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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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