Saturday, August 19, 2023

Review: 'The Monkees: Made in Hollywood'

The most tiresome avenue of inquiry when discussing the Monkees' project has always been that of whether or not they were "authentic." How Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones came together as actors, not musicians, to play a band on TV and use their voices to sell records doesn't even qualify as an open secret anymore. It's simply Pop History 101. The truly fascinating part of The Monkees' story is how they staged a revolution to become authentic, how they threatened to walk out on their contracts if they weren't allowed to take charge of their own recordings to make one album fully as a band (Headquarters) and one album mostly as a band (Pisces, Aquarius...) and then continue to produce their own recordings basically as solo artists almost until the end of the enterprise in 1970, the year the most artistically controlling Monkee, Mike, split and left Micky and Davy to churn out one last record in the pre-revolution style. 

Monday, August 14, 2023

Review: 'David Bowie-Rainbowman: 1967-1980'

Originally published in French in 2019, David Bowie-Rainbowman: 1967-1980 took a rather Bowie-esque approach to telling the David Bowie story. Chronicling the career of a guy who refused to ever remain one thing, Jérôme Soligny's book was part biography, part track-by-track album guide, and part oral history. And just as Bowie compartmentalized his ch-ch-changes (sorry) via calculated character switches, Soligny's multi-faceted tome is very neatly organized. Each LP-focused chapter begins with a period-appropriate retrospective quote from the artist, himself, before moving on to the author's history of the period and track-by-track notes and finishing with retrospective comments from Bowie's acquaintances, co-workers, peers, and fans. That's a lot of material, and you really get the sense of the book's expansiveness when you lift it: Rainbowman is a 650-plus page hulking beast. 

Friday, August 11, 2023

Review: 'But Will You Love Me Tomorrow?: An Oral History of the '60s Girl Groups'

Between the original rock and roll era of Chuck, Buddy, and Bo and the British Invasion, the most happening thing happening in rock and roll was the girl group sound. Fresh, sexy, fun, and often emotionally raw, hits by The Supremes, The Marvelettes, The Ronettes, Darlene Love, The Angels, The Vandellas, The Crystals, The Shirelles, and the rest made radio worth listening to. Once The Beatles arrived in the Colonies, only the Motown groups really hung on (and let's not forget that The Supremes remained America's most unstoppable hit machine of the sixties), but the music they all made is timeless.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Review: Vinyl Debut of The Rolling Stones' 'Forty Licks'

The Rolling Stones' career can be divided very neatly into two distinct eras: the sixties, when they were restlessly searching for the sound that defines them, and everything after they'd found that sound with Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed. They rarely strayed from it for the next three decades. 

The Stones' movement between labels--Decca (UK)/London (US) in the sixties, then their own Rolling Stones Records in the seventies--further separates the eras and apparently made it impossible for them to mix and mingle too much. Aside from "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses," songs recorded during the Decca/London era that were not released until the RS Records one, none of their songs crossed the labels' Iron Curtain whenever it came time to assemble yet another Stones compilation throughout the twentieth century.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Review: 'Fashioning the Beatles: The Looks That Shook the World'

Along with their myriad musical innovations, The Beatles completely changed the way men were allowed to look when the group invaded the globe with their moppy tops and slender suits. They re-popularized facial hair, made the Cuban heel ubiquitous, and made it okay for guys to wear what were traditionally gals' clothes. For fashion-focused folks, these are developments every bit as earth-quaking as the tape loops of "Tomorrow Never Knows" or the orchestral crescendos of "A Day in the Life". To them, Deirdre Kelly's new book Fashioning the Beatles: The Looks That Shook the World will be what Revolution in the Head is to people who enjoy the group's music.
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