Vinyl Me, Please: 100 Albums You Need on Vinyl and Why by Various Authors. Cassell Illustrated.
One of the great things about the revival of interest in vinyl records has been that people have again started to collect music, cherish it and build record collections. In order to get some pointers as to essential albums it is helpful to read up on the subject. There used to be a lot of books with titles like: All Time Top 1000 Albums; 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die; Zagat Music Guide, and so on. It is heartening that Vinyl Me, Please has been published to assist converts to vinyl in creating a record library.
Vinyl Me, Please are a US mail order record club who will send you a new LP of their choice every month. This book is an example of the type of records they recommend together with many classic titles drawn for the last 50 years. That of course does create a problem in that if you have 50 years of music to draw upon where do you start and more importantly what do you leave out? By focusing on 100 LPs that only gives two for each year although the book does prioritize more recent releases.
About half of the selected records are from the canon of all-time great rock music. By that I mean the Beatles, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell, Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen to name just a few. The book is catholic in its taste as it includes not only classic rock but a few offerings from Country, Jazz, Soul/R & B and world music. There is a strict rule of only one LP per artist otherwise you could fill much of the book with great albums by a few prolific artists.
The books has also included in many hip hop/rap and pop acts. I feel that this sort of music is essentially ephemeral and does seem somewhat discordant when juxtaposed against classic rock albums. Different genres of music such as jazz and country will also have their fans but they are better served by specialist reference publications. You are not a jazz fan if you only have few jazz records. Jazz is vast and has a canon far bigger than rock.
What stands out in this book are the omissions. Where are Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon) , Love (Forever Changes) Velvet Underground (Velvet Underground and Nico), Sex Pistols (Never Mind the Bollocks) Jimi Hendrix (Electric Ladyland) and a token album each from The Doors, Bob Marley, Leonard Cohen, Eric Clapton, Frank Zappa and Elvis Presley? My 1994 edition of All Time Top 1000 Albums also featured REM, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra in the top 50. Have these artists diminished in stature over the last 22 years? I think not.
The book has a strong US bias which reflects the fact that 22 of the 24 contributors are American. I think a book with more British contributors would be have been more even handed in the choice of records. Despite my criticisms this is a beautifully presented large format hardback book which would grace anyone’s coffee table or record cabinet. Each entry gets a thoughtful one page essay and is accompanied by a colour picture of the album cover. However there is little in the way of discography information. It would have been helpful to have included the year of release, running time and chart position for each selected LP.
This book would make a very nice gift for a record lover, but not necessarily a vinyl collector as all the records can be obtained as CDs. I enjoy reading about music and hope that we will see many more titles of this type appearing in our book and record shops.