A tidy synthesis, but not so insightful that it can succeed without the horse’s mouth. (30 b&w photos)

BILLY JOEL

THE LIFE & TIMES OF AN ANGRY YOUNG MAN

Though top-heavy on the business side, this look at pop idol Billy Joel pulls together many aspects of his life, even if they fail to cohere fully.

With Joel, people come down on one side or the other: he’s a schlock crooner, banal, surrounded by musical hacks, all smoke and mirrors; he’s a piano prodigy, full of bittersweet melodies and wry surprises, who can command a waltz as easily as a torch song, do pop, jazz or swing. Indisputably, he has gotten himself a fair amount of publicity, mostly bad. So he looks like just the stuff for a revealing biography, but the problem is that he won’t cooperate with such a venture. Thus, long-time music journalist Bordowitz (Bad Moon Rising, 1998) is forced to cull his (rather guarded) material from magazines, books and interviews with some of Joel’s associates; his close friends won’t talk about him to strangers. There’s none of the immediacy of hearing from Joel himself, getting the benefit of his hindsight or hearing his take on what it’s like to have “A Matter of Trust” work its way from thin air to the recording studio. Though all the sensational stuff is there—booze, drugs and sex—readers will get some conflicting information on the last one. We read that “Billy. . . seemed to be enjoying the sex and drugs and rock and roll, and increasingly the sex was not with Elizabeth,” she being his first wife. Then, after their divorce, we hear about Joel’s “long-stunted rock and roll libido.” Joel’s business and legal wrangles are largely public record, and that’s where Bordowitz spends considerable time. He also provides a linear history of the artist’s songwriting and performances—and comments he made about both—but, again, the goods are all secondhand. There’s a palpable veil between Bordowitz’s writing and the acts themselves.

A tidy synthesis, but not so insightful that it can succeed without the horse’s mouth. (30 b&w photos)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8230-8250-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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