This was good for the information, but you have to work for it. What the hell was up with the editing? Or the lack of it? It reads like an exact trans...moreThis was good for the information, but you have to work for it. What the hell was up with the editing? Or the lack of it? It reads like an exact transcription of Cale talking about his life--so much of it is him talking in circles, and there are typos like crazy. The layout of the text made it difficult to read at times, though after reading a recent interview with Cale, I found that was intentional and meant to resemble TV (which makes sense as I can't bear to watch most TV anymore...and anyway, it seems it would have been more apropos had it been published a decade prior). Ah well. I'm a big fan of Cale's solo work as well as his time with the VU, so I'm glad I picked this up. I was amused to find this was co-written by the same guy who wrote Lou Reed's bio--which my dad read while he waited for me to finish music lessons in 9th grade and regaled me with juicy stories when I returned--so I am both curious to read Reed's side but reluctant if the ridiculousness of the text is Bockris' doing.(less)
Wondering just how to qualify this collection--my rating isn't representative of this book as a whole. Since I only really know Van Morrison's work up...moreWondering just how to qualify this collection--my rating isn't representative of this book as a whole. Since I only really know Van Morrison's work up through 1974, I pretty much skimmed or skipped entirely the essays on music with which I wasn't familiar. However, I have thoroughly immersed myself in Them's repertoire and Morrison's solo work through Veedon Fleece since the first few days of my 17th year, and I found Marcus' writing in these essays to be solid and rightfully swept up in the spirit of romanticism that Morrison's music evokes, in no uncertain terms.
Primarily, though, this book gets my recommendation for its "Astral Weeks. 1968" essay. The album was my first real introduction to Van Morrison as an artist, and I quite vividly remember the first time I ever listened to the album. It is a living, breathing being to me that has offered solace and contemplation through the years and has adapted in its truthfulness as I've grown older. It has meant everything the lyrics and musicianship offer, but has also long since ventured further than maybe even its own intention. This is why, for a while, I avoided Marcus' essay on it, for fear of ruining its place in my soul, but I am happy to say that was not the case. Marcus' essay was fully its own--clearly identifiable as Greil Marcus, put into the context of his own particular dissection. I was a little doubtful at first of where he was going with John Carlos, Tommie Smith, and Bob Beamon, but he tied it to the album quite nicely. I like the essay itself because ultimately it is simply a paean to any particular art that has the power to move an individual to his or her core. Sure, Marcus gives us specifics on the album's musicians and makings and contours, he puts it into historical context, he puts it into the context of Morrison's body of work, and that's fascinating in its own right. The persistent note though is that it occurred because all the elements came together in such a way that made its beauty exactly what it was. Which is what you can say about any great, terrible, or mundane event really. But it gives the individual a sense of meaning. It highlights my own experience, when and where this album came into my life, how it has influenced my self and how my self informs what I take from the album. Like Marcus, who spends around 17 pages detailing this album only to end with "I've played Astral Weeks more than I've played any other record I own; I wouldn't tell you why even if I knew," I can understand the entirety of the album's structure, but in the end it's just about the personal connection, the right place at the right time that sticks. I think we can say lots of things about what we love deeply, but there is always the unspoken element that can never be put into words.
On the rare occasion I come across a member of the tribe that fully reveres this album with no exceptions; we hardly ever exchange any meaningful dialogue over it, but there's an unmistakable gesture that usually accompanies our shared reverence. Likewise, Marcus acknowledges that it "has led so many people to take the album as a kind of talisman, to recognize others by their affection for it, to say 'I'm going to my grave with this record, I will never forget it.'" This essay affirms the private fulfillment that is at once so singular but that is also shared by so many.
Dang. This is a great book to read and re-read. It's always nice to read cold, hard data for one's tastes...and I'm sure there's even more we know abo...moreDang. This is a great book to read and re-read. It's always nice to read cold, hard data for one's tastes...and I'm sure there's even more we know about neuroscience in the few years since this was published. Dr. Levitin, please provide us with a sequel! (Oh wait, maybe I should check on this...he probably has already...) Anyhow, this is a fascinating overview of the relationship between music and the human brain...he really does a good job at carefully explaining the evidence to those of us who are not so science-savvy without sounding like he's talking down to the reader either. I was able to pretty much skip the beginning where he explains concepts behind music theory and tonality, but it seems like he did a similarly admirable job at that as well when I skimmed it for anything I might not already know. Want to know biological reasons for why we soon grow out of children's tunes or the eternal infatuation we have with rock gods who really aren't that attractive? Read this tasty morsel and find out!(less)
Even though I often disagreed with some of McWhorter's opinions, this was a fascinating and thought-provoking read the whole way through. His discussi...moreEven though I often disagreed with some of McWhorter's opinions, this was a fascinating and thought-provoking read the whole way through. His discussions are very fluid and familiar (even though he bemoans the degradation of a formal, "written" style), which made me desperately wish that I could sit down with him face-to-face and ask him to clarify and debate his very strong, sometimes extreme, and rather conservative statements. Regardless, this book drew attention to aspects of language (more specifically regarding American culture) that I've never considered before, and has now enticed me to form my own opinions of language's growth, conditions of decline, and the societal implications brought about in Whorf's Hypothesis of language reflecting culture (and vice versa) (even though Steven Pinker has influenced me in examining the holes of this theory). Reading McWhorter often reminded me of an academician's Chuck Klosterman. You should read this one!!(less)
For as much as I've read about the Beatles' time in Hamburg, nothing has shed light on Stuart and Astrid as clearly as this book has. I loved the blac...moreFor as much as I've read about the Beatles' time in Hamburg, nothing has shed light on Stuart and Astrid as clearly as this book has. I loved the black and white as well as seeing the world mostly through Astrid's experiences and getting to know Stuart as an artist more than anything. Well done!(less)
I LOVED this book in high school. I used to have a goal then to own everything on the "Psychedelic 100" posted at the end of the book, and after perus...moreI LOVED this book in high school. I used to have a goal then to own everything on the "Psychedelic 100" posted at the end of the book, and after perusing through this again recently, I think I might have to rekindle this goal.
Just dorked out and was able to find about 70 of the 100 tracks on Spotify! Psych playlist, you are all mine. :)(less)