The 5th Edition of this massive American publication came out in 2000 and at 1226 pages (A4 size) was an impressive beast. Version 6 turned up in 2008 and had expanded to a gargantuan 1392 pages and even contained a DVD attached to the back cover (both issues covered 1950 to 1975).
Here is the latest and best - the 7th Edition from 2010 with 1344 pages. More importantly, this issue has opened its parameters - giving us American releases between 1948 and 1991 for the first time - and covering many more 'genres' than its predecessors.
The layout is simple - each artist gets their 45's first - with their LPs following (both in label alphabetical order). A fantastically helpful thing is that the 78" and 7" entries have their A & B-sides listed - while the LPs feature both Mono and Stereo issues where applicable. Some important Promo issues on LP and 12" singles are featured - especially on modern day artists like Madonna where different mixes attract the attention of collectors. The album entries don't list tracks (it would be ten times the size if it did) - but they do include a year of release and a Near Mint value in dollars.
A point worth noting - the LP catalogue numbers in this reference source are not like the US Billboard Chart Books that concentrate only on the central set of numbers as a catalogue number. Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run" is not merely 'Columbia 33795' as per Billboard - here it gets the full monty - it's PC 33795 for the 1975 original, JC 33795 for the 1977 reissue and HC 33795 for the 1981 Half-Speed Mastered version (lyrics from the song "Born To Run" title this review). This of course helps enormously when you're trying to work out what issue is what. But the range of this book doesn't just stop there...
Take RAY CHARLES for instance - starting on Page 229 with his ABC Label 45's - his Solo Discography ends on Page 231 with his "Would You Believe?" album from 1990 on Warner Brothers (A to W). But following that are entries for his 'collaborations' with Harry Belafonte, Betty Carter, Joe Hunter, Jimmy Rushing, Milt Jackson, Cleo Laine and finally The Ray Charles Singers (Page 232). The very end pages even provide info on Soundtracks, Stage Shows, Television and Various Artists compilations (Pages 1301 to 1344). As you can imagine the detail is staggering.
Another point about which 'issue' is an original and which is a reissue: on artists like say Lou Donaldson, The Grateful Dead or Kurt Cobain's Nirvana - their catalogues are small enough to be manageable reading. But when you get to the big boys like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks, James Brown, Elvis Presley, David Bowie, Bob Dylan and The Who - they have sections that are massive and a bit unwieldy - so you need to look thoroughly for the issue you want. On some artists there are even Audiophile pressings listed on well respected labels - Audio Fidelity, DCC Compact Classics, Mobile Fidelity, Nautilus etc
CONTENT - while you would expect The Beach Boys, The Doors, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Prince, Queen, R.E.M., Simon & Garfunkel, U2 and Neil Young to all be in here - it's the artists in between the cracks that impress. How about Ryan Adams, Mike Bloomfield, Caravan, Lorraine Ellison, The Fireballs, Rory Gallagher, Richie Havens, Leo Kottke, Barbara Lewis, Laura Nyro, The Pixies, The Replacements, Ravi Shankar, Ten Years After, The Undisputed Truth, Suzanne Vega, Tom Waits, Tony Joe White, XTC, The Yardbirds and Warren Zevon.
In fact the sheer range of artists and genres covered is incredible - here's some more:
BLUES, DOO WOP, R'n'B and R'n'R - Chuck Berry, Johnny Burnette, The Clovers, Eddie Cochran, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Duane Eddy, The Everly Brothers, The Flamingos, Slim Harpo, Lightnin' Hopkins, Buddy Holly, BB King, Smiley Lewis, Muddy Waters, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, Big Joe Turner, Gene Vincent and Jackie Wilson.
COUNTRY - The Ames Brothers, The Carter Family, Johnny Cash, John Denver, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Jim Reeves, Hank Snow and Hank Williams
EASY LISTENING and EXOTICA - Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Percy Faith, Connie Francis, Judy Garland, Burl Ives, Stan Kenton, Peggy Lee, Julie London, Dean Martin, Johnny Mathis, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Frank Sinatra, Yma Sumac, Sarah Vaughan, Dionne Warwick, Lawrence Welk and Kitty Wells
JAZZ - Gene Ammons, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Donald Byrd, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Nina Simone, Sonny Stitt, Stanley Turrentine, Phil Upchurch and Weather Report
POP, ROCK, PROG, METAL - The Animals, Badfinger, Black Sabbath, Budgie, Joe Cocker, Elvis Costello, Creedence, Deep Purple, Donovan, Echo & The Bunnymen, ELP, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis (and all Solo), Hall & Oates, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Van Morrison (and Them), Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Talking Heads, Traffic (and all Solo), Velvet Underground (and all Solo), Yes, Frank Zappa and The Zombies
SOUL, FUNK, MODERN R'n'B, HIP-HOP - The Beastie Boys, Bobby Bland, Mariah Carey, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, The Isley Brothers, Big Daddy Kane, Otis Redding, Rufus, 2 Live Crew and Stevie Wonder
PUNK and NEW WAVE - Black Flag, The Clash, The Damned, Dead Kennedys, Devo, The Jam, The Sex Pistols, Stiff Little Fingers, The Stooges, Television, The Undertones
INDIE - The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Fall, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, New Order and The Smiths
Niggles - an artist like CHRIS ISAAK began his career in 1985, but his discography here doesn't go past 1991 which gives his entries a half-finished feel. You get Tim Buckley but not Jeff Buckley - which just doesn't seem right? There are artists missing like The Blue Nile and Icehouse, but you could say this about so many names...
Apart from those tiny whines - this is an incredible piece of work that has undoubtedly taken decades to collate. Compiler and Author MARTIN POPOFF is to be congratulated.
To sum up - this extraordinary reference source is entirely 'American' based (as its title clearly states) - but no matter what country you're from - if you've any passing interest in the history of music with properly researched Disographies - then this peach will serve you well for years to come. A genuine wow.
Recommended - and then some...