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December/January 2014

by Steve Hughes

Book Review: 1001 Guitars To Dream Of Playing Before You Die

by Steve Hughes

Book Review: 1001 Guitars To Dream Of Playing Before You Die

1001 Guitars To Dream Of Playing Before You Die
Edited by Terry Burrows
Published by New Holland Publishers, rrp $40

Sure that’s one heck of a lot of guitars, but still, I thought that reviewing this book would be like taking a step into the known in a way – mostly well-trodden ground and readily anticipated models. Nice surprise, for the greater part this was not the case and the 950 pages (I kid you not) continue to prove a most interesting and illuminating read.

The forward provided by Dave Gregory defines and romanticises the time and emergence of the electric guitar, the post war era with its innovation and guitar playing stars. Author (general editor) Terry Burrows points out in the first paragraph of his introduction that he ‘struggled to establish a sane rationale for why most guitars had to be omitted’ after assessing thousands of instruments. It’s easy to sympathise.

If you’re an enthusiast you will be riveted by this heavy A5-sized tome as it wends its way chronologically through the history of the acoustic and electric guitar. If all you seek is a compact coffee table picture book, for occasional diversions, you’ll also be well served.

The opening ‘Pre-1930s’ section looks as far abroad as the Spanish Renaissance (1525) vihuela and the French lyre of the early 1800s, up to the Dobro resonator. 1930–1949 are combined as one, after which it moves forward in decade-long sections, right through to the 2010s.

French luthier Patrice Vigier’s double-neck six-string (one fretless), as played by Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal of Guns N’ Roses, has the honour of wrapping things up.

BOOK 1001 guitars nzm152Being a player in the modern era there’s little that I’ve focused on other than what has been presented to me on recordings, various magazines etc and more latterly the internet. This book not only expands on the knowledge I have but does so in a succinct and precise way, defining history of source and broadening the horizons to many hundreds of guitar makes, styles and types that I didn’t know existed.

Combining the old and familiar with the new, exciting and idiosyncratic, if I were a guitar collector I’m quite sure this would be a ‘must have’.

Of course there are plenty of pages dedicated to numerous models from such luminaries as Fleta, Martin, Alembic, Ramirez, Fender, Gibson and Taylor. In terms of interest, these are neatly balanced with plenty from the elitist and quirky like Blindworm, Gittler, Defil, Musima and Zeidler to name only a few. Every type (basses included) and style is covered in efficient detail.

With numerous references to artists and specific recordings both old and new that relate to the many instruments featured and with full colour pics to excite and wow the senses, this book proves a captivating experience taking the browser/reader on a journey to nearly every region of the globe.

Among other musical instruments that have spanned the aeons of time, this is one that has emerged as a force more so in the era of the 19th and 20th centuries with an explosion of makers and styles in that time.

Written by a team of guitar aficionados and experts led by Terry Burrows (author of numerous best selling guitar titles) this book squarely meets the promise of its ambitious title. A visually stunning guide and historical-to-modern day examination of 1001 acoustic, semi-acoustic, electric and bass guitars. It’s a guitar dreamer’s pleasure trove.