The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 12, 2010

Mark Schuster: Favorites part of library’s recent musical additions

The Joplin Public Library just got a bit more country, and a lot more rock and roll. Because of a wonderful grant, the library was able to purchase more than 150 new audio CDs to increase its already widespread and diverse collection. The purchase includes some of my favorites from over the years:

• Bob Dylan: “Love and Theft,” “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Blonde on Blonde.” What is there to possibly say about Bob Dylan? Everyone knows who he is, and whether you love him or hate him, there is no denying his importance in the second-half of twentieth century popular culture.

While the Beatles were singing three-chord love songs, Dylan was digging deeper, mining society and his own personal psyche for timeless songs filled with lyrical poetry the likes of which had never been heard before. Including the above-mentioned career highlights, the library now owns more than ten albums by this eternal troubadour.

• Motorhead: “Ace of Spades,” “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith.” Motorhead has been loud, brash, rude and “in yer face” for more than thirty years now. Always working just outside the mainstream of pop culture, they nonetheless have built up a huge cult following throughout their career.

Of their remarkably consistent recorded output, these two albums rank amongst the best. In fact, if “Ace of Spades” had been the only song the group had ever recorded, they still would have gone down in heavy metal history.

But they were able to back that classic track up with long-time Motorhead standards such as “We Are the Road Crew” and “Jailbait.” The live “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” perfectly captures the manic metal energy of the band’s first lineup, and features numerous tracks from the just-released “Ace of Spades” plus earlier cuts. The album remains one of the most thrilling live recordings of all time.

• Nick Drake: “Five Leaves Left,” “Bryter Layter,” “Pink Moon.” By the time Nick Drake died of an overdose of antidepressants at the age of 26, his recorded legacy was small by any standards. Just three albums of heart-rending, beautifully bleak folk-pop were all he had left the world.

Unappreciated in his own time, it was only after his death that his reputation began to grow. The three albums listed above went on to inspire a generation of similarly morose young singer songwriters, from Elliott Smith to R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Robert Smith of The Cure.

Decades of earnest imitation have done nothing to dull the power of Drake’s haunted melodies and aching lyrics, however, and these three albums remain essential rainy-day listening.

• David Bowie: “The Man Who Sold the World,” “Hunky Dory,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Low.” Bowie during his 1970s prime was a thrill and a wonder.

He changed personas and musical sounds more often than most people change their clothes. In many ways, he was able to anticipate popular taste and seemingly was always one step ahead of the rest of popular music. Once taste had caught up with him, he was onto something else.

During the ’70s, Bowie jumped from hard-rock to folk, to glam, to electronic, to soul, to disco and finally emerged in the ’80s as a respected veteran showman. The albums listed above are my personal favorites of Bowie, but they are only the best of an altogether classic run of albums, of which the library now owns seven.

Some other artists whose albums the library recently purchased include Prince, Roxy Music, Willie Nelson, Nine Inch Nails, Miles Davis, Jefferson Airplane, Brian Eno, Gary Numan, Lady Gaga, Aretha Franklin, Run-DMC, PJ Harvey, and The Cure (among mant others).

A library patron may check out four CDs at a time, and they loan for a period of one week.