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Music

33 1/3 Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street

33 1/3 Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street

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Tracing the creation of Exile on Main Street from the original songwriting done while touring America through the final editing in Los Angeles, Bill Janovitz explains how an album recorded by a British band in a villa on the French Riviera is pure American rock & roll. Looking at each song individually, Janovitz unveils the innovative recording techniques, personal struggles, and rock & roll mythmaking that culminated in this pivotal album.
33 1/3 Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson

33 1/3 Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson

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Outside his native France, the view of Serge Gainsbourg was once of a one-hit wonder lothario. This has been slowly replaced by an awareness of how talented and innovative a songwriter he was. Gainsbourg was an eclectic, protean figure; a Dadaist, poète maudit, Pop-Artist, libertine and anti-hero. An icon and iconoclast.

His masterpiece is arguably Histoire de Melody Nelson, an album suite combining many of his signature themes; sex, taboo, provocation, humour, exoticism and ultimately tragedy. Composed and arranged with the great Jean-Claude Vannier, its score of lush cinematic strings and proto-hip hop beats, combined with Serge's spoken-word poetry, has become remarkably influential across a vast musical spectrum; inspiring soundtracks, indie groups and electronic artists. In recent years, the album's reputation has grown from cult status to that of a modern classic with the likes of Beck, Portishead, Mike Patton, Air and Pulp paying tribute.

How did the son of Jewish Russian immigrants, hounded during the Nazi Occupation, rise to such notoriety and acclaim, being celebrated by President François Mitterand as our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire? How did the early chanson singer evolve into a musical visionary incorporating samples, breakbeats and dub into his music, decades ahead of the curve? And what are the roots and legacy of a concept album about a Rolls Royce, a red-haired Lolita muse, otherworldly mansions, plane crashes and Cargo Cults?

33 1/3 Slayer's Reign in Blood

33 1/3 Slayer's Reign in Blood

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Issued on America's premier rap label at the peak of the thrash metal movement, Slayer's controversial Reign in Blood remains the gold standard for extreme heavy metal, a seamless 29-minute procession of ten blindingly fast, apocalyptic songs. The first English book about Slayer explores the creation of the most universally respected metal album and its long road to the stores, through original interviews with the entire band, producer Rick Rubin, engineer Andy Wallace, cover artist Larry Carroll, and Def Jam insiders from Russell Simmons to M.C. Serch. From Tori Amos to Pantera's Phil Anselmo, dozens of fans and artists discuss the record's ongoing impact and Slayer's status in the small fraternity of rock's greatest groups.

33 1/3 Steely Dans Aja

33 1/3 Steely Dans Aja

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Aja was the album that made Steely Dan a commercial force on the order of contemporaries like Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and Chicago. A double-platinum, Grammy-winning bestseller, it lingered on the Billboard charts for more than a year and spawned three hit singles. Odd, then, that its creators saw it as an ambitious, extended work, the apotheosis of their anti-rock, anti-band, anti-glamour aesthetic. Populated by thirty-fi ve mostly jazz session players, Aja served up prewar song forms, mixed meters and extended solos to a generation whose idea of pop daring was Paul letting Linda sing lead once in a while. And, impossibly, it sold. Including an in-depth interview with Donald Fagen, this book paints a detailed picture of the making of a masterpiece.

33 1/3 Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life

33 1/3 Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life

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Like all double albums, Songs in the Key of Life is imperfect but audacious. If its titular concern - life - doesn't exactly allow for rigid focus, it's still a fiercely inspired collection of songs and one of the definitive soul records of the 1970s. Stevie Wonder was unable to control the springs of his creativity during that decade. Upon turning 21 in 1971, he freed himself from the Motown contract he'd been saddled with as a child performer, renegotiated the terms, and unleashed hundreds of songs to tape. Over the next five years, Wonder would amass countless recordings and release his five greatest albums - as prolific a golden period as there has ever been in contemporary music. But Songs in the Key of Life is different from the four albums that preceded it; it's an overstuffed, overjoyed, maddeningly ambitious encapsulation of all the progress Stevie Wonder had made in that short space of time.

Zeth Lundy's book, in keeping with the album's themes, is structured as a life cycle. It's divided into the following sections: Birth; Innocence/Adolescence; Experience/Adulthood; Death; Rebirth. Within this framework, Zeth Lundy covers Stevie Wonder's excessive work habits and recording methodology, his reliance on synthesizers, the album's place in the gospel-inspired progression of 1970s R'n'B, and many other subjects.

33 1/3 The Pogues' Rum Sodomy and the Lash

33 1/3 The Pogues' Rum Sodomy and the Lash

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To absorb Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash is to be taken on a wild voyage with a cast of downtrodden revolutionaries. Despite this notion, the epic themes of the Pogues' second full length record have been overlooked by both critics and biographers in favor of two things: the band's penchant for combining Celtic folk with punk rhythms (the sound) and the excesses of Shane MacGowan (the creator). Instead of reiterating these aspects, this book discusses, in the form of a sea-faring narrative, the record's articulation of what it is found to be magnificently trodden. Through epic imagery gracing the cover of the album and reverberating throughout the lyrics, Roesgen's book shows that what the Pogues created is far more than pub-room music created by drunken men wallowing in Irish nostalgia and pining for something subversive.
33 1/3 They Might Be Giants Flood

33 1/3 They Might Be Giants Flood

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For a few decades now, They Might Be Giants' album Flood has been a beacon (or at least a nightlight) for people who might rather read than rock out, who care more about science fiction than Slayer, who are more often called clever than cool. Neither the band's hip origins in the Lower East Side scene nor Flood's platinum certification can cover up the record's singular importance at the geek fringes of culture.

Flood's significance to this audience helps us understand a certain way of being: it shows that geek identity doesn't depend on references to Hobbits or Spock ears, but can instead be a set of creative and interpretive practices marked by playful excess--a flood of ideas.

The album also clarifies an historical moment. The brainy sort of kids who listened to They Might Be Giants saw their own cultural options grow explosively during the late 1980s and early 1990s amid the early tech boom and America's advancing leftist social tides. Whether or not it was the band's intention, Flood's jubilant proclamation of an identity unconcerned with coolness found an ideal audience at an ideal turning point. This book tells the story.

33 1/3 Tom Waits' Swordfishtrombones

33 1/3 Tom Waits' Swordfishtrombones

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Two entwined narratives run through the creation of Swordfishtrombones and form the backbone of this book. As the 1970s ended, Waits felt increasingly constrained and trapped by his persona and career. Bitter and desperately unhappy, he moved to New York in 1979 to change his life. It wasn't working. But at his low point, he got the phone call that changed everything: Francis Ford Coppola tapped Tom to write the score for One From the Heart. Waits moved back to Los Angeles to work at Zoetrope's Hollywood studio for the next 18 months. He cleaned up, disciplined himself as a songwriter and musician, collaborated closely with Coppola, and met a script analyst named Kathleen Brennan - his only true love.


They married within 2 months at the Always and Forever Yours Wedding Chapel at 2am. Swordfishtrombones was the first thing Waits recorded after his marriage, and it was at Kathleen's urging that he made a record that conceded exactly nothing to his record label, or the critics, or his fans. There aren't many love stories where the happy ending sounds like a paint can tumbling in an empty cement mixer.


Kathleen Brennan was sorely disappointed by Tom's record collection. She forced him out of his comfortable jazzbo pocket to take in foreign film scores, German theatre, and Asian percussion. These two stories of a man creating that elusive American second act, and also finding the perfect collaborator in his wife give this book a natural forward drive.

33 1/3 Tori Amos Boys For Pele

33 1/3 Tori Amos Boys For Pele

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This is a book on Tori Amos's 1996 album Boys for Pele. Her third solo album, the one where she's suckling a pig and holding a shotgun on the cover. The one that enticed her to go off to the Amazon rainforest, take the hallucinogen ayahuasca with some shamans, and come back to us with the crucial information that the devil is really a woman in a white Chanel suit driving an ice cream truck: a bit of insight which ultimately gave root to the song "Father Lucifer."
Boys for Pele is rich in mythology and texture. It is also her fans' favorite. (The fans have scientifically proven this on the internet. They love the polls.) On Boys for Pele, Amos bangs the hell out of a harpsichord and paints a sonic landscape that every woman knows but had honestly (I know this sounds weird now, but it was true then) barely heard spoken before. Is she really saying that? She gets the texture down of your most self-hating one-night-stands and obsessions-without being obvious, and by tying it in to much bigger-mythological-stories. These stories, these nooks and crannies of women's hearts, find a shape that makes them matter, makes them mythological, sexual (not just sexy), smart, angry, broken, vulnerable, complex, powerful in a way that is not some kind of cheesy go-girl catchphrase or shoulder-pad business suit. Before Boys for Pele, in the culture at large, going near any of this stuff as content seemed more like a trite Cosmo article on the dangers of cutting or of anorexia, a cheap warning against being too Sylvia Plath. (The album's biggest predecessor, somehow, is Joni Mitchell's Blue.) This is the landscape that Alanis and Fiona Apple try to get to, but Boys for Pele does it with adequate depth and drawing on such rich mythology that the album becomes a transformative work, a key to its listeners' inner worlds, in many cases. Amos has often mentioned Persephone's journey to the underworld in context of this album, and it does in fact take you down through the unconscious realms-and back up again-that are hard to get to otherwise.

33 1/3 U2's Achtung Baby

33 1/3 U2's Achtung Baby

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Stephen Catanzarite takes a close look at what many consider to be U2's most fully formed album through the prisms of religion, politics, spirituality, and culture, illuminating its previously unexplored depths, arguing that it's a concept album about love and the fall of man.
33 1/3 Weezer's Pinkerton

33 1/3 Weezer's Pinkerton

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Rolling Stone's readers voted Weezer's Pinkerton album the second worst album of 1996. In 2002, Rolling Stone voted Pinkerton the best album of all time. This book examines the critical reassessment of Pinkerton. It also reassesses the album's songwriter, Rivers Cuomo in a broader sense that highlights his discordant personalities.
33 1/3 Wire's Pink Flag

33 1/3 Wire's Pink Flag

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In contrast with many of their punk peers, Wire were enigmatic and cerebral, always keeping a distance from the crowd. Although Pink Flag appeared before the end of 1977, it was already a meta-commentary on the punk scene and was far more revolutionary musically than the rest of the competition. Few punk bands moved beyond pared-down rock 'n' roll and garage rock, football-terrace sing-alongs or shambolic pub rock and, if we're honest, only a handful of punk records hold up today as anything other than increasingly quaint period pieces. While the majority of their peers flogged one idea to death and paid only lip service to punk's Year Zero credo, Wire took a genuinely radical approach, deconstructing song conventions, exploring new possibilities and consistently reinventing their sound. THIS IS A CHORD. THIS IS ANOTHER. THIS IS A THIRD. NOW FORM A BAND, proclaimed the caption to the famous diagram in a UK fanzine in 1976 and countless punk acts embodied that do-it-yourself spirit. Wire, however, showed more interesting ways of doing it once you'd formed that band and they found more compelling uses for those three mythical chords.
33 1/3: Abba's Abba Gold

33 1/3: Abba's Abba Gold

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Perhaps more than any other Greatest Hits compilation, Abba Gold has come to define a band's career on one disk. More than that, its release in 1992 heralded the critical rehabilitation of a group which had, since its demise a decade earlier, become little more than a memory of trashy costumes and cheesy tunes to many people. Here, Elisabeth Vincentelli charts the circumstances surrounding the birth of Abba Gold, looks at the impact it had on the music world, and tells the stories behind some of the greatest pop songs ever recorded.

33 1/3: Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace

33 1/3: Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace

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For two days in January 1972, Aretha Franklin sang at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles while tape recorders and film cameras rolled. Everyone there knew the event had the potential to be historic: five years after ascending to soul royalty and commercial success, Franklin was publicly returning to her religious roots. Her influential minister father stood by her on the pulpit. Her mentor, Clara Ward, sat in the pews. Franklin responded to the occasion with the performance of her life and the resulting double album became a multi-million seller-even without any trademark hit singles. But that was just one part of the story.

Franklin's warm inimitable voice, virtuoso jazz-soul instrumental group and Rev. James Cleveland's inventive choral arrangements transformed the course of gospel. Through new interviews, musical and theological analyses as well as archival discoveries, this book sets the scene, traces the recording's traditional origins and pop infusions and describes the album's enduring impact.

33 1/3: Belle and Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister

33 1/3: Belle and Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister

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If You're Feeling Sinister shows how Belle & Sebastian transformed themselves over the space of a decade, from a slightly shambolic cult secret into a polished, highly entertaining, mainstream pop group. Along the way, the book shows how the internet has revolutionized how we discover new music-often at the cost of romance and mystery.
33 1/3: Black Sabbath Master of Reality

33 1/3: Black Sabbath Master of Reality

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Black Sabbath's Master of Reality has maintained remarkable historical status over several generations; it's a touchstone for the directionless, and common coin for young men and women who've felt excluded from the broader cultural economy. John Darnielle hears it through the ears of Roger Painter, a young adult locked in a southern California adolescent psychiatric center in 1985; deprived of his Walkman and hungry for comfort, he explains Black Sabbath as one might describe air to a fish, or love to an android, hoping to convince his captors to give him back his tapes.
33 1/3: Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited

33 1/3: Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited

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Highway 61 Revisited resonates because of its enduring emotional appeal. Few songwriters before Dylan or since have combined so effectively the intensely personal with the spectacularly universal. In Like a Rolling Stone, his gleeful excoriation of Miss Lonely (Edie Sedgwick? Joan Baez? a composite type?) fuses with the evocation of a hip new zeitgeist to produce a veritable anthem. In Ballad of a Thin Man, the younger generation's confusion is thrown back in the Establishment's face, even as Dylan vents his disgust with the critics who labored to catalogue him. And in Desolation Row, he reaches the zenith of his own brand of surrealist paranoia, that here attains the atmospheric intensity of a full-fledged nightmare. Between its many flourishes of gallows humor, this is one of the most immaculately frightful songs ever recorded, with its relentless imagery of communal executions, its parade of fallen giants and triumphant local losers, its epic length and even the mournful sweetness of Bloomfield's flamenco-inspired fills.

In this book, Mark Polizzotti examines just what makes the songs on Highway 61 Revisited so affecting, how they work together as a suite, and how lyrics, melody, and arrangements combine to create an unusually potent mix. He blends musical and literary analysis of the songs themselves, biography (where appropriate) and recording information (where helpful). And he focuses on Dylan's mythic presence in the mid-60s, when he emerged from his proletarian incarnation to become the American Rimbaud. The comparison has been made by others, including Dylan, and it illuminates much about his mid-sixties career, for in many respects Highway 61 is rock 'n' roll's answer to A Season in Hell.

33 1/3: Brian Eno's Another Green World

33 1/3: Brian Eno's Another Green World

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The serene, delicate songs on Another Green World sound practically
meditative, but the album itself was an experiment fueled by
adrenaline, panic, and pure faith. It was the first Brian Eno album to
be composed almost completely in the confines of a recording studio,
over a scant few months in the summer of 1975. The album was a proof
of concept for Eno's budding ideas of the studio as musical
instrument, and a signpost for a bold new way of thinking about
music.

In this book, Geeta Dayal unravels Another Green World's abundant
mysteries, venturing into its dense thickets of sound. How was an
album this cohesive and refined formed in such a seemingly ad hoc way?
How were electronics and layers of synthetic treatments used to create
an album so redolent of the natural world? How did a deck of cards
figure into all of this? Here, through interviews and archival
research, she unearths the strange story of how Another Green World
formed the link to Eno's future -- foreshadowing his metamorphosis
from unlikely glam rocker to sonic painter and producer.