33⅓ is a series of books written about albums by authors who truly know their music. A little history for you before we tell you more about these nifty pocket books…
Today’s music listening generation may well only be familiar with the MP3, thinking of it as being “all that” and not realising it is in fact an inferior format of music – cunningly condensed so that it becomes easily transportable, while sacrificing certain details in sound.
Play a slice of new vinyl on a quality sound system and compare it to an MP3 track played through the same hardware: you’ll definitely notice the difference, with vinyl coming off far more superior in quality.
So, where is all this pro-vinyl talk leading to? Well, one of the earlier sizes of vinyl was 12 inches in diameter, known as a 33⅓ record. It was named so due to the 33-and-a-third rotations it took per minute on a turntable. Music recordings were embedded on the record in one continuous groove, and an artist’s full album would fit on a 33⅓ record, usually divided over two sides, and otherwise known as a longplayer (LP).
33⅓, the book series, celebrates a host of excellent albums first appearing in said original format and some since the format has evolved. Since 2003, publishers Bloomsbury have been commissioning knowledgeable writers to focus on a particular LP each, and the diversity has been incredible.
The series kicked off with Dusty Springfield’s Dusty In Mephis and has moved through careful studies of perennial LPs by the likes of The Beatles (eg: Let It Be), David Bowie (Low), Jimi Hendrix (Electric Ladyland) and The Who’s The Who Sell Out, right through to Bruce Springsteen (Born In The USA), The Smiths (Meat Is Murder), Nirvana (In Utero) and Radiohead (OK Computer).
Each author goes into major detail – discussing the album as a whole and explaining why it stands as an icon of its time, then going into finer detail about each song.
In one of the fresh additions to the series, for example, Gang Of Four’s Entertainment! is broken down by author Kevin J. H. Dettmar into ‘keywords’, taking the concept of the ‘concept album’ and sifting it so well, the analysis ends up reading very smooth. Which is saying something for a record by a band renowned for their hard post-punk delivery (indeed, Dettmar finds more depth in GOF’s lyrics than the most ardent fan otherwise might).
The author also looks a continued theme of Gang Of Four’s work – that of ambiguity in lyrical delivery, leading to misheard song-words (otherwise known as mondegreens).
It’s the way the individual authors breathe new life into these classic LPs, or at least open our minds up more to what the records can offer, that makes books in the 33⅓ series indispensable for true appreciators of music.
So if you have an all-time favourite album and want to know more about it, check out the list of ‘33⅓’ books at www.333sound.com.
The ‘33⅓’ series is published by Bloomsbury, RRP $19.99 per book.