A masterful work of critical journalism.

THE HOLY OR THE BROKEN

LEONARD COHEN, JEFF BUCKLEY, AND THE UNLIKELY ASCENT OF "HALLELUJAH"

Charting the remarkable journey of a modern musical classic, from obscurity to ubiquity.

Former Vibe and Spin editor Light’s (The Skills to Pay the Bills: The Story of the Beastie Boys, 2006) brisk, engrossing study of “Hallelujah” comes on the heels of Sylvie Simmons’ definitive Cohen biography, but this book is brilliantly revelatory on its own. The song, a beguiling, mysterious mix of the spiritual and the erotic with an incantatory chorus, originally appeared on the Canadian singer-songwriter’s 1984 album "Various Positions." Cohen’s label, Columbia, refused to issue the album, and it appeared on an independent label; it failed to sell. But the song was kept alive by John Cale’s 1991 cover, augmented by new verses supplied by its author, and Jeff Buckley’s heavenly rendering of Cale’s text on his 1994 debut album “Grace.” That album also flopped commercially, but “Hallelujah” became the touchstone of Buckley’s posthumous reputation after his death. Light skillfully delineates the song’s genesis as a contemporary standard, through its emotionally potent use in a famous VH1 montage after 9/11, feature films like Shrek, a host of TV shows and televised sing-offs like American Idol. Though Cohen declined to be interviewed for the book, Light spoke with several of his key collaborators plus many of its interpreters, including k.d. lang, Rufus Wainwright, Bono and Jon Bon Jovi. He recounts how the tardy success of Cohen’s unheralded composition led to his latter-day critical and commercial renaissance: After his manager embezzled nearly $10 million from his accounts, Cohen returned to performing on the back of “Hallelujah” and reinstated himself with a rapturously received 2008-2010 world tour. In the meantime, the song had become a fixture of religious ceremonies, bar mitzvahs, weddings and memorial services. Light’s main point is that the song’s stirring melody, malleability and lyrical ambiguity made it a natural candidate for wide-scale popular adoration.

A masterful work of critical journalism.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-5784-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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