Paul Williams’s groundbreaking, highly personalized Outlaw Blues, which first appeared in 1969, has long rated among my favorite rock books. And ever since I read it, I’ve been waiting for him to come up with something even better. This isn’t it, but much of the content represents a big step in the right direction.
Most notably, the volume includes heartfelt essays on Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and the Rolling Stones, plus a long 1969 piece on Woodstock which, while naive, successfully captures the spirit of its time. Acting on his sensitivity to being pigeonholed as a rock writer, Williams elsewhere tries his hand at everything from poetry to sports reporting. Some of the results aren’t bad, some are terrible, but all indicate that music-related writing constitutes his strongest suit. Fortunately, there’s enough of that here to make the book worth owning.