A highly learned pleasure for music and pop-culture buffs.

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POP MUSIC IN AMERICA

Strolling through the archives of pop music history with an experienced guide.

There are no grand theses or postmodern theoretical turns here. Instead, Nation music critic Hajdu (Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture, 2009, etc.) approaches the vast stretch of pop history as a particularly tasteful exercise in picking tunes from an impossibly well-stocked jukebox, very much personally curated and with each choice well defended. Thus, as he notes near the opening, he can probably do without hearing “Yesterday” again (“I can barely still hear qualities I heard in the song at various times in the past”), preferring instead to spin the Beatles’ little-heard contemporary tune “Tell Me What You See,” because, in addition to its musical qualities, it conjures up a kiss from a high school girlfriend. That personal approach would not work if Hajdu were not so well-versed on his pop history firsthand. When he writes of the early history of music videos, it helps that he was one of the earliest video journalists, just as when he writes of one-hit wonders like the New Jersey band Looking Glass, of “Brandy” fame, it helps that he was on the scene, ears wide open, when the song came out. The author’s ears extend beyond his own time span, though; he writes with knowledgeable appreciation of Frank Sinatra, Marni Nixon, and Billy Strayhorn—not to mention contemporary hip-hop. The center of his world, though, is the period when Brian Wilson, Ray Davies, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, and their musical kin were making albums to set the world on fire. He even works in a quiet appreciation for disco, and with good humor: “Without getting too Ken Burns–ish about this, I’ll point out the significance of the first dance craze of the twentieth century, the vogue for the fox-trot, in cross-fertilizing cultural values and democratizing social life (within the limits of racial segregation) for young people of the day.” And so he does.

A highly learned pleasure for music and pop-culture buffs.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-17053-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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