Steve Crawford’s “1000 Essential Songs From The 1970s” Reviewed

Written by | March 13, 2015 0:05 am | No Comments


If you’ve read Steve Crawford’s writing in rock nyc, you might believe that his greatest strength is as a rock critic but you would be wrong. Crawford’s greatest strength is as an historian: he can spin a yarn, he can make you understand what happened and why, he can make things that you are not in the slightest be interested seem fascinating. His previous book, “Legends Of Memphis Wrestling” has no excuse for being such a fun, fascinating, humane and rapturous read but it is exactly that and more, it makes the past history of wrestling, a subject I for one couldn’t have less interest in, seem like the most thrilling ride you’ve ever enjoyed. The Ebook proved very popular and if you have the slightest interest in the sport, you must be beyond happy with the results.

The difference between Crawford’s “1000 Essential Songs From The 1970s” and most guides to the decades is how consistently he manages to place the songs in an internal to the band and external to the world outside context: His reviews, a paragraph a song, no more. Here is Crawford on “Return Of The Grievous Angel”: “Gram Parsons was one of the key figures in the country rock movement, becoming a member of the Byrds during their influential Sweethearts of the Rodeo album, and as the leader of the Flying Burritos Brothers. He released his first solo album GP in 1973 and his 1974 album Grievous ANgel was released in 1974 after he had died from a  drug overdose. “The Return Of The Grievous Angel” was based on a poem written by Parson fan Thomas Brown and sums up the romantic mythos of the wandering balladeer, where all roads lead back to the arms of a good woman.” If there was one more thought in that paragraph the entire thing would explode… and it is not untypical. The paragraph moves forward with so much force and in less than 150 words, you know Parsons even though you don’t. Equal parts information and analysis all written with a crystal clear clarity. There is something self-effacing about his prose, he doesn’t have the time to draw attention to himself, you don’t notice how well crafted it is.

Steve Crawford is from Rector, Arkansas, graduated from Central Michigan University and now works for the US Defense Department in Mansfield, Texas. He is married and has two children and his life, from this distance, seems almost the anti-rocker world, he has none of the self-destructive nihilism that inflicts so many of us (me for one) and feels like a prerequisite to being a rocker or a writer. Rather, he is a family man, and a decent salt of the earth type.

But in the time he has not wasted, Crawford has spent listening to music. I consider myself something of a popular music know it all but time after time he taught me something I didn’t know. Shel Silverstein wrote Loretta Lynn’s “One On The Way”? Who knew it. As smart about rock and pop as he is about country, Crawford’s is at his best best in  r&b, disco, soul -black pop: any time he is  writing about Stevie Wonder or Al Green, pay attention. The song choices here include plenty, plenty, plenty of hits and lots of obscure stuff. Which leads to a problem, it is a little hard to find the songs or the artists you want to. The reason is simple: you can’t put page numbers on ebooks.This is really a pity, I would love to able to look up specific songs or artists at will.

Me? I read it right through. The opening, excellent, essay about the ’70s, than year by year by genre, followed with the top 25 songs in order of preference by year. At the end there is the top 100 songs. The EBook would make a truly great App, where you could navigate by all different methods.

Crawford’s book is not unlike the man himself, he seems unassuming but he takes you by surprise, he doesn’t shout in his writing, he lets his wide knowledge and wry humor work for him. He expects you to appreciate his writing and you? You’ll dip into it with Spotify on, and before you know it hours have passed -like peanuts, I bet you can’t read just one review.This isn’t just rock criticism or history or opinion. “1000 Essential Songs Of The 1970s” is, in the best meaning of the word, entertainment. Buy it here.

Grade: A-



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