Despite the title adapted from Samuel Johnson and the occasional reference to Aristotle or Kierkegaard, Robertson does not...

READ REVIEW

LIVES OF THE POETS (WITH GUITARS)

THIRTEEN OUTSIDERS WHO CHANGED ROCK & ROLL

A Canadian novelist illuminates the lives and careers of musicians he loves in a dozen critical essays.

Though Robertson (I Was There the Night He Died, 2014, etc.) may not be as well-known to American music fans as most of the cult favorites he celebrates here, he brings a good ear and plenty of critical insight to essays aimed at helping readers discover new favorites or hear more familiar music from a fresh perspective. The book features an eclectic selection of artists, from the much-beloved (Little Richard, the Ramones) to the legendary and seminal (Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Gram Parsons) to the truly obscure (fellow Canadian Willie P. Bennett). The author writes that the book proceeds from his desire “to drop the fictional veil and deeply espouse and explore, at length, the lives of some musicians who have so deeply enriched my own life.” Most of these musicians were personally troubled and plagued by bad professional luck, even those who were initially part of successful bands—e.g., the Byrds’ Gene Clark, the Faces’ Ronnie Lane, and Canned Heat’s Alan Wilson. As with similar collections by Peter Guralnick, Nick Tosches, and others, the aim here is to elevate the profiles of musicians that have moved the author most. Most of them are now dead, many way too young. One pitfall of Robertson’s enthusiasm is his tendency to overstate the case, claiming that the best songs of Willie T. Bennett were “as good as any of the best stuff that John Prine or Guy Clark or even Townes Van Zandt were writing back then.” In general, though, the author’s aim is true and his devotion, sincere.

Despite the title adapted from Samuel Johnson and the occasional reference to Aristotle or Kierkegaard, Robertson does not strain to justify the music as poetry in this solid collection of essays.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77196-072-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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?

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

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

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

Did you like this book?

more