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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Captain X lent me Geeta Dayal's "Another Green World"-- part of Continuum's 33 1/3 series. I'd forgotten how much I love this album, in part because I never bothered getting it on CD. My vinyl copy is still in the stacks-- when did I buy it? It would have been before 1978, because we were well-familiar with Eno before "More Songs About Buildings and Food"-- and before Devo, for that matter. It must have been about 1977, and we back-filled pretty quickly.

Is it my favorite Eno record? I think it may be, although "Before and After Science" is pretty great. "Another Green World" is like "Pet Sounds"- a realization through studio technology of a very specific individual vision. You can deconstruct it-- it has, for example, some of the prettiest guitar work Robert Fripp ever put down-- but it is best understood as a whole. Unfortunately Ms. Dayal's book doesn't do much to add to what I already knew about the album, and it doesn't really work as a pure appreciation either. That's how it goes with the 33 1/3 books, I've found. Sometimes there's a wealth of detail that borders on the OCD; sometimes there is literary experimentation; sometimes it all clicks; and sometimes they fall flat. Bruce Eaton's "Radio City" works because it is framed by a story-- he found the side in a cut-out bin, and ended up playing on stage with Alex Chilton. I like Mark Polizzotti's "Highway 61 Revisited"-- straight up Dylanology, well told, with details I'd never heard before. Robert Janovitz' Exile on Main Street is likewise first-rate-- Janovitz tells you what kind of microphones the Stones were using, but also gets into the relationships among the principals with insight and clarity. I'm less of a fan of Hayden Childs' Shoot Out the Lights. Childs thought it would be interesting to create a fictional character whose career parallels Richard Thompson to narrate the book, and the fiction tromps all over a story that is compelling without embellishment.

All that said, it is a brave act to take on a 33 1/3 I think. The only people who are going to read a book like that are going to be as obsessed as the author, so success is going to be dependent on a combination of insight and creativity that is hard to pull off. In most instances, even if access to the participants in the making of the recording is available their recollection is going to be compromised-- and most of the time access isn't even going to be possible. (If Bruce Eaton had waited a year on his project, for example, two of the members of Big Star would have been lost to him forever.)

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