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JohnS

New Penguin Guide

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Another problem I have with the last edition is the inclusion of so many records that are so ridiculously out of print that it's just frustrating to read about how great and essential they are (The Baptised Traveller for instance).

Strange that. One of the common criticisms of Penguin used to be the way it limited itself to albums that were currently in print or easily available in the UK.

Srange indeed. I'd even go so far as to say that ANY record buying guide that limits itself strictly to what is EASILY and off the (internet or real) shelf available everywhere at the time of going to press while items that by ANY yardstick are part of the "major opus" of an artist are omitted just because they happen to be OOP is SERIOUSLY flawed and rather worthless IMHO.

Why?

Firstly, this way of doing things is bound to be obsolete in more than one detail by the time the printed book hits the bookstalls because items are being deleted all the time.

Secondly, because you cannot build a real appreciation of any artist's music on what is MOMENTARILY available (if what is momentarily available is full of gaps) and I do assume that ANY seasoned collector will not be deterred THAT easily by keywords such as "Deleted" or "OOP" - least of all in this digital and internet age.

I'd understand all those moans and groans about this or that being OOP if it was an item that has NEVER been reissued for the past 40 or 50 or more years but if it's been around in any guise in the past 20 to 25 years then all this only ought to spur any collector into action. Sure that means work and sometimes long-winded searching but isn't this what motivates the collector no end? wink.gif

but not all listeners are collectors rolleyes.gif

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True, but how many of those with just a passing, fleeting interest in jazz who'd just enjoy listening to some jazz here and there would have bought the previous, much more comprehensive issues of the Penguin Guide?

Of course the new direction that this guide now seems to be taking would be much more suited to those non-collectors (or to budding collectors). ;)

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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"not all listeners are collectors"

true, but all collectors are listeners (unless they collect rocks).

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True, but how many of those with just a passing, fleeting interest in jazz who'd just enjoy listening to some jazz here and there would have bought the previous, much more comprehensive issues of the Penguin Guide?

When I bought my first Penguins I was more than a fleeting jazz listener; but not quite an obsessive. In fact I was buying more classical music at that time than jazz. It was Penguin which made me realise that that there was more to jazz than the well known Americans and the Brits who played domestically. Probably helped steer me back from classical to a more jazz dominated listening habit.

The imperfect representation of the music I was aware of...Cook and Morton spelt it out in their introductions. What drew me was the fact that, despite having gaps, it was still stuffed full of more information than I could find anywhere else. I also liked the dry humour (that might just be a Brit thing) - I still chuckle over the comments of late Coltrane being 'God-bothering' or the 'two cheesecloth shirts, four sandals' comment about McLaughlin/Santana.

Like everyone else I got cross when they got sniffy about my favourites - but I still make it a first port of call as a starting point when I'm wanting to know where to begin on an unfamiliar performer (after this place, of course!).

true, but all collectors are listeners

Are you sure?

What about those who collect mint copies and keep them in their shrink-wrap? Or every available version of a vinyl release in every available sleeve format?

I expect they do listen and enjoy - but I'm not sure the listening is what the collecting is about.

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...and not all "listeners" are "hearers"... certainly nothing wrong with that, but it's a mistake to think that everybody hears everything that is in the music they listen to, even over time...again, nothing wrong with that, and one could easily make the case that the immediate, visceral response to any music is what one keep coming back to over time (eventually), but I'm going to have to respectfully laugh at the notion that "collector" = "listener", much less that "serious collector" = "seriosu listener", at least automatically.

Truth be told, some of the best "hearers" I've ever heard are basically "anti-collectors"! They hear it, get it, and proceed accordingly.

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True, but how many of those with just a passing, fleeting interest in jazz who'd just enjoy listening to some jazz here and there would have bought the previous, much more comprehensive issues of the Penguin Guide?

When I bought my first Penguins I was more than a fleeting jazz listener; but not quite an obsessive. In fact I was buying more classical music at that time than jazz. It was Penguin which made me realise that that there was more to jazz than the well known Americans and the Brits who played domestically. Probably helped steer me back from classical to a more jazz dominated listening habit.

The imperfect representation of the music I was aware of...Cook and Morton spelt it out in their introductions. What drew me was the fact that, despite having gaps, it was still stuffed full of more information than I could find anywhere else. I also liked the dry humour (that might just be a Brit thing) - I still chuckle over the comments of late Coltrane being 'God-bothering' or the 'two cheesecloth shirts, four sandals' comment about McLaughlin/Santana.

Almost exactly my experience with the Guide. I was definitely a 'fleeting listener' and used it to open the wider world of Jazz recordings, taking me away from Indie rock. I always realised it reflected the opinions, and prejudices, of the two authors.

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Maybe in the case of both of you that's because you basically had already "opened up" towards other artists and styles of jazz, i.e. your curiosity had been aroused enough to become interested in exploring more, much more. Budding collectors, if you want ...

However, I am under the impression that this group is a minority among those who are "non-collectors".

But to get back to where this part of the discussion started: Again - what's wrong with including clearly OOP items in any book that provides a guide of recorded music? Considering the speed with which releases are deleted again, ANY book is bound to become at least partially obsolete between the end of writing and the time it goes on sale anyway. And does one really have to be a diehard, frenzied, all-out collector in order NOT to despair about the fact that a recommended recording has gone OOP and needs more, longer and harder searching in order to track down a copy? What would be the alternative? Telling people "This record is OOP so you don't need to listen to it" (though in fact it may be a major achievement in the recording career of that artist) Would that make sense?

I don't think so, especially considering how often reissues of music from those eras where the Public Domain aspect does not come into play yet are just blocked because the owners of the rights balk at reissuing the music or just plain don't care. Which leads to grotesque situation where one artist's music on one label (of minor importance) may be easily available where his music recorded originally on another label (that may have vielded more important music but just does not have a decent reissue policy) is really tough to get by.

So IMHO those guides that look a bit beyond what is currently in print and easily available at any given point of time are right in doing so. And in this context I found the "All Music Guide" book (2nd ed. IIRC) that I bought in the late 90s really spot-on in their coverage of the subject. Their reviews often referred to items being "now hard to find" etc. as the authors clearly covered releases that had hit the market since, say, the late 70s or early 80s (and sometimes had vanished by the late 90s of course). But still they gave a far better overview of what one ought to try to track down than any list of items that may be currently available (but OOP tomorrow anyway) could ever do.

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But why review CDs (I'm reading this from your "70s and 80s" dates, so correct me if I'm wrong)? Why not just review recordings, give catalogue information on the original issue, and leave the consumer to search around for whatever format is preferred and can be found? Morton's book reviews 'albums' which is not relevant for collectors of 78s. And why not single out important tracks, since this book is supposedly aimed at the download generation (a passing generation, I believe, as streaming slowly takes hold). Really the CD collector is a specific demographic - and, as I'm always saying, a deluded one, since nearly all CDs are basically worthless although LPs are still collectable.

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But why review CDs (I'm reading this from your "70s and 80s" dates, so correct me if I'm wrong)? Why not just review recordings, give catalogue information on the original issue, and leave the consumer to search around for whatever format is preferred and can be found? Morton's book reviews 'albums' which is not relevant for collectors of 78s. And why not single out important tracks, since this book is supposedly aimed at the download generation (a passing generation, I believe, as streaming slowly takes hold). Really the CD collector is a specific demographic - and, as I'm always saying, a deluded one, since nearly all CDs are basically worthless although LPs are still collectable.

I wouldn't have dared to go as far as you did but you do have a point ... ;)

As for the "70s and 80s" dates that you quoted in referring to my post, clearly the contributors to that All Music Guide reference book referred primarily to CDs but also to LPs, and very often so, especially in those cases where the vinyl reissue/compilation made much more sense than the (incomplete) CD reissue or where no CD reissue had been released yet (even if this meant they had to refer to an OOP vinyl release).

Of course, like you said, a review of an artist's work on the basis of the original recordings (with a listing of relatively accessible reissues of these recordings added) would indeed make sense. But it would be a monumental task in compiling such listings, and like I said, I would not have ventured that far out. ;)

However, I'd be a bit wary of record guides going into individual (download) tracks for the artists from the LP/CD era because you do not even have to look into the whole "concept album" thing to realize in many cases the contents of the albums really are bodies of work that form a unit that ought to remain together and be listened to as a unit.

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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I agree that in print status should not be a condition for the inclusion in such a catalogue.

In the late 80's, early 90's, when the jazz reissue wave started and I got into jazz, I mainly based my selection of albums to investigate on the Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide from 1985, which included only LPs, although I had no record player and only listend to CDs. Of course many albums were not readily available on CD back then, but many were on japanese import CDs I could rent in the huge public library in Brussels (where I lived as a student), or they were reissued over here some time later. So a guide of domestically available CDs would have been too limited.

The beauty of these guides like the Rolling Stone or the former Penguin Guide is that they include many little known albums, whereas most jazz guides and now also the new Penguin Guide focus on the most important albums, which we already know.

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Steve

Yes I was pushing the point in order to argue, in a way, that it is hard now to generate a coherent conception of such a guide - too many formats, too much that's offically OOP easily findable, too much that's OOP full stop etc etc. I recently saw a Gramophone review that stated an older, reference recording was 'only available in a box set or as a download.' He might just was well have said 'or maybe on amazon or ebay' and in fact it was on my streaming service. He meant, not in the current UK catalogue, but the whole idea of 'not in print' according to the catalogue (which in any case depends on country) is obsolete.

Claude

I agree that in some ways it is comments on little-known albums that are the most interesting - AMG has covered a lot of that ground though, mostly all you want to know is basically OK/short measure/reissued on x/poor recording/etc. And there's always this board to keep us all informed!

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Really the CD collector is a specific demographic - and, as I'm always saying, a deluded one, since nearly all CDs are basically worthless although LPs are still collectable.

CDs are worthless only if you regard your collection as a financial investment.

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Really the CD collector is a specific demographic - and, as I'm always saying, a deluded one, since nearly all CDs are basically worthless although LPs are still collectable.

CDs are worthless only if you regard your collection as a financial investment.

thumbs_up.gif which may well bring us full circle back to a collector rather than listener!

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But why review CDs (I'm reading this from your "70s and 80s" dates, so correct me if I'm wrong)? Why not just review recordings, give catalogue information on the original issue, and leave the consumer to search around for whatever format is preferred and can be found? Morton's book reviews 'albums' which is not relevant for collectors of 78s.

With the 78 era I think the Penguin guide already does review recordings and then compares the compilations making comments about content and mastering quality. Sometimes it's 1 sentence about 1, 3 about another, but I think they're already doing this for a good number of entries. This way of doing things is perhaps more noticeable in their Blues Guide.

I too don't care for dropping things when they go OOP along with never including Mosaics. On the other hand if they didn't drop something the book would have weighed 20 lbs. by the 5th edition. I'm going to wait until they collect all the reviews and make it an iPad app. ;)

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I suspect the OOP dropping was a practical decision - they must have tested the patience of their publishers with the sheer size.

It's also worth remembering that C + M never claimed it as a definitive guide. It was one way of slicing the loaf. Lots of other people did it other ways, mostly adopting the 'Essential Recordings' approach. The jazz interested customer was not short of choices.

I still find Penguin teeming with reviews, despite the gaps.

To be honest, the only way to keep an ongoing database of recordings and reviews in anything like a comprehensive way it to archive it online. I'd hoped C + M might do that. But I suspect it would be uneconomic - too expensive to do for free, not likely to attract enough subscribers to make it a viable pay site.

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90's pre internet? but the nineties were when the present internetboom was built.

and you are right that the first penguin guides were a godsend. i still have the first, which if i'm not wrong is from 91.

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90's pre internet? but the nineties were when the present internetboom was built.

Depends where you were and how tech savy. I don't think I connected until around 1999!

I first came across it at work; didn't know many people with it then.

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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I've been online since 1996, and there wasn't much jazz information available then. I remember browsing the Gramophone database for classical reviews (Gramofile), but that was a rather exceptional offering.

Edited by Claude

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Really the CD collector is a specific demographic - and, as I'm always saying, a deluded one, since nearly all CDs are basically worthless although LPs are still collectable.

So you constantly assert. I see no evidence of that here in Tokyo where jazz CD's have maintained their prices in used stores.

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Really the CD collector is a specific demographic - and, as I'm always saying, a deluded one, since nearly all CDs are basically worthless although LPs are still collectable.

So you constantly assert. I see no evidence of that here in Tokyo where jazz CD's have maintained their prices in used stores.

Well here you can hardly find a store that would take your CDs. Many RVGs sell new for £3-5 ($5-8). Sometimes even Mosaics go unsold on ebay. Not many CDs attract collector's prices on the market or anything like. The Japanese market does seem different. But don't you think that changes in the Penguin Guide (which we are discussing here) seem to reflect a contracting market and a changing demographic for music? Maybe I am wrong but it seems to me that in the main CD collecting is in decline.

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Maybe I am wrong but it seems to me that in the main CD collecting is in decline.

Almost certainly true of the physical CD.

But downloading has made it difficult to know just what is being collected. There so many different sources. Although it's clearly possible to monitor what is being downloaded be it separate tracks or whole albums, and also by genre, I'm not aware that this has been done.

Interesting that there was a real buzz around the kids in school today - apparently a new version of a computer game called Call of Duty has just been released. Not that long ago it was a new Oasis album that got the 6th Formers skipping lessons!

The question is, do those kids hooked on the computer games grow out of them with some becoming more interested in music - and exploring music beyond the easily available or immediately current? Thinking of the 20 somethings I work in I'd say that yes, quite a few do have exploratory tastes (though not necessarily our way); I'm not so sure their interests go very far backwards. But then the classical music industry seems to be still flourishing. And that is heavily biased towards music of the past.

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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"not all listeners are collectors"

true, but all collectors are listeners (unless they collect rocks).

You're wrong

88047062jo4.jpg

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My first book on jazz recordings was an early All Music Guide on Jazz from 1994. One of the reasons I liked it was for the older, possibly oop recordings because I was finding lps in used shops back then and some of the other jazz books were focused on what was available on cd only. I felt that way about the Penguin Guide but after a while I felt a need to get an updated book and the then current All Music Guide had some obvious holes in their coverage. I looked at the various books on the market and compared them by looking up artists that I liked or was interested in that would be considered a little obscure like Jessica Williams and discovered that the Penguin Guide was filling the gaps that the AMG had left out, especially the European based artists. So I bought the Penguin Guide with Elvin Jones on the cover and it has served me well for the last ten years. It has its blind spots as well but between those two books I can usually find most the album info I need and if not, there is the internet as Beverly stated. For my taste/needs there isn't one book that covers it all. That's where boards like this one are so helpful. There is such a wealth of information and experience on Organissimo. I can't think of a time I came here with a question that it didn't get answered.

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The Guide really couldn't go on in its present format without Richard Cook. You might say Cook-Morton were the Lennon-McCartney of review teams. happy.gif I thought they were the most literate and perceptive of jazz reviewers. I often go back to read --one can't always call them reviews--exegesis of a particular artist's work. They have that Brit public school ability to talk learnedly but lightly about the music.

I will not be getting the new volume.

Speaking of 100/1000 best jazz album-type books, etc, this book helped guide my early approaches to jazz. Still recomended.

263789d6e752d0659334e345067434d414f4541.jpg

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You might say Cook-Morton were the Lennon-McCartney of review teams.

And one of the things you can't work out from the books alone is their very different centres of gravity. Although they shared a broad interest, Morton was the modernist with interests spilling into contemporary classical; Cook became increasingly traditionalist to the point of curmudgeonliness in his last years (see the Jazz Review editorials!).

Yet it's hard to distinguish two separate personalities in the guides.

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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