35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: 500 Greatest Albums of All Times, The (Hardcover)
I've read through Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums" guide and it has some real problems, all of which add up to it being extremely unhelpful for someone honestly looking for great albums. I considered giving this guide a higher rating simply because I agree that many of the albums included really are great, but the writing (or really, the lack thereof) is so bad that this book couldn't possibly be helpful to anyone who was not already familiar with the albums. This book gets off to a preposterous start when the editor claims that the Beatles' first album should be the number one album because it is the first one that HE bought, and getting all nostalgic about it makes him feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Wha?! And this guy is the editor?! That's not a basis for an argument for an album's position on a list ranking greatest albums! That should have told me what I was getting myself into by continuing to read. If you were to ask yourself whether or not you know anything new about the music after reading the article for any given album in this book, most likely the answer will be no (especially for 11-500). You may know that the drummer spilled beer on his drum kit while recording the big hit single, or some other piece of at best marginally useful information, but that's about it. And they don't even put much effort into providing much in the way of that level of information beyond the first 10 albums, the rest only get a paragraph of completely obvious and/or useless information. For a while I was under the impression that "Rolling Stone" was a music magazine that was knowledgeable about and understood and appreciated music (well, rock music at least, in the most narrow definition of the term, and perhaps blues, the father of rock). This book and other publications such as their brazenly mindless album guide, truly show what little respect and appreciation that they have for music. I almost get the impression that they want to show that they are too cool to take music seriously enough to put any thought or effort into what they write. They rarely even attempt to make a convincing argument as to why the albums hold the positions that they do in this book. It's clear after reading this guide AND their magazine review section for a while that the critics at Rolling Stone do not thoroughly listen to albums, and that they rate music based on things that have nothing to do with the merits of the material. They rate music based on type and image more than anything else, being much more concerned with shaping and pushing their idea of "cool" than with the actual merits of the music. It's obvious that they don't even understand jazz (which I guess goes hand in hand with not understanding even the fundamentals of music theory), but there are many areas of music that they don't seem to understand or appreciate. I don't see how it is at all helpful to judge music by how closely it adheres to aesthetic characteristics that are generally specific to the type that you like. Those that fit the mold will likely be overrated and those that don't will likely be underrated. Rolling Stone takes this unbelievably self-indulgent approach throughout this book. So this guide ends up being really unhelpful. But hey, where else are you going to find a book with so many pretty and glossy artist and album cover photos :-)? Unless that's what you're looking for though, you're better off saving your money. The ONLY consistently helpful and reliable expert critical review source that I'm aware of is "Wilson & Alroy's Record Reviews", so you should go over there and check out their site and their "5 Star Records" page in particular if you want a truly helpful guide to some great albums.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 23, 2007 1:33:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 12, 2007 10:57:17 AM PDT
Wilson & Alroy is a GREAT website. I love it. There are other reliable record review sites though, like George Starostin's and Jack Feeny's.
Posted on Jul 17, 2009 6:14:09 PM PDT
Thank you D.Lee. You have articulated my 30 years of pent up frustration towards Rolling Stone. I'm surprised that the Arctic Monkeys didn't get in the 500 BEFORE their debut was even recorded. And as usual, prog is almost completely overlooked.
Posted on Mar 31, 2011 9:47:56 AM PDT
Here is a quote from D. Lee's review: "This book gets off to a preposterous start when the editor claims that the Beatles' first album should be the number one album because it is the first one that HE bought, and getting all nostalgic about it makes him feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Wha?! And this guy is the editor?!" I'll answer your rhetorical question, D. Lee. "This guy" is NOT the editor--he is Steven Van Zandt. Maybe you've heard of him. He played a little guitar in a relatively unknown band called The E Street Band, fronted by some guy named Bruce Springsteen. Of course, the "Foreword" piece written by Little Steven actually mentions that, if you bother to read it. It's well-written, and all he is doing with his mention of Meet the Beatles is making the point that the list stirs up a lot of controversy along the lines of "where's my favorite album of all time?" Take this into consideration when weighing the value of this review. This is a fun book to have around, I'm glad I picked up a used copy in the Amazon marketplace.
Posted on Nov 19, 2011 8:37:59 AM PST
Eddie Wood says:
Wilson and Alroy are a complete joke. All you have to do is read their Beatles reviews and you can see they have no idea what they are talking about. It's actually kind of painful. Not their preferences, which are all personal taste, but numerous factual and musical mistakes. While this reviewer has some valid points about Rolling Stone, any kind of 100 Best, 500 Best list is all subjective, and mostly for fun, for conversation's sake. The only real reviewer that counts is you. Like what you like!
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