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Book Review: Best Music Writing 2011, Edited by Daphne Carr and Alex Ross

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If you enjoy reading music criticism even half as much as those of us who write it, then this year’s annual volume of Best Music Writing from Da Capo Press is probably already a major event on your reading calendar.

For those of us poor slobs who slave away writing this stuff for what passes as a living however, this is the closest any of us will ever come to winning the Oscars for music nerds.

Alas, I didn’t make it again this year.

But longtime series editor Daphne Carr, and this year’s guest editor Alex Ross, have once again put together a fine collection of this year’s best essays from music critics, writing as the few remaining champions of what is left of the rapidly dying art of music journalism.

Like everything else in the present age of internet generated immediate gratification, music journalism has become something of a great, lost art. Both the traditional music business, and the idea of a truly objective journalistic medium, unclouded by the biases of providing infotainment to a ready-made audience pre-determined by demographic labels, have in musical terms long since gone the way of the eight track tape.

No matter. Da Capo’s brain trust have still managed to put together an impressive collection of this year’s best critical essays on music.

I’m still not entirely sure what constitutes the judging criteria for inclusion in this book (do you sense my bitterness yet?). But the diverse variety of opinions and genres covered remains as impressive as always. Classical music in particular gets some extra love this year, presumably because of guest editor Alex Ross’ bonafides as a symphony scribe.

Beyond that, you’ll find some rather eye-opening essays on everything from heavy metal to hip-hop, and everyone from Neil Young and Miles Davis, to Lady Gaga and Keith Moon.

I particularly enjoyed reading Nancy Griffin’s remembrances of a once human Michael Jackson shyly fawning over his “Thriller” video co-star Ola Ray (and the relationship between them that might have been), and Evelyn McDonell’s portrait of the tragically lost, late former Runaways drummer Sandy West.

Beyond that, you’ll find great music writing here on subjects ranging from the secret diaries of Nina Simone, to Will.I.Am’s manifesto for global domination through catchy pop hooks cleverly disguised as street-worthy ghetto jams.

If nothing else, Da Capo’s Best Music Writing 2011 is proof positive that good music journalism isn’t dead.

Yet.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Greg Barbrick

    Glen –

    I’m sorry, when they asked me for 40,000 words on Grand Funk Railroad, I turned them down. I should have told them to contact you, especially when they offered Uriah Heep as an alternate topic.

    Maybe next year.

    Greg