Hendrix: The Illustrated History
By Gillian G. Gaar
Voyageur Press, 224 pp., $40
I have a very fond soft spot for “Illustrated Histories.” They provide a kind of all-in-one summary of a band or performer’s career, usually packaged nicely, and illustrated with lavish photos and ephemera, fit for any coffee table. Music journalist Gaar – who has penned similar works on the Doors and Bruce Springsteen – always infuses her work with enough to please anyone from the casual Greatest Hits fan to the hardcore, bootlegging obsessive.
Now, Jimi Hendrix gets the treatment in a tome immediately set apart by its bold, colorful cover done as a faux black-velvet painting. There’s a lot of wonderful photography, posters, handbills, and rare record sleeves reproduced. If there is any Jimi Hendrix fan in your life, this is the next go-to birthday or holiday present.
In addition to a deep summary of the career and music of Hendrix – and the people who came in and out of his life – Gaar spends considerable pages on his legacy and often fractious business and family relations both before and in the decades since his death. And it’s fascinating.
Of all the rock star early deaths, Buddy Holly and Jimi Hendrix are probably the biggest losses in terms of what they might have still accomplished with their music. And this book brings to colorful life the power of still the biggest and possibly most innovative Guitar God of them all, both then and now.
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Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs
By Martin Popoff
Voyageur Press, 256 pp., $30
Prolific music scribe Popoff (author of nearly 8,000 record reviews and scores of music biographies) turns his attention here to a personal favorite. Going deep into detail on the writing, recording, and reception of the entire Zep catalog, he doesn’t hold back his opinions, which makes for often lively reading.
Popoff even breaks down individual instruments and passage and studio locations. And he doesn’t let the band off the hook for their occasionally, um, appropriation of lyrics, melodies, and arrangements from other tune done by long-dead bluesmen to their rocker contemporaries.
Still, he also includes plenty of straight history on the band, including anecdotes and facts. The book is also illustrated nicely with plenty of rare photos and ephemera but is definitely geared a bit more to deeper Zeppelin fans, though.