(The New) Rolling Stone Album Guide, 4th Edition

Billed as “your handbook to every record that matters,” this album guide is a must for any rock, pop, hip-hop or soul music aficionado. Served up in a handy alphabetical format, each entry offers a brief analysis of the artists, album lists with star ratings (one is disastrous, two is fair to poor, three is average to good, four is excellent and five is classic) and album release dates. Completely updated and revised, it is thick with tidbits about the artists, their histories and where they went wrong. Of Iggy Pop’s later releases on A&M records, one of the 70 writers states, “It is hard to decide which … album is worse: The slick Bowie reunion (Blah Blah Blah) mysteriously fails to spark either participant’s batteries, while the numbing dinosaur-rock return (Instinct) stumbles into the tar pits.” It is highly entertaining to read about those where-are-they-now types. Ricky Martin’s fast rise and fall entry has “the Puerto Rican stud … out the door faster than the mocha seductress he sang about in ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca.’”