Short Takes: Book reviews, in brief



The Greatest Albums You’ll Never Hear:

Unreleased Records by the World’s Greatest Artists

Bruno MacDonald, Octopus Books, 256 pages

Bruno MacDonald’s compendium features dozens of records that never were by artists ranging from the Kinks to the Sex Pistols to Ryan Adams. Arranged by decade, it is hours of nerdy music fun.

Some albums are legendary: the Who’s unfinished “Lifehouse,” the Beatles’ stripped-down “Get Back.” Much of the music recorded for these projects was eventually released. But the real pleasure of the book is in its portrayal of breakdowns such as Jeff Beck’s so-called “Motown Album”; there never was an album, just tracks recorded by Beck and drummer Cozy Powell. None of that work has ever been released.

At times, MacDonald pushes the concept: The Sex Pistols’ “Spunk” is less unreleased than an alternate version of “Never Mind the Bollocks,” while Danger Mouse’s “The Grey Album” (a mash-up of the Beatles’ “White Album” and Jay-Z’s “Black Album”) was widely downloaded on its 2004 release … until the Beatles’ label shut it down.

Los Angeles Times

To Make Men Free:

A History of the Republican Party

Heather Cox Richardson, Basic, 393 pages

Heather Cox Richardson offers a comprehensive account of the GOP and its competing impulses. The result isn’t always pretty. She begins with debates over slavery as it applied to America’s westward expansion. From there, she methodically re-creates the GOP’s wobbly path as it bounced between populist and elitist impulses.

Richardson delivers early signposts of the party’s history with force and intelligence. The party of Lincoln freed the slaves and shepherded the end of institutional segregation. And yet that same party has managed to squander the support of slavery’s descendants. It has, despite its natural affiliation with many Latinos on certain social issues, so dogmatically resisted immigration reform that it has lost connection there too. And it somehow has even driven off Asian voters.

The result: In 2012, Barack Obama carried more than 90 percent of blacks and more than 70 percent of Latinos and Asians. Mitt Romney’s votes came almost exclusively from whites. That’s enough to be competitive for the moment, but not for long.

Los Angeles Times