Cross-pollination: “Are We Still Rolling?” book review (on Popdose)

Are We Still Rolling?: Studios, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll - One Man's Journey Recording Classic AlbumsI wasn’t really sure what to expect when I offered to review Phill Brown’s music career memoir, Are We Still Rolling? Studios, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll – One Man’s Journey Recording Classic Albums. I had never even heard of Brown before, although he was apparently already well-known to music aficionados. It ended up being a very good read, even though it did get a bit bogged down in technical blather — but after all, Brown spent the bulk of his career as an engineer.

One of the more pleasant and unexpected benefits of reading the book was that I got turned on to some albums and artists I might otherwise have continued to ignore. For instance, it turns out that not only is Robert Palmer’s debut LP — Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley — a really well-produced and engineered album, it’s also quite good. I also enjoyed listening to the relatively laid back vibes of British guitar legend John Martyn’s 1973 release, Solid Air. Same for Steve Winwood’s self-titled album from ’77.

Brown seems to reserve his most lavish praise for three artists — Palmer, singer-songwriter Murray Head, and Japanese blues guitarist Fusanosuke Kondo (leader of the Grub Street Band). I tracked down copies of Head’s lauded Nigel Lived album, which was pretty good but not great. I could only sample some of Kondo’s work on YouTube, as his Grub Street Band output seems to be unavailable in any form Stateside. What I heard was pretty enjoyable.

On the other hand, I couldn’t get into any of the Talk Talk albums Brown worked on — Spirit of Eden or Laughing Stock. They sounded great but were far too clinical and cold for my liking. Oh well.

Anyway, all of this has little to do with the book itself. For my thoughts on Are We Still Rolling?, head over to Popdose and read my review now!

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