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The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition Paperback – November 2, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
"How do you make an album guide that fits in a book bag?" Bracket asks in the introduction to this door-stopping compendium. "Selectively," he answers. To trim down the possibilities, the editors of this book decided to limit their entries to domestically released recordings currently available through major online stores. This makes it easy for consumers to buy what they want, as long as they want the latest mainstream music. Roughly 70 percent of the writing in this guide is new; Brackett notes that the editors chose artists who "have made a lasting, undeniable contribution to pop music." There are extra-long entries for Miles Davis, Dion, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Elvis and Muddy Waters, but a few baffling oversights (e.g., George Harrison is missing while the maligned Paula Abdul remains). The Guide is not intended for popular music historians, but a comparison with earlier editions reveals much about trends in popular music commentary: Chicagos recordings, once ahead of their time, are now "schlock;" a Rolling Stone reviewer has realized that Yes made some good records; and Tony Bennett merits triple the space he occupied in 1992. The new editions 72 authors (vs. the four in 1992) produce a tone and style less consistent than in past editions. Some things have not changed: the best-selling albums generally get the highest ratings, and punks and bluesmen are demigods. Often entertaining, the guide offers comprehensive album lists and usefully ranks the innumerable collections available for many artists. (Also welcome is the short section on anthologies and soundtracks.) However, readers seeking lengthy reviews of individual albums would probably be better off looking elsewhere.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Nathan Brackett is a senior editor at Rolling Stone, where he has edited the magazine's record reviews section since 1996.
Christian Hoard is a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone. He has also written for The Village Voice, Blender, Spin, and The Boston Globe.
Top customer reviews
If you could take the hip-hop/rap reviews from this 2004 edition and the rock reviews from the 1992 edition, you'd have a commendable review guide. Hopefully next time they'll get it right by including more artists (perhaps a two-volume set) and leaving the essaying to critics who have something mature to say ("the valley of suckdom"??).
There is still a lot of stuff inside and if you combine it with the previous editions, the trouser press guide and some others you will be able to get a good overview of rock.
First, the positives: it's nominally the 4th edition, but in reality pretty much an all-new book, as it should be, given the 12 year lay-off. Reading it now, it's good to see that recent releases such as PJ Harvey's "Uh Huh Her", the new Libertines CD, Jill Scott's "Beautifully Human", just to name a few, are covered. The writing is generally well done. Be aware, though, that many of the writing is very opiniated. For example, Weezer's "Pinkerton" is rated 5 stars, above all other Weezer albums. Huh?
That said, there are a lot of negatives as well, unfortunately. Leaving out certain artists is a judgement call, but as to certain oversights (such as Metallica and George Harrison) I must believe that is was an editing error (I hope!). Other entries are incomplete, for example leaving out Natalie Merchant's excellent 2003 release "The House Carpenter's Daughter", Rod Stewart's 2003 "Great Storybook Vol.2" or the seminal 2002 Stone Roses compilation "The Very Best of the Stones Roses".
In the end, this pales to the "All Music Guide to Rock", the most recent edition of which was released in early 2002, but which gets updated constantly on line. The "Rolling Stone Album Guide" may be ok for the casual fan, but for the rest of us, this is not good enough (even though many of us will purchase it anyway or have purchased it already, like myself).
That's too bad because, overall, this is quite good. Of course I don't agree with all of the star ratings but that's just the nature of books like these. Rather than focusing on a handful of reviews that you disagree with, focus instead on whether this book helps you gain appreciation of some artists that aren't in your collection and steers you towards their better recordings. In that respect, the RS Album Guide comes out a winner. Instead of moaning about how an album you love received less stars than you thought it deserved, you might find it more productive to read the entries on artists like Buddy Holly, James Brown, Little Richard, etc. and gain a little understanding of their historical importance to rock and roll.
My only warning is that every artist associated with punk or just sheer noise seems to be highly revered. But you'd figure that out yourself from reading the book. Just focus on the good parts, of which there are many, and enjoy. Even when you might not agree with the contents, the entries are almost always well written, so flipping through this book should make for several hours of enjoyment. Disagreeing with some of the entries is part of the fun.