MAROONED by Phil Freeman

MAROONED

The Next Generation of Desert Island Discs
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Off-key 21st-century reprise of the pioneering anthology Stranded (1979).

In that influential roundup of original essays, editor Greil Marcus asked some of the best first-generation rock critics, “If you had only one album to take with you if you were left on a remote island, what would it be? And why?” Their answers sparked some memorable writing: Lester Bangs on Van Morrison, Ed Ward on the “5” Royales, Langdon Winner on Captain Beefheart, Robert Christgau on the New York Dolls, etc. Playing this game has since become common coin among music scribes and obsessive fans, an ongoing popularity that presumably spawned this sequel. Regrettably, editor Freeman and 19 others, many of them graduates of the Village Voice school of solipsistic criticism, don’t come close to duplicating their predecessors’ effects and insights. The majority of the selected albums are head-scratchers, pure and simple. A quarter of those polled select heavy-metal releases of varying degrees of obscurity and worthlessness. Second-tier pop and rock, plus a few quality (and decades-old) jazz titles, are also represented. Surprisingly, given the genre’s cultural impact, only two rap albums make the grade: obscure sets by Divine Styler (Spiral Walls Containing Autumns of Light) and Brand Nubian (One For All). In a volume painfully short on humor, it’s notable that Dave Queen’s treatise on the Scorpions’ Virgin Killer and Ian Christie’s piece about Iron Maiden’s Killers are the funniest entries: Who says metal fans can’t laugh at themselves? The reliable Simon Reynolds (writing about English folkie John Martyn) and Jeff Chang (on New Orleans funk legends The Meters) are the rare contributors who combine taste, knowledge and writing skill. Most of the rest indulge in unconvincing navel-gazing. In a class by itself is Kandia Crazy Horse’s incomprehensible homage to a lesser Stephen Stills album (Manassas) that suddenly and mystifyingly metamorphoses into a tract about English soul-boy Lewis Taylor.

At least the title is apt: Most of these critics should be abandoned on an island, along with their albums.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-306-81485-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Da Capo
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2007