By Ty Burr
Updated December 04, 1992 at 05:00 AM EST

The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll

  • Book

Last revised in 1980, Anthony DeCurtis, James Henke, and Holly George-Warren’s The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll has sat on bookshelves for 12 years, watching pop music disappear into the future. With this updating the book approaches coffee-table status, only fitting since the magazine that spawned it has transformed itself in the past decade from smart-ass rag to corporate slick. The sections on R&B, blues, and rock in the ’50s and ’60s, written for the original 1976 edition, remain invaluable primers, and no one has dared tamper with the late Lester Bangs’ garage-rock essay or Nik Cohn’s frightening take on Phil Spector. But just because Janet Maslin declined to update her Dylan chapter — perhaps the single best short piece ever written about the man — is no excuse to replace it with Alan Light’s much weaker essay. And new entries on the hydra-headed rock of the ’80s can’t help but skim the surface. It may be that pop music has finally outgrown one-volume histories. Or it may be that it has outgrown Rolling Stone. Where the book’s early chapters pulse with a love of the sounds described, the essay on rap reads as dutiful, disinterested show-and-tell. Rock may not be dead, but that hasn’t stopped these folk from trying to embalm it. B-

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The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll