On Record, Vol. 4, 1981: Images, Interviews & Insights from the Year in Music

Colorado Music Experience. (On Record). Feb. 2024. 360p. ISBN 9780991566860. pap. $45. REF
Colorado Music Hall of Fame founding director Brown (Red Rocks: The Concert Years), who worked as a music journalist for the Denver Post for 26 years, compiles 206 of his articles from 1981 about musicians on the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 charts, plus 22 more musicians represented in one-line capsules and press photos. Although focused on album releases and some of their covers, the page-length articles go beyond simple reviews by incorporating background material and quotes from musicians. The articles provide a window into a time when U2 was just “a band from Ireland,” and less-enduring artists were big names, but the entries are not dated, which may frustrate some readers. Given recent interest in ’80s music (Kate Bush, for instance) and in overlooked or previously derided genres, such as disco, this book may provide fodder for the dedicated music archaeologist. For general readers, the entries—often too similar to one another—will come across as straightforward music journalism without much flair or depth. But Brown’s introduction, describing how music journalism changed in the time leading up to 1981, shows what the book could have been.
VERDICT Only for scholars of popular music or the time period.
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