It’s that time of year again, when publishers bring out books that look good under the tree but maybe don’t always read so well. The music world seems to produce more than its fair share of these gift doorstops. But here are a half-dozen we think your sister, brother, mother or Aunt Mabel just might like:
“Life Unseen: Tony Bennett” by (Life Books, $29.95). When 88-year-old crooner Bennett was last in Seattle, he eagerly leafed through this book backstage, showing it to his daughter, Antonia. Makes sense, as it’s in part a lovely family photo album as well as a sumptuous document of his life, from humble beginnings in Queens to his illustrious status as elder statesman of song.
“Blue Note Uncompromising Expression: 75 Years of the Finest in Jazz” by Richard Havers (Chronicle Books, $85). The story of the fabled jazz label Blue Note Records, with studio photos and ephemera, portraits and, most important, the world-famous LP jacket art, groundbreaking not only for its crisp, modern design but for portraying black men like John Coltrane and Art Blakey with gravity and dignity.
“Kurt Cobain: The Last Session” by Jesse Frohman (Thames & Hudson, $45). Nirvana fans will be more than familiar with these 100-plus photographs taken in New York in July 1993: Cobain in ocelot-pattern jacket; Cobain seated, playing acoustic guitar; Nirvana goofing off. But it has an interesting text by Jon Savage, whose interview with Cobain that day is transcribed. A bit padded, but a good gift for Nirvana completists.
“Danny Clinch: Still Moving” with foreword by Bruce Springsteen (Abrams, $50). “The story is present in every one of his shoots,” Bruce Springsteen says of Danny Clinch, whose intimate, warm and personal photographs of everyone from Springsteen and Willie Nelson to Nas and Sting over the last decade have made him one of the foremost shooters in popular music. A nice touch: IDs are compiled at the end, so as not to clutter the pages of images.
“The Beatles Lyrics” by Hunter Davies, editor. (Little, Brown, $35). Just when you thought there was nothing left to say about the Fab Four, along comes this chatty, knowledgeable, readable account of the back stories behind all the Beatles lyrics, including the story about how a journalist riding in a car with John Lennon influenced him to change one of the lines. Yes, a Beatles lyrics book already exists, but this one reproduces more than 100 handwritten manuscripts, written on everything from envelopes and cocktail napkins to graph paper and hotel stationery.
“Sub Pop USA: The Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988” by Bruce Pavitt (Bazillion Points, $34.95). Before co-founding Sub Pop Records, Bruce Pavitt chronicled the alternative music scene of the 1980s in his own fanzines and a column he wrote for Seattle music magazine The Rocket. All his writings are gathered in this book, a fascinating time capsule of the pre-Internet music industry, and of pre-Amazon/Microsoft Seattle.
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