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360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Sean Wilentz

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1. Februar 2012
For 125 years, Columbia Records has been one of the most vibrant and storied names in pre-recorded sound, nurturing the careers of jazz, blues, rock and pop legends such as W.C.Handy, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Miles Davies, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Mariah Carey, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, Adele and many more. This lavishly illustrated celebration, written by noted historian Sean Wilentz, tells the story of the label's rich history as it interweaves threads of technical and social change with the emergence of an incredible stable of artists and the creation of some of the greatest albums ever made. Also featuring over 300 rare and revealing images from the Columbia archives, 360 Sound is an inside look at a landmark record label and a must-have for any music fan.


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Sean Wilentz is a prominent historian, his books and commentary on music, politics and the arts have gained a wide reputation for their force, originality and elegance. Wilentz's writings on music have focused on folk traditions and contemporary rock and roll, especially the work of Bob Dylan.

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Covering 125 years of Columbia Records in 336 pages and hundreds of photos - Graphically exciting, but not a reference book. 13. November 2012
Von Steven I. Ramm - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
2012 marks the 125th anniversary of the Columbia Records label. No, it's not the 125th tear for the Columbia Record COMPANY, the label changed hands a few times and it is now owned by Sony. But, as a label it had the longest life of any other. To celebrate the anniversary, Columbia engaged Chronicle Books, known for it's large-format "coffee table" books with great graphics to publish a history of the label and hired Princeton American history professor Sean Wilentz to write the text. The title refers to the Columbia Records logo that was developed (and trademarked) when Stereo was first introduced. The book is being issued in two formats. This is a review of the "Standard" edition; I'll mention the "Deluxe" edition further down.

First off, this is not the only recent book on Columbia's history. In 2007, Gary Marmostein authored "The Columbia Story" which was mostly text with some photos. The Wilentz book is about 50% photos and 50% text. And it is big and HEAVY. The 336-pages, on heavy paper, weighs in at 5lbs, 3 ounces! Within those pages Wilentz attempts to cover the full 125 years from the first paraffin Graphophone cylinder records (Columbia's answer to Edison's wax cylinders) to the top charting success of Adele's "21" album. Obviously he had to make his stops at each period short and the range of Columbia's music styles (pop, jazz, classical, folk, R&B, Broadway and film recordings and, yes, spoken word.). But there is, literally, something for everyone here.

My interest focuses a lot on the pre-Lp era (a format that Wilentz states was created by Victor in the 1920s, but abandoned only to be made successful in 1949 for Columbia) so I was glad to see that that era is not overlooked. We get to page 174 before we hit the pop and rock era of the 1960s. In his introduction and acknowledgements Wilentz says that he didn't consider himself an expert and relied on knowledgeable researchers on sound recording history including independent researcher Tim Brooks, who has written significant articles about the label. Credits from images include both Blues record collector John Tefteller and Country music historian Colin Escott so these knowledgeable folks were included as well. Yes, when it came to "inside stories" Wilentz consulted the A&R execs at the label, but they are not historians. So I felt comfortable, reading the text, that Wilentz did his work. I should point out, however, that the book contains "side bar essays" written by either Wilentz or rock critic Dave Marsh. I'll comment on Marsh's work later in this review.

Most folks coming to this book will not be there for the text, but rather for the photos and graphics. They are certainly colorful and book is - well, gorgeous! I'm not sure if it was Wilentz who chose the layout but I have a few "issues" with it. For one, the captions (which are really just titles) are in a very light typeface and not easy to read. There are no dates given for when the photo was taken. Next is the use of space. While some of these images are great when they fill one page, too often space is wasted. There's a photo of the Dixie Chicks which fills two photos and the one of Adele has her face and arms filling one page with her shoulder just barely going to the otherwise-black page to it's right. The double page spreads work best when they are filled with colorful (and I do mean COLORFUL!) record ephemera such as early 1900-1920 catalog covers.

The label scans on the cover are clean and of the original records. I thought the print for the Index pages was tiny, until I turned the page. On ONE page - the last one - they list the source of the "Trademarks" of the artists (Led Zeppelin, Philadelphia Orchestra and Bruce Springsteen are trademarked names). The font size requires a magnifying glass - not included with the book - to read it.

So, based on the above, I can easily recommend this book to anyone with a broad interest in recorded music history (and I count myself among that group). For those more interested in "business" side of things, the Marmostein volume will provide more documentation. (Note that Wilentz does not provide any footnotes or source of detailed info other than saying "according to...". ) And, again, the book LOOKS great!

I mentioned the "other edition" being published in two editions. The other is the "Deluxe Edition". This comes in a slipcase combining this Wilentz book with another volume - a cloth covered 142-page book titled "Legends and Legacy" written by rock critic Dave Marsh, listing the 263 recordings that, in Marsh's words, "best represent a condensed history Columbia Records at its best". Also included is a USB thumb-drive containing all 263 "original" recordings. While I was not able to get the USB, I was able to see, and read, the Marsh Book. For each recording there is a short essay by marsh as well as a color illustration of the record label, as well as the date of record and matrix. In some cases a illustration of 78rpm single is the cover of the CD reissue. Even the earliest recording - "Washington Post March" by Sousa's Band - listed as a wax cylinder from 1890 is shown as an Indestructible celluloid cylinder which weren't made until 1907. And there is a note that the "source" of the recording on the USC is the 1999 CD collection " Sounds of the Century". I noted some other factual errors in Marsh's writing. I then looked at the "Acknowledgements" for this volume and saw no record archivists or historians listed. A lot of A&R and Sony company execs though. I know the execs know their "business side" of the company but none of them are recorded sound historians. So, though this review of the Wilentz book, I felt it necessary to mention Marsh's section.

It'll be a long time before another such anniversary occurs for the company. I'm glad they gave Wilentz free hand to cover their main competitor (RCA, Victor and Edison) and glad that Wilentz acknowledged his initiations and acknowledged the experts.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Well-balanced Book 31. Dezember 2012
Von D.R.L. - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
~ Steve Ramm has posted an excellent, in-depth review of this book. It would be hard for anyone to expand on his review, so I will only add a few comments that I hope might help potential purchasers.
~ As Steve points out in his review, this is not a detailed reference book for scholars. Having said that, the author does give an excellent history of the recording industry as it pertains to the Columbia label and it's subsidiaries such as OKeh, Vocalion, and Brunswick. The author balances text for those interested in reading about the history and photographs for those who just want a coffee-table book. The text is presented in brief 1 to 2 page sections, so the book is easy to pick up, read as much as you want, and then put it down again. The photography is excellent throughout the book, with many of the images rarely seen in other sources. There are also reproductions of many album covers that allow one to see the evolution of album art and the changing tastes over the years. Alas, cover art is a dieing art form as we move from vinyl albums to CDs to MP3 downloads.
~ Highly recommended book.
~ NOTE: There is an electronic book by the prolific Dave Marsh with a similar title to this book. Marsh's book is titled "360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story - Legends and Legacy". Marsh's book complements Sean Wilentz's book but is not meant to be the same as Sean's book. At the time of my writing this review, Marsh's book can be downloaded free on iTunes. It takes considerable time to download, but it is worth the wait. The graphics accompanying the electronic version are excellent, and the 'book' includes two hundred and thirty six 90-second audio samples of some of the greatest 'hits' released by Columbia and subsidiaries such as OKeh, Vocalion, and Brunswick.
~ Highly recommended electronic book.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen An Impressive Historical Essay 19. Januar 2013
Von Contemporary Media Introspectives - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
This is a great book for anyone who has an interest in the historical evolution of recorded sound. It's quite a story. Columbia's birth, ascent, fall, trials & tribulations are all on trial and detailed here. A very comprehensive read that covers all facets of music Columbia marketed. Nicely presented, heavy, too! The most fascinating part is the 60s where Columbia, after being very gun shy about getting involved with anything Rock & Roll, finally threw in the towel and Corporate profts then went ballistic. The players that built the company are profiled. The artists all get some press, some more than others. (Barbra Striesand gets quite a bit of coverage, as she was the frst artist to demand and get full artistic control). When I grew up in the '60s, Columbia Records signifed quality & innovative product. And they had the best and most crative artists. Rad this book, it's VERY educational.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Great History of Recorded Music 3. Oktober 2013
Von M. I. Silverstein - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
The Columbia Records Story is more than a history of one record company. This is a very detailed history of recording from the time of Edison, Bell and the like which morphs into a history of music. It is very thorough and is not quick read. This is a big fat book and a lot of fun to read through. This is highly recommended for any true music lover.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen It Does Everything I Want It To! 28. März 2013
Von Spencer - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Five stars. Why? Because this book contains the right amount of history needed to get an understand of the importance of Columbia Records. This book is big and full of pictures sure to dazzle a musician or fan of any age. It's got a good weight to it which makes leaving it at the coffee table both preferable and desired among house guests. I have no reason to rate this book any lower than I have. Did I mention it's Less than $40?
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