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1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die by…

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2005)

by Robert Dimery

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Another volume in the popular "1001" series, I found this one to be one of the most disappointing and/or baffling. A team of music critics/writers/afficionados combined their recommendations to come up with this bizarre list of 1001 singles that epitomize the history of recorded and commercially-released music. Beginning with the pre-1950s era, and continuing until "mere months before the book was published in 2010", this massive book lists the 1001 songs in chronological order, with detailed background about the artists and songs represented. Starting with "O sole mio" performed by Enrico Caruso in 1916, and ending with "Stylo" by Gorrilaz in 2010, this is quite the eclectic collection of tunes. I definitely agreed with about 80% of the selections prior to the 1980s, but from that time period on the editors/contributors make some of the most bizarre musical choices! And the selections from the 2000s are so far out of my musical comfort zone that I'm forced to acknowledge that I'm out-of-touch with contemporary music. Still...for a nice overview of the history of significant "singles" in recording history, this is a fun volume to browse. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try other volumes in the "1001" series from this same publisher.]

Originally reviewed for my local library's website: http://www.lincolnlibraries.org/depts/bookguide/srec/staffrec11-07.htm ( )
  cannellfan | Dec 17, 2011 |
I can't think of any other way to say it: this is a weird list. It seems as if the editors have taken stock of comments made about other editions in their series (such as "1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die") that critique the representation as "too western." Well, non-western music is certainly well-represented on this list, as are non-Anglophone Europeans. The list is so diverse as to be a bit on the pompous side, which is exaggerated by the "10,001 You Must Download" addition in the back of the book. This appendix would be interesting if one already knew all the songs on it, but without further information on what styles they are in, the non-familiar names especially come off as just a list of foreigners whose songs you'll never likely get hold of, while the familiar names are good for little more than a game of "why isn't my favourite on the list?" The book also seems to have been composed solely or in the majority by British contributors, which skews the selections a bit. From a North American standpoint, one has to wonder why, if only one or two songs by a given artist were chosen, the team selected the ones they did. (Really? If you're only going to listen to one Spice Girls song ever, you'd pick "Spice Up Your Life?") Missing even from the supplementary list are such stand-outs as "Spill the Wine," "La Bamba," and "Crimson and Clover"... and yet, apparently, I need to hear not one, but TWO different versions of "If I Knew You Were Coming, I'd Have Baked a Cake." The book suffers from a lack of representation of East Asian artists in its main "1,001" section, as well as a seeming lack of favour for progressive rock, country, Celtic, and early big band standards. Some entries contain interesting tidbits such as songs that influenced the song in question, songs influenced by the song in question, and different cover versions of the song; however, it is not always clear to what extent the influences reflect information drawn from the artists themselves, and to what extent the editors simply think two songs sound similar (and surely, just because a singer sings quickly doesn't mean the song was necessarily influenced by "Surfin' Bird," does it?). All in all, this is a strange list which is very interesting to read if you are looking to expand your musical horizons to include things you've never listened to before, but which looks to me like little else than a contest between music journalists to see who could come up with the most obscure contributions. ( )
  quaintlittlehead | Apr 17, 2011 |
A must for music lovers. Here's my full review and other nonfiction faves: http://laurareviews.blogspot.com/search/label/Nifty Nonfiction ( )
  LauraCococcia | Mar 29, 2009 |
I started this book with higher hopes for it than for its "1001 Books" cousin, because it started with a nice explanation of exactly what kinds of albums were included and why. I hate rock and roll criticism, because so much of it seems to be a showcase for the writer's use of fancy words that don't tell you anything about how the music actually sounds. The articles in this book were not bad in that respect, though; thanks in part to their brevity, they focus on common terms for genres that will actually give the reader a sense of what other types of music a given album compares to.

However, as with the "1001 Books," I couldn't help but noticing that some things were missing and that a lot of things I had never heard of were there. I tried to console myself that great artists like Pat Benatar were nowhere to be found on the list because it is a list of albums, which is clear from the beginning, not just good songs, and thus some really good artists who have done some really good songs, but on albums that also featured some mediocre songs and thus didn't form any really cohesive whole that sparkled as a masterpiece from beginning to end, might not make the cut. And from the 50s through the 70s, I felt that many of the choices made were spot on.

In those pesky 80s and 90s though, I couldn't help but wonder about some things that were included, and couldn't help but be bothered that there really is a lot missing. And then I got to the Britney Spears page. Yes, apparently I desperately needed to hear Britney's debut album before I died--moreso than anything by Leslie Gore, Roy Orbison, The Supremes, Gladys Knight, Donna Summer, Lionel Richie, Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Joan Jett, Heart, Journey, Foreigner, INXS, The Scorpions, Styx, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, The Cranberries, Weezer, The Dave Matthews Band, Barenaked Ladies, They Might Be Giants, Macy Gray, or Alicia Keys--all great acts who didn't make the cut, and many (though not all) of whom, I would argue, have done some stellar albums.

This is what bothered me most about the book: its treatment of "pop" music. I think most of the rock, punk, jazz, country, and even world albums that got picked did deserve to be there. But only a few purely pop or disco records were acknowledged (The Carpenters, ABBA, Chic, Sister Sledge, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake) that could not be forced into the "New Wave" or "Electronica" categories, and those felt to me like pandering, as if the editors felt "we've got to pick a few pop records, so let's grab this handful that were the most popular to represent that whole genre." (The review for ABBA's "The Visitors," for example, seemed to dismiss a third of the songs on the album as silly or even nonsensical pop). I appreciate that there's good music out there that I've never been exposed to and that music journalists want to bring it to light. But I don't believe that millions of people worldwide are just mindless, tasteless consumers of disposable music, and that any act that sells widely is inherently less valuable than the latest indie underground group. I can't help but get the feeling when I read music magazines, and books like this, that the music critics disagree with me. In the end, I feel that this book suffers from the same pretensions as its "1001 Books" companion in that some relatively unknown artists' entire bodies of work were listed where just one example might have sufficed, while other much more well-known and well-loved choices were passed by. It's a nice little encyclopedia to have for when I want to know more about a particular album, artist, or time-frame, but I won't be trusting it to dictate my CD collection. ( )
2 vote quaintlittlehead | Apr 5, 2008 |
This is a nice little encyclopedia to have. I've been getting into a lot of older music recently, and it's awesome to go to back to this book to read about Sly & The Family Stone or Leonard Cohen or whoever else in this book (of course there's new music all the way up till 2005 here as well). Obviously whenever lists are compiled, there are questionable inclusions and omissions, but you're likely to find a lot of your favourite albums in here, and be opened up to a lot of new music. ( )
  Symbiosis | Sep 1, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0789313715, Hardcover)

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die is a highly readable list of the best, the most important, and the most influential pop albums from 1955 through 2003. Carefully selected by a team of international critics, each album is a groundbreaking work seminal to the understanding and appreciation of music from the 1950s to the present. Included with each entry are production details and credits as well as reproductions of original album cover art. Perhaps most important of all, each album featured comes with an authoritative description of its importance and influence. Among the critics involved in selecting the list are some of the best known music reviewers and commentators, including Theunis Bates (music writer for Time and urban editor at worldpop.com), Jon Harrington (staff writer at MTV), Seth Jacobson (writer for Dazed & Confused), as well as many others.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:02 -0400)

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A searing and compassionate story of one of the most maligned, and least understood, women in our nation's history: Mary Todd Lincoln.

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