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 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016



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




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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