Heroes and Villians, By David Hajdu

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The Independent Culture

This meaty collection of musical essays ranges from Sammy Davis Jr via the Beach Boys to Philip Glass. The opening appraisal of the unfortunate Billy Eckstein, a singer and bandleader adored by Miles Davis, disinters a forgotten genius.

A paean to Rogers and Hart explores how they "brought the value of art to the realm of frivolity". But Hadju's displeasure is equally enjoyable. He savages Sting's "forced, mannered quality", laments Joni Mitchell's loss of form, and explains Paul McCartney's failure to match early triumphs: "He's always been busy and productive, but he just doesn't work hard enough."