opposite. I mean, the misleading statement we could illustrate this way:
Q: What's worth listening to outside British and American rock and pop ?
A: Well, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Miles Davis, Youssou N'Dour, Elis Regina, ... and mostly that's all. Is there anything else out there ?
It woud have been much better to stick to the British and American rock and pop, make a fair selection under a honest artistic and historic perspective, and leave the other genres (blues, jazz, the so called "world music", etc.) to the writers who have a vast knowledge on those fields.
7) And finally, of course, maybe 40 % of the albums selected for the book aren't worth one second of your life. You can imagine the proper adjectives and related words, depending on each case: corporate, commercial, MTV, Rolling Stone's Poll, Grammy, hipster, snobbish, poser, void product, ersatz, fake, garbage, ...
According to this book you MUST listen to Hanoi Rocks, Culture Club, Human League, 10 cc, Meat Loaf, Abba, ABC, Travis, Cindy Lauper, The Slits, Robbie Williams, Pet Shop Boys, Alanis Morissette, The Go-Go's, Eminem, Bon Jovi, Slipknot, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Kanye West, Adele, Coldplay, Kid Rock, The Cardigans, The Fun Lovin' Criminals .... but you can rest in peace without having listened to Chuck Berry.
Draw your own conclusions. I might be completely wrong.