April 1, 2003

By Banning Eyre
One way to unlock a world of inspiring approaches to riffs and melodies is to spend a year or so traveling across Africa, immersing yourself in the continent’s exciting electric and acoustic guitar styles. But before you risk losing your apartment, your job, and your gigs to make this lengthy journey, consider the fact that ethnomusicologist/guitarist Banning Eyre has already taken on this mission for you. Much of what he learned is shared in the 80 musical examples presented in this book/CD package.
Many of the riffs make great diatonic shots in the arm for Western guitarists who have become so obsessed with learning new scales, modes, and chord progressions that they’ve forgotten how truly spectacular the good ol’ major scale can be—especially when it’s infused with syncopated rhythms, contrapuntal motion, and call-and-response melodies. Despite its slim size, Africa is no ordinary staple-bound technique book. Its pages overflow with background information, as well as Eyre’s photos of many of the great African guitar pioneers. There’s so much field work and research here, that Africa probably would have made the late, great folklorist Alan Lomax proud. Alfred Publishing.

—Jude Gold

Temples of Sound
By Jim Cogan and William Clark
Inspiration, technique, and delivery are essential when an artist dives into the churning rapids of creation, but no one would ever hear an end product if the creator didn’t walk into a recording studio and document his or her genius. And for many classic recordings made between the ’50s and ’70s, the vibe and funk and personnel of a studio would actually leave their marks on the sound and feel of the tracks. Sadly, most studios today are factories of sound, rather than mythical palaces of sweat and emotion, which is why Temples of Sound is a must-read for serious musicians.

Culled from interviews with engineers, producers, and artists, the book reveals the magic that went down in legendary American studios such as Capitol, Motown, Atlantic, Sun, Stax, Chess, and Sunset Sound. The text strikes a good balance between tech talk and creative details, and the book is an inspirational read. I would have dug even more studio photos of rooms and gear—and Gold Star, where Phil Spector constructed his “Wall of Sound,” is a strange omission—but Temples of Sound is still a valuable resource for anyone obsessed with sound. Chronicle Books.

—Michael Molenda


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