Though its textbook appearance suggests that this is yet another volume from America's burgeoning rock academia, Smith is actually a US music journalist. He can write well and has a keen eye for a good quote. Bono: "Some bands went to art school. We went to Brian Eno."
Few would cavil at his initial selections of mould-busting pop – Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley, Muddy Waters at Newport, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan – though sometimes the wrong record is picked by the right artist. Smith acknowledges that his inclusion of the Beatles' transitional Rubber Soul rather than Revolver is "somewhat unfair".
Many would maintain that Miles Davis's In a Silent Way (overlooked in the text) was more significant than the "wholly unique" Bitches Brew. Later in Smith's treasury, numerous inclusions are either inexplicable (Boston by Boston, Van Halen by Van Halen) or obscure (No Depression by Uncle Tupelo).
Same goes for the perplexing omissions: Where are Live at Fillmore East by the Allman Brothers or Neil Young's After the Gold Rush? Joni Mitchell, Talking Heads and the Rolling Stones merit only the briefest of references and there is no mention of Little Feat or Steely Dan.
Perhaps Smith's exercise demonstrates that "influential" is not necessarily the same as "outstanding" in popular music. Moreover. with bands like The Who and The Kinks, singles had more impact than albums.