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Book review: ‘1,000 Recording To Hear Before You Die’

Charlie Owen
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
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Not everyone will agree with Tom Moon’s list of “1,000 Recording to Hear Before You Die,” but it’s guarenteed to stir up some good conversation. For instance, a co-worker of mine grew angry when I told him there was no listing for Rush anywhere in the thousand pages of the book, and I was a little upset when I discovered that Led Zeppelin “IV” wasn’t listed but “II” and “How the West Was Won” was.

The coolest thing about this book is that no matter what your opinion is on the subject ” no matter what albums or artists you would have listed or omitted from the book ” it forces you to admit you don’t know everything there is to know about music. It also makes you want to discover just who the hell these musicians are you’ve never heard of and how they got onto such a list in the first place.

One important thing to remember is that author Tom Moon has worked as a music critic and journalist for the Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, Rolling Stone magazine and NPR’s “All Things Considered,” so he’s got the credentials, but in the end he’s just that, a critic, and his latest book is solely his opinion. He’s the first to recognize that in the book’s introduction: “There is no standard map to follow in the search of great music. You have to go your own way. Likewise, there’s no foolproof strategy for creating a list like this.”



So in his quest to find the best music that everyone in the world should listen to before they kick it, he delved into the classic standards from artists like Bob Dylan, Mozart and John Coltrane, and then dug deeper into the lesser-known or forgotten material from every genre that had some electric impact on him.

“I cast a wide net, in the hope of making the book as diverse as possible,” Moon wrote. And in that he certainly succeeded. Because the book is broken down alphabetically by artist, ABBA’s “Gold” album is featured only a few pages over from AC/DC’s “Back In Black,” jazz legend Louis Armstrong’s “The Complete Hot Fives and Hot Sevens,” and hip-hop group Arrested Development’s “Three Years, Five Months, and Two Days in the Life Of …” And that’s just a small portion of the A’s.



Some of the albums that made the cut will come as no suprise: “Live at the Apollo (1962)” by James Brown, for instance, or “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” by the Sex Pistols make perfect sense, while others like “Twenty-one Favorite Arias” by Enrico Caruso will have you scratching your head. But that’s the whole point of the book ” to take the reader on a voyage outside of their comfort zone and into new sonic territory.

According to Moon, listening pleasure was the only measuring stick by which he could gauge an album worthy of making his list.

“Each choice had to be a peak experience, music so vibrant it could lift curious listeners out of the mundane and send them hurtling at warp speed in a new direction ” towards ecstasy,” Moon wrote.



Besides the humorous and intelligent insights into each of the 1,000 albums Moon includes in the book (just imagine the time that took), he also provides readers with key tracks and recommendations for further listening in the style of the same album and beyond. Even if you don’t agree with Moon on every point ” and you definitely won’t if you have a heartbeat ” just remember that heartbeat could stop at any moment, and the question will remain: “How much happier would I have died if I had listened to all those recordings in that book?”

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached a 970-748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.


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