25 February

Another list to consider in making a cumulative best-albums list is that of the entries in the 33 1/3 series. In a different time and place, these kinds of histories would have been serialized in music publications. They are rarely more than longer versions of the kind of retrospective articles found in Mojo or Uncut. The decision to name the books after the albums themselves, when combined with the uniformity of the books' design, has been quite effective in promoting the series. It would also suggest a compelling boldness, as if the books and their subjects were equals--that is if more of them ranked as serious literature. But they don't: the latest, Jonathan Lethem's Fear of Music, is an exception, as are Drew Daniels's 20 Jazz Funk Greats, Erik Davis's Led Zeppelin IV, and Miles Marshall Lewis's There's a Riot Goin' On. Many of the musicians who have written books in the series are not especially innovative, their decision to approach their predecessors as critics and historians being a sort of resignation to mediocrity; Daniels, of the electronic-music group Matmos, again is an exception. We have a list of more than 150 albums so far; this series would at least add another fifty. However, it is growing; the Wikipedia article linked-to below lists future titles. It's also not in any way meant to be a list of the best albums of any era or genre of music. Still, if we're interested in compiling critics' list and best-seller charts for the sake of constructing a sort of canon of Rock, or at least a list of basic titles for use by retailers, librarians, etc., these books can't be ignored. Instead of merely adding the albums that have been the subject of a book in this series to the list of "all-time" albums, I'd prefer to find out which albums have been the subject of other books, or if certain books about a particular scene or artist use an album as a case study. Such a project would be a massive undertaking.