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Customer Review

on July 19, 2004
There are two reasons why I had to get this book. Firstly, my 1995 copy crumbled into an oblivion of dry glue, a spine torn in half and a cover too flabby to endure. I did turn to the book often for information, but from the looks of it, you'd think I shot it out of a canon once a week as well. The book is just as cheaply constructed as other reviewers contend, while the Q Rock Stars Encyclopedia is much friendlier to the reader both aesthetically and physically. Secondly, Rolling Stone's web site used to contain all the information found in this book. Recently, though, the disappointing decision was made to scrap those lengthier and more informative biographies for the infuriatingly cursory headnotes they recently replaced them with.
Some of the omissions noted by other reviewers here are remarkable not necessarily because of the bands omitted, but because of the "artists" Rolling Stone replaced them with. I mean, come on, the guys in Great White aren't exactly pioneers, and why anyone thinks the exclusion of Wierd Al Yankovic is at all noteworthy mystifies me. But to leave them out for Britney Spears? Ricky Martin? What a blow! Couldn't we just scrap Milli Vanilli, for the love of God? It isn't as though Tiffany, who is included in this book, will be remembered any more than Britney 30 years from now; nonetheless I don't consider either pop star worthy of inclusion at the expense of decently talented blues bands such as Great White who at least know what a "chord" is. The real crime with regard to the debate over who's in and who's out is the exclusion of various Native American songwriters such as Jim Boyd or Bill Miller. The former in particular continues to make unbelievable folk rock (some of which was featured on the "Smoke Signals" Soundtrack). The work Boyd has done with Sherman Alexie (songs like the incomparable "Million Miles Away") especially warrants recognition here.
Those objections aside, this really is a nearly inexhaustible resource for fans of any of the 1,900+ bands the book takes a look at. I think that the distant tone with which the entries are written will infuriate more passionate fans who think their heroes aren't getting the accolades they deserve. But as an Encyclopedia's duty is to provide the essential information, this book at least succeeds more often than it fails. My own relationship with its past and current editions is going on about 8 years now. Along with the "Rough Guide to Rock" or the "Encyclopedia of Record Producers," it continues to be one of the few resources I run to for answers to questions or quick tutorials on bands whose work I am yet to be familiar with. I think it should also be noted that people ought not to be mislead by the "Rock 'N Roll" title, as the book includes many bluegrass, country, and folk artists who may not immediately be associated with Rock 'N Roll per say, but who influenced the genre to such an extent that their exclusion from this book would have been egregious. I mean people like Dave Van Ronk, Bill Monroe or Townes Van Zandt.
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