Hyden balances anecdotes with phenomenal music criticism, and does more than I was expecting when I opened this book. Instead of merely a surveys course on pop's great rivalries, he digs deeper to discover what type of person takes which side, and why it both does and doesn't matter. Music fans both intense and casual will delight just the same in seeing petty disagreements about The Beatles vs. the Stones (#TeamBeatles), Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West (#TeamKanye), and Jimi Hendrix vs. Eric Clapton (#TeamHendrix) validated both intellectually and philosophically.
James McBride's Kill 'Em and Leave offers a nuanced portrait of the musical and cultural icon, James Brown, from the people who knew him best; McBride intertwines the stories of everyone from Brown's first wife in Augusta to the Rev. Al Sharpton with his own trials in uncovering the story behind the Godfather of Soul. The result is a humanist, clear-eyed examination of the musician, the man, and his decade-long estate case that penetrates the nation's unhealed racial and economic wounds. A vivid, blunt, and psychologically complex story of an oft-misunderstood man and his time, richer than any movie could portray.
Ray Robertson knows what he likes. He also knows how to pull the reader deep within what he likes, giving his words the same vibrant tones as the music and personalities they describe. Whether the artist he’s profiling is an acknowledged legend or barely even a cult figure, his passion for their work and their stories is overwhelming. And really, anyone who can bring the guitar tunes of Alan Wilson and Paul Siebel not only into my life but into such sharp focus has done a tremendous service.