PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAmbitious, sprawling ... The theme of utility and the practical function of a band comes up repeatedly ... Faith, philosophy and political strategy occupy far more of the pages than session details, and readers’ reactions will largely depend on their feelings about Bono, which tend to run to the extremes. If you want to hear a musician posing questions like \'So where is God?\' you’ve come to the right place ... He knows what the skeptics think of him; he good-naturedly anticipates every criticism and mocks his own flirtations with self-parody ... The biggest challenge for Surrender is that it has to compete with Bono’s history as one of pop’s great orators. He’s open and honest, with language that can be witty and distinctive, addressing his competitive relationship with his father or growing up against the backdrop of Ireland’s political violence — but we’ve heard a lot of it before, in his eloquent interviews or onstage discourses ... Every single day that Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. wake up and are still the members of this band, they are in uncharted waters. Surrender makes no real attempt to explicate fully how they execute this magic trick ... Surrender soars whenever the spotlight comes on. Bono is never more powerful, on the page or the stage, than when he strives for the transcendence that only music can offer.
PositiveEsquireThe title of this book is a lie ... There’s no \'philosophy\' offered here ... There’s not even an explanation of why Bob Dylan selected these particular 66 records as subjects for essays which encompass criticism, history, and fantastic leaps of reasoning ... The most hilarious moments come when Dylan gets caught up in his own resplendent language and just can’t stop ... The book is a laugh riot, complete with some killer vaudeville-style zingers ... And the secret weapon is the illustrations, packed with old movie posters, vintage ads, and in-jokes that sometimes require a few looks ... Maybe it’s better consumed in small chunks—episodes—rather than all at once ... One way to consider Bob Dylan’s career is as a life-long project exploring American music of all kinds ... The Philosophy of Modern Song brings it (almost) all under one roof, with observations, details, and asides to be chewed on, sudden blazing insights to be found, again and again.
PositiveNew York Times Book ReviewEngrossing, depressing ... Michael emerges as a gifted, tragic and infuriating figure, whose tortured relationship to his sexuality steered him into artistic confusion and self-sabotage.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewOzzi’s reporting is strong, balanced and well told. There are no (well, very few) clear-cut good guys and bad guys. If the band-by-band structure sometimes limits the ability to look at the bigger picture, it still represents a worthy successor to its obvious inspiration, Michael Azerrad’s 2001 examination of the ’80s indie underground, Our Band Could Be Your Life. The additional challenges facing the Donnas and the Distillers, bands made up of or fronted by women, remain bracing, and the inherent difficulties of maintaining a group’s focus as its circumstances change are timeless.
MixedThe New York TimesPearce illuminates the kaleidoscopic aspects of Shakur’s life ... The oral history format is an appropriate way to convey such a complicated life, but it’s also only as good as its sources, and (as Pearce notes) there are a lot of other Tupac book projects that limited his access. He gamely attempts to turn this into an asset, and sometimes he scores remarkable details...But too many important details (album releases, arrests) are handled in footnotes, and there’s too much reliance on other reporters to flesh out the narrative ... The life of a figure as magnetic and incendiary as Tupac Shakur, though, can’t help being gripping.
Alan Paul and Andy Aledort
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... illuminating ... An oral history is only as good as its sources, and Texas Flood is thorough and far-reaching, with Vaughan’s bandmates, crew and family taking center stage ... If there’s a disappointment in the book, it’s the lack of Vaughan’s own voice. Aledort interviewed him several times during his lifetime, but since those conversations were focused on specific projects, the quotes pulled for Texas Flood don’t leave much impression. Both authors are accomplished musicians and longtime contributors to Guitar World magazine, so occasionally things get a little gear-heavy.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThere have been several previous attempts to tell Redding’s story, and there has been talk for decades of a biopic about this titan of soul. Gould runs up against the same limitations all these efforts have faced: The singer did only a couple of interviews, and there’s a fundamental lack of tension in the life of a person who virtually no one will say a bad word about ... Exhaustive research into Redding’s early years as a performer reveals both his dedication and his uncertain musical vision ... Gould makes a convincing case that, while Redding’s recordings are never less than compelling thanks to his remarkable voice, [Stax label boss] Jim Stewart’s shortcomings held Redding back as a songwriter and repeatedly stymied his popular momentum.
Laura Jane Grace
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe real power of Tranny comes from Grace’s journal entries, which tell the real-time story of a quest for self that winds through addiction, divorce and, ultimately, action to address the agonizing dysphoria. The diaries are painfully repetitive, yearning for a path between shame and wholeness.
Peter Ames Carlin
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...the thoroughly researched and solidly told Homeward Bound reveals many sides of a complicated, ambitious, insecure figure ... his love for Simon’s towering accomplishments as a songwriter is clear. He’s especially insightful examining the colossal Broadway flop of The Capeman.
Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThe troubled, brilliant, oft-mythologized Wilson makes for a particularly intriguing case study, and if his memoir doesn’t add up to a grand unified theory, it does offer some fascinating glimpses under the hood ... The recounting of the big Beach Boys moments in I Am Brian Wilson is mostly rote ... At its best, I Am Brian Wilson has an odd, unpredictable rhythm, looping back to a few touchstone events and jumping back and forth through time with thoughts that aren’t always linear. It’s in the throwaway moments that Wilson fleetingly snaps into focus.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewBeyond the often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking circumstances behind these feuds, though, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me is really about the allure of our obsessive duality ... Every chapter swings for the fences, especially since Hyden makes clear that he is setting out to challenge any conventional wisdom or unquestioned paradigms. As a result, when he misses, he misses big ... Mostly, though, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me connects the dots on music history in new and intriguing ways. Hyden reminds us why we invest so much in these competitions, how they help shape identity for so many of us, while never losing sight of how silly they can be.