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Welcome to the Guitar Lessons Pro Articles.

This week we have a list of book reviews from musician and journalist Philip Booth. Philip writes about music and film for the St. Petersburg Times, Down Beat, Jazziz, Billboard, CMJ New Music Monthly, Miami New Times and other publications. He may be contacted at


BEST MUSIC BOOKS of 2002

By Philip Booth

"A Long Strange Trip," by Dennis McNally (Broadway Books, $30) - McNally, an American history scholar and author of a first-rate biography of Jack Kerouac, wore his other hat, as the Grateful Dead's longtime publicist, for this absorbing account of the quintessential jam band. The Dead split in 1995, following leader Jerry Garcia's death and well after the group's creative energy had been exhausted. McNally wisely focuses on the Dead's beginnings in San Francisco, and the way Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and their bandmates brilliantly created an improvised, always mutating mix of American rock, roots and folk music. McNally offers an exhilarating you-were-there trip back to the Dead's psychedelics-fueled glory days, and a sad glimpse at Garcia's heroin-abetted decline.

"A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album," by Ashley Kahn (Viking, $27.95) - Kahn, author of a book on Miles Davis's classic "Kind of Blue" album, examines the music and meaning of saxophonist John Coltrane's 1965 "A Love Supreme," another profound and vastly influential piece of jazz art released during the same 10-year period. Coltrane's affecting themes and interactive grooves were intended as an act of worship, and Kahn aptly gets at the results, interviewing drummer Elvin Jones, pianist McCoy Tyner and session engineer Rudy Van Gelder, about the resultant classic, and its place in jazz history.

"Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott," by David Ritz (Da Capo, $25) - Jimmy Scott, blessed with one of the most exquisite, expressive voices in jazz, made his long-overdue breakthrough with 1992's much-praised "All the Way" album, released when he was 66. The saga of Scott, who suffers from a disease that prevented his voice from fully maturing, amounts to one of the century's greatest comeback stories. He scored a big hit in 1950 with Lionel Hampton, but didn't receive credit on the album, and 12 years later recorded a Ray Charles-produced disc; the latter recording was pulled from release because of contractual reasons. Scott worked a series of menial jobs for much of the next 25 years, finally returning to prominence when he sang at the funeral of a friend, songwriter Doc Pomus. Ritz, the author of biographies on Charles, Marvin Gaye, Etta James and B.B. King, wrote this account of Scott's life with the cooperation of the singer and his family, friends and fellow musicians. It's a fascinating read.

"Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Reader," edited by Michael Streissguth (Da Capo, $26) - What defines a legendary musician? Well, you know one when you hear one, as Dictators singer Handsome Dick Manitoba relates to writer Nick Tosches, in a discussion of Johnny Cash's 1995 album, "American Recordings": "The thing I love about Johnny Cash is the sound of his voice, the physical sound of his voice. It's like buyin' a book, called, like, y'know, America or something. And if it had a voice, it would have his sound." Manitoba's comments are included in one of the insightful newspaper and magazine pieces collected in a volume that's a convincing tribute to the great country-rooted singer and songwriter.

"Shakey: Neil Young's Biography," by Jimmy McDonough (Random House, $29.95) - Neil Young, one of rock's most idiosyncratic icons, although given to raw-boned honesty in his work, rarely gives interviews. But he allowed McDonough, a rock journalist with bylines in the Village Voice, Spin and Mojo, unprecedented access during 50 hours' worth of interviews conducted over the course of 11 years. The author weaves those conversations with anecdotes, other interviews and background information for the definitive bio of the Canadian-born singer, guitarist and songwriter. McDonough charts Young's work with Buffalo Springfield in the late 1960s, his relationships with Stephen Stills, David Crosby and Graham Nash, his on-again, off-again love affair with sometime backing band Crazy Horse, his collaborations with Pearl Jam, and his 1990s triumph with the "Ragged Glory" and "Harvest Moon" albums.

Also notable: "So What: The Life of Miles Davis," by John Szwed (Simon and Schuster, $28); "Best Music Writing 2002," edited by Jonathan Lethem (Da Capo, $15); "Jazz Modernism: >From Ellington and Armstrong to Matisse and Joyce," by Alfred Appel, Jr. (Knopf, $35); "The Faber Book of Opera," edited by Tom Sutcliffe (Faber and Faber, $16); "Giants of Jazz," by Studs Terkel (New Press, $22.95; reissue); "I Me Mine," by George Harrison (Chronicle, $24.95; reissue); "Blackbird Singing," by Paul McCartney (Norton, $13.95); "She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock and Roll," by Gillian G. Gaar (Seal, $19.95; reissue); "Songwriter on Songwriting," by Graham Nash (Andrews McMeel, $49.95; includes two CDs); "Journals," by Kurt Cobain (Riverhead, $29.95)

Philip Booth, a musician and journalist based in Tampa, FL, writes about music and film for the St. Petersburg Times, Down Beat, Jazziz, Billboard, CMJ New Music Monthly, Miami New Times and other publications. He may be contacted at

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