PAUL ROLAND CD Guide To Pop & Rock (Batsford)
In which national press music reviewer Roland treads a, by now, rather over-familiar furrow, boasting that his tome will help you build your ultimate CD collection, when really all it will assist you with is building his ultimate CD collection. It has star ratings, it has an If you like this, why not try ? feature and it has some of the most witless, glib prose and glaring factual inaccuracies Ive encountered in nearly 25 years of reading about music. Perhaps a proof reader with a passing interest in the subject might have trapped malformed factoids such as the reference to The Beach Boys Brian Love, the assertion that Disraeli Gears was Creams debut album or, in a Troggs review, the suggestion that Westlifes version of Love Is All Around netted Reg a million in writers royalties. I doubt, however, that they could have battled successfully with the authors fondness for stretching a metaphor far beyond the limits of credulity his gauche discussions of The Cars and The Chemical Brothers, to pick two random selections from an embarrassment of examples, have to be read to be disbelieved. And then, well, I know its all opinion and one persons is equally valid as anothers, but, really: Led Zeppelins fourth album uneven?! How often have you actually played the four songs after Stairway To Heaven?, he bleats rhetorically often enough to know that uneven is an unusual adjective to select in discussion of that albums merits or lack thereof, at least. And of all the bands one might accuse of fashioning baggy Mancunian anthems, would you really number Blur among them, as Roland does? Then theres the flip dismissal of Hendrixs three studio albums (that would be Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland, remember) as padded out with more than their fair share of dopey hippy filler. And is it rigorous critical investigation that leads him to conclude that Patti Smith used punk and poetry to exorcize a festering hatred for her strict religious upbringing and its intolerance of her homosexuality or just an overly-literal interpretation of the lyrics to Gloria and Redondo Beach? Oh, (just one more, I promise, but I have pages of these!) and how Jeff Wayne must quake at Rolands searing indictment of his magnum opus War Of The Worlds as (somewhat ironically, given where this particular publication was retrieved from) a one-way ticket to the bargain bins, pausing en route only to spend four-and-a-half years on the British album charts.
On the plus side er, well, when indulging himself by writing about such personally favoured obscuranta as The Flamin Groovies or Robert Gordon the authors enthusiasm is genuinely infectious, and I cant be entirely against someone who awards Tyrannosaurus Rexs fragrant A Beard Of Stars five stars for content. But then I catch sight of the four (count em!) Eurythmics reviews who at this late stage needs to know about four Eurythmics albums?! his suggestion that Stevie Wonders Superstition contains the funkiest bass line for the clarinet in the history of black music or a discussion of the many merits of Yes Fragile that mentions Ian Andersons pseudo-mystical musings and Im off in search of firelighters again. Unless inexpensive and (hopefully) unintentional comedy is what you crave, avoid this book.