THE HISTORY OF THE BLUES

THE ROOTS, THE MUSIC, THE PEOPLE--FROM CHARLEY PATTON TO ROBERT CRAY

A quirky inquiry into the nature of the blues. Although written to accompany a three-part series on PBS, this book is more substantive than most TV tie-ins. Davis (Outcats, 1990, etc.), music critic for the Atlantic, divides his investigation into three sections: the ``prehistory'' of the blues; a more or less chronological portrait of leading blues figures; and a discussion of the blues revival and the reasons why an African- American folk art appeals so strongly to a white, urban audience. His approach is highly personal. He begins the book by recounting his trip to Clarksdale, Miss., a mecca for blues lovers in the heart of the Delta country. An outsider to the culture of the blues, Davis invites the reader to share his puzzlement at the deep faith of rural performers (``There are people who grow up actually reading the Bible...who accept what I read as lunatic ravings as both prophecy and literal history''). But he also tries to provoke the reader with outrageous comments, as when he describes Mick Jagger as ``the most famous of contemporary minstrels [who] sings and struts as though trying to get in touch with his Inner Negro.'' The heart of the book is a series of thumbnail sketches of key performers that capture the essence of what makes each performer great. His description of Big Joe Williams is particularly apt: ``He looked like the whale that swallowed Jonah, and sounded like Jonah bellowing to get out.'' Sadly, the accompanying selection of photos is uninspired, relying heavily on oft-published shots. The final section, on the blues revival, is perhaps the most interesting. In it, Davis underscores many of the ironies that occurred when white revivalists ``rediscovered'' the blues performers of the 1920s and '30s, many of whom had to be retaught their own songs because they had long since quit playing. This deserves wide reading among fans of blues and traditional musical forms. (100 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 1995

ISBN: 0-7868-6052-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1994

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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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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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