RHYTHM AND THE BLUES

A LIFE IN AMERICAN MUSIC

Wexler's account of how he talked his way into co-ownership of Atlantic Records and went on to produce some of the century's great pop music—all of which makes for some of the juiciest music history one could hope to find. As an insider's account of the golden age of rhythm and blues (a term Wexler coined), this memoir may be matched only by Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun's—if he chooses to write one. By turns regretful and boasting, Wexler offers a story that is above all a superlative read, with the sections describing his 1920's-30's Manhattan childhood as interesting as the more musically oriented later chapters. With help from Ritz (who's written bios of Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye), Wexler describes his years at Billboard magazine, his move to Atlantic, and his relationships with the Chess brothers, Alan Freed, Phil Spector, and many others. Colorfully colloquial and unflaggingly enthusiastic, Wexler makes important connections between various styles and artists—noting the influence of the blues, for example, on country balladeers—and shows what a complex cultural phenomenon the best pop has always been. Accounts of how he managed recording sessions with everyone from Ray Charles to Aretha Franklin to Bob Dylan reveal much about both music history and making. Although testimony from ex-wives, friends, and (surprisingly) enemies isn't always well integrated, and though some readers will be less sympathetic to the author's temper and excesses, Wexler's contribution to the music is unquestionable, and there's plenty of material here that only he could provide. Many anecdotes—including an amazing account of a recording date with Guitar Slim—may pass into legend. It's a shame no CD set was issued with the book. For scholars and R&B/pop aficianodos, a terrific read—in spite of and because of its idiosyncracies—and great fun for others as well. (Seventy-five photographs—not seen) (First serial to Rolling Stone)

Pub Date: May 27, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-40102-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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