Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rockin the Bookshelf

Into the Black – The Inside Story of Metallica (1991 – 2014) – Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood (DaCapo Press)

What amounts to part two of Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood, a pair of Brit metalhead journalist’s biography of legendary, rock ‘n’ roll hall of famers and metal masters, Metallica; Into the Black – The Inside Story of Metallica (1991 – 2014) picks up where the pair’s Birth School Metallica Death: The Inside Story of Metallica (1981 – 1991) left off.

Over the years the duo had striking access to the metal God’s inner workings and they begin this part of the journey on the cusp of the release of the band’s massive, self-titled disc, which is commonly dubbed the Black album. With that records MASSIVE success, the machinations about the band’s road forward really kicked into overdrive. Into the Black provided a great reminder of just how much crap these guys were on the receiving end of simply because they created music that attracted a huge audience.

Imagine that you have worked your entire career with the goal of breaking through to a mass audience only to be slagged as sellouts for reaching that goal. Brannigan and Winwood detail the band’s determination to continue on the path they set forth for themselves almost in spite of those, hell bent on bashing their success. I was also reminded of the laughable fixation on the part of some in their fan base as well as the media over the group shorn locks that accompanied the release of the Black album’s follow up Load.

Because they were afforded the extraordinary access during the timeframe in question, Brannigan and Winwood are able to offer up a real time perspective on the recording, writing, performing, promoting and personalities that are constantly at play within the band. Forget about a historical look back, this one is being detailed as it happens which offer a unique perspective on everything.

Play On – Now, Then, and Fleetwood Mac: the Autobiography – Mick Fleetwood (Little Brown)

Nearly a quarter of a century after his first foray into telling his life story, Fleetwood Mac founder, drummer Mick Fleetwood returns with Play On – Now, Then, and Fleetwood Mac: The Autobiography, a comprehensive look at his nearly five decade long career behind the drum kit of not only the wildly successful ban he founded, but also his start as the propulsion behind some classic blues masters.

Over the course of a multi-decade career with any number of incarnations of Fleetwood Mac along the way there is likely a shelf full of books worth of material, yet there seems to be a cautiousness to certain sections of this book. It’s almost as if Mick is happy with the currently reunited and most famous lineup of the band, that is on a highly successful tour, and he wants to avoid rocking the boat.

Much of the material is a rehashing of some of the earlier book; which interestingly has led to some a handful of new revelations, mixed with a handful of forgotten details. This ends up being a real fans autobiography; those casual or passing fans of Fleetwood Mac probably won’t gain any great, earthshaking insights, but those died in the wool fans will eat it up.

Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin – David Ritz (Little Brown)   

Ray Charles. Marvin Gaye. Smokey Robinson. B. B. King. Rick James. Etta James. The list of sometimes legendary and sometimes infamous musical performers that best-selling author David Ritz has written about and with is marked with some of the most historically significant and talented artists of all time.

Ritz collaborated with R & B Diva Aretha Franklin on her 1999 bio From These Roots, so at first blush it might seem odd that Ritz would chose to take a second dip into the Franklin story in Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin. The fact that Franklin didn’t give her permission and has disavowed this outing, bad mouthing the book’s more tabloid entries as “trashy” and “full of lies” could offer some interesting insights based on your perspective.

Naturally artists aren’t always predisposed to serving up “a warts and all” look at their life and times and given some legendary stories about Franklin’s tight fisted grip on controlling her career and those around her, it’s not a stretch to think that Lady Soul probably took a blue editing pencil to some of the stories Ritz uncovered about her childhood and family life, that he brings to these pages.

Trashy? Not so much. Overall Ritz still paints a compelling and positive portrait of his subject. Not sure that there was anything too earth shattering here and Franklin’s protestations may actually lend some credence to these stories.

Rumours of Glory: A Memoir – Bruce Cockburn (Harper One)

Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn is the true definition of a troubadour; a traveling musician, poet and cultural activist. He offers up a chronicle of not only his career, but also his travels, his causes and his musical journey through a life that he has shared many of his most intimate moments of, with his fans.

Rumours of Glory: A Memoir offers up some startlingly personal commentary on his five decade career and his concurrent journeys through far flung places. Clearly his traveling journey and his personal journey to Christianity has played and enormous role in influencing his music and lyrics. While his politics are often diametrically opposite from where I stand, I admire Cockburn and I am a fan of his music based on the simple fact that he never wavers from his convictions; he doesn’t merely take a stand because it’s convenient to the story he is trying to impart.

While most bios of musicians offer up a boatload of hijinks and antics of the room temperature IQ crowd, Rumours of Glory drills down deeply into what Cockburn is truly all about; fan or not, this one is truly worth the price of admission.


No comments: