Customer Reviews


20 Reviews
5 star:
 (7)
4 star:
 (10)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The rich and fascinating tales of twelve songs
Did you know that Evelyn Walsh McLean, owner of the Hope Diamond and a backer of the production of 'Show Boat', was so aghast when its creators wanted to take 'Ol' Man River' out of the show during out-of-town tryouts that she bet them the Diamond that it would be the hit of the show? She didn't have to give up her gem, and this gem of a song was saved. Did you know that...
Published on November 10, 2002 by J Scott Morrison

versus
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great subject, very disappointing book
What a great idea for a book, but unfortunately Mr. Friedwald lets it get away from him. It's not just that he can't resist his childish bashing of all music post-Sinatra. Mr. Friedwald's inability to appreciate the songwriting of the Beatles and Bob Dylan -- to name only the most obvious examples -- suggests a stunted development as a listener and a critic. But what...
Published on August 13, 2003


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The rich and fascinating tales of twelve songs, November 10, 2002
This review is from: Stardust Melodies (Hardcover)
Did you know that Evelyn Walsh McLean, owner of the Hope Diamond and a backer of the production of 'Show Boat', was so aghast when its creators wanted to take 'Ol' Man River' out of the show during out-of-town tryouts that she bet them the Diamond that it would be the hit of the show? She didn't have to give up her gem, and this gem of a song was saved. Did you know that Stan Freberg recorded his own politically correct version of the song, retitling it 'Elderly Man River'? Or did you know that Herman Hupfeld, the writer of both the words and music for 'As Time Goes By' had only one other hit in his long career, and that was 'When Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba'?
This book is not just a collection of trivia about twelve popular American songs, but it is filled with such oddball facts as these. Will Friedwald starts each chapter with the story of how the song came to be writen, gives a neat analysis of the technical details of the song, and then describes the major recorded versions of each song. This is indeed a treasure trove of information about these songs, and if nothing else, reminds us of the long and rich history of American popular song.
The twelve songs, each with its own chapter, are, in chronological order, 'Star Dust', 'The St. Louis Blues', 'Mack the Knife', 'Ol' Man River', 'Body and Soul', 'I Got Rhythm', 'As Time Goes By', 'Night and Day', 'Stormy Weather', 'Summertime', 'My Funny Valentine', and 'Lush Life.'
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, Opionated Look at Twelve American Songs, June 20, 2002
By 
Ricky Hunter (New York City, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Stardust Melodies (Hardcover)
Stardust Melodies (A Biography of Twelve of America's Most Popular Songs) by Will Friedwald is an interesting account of twelve songs that have shaped and transformed the music world and then, often as not, been shaped and transformed by that very music world. The author's likes and dislikes are there for any one to see as he traces the performance history of a song, concentrating on jazz performers and Frank Sinatra while giving less space to other pop, cabaret or theatrical performances. For what he does cover, he covers well. The true test of a book like this is whether it makes one rush to listen to various interpretations of these songs, such as Louis Armstrong doing Star Dust or Ella Fitzgerald doing Mack the Knife (a personal favourite) or, even better, the more obscure gems the author relates. The book suceeds marvelously in this aspect as it will turn the reader into an eager listener as one moves between CD player and comfy reading coach. One does not have to agree with all of his conclusions (in fact, one is unlikely to) but the reader will enjoy the experience.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hits and Misses, March 10, 2003
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Stardust Melodies (Hardcover)
Will Friedwald probably deserves a medal for taking on this project, a 400-page analysis and performance history of twelve oft-recorded American lullabyes. Even some of us who swear by the Great American Songbook might opt for "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" if the alternative is listening to several hundred different versions of "Stardust" (as lovely as it is). Granted, a song biography has more going for it than, say, a performance history of Shakespeare's most popular plays, but still it's not exactly a compelling page turner.
Friedwald writes with hipness, esprit and engaging good humor, and he delivers provocative opinions, fascinating information, and a wealth of trivia. But the price of admission may be judged a bit excessive by some readers, mainly because the book contains no index, lists, or even discographies that would insure its value as a reference tool.
Every reader will no doubt find much to quibble about with a book such as this (admittedly no small part of its appeal). Frankly, I'm surprised the author makes no mention of the 1947 Lionel Hampton All-Star Concert recording of "Stardust" (with extraordinary solos by Charlie Shavers and Slam Stewart along with Hamp's introduction of the "Pretty Baby" motif, which Friedwald attributes to a later recording). And although a Paul Desmond version is mentioned, the Brubeck Quartet performance on the indispensable "Jazz at Oberlin" album (which evokes without stating the melody) is not. Finally, I'm surprised the author appears to accept "C" (as does Zinsser in his book) as the current standard key for the song. Any real musician I've known has balked at lowering the tune down half a step from the traditional Db, and for good reason: such a simplification drastically alters the character and feel of the piece, making stardust little more than prosaic morning dust.
No doubt no reader will be completely satisfied with the song selections--including this one. How can you possibly leave out as durable, beautiful, ingenious a tune as "All the Things You Are," especially given its many permutations? Which is simply to say that some of us would have preferred shorter chapters, more songs, and an index.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, second edition can be better, July 28, 2002
By 
Mark McGlone (San Diego, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Stardust Melodies (Hardcover)
What a great idea for a book. Very entertaining look at a handful of classic, mostly-American, pop songs. The origin of each song is described (that's the most interesting part) and then there's a pretty detailed run through of many of the recorded versions (that can get a bit tedious, especially if you're unfamiliar with the versions discussed).
What it lacks is an index, and a formal discography. It would have also been nice if the lyrics of each song had been printed, and maybe the actual written music as well. Friedwald often describes the structure of the song by using the lyrics as guide posts, and that left me high and dry sometimes since I was, I'm ashamed to say, unfamiliar with some of these songs--I couldn't even hum St. Louis Blues, let alone recall any lyrics. A companion CD--or CDs--would have been nice as well, but that idea may be a little impractical.
Those flaws aside, I'd recommend this to anyone with any interest in the subject.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Gotta Love a Book whose First Line is "Lucy holds a saxophone.", September 3, 2007
This review is from: Stardust Melodies (Hardcover)
Will Friedland is a great raconteur, and his prose flows like a jazz solo, going off on tangents, quoting from other tunes, but all of it illuminating his central themes. If you are interested in music, you can't help but turn the pages with delight, as you discover new gems, and see new facets on the ones you've liked all along. If you aren't a musician, the discussion of the musical form, the chords, and what key this or that performer plays it in, and what is therefore their high and low notes, could become dry indeed. That is the reaction I am only too familiar with any time I broach such subjects with L-7's. Still, if you are someone who truly enjoys music, but is not a musician, you could still enjoy this book; you would just have to skim over certain parts, as if it was written in a foreign language. Others might find the whole thing dreadfully boring--overkill, even. But those sorts of people should be avoided at all costs.

Friedland has a great understanding of the role of jazz, slightly elevated, but still connected to popular music; at least it was in the days of the songs whose praises he sings here. What makes these tunes so great are not only the popular performances, but that they provide such a rich platform for improvisation. Jazz inspired the song writers, and the songs inspired countless variations and jazz choruses. The chapter on "I Got Rhythm" is a case in point. The song inspired countless others, based on its chords and bridge, from "Straighten Up and Fly Right" to "The Flintstones." Sometimes the vocalist is also a jazz musician, as in Louis Armstrong's version of "Stardust" where he sings and plays, or even, it could be argued, when Ella scats, giving many a horn player a run for his money. Will Friedland understands this interplay very well, and gives both musical forms their due.

The choice of songs and song writers is pretty solid, but of course, there are always songs that you feel should have been squeezed in. No "Stella by Starlight"? And Jerome Kern could have been better represented by "All the Things You Are" or "The Song Is You." But he already covered "The Song Is You" in his excellent book about Frank Sinatra by that title. "Body and Soul," by Johnny Green, is of course a foregone conclusion. "Night and Day" by Cole Porter is a good choice, but Mr. Porter wrote so many excellent songs that settling on just one is difficult. "St. Louis Blues" is another foregone conclusion, and great that a blues is included. Not only is it a blues, but it also has a rhumba section--an early example of fusion? "My Funny Valentine" is a good choice for Rodgers and Hart, but what about "Have You Met Miss Jones?"?

Of course, if you don't like his choices, then you are free to write your own book--but you would be hard pressed to pull together so much data, anecdotes, cultural observations, and emotions, and put them into a book that manages to encapsulate the whole era of the Great American Songbook in only 12 chapters. Bravo, Will Friedland!

Stardust
My Stardust Melody: The Songs of Hoagy Carmichael
Stardust (RVG Remastered)
Stardust Melody
The Essential Louis Armstrong
Stardust
De-Lovely
Classic Sinatra
No One Cares
Point of No Return
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, June 19, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Stardust Melodies (Hardcover)
Friedwald offers a fun-to-read look at 12 popular songs, which attempts to explain why these songs became standards. This includes a history of each song, a brief musicological dissection, a lyrical analysis and then a rundown of significant versions of the song, including vocals and instrumentals. All of the analysis is geared towards the layperson, so non-musicians, don't feel intimidated.
Ironically, the reviewer below who quotes the adage "if you've got nothing nice to say, say nothing" goes on to excoriate Friedwald and his musical "disinclination" for rock music. I'm a fan of rock, soul, pop and jazz, and I actually enjoyed reading an opinionated, cheeky take on music from someone who doesn't dig current popular tastes.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Fine Work From Friedwald, October 30, 2003
By 
TeeBee (Maplewood, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Stardust Melodies (Hardcover)
If you're an aficionado of the Great American Songbook, this is a must-buy. If you've read Friedwald's "The Song is You," you should already have this fine follow-up.
"Stardust Melodies" covers the origins and musical structure of some well-chosen standards. On the latter score, don't be intimidated if you don't read music; the analyses cover only a few pages and, frankly, it would be educational to read them while listening to the songs themselves.
Major recordings of the songs are then analyzed in the knowledgeable but witty and accessible style that endears Friedwald to his readers, and no one who has read any of his previous books will be disappointed. Perfect? No: the lack of discographies is a particularly glaring lapse, as noted by several reviewers. And, as others have also noted, Friedwald does have a blind spot when it comes to many more contemporary artists, but at least he wears his prejudices on his sleeve - he bluntly states, for instance, that he refuses to even listen to Johnnie Ray's recording of "As Time Goes By" (which happens to be excellent and, for Ray, quite restrained - WF might even like it!). This doesn't help his overall credibility with some readers, but for others Will's dislikes are part of the fun in reading him.
And that's the bottom line: this is a fun and informative book, not dry, stuffy or academic, reflecting the depth, variety and vitality of American pop. As the man said, Who could ask for anything more?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stardust melodies, a pleasing journey, July 19, 2002
By 
Susan D. Ward (Richmond, VA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Stardust Melodies (Hardcover)
This is an absolutely fascinating look at 12 American standards by 12 different composers. The author clearly states his parameters at the start - you won't find any tunes written after the 1940's, it's all pre - Rock 'n Roll. That's not bad, as a rock fan can look elsewhere, opera fans, too. Each chapter explores the history of a tune and its composer. The context of why and when the tunes were written is very interesting. The description of the musical structures may leave the casual reader behind, but these can easily be glossed over with no loss of enjoyment.
The fascinating part, for me, was the discussion of the various recorded versions of each tune. I could only read a chapter or two a day, as I had to go to our large collection of jazz recordings to listen to the recommended versions and compare my opinions with the author's. Of course, I also listened to several versions not mentioned by the author. What a thoroughly enjoyable trip through some great tunes.
The 12 selections are, of course, arbitrary, after one gets past "Star Dust" and "Body And Soul" it becomes a matter of taste. However, the author's reasoning in selecting each tune is very sound. I couldn't name an obvious choice that should have been included or excluded.
There are some minor factual discrepancies, as there would be in any work of this sort, although on the whole it is extremely well researched. Oddly, most of the errors I noted dealt with Bill Evans. I tried to contact the author, unsuccessfully, to discuss these and to congratulate him on a work well done and one that will bear repeated enjoyable reading. I would recommend this book highly to any fan of jazz or pre-rock American popular music.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, but not for all readers, August 4, 2002
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Stardust Melodies (Hardcover)
Stardust Melodies may be a godsend for musicologists, composers and musicians, but if you are a casual fan of jazz or swing this book may be overload. While Friedwald's other works, such as his biography of Sinatra's musical career, are accessible to a wide audience, the author's considerable expertise results in Stardust Melodies being very analytical and for many readers it may amount to a lot of trivia. That said -- I devoured the book and think it is superb in both concept and nearly as good in execution. Sure, everyone has a different list of songs, but I can't argue with Friedwald's selections.
What's missing? By all means, include a CD sampler of some of the older, obscure versions of the songs. While it would obviously be out of the question to reproduce the Sinatra and Fitzgerald tracks (for example), I'm sure that half of a surviving aircheck from Bing Crosby in the 1930s would be no problem and I would bet that almost none of the readers have heard it. Reading about music is sometimes difficult.
However, the historical information (for example, about the evolving lyrics of Ol' Man River, or the obscure origins of Mack the Knife) is treasurable and compensates for the frustration noted above. Opinion is inevitable in a work such as this, but Friedwald's is an educated opinion, and it adds flavor to the text.
Recommended, but not for casual listeners. You really must own at least a basic library of jazz standards before Stardust Melodies will be much of a revelation.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Stories about the Great Songs, November 14, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Stardust Melodies (Hardcover)
I was fascinated by this book. The songs covered are among my favorite songs and, just as important, by some of my favorite lyricists and composers. I've always enjoyed listening to the songs, by a wide range of artists. Now I know the backstory, how the songs got to where they were, the challenges the composers met, and the public reaction to the song. This is a beautifully researched and written book, a must have for anyone who ever sang in the shower or fancied themselves on a par with Sinatra and Ella. I hope there will be a volume two.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Stardust Melodies
Stardust Melodies by Will Friedwald (Hardcover - April 23, 2002)
Used & New from: $0.25
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.