Intriguing, slightly impersonal catalog of a soulful mastermind’s accomplishments.



An exploration of a musical polyglot.

Former Chicago Sun-Times music columnist and No Depression senior editor Sachs (American Country: Bluegrass, Honky-Tonk, and Crossover Sounds, 2012) views his subject as a low-profile yet indispensable innovator within a vital American idiom. As he writes, “the title ‘record producer’ can contain [Burnett] no more than ‘film director’ could contain Orson Welles.” The privacy-minded Burnett, while friendly with the author, declined to participate in a project that Sachs describes as a “critical appreciation of his extensive body of work as an artist and producer,” so he relies on research, earlier discussions, and interviews with collaborators. Burnett was born in 1948 in Fort Worth, Texas, raised by “happy-go-lucky types” who encouraged his passions. Upon graduating high school, he purchased a crude recording studio and helped make a “lost classic” LP of underground rock, confirming his “ambition and restless creativity.” After moving to Los Angeles, he was soon drafted into Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue; though he disliked the spotlight, the touring experience “instilled deep community values in Burnett.” He also became devoted to countercultural Christianity, explored in three 1970s albums with the Alpha Band, which won acclaim but not sales. Simultaneously, Burnett developed a reputation among aspiring musicians as a bold, exacting producer, which led to success in the 1980s for artists like Los Lobos, Peter Case, and the BoDeans. Burnett pursued collaborative relationships with iconoclasts like Sam Shepard and Elvis Costello, but periodic solo efforts underperformed. As he told Sachs about one acclaimed effort, “I was writing about self-deception and deceiving myself while I was doing it.” Burnett then transformed the popularity of film soundtracks through his work with the Coen Brothers, adding depth (and profitability) to their “surrealistic vision.” Sachs writes clearly and confidently about music production and the industry, and he ably captures the personalities and sometimes-contentious viewpoints of Burnett and his circle. However, the focus on Burnett’s role as a top-shelf producer makes the perspective feel slightly narrow.

Intriguing, slightly impersonal catalog of a soulful mastermind’s accomplishments.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4773-0377-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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

Did you like this book?



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

Did you like this book?