This book is so entertaining! It is funny and clever and very enlightening. The narrator has just the right style, the right mix of humor and seriousness to make it funny and informative. I enjoyed almost all of it. It is written for non-musicians in an effort to help them understand what music is all about. The author does a great job of hitting so many aspects of music, but for me, a professional musician, it was a little elementary. With that said, I did learn a few things that I can use in my classroom, and that made it all worth it. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions. I can recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the workings and meanings of music.
I must add that I am glad the editors did not have the author read his own book. He interjects on several occasions with musical examples that have been discussed by the narrator. He is very hard to understand. I liked his interjections and loved his use of his guitar playing examples, but the narrator, Walter Dixon, brings the book to life.
I would have to say this is one of the best books I've listened to, although it is not technically a book. It is a part of the Great Courses series, through which you can increase your knowledge of just about anything.. This one is absolutely fabulous from my point of view. The author, Professor Robert Greenberg, took thirty of what he considers the very best of the Western Hemisphere orchestral works of the last three and a half centuries and expounded on them and their composers. Being somewhat of a music historian wannabee, I was so enthralled that the time fairly flew as I was absorbed in these classes. It made me want to go to my own recordings of these pieces and listen to them each from start to finish with new light and understanding. Bravo, Dr. Greenberg. Please keep these classes coming!!
After having listened to Dr. Greenberg's course on the Thirty Greatest Orchestra Works, I had to have more, and decided to give this one a try. Although I have always had a great appreciation for the music of Mozart and truly love many of the things he has written, I can’t say that he has been one of my all time favorite composers. With the insights I gained from this Great Courses class taught by Dr. Robert Greenberg, I must say the great genius has moved up in my estimation. My understanding of his music is markedly better, and I can now say he truly is one of my favorite composers. The world lost him way too soon at the age of nearly 36, but thank goodness for the things he was able to give us.
First of all, I love the 33 1/3 series. I'm listening to them all and I hope they make 100 more. The first thing to realize is that each book has a different writer and a different narrator, so you never know what you're going to get. Some (Dylan, Stevie, Costello) are drop dead brilliant. Others (Pet Sounds) not so much, but there's not one that I wouldn't buy again and from which I haven't gleaned very valuable information.
I would give Harvest 5 stars except for two things: the narration and several really annoying bits of dumb political commentary from the author. The narrator speaks clearly, so you can understand the text - that's all it takes for me to prefer audiobook since I have no time to read, but some narrators (e.g., Costello) enhance the text greatly. This guy on Harvest sounds like he's reading it syllable by syllable, with little comprehension, to a 6-year old. It's laughably bad, but understandable at least.
As for the book itself, it does an excellent job of describing the album and reviewing Young's career and discography. My only complaint is the smug and stupid political commentary. He's trying to say that Young's songs about southern racism are silly, out-dated hippie idealism and that songwriters have no business weighing in on such things. And 33 1/3 writers do? In his defense, the book was released in '08, probably written in '07, and I'm reviewing the review in '14, after the South jumped on the SCOTUS's striking down of the Voting Rights Act to obstruct minority voting and after it's become so embarrassingly obvious that the reactionary South (and Plain States) are still living in the Dark Ages. Some things about Young are dated, but his appraisal of Alabama was prophetic. It's more than 40 years later and all you have to do is turn on the news to see that the racism of the red South is as abominable and disgraceful as it ever was. So after casting off Alabama as silly hippie fantasies about racism, he glosses over Ohio. This song hit the airwaves less than a month after the Kent State massacre - America's Tiananmen Square. That it was the most timely and powerful reaction of music to politics since The Marriage of Figaro is undeniable.
I will give the author some credit for realizing that Southern Man and Alabama are not the same song. Musically there's more difference between those two than there is among every song in the Country & Western canon.
Still, I find the authors John Roberts-esque "there is no more racism" insinuations to be deeply offensive and inappropriate in this type of book especially in light of the fact that all American music, very much including Country music, owes its very existence to African-American musical innovations.