If you love music anywhere near as much as I do, dance not walk to the nearest bookstore (or do the proverbial online) and pick up Tom Moons 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die. And hope for a long life to do as it recommends.
Moon is the former longtime Philadelphia Inquirer music critic, also known for his work in mags like Rolling Stone and Blender as well as on NPRs All Things Considered. His addition to the best-selling 1,000 Before You Die series is as essential as the recordings it spotlights, and a book that you can avidly skim and dip into from cover to cover as I did when it first arrived, plop atop the toilet top for further delving over time in those private moments, and ultimately trust to guide your purchases and listening.
I like and also trust Moon full disclosure and sad commentary here because he is one of maybe two out of the dozen or so fellow journalists who has interviewed me and not misquoted me, and I consider him what I call a professional friend. Hes also a musician, accomplished saxophonist, in fact, which is an even bigger reason to trust his ears.
Most music critics who are largely non-musical love lists, but I despise them, have hated the Year End Best round-ups for decades, because music is not quantitative but qualitative. And Ive lived long enough within the thrall of music to know that todays Top 10 rave can change on a spin (of another disc) or with time and reassessment.
Yet as I perused 1,000 Recordings , time and again on the genres I pretty much feel I know down coldrock and its roots antecedents and relativesId come across Moons choice of the best album by an artist to start with and think, yeah, Toms right, thats the one (he also lists Catalog Choices to hear them further).
Like his choice of Lou Reeds New York, for instance. Even if Im currently in the mood for Lous monumental live RocknRoll Animal, I remember wandering my old NYC Lower East Side neighborhood playing New York on my Walkman and being stunned by its Picasso meets Dos Passos depiction of reality and swooning to its terse yet pointed musicality and elemental grooves. Yep, Reeds finest moment.
Sure, I can quibble a wee bit, being a critic myself. Wheres Squeeze, the new wave era British band who could truly have been the next best Beatles (or for that matter wheres Oasis, the next best Beatles after them)? But then Moon both cites and gives more than usual words to Solid Air, the transformative 197X album by the criminally-overlooked British folk expansionist and musical explorer John Martyn, a genius on the level of John Coltranewho gets three album entries here, preceded by Patsy Cline, The Coasters, Eddie Cochran, Joe Cocker. Codona 3 (a Don Cherry project I now must hear), Leonard Cohen, Nat King Cole andin one hell of a coincidental set-upOrnette Coleman, and followed by The Comedian Harmonists, Ry Cooder, Sam Cooke, Alice Cooper and Aaron Copland.
You get the picture? This guide is spiritually comprehensive, even its its exclusionary by its sheer numbers nature. In preparing the book, Moon started with many thousands more albumshe also includes just songs, and the ones chosen are indeed choiceand the result of his paring is nearly perfect. And on genres I am certainly familiar with but hardly as engaged as I should be, like jazz and the classics, Moon is now my man to take me where I wish to go.
Like the 1,000 Places guides to this miraculous and amazing planet, this collection of brief essays on recordings offers the most gorgeous, stunning, breathtaking, soul-stirring, heartrending, inspiring and thought-provoking entry points into the so utterly rewarding world of music. And the author writes his thoughts on the recordings like the smart and soulful jazzbo saxman he is: Adding his own tonal shades and accents to the chorus of acclaim that many entries have already earned, and also tossing in his own concise yet revelatory riffs that often for me burst open new facets of even albums I know so well that I can play them in my head.
So excuse me now, I must be going. I have much music to purchase (not steal on the Internet) and listen to in what little time I may have left.
Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email email@example.com.
From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2008
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