Sonicbond Publishing [Publication dates: December 2020; January/February 2021]
The On Track volumes from Sonicbond come thick and fast. I can’t help thinking that in the rush certain standards are being compromised or, at least, opportunities missed.
Firstly there are a range of authors, some obviously better informed than others and with their own personal take on the subject matter whether it be a more musical interest or from a historical/fan point of view.
At times we get a further reading/bibliography section, from which we can extrapolate from where the author has gleaned their information. But not always.
As a result the series lacks true consistency.
The illustration section also relies heavily on stock album cover shots and video grabs rather than unique photos and memorabilia which may be of more interest. And there’s never an index which means these books are less useful as a form of reference. (I’ve been saying that ever since the first titles. Sorry.)
The strengths and weaknesses are well displayed in the latest batch. Bill Thomas’ extrapolation of Kate Bush‘s recording career is, as usual for the series, heavily dependent on secondary sources so – for example – in one section we get extensive quotes from an interview appearing in ‘The Word’. By his own admission Bill has extensively plundered various websites.
There’s nothing wrong with this recycling but it’s a bit lazy and this and previous titles would all benefit from some proper primary research and new interviews. **1/2
The same applies to David Detmer’s précis of the work of Renaissance charting the progress of the prog rockers from early beginnings, and a different lineup, in 1969 to their more recent incarnations. Detmer’s book will be more welcome, however, in the sense that here is a band who need to be revered and to many – even prog fans – they’ve remained a little obscure over the years. ***1/2
Peter Kearns demonstrates the more musician-informed approach in his account of Joni Mitchell. His previous books in the series have included Elton John and 10cc. This time the emphasis is on the lyrics as much as the music. ***1/2
Andrew Wild (already with two comprehensive volumes on The Beatles and a recent account of Crosby Stills Nash & Young) now casts his focus on Dire Straits. The bonus here is that – yes! – seven ex-band members (but not Mark Knopfler) are interviewed.
Of course for a writer it is harder work undertaking original research but Wild demonstrates that it provides a much more credible read as well as better insight. Perhaps it may even start a trend. ****
As we’ve suggested before, the On Track books are best approached as an easy read for a journey (if you ever step on public transport again), a book to dip into to confirm suspicions or deflect a dispute between friends (if you ever step into a pub again). But maybe they are just perfect for enforced isolation in Lockdown.
Sonicbond also publish more extensive tomes and most recently we have received Andrew Darlington’s excellent account of Beatles PR guru Derek Taylor – For Your Radioactive Children. We follow the rise and rise of the journalist who collaborated with Brian Epstein on his autobiography and was then introduced to the Fab Four.
Darlington spends some time setting the scene, evoking 1960s Liverpool and its environs and to a lesser extent Los Angeles where Taylor set up his own PR company before hooking up with The Beatles again in the Apple era. And, yes, there’s no index. ****
Review by David Randall
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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 11 July 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
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