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Continuum Publishing's 33-1/3 Series: Takes on Albums That Changed Lives

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Andy Miller: The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society

For years, music geeks have doggedly pursued in-depth features about their favorite albums in magazines like Mojo and Rolling Stone, usually finding, if they're lucky, three or four pages of superficial observations and trite interviews, written by some jaded, and too often completely uninterested, magazine hack. Now, thanks to the good people behind the new 33-1/3 book series, said music geeks can kick back and devour these lovingly packaged and painstakingly researched gems, each slim volume dedicated entirely to a specific "classic" album. The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society by Andy Miller is a Kinks fan's dream come true: 140 pages exhaustively detailing the inner turmoil and explosive genius that created my favorite Kinks album. Holy shit! You bet I'm happy. Mojo who?

Village was the Kinks' first (and, some would argue, only) true masterpiece, the record that was ignored on its initial release, now revered as one of the best British recordings ever, all detailed in a serious but unpretentious narrative about a band combusting at their artistic peak. After this brilliant apex, the Kinks of the '60s more or less ended, mutating in the '70s into an arena rock band. A casual fan might not be as interested in this kind of minutia, no matter how well Miller tells the story. These lovely books are for us geeks. Reading this book had precisely the intended effect on me: I'm thumbing through my Kinks records, listening with new ears to Village Green while patiently awaiting a book on XTC's English Settlement. Or The Zombies' Odessey & Oracle. Or Squeeze's Argy Bargy. Or...  Brian McClelland

Andrew Hultkrans: Forever Changes

After almost 40 years, Love's Forever Changes remains an album that is widely regarded as one of the benchmarks of ‘60s psychedelic rock. Yet the album's texture remains synonymous with mystery, uncertainty, and chaos.

The album has influenced everyone from Julian Cope to The Damned to Neil Young. Love's much-lauded, much-interpreted masterpiece, Forever Changes, has once again been put under the critical microscope. This go 'round, though, the exposition is often excruciatingly philosophical.Hultkrans' thesis is simple: Forever Changes' greatness lay in the fact that vocalist Arthur Lee was a paranoid genius, convinced he was going to die. He argues that Lee, a citizen of L.A. at the height of the racially tense Summer of Love, lived a life of isolation propelled by intense paranoia. Depression, drug use, and social conflict are also suggested as possible causes for the temperamental and ultimately fatal relationship between the members of Love.

Overall, Hultkrans has penned an enjoyable, quick read about one of rock's enduringly charming albums. However, he spends way too much time exploring the motives and psyche of Arthur Lee and quoting outside sources, such as Virginia Woolf and Thomas Pynchon. In return, there are hardly any details about how this record was written and created, nor is there much on the four other members of Love. In the end, the album Forever Changes remains a brilliant psychedelic enigma, shrouded in a veil of paranoid hallucinogenic isolation. Rob Levy

John Cavanagh: Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Many people are of the belief that one has to use drugs to understand and appreciate Pink Floyd's music; I am of the opinion that one has to use drugs to understand John Cavanagh's multidirectional writing about the recording of Pink Floyd's ambitious debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The rambling, boring path of this book lacks the focus needed to keep the reader's attention, even for a mere 124 pages.

Cavanagh does possess the mind of a musician, however. His descriptive, colorful accounts of the sounds that Pink Floyd created are truly pinpoint. That said, with the void of a concrete storyline, time would be better spent in listening to the epic emotion of Pink Floyd rather than divulging the buzzkill spill from John Cavanagh's pen. Kevin Barry

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