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History & Criticism

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  1. 15.3 hrs • 9/13/2016 • Unabridged

    A monumental, revealing narrative history about the legendary group of artists at the forefront of West Coast hip-hop: Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur. Amid rising gang violence, the crack epidemic, and police brutality, a group of unlikely voices cut through the chaos of late 1980s Los Angeles: NWA, led by a drug dealer, a glammed-up producer, and a high school kid—they gave voice to disenfranchised African Americans across the country. And they quickly redefined pop culture across the world. Their names remain as popular as ever—Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube. Dre soon joined forces with Suge Knight to create the combustible Death Row Records, which in turn transformed Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur into superstars. Ben Westhoff explores how this group of artists shifted the balance of hip-hop from New York to Los Angeles. He shows how NWA’s shocking success lead to rivalries between members, record labels, and eventually a war between East Coast and West Coast factions. In the process, hip-hop burst into mainstream America at a time of immense social change, and became the most dominant musical movement of the last thirty years. At gangsta rap’s peak, two of its biggest names—Tupac and Biggie Smalls—were murdered, leaving the surviving artists to forge peace before the genre annihilated itself. Featuring extensive investigative reporting, interviews with the principal players, and dozens of never-before-told stories, Original Gangstas is a groundbreaking addition to the history of popular music.

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    Original Gangstas

    15.3 hrs • 9/13/16 • Unabridged
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  2. 7.8 hrs • 5/17/2016 • Unabridged

    Music critic Steven Hyden explores nineteen music rivalries and what they say about life Beatles vs. Stones. Biggie vs. Tupac. Kanye vs. Taylor. Who do you choose? And what does that say about you? Actually--what do these endlessly argued-about pop music rivalries say about us? Music opinions bring out passionate debate in people, and Steven Hyden knows that firsthand. Each chapter in YOUR FAVORITE BAND IS KILLING ME focuses on a pop music rivalry, from the classic to the very recent, and draws connections to the larger forces surrounding the pairing. Through Hendrix vs. Clapton, Hyden explores burning out and fading away, while his take on Miley vs. Sinead gives readers a glimpse into the perennial battle between old and young. Funny and accessible, Hyden's writing combines cultural criticism, personal anecdotes, and music history--and just may prompt you to give your least favorite band another chance.

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    Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me

    7.8 hrs • 5/17/16 • Unabridged
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  3. 7.3 hrs • 4/26/2016 • Unabridged

    Under the Big Black Sun explores the nascent Los Angeles punk rock movement and its evolution to hardcore punk as it’s never been told before. Authors John Doe and Tom DeSavia have woven together an enthralling story of the legendary west coast scene from 1977–1982 by enlisting the voices of people who were there. The book shares chapter-length tales from the authors along with personal essays from famous (and infamous) players in the scene. Additional authors include: Exene Cervenka (X), Henry Rollins (Black Flag), Mike Watt (The Minutemen), Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey (The Go-Go’s), Dave Alvin (The Blasters), Chris D. (Flesh Eaters), Jack Grisham (TSOL), Teresa Covarrubias (The Brat), Robert Lopez (The Zeros, El Vez), as well as scenesters and journalists Pleasant Gehman, Kristine McKenna, and Chris Morris. Through interstitial commentary, John Doe “narrates” this journey through the land of film noir sunshine, Hollywood back alleys, and suburban sprawl—the place where he met his artistic counterparts Exene, DJ Bonebrake, and Billy Zoom—and formed X, the band that became synonymous with, and in many ways defined, LA punk. Under the Big Black Sun shares stories of friendship and love, ambition and feuds, grandiose dreams and cultural rage, all combined with the tattered, glossy sheen of pop culture weirdness that epitomized the operations of Hollywood’s underbelly. Readers will travel to the clubs that defined the scene, as well as to the street corners, empty lots, apartment complexes, and squats that served as de facto salons for the musicians, artists, and fringe players that hashed out what would become punk rock in Los Angeles.

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    Under the Big Black Sun

    7.3 hrs • 4/26/16 • Unabridged
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  4. 0 reviews 0 5 4 4 out of 5 stars 4/5
    8.5 hrs • 4/12/2016 • Unabridged

    From the beloved host and creator of NPR’s All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts comes an essential oral history of modern music, told in the voices of iconic and up-and-coming musicians, including Dave Grohl, Jimmy Page, Michael Stipe, Carrie Brownstein, Smokey Robinson, and Jeff Tweedy, among others—published in association with NPR Music. Is there a unforgettable song that changed your life? NPR’s renowned music authority Bob Boilen posed this question to some of today’s best-loved musical legends and rising stars. In Your Song Changed My Life, Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), St. Vincent, Jonsi (Sigur Ros), Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Cat Power, David Byrne (Talking Heads), Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Jenny Lewis, Carrie Brownstein (Portlandia, Sleater-Kinney), Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Colin Meloy (The Decemberists), Sharon Van Etten, Valerie June, James Blake, and other artists reflect on pivotal moments that inspired their work. For Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, it was discovering his sister’s 45 of The Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn.” A young St. Vincent’s life changed the day a box of CDs literally fell off a delivery truck in front of her house. Cat Stevens was transformed when he heard John Lennon cover “Twist and Shout.” These are the momentous yet unmarked events that have shaped these and many other musical talents, and ultimately the sound of modern music. A diverse collection of personal experiences, both ordinary and extraordinary, Your Song Changed My Life illustrates the ways in which music is revived, restored, and revolutionized. It is also a testament to the power of music in our lives, and an inspiration for future artists and music lovers. Amazing contributors include Jonsi (Sigur Ros), Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Trey Anastasio (Phish), Carrie Brownstein (Sleater Kinney, Portlandia, Wild Flag), Chan Marshall (Cat Power), Colin Meloy (The Decemberists), Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), David Byrne (Talking Heads), Ian MacKaye, Jackson Browne, Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Jenny Lewis, Smokey Robinson, Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Philip Glass, and many more.

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    Your Song Changed My Life by Bob Boilen

    Your Song Changed My Life

    8.5 hrs • 4/12/16 • Unabridged
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  5. 12.1 hrs • 1/12/2016 • Unabridged

    Inspired by the Hank Williams and Leadbelly recordings he heard as a teenager growing up outside of Boston, Jim Rooney began a musical journey that intersected with some of the biggest names in American music, including Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Bill Monroe, Muddy Waters, and Alison Krauss. In It for the Long Run: A Musical Odyssey is Rooney’s kaleidoscopic firsthand account of more than five decades of success as a performer, concert promoter, songwriter, music publisher, engineer, and record producer. As witness to and participant in over half a century of music history, Rooney provides a sophisticated window into American vernacular music. Following his stint as a “Hayloft Jamboree” hillbilly singer in the mid-1950s, Rooney managed Cambridge’s Club 47, a catalyst of the 60s folk music boom. He soon moved to the Newport Folk Festival as talent coordinator and director, where he had a front row seat to Dylan “going electric.” In the 1970s Rooney’s odyssey continued in Nashville, where he began engineering and producing records. His work helped alternative country music gain a foothold in Music City and culminated in Grammy nominations for singer-songwriters John Prine, Iris Dement, and Nanci Griffith. Later in his career he was a key link connecting Nashville to Ireland’s folk music scene. Whether he’s writing songs or writing his memoir, Jim Rooney is the consummate storyteller. In It for the Long Run: A Musical Odyssey is his singular chronicle from the heart of Americana.

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    In It for the Long Run by Jim Rooney

    In It for the Long Run

    12.1 hrs • 1/12/16 • Unabridged
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  6. 1.2 hrs • 5/1/2015 • Unabridged

    For over twentyfive years, Rob Kapilow has performed his What Makes It Great? series, bringing the joy and wonder of classical music to audiences around the world and unraveling some of its mysteries while performing with the greatest orchestras and soloists alive today. Now for the first time, these lecture-concerts are available as digital media. The first of the series to be released is Kapilow’s lecture on Beethoven’s seminal “Appassionata Sonata,” performed by internationally renowned pianist Igal Kesselman.

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    Rob Kapilow’s What Makes It Great? Volume 1: Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata

    Read by Rob Kapilow
    Music performed by Igal Kesselman
    1.2 hrs • 5/1/15 • Unabridged
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  7. 15.5 hrs • 4/28/2015 • Unabridged

    The Grateful Dead’s long, strange trip has been the subject of countless books—but none like So Many Roads. Drawing on new interviews with surviving members and people in their inner circle, along with previously unknown details gleaned from the group’s extensive archives, David Browne, acclaimed music journalist and contributing editor at Rolling Stone, lends the Dead’s epic story the vivid feel of a novel. He sheds new light on the band’s beginnings, music, dynamics, and struggles since Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. No longer dismissed as relics of the hippie era, a new generation has lionized the Dead for creating a culture that paved the way for social networking, free music swapping, and the uncompromising anticorporate attitude of indie rock. Now, fifty years after the band first began changing rock ’n’ roll—both sonically and psychically—So Many Roads paints the most vivid portrait yet of the Grateful Dead, one of the most enduring institutions in American music and culture.

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    So Many Roads

    15.5 hrs • 4/28/15 • Unabridged
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  8. 13.6 hrs • 12/2/2014 • Unabridged

    In 1968, rock promoter Bill Graham launched the Fillmore East in New York City and the Fillmore West in San Francisco, changing music forever. For three years, every major rock band played the Fillmores, performing legendary shows: Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, Cream, the Allman Brothers, and many more. John Glatt tells the story of the Fillmores through the lives of Bill Graham, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Carlos Santana, and an all-star supporting cast. Chronicling the East and West Coast cultures of the late 1960s and early 1970s—New York City with its speed, heroin, and the Velvet Underground versus San Francisco with the LSD-drenched Summer of Love—Glatt reveals how Graham made it all possible. But why did Graham shutter both Fillmores within weeks of each other in 1971, during the height of their popularity? Live at the Fillmore East and West reveals how Graham’s claim that “the flowers wilted and the scene changed” was not quite the whole story.

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    Live at the Fillmore East and West

    13.6 hrs • 12/2/14 • Unabridged
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  9. 1.1 hrs • 8/21/2014 • Unabridged

    The Flying Dutchman is the perfect opera with which to approach the operatic mountain that is Richard Wagner. It is short, has a great story—the legend of the Dutch captain doomed to sail forever unless redeemed through love—and the striking score has many pre-echoes of Wagner’s later great music dramas. Its arias, ensembles, big choruses, and the orchestral writing—from the gale that blows out of the overture to the final theme of “Redemption through Love”—will “blow you away.” These wonderful tunes are enriched by a lively explanation of their context. From the opera’s dramatic opening, which reflects Wagner’s own nautical experiences as he fled from creditors and the law, we see how it contains many of the hallmarks of his later, greater works. And we find out why The Flying Dutchman was such a blazing triumph for this most controversial and romantic of composers.

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    An Introduction to Wagner

    1.1 hrs • 8/21/14 • Unabridged
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  10. 2.5 hrs • 8/21/2014 • Unabridged

    In Composers’ Letters, the voices of the great figures of classical music come alive through their correspondence. Set against the music we know and love, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and many more talk openly about their music, their hopes and fears, their love, their sadness, and their struggles in realizing their artistic hopes in a commercial world. Poignant, funny, revealing, informative, and so often direct and honest, these letters offer a fascinating insight into the personalities that created our Western musical tradition.

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    Composers’ Letters

    Edited by Jan Fielden
    Read by various narrators
    2.5 hrs • 8/21/14 • Unabridged
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  11. 15.1 hrs • 6/17/2014 • Unabridged

    Cowboys and Indies is the definitive record-business bible, chronicling the pioneers who set the stylus on the most important labels and musical discoveries of the last century. The narrative follows all the musical trends and developments from the phonograph to the Internet age as it delves behind the big business of corporate hit machines and the diligent industry of small, curated labels. Drawing from memoirs, archives, and over one hundred exclusive interviews with legends of the record industry—including the founders and CEOs of Virgin, United Artists, Atlantic, and A&M Records—this book reveals the secrets behind the hit-making craft. Cowboys and Indies focuses on the game changers—the indie founders, talent scouts, legendary A&R men—believers who understood the music business was two distinct parts: first music, then business. An industry insider himself, Gareth Murphy culls numerous behind-the-scenes anecdotes to bring together a clear genealogical map of the record industry’s 130-year international history. Among its revelations, Cowboys and Indies highlights the remarkable similarities between the industry crash of the 1920s and ’30s and the recent CD crash. Witty and evocative, Cowboys and Indies offers a fresh panoramic view of the cycles and grooves of pop music and is sure to top the charts with music industry classics like Hitmaker and The Mansion on the Hill.

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    Cowboys and Indies

    15.1 hrs • 6/17/14 • Unabridged
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  12. 12.3 hrs • 4/22/2014 • Unabridged

    From a legendary journalist with four decades of unprecedented access and untold stories, an insider’s behind-the-scenes look at the major personalities of rock and roll Lisa Robinson has interviewed everyone from John Lennon to Bono to Patti Smith, Eminem to Lady Gaga to Jay-Z and Kanye West. She’s talked nail polish with a twelve-year-old Michael Jackson, hosted The Clash at Studio 54, and introduced Lou Reed to David Bowie over filet mignon in a Manhattan restaurant. She helped Elvis Costello and The Clash get their record deals. She had total access to the punk scene at CBGBs, was on a private plane with the Rolling Stones during a lightning storm and with Led Zeppelin when their tour manager pulled out a gun. Unlike any other journalist who covered this world, she was the only woman to break into this exclusive boys’ club.  The story of rock and roll for the last four decades is Lisa Robinson’s story. She has lived and breathed music—the sound, the scene, the personalities—and here she shares her stories altogether for the first time.

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    There Goes Gravity

    12.3 hrs • 4/22/14 • Unabridged
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  13. 4.1 hrs • 3/18/2014 • Unabridged

    Kurt Cobain was the voice of a generation. Twenty years after his death, why does he still matter? On April 5, 1994, twenty-seven-year-old Kurt Cobain took his own life. His desperation to kick drugs, his complicated relationship with fame, his tortured soul—all these elements came together in one terrible moment in Seattle, and the landscapes of music and pop culture were forever changed. Two decades have passed since Cross, a Seattle-based editor and writer and early supporter of Nirvana, lived the horror of that day on the front lines, fielding the phone calls as the media descended upon his city, desperately searching for an exclusive on the death of yet another young rock icon. While the impact of a person’s life is difficult to see fully on the day he dies, the long view provides a wider, and usually more accurate, vista. For the first time ever, Cross, author of the definitive Cobain biography, Heavier Than Heaven, explores how the haunting memory of Cobain—the life he led, the music he played, and the people he touched—lives on in innumerable, and sometimes surprising, ways. Here We Are Now attempts to answer where we—the fans, the music business and fashion industry, the addiction and recovery communities, Kurt’s family—are, two decades later. Cobain’s life and work can be seen everywhere, from his indelible marks on music to his more subtle influence on gender and gay rights, the way we view suicide and drug addiction, and the very idea of Seattle as a cultural hub. Nirvana’s music has touched multiple generations, and while the world has changed considerably since Nevermind was first released in 1991, the status of that album only grows as years pass. Cobain and Nirvana are now part of a rite of passage through adolescence, and while “teen spirit” may have changed and evolved since the early nineties, the music remains authentic all the same. Simply stated, Kurt Cobain changed the cultural conversation in his all-too-brief life, and even after his shattering death. With interviews and commentary from all corners of the pop culture universe, from the people who knew Cobain to those who continue to help his legend grow, Here We Are Now explores what a singular life meant and how that meaning can be measured, when and if it can be.

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    Here We Are Now

    4.1 hrs • 3/18/14 • Unabridged
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  14. 1 reviews 0 5 4.5 4 out of 5 stars 4.5/5 (1)
    12.2 hrs • 3/1/2014 • Unabridged

    A dynamic and expansive tour through 40,000 years of music, from prehistoric instruments to modern-day pop songs Music is an intrinsic part of everyday life, and yet the history of its development from single notes to multilayered orchestration can seem bewilderingly complex. In his dynamic tour through forty thousand years of music, from prehistoric instruments to modern-day pop, Howard Goodall leads us through the story of music as it happened, idea by idea, so that each musical innovation—harmony, notation, sung theater, the orchestra, dance music, recording—strikes us with its original force. Along the way, he also gives refreshingly clear descriptions of what music is and how it works: what scales are all about, why some chords sound discordant, and what all postwar pop songs have in common. The story of music is the story of our urge to invent, connect, rebel—and entertain. Howard Goodall’s beautifully clear and compelling account is both a hymn to human endeavor and a groundbreaking map of our musical journey.

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    The Story of Music by Howard Goodall

    The Story of Music

    12.2 hrs • 3/1/14 • Unabridged
    1 reviews 0 5 4.5 4 out of 5 stars 4.5/5 (1)
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  15. 2.5 hrs • 12/3/2013 • Unabridged

    In 1969 Michael Lydon, a founding editor of Rolling Stone and a leading member of rock writing’s first generation, got a dream assignment: to cover the Rolling Stones’ hopscotch tour across America that ended at Altamont. His long, intimate piece on the tour, The Rolling Stones Discover America, captures the highs and lows of the grueling tour and has become a classic of rock ‘n’ roll journalism. 

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    The Rolling Stones Discover America

    2.5 hrs • 12/3/13 • Unabridged
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  16. 5.3 hrs • 11/14/2013 • Unabridged

    Eminent historian Paul Johnson dazzles with a rich, succinct portrait of Mozart and his music As he’s done in Napoleon, Churchill, Jesus, and Darwin, acclaimed historian and author Paul Johnson here offers a concise, illuminating biography of Mozart. Johnson’s focus is on the music—Mozart’s wondrous output of composition and his uncanny gift for instrumentation. Liszt once said that Mozart composed more bars than a trained copyist could write in a lifetime. Mozart’s gift and skill with instruments was also remarkable as he mastered all of them except the harp. For example, no sooner had the clarinet been invented and introduced than Mozart began playing and composing for it. In addition to his many insights into Mozart’s music, Johnson also challenges the many myths that have followed Mozart, including those about the composer’s health, wealth, religion, and relationships. Always engaging, Johnson offers readers and music lovers a superb examination of Mozart and his glorious music, which is still performed every day in concert halls and opera houses around the world.

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    Mozart

    5.3 hrs • 11/14/13 • Unabridged
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