In the Beginning There Was Genesis, and It Was Good

Gelring Limited/Eagle Rock
Watchers of the...stairs? Classic-lineup Genesis today: Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Peter Gabriel

Genesis: Sum of the Parts
Eagle Rock, 118 mins.
$24.99 Blu-Ray/$14.98 DVD

Originally shown on BBC Television, though not without controversy from one of its subjects (more on that later), Sum of the Parts is a comprehensive, detailed look at the story of Genesis: a 47-year journey of a band whose evolution in musical styles and lineup has buoyed rather than destroyed it.

More importantly, the filming brought together the five members of the group's classic lineup: Peter Gabriel (vocals); Phil Collins (vocals, drums); Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford (guitars); and Tony Banks (keyboards, guitars) together in the same place at the same time for the first time since 1975.

And, like the band's story, that interaction isn't always pretty or comfortable in their combined interview segments. They are freer with the tongue when filmed individually.

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Phil Collins's No Jacket Required Is Still a Masterpiece

"Do you like Phil Collins?" To many young fans, Patrick Bateman expounding on the artistic genius of Phil Collins in the film American Psycho is their primary reference point for America's unlikeliest pop star. However, he initially exploded onto the scene about this time 30 years ago with his album No Jacket Required.

To be sure, Collins had been a force up until that point, thanks to his drumming in a mildly popular progressive-rock band you might have heard of called Genesis, his theme song for the Jeff Bridges vehicle Against All Odds and his creepy first hit, "In the Air Tonight."

But No Jacket Required, which was released January 25, 1985, certified Collins as a superstar and a household name with its sleek production, Motown-inspired singing and horn sections, and intensely catchy hooks.

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Groundbreaking Stones Book Delivers Hard Truths of 1969 Tour

This album, Beggar's Banquet, was relatively new when author Stanley Booth began following the Rolling Stones on the band's 1969 tour.
The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones
By Stanley Booth
Chicago Review Press, 416 pp., $18.95

Reissued for its 30th anniversary -- though it chronicled events that took place 15 years before that -- The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones is, simply put, one of those essential texts of music journalism.

Groundbreaking, insightful, funny and tragic, it's a piece of reporting that could never take place today. And from a journalist whose level of access to the band seems shocking in a time when the norm today to interview rock stars is a 15-minute phoner, scrunched in among a dozen other journo talks and with a publicist listening in on the other end of the line.

Georgia-bred music scribe Booth first met and talked to the Stones in 1968 while on assignment, some months before the death of founding member Brian Jones.

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Carlos Santana Searches for the "Universal Tone" in Life and Music


The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light
By Carlos Santana with Ashley Kahn and Hal Miller
544 pp.
Little, Brown

Legendary guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Carlos Santana vividly remembers when he realized a particular power of the instrument in his hands.

It was when he was a teenager playing backup music to the main attractions in a strip club and one patron's girlfriend - overpowered by the tones - began taking off her own clothes in the audience.

"That's when I realized," he writes in this memoir, "that a guitar could talk to a woman."

From the profane to the sacred, he also believes in the power of music - and in particular the "Universal Tone" of the title - to mystically bring people together and show them a higher level and power.

"I used my guitar to invite people to recognize the divinity and light that is in their DNA," he continues. The Universal Tone being the "music inside the music" and "one note to communicate with all hearts," bringing a slice of heaven to the mortal flesh.

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The Blues Magoos Are Ready for a Psychedelic Resurrection!

Kayos Productions
The Blues Magoos in 2014: Mike Ciliberto, Geoff Daking, Ralph Scala, Peter Stuart and Peppy Castro.

"Hello! This is Peppy Castro! Psychedelic pioneer!"

This is how the man born Emil Thielhelm answers the phone at his home and studio in New York, in a rat-a-tat energetic voice whose pace he will keep up for more than 20 minutes of conversation.

And he's got reason to be excited, with the re-formation of his '60s psychedelic/garage rock band The Blues Magoos, and their first new album in more than 40 years, Psychedelic Resurrection (Kayos Productions).

Featuring both re-recordings of their classic songs (including biggest hit "[We Ain't Got] Nothin' Yet") and new material, the current lineup features original members Castro (guitar, vocals), Ralph Scala (lead vocals, organ), classic lineup drummer Geoff Daking, and new members Mike Ciliberto (guitar) and Peter Stuart (bass).

Classic lineup members Ron Gilbert (bass) and Mike Esposito (drums) also make guest appearances, making it a full reunion, at least on record. And it's a much more guitar heavy work than their earlier records, which were dominated by Scala's Vox Continental organ.

The 65-year-old Castro says the reformation of the Blues Magoos came about directly as a result of fan interest, as well as their own creeping mortality.

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The Man Who Knows All the Classic-Rock Greats' Secrets

Photo by Ethan Russell/Courtesy of Blue Rider Press
Glyn Johns and the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger contemplate a song at Olympic Studios in 1970.
Sound Man
By Glyn Johns
Blue Rider Press, 320 pp., $27.95

Imagine that this is your work schedule for a few days in 1969: Meeting up with the Beatles, who are recording Abbey Road at the studio of the same name. Then slipping over to Olympic Studios to work with the Rolling Stones on Let It Bleed. Then back to Abbey for more time with the Fabs, before wrapping things up that night recording a live Jimi Hendrix concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

That was the real-life drill once for Glyn Johns, the sound engineer/mixer/producer whose name is well-known to classic-rock liner-note readers. Johns has also helped to craft some of the genre's best-known hits from other acts including Led Zeppelin, the Who; the Eagles; Bob Dylan; Neil Young; Eric Clapton; Joe Cocker; Humble Pie; Steve Miller; and Crosby, Stills and Nash, to name a few.

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Four Types of "Tricks" Rock Stars Use Live

Photo by Jason Rogers
Is that guitar plugged in?
There has been a lot of collective outrage in recent years over the ways that various pop and rock stars are "faking" live performances. I think that's valid to a certain degree, especially in regards to rock bands. Rock is a broad genre, but one where a certain rawness and authenticity has long been valued over glossy perfection, after all.

But some of this outrage toward performers of all types seems misplaced when you look at things a little closer. In today's market, musicians of all types are often making more money from their tours than they are from album sales, a reversal from the days when live shows were primarily a way for popular bands to promote album sales.

And since live concerts are so important these days, there is an added incentive to make them perfect, especially since ticket prices for some of them have risen to ridiculous levels. But pop and rock stars have used various technologies and other tools to make live shows look and sound better for decades; some of these techniques are new, and some have been around for years.

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Fab New Book Examines The Beatles' Magical Lyrical Tour

Photo by Mirrorpix/ Courtesy of Little, Brown
The Beatles with Hunter Davies (left) and the Maharishi on a train to Bangor, India during their 1967 pilgrimage.

The Beatles Lyrics
Edited by Hunter Davies
Little, Brown, 384 pp., $35

As Beatles author, scholar and personal friend Hunter Davies recently told CBS Sunday Morning in a segment about this book, for being multimillionaires who made their fortunes from writing songs, the band members never seemed to actually have any paper around.

So whenever and wherever inspiration struck, John, Paul, George and Ringo would scribble words on whatever surfaces were available: hotel stationary, napkins, the backs of envelopes and business correspondence, and in one case, a child's birthday card.

Davies -- who wrote the band's only authorized biography and became a friend -- has collected more than 100 of these precious remaining handwritten working and final drafts from museums, collectors, band associates and sources all over the world. They are reproduced here, along with printed lyrics and his analysis of the 182 total original songs the band released in its original lifespan.

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Ranking ZZ Top's '80s Videos

Screenshot via Locke Bryan Productions
Those seeking a tasty holiday treat need look no further than Billy F. Gibbons' new Fiesta ads; our favorite is the one where the ZZ Top singer/guitarist breaks down his recipe for homemade tamales while wearing an adorable "BFG" apron. It's obvious the camera loves the right Reverend, and it's not exactly shy about winking at his bandmates Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, either.

The Top has been laying low while Hill recuperates from the fall that sidelined him with an injured hip last September, a few days before the band was scheduled to play the Cynthia Woods Pavilion with Jeff Beck. (Make-up date is May 2, by the way.) Anyway, all of this is to say that those Gibbons spots -- we just caught the new "Christmas" one typing this Wednesday night -- got us thinking about all those great videos ZZ made back in the '80s. From there it was a short hop to all the ones that maybe weren't so great, but have retained a certain hairspray-and-Velcro charm. So happy holidays, all you sharp dressed men and women.

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Deluxe '70s Sets Make Early Gift for Rock Fans

Led Zeppelin has recently re-released two more titles from their catalog, again remastered by Jimmy Page: the 1971 album commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV (or "Zoso") and 1973's followup Houses of the Holy, both now upgraded with better sound and a bonus disc of material. Each extra disc mirrors the original album's track list, but with different versions of each track that range from alternate takes to instrumental versions. It goes without saying that the albums definitely sound better, but the bonus discs are what most fans have been anticipating.

Unlike the reissues of Zeppelin's first three albums, the bonus material here does not differ noticeably from the album versions. The majority of songs are slightly different mixes that the listener can pick up if he or she has heard the albums numerous times (who hasn't?), and the remainder are instrumental mixes. Page had already worked different mixes of some of the songs at the time of recording before choosing which ones made the album, and here he shares those ideas with us.

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