The Great Rock Discography by Martin C. Strong

Martin C. Strong

review by Christopher Geary

This seventh edition of Martin Strong's invaluable reference book is "fully revised and expanded" and persists with the excellent work of previous volumes, adding many new artistes (such as The Darkness) and updating hundreds of the existing discographies. To keep the ever-growing main text at manageable length, the author has wisely pared 'golden oldie' compilations to a minimum, and (as his introduction explains) continues to exclude any and all 'pop' stars, including Cliff Richard. The Great Rock Discography is only one of a range of music guides (other titles are: The Great Indie DiscographyThe Great Metal Discography, and even The Greats Scots Musicography) from publisher Canongate, and the company deserves our respect for supporting this type of work in print, biennially, when so many similarly targeted nonfiction books are transferring to online databases or switching to CD-ROM format.

What you get for your money is complete listings of every track recorded by over 12,000 bands and soloists. The thumbnail profiles are succinct yet often astoundingly detailed, the format is intuitive, and the two-column layout ensures that even a mammoth 1740-page doorstep sized book like this is comparatively easy to handle, making it informative and educational bedtime reading, from 'A' to ZZ Top. If the results of Strong's scholarly research fail to impress those individuals possessing encyclopaedic knowledge (and total recall!), then perhaps the pure economy and insightful analyses of artistes' style in his canny prose will amuse. (He diplomatically addresses the failure of some early stuff from P.J. Harvey by noting one 12-inch and an album "didn't quite reach the retail stage.")

You might disagree with Strong's album ratings, and question the inclusion of a few singers (such as Natalie Imbruglia and Kylie Minogue) in a book about rock music but the wealth of fascinating trivia (I was amazed to learn that Rush once played support to The New York Dolls!) is a boon to record collectors and keen rock fans alike. The Great Rock Discography is quite simply one of the most concisely written and supremely authoritative music guidebooks on the market.