User Reviews

Reviews by bpardue
Progressive rock is probably the most-maligned sub-genre of popular music (although disco gives it a run for its money). However, when played by truly adventurous musicians, prog rock could be pretty, magnificent, experimental or terrifying, often within the same 23-minute suite. Here, David Weigel tries to tell prog's story--from the heady joining of psychedelia and classical music in Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" to 70s classics by King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, ELP, Rush, etc., through to the corporate-prog of Asia, and finally on to the artists who kept prog alive from the 90s to the present (Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, The Mars Volta, etc.). If there's any central figure to all this, it's King Crimson's Robert Fripp, who kept breaking up his band just as it seemed on the verge of popular success, never compromising his musical vision. As a fan, it's easy to complain that the narrative is a bit too Anglo-centric (although some French and Italian bands are mentioned), but it generally gets the story right, and enough names and albums are dropped to give curious readers good music to track down.

From the late 60s to mid-70s, a number German rock bands created a musical/social movement movement that has subsequently (and somewhat unfortunately) become known as "Krautrock." Stylistically diverse, it ranged from the "kosmische" jams of Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel to the industrial explorations of early Cluster, the wild pastiche of Faust and the ever-more-automated stylings of Kraftwerk. There have been various attempts to cover the Krautrock scene in book form, most notably Julian Cope's Krautrocksampler​, but most have been personal impressions, discographies or article compilations. At last, music journalist David Stubbs has written the first "Great Big Book" on the topic: Future Days: Krautrock and the Birth of a Revolutionary New Music. Stubbs' well-researched tome covers the emergence of protest & commune culture in post-war Germany and touches on all the big-name bands/movements within Krautrock: Can, Kraftwerk, Neu!, Harmonia, Faust, the "Berlin School," etc., and even follows the music's influence on David Bowie, Brian Eno and more recent musicians. An excellent (if dense) read for fans of this unique and influential musical phenomenon. Readers may also enjoy Krautrock: Cosmic Rock and its Legacy. Quite a bit of the music mentioned in the two books can found in our catalog, as well as Hoopla Digital.
This engaging book frames the history of 20th century architecture as a tug-of-war between two giants of the era: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson. Wright was the genius, the relentless champion of his own philosophy of "organic architecture," who rejected any relationship with the boxy modernism of the Bauhaus architects and their followers, even as they acknowledged their debt to Wright (although more as a predecessor than meaningful contemporary). At the same time, it's tempting to think of his masterpiece Fallingwater as a thinly-veiled attempt to outdo the modernists at their own game. Johnson, on the other hand, was a born-wealthy dilettante, who moved between architecture criticism and practice, as well as politics, journalism and music, looking for a field in which to make his mark. He was an early champion of all things modern--the rejection of hand-crafted materials for industrial steel and glass, and the complete removal of ornamentation from buildings. His own Glass House (inspired by plans for Mies' Farnsworth House in Plano, IL) is considered a classic of the style. Over time, Wright's and Johnson's paths would cross many times, their relationship (and opinions of each other) would move from respectful to contentious and back again. Clearly, there was gamesmanship and moments of self-promotion from each man, but there were also moments of actual affection. Author Hugh Howard gives us a well-researched, sweeping view, covering nearly 50 years of architectural history with many supplementary characters to help illuminate the long, complex relationship between these two architectural giants.
As a New Jersey kid growing up in the 1970s, I loved soccer. I remember being completely thrilled when the New York Cosmos brought on the legendary Pele, immediately catapulting the then-struggling North American Soccer League (NASL) into the national spotlight and seemingly making soccer America's "next big thing." For the next several years, I thrived as a Cosmos fan (sorry Sting enthusiasts!) and completely bought into the idea that big-time soccer was soon to be a permanent fixture on prime-time TV. Of course, I knew nothing of the NASL's disastrous business model, and didn't realize that, when teams weren't drawing 30,000+ crowds for games against the Cosmos, they were lucky to be filling 15,000 seats in NFL stadiums.

Ian Penderleth's Rock & Roll Soccer gives us a good long glance at the NASL and considers what made it special (great international talent, a willingness to try and create a league based on attractive, fan-friendly soccer when European teams were becoming ever more defense-oriented) and what ultimately brought it down (excessive focus on the Cosmos, allowing for too much expansion too quickly, etc.).

The approach is thematic rather than sequential. Chapters focus on topics like "Pele vs. Eusebio" or "The NASL vs. Fifa and the world," with quite a bit of sidebar-like inserts to illustrate points. This means that the timeline jumps around a bit, but it still makes for a lively, entertaining read. There are plenty of colorful anecdotes about legendary players like Pele, Rodney Marsh, George Best and Giorgio Chinaglia, along with accounts from lesser-known American players, as well.

Ultimately, did the NASL help or hurt soccer's profile in the US? Is the current league, Major League Soccer, successfully managing expansion in a fashion that will avoid NASL's disastrous collapse? You can take either side, but the story of American soccer is certainly not complete without the NASL.
Where jazz & prog intersect
Jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty teams up with former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson and a formidable group of session musicians to create the Kickstarter-funded Better Late Than Never. Ponty and Anderson contrubute a number of newly-composed songs, such as "One in the Rhythm of Hope," and there are a number of reworkings of Yes tunes ("And You And I," "Roundabout," etc.) and Ponty songs with added vocals ("Infinite Mirage--Soul Eternal"). Overall, the proceedings are more rock/fusion than jazz and are a nice listen for fans of either musician.

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