Released: 2007, PowerChord Press
Hard Rock and Heavy Metal’s #1 author, Martin Popoff is getting old. That’s not an insult directed to my friend Martin. He freely admits it on his website! He recognizes his strengths and weaknesses, which is a rare trait that not many of us possess. One of his weaknesses (if you can even define it as such) is a fading interest in the myriad realms of modern metal. That plays directly into one of his strengths as he has been turning his attention towards the classic early days of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. This passion has turned into a series of books called Ye Olde Metal. Martin has published five in the series and in private conversations with him, he says he has almost finished several more.
What are these books about? Essentially, Popoff has compiled a collection of extensive track-by-track album reviews, laced with massive amounts of detail, trivia and first person recollections by the actual artists on the albums. These have all been culled from Popoff’s massive archive of interviews with these artists. These books are pretty much the final word on these albums. Martin’s idea is similar to the popular 33 1/3 series of books where an author does an in-depth analysis of an album. Martin has rather cleverly decided to focus on some lesser-known albums instead of review the huge albums that have already been written about in great detail over the years. Each chapter is dedicated to one album and each chapter starts with a shot of the (vinyl) album cover. Lastly, each one is limited to 1000 copies and autographed so act fast!
This review is more of a quick public service announcement, rather than an in-depth analysis of each title. I’ve reviewed the first five books in the series this month (May, 2011) and they each have similar flow, theme and content. Meaning read one of my book reviews of the series and you’ve pretty much read them all. They are subtitled as 1968- 1972, 1973-1975, 1976, 1977, and 1978. It’s a bit of a cop-out but it beats trying to write five unique reviews for five virtually identical books. Lazy vs. Efficient. Toe-May-Toe, Toe Mah-Toe! For the record the intro and outro for each of these reviews are identical with a bit of unique, individual commentary in the middle bits.
This is the first in the series, published back in 2007. Because Metal was still a nebulous and ethereal concept in the late 60’s and early 70’s, we get a five year span. For further detail check out his excellent work THE COLLECTOR GUIDE TO HEAVY METAL: THE SEVENTIES. It initially came out with a different cover (Pictures of the spines of vinyl album sleeves) but over time the book was reissued in a slightly different size and with cover art consistent with the rest of the books in the series. I guess now my original autographed copy is now collectible!
There are 14 albums reviewed in this first title. For your convenience and reading pleasure I’ve listed them in the Song section to the left of this review. This book is likely my least favorite because I don’t own any of the albums! As a history lesson it is extremely interesting to hear the stories of these grizzled old rock dogs and learn about the evolution of the genre from the 60’s to the 70’s. This is a valuable introduction to the genre that is important for all fans.
I suppose a reader could micro-analyze the percentage of bands that they enjoy in a specific book with other books in the series and rate them accordingly. For example, I like more bands in the 1978 version than in the 1976 title so I could give 1978 a higher rating but I have avoided that temptation, because realistically, Popoff has spent the same time, energy and love into each title. In fact he describes his series as his, “love letter to ancient metal”. All the books in the series hold equal weight and equal quality.
Olde farts rejoice and reminisce, young bucks listen and learn, and we all kneel together at the Ancient Alter Of Metal where it all began. Like the old saying goes, “The gods you worship are steel, at the altar of Rock and Roll you kneel’, (B. Lawless, 1984) and these are the (un)holy scriptures of an age gone but not forgotten.