The title, of course, is a rip-off from the Dead Milkmen—but at least Kaufman recognizes their majesty. As for that Billy...

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METAPHYSICAL GRAFFITI

A genial foray into the meaning of rock ’n’ roll by humorist and music writer Kaufman (Nuns with Guns, 2016, etc.).

Does Rush suck? The answer is—well, the author answers, carefully, sort of, but by no means as much as Billy Joel does: “Here I am trying my damndest to rehabilitate Billy Joel, or at least give him his due, and try—TRY—to appreciate his songcraft,” he writes. “But it’s not possible. It’s not. Because the craft itself is so often flawed. His songs fall apart under minimal pressure.” On the other hand: The Canadian power trio gets points for being a power trio, and power is “about musical density.” Even if the band’s music is too busy, and bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee’s voice “might be appreciated in Middle Earth, but has no business being heard on the planet’s real continents,” at least they have some chops and authenticity. Kaufman takes some shooting-fish-in-a-barrel questions and mulls them over with due consideration, such as the timeworn matter of whether the Beatles or the Stones are the better band. For many, the question is “interpreted as a trick question, and the answer, of course, is Led Zeppelin.” Though Kaufman works in Plato here and Philip Roth (“a punk before punk”), the book tends to be—well, not quite thick as a brick, the Tull-ian version of which he hails as “a work of genius,” but without the intellectual heft of Greil Marcus or Peter Guralnick and without much of the snotty fire of Lester Bangs, whom Kaufman exalts. Still, it’s entertaining enough to thumb through the author’s record collection with him and hear his asides and grumbles—e.g., the Mekons rule, and though Ann Coulter may have loved the Grateful Dead, “when the funkiest song you have in your bag is ‘Shakedown Street,’ you’ve got some problems.”

The title, of course, is a rip-off from the Dead Milkmen—but at least Kaufman recognizes their majesty. As for that Billy Joel fellow….

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68219-167-5

Page Count: 196

Publisher: OR Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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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

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