I recently picked up this new edition of the All Music Guide Required Listening for Classic Rock. For the most part, this is an interesting overview of most of the classic rock recordings from major (and not so major) artists that spans between the Beatles of the early 60's through some of the 80's. It will be of interest to any classic rock fan, but as with anything, there are always reasons to quibble. Although generally satisfied with the reviews and the selections here there are, however, a few oddities and omissions alike and depending on how you look at it, these may be relatively minor flaws.
Firstly, some of these reviews are 6 or 7 years old at this point. Not that they aren't well written..because they are, however, as an owner of another AMG music guide I found this to be disappointing that a lot of these reviews have not been updated. For example, the reviews on the Rolling Stones as well as many other bands are exactly the SAME as in the 2002 edition of the AMG to Rock. Maybe the authors felt they had nothing new to add or maybe it's simply an issue of laziness, trying to put together a 'new' product without essentially being new.
Secondly, if this is 'required listening' why do the writers not have favorable reviews for some of the selections here? I understand the premise of the book is to include 'records that may not be perfect, but are interesting' and others that 'capture the era perfectly' but then why include a review on the Eagles THE LONG RUN which states, 'The Long Run reportedly was planned as a double album being truncated to a single disc. If these were the keepers, what could the rejects have sounded like?'. If the writers felt that the tracks used for this album SHOULD have been rejects, which is what I'm pretty sure they are trying to say here, then is this album capturing it's era perfectly or just interesting in how bad and incomplete some of it sounds?
Thirdly, some big recordings are left out while other lesser recordings are left in. For example, both of Molly Hatchett's first two albums are included. Although they are a bit generic in their southern rock approach, I happen to agree that these two albums should be included. But if you're going to include those and ONLY include the first two Marshall Tucker albums, who were by far greater innovators of the genre and great musicians as well, something is amiss. Most people agree that these two albums are Tucker's best, but many also believe their third, Where We All Belong, is their greatest effort and the one that is the definitive Tucker album by combining an impressive studio effort as well as some of the most searing live southern rock ever recorded. Not to diss on the Eagles again, but ALL of their studio recordings from '72-'80 are deemed as essential listening. Let's face it, the Eagles were a singles band and rarely made any cohesive albums..Hotel California being the exception. If you own the greatest hits of the Eagles, you essentially have all you will need from them.
Another recording of note is Aerosmith's Permanent Vacation. Yes, it was the album that brought Aerosmith back into the limelight and was deemed their 'comeback' album but any fan of the group KNOWS this is Aerosmith lite. I guess the fact that it is the one that brought them back to top 40 success makes it interesting to some degree, but is it essential when you put it up against recordings such as Pump, Rocks and Toys in the Attic?
My final complaint (for now) is...WHERE ARE THE RAMONES?? Fan or not, these guys started the punk movement, have been a HUGE inspiration to hundreds of other bands and their first 3 or 4 recordings, at least, should be considered as being essential. Not ONE Ramones recording is mentioned. Perhaps they are saving it for another edition for punk/new wave as the Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello and Blondie are also noticeably absent. It does contain the Cars, however.
Mostly these are minor flaws and anyone interested in rock journalism and record reviews will definitely come away with much greater knowledge after reading this book. The reviews that ARE hear are interesting, honest and well thought out. In fact, they are perhaps the closest you can possibly get to hearing the recordings listed without actually listening to them. In many cases the writers also comment on the remastered sound and bonus tracks on certain recordings, which is always good information for audiophiles, like myself. All in all, it's an enjoyable read.