New Rock Record
by Terry Hounsome & Tim Chambre
Published by Blandford Press
The intentions of this book will be made clear from some quotations on the back cover: "It provides an invaluable, accurate and enlightening listing of rock music albums and the musicians, bands and groups who appear on them." And: "New Rock Record contains over 5,000 groups, bands and individual artists coupled with details of more than 30,000 long-playing record albums on which they appear. In total, some 40,000 musicians are listed..."
A challenging and daunting feat but co author Terry Hounsome has more modest aims when he says in his introduction: "New Rock Record contains some 4,500 entries, 30,000 LP records and 25,000 different musicians." One claim must be wrong!
The contents, however, show the amount of work and time (five years according to Hounsome) spent in organising such a directory. It contains over 500 pages and includes a 58-page index of musicians' and groups' names (about 25,000).
The book is easy to use and understand once you have looked-up and cross-indexed a few names and if you like the sound of a particular bazouki player on an album you can find out which other albums he played on.
The introduction states that: "The editor is aware that some entries are incomplete and that there are some omissions." In a volume of this size and nature it is to be expected but some of the errors and omissions seem unnecessary and sometimes the logic is a little hard to follow. While looking up some of my favourite artists (and getting sidetracked in the process) in a book which intends to take in; "... all forms of Rock music from its roots to the present day; as well as mainstream Rock it also contains much information on Pop, Soul, Reggae, Jazzrock, Blues, Country and Folk." It was strange to see no listing for, for example, Donna Summer or Barbra Streisand while Boney M and Kris Kristofferson have a section to themselves.
(Actually a Barbra Streisand is listed as doing vocals for Kris Kristofferson on his 'A Star is Born' album but she is not even listed in the index.) Abba has a full listing with Cliff Richard and the Crusaders (although Randy Crawford is credited here on vocals, her solo album is ignored). Country music is mentioned although Jim Reeves and Slim Whitman are not. Dolly Parton is credited with vocals on other people's albums but not given a separate listing of her own.
Obviously, the line had to be drawn somewhere and no doubt each reader will have their own opinion as to where it should have been.
Some errors are blatant. Jim Steinman of Meatloaf fame is listed as John. Wanda Jackson had a release on Capitol in 1067. The Residents' Commercial album (1980) is not included. Larry Fast is not credited with the Synergy albums (no one is) about which very little information is given; even their release on Passport Records is not given apart from the number of the 'Cords' album for which the year is omitted. Numerous albums do not have their year listed.
While cross-indexing the B.B. King discography with that listed in his biography (see review) there were several anomalies although the New Rock Record did list several foreign printings of US releases.
The book is intensely interesting and fascinating and once you start cross-indexing a few musicians you could easily spend several hours tracing musician to band and following them from group to group.
It does not have all the answers and if used to settle wagers of the '...but Randy Brecker did play trumpet in 1968 for the McCoys...' type then the loser could possibly justify non-payment on the grounds of a possible error. For all that, an elucidating work but certainly not definitive.
Video Questions and Answers
by Steve Money
Published by Newnes Technical Books
Both the author of this book and the series to which it belongs are well established so I had great expectations of 'Video Questions and Answers'. I was not disappointed!
In the 112 pages of this little book Steve Money has managed to cram a vast amount of useful information on all aspects of video and television, all presented in convenient bite-sized chunks. There is no padding to fill up the book, just enough information to answer all the average person wants to know on a topic. Each topic is prefixed with an introductory question (just a little bit bogus, this) but the answers are all solid fact. It is clear that a lot of thought and checking have gone into this book and I didn't spot a single error. Separate chapters cover the characteristics of the video signal, TV broadcasting, video screen displays and colour television. Also covered are video cameras, videotape recording and even allied subjects such as teletext and viewdata, TV games and videodiscs.
The book is an ideal first book for someone starting at technical college or a keen hobbyist but it will also appeal to anyone who wants to know a bit more about how things work. For instance the author explains the operation of touch switches, digital remote control and Surface Acoustic Wave Filters. He gives the answers to questions on lag in vidicon tubes, lenses for cameras and similar issues. The book is remarkably up to date, covering video recorder formats down to the new ¼ inch CVC one and is completely clued up on the new extra-long video cassettes. The more basic principles are not ignored either.
You don't get many good books for under £2 these days but this is one of them. For the price it is difficult to fault and is certainly recommended.
The Listeners Guide to Jazz
Blandford Press Ltd
"The history of Jazz doesn't lend itself to precise categories" is the author's opening line. True. So if it is an in depth history of jazz you are after, this book will disappoint you. Instead, Alan Rich has produced a simple worthwhile listener's guide neatly laid out, and in under 200 pages! The book does categorise, but in chronological sections of jazz development from New Orleans through swing and be-bop to fusion and beyond, with a chapter devoted completely to Duke Ellington and Miles Davis (though I must question the justification in singling out the latter).
In each chapter a brief outline of the jazz form under discussion is given which is informative yet concise. This is followed by sections on the most important jazz musicians related to the jazz form, such as Parker in the be-bop section and Cecil Taylor in Avant Garde.
Unless you are a specialist, all the jazz names likely to be encountered as a listener are dealt with and a short bibliography given, enabling unfamiliar artists and their recordings to be explored. A small criticism must be given, however — the bibliography list never exceeds ten record titles and more than four is rare, the remaining space being devoted to rather subjective comments on the recordings which, considering the title of the book, should perhaps be left to the listener to conclude, reading relevant facts off the record sleeve itself.
A photograph of each musician accompanies a brief yet concise musical history which dips into their private lives where necessary, revealing facts which would certainly swell most jazz buffs' knowledge. It was nice to see that this American author includes our own John Surman in the modern section.
So, a very commendable book, ideal for someone with an as yet passive interest in jazz. By picking the cream of jazz recordings Mr Rich has given the opportunity for positive development of that interest and progression to either more serious listening or reading up of these musicians' private lives (most of which are fascinating).
"The Listeners Guide to Jazz" is a compact, interesting and, therefore, useful stepping-stone to the world of jazz.