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This comprehensive reference work on popular music includes all the significant popular music artists of the 20th century. The 18,000 entries each include a biography, discography, record label details and a compilation album listing. There are also essays on popular music genres, record companies, festivals and cities. By cross-referencing to the main entries, the song index should allow full identification of and background to any of the 50,000 songs listed. The book is for all those in the music industry - agents, recorders, media lawyers, artists and music consultants; pop music enthusiasts; libraries; academics; and those in the media, such as journalists and researchers.
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Larkin is an award-winning book designer and one-time book publisher who currently devotes himself exclusively to writing, editing, and producing rock and pop music titles.From Booklist:
In its third edition, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music now has more than 18,500 entries, which add up to make this the most comprehensive reference work of its kind. The second edition, originally published in 1995, was called The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music [RBB Ap 15 96] and had approximately 15,000 entries. The detail and comprehensiveness found in the new set's eight volumes (up from six) are impressive. In creating it, author and editor Larkin has truly placed the stamp of legitimacy and respect on the study of popular music. The genres of rock, country, soul, jazz, rap, folk, New Age, blues, and R & B and the music of Tin Pan Alley are all represented, but popular composers in the classical vein (Aaron Copeland, Charles Ives) are consciously omitted. The focus is upon music from or popular in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. It is impossible to be completely objective about any form of music, a subject on which contributors have likes and dislikes that inevitably come through in at least some of their writing. However, Larkin has succeeded in editing to meet his criterion: "to strike a balance between being highly opinionated and dead boring."
More than three-quarters of the entries have been enlarged, and new ones have been added. Main headings, as in past editions, cover individuals (including singers, writers, producers, actors, session players), bands, albums, films, musical theater, record labels, and concepts. Entries range in length from a paragraph or two (for some albums, stage and screen titles, and people) to one or more pages for more influential artists (Billie Holiday, George Gershwin, The Rolling Stones, Stephen Sondheim, Sun Ra) and other topics (Atlantic Records, jazz writing). There are numerous people and bands here that most of us have never heard of, which makes the encyclopedia fun for browsing. For individuals and groups, birth and death or formation and breakup dates are given when available, and careers are followed from early influences to albums, concert tours, and collaborations. Song titles are frequently mentioned, and there is a mammoth song-title index in the last volume. Following each narrative is a chronological album discography (usually, but not always, complete), with original label name and date and star rating; compilation albums are listed separately. As explained in notes on style, the five-star rating system for albums (new to this edition) is different from that used in other forums. Here, ratings indicate a comparison between the various works that that performer has produced. For instance, a Heart four-star album is that much better than a Heart one-star album, but it is not necessarily the critical equivalent of a Beatles four-star album. Ratings are assigned by the editor and a few contributors and take into account critical opinion. Larkin has also begun the huge task of adding a list of videos for more recent performers, and he has added to the further reading lists appended to many entries.
For each of the 1,500 key albums important enough to rate a separate entry, the writing conveys a sense of the work's musical characteristics, critical reception, social importance, and how it reflects the performer's development at that point. Significant and hit tracks are singled out; for instance, Public Enemy's 1990 "`Fight the Power' still bites harder than just about any other track in rap's history." A list of all tracks, album release dates, and U.K. and U.S. peak chart positions are given. It would be helpful if there were a single list in an appendix of these seminal works. Although album entries contain cross-references (designated by boldface) to their creator, the reverse is not always true. For example, under Public Enemy, there is nothing that would tell the reader that there are separate entries for several of their works. In the next edition, perhaps boldface cross-references could be used within a performer's album listings, rather than in the text, where the album may not even be mentioned.
Film and musical entries outline plot and characters and focus on notable songs. Occasionally the words "film musical" or "stage musical" appear in parentheses following titles, but only to distinguish between two or more identical entries (e.g. Grease); this means that it is often hard to tell which form is under discussion until halfway through the entry. In the entry Good Times, the reader doesn't know until the fourth sentence that this is a Sonny and Cher film, not an album. For companies, such as Sun, Verve, and Windham Hill, we get an overview of the careers of artists who recorded for them and a sense of the musical style(s) the labels promoted. Grunge, AOR (adult orientated rock), and rockabilly are examples of entries that define musical genres, although New Age can't be found. Country Music Association and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are just two of the many institutions covered.
In the last volume, there is a bibliography by artist, which duplicates the reading lists found at the end of entries but adds publishers and dates. A bibliography by subject (blues, punk, and so forth), a list of selected fanzines (often with corresponding Web sites), and the song title index follow. A general index nearly 300 pages long and a quick reference guide to main headings conclude the set. There are several problems with the general index. The only information provided under each index entry are page numbers, but the lack of printed page ranges on the book spines, combined with the omission of a page range by volume key on the index pages, makes for a frustrating search because, for example, the reader must guess which volume contains page 4,053. On the plus side, the indexing to internal references seems to be incredibly thorough.
Spelling and typographical errors do exist, although not in noticeably large numbers. Inevitably, there are some omissions. Bobby Sherman, bubble-gum phenomenon of the early 1970s, was left out, although perhaps there is an editorial statement to be found there. Larkin does have 29,500 headwords still waiting to have entries prepared, so expect either supplements (which would be more economical for libraries) or new editions in the years to come. Problems are certainly minor, in the end, given the enormous scope of this encyclopedia. Any library that can afford the hefty price tag should have this resource in its collection on music and popular culture. Those libraries in which the previous edition has received heavy use will want to update.
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Book Description Groves Dictionaries Inc, 1998. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P11033374134X