The Great Jazz And Pop Albums will be essential reading on bedside tables of anyone with even a remote interest in the history of popular song as captured in the grooves of the 12” vinyl long-playing album. ...Mr. Friedwald thinks nothing of spending up to 10 years on a single volume and this shows in the writing. Each essay is far more probing than a mere listing and analysis of the playlist and leavened with fact-laden data on everything from the sessions themselves to the past and subsequent careers of the respective artists and whilst he does not baulk at reminding us that in her later years Carmen McRae was, to put it mildly, difficult, he is far too much of a gentleman to note that Margaret Whiting was married to a porn star.
Will Friedwald’s The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums is published by Pantheon Books.
Other praise for the book includes:
Mr. Friedwald digs in deeply in his analysis — almost every album gets more than 5,000 words of attention. Each track is weighed in the balance. In fact, Mr. Friedwald assesses virtually every arranger's trick, instrumental solo and vocal inflection in his path. Much of this music is familiar, even overexposed, but Mr. Friedwald has the ability to surprise us, even shock us with his perspectives.... You rarely encounter thoughtful 5,000-word assessments of albums anywhere nowadays. They may not be extinct, but they do belong on the endangered journalism list. Great musicians and brilliant albums aren't going away, but loving appraisals as judicious as Mr. Friedwald's are sadly in short supply.
Will Friedwald’s thoughtful analysis and insight into the background and nuances of the music by the artists featured in his book make each song a more enriching experience for casual listeners and music aficionados alike. I’m honored to be included and grateful to Will for keeping the American Songbook and jazz classics relevant for generations to come.
Absolutely indispensable . . . Friedwald . . . brings his rare ability to write about singing in a way that effectively bridges impressionistic interpretation with musical analysis to the task of ‘reading’ an album the way a literary critic reads a poem. The result is never less than perceptive and often stop-in-your tracks brilliant. . . . A magnificent achievement.
With verve and an infectious love of music, jazz critic Friedwald tells the stories of fifty-seven jazz and pop albums that have become benchmarks by which subsequent records have been measured. ...His passionate description of each album in this indispensable guide will drive readers to listen to the albums once again, or for the first time.
Having written liner notes to several hundred recordings, mostly jazz reissues (disclosure: I have done the same in the country field), Mr. Friedwald acknowledges the seeming end of detailed liner notes in an era of digital downloads. His essays here, each running thousands of words, are essentially extended notes that offer unprecedented insight into each track and arrangement. Discussing accompanists and recording dates add even greater context, topped by his own well-informed and occasionally irreverent conclusions about each recording and the music within.... Exploring the artistry, heart and complexity of an earlier generation of pre-rock vocalists, Mr. Friedwald makes a compelling case why they still matter.