Books — Like A Rolling Tome

Like a Rolling tome


By Amy Diaz


50 years of music in one very thick book

The Rolling Stone Album Guide, Completely Revised and Updated Fourth Edition, edited by Nathan Brackett with Christian Hoard, Fireside, 2004, 927 pages.

“More than 10,000 of the Best Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop and Soul Records” — such is the promise of this phone-book-thick guide to the last 50 years or so of music.

The key part of that phrase is “of the best.” Flip through this tome and you’ll discover plenty of people missing — one-hit-wonders, obscure indies and people who only came into their fame during the later part of 2004. The best here means the most meaningful in terms of overall music history. Most descriptions do not run more than a quarter page and come with a list of the artist’s releases, making this a wildly useful book to anyone who regularly writes about music but something more like a curiosity for everyone else. This is the kind of 30-second bio that explains, for example, the rise and evolution of Dr. Dre, the entertaining flameout of Oasis and the phenomenon of Pat Benatar. If you have no experience with Bikini Kill, here you’ll get a good sense of their career — along with the band’s evolution into Le Tigre. If you are a big fan of Madonna, you already know what a stinker American Life was.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of the book is its conventional-wisdom-like review system (you never get the sense that you are reading one guy’s opinion) and the relative certainty of its facts. More than shaky Internet accounts, The Rolling Stone Album Guide offers straightforward facts and solid analysis of careers that you may have heard of but don’t really know all that much about.

- Amy Diaz

2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH