Wednesday, January 18, 2017

707 (2017 #5). Anatomy of a Song

by Marc Myers,
read by Jonathan Yen

I received the CD version of this audiobook to review from the publisher, HighBridge Audio.  As others who also received review copies via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program experienced, there are numerous skips in the first disc, about halfway through it all the way to the end.  The second through fifth discs worked fine, but problems reoccurred on the sixth disc.  By this point, I was fed up - and not all that impressed with what I'd heard so far - so I skipped to the last disc (number 8) just to see how the book ended. (Answer:  abruptly, after the column on song #45 was read.)

Needless to say, the poor quality of the discs greatly detracted from my understanding and enjoyment of the book.  I was also hoping to hear at least some excerpts from the songs, but that did not happen either.  That was a great disappointment, and to my mind, a lack of imagination or initiative on the part of the audiobook publisher to not include them. Jonathan Yen's reading was not particularly inspired, and I have to wonder if he was chosen for the audiobook due to the similarities between his voice and that of Casey Kasem, the longtime (1970-1988) host of the "America's Top 40" radio show I listened to frequently.

Author Marc Myers wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal with the same title as this book, and this is a compilation of some of those articles (with some updating), arranged chronologically by the date the song was released by the artist performing it.  Myers gives a little background for each song, and then interviews at least one person associated with it - often the songwriter and/or performer, but sometimes the producer and/or other members of the band.  The interviews that delve into *why* a particular song was written, what inspired it, were of the most interest to me.

I recognize over half the titles of the songs in the book (there's no table of contents in the audiobook, but I found a list of the songs in a review online.  I'd probably recognize more if I could hear snippets from all of them).  For that reason, I'd say this book is probably aimed at my generation, but the subtitle, "The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop," is misleading when it comes to iconic.  I did like the "oral history" part, the interviews with those actually involved in making the song being the best part.

If you are a big music fan, and understand terms like "overdub" and "reverb," you may like this book.  I wouldn't recommend the audiobook, though.  Instead, read the print or e-book version (where you can get pop-up definitions!), and listen to each song as you read about it.  I *may* try to borrow a copy and do that with the parts I missed on the defective audiobook.  The operative word being "may."

[ETA 27 January 2017 - I did borrow the e-book, and noticed it has photographs of the performers of each song.  Yet another plus for the print or e-book over the audiobook - the latter was a missed opportunity to add snippets of each song to increase the listener's enjoyment.]

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[I received this audiobook from the publisher via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program,  As two discs are apparently damaged, I will have to throw it away.]

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