- Paperback: 838 pages
- Publisher: Random House Inc (P); 3 edition (Nov. 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679737294
- ISBN-13: 978-0679737292
- Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.2 x 23.5 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,812,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely New Reviews : Every Essential Album, Every Essential Artist Paperback – Nov 1992
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Here one can find some of the most apt and most sound criticism ever penned or typed for the printed page. And a collection of artists chosen for their merit, not popularity. Thus one will find praise for artists as diverse as Elvis, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, etc.. Rolling Stone started as a rag to chronicle and feature the Rock scene, hence the preponderance of Rock musicians in the book, but artists who influenced the course of Rock music and were influenced by it are well represented too: Robert Johnson, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Muddy Waters, etc., are given their equal tribute. Other genres are economically touched on, and Rap, Folk, Country, and others are given just due. The writings are some of the very best, balancing seamless lines between worship, accuracy, humor, scathing word-bites, pathos, and knowledge.
As admirable as this edition gets, there are some slips and tangles that come along, just like almost anything else. Some of the reviews are hilarious, perhaps inappropriately so (read the one on Gino Vannelli and laugh). Others are ridiculous, revealing the critics' prejudices and limitations (2 stars for Black Sabbath's "Vol.4"?. And the same for Slayer's "Reign in Blood"?.). And as one critic who I read from the net pointedly stated, somewhere along these lines, "Did they really listen to all of those recordings? What's with all of those old bluesmen all getting 5 stars?".
After the passage of more than a decade, I still go back to this model of music criticism. I still appreciate the brevity and wit with which Messrs. Mark Coleman, J.D. Considine, Paul Evans, and David McGee shared their talents and efforts for future music fans to revel and cherish only the best in Popular Music.
A drawback is that out of print albums were omitted, which makes the guide incomplete as soon as these albums are reissued. And of course the guide is outdated. Any guide is the moment is goes off to the presses.
That said, we want an update now.
It is with the reviews of albums by key Eighties bands that this book becomes something of a joke , the reviewers are so out of touch they must have been living on Mars . Well established classic albums are consistantly given two or three stars , and the information given is embarrassingly sketchy and way off the mark ( Mark Coleman`s review of The Smiths , and J. D. Considine's review of The Pogues , is some of the worst music critique that I have ever read , they must have listened to these albums once , and that`s being kind ) .
Compared to the Rough Guide To Roc!k , The Trouser Press Guide , or All Music Guide , this Rolling Stone Guide is lazy waffle !
On the whole, it has many virtues: the arguments are very sensible, the writers appear to be very well-qualified, and the selection of music included is varied enough to satisfy most listeners - especially someone like me who was looking then for music from the 1980s to listen to. There is very little outright lying: indeed most of the album reviews are very clearly written and do indeed provide an accurate description of the music being written about - something I wish I was able to do far better.
However, this book's age gives it one fatal flaw: it does not understand the real impact of music over a long period. Many albums I bought on its recommendation have proved quite useless to me even if I understood the reasons (though my narrow perceptions at that time can in no way have helped me).
Moreover, some of the albums it recommends (or at least does not condemn) would be violently condemned by critics like Joe Harrington and David Keenan whose knowledge and intelligence certainly exceeds that of those critics in this book. It is to them that I now recommend one turn for really accurate music criticism - I recommend their list to people who do not know much about msuic all the time. However, with older music I was never into back in the 1990s the book is actually more helpful and accurate due to greater hindsight, though many albums of great value were not then reissued.
Thus, read with great caution: this is introductory, but good for that. there is better criticism - the problem is finding it and seeing for yourself.
Now, I mention this 2nd edition bit because I first stumbled upon this book sometime in the mid-late '80s, and the 1st edition from '79 or so did great coverage of old albums from the '50s-'70s, but good luck on getting the latest word on John Cougar or Def Leppard or the King of Pop or those other '80s artists we loved so much! Some solace was to be found when a 2nd edition came out in 1992 -- you could now find out what Rolling Stoners thought about '80s albums you had aleady purchased by then (in addition to the '50s-'70s albums, naturally).
Well, I think you see what I'm getting at. This is a great guide to what's out there at the time of publication, but it rapidly goes out-of-date. Sure, you'll find out good information about (yes, I'll go ahead and call him what I know him as) Prince's older albums, but as far as learning about the 348 albums he's released since 1992, you're out of luck. This is a book that really needs to come out in annual editions -- though that would be a difficult and likely unprofitable option for the writers. Too bad -- I may actually be willing to plunk down the money once a year for this thing.