Book Review: 360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story

In an age of Kindle and digital miniaturization of our shelves once filled with books, LPs and DVDs, is there room for a coffee table book? There should be if it’s 360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story, a look back at the most important record label for decades on its 125th anniversary.

Written by Sean Wilentz, this large and heavy tome isn’t meant for exploration on a hand-held screen, but as a lavishly illustrated history of a label that’s been home to great artists from Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen to Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand to Johnny Cash and Adele. They’re seen in more than 300 images from Columbia’s archives, with sidebar features by the likes of Springsteen historian Dave Marsh.

The essays are insightful, and the photos are fantastic, though I have one quibble: I’d have liked to have seen more original album covers showcased. Album covers are a great art, and deserve to be more than an anachronism in a digital age. But album art does arise, along with some remarkable double-truck (two-page) photos.

Due in stores and online Nov. 14, 360 Sound offers over 300 pages well worth thumbing through by anyone who finds it on your coffee table. These are musical greats from a great label. They need bigness. They need this.

— Bruce Westbrook

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