Psychedelic-Rock'n'roll: Unknown Legends of Rock'n'Roll

11 December 2011

Unknown Legends of Rock'n'Roll

Unknown Legends of Rock'n'Roll
Richie Unterberger
422 Pages and CD with 12 Rare Songs, Backbeat Books (May 1, 1998)

"Unknown Legends of Rock'n'Roll" is a 422-page book with in-depth profiles of sixty of the most interesting overlooked cult rock artists of all time, in all cases including first-hand interview material with the artists themselves and/or their close associates. The book also includes a 12-song, 45-minute CD with rare tracks by a dozen of the acts covered in the volume. The text is accompanied by 90 photos and reviews of the most essential recordings by each artist.
One man's unjustly neglected genius is the next man's appropriately unheeded fraud. Differentiating between the prodigies and the posers is one of the great joys of fans of any art form, including pop music. And this task is made easier with this book, a paean to some of rock'n'roll's quirkiest artists. All Music Guide coeditor Richie Unterberger ranks among the most prolific Rock critics of recent times, and he exhibits a depth of knowledge and a clear commitment to his subjects throughout this 400-page-plus study.
He tracked down former members of such long-forgotten groups as "Rising Storm", "Savage Rose", and "The Deviants" for interviews. All seem to respond with unmistakable enthusiasm as they recall creating idiosyncratic music decades back. Heaven knows, a guy like "Joe Docko" doesn't get many opportunities to discuss his mid-'60s "Mystic Tides" 45s.
This brings up the book's greatest strength: the light Unterberger shines on some truly secluded artists. Yes, you may have heard of Syd Barrett and Nick Drake, but even serious rock'n'roll aficionados may be at a loss when it comes to Duffy Power and The Misunderstood.
A 12-song CD comes with the book, making it all the better an investment for music fans who want to explore strange terrain. "Steven Stolder"

Connoisseurs of obscure rock should like this sprawling book, which is organized both chronologically (roughly) and thematically (haphazardly). A section entitled "Overlooked Originals" leads off, being followed by "Out of the Garage", "Psychedelic Unknowns", "Punk Pioneers", and so forth.
Within each section, the array of specific acts is engagingly eccentric. In "From the Continent" for instance, Unterberger includes the inscrutable German band Can, the Frank Zappa's-inspired Plastic People of the Universe, and French folkie-Punk-chanteuse-rocker "Francoise Hardy"--performers who are utterly unrelated except that they all hail from Europe. Unterberger doesn't claim comprehensiveness, as how could he when his subjects are supposed to be "unknown"? To his credit, most of these acts really are unknown in America, though some are legends.
As a historian, Unterberger is a bit on the light side; for example, he calls "Moby Grape"'s first album "a critical favorite" when it is more famous as an overhyped commercial flop. A fun, moderately informative volume of Rock miscellanea. Mike Tribby