An exciting and thorough sense of reggae’s originality and perseverance in the face of crooked businessmen, thuggish...




An expansive, impassioned history of Jamaican reggae.

British music journalist Bradley roots his story in the details and personalities of the Jamaican postwar era: as colonialism faded away, nascent island cultures, stoked by the 1950s economic boom, made their mark, particularly through their “sound system” phenomenon, a precursor to today’s raves and hip-hop culture, at which operators played new, rare soul records from the UK and America to increasingly raucous crowds. A bizarre rivalry between sound systems like Trojan and Downbeat (and flamboyant sound men like Prince Coxsone and Duke Reid) soon led to widespread violence; the public obsession over the sound systems also reflected the class- and appearance-based stratification that ran rampant within Jamaican society. Although ambitious local singers soon issued their own crude recordings, which eventually gelled around the up-tempo “ska” sound, it was the once-scorned Rastafari subculture (rooted in the thwarted Black Nationalism of Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia) that transformed Jamaican music, becoming “never so much as one step removed from the heart and soul of Kingston’s studios.” This occurred primarily in the person of Bob Marley, who embodied a great deal more than an archtypical “country bwoy” with an outsize musical talent. He was Jamaica’s “Malcolm X for the 1970s.” Bradley also works hard to include compressed stories of the many musicians both famous and obscure, who helped advance Jamaican music—from early artists like the Skatalites and Desmond Dekker, and eccentric innovators like Lee “Scratch” Perry, to international acts like Jimmy Cliff and Burning Spear—and discusses how subgenres like ska and rocksteady reflected the volatile political thrashings of Jamaica in the ’60s and ’70s.

An exciting and thorough sense of reggae’s originality and perseverance in the face of crooked businessmen, thuggish interlopers, and general apathy from the Jamaican establishment. This will be the standard reference on the subject.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8021-3828-4

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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