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Book Review: Rolling Stone Cover to Cover – The First 40 Years (Boxed Set) by Rolling Stone and Bondi Digital Publishing

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First off, let me state right up front that this is an absolutely amazing boxed set.

But before I get to how incredibly cool this thing actually is — and how it is absolutely the perfect holiday gift for that special music geek, or "rockologist" in your own life — there is one thing you absolutely need to know:

Make sure you have enough memory to actually run the software that is what really makes the Rolling Stone Cover to Cover: The First 40 Years boxed set so special.

You see, it takes a lot of RAM to grant the user instant access to some 1026 issues, and over 98,000 scanned pages of the last 40 years of Rolling Stone magazine.

In geek terms, that means you had better have at least 512 MB of RAM on your machine — and in all honesty, a gig is probably really more like it. Because as many of those computers that are still out there that seemed positively "tricked out" with anything less a few years back — I can tell you that 256 MB of RAM just isn't gonna cut it here. As I found out the hard way on my initial test run, that won't get you past the first install disk.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I can happily report that Rolling Stone Cover to Cover: The First 40 Years, represents the most complete historical account of the rock and roll era that I have ever come across. It is also every bit worth going the extra mile to boost the memory necessary to run on your PC if need be.

Because for even the most casual student of rock and roll history, you could literally lose yourself for hours — if not days — in this massive, and easily searchable archive of data. Imagine having the entire history of rock and roll — and for that matter modern culture as a whole — at your fingertips with the click of a mouse. For the music freak in your life, Rolling Stone Cover to Cover represents that wet dream come to life.

Love them or hate them, Rolling Stone is the magazine which most consistently and accurately has documented the most significant musical and cultural events of what is closing in on the past half century — from the rise of the sixties counter culture, through disco, punk-rock, MTV, grunge, and right on up to what some argue is the currently ongoing death of rock and roll music itself.

You wanna talk about "what a long, strange trip it's been"?

Well, it's all here as originally chronicled in Rolling Stone. You can even search out the ads — which is something I got a particular kick out of when I came across those old Warner Bros. double disc samplers you could order for two bucks in Rolling Stone back in the sixties.

Now that was some great marketing — cleverly disguised as the sixties' hippie "free music" sort of deal it was.

So what you get here, is a beautifully packaged boxed set that retails for about $125. The most obvious draw for the rock and roll historian — armchair or otherwise — is the easily searchable archive of every single page (even the ads), of every single issue of Rolling Stone from 1967 to the present, on 4 CD-Rom disks. The menus are also very user-friendly, allowing the user multiple options ranging from simply clicking on a year or a magazine cover, to more specific searches by say, a favorite artist or even an individual author or writer.

At $125 retail, having the sheer volume of that kind of history and information at the touch of a mouse has to be considered an absolutely amazing bargain.

Beyond that however, you also get a beautiful coffee table-style 200 plus page book which breaks down those same 40 years of Rolling Stone with highlights of each year. You get key features, reviews, and pictures from every pivotal point in history, as well as new, previously unpublished material. To top all of this off, the set also comes with a coupon for a free one year subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.

Can't beat that with a stick.

In this holiday season, there are some other very worthwhile documents of the so-called sixties and seventies "golden age of rock and roll" out there — most notably the Creem Magazine coffee table book (which will be the subject of a future review here once I unwrap that expected present).

But nothing covers the whole enchilada — from then right up to now — quite like Rolling Stone Cover to Cover does. Like I said, love them or hate them, Rolling Stone has been an eyewitness to the cultural revolution in a way few, if anyone, else can claim.

Together with Bondi Digital Publishing, (who also have a similarly complete boxed set with searchable CD-Rom archive for Playboy), Rolling Stone has created the ultimate historical record of the past 40 years of rock and roll.

Just make sure your PC can handle it.

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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.