Being one that owns what I deem to be a "decent" music collection (approximately 2,000 albums) it recently occurred to me that the larger my collection grows, the lower the chance of receiving an album as a gift. Now I get books about albums: people are apprehensive to buy me albums with the (false) belief that I have everything already. That said, gifts are supposed to be something one buys for someone that the recipient would not buy for himself or herself. This book certainly fits the bill: I would not have bought it for myself. As it turns out, I am most thankful to have it.
Within its 960 pages, the 1001 albums are broken down by decade from the 1950's through 2005. Pictured at the opening of each section is a piece of audio equipment that characterizes the decade: a table radio for the 1950's, a Garrard turntable for the 60's, a Bang and Olufsen system for the 70's and so on. What I found rather disturbing was the selection for the 80's: a cheap plastic boom box. Maybe it marks when our hobby started to go wrong.
The more "noteworthy" albums receive a full page, with a picture of the artist on the opposite page. In between these are "mini reviews," two per page. The 1950's section, smaller than the others, won't surprise jazz lovers with the inclusion of Billie Holiday's Lady in Satin or Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. I already own Lady In Satin, but I am inclined to check out Marty Robbins' Gun Fighter Ballads and Trail Songs. The 1960's are split between Folk, Rock, and R&B with the occasional country album listed: the title of Loretta Lynn's 1967 release, Don't Come Home A Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind) is fantastic- whether I like the music or not. The 1970's show the progression of popular music, with the shift Punk and New Wave.
The Clash and Blondie are included here, and rightfully so. What surprised me was the inclusion of the Cars' debut album- I far preferred their sophomore release, Candy O. The 1980's had many great listings, but they lost me from 1990 to 2005: I don't care how much a Rap album is considered ground breaking, I find it to be nothing but noise. (Geez, I am starting to sound more and more like my mother the older I get. The last section of the book is heavily biased towards Rap.
I envision 1001 Albums to Hear before You Die could start all kinds of endless debates among music lovers: why, for example, Kiss' 1976 LP Destroyer was listed. In my opinion, it is a mediocre album at best, and not a good representation of the band's sheer power. A better choice would have been either Alive! released in 1975, or the later Alive II from 1977. The only solo Eric Clapton album listed in the entire book is 461 Ocean Boulevard. What, exactly, are they smoking? The misses, however, are just as important as the albums they got right: they make the reader think.
One thing that has me thinking is the inclusion of no less than three (!) Dexy's Midnight Runner's albums. I remember them for their U.S. hit "Come On Eileen" but never heard anything else by them. This may warrant further investigation. Occurrences such as this happen throughout the book, and point out the many gaping holes in my collection. My mind often goes blank when shopping for music: releases that I plan to buy are often forgotten and replaced by different purchases altogether. Why, for example, do I not own a copy of the Small Faces Ogden's Nut Gone Flake? I will have to remedy that. And that is only one instance of music I am missing: it happens over and over.
My copy will remain on my coffee table, and the pages will be marked with Post It Notes not only for myself, but also for others. Need a gift idea? Check "The Book." It certainly beats the hell out of the Yellow Pages.