Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Heart of Rock & Soul

1989, undated later edition, from New American Library
Dave Marsh
The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made
Original price $14.95, purchase price $5.95
Very worn paperback with split spine

As the main title says, this is a more soul-based view of rock than usual for music criticism, with the co-author of 1981's Rock Lists showing why these are his favorite songs.  As he explains, even focusing on singles rather than albums went against the then common practice.  In one of the later entries, he ponders the future of singles, with CDs having for the most part replaced cassettes and records.  Although I don't follow pop music as much as I did 15 to 35 years ago, I get the impression that there are still "hits," and ironically the advent of Amazon and other downloadable music sites (including free) seems to have strengthened a piecemeal approach to music-listening.

As with Rock Lists, I don't have to agree with Marsh, or even have heard all of the songs here, to find this an entertaining read.  He goes from highest to lowest, sometimes grouping songs that he feels have a dialogue with each other (same song, same artist, or same theme).  True, there were times when a title would give me an earworm for the wrong song (often something from my '70s childhood rather than a more obscure r & b number from 20 years earlier).  Even with his #1, I'm less likely to think of Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" than CCR's or Gladys Knight's.  His #1001 is "No Way Out" by Joyce Harris, which I just listened to on Youtube, and it does feel like a borderline classic.  His reviews range from the brevity of "Just say yes" for "A Lover's Question" to the almost four pages on "We Are the World." 

The songs go from 1951 to 1988, although Marsh admits that almost half are from the 1960s.  He was born in 1950, and it's very much a Baby-Boomer's perspective, politically and otherwise.  I do appreciate, especially after the sludgy sexism of '90s Look Back, that he respects feminism, even if he doesn't agree with some segments of it.  (The part about people not taking Madonna seriously enough would quickly became outdated.)  And of course the book is more racially integrated than a lot of rock criticism, then and now.

No comments:

Post a Comment