This CD guide may be hyperbolically titled (it should really be called the "All Western Music Guide"), but its scope is still very impressive: It covers rock, jazz, country, and all of their familiar variants while also touching on experimental music, gospel, Celtic, and even Christmas music. The "Sound Effects" section of the first edition (1992) has thankfully been dropped, but readers of this new edition may be forgiven for wondering what "Gay Music" is or whether "Vocal" is a distinctive enough musical genre to warrant its own chapter. Inexplicably, the entire section devoted to classical music contains fewer than 80 pages (in a book totaling over 1400), but the "20th Century Avant Garde" chapter-consisting largely of insightful reviews by composer Gene "Blue" Tyranny-is very impressive. This guide's most glaring weakness is its grading system: Only recommended CDs are included, but some discs are designated, confusingly, as "Landmark Recordings," "First Purchases," or "Essential" by means of a redundant code of stars and circles. Still, muddled readers will find the chronological charts and glossaries very helpful, and there is a great deal of information for the price. In spite of its idiosyncracies, this is probably as good a single source on "all music" as can be expected. Editor Erlewine, who once played with Iggy Pop, is currently the director of Matrix Software. A useful quick reference recommended for general collections; to be updated every two to three years.-Rick Anderson, Contoocook, N.H.
About the most fun you can have in the room you spend the most time in (and we know which one that is), the guide identifies, describes, and evaluates some 23,000 albums, tapes, and CDs--including out-of-print recordings that are worth a search--from over 6,000 artists. The authoritative commentary is provided by some 150 of the best music critics and journalists in the business. Twenty percent longer than the first edition, this updated second edition includes numerous new releases in 22 genres, more detailed reviews of the recordings, and more in-depth biographies and profiles of the artists and groups. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)