Monday, September 10, 2012

Tom Moon 1001 Recordings to Hear Before You Die 2008

I recently finished reading this delightful book. Tom Moon is a Philadelphia-based writer that has written for GQ, Rolling Stone, Spin, Vibe, Esquire, Harp, and Musician, and has been featured as music reviewer on National Public Radio. He is clearly knowledgeable about music, and is equally comfortable with classical, jazz, world, punk, pop and hip-hop. And he seems to honestly enjoy it all.

He sometimes sticks to the recordings that make everyone's lists. At other times, he chooses the record that most critics would call the second best, just to stay away from the most obvious choice- and he comes up with a valid defense of his opinion when he does this. More importantly, for someone who might use this book to expand both their horizons and their collections, these slightly different recommendations are particularly insightful.

Each recording gets a brief review/introduction with reasons why you need to hear it. Sometimes it goes beyond how great the music is to how important the music is to the development of a genre. Each selection also includes additional recommended recordings by the same artist, as well as by other artists mining the same vein, or some similar offshoot. Some of these are quite illuminating.

The best reason to be attracted to this book is if you are interested in getting introduced to new musical styles and genres. Moon spreads the titles around pretty equally, so if you're a rocker that wants to discover the blues, country, or R&B roots of that genre, there's plenty here to get you beyond started. Want to hear some of the most renowned classical and jazz recordings? Again, Moon can take care of you. Same thing for hip-hop, R&B and soul. And if you think you're ready to explore "world" music - that mix of international styles that have little in common (unless they are both Portuguese) other than they sound dramatically different from most Western styles- this is an excellent resource.

It is easy to nitpick Moon's selections, but we are talking about taste. If all music critics agreed with each other, we'd only need one of them. I was duly impressed with the depth of his knowledge, especially outside the mainstream, which is already well covered by the gazillion Top 100 whatever lists that have been published. Everything from Fela Kuti to Slayer, from Zappa to Mozart, from Big Bill Broonzy to 10cc, from Sex Pistols to Phillip Glass. And in between.

If you're a collector, don't read this book until you pay down the Visa bill.

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