A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
I normally don't gravitate towards abridged books (sorry folks on Audible, but this IS abridged), but Vasari's 'The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects' is a book that needs to be: 1) read by art history experts in its entirety (2000+ pages), 2) picked through periodically, like an encyclopedic “Garden of Delights”, 3) read abridged, in a version that focuses on the Renaissance's best (Vasari was interested in distinguishing the better from the good and the best from the better). My time here is limited. I only have so much time for the good. In my brief life here I want to hang with the Gods not with the minor prophets. I want Michelangelo not Niccolò Soggi. Sorry Niccolò.
The Penguin Classics/George Bull translation, was a great audio version. It had all the Teenage Ninja Mutant Renaissance artists, but still provided plenty of architects, sculptures and painters that I was either completely uninformed about or lacked much knowledge. Vasari has a natural narrative momentum, even if he does sometimes lose his narrative genius when he's consumed with listing and describing all of an artists works. It is a fine balancing act, to try and describe the artists' life, work, and importance and make the essay complete, without making the piece a laundry list of oil and marble.
One final note. This is one of those books that seems destined to become an amazing hypertext book or app. There were times while reading it I wished I was reading a digital copy that would provide links to pictures, blue prints, smoothly rotating statues, etc. What I wanted was a through the looking-glass, artist's version of 'The Elements' app by Theodore Gray. I want a multiverse of art, history, maps and blueprints. I want to fall into a hypertext of Renaissance Florence and Rome. Audiobooks or paper just fail to do justice to this beautiful subject.
This narrator has an amazing understated deadpan humor. There are various other voices that come in to read quotes by people other than Bacharach - and those are fine - but the voice of Bacharach himself (about 95% of the book is in the 1st person) is extraordinarily good.
I listen in the car
The time period covered (40s, 50s, 60s) and types of music (early rock & r&b to the Beatles era) are of course very dated, but Bacharach's best work was of timeless genius in terms of pure melodic and harmonic inspiration and originality. I mean - listen to Walk on By - it's pure, unadulterated genius. The lesser stuff like Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head sounds corny after 5 decades, but there are at least 20 Bacharach songs that will always sound like masterpieces - Beatles-level classics. Bacharach was the bridge from the great Tin Pan Alley composers like Kern, Gershwin, Rodgers, Porter and Arlen, and the post-Beatles composers. I don't think Motown and Beatles could have been what they were without Bacharach to show the way. The 32-bar standard had been exhausted. Rock & Roll was fresh and vital but harmonically limited. Bacharach (at his best) showed how the sophistication of Tin Pan Alley (to say nothing of Debussy) could be freed from ii7 V7 I and used in a rock context. He paved the way for Holland Dozier Holland, Lennon & McCartney et al.The book is satisfying in terms of talking about the musical details - although not as good as, say, the Geoff Emerick Beatles book. If you're a musician you might hope for more of a discussion of the technical elements, but there are still valuable insights in that regard. But what makes this book so special is the humor. I see how the negative reviewer in this thread might (inaccurately) consider him narcissistic in that he recounts all his affairs with beautiful women - he would sound like a name-dropper, except for the fact that he really did move in those circles on a continuous basis - but he's also extraordinary self-effacing in the most humorous and endearing way. I'm about 30% of the way through and I've had at least 25 major laughing attacks. I'm not sure if it's the writing or just the narrator's pitch-perfect delivery but I really love this book.My advice is not to be put off by the opening 15 minutes or so. At first, it sounded like he was 1) full of himself and 2) had a chip on his shoulder, but that impression faded very quickly once he started his story chronologically. And, from an audio point of view, this narrator is as good at his job as Bacharach was at his.