In today’s high-tech and interconnected world, a book isn’t merely the pages within the covers. The reader can use a tablet or E-reader to enjoy a novel, browse through the author’s other titles, listen to the audio version or even check online for author interviews.
This access is precisely what makes the book, 1,000 Recordings to Hear before You Die by Tom Moon, such a richly enjoyable read. The major failing of any book about music is that, no matter how good the writing is, nothing can equal the simple act of hearing the music yourself. Thanks to the internet, a person can read about a song in the book, decide that it sounds intriguing and download it to listen to. All within the space of a minute.
And, regardless of what the reader’s musical tastes are, there is a wide range of diverse entries to sample. Because the recordings are listed alphabetically, the Swedish pop group ABBA is listed first and is familiar to anyone who either lived through the Seventies or, more recently, saw the movie Mamma Mia!, or even more recently, heard the news that they were going to release their first album in over 40 years. The second choice is Dimi Mint Abba and her husband, Khalifa Ould Eide. Their music is the modernized version of the traditional folksongs of their home country, Mauritania, in North Africa, and has elements of both African and Arabic culture.
For serious music aficionados, the fact that the book was published in 2008 might be a negative mark against it, and they would offer a list of some of their favorite songs that debuted in the dozen or so years since then to prove their point.
However, one of the hallmarks of the music industry is the way that it reinvents itself while drawing upon the past. Anyone who saw the movie, Crazy Rich Asians, and listened to Kina Grannis’s 2017 cover of “Can't Help Falling In Love” would automatically be interested in the famous Elvis Presley 1961 single. From there, we can also listen to Bob Dylan’s rendition (released in 1973), or the version recorded by the British reggae group UB40 in 1993.
Sometimes the search itself reveals further hidden gems. While still in the “A” listings, the entry for “Air”, a Jazz trio who recorded in the Seventies, mentions their interpretation of the Jazz classic Buddy Bolden’s Blues. A quick look on the internet also turns up the iconic version of the song made back in the 1920s by Jazz great Jelly Roll Morton. Unusually enough, Hugh Laurie (the English actor best known for portraying Dr. Gregory House on the Fox show House) has recorded it as well and it’s also available online.
1,000 Recordings to Hear before You Die is not a book that will be finished quickly or even at all. But it is the slow journey through the book, and the almost endless choices that the book provides, which make reading it worthwhile. Published by Workman Publishing, it is available as an e-book from the Freading site in the Digital Library section of the Little Elm Public Library website.