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Founded in 1947 by Ertegun, the son of a Turkish diplomat, Atlantic Records is one of the most successful and respected major record companies. Early hits by black artists such as Ray Charles and Clyde McPhatter established the label as an incubator of R&B. (In fact, it was Ertegun's partner, Jerry Wexler, who coined the phrase rhythm & blues). As the 1970s dawned, the label famous for its black artists filled its roster with quintessential white bands like Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Led Zeppelin. In this oral history, Ertegun's anecdotes are liberally supplemented by comments from scores of associates and Atlantic artists. Some of the most respected names in music journalism, including Robert Christgau and Greil Marcus, have also contributed eight essays covering different time periods and aspects of Atlantic. More than 1200 color and black-and-white photographs make this a fun book to leaf through. Big, glossy, and entertaining, "What'd I Say" is a coffee-table tribute to a rare species: a record company that respects its artists and treats them fairly. For a more comprehensive biography of Ertegun, see Dorothy Wade and Justine Picardie's Music Man (LJ 3/15/90). Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
With a roster including Ray Charles, the Drifters, and Aretha Franklin, Atlantic Records pretty much was rhythm and blues in the '50s and '60s. And label founder Ertegun was Atlantic Records. This lavish tome tells the hugely influential record company's story in 1,000 evocative photographs, augmented by the oral-history-style reminiscence of Ertegun and musicians he discovered or helped make stars. Atlantic did well in other genres besides R & B, recording some of jazz legends John Coltrane's and Charles Mingus' best work and the influential rock supergroups Cream and Led Zeppelin. By the '70s, though, its glory years were over, and the likes of Foreigner, ABBA, and, more recently, Hootie and the Blowfish became the label's mainstays. So the book resembles those CD boxed sets tracing the trajectory of a career: just as the first two or three discs get repeated play, whereas the last gets filed after a cursory scan, the second half of this volume pales before the glories that precede it. It records a remarkable half century of music, nevertheless. Gordon Flagg
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