This week, the influential 33 1/3 series of books releases its 100th edition. Each of the mini-tomes spotlights one album and dives deep into the record’s history and importance, often in surprising ways.
Starting with a volume on Dusty Springfield’s “Dusty in Memphis” and, as of Thursday, running through a book about Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous,” 33 1/3 has talked about childhood memories and session engineers with equal weight; the series has taken apart Celine Dion and music criticism itself in the same volume (Carl Wilson’s excellent book on Dion’s “Let’s Talk About Love”).
It has also cast its eye upon some of the most influential albums in New York music history, from live recordings to genre-defining debuts. For readers who want to learn more about their favorite NYC-centric albums, check out one of these five volumes:
James Brown: “Live at the Apollo,” 1963
There have been several albums with that same title over the years, but only this one helped establish the Godfather of Soul as one of the most important performers in music.
The Velvet Underground: “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” 1967
Brian Eno is often quoted as saying that every person (admittedly, a small number) who bought the Underground’s debut started a band. Maybe, maybe not, but it’s often considered one of the most widely influential albums of all time.
Ramones: (Self-titled), 1976
One of the most influential punk records of all time, it’s also one of the most imitated, from songs like “Blitzkrieg Bop” to its legendary cover photo of the band standing in front of a brick wall.
Talking Heads: “Fear of Music,” 1979
Perhaps the best of the Brian Eno-Talking Heads collaborations, the 33 1/3 volume about the album finds tremendous chemistry in the pairing of the subject and Brooklyn novelist Jonathan Lethem.
Nas: “Illmatic,” 1994
Before the avalanche of 20th anniversary features released this year, Blogger Matthew Gasteier gave the Queens emcee’s debut the examination and praise it was due.