Tag Archives: coffee table book

Have I The Right?

Great British Studios

The Great British Recording Studios by Howard Massey (Hal-Leonard, $34.99, 357 pages)

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the audiophile in your life who loves British rock music of the 60s and 70s, this is it. Howard Massey’s coffee table-sized book examines 46 major recording studios of the period (permanent and mobile), looking at their personnel, their equipment, the individual recording rooms, and the original recording techniques. It’s all here, as verified by Sir George Martin in the Foreward.

Massey supplies the answers to some great trivia questions, including “Where did the Beatles record, other than at Abbey Road?” and “Which great, highly successful record producer began his studio work as a ‘tea boy’ (a lowly paid, quasi-intern who brewed tea for anyone who wanted it)?” He also explains how the brilliant Glyn (Glynis) Johns recorded drums using just three microphones, and looks at the bizarre career of the paranoid recording producer Joe Meek. Meek was to record “Telstar” by the Tornadoes and “Have I the Right?” by The Honeycombs in his rented flat in London before he killed himself and his ever complaining landlady.

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Massey supplies the background story on several prominent recordings – such as those by The Who, The Kinks, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Queen, Procol Harum and Blind Faith. As per the latter, he provides an explanation of a how an extremely unique sound was produced that enlivened Blind Faith’s somewhat dull track, “Had to Cry Today.” And, Massey details how reverb, echo, and phasing (“Pictures of Matchstick Men”,”Itchycoo Park”) tricks were used. A fascinating ultra-morsel for music lovers!

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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38 Species x 9 Lives

Wild cats

Wild Cats of the World by Luke Hunter, Illustrated by Priscilla Barrett (Bloomsbury, $40.00, 240 pages)

Wild Cats of the World is a coffee table sized book that at first glance looks like it would be the perfect gift for any feline lover. The book examines 38 species of small and big cats, augmented with beautiful photos and sketches. It also imparts interesting information, like the fact that female cats are actually more efficient hunters than males – since they don’t stalk things they can’t kill, and that wildcats can live a full 19 years in captivity. It’s also repeatedly stated that wildcats can and do interbreed with domestic cats.

Wildcat 2

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Unfortunately, this book has several weaknesses. Hunter is far too concerned with what each type of cat kills and eats; there are too many photos of cats with their prey – which deems it unsuitable to be kept around children; and the book over-emphasizes the issue of extinction of species. What could have been a joyful celebration of the world’s most successful mammal – one that exists in both large and small forms – becomes a depressing, dragged-out, textbook-like read.

There’s not enough attention paid to the 43 breeds of domestic cats, which are far from extinct with 500 million of them serving as beloved pets, and an additional 500 million living as feral creatures. (500 million feral versions of Felis catus/Felis silvestris definitely equals a very successful type of wild cat!) And the high-priced book is poorly edited (“[a] survey must… continue for a long enough to sample…”).

Overall, a miss instead of a hit.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on October 13, 2015.

Note: There’s another book titled Wild Cats of the World, authored by Mel Sunquist and Fiona Sunquist (Chicago University Press).

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100 Miracles

100 buildings cover

A History of Architecture in 100 Buildings by Dan Cruikshank (Firefly Books, $39.95, 352 pages)

Architecture is an all-embracing adventure without end. It is a story that can never be completed as long as mankind continues to build, to invent, to discover; it is the story told by this book.

The modest dimensions of 100 Buildings place this book somewhere between two genres – popular survey and coffee table. What sets it apart from both is the serious, understated way author Dan Cruickshank sets forth his take on the place of architecture in the world. Specifically, he goes into just the right amount of narrative to bring the icons, pioneers of constructions and breathtakingly beautiful creations here on earth alive for the reader.

100 buildings chartres

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The illustrations and descriptions are superb but not overly fatuous. After all, we’re using the perspective taken by a writer in 2015. Students of architecture have no doubt studied many of the 100 buildings. There are a few contemporary additions to the mix, which serve to keep Cruickshank’s history fresh and relatable.

100 buildings vision

100 buildings middle east

Sadly, there have been a few casualties of late in the Middle East. The power of architecture may well be lost on those who are lashing out. And, on a positive note, some nearly destroyed exemplary structures have been reconstructed. Most of the featured examples herein will be steadfastly holding their places in history long after we are merely dust.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on September 24, 2015.

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Old King

Old Faithful dogs

Old Faithful: Dogs of a Certain Age by Pete Thorne (Harper Design, $19.99, 144 pages)

Missy isn’t good with math and has no idea of what “senior” means, so she still often behaves like a puppy, running and playing, which makes us and her, happy, and even though playtime isn’t as long as it once was, she’s still up for it every day.

mini poodle

The picture that accompanies this text shows a sweet fifteen and a half-year-old miniature poodle with large bright eyes and a gray muzzle. What’s not to love? Puppies are cute and wiggly but if you want a real buddy, go for one with wisdom and character written across its face. Missy loves everyone, even cats.

Pete Thorne, a professional photographer, became fascinated with older doggies. His online post featuring one at his grandma’s birthday party touched many folks. Seventy-five of the many biographies sent to Thorne have been gathered into an elegant, coffee table-style book. His full-page headshots taken while meeting with the owners and small versions placed next to the biographies fill the book.

Old Faithful dog 2

old faithful dog

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I doubt you will leave Old Faithful sitting on a table or shelf. The furry face on the cover seems to be ready to bark. “Open the book and see what we’re all about.” Unlike many elegant books featuring photos accompanied by small blurbs of explanation, this one is filled with heartfelt joy and wonder. I dare you to resist running to the nearest shelter to adopt a dog of a certain age! (And let’s hope that Thorne proceeds to put together a similar book about cats of a certain age. Meow.)

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Pete Thorne

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A Raisin (City) in the Sun

Fresno Growing Up

Fresno Growing Up – A City Comes of Age: 1945-1985 by Stephen H. Provost (Craven Street Books, $24.95, 230 pages)

Anyone who grew up in Fresno, California, or who has lived there for a period of years, should enjoy perusing and reading the coffee table book Fresno Growing Up. This is a 230 page biography of the Raisin Capital of the World accompanied by beautiful color and black and white photographs. The first two-thirds of the book is strong as it fondly examines restaurants and movie theaters that used to exist, the once prominent Fulton Mall downtown (similar to Sacramento’s K Street Mall), TV and radio personalities, and the offerings for adults and children in Roeding Park.

Fresno Lost

Fresno Crest Theater

Fresno also provides a detailed look at the past noteworthy music scene. Stephen Provost’s argument that Fresno gave birth to “the Bakersfield Sound” in country music is not fully convincing, but worth considering.

Fresno State Football

The book flounders in its third section which focuses on sports. Readers who are not fans of bowling, baseball, college football, boxing or hockey will find that it stretches on for far too long. This space might have been better devoted to the history of dramatic arts in the area, bookstores that once flourished (like the Upstart Crow Book Store), family businesses, etc. And the growth of greater Fresno-Clovis from west to east, and south to north might have been visibly charted. Still, this work might serve as a template for future efforts looking at the modern history of Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Chico and Bakersfield.

Go, Bulldogs!

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

Fresno+Sign

A review copy was provided by the publisher. Note: The finished product I received contained a large number of typos. Hopefully, these will be caught and corrected in future printings.

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The Teddy Bears Picnic

Hero: The Paintings of Robert Bissell (Pomegranate, $65.00, 140 pages)

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Hero bear

“Mystical” and “engaging” and “riveting” are words that only begin to describe the spectacular bear painting gracing the cover of Hero. This is obviously a lush coffee table book. More than that, it is a journey into the world of painter Robert Bissell. Bissell is a master at photorealism with a marvelous twist. Rather than slavishly reproducing the likenesses of creatures in the wild, he grants his subjects an intimate aura.

Hero bears and rabbits

The bears and rabbits (his favorites) have startling anthropomorphic qualities in their eyes, gestures and positioning. These creatures are caught in Zen-like moments. Bissell has provided disarmingly open statements about his works and their inspiration in the paragraphs that accompany most of the paintings reproduced on the pages of this big impressive, high-quality book.

Unlike many of the books of this genre that include explanatory historic notes, the text in Hero serves to draw the reader in and add depth to the paintings. The reading experience is captivating, so much so that the many pages are clearly not meant to be flipped through; rather, they must be savored and revisited to grasp the full meaning of Bissell’s work.

Mr. Bissell, who currently lives in Oregon, was born in the United Kingdom. He was a professional photographer prior to committing to being a painter. The composition of his paintings is impeccable and his photographer’s eye flawlessly translates a mix of fantasy and reality into pictures that hold the viewer’s attention.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Hero: The Paintings of Robert Bissell.Hero

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What Made Milwaukee Famous

Bottoms Up 4Summer days and the summer nights are gone/ I know a place where there’s still somethin’ going on…” Bob Dylan, “Summer Days” from Love and Theft (2001)

Bottoms Up: A Toast to Wisconsin’s Historic Bars & Breweries by Jim Draeger, Mark Speltz, and Mark Fay (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, $29.95, 272 pages)

Bottoms Up: A Toast to Wisconsin’s Historic Bars & Breweries has the potential to appeal to a variety of readers. Weekend travelers and curiousity seekers will find ideas for a mini-excursion in the coffee table-style book. History buffs should be drawn to various aspects of the account: prohibition, supper clubs, old-fashioned breweries, local culture, hops, architecture – a little something for everybody. But, most of all, beer lovers from anywhere should be attracted to tales of secret entrances for women; classic bartenders; dice games; microbrews; corner taverns; tourist traps; highway stopping off places; and memories of 10-ounce drafts, fish frys, crazy uncles, dart boards, and, for the true Wisconsinite, the magic potion known as an Old Fashioned.

The first 74 pages are an historical account of immigration, breweries, prohibition, and various other stories detailing Wisconsin traditions and the evolution of the brewing industry. There are times when the Germans and the Irish play nice, and times when they don’t. The rest of the book divides the state into regions and lists 70 must visit places throughout the state.

The writing is mostly straightforward. There is a hint of cleverness to some passages, but the book avoids being schmaltzy – even if it sometimes touches on malt – and can be appreciated for possessing characters, humor and insight without being contrived, forced, or displaying any hint of condescension. Having been in many of these places myself, I can personally vouch for the fact that these authors know what they’re talking about.

To memories and old friends. Cheers!

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

This book is also available as a Kindle Edition and Nook Book download. Dave Moyer is a public education administrator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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Another Day

a day in the life

A Day in the Life of the Beatles by Don McCullin (Rizzoli; $24.95; 143 pages)

This is a charming set of Beatles photographs taken in a single day about 6 months before what was to be their dissolution.   What we seem to see is a band of brothers, happy to be together.   Something else is that they are not the Beatles who were photographed to look as much like each other as possible.   Instead, what we see are four separate individuals – a prideful and content Paul, a wacky John, a contemplative George and a Ringo who looks like he’s tougher than the rest.   (Paul’s dog Martha makes a guest appearance.)

It’s a bittersweet collection as it represents the last time the band members would not look either exhausted or angry.   These were the boys enjoying the calm before the storm.   They also seemed to occasionally be making fun of their earlier stage-managed image; some of the poses reflect an overly playful – if not over-the-top – Monkees aura.

At $24.95, it’s a Rizzoli that will be a bit rich for some budgets, and it’s not essential when compared to the large, comprehensive Chronology book.   But the picture of Paul, on pages 122-123, appearing to sleep with a smile on his face while his best mates laugh is worth the money.

Recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher.   Note:  One article about this book noted that at one point the Beatles tried to buy the rights to this collection of photographs.   This raises two possibilities: either the band members loved the photos so much that they wanted to release them as an Apple book, or they disliked them so much that they wanted to ensure they would never be released to the world.   A fun aspect of reviewing the pics is trying to decide which possibility was the more likely one.

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Life Is What Happens

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”   John Lennon (“Beautiful Boy”)

This is an interview with John M. Borack, author of John Lennon: Life Is What Happens: Music, Memories & Memorabilia (Krause Publications; $26.99; 256 pages).   The book was released in late October of this year.

1.  Tell us a bit about your own background and what led you to write a book about John Lennon.

I’ve been a Beatles fan since the tender age of five, when my dad bought me my first Beatles record (the “All You Need is Love”/”Baby, You’re a Rich Man” 45).   Their output is what helped to shape my musical tastes, and when I first began writing about music in 1985 (for Goldmine Magazine), I was somewhat fixated on songs and artists that took their cues from the sound and spirit of the Fab Four.

Fast forward 25 years, and I received a call from the former editor of Goldmine, Peter Lindblad, asking if I’d be interested in being considered to write a book on John Lennon for Krause Publications, which is the same company that publishes Goldmine.   I practically jumped through the phone, I was so excited.   A few weeks later, Krause made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and the rest is history!

2.  What will readers find in John Lennon: Life Is What Happens that they haven’t seen in the myriad of other tomes about Lennon?

Well, the account of rare/previously unpublished photos in the book is pretty impressive, for starters.   Also, I tried to keep the focus of the book on John and his music, and tell a relatively straightforward story of a complicated mans’ life, steering clear of most of the unnecessary drama that surrounded him.   To me, it’s a very nice-looking, coffee-table-style book, and one that can serve as not only a biography but also a critical look at Lennon’s music.   And did I mention that the photos are pretty cool, too?

3.  The amount of memorabilia and photos in this book is staggering.   Any personal faves?

As far as memorabilia, I love the shot of the Beatles pinball machine from 1966.   I’ve loved to play pinball since I was a kid, so this is one item I wish I had in my rec room – if I had a rec room.   I also like the personal letters and notes from Lennon that we included; I think they give an insight into John as a person and also showcase his awesome sense of humor.

4.  There was a photo of John and George Harrison on the banks of the Ganges in 1968 that stood out for me.   It’s so personal…  and tranquil.

That’s one of my favorites, too; I had never seen that one before.   I think it captures the two of them at a moment in time when they were coming out of the psychedelic scene and searching for something more in their lives.   It’s really a beautiful shot.

5.  What are some of the kookier things you came across?

I think the wax heads of John and Paul (from The Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool) are pretty wacky, as is the John Lennon Halloween mask from 1964.   It’s still fun to look at, though.

6.  As you accumulated the mass of material in this book, what did you learn about the man?   Did your research alter your impression of Lennon in any way?

What impressed me most during my research was the reinforcement of the fact that John Lennon was a true renaissance man.   Singer, songwriter, rhythm guitarist, poet, peacenik, author, social activist, husband, father – John was all of those and more.   He packed a lot of life into his 40 years, and he poured his whole heart and soul into everything he did.

7.   There’s a quote in Life Is What Happens taken from The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1980 where Lennon says, “I really thought that love would save us all.”   For a guy so famously cynical, that seems rather beautifully naive.   I don’t mean that in a bad sense of the word.   But do you think he really believed it?

John was a paradox; one minute he was singing about “Revolution” and “Power to the People,” and the next he was proclaiming, “All You Need is Love,” and imploring us to “Give Peace a Chance.”   I think John really believed in what he was singing (and saying) at the time he was singing (and saying) it.   The contradictions were part of who he was, but he wasn’t the type to say things he didn’t mean.

8.  This year has marked the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death.   What are your reflections on the man and his career?

John Lennon was a true original, the likes of which we’ll probably never see again.   The rock music world, and the world in general, is a bit less interesting without him.   Like many others, I really wish he was still here to lead us in new directions, flash his rapier wit and sing us some new songs.   Imagine…

Copyright 2010 John M. Borack, author of John Lennon: Life is What Happens.   John M. Borack is a Beatles collector and a Southern California-based music journalist whose reviews, columns and feature articles have appeared in periodicals such as Goldmine and Amplifier.   Courtesy of FSB Media.

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