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- Published on Amazon.com
I first purchased "The Rolling Stone Album Guide" back in '94 together with the "All Music Guide" edition of that year. I was a music-crazed, scatterbrained, hormonally-inflamed teen back then going through the turbulence of adolescence. I wasn't a reader then, but going through the pages of this book, browsing the snippets of reviews here and there, I was impressed and enthralled with the smart and memorable lines the talented reviewers would use to describe and stamp their collective marks on the artists and their recordings. Before the age of bilious Political-Correctness and mediocre music, this edition of Rolling Stone's ongoing music guide was a representative of it's time: an era of taste and quality matched with integrity and vision.
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.