Books about music

jamieanderson1968

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I read it like 20 years ago I think. It took a while to get through because of the writing style (it is more anthropological/musicology). At around the same time I picked up the Anthology Of American Folk Music and then it started to click with me.

Fearless is a great read. She does a great focus on pre-Post-Rock artists like Ornette Coleman, AMM and Red Crayola
 

BjorgenFjorgen

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I read it like 20 years ago I think. It took a while to get through because of the writing style (it is more anthropological/musicology). At around the same time I picked up the Anthology Of American Folk Music and then it started to click with me.

Fearless is a great read. She does a great focus on pre-Post-Rock artists like Ornette Coleman, AMM and Red Crayola
Awesome, thanks. I'll have to set aside some time to delve into all that more deeply, then. I go through music books so quickly most of the time but when it mentions a lot of music I'm not familiar with yet I have to try to listen to everything at the same time.
 

Thackeraye

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Has anyone ever read England's Dreaming by Jon Savage? I've had it for years but always put it off as I'm not 100% up to speed with all the UK punk bands. Sure, I know the broad-brush history, but this seems to delve deep.
 

avecigrec

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And the second part:

Album Studies:
Tim Maia's Tim Maia Racional Vols. 1 & 2
Part of the 33 1/3 Brazil series, this short read studies 2 of the most controversial releases by Tim Maia. Maia famously joined the Racional cult and completely changed his lifestyle. Some had a positive effect (such as quitting drugs and alcohol), some had a negative effect (such as giving mountains of money to the cult leader), and some were just downright bizarre (such as painting his instruments white, wearing all white clothes, and standing in a field late at night playing to attract aliens).

Tom Waits' 'Swordfishtrombones' by David Smay
I find I have to really love an album to read its 33 1/3 release, and this is a good example of when they are done right. Swordfishtrombones was the first album Waits recorded after his marriage to Kathleen Brennan (who some see as a negative figure on his musical career) and it really was a turning point in his unique sound and approach to music.

A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album by Ashley Kahn
I bought this and the The Making of Kind Of Blue a few weeks back. I have yet to read the Miles Davis book, but did absolutely devour the Love Supreme story by Ashley Kahn. I had just finished reading Kahn's biography on Impulse! records before moving onto this, and its clear that he has huge admiration for Coltrane.


Fiction:
The Vinyl Detective - Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel
Ignore the childish cover art and this is a really fun detective/mystery book which revolves around vinyl. The main character is a vinyl obsessive (something we can all relate to!) that gets hired to hunt down a fictitious rare album by a forgotten group. The problem is that someone else is also after it and leaves a wave of bodies behind whilst doing so. Cartmel is CLEARLY a record nerd and the way its written hits home a lot of times (especially the day to day nuances of being a collector). This is the first in a 4-part series which are all great, fun reads.


General Jazz Books:
As Serious As Your Life: Black Music and the Free Jazz Revolution by Val Wilmer
Val Wilmer is a legendary British jazz journalist/photographer who worked prolifically in the 60's and 70's. She would hang out and take photos of all the now-legendary jazz musicians and this book highlights this time and the overall impact it had on society. She looks at specific musicians and the impact of their music, plus details how this sometimes out-there music was initially received (Ornette Coleman and his free jazz is a good example).

Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression: The Finest in Jazz Since 1939
I was close to including the Blue Note Records: The Biography book here, but I personally found it to be a bit dry. On the other hand, Uncompromising Expression is a fantastic behemoth of a book which was released for Blue Notes 75th anniversary. Full of amazing photos, reviews, and a faily decent introduction to the label as well.

Verve: The Sound of America
This has the exact same template as the Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression, and is a fantastic look into the history, artwork, and musicians associated with Verve Records.

The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records
This was a recent read and one which I loved. The format is fantastic, with plenty of photos, and the main bulk of text being broken up by double-spread album studies.


Jazz Biogs (there's wayyyyy more I have read than this, so if anyone does want further recommendations just let me know):
Straight Life: The Story Of Art Pepper by Art Pepper
Many people cite Miles Davis' book as being the best jazz biography, but I personally think that this book ever so slightly tops it. Its a behemoth at 624 pages, but packed full of incredible anecdotes which flickers from the life of a jazz musician to the life of a junkie. Pepper doesnt hold back either and includes all the gritty details.

Herbie Hancock: Possibilities
Herbie's biography is one that I first read late last year and I couldn't put it down. He's always come across as the nicest guy, but what I didnt realise was just how incredibly clever he is (from pioneering the lastest tech in his music, to obtaining the rights to his biggest songs - something most musicians never did and lost a fortune because of it). Certainly worth a read, especially if you are considering picking up the Anthology from VMP.

Raise Up Off Me: A Portrait of Hampton Hawes
This was a cheapo pick-up but one that I devoured. Its very much in the same vein as the Art Pepper book, in fact, if memory serves me correctly there is even a cross over period when they are in jail together.

Miles: The Autobiography
I would be doing a disservice if I didn't mention this. Its perhaps the most well-regarded jazz biography, and for good reason. Miles was never one to hold back and he certainly doesn't do that here, spilling lots of dirty secrets and stories.

Coltrane: The Story of a Sound by Ben Ratliff
These tons of books on Coltrane (and I have read a fair amount of them!) but this is one of the better ones. Not only does Ratliff discuss the progression of his music, from the early days with Miles Davis to the controversial latter years, but he also analyses and discusses Coltrane's unique sound.
Oh man, I just read As Serious As Your Life last month, hot on the heels of the copy of Black Music by LeRoi Jones that I've had for probably 17 years (surviving 3 great library purges) - HOT DAMN, what a book! I ordered it on a whim because I'd exhausted nearly every Sun Ra-specific book I could find and got so much more than I bargained for. I can see why it's considered a classic. I think the two back to back was an especially fortunate reading - as Jones was writing in the eye of it, and Wilmer's looks eyes back and can elaborate and extrapolate further.
 

avecigrec

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This whole covid plague thing has me working from home, so I had to make room to work from home regularly (and I'm not the only one, so....) Reorganizing my shelves so I don't just have piles and piles of books around. So I went to IKEA and said "gimme yer cheapest yet sturdiest and 3rd or 4th handsomest bookshelves" and $40 and several screwdriver stabbings later, I had bookshelves that I immediately filled up willy-nilly. But that won't do. So I organized them. And thus I am revisiting old friends:

View attachment 67419

Brian Coleman's Check the Technique and Check the Technique 2 are the follow-ups to the (not pictured because I don't have it, because I can't find it for less than $50) Rakim Told Me. Anyway, consider these books to be sort of super-condensed hip-hop-centric 1-album-per-chapter mini-33-1/3-kinda-sorta.

Here's the index of the first one:
View attachment 67415View attachment 67420

As you can see, all bangers, not a bad or insignificant album among them.

and here's the index of the 2nd one:

View attachment 67421

Again, more bangers.

These are a joy to read, in almost every way superior to the 33 1/3 series as a whole (although not better than the best of the 33 1/3 books; when 33 1/3 are good, they are really good. But when they're dreck, they're really dreck). All the chapters are 1-album-per and they are exactly what you'd want from someone writing about an album you've heard and loved for years. Most often you have interviews with central figures -- artists themselves and/or those very close to the production of the album (e.g. Mario Caldato in the chapter on the Beastie's Check Your Head). The second volume is better put together than the first -- not just editorially but physically, the quality of the book is definitely better on that 2nd volume; even the table of contents layout is better thought-out than the first. The quality of the contents -- both in writing and album choice -- are, IMO, equally good. They're a little large and heavy for casual reading while travelling, but there are kindle editions for that sort of thing. I'm kind of surprised these haven't turned into a series unto themselves. If you're a hip-hop fan and you've wanted background on these albums, these are well worth your time.
I read the Volume 1 last spring and loved it - Between a big sale and redeemed points, I managed to get it for about $0.31 (CAD) but it's definitely worth full price! I've been curious about Volume 2, and super appreciate you posting the index, as I was pretty sure I wanted it before, but now I definitely know I do!
 

Selaws

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Oh man, I just read As Serious As Your Life last month, hot on the heels of the copy of Black Music by LeRoi Jones that I've had for probably 17 years (surviving 3 great library purges) - HOT DAMN, what a book! I ordered it on a whim because I'd exhausted nearly every Sun Ra-specific book I could find and got so much more than I bargained for. I can see why it's considered a classic. I think the two back to back was an especially fortunate reading - as Jones was writing in the eye of it, and Wilmer's looks eyes back and can elaborate and extrapolate further.
Ah fantastic, its such a superb read. It was one of those that I just couldn't put down. I have had Black Music on my list for ages now so this might just be the push I need to hunt down a copy.
 

avecigrec

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Ah fantastic, its such a superb read. It was one of those that I just couldn't put down. I have had Black Music on my list for ages now so this might just be the push I need to hunt down a copy.

I carried it with me for so long because LeRoi Jones was one of my fave poets when I went through my heavy Beat Generation period nearly 20 years ago, but only over the last couple of years have I gotten to a point where my familiarity with jazz is enough to have really gotten the most I could out of the book - so I'm glad I waited so many years to read it, and never got rid of it. I'd say it's a 4/5, while As Serious is a solid 5/5. I would necessarily recommend it as broadly as I would Wilmer's book, but based on what I've seen of your posts during my week or two here, I would say it's definitely worth your while.
 

Selaws

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I carried it with me for so long because LeRoi Jones was one of my fave poets when I went through my heavy Beat Generation period nearly 20 years ago, but only over the last couple of years have I gotten to a point where my familiarity with jazz is enough to have really gotten the most I could out of the book - so I'm glad I waited so many years to read it, and never got rid of it. I'd say it's a 4/5, while As Serious is a solid 5/5. I would necessarily recommend it as broadly as I would Wilmer's book, but based on what I've seen of your posts during my week or two here, I would say it's definitely worth your while.
Fantastic, thanks! Im familiar with LeRoi's work so I imagine this will be right up my street. I will put an order in over the weekend.
 

jamieanderson1968

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Did 2 years at UVic. My in-laws still live in Oak Bay. We are heading out that way in December (assuming we are not riding the 15th Wave)
 
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