Not as much fun as Almost Famous, but fans of LP–era rock will enjoy Carlin’s knowledgeable deep dive.

SONIC BOOM

THE IMPOSSIBLE RISE OF WARNER BROS. RECORDS, FROM HENDRIX TO FLEETWOOD MAC TO MADONNA TO PRINCE

The author of biographies of McCartney, Simon, and Springsteen delivers a fast-paced, overstuffed history of the storied record label.

In 1958, Warner Bros. Records began as a kind of joke, with records by pseudonymous artists and titles like But You’ve Never Heard Gershwin With Bongos. Jack Warner’s only rule was that “the company made money—and that nothing they released sounded anything like rock ’n’ roll.” Never mind that Elvis was the king of the charts. When Frank Sinatra took up with Reprise Records—whose name, writes Carlin hinted not just at the musical reprise but also at reprisal, “which appealed to Sinatra’s desire to exact revenge on Capitol Records”—the rule held until Mo Ostin and a handful of A&R men and producers seized the reins. Though Ostin’s guiding principle was “Let’s stop trying to make hit records,” everyone involved was won over by the success of a slate of 1960s acts, including the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, and Jimi Hendrix, for whom Ostin “offered a fifty-thousand-dollar contract for three albums, a pretty rich deal for an untested artist.” Pressing records became like minting money. In February 1973 alone, writes the author, “Of the sixteen albums Warner Bros. Records uncorked that month, ten of them had climbed onto Billboard’s best-selling album charts by April.” The good times continued long past the hippie heyday up until the era of MTV and video-friendly artists like Madonna. Alas, Ostin’s hands-off attitude, willingness to share the spoils, and demand for independence increasingly fell athwart of corporate executives as the record business conglomerated, with one particularly obnoxious corporate exec gloating, “We’re coming after all the cowboys.” Ostin and his cowboys rode off into a sunset that grows ever darker as the record business declines, but Carlin captures their glory days without sentimentality or untoward nostalgia.

Not as much fun as Almost Famous, but fans of LP–era rock will enjoy Carlin’s knowledgeable deep dive.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-30156-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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