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Originally published Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 12:00 AM


Gift Books '07

Pop music | From Sinatra to Genesis

By Patrick MacDonald, unless otherwise noted

"Sinatra Frank and Friendly: A Unique Photographic Memoir of a Legend" by Terry O'Neill (Evans Mitchell Books, $49.95). This one will impress, right off the bat. It's a hefty, handsome, coffee-table book in a big white slipcase, with a classy photo of Frank on the cover. But what will really wow any Sinatra fan is what's inside — more than 100 photographs by an official Sinatra photographer, printed on high-gloss paper, making each photo shine like it was professionally developed. O'Neill had access to Sinatra's public and private life, so there are shots of him making movies and recordings, singing onstage and relaxing backstage, posing in photo studios, lounging at home and traveling. The photos span 20 years, from the 1960s through the '80s, so they cover only a small part of Sinatra's career, but they were some of the best years.

"Frank Sinatra: The Family Album" by Charles Pignone (Little, Brown, $29.99). This photo collection is much more personal, with private family photos accompanied by reminiscences from family and friends. Looking like a real vintage photo album, with padded cover that has a glossy inset photo, it covers Sinatra's whole career. Many of these photos, especially the family snapshots (some taken by Sinatra) have never before been published.

"Creem: America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine" edited by Robert Matheu and Brian J. Bowe (Collins, $29.95). Creem was the greatest rock magazine ever (acknowledging that Rolling Stone is classified as a bi-weekly newspaper). It changed music journalism for the better, with its influential mix of irreverent humor, passionate, fan-driven writing and imaginative photography. The great rock critic Lester Bangs did his best work for Creem, and the Detroit-based magazine was the starting point for other top writers, including Dave Marsh, Cameron Crowe and Dave DiMartino. Their best articles are reprinted in this big, colorful book, along with articles, photos, reviews, interviews and other features from the magazine's glory years in the 1970s and '80s. Former staffers also offer their memories. Like the magazine itself, the book is lively, fun, entertaining and informative.

"Doo Wop: The Music, The Times, The Era" by "Cousin" Brucie Morrow with Rich Maloof (Sterling Publishing, $24.95). Rama lama ding dong! This is one fine tribute to the early days of rock and the culture that produced it. The text is as fun as it is informative, and even academic at times, as when it traces the history of doo wop back to African tribal rhythms and the post-World War II American socio-political climate. It even connects '50s car designs with doo wop. The movies, TV shows and publications of the era are blended into the music history, fully evoking the 1950s. Lots of photos, lots of color and great graphic design make this one of the best rock books of the year.

"Reggae Scrapbook" by Roger Steffens & Peter Simon (Insight Editions, $45). An amazingly thorough, colorful, informative and tactile book, with removable reproductions of posters, set lists, post cards, record labels and other reggae memorabilia. You can almost hear the pulsating rhythms and smell the ganga as you peruse the rich text and copious photography in this big, impressive volume. Of course the greats are represented, like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh, but so are influential figures little heard from outside of Jamaica. Reggae culture is woven into the story of the music, making this much more than just a scrapbook, but a vital reggae history book.

"Guitar Heaven: The Most Famous Guitars to Electrify Our World" by Neville Marten (Collins Design, $29.95). You don't have to be a guitarist to appreciate the aesthetics of electric guitars, and the 50 most legendary models, and their players, are shown in all their glory in this big, photo-filled volume. Author Neville Marten is an expert — as a technician, he worked on Jimi Hendrix's Stratocaster and other rare and valuable guitars, and he edited Guitarist and Guitarist Technique magazines — and a fan who understands why musicians fall in love with their guitars, and why all rock fans become air-guitarists at some time or another. Anyone who loves electric guitars will drool over this book.

"Genesis: Chapter and Verse" by Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford (Thomas Dunne Books, $29.95). This'll keep a Genesis fan busy until next Christmas. The whole 30-year, 30-album band history is covered in 360 pages of text and photos, with the band members themselves telling their story. It's the first collaborative effort by the original lineup in 20 years, coinciding with their ongoing "Turn It On Again" reunion tour. Genesis had an upper-class beginning in England, formed at the exclusive Charterhouse School, which helps explain the band's intellectual, art-rock style. The rise from schoolyard pals to international rock stars is a fascinating journey, with many highs and some lows, including band changes and breakups. It's all here, in minute detail.

"Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee" by Peter Richmond (Picador; $15). "Peggy always had a way of directing the traffic right up to the stage and into the palm of her hand," recalls a colleague of the sultry songstress profiled in this informative study of her life, just out in paperback. With boundless admiration, but also candor, Lee fan Peter Richmond traces how Norma Engstrom left her dysfunctional North Dakota family behind and became Peggy Lee, a pop star with a svelte blond allure and a unique singing style akin to a very dry martini. Through career highs and lows, and four marriages, Lee remained her own gal — and her own musician. This book follows her colorful private saga while giving equal time to her art. — Misha Berson, Seattle Times theater critic

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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