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on 8 November 1999
The cover puff for this book claims that it is 'intended for browsing and arguments - but also as a highly practical guide to rock music' And for once, this is a very accurate description of this 1000 plus page work. The Rough Guide to Rock is excellent on two levels; both as a guide to bands and their discographies, but also as a general repository of trivia which bears many hours of dipping in and out. Whether you open the Guide to find a specific piece of information, simply fancy a casual browse, or are trying to settle some esoteric dispute about some long-forgotten band or song, the chances are you will start off by looking up one entry, then find yourself drawn by cross references to other entries, which in turn will lead to further browsing until, by the time you have put the Guide down, you find you have revisited a substantial portion of your musical history.
Those of us who should get out more are inevitably drawn into an exercise of trying to find bands that have been omitted; ultimately a fairly unrewarding exercise, so comprehensive is the Guide. In any case, such efforts usually end fairly abruptly as the eye is drawn to yet another entry you want to read up on.
The Rough Guide to Rock is written by fans, and it is the enthusiasm of the fans which makes this such a rewarding book. Inevitably the entries are a bit uneven in terms of length and detail, but the editors have done an excellent job of achieving a good degree of consistency overall. The entries are grouped alphabetically by band rather than chronologically or by record, which makes the Guide very easy to navigate around, and it should be commended to anyone who has ever had an interest in rock and pop music which went beyond a vague awareness of who was top of the charts.
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on 16 January 2009
The third and, presumably, final edition of The Rough Guide to Rock is already a little dated. But then why would you need another description of Duffy's album or Amy Winehouse's hairdo? The Guide is an excellent place to stumble across records that have been forgotten or were always obscure. I had never realised that David McComb made a solo album, for example - and who or what were Danielle Dax or Eg and Alice? When you look these things up you find an entry written by a fan, someone who has not just done his research by forcing himself to listen to all the albums of Judas Priest while doing the washing up but genuinely loves Judas Priest and wants you to love them, too! That said, he will still tell you honestly when he thinks Judas Priest underachieved. There are times, of course, when you find yourself disagreeing violently with an opinion. Can anyone really think that Springsteen's The River is full of 'weak ballads'? But because it is written by people who have some personal involvement in the material and not by some weary and embittered old hack, the tone of this Guide never descends to that of the dreadful Time Out film guides, for example, with all their supercilious snarliness.

The Guide gives no indepth study of punk or heavy metal, of course - that is why it has been discontinued in favour of the individual genre guides. But for someone who listens to music without thinking too much of genre boundaries, who is as likely to put on a Stevie Wonder lp as something by the Go-Betweens, this is a great book to have in your shelves. Keep scanning the thrift shops!
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on 13 January 2004
I'm really somewhat disappointed by the editorial direction that this third edition of the 'Rough Guide to Rock' has taken, though arguably, in this shift, it has actually moved closer to its remit than that pursued by previous editions. For this edition, the editor has narrowed the definition of 'rock' considerably, which has meant the jettisoning of many of the bands and artists who were included in previous editions, but who were really only 'rock' in the sense that 'rock' is sometimes used to denote 'popular music' as opposed to a guitar-based stream of music within popular music. This shift makes this third edition perhaps more authentic to its title, but also means that it is a much more one-dimensional read. I used to happily browse previous editions of the 'Rough Guide to Rock', intrigued by what leafing through those pages offered. Now, because of its lack of diversity, I fear I'll be using this edition in a rather dry fashion simply as a reference book to answer enquiries.
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on 20 January 2000
A comprehensive encyclopedia of rock that, despite being written by fans, is literate, amusing and generally tasteful. Takes the core Rough Guides values of involvement and honesty and applies them to the rock world, so isn't afraid to admit when artists made awful albums, or tried ludicrous projects. Covers over 1000 bands in about as many pages, so is far from being the last word on any of them (most entries are about half a page, with some more significant acts getting up to 2 or 3 pages). No full discographies -- the recommendations cherrypick carefully and are usually pretty much spot on.
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on 30 June 2013
I bought this on the strength of some reviews. I have been buying and listening to rock music since I bought my 1st record Not Fade Away by The Rolling Stones and I have an LP collection spanning that year until now, though the bulk is from the 60's & 70's. This book lacks detail on several levels.It's as if the contributors do not have an in - depth knowledge.
There is no mention, for example, of Manfred Mann who were as significant as The Small Faces, who are included. Thus, no mention either of Manfred Man Chapter Three, who made 2 important jazz - rock LPs. The T. T.Rex/Marc Bolan does not recommend any of the Tyrannosaurus Rex LPs despite the fact that both Beard Of Stars and Unicorn are classic LPs of their era.
Jerry Gracia of The Grateful Dead is mentioned but no mention of Bob Weir's solo
work - his 1st LP is better than anything Garcia produced as was his 1st LP with
Kingfish. The same is true of Jack Bruce from Cream (his Songs For A Tailor LP is better than almost all of Clapton's output) and Ginger Baker who was important in promoting African music and made one decent LP with Airforce.Likewise Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue is not properly acknowledged (The Beach Boys). Many significant "underground" bands from the UK late 60s/early 70s period are ignored at the expense of decidely "iffy" US bands who made one half good LP then disappeared. No Spooky Tooth/Third Ear Band/Quintessence/Principal Edwards Magic Theatre/Comus/Titus Groan/Touch/Gracious/Audience references who all made better music than a significant number of the acts mentioned. Some significant sole artists are omitted who came under the rock umbrella such as Mike Cooper. One can only assume many of the people who emailed in have not even heard of them ?
Patch is the adjective I would use. There are better books of this type such as the 1001 Albums You Must Hear.
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I have been a fan of the Rough music guides ever since I used the Rough Guide to Opera as a basis for selecting key performance CD's.
NOTE This item was discontinued in 2003 and , as with any rare item , now commands high prices for new or even used versions.
Whilst I usually buy books new , given the cut off date of 2003 , I got my copy as an ex library book through Amazon - condition acceptable .
My objective was to compare it with the All Music Guide to Rock 3rd Edition - 2000 - there is a 2003 edition I believe) - see my earlier review of this 3rd Edition .

The key negatives of the AMG review were that any band / group that did not make it significantly in the US eg Van Der Graaf Generator didn't get a full mention AND most of the CD's suggested / rated 1 - 5 stars were the US track lists - not surprising but worth being aware of if using as a basis for seeking out key examples of a particular band / music style

The Rough Guide is more UK/Europe orientated although covers key US bands and singers pretty well. The singer / band histories appear to be accurate and allow one to trace developments as band members shifted between different groups or became solo artists

The recommended CD's no vinyl mentioned obviously predate 2003 so a lot of the recent (2004 - 2009) digital remasters are not covered .
Whilst several CD's are suggested they are a fairly personal selection and have no star ratings ( too personal??).This contrasts to the AMG selection where definitive CD's are starred and highlighted
One could easily get into major "discussions" as to the Rough Guide reviewers recommended selections although , in the history section most of the bands output / albums are critically discussed .As in any book of this size there are selections and omissions. If you are looking specifically UK and one book only , this might be one to choose.

Any suggestions as to what new tome now covers the market - or is Rock new developments) dead? Or is there just a lack of a decent summary?

NOTE added 18th May 2015 - If you can get a good quality / reasonable price version, it is worth getting it to compare with the AMG "definitive" guide .

My "Rough Guide " copy had become so battered with use that I have picked up another second hand copy .I keep finding bands , groups , individuals whose music I add to my ever growing (S?H) collection of CD's .There are STILL good quality copies out there , albeit , pre owned.
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on 14 September 2015
To the best of my knowledge, there are three versions of this guide - 1996 (black cover), 1999 (green cover) and 2003 (orange cover). At the moment, the second version is perhaps the one to go for as it's only a penny from many sellers. The third still commands a premium of around £10 and, according to another reviewer, has a narrower genre list. I have the first and second editions, but haven't seen the third. There's a decent mix of genres in both the first and second volumes, electronica and hip-hop being of interest to me as well as the guitar-based rock bands. There is some metal, also blues, and soul.
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on 13 December 2015
Useful but frustratingly too hip for its own good. Many bands included that are rightfully obscure, had one record in the 80's and thankfully vanished while there is no entry for The Moody Blues or ELO ? Now You might not like these bands, but to deny they have a place is disingenuous. presumably no NME journo was prepared to write about them and risk their street credibility
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on 29 January 2013
Very very useful as a research resource. Well-written and -researched. Needs updating (a re-edition) and makes what some would say are surprising omissions (though these are explained to some extent in the Intro). But still a very good buy if you take it on its own terms.
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on 11 April 2016
As expected
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