ROBERT DIMERY 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (Cassell Illustrated)

I first encountered this book – or at least its title and the stylised headphone-toting Kraftwerk dummies featured on its cover – when it formed the backbone of a promotion of the same name carried out by a certain troubled high street media retailer that I’m not about to give any free publicity to. In quick succession, I spied it behind the counter of my local library and was gifted a copy by my parents.

As the title suggests, it’s the usual international critical survey, here presented chronologically rather than in some arbitrary order of merit. It’s nicely presented, with informed comment and a colour reproduction of each selection’s cover art, but some albums are only granted half a page apiece, some one or even two if a photograph of the artist is included, which rather kyboshes any notion of equality.

Its reach is impressive, covering the 50 years that separate “In The Wee Small Hours” from “Get Behind Me Satan”, but as usual with this kind of book (or at least with me and this kind of book) the lazy fact checking rankles, unless Woodstock really was staged in 1970 and Phil Collins actually does play on “All Things Must Pass”. On more debatable ground, is Elvis Costello’s “Mighty Like A Rose” really a surf album, as this book maintains? And I’m all for diversity, but if mortality were imminent I’d be more likely to reach for R.E.M.’s mysteriously absent “Out Of Time” than Britney Spears’ mysteriously present “…Baby One More Time”.

Still, as the compilers haven’t forgotten The Blue Nile I won’t carp too bitterly, especially as, even though only “A Walk Across The Rooftops” makes the grade here, they concede that the rest of their catalogue is “magical too”. Oh, and it was worth whatever my parents paid for it to learn that the lady who stars in the “Mr. Leitch” interlude during Simon & Garfunkel’s “Fakin’ It” is Beverley Kutner, later Mrs John Martyn. I did not know that.