On The Bookshelf: Goldmine Book Reviews, March 5, 2010

By Carl Hanni, Peter Lindblad
Better Than Lennon, By John Cherry
Light: On The South Side, By The Numero Group
Princess Noire, By Nadine Cohodas
better than lennon“Better Than Lennon”
By John Cherry
Softcover, 132 pages, $14.95
The Peppertree Press

Taking a bold stand in the never-ending debate over which Beatle was more talented, author John Cherry puts his money on Paul.

If nothing else, Cherry’s argument, presented here in an easy-to-read, and surprisingly informative, fashion, should spark more debate. Simply and effectively, he makes his points, while never hiding the fact that he is, above all, a Beatles fan.

— Peter Lindblad

light: on the south side“Light: On The South Side”
By The Numero Group
Hardcover, 132 pages, $60
The Numero Group

The archivist/reissue worker bees at The Numero Group raise the bar several notches with their latest release, an eye-popping and ear-pleasuring book/LP combo (no CD release) called “Light: On The Southside.” The book features 100 black-and-white photos shot in and around Pepper’s Lounge on Chicago’s south side between 1975-77, while the LP (subtitled Pepper’s Jukebox) features 18 tracks you were likely to hear on the jukebox during that time.

Always a conceptional step ahead, The Numero Group wisely opts for blood-boiling tracks by acts largely known only to locals and true blues heads. So, there’s no Muddy, Wolf or Walter, but drop-dead, gritty, heavily funk-and-soul infused blues by Andrew Brown, Lucille Spann, Hugh Hawkins, Willie Williams, Detroit Jr. and more, as well as killers by more high-profile acts, like Bobby Rush, Arelean Brown and Malcolm “Little Mack” Simmons. Grit and funk is the glue that binds these together; a harder-edged collection of blues would be hard to find.

The book is a ravishing collection of photographs of locals sporting around in the bar and in their cars and vans in front, all taken by Chicago native Michael Abramson. Shot largely in close-up, these are some of the most immediate and spontaneous photos of nightclub life I’ve ever seen. Abramson’s camera seems to have a magnetic pull to skin, hair, faces and clothes but is also unapologetically aimed squarely at breasts, crotches and butts. Pepper’s was evidently a fun place; all these folks seem to be having a ball. It hard to imagine any blues fan not feeling the same way about “Light: On The Southside.”

— Carl Hanni

princess noire nina simone“Princess Noire”
By Nadine Cohodas
Softcover, 462 pages, $30
Pantheon Books

Her singing was sublime, but Nina Simone’s temper was downright scary. Simone, also a classically trained pianist whose music was fueled by strong passions, always fought to control her anger, or at least channel it in positive ways, like her involvement with the civil rights movement.

Cohodas captures the many moods of this jazz, blues and soul icon in this fascinating portrait of an artist whose emotions sometimes got the best of her. A true revelation, with never-before-heard stories from family members and musical associates, “Princess Noire” thoroughly details the wrenching personal disappointments and tough decisions that drove Simone’s towering artistry.

— Peter Lindblad

Leave a Reply