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Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer Hardcover – November 10, 2009

5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Throughout his career as a critic and journalist for the New York Times, Rolling Stone and other publications (as well as books like Deep Blues), Palmer (1945–1997) strove for a unifying perspective that could cover all strains of American music, a set of procedures that will allow us to evaluate Charles Ives and James Brown as he wrote in a seminal 1979 essay. The breadth of his journalism is outstanding: he was one of the first writers to interview Sam Phillips, the head of Elvis Presley's first music label; soon after, he was alerting Times readers to the developing world music movement, and the year after that he was hanging out in the recording studio with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He could write reviews of comprehensive box sets or write the liner notes for them, and either way the result would be an engaging, insightful essay crammed with historical details. One key test of any retrospective anthology of this sort is whether the reviews and essays are as relevant today as when they were first published, and on that front, Palmer scores an absolute success—his work, like that of Greil Marcus and Peter Guralnick, sets a standard for a critical appreciation of American culture. (Nov.)
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Review

"There's so much good writing here."--A.V. Club

"A posthumous collection of music writing that single-handedly justifies Palmer's inclusion into the pantheon of Essential Music Writers. . . . For the uninitiated, a revelation."--Oxford American

"The breadth of genres and artists covered in Blues & Chaos can be astonishing"--Memphis Flyer

"Eloquent and calmly authoritative prose"--The New York Times

"One key test of any retrospective anthology of this sort is whether the reviews and essays are as relevant today as when they were first published, and on that front, Palmer scores an absolute success--his work . . . sets a standard for a critical appreciation of American culture."--Publishers Weekly

"Judiciously whittles down Palmer's writings--incisive, clever reviews, vivid, chatty profiles and more."--The New York Times

"Reading Blues & Chaos, a dazzling collection of writing . . . is to be reminded of [Robert Palmer's] singular talent, his range of interests and passions. . . . Editor Anthony DeCurtis has chosen wonderfully in this collection, which showcases Palmer's gifts as an informed enthusiast and brilliant chronicler of musical moments."--Times-Picayune

"If you're a junkie for great music writing, you owe it to yourself to pick up Blues & Chaos. Lovingly edited and assembled . . . this anthology does much to highlight Palmer's curiosity and enthusiasm as well as his scholarship."--The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA)

"Remarkable"--Buffalo News

"Palmer . . . set the standard for newspaper pop-music criticism for years."--Philadelphia Inquirer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (November 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416599746
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416599746
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #570,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Stuart Jefferson TOP 100 REVIEWER on December 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hardcover-432 pages of text. There is an index,and a sixteen page introduction written by Anthony DeCurtis,giving a short look into (the late) Robert Palmer's writing on music. There are no photographs accompanying the text. The various essays/interviews are grouped-such as "Jazz","The Blues","The Originators","Soul and R&B","Classic Rock","World Music","Punk and Beyond",etc.,instead of in chronological order of writing. There are also excerpts from his writings on Morocco and an excerpt from an interview with William Burroughs.

This great collection finally brings together many of Palmer's best writing concerning music and the people who make it,thanks to another noted music writer,Anthony DeCurtis. Palmer is mostly known for his wonderful book,"Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi Delta" (which should be in every blues listeners library),and others such as "The Rolling Stones","Rock and Roll: An Unruly History",and"Baby,That Was Rock and Roll: The Legendary Leiber and Stroller". Palmer wasn't an authority on just one style of music-he seemed to have an innate sense of what makes for good music,no matter what type. While this collection isn't all of his best writing (there is still a great deal of it out there),what this great book does is bring into sharp focus a number of his best pieces,over many years and different musical subjects. Besides the above books,Palmer wrote many reviews/articles for "Rolling Stone Magazine",back when that magazine (and others) was still important musically,and he was the first person to hold the title of chief pop critic for "The New York Times".
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Format: Hardcover
Something that makes Mr. Palmer's writing different from other critics' music writing is that he had deep knowledge of music itself. In this book he discusses blues and rock, but he also discusses jazz (Ornette Coleman, for example) and modern/contemporary classical composers. His musicological knowledge makes his discussions more than subjective statements of what he liked or didn't like in a song or piece of music. Instead, he discusses what experimental musicians (such as Mr. Coleman) or more traditional musicians (such as Muddy Waters) were actually doing musically.

And please don't miss his discussion of Bo Diddley. Mr. Palmer shows how he was a great innovator within particular African American musical and oral traditions, and that he deserves much more acclaim as a blues musician and rock & roll originator.

Finally: This book made me want to go out and get recordings of lots and lots of the music Mr. Palmer liked! So read this book, learn something maybe, and have fun!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Palmer was a master music writer. He was able to capture his subject in a way that few others can. Though writing about music can almost be like writing about food (i.e.,"don't tell me how it tastes, let me taste it myself"), he is able to to truly make what he writes about come to life. By reading Palmer, we not only come away a little more knowledgeable, we also have more true understanding for the music.
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