You may quibble with the title — do I really need to hear Haircut 100's Pelican West or Devandra Banhart's Rejoicing in the Hands before my lights go out? (I did — and no I don't). But then that's what list books like this are all about — starting discussions not ending them.

1001 is released, like many of its ilk, just in time for Christmas and is sure to lead even the most fervent music fan to new discoveries (for me Ray Price's 1962's honky-tonk classic Night Life), re-evaluations (pretty sure I can live without hearing another Led Zeppelin album), confirmations (Black Sabbath's Paranoid is a masterpiece; The Notorious B.I.G was only getting started) and strange omissions (if, as it appears, this is a book based as much on popularity as artistic worth why do we get Robbie Williams but not Ed Sheeran?).

And while this updated door-stopper-sized 960-page edition finds room for little-known 2018 album Microshift from British artist Hookworms, there's none for Vince Staples, Future or Pusha T and just one Kendrick Lamar record (2015's To Pimp a Butterfly).

Indeed, the last 15 years here are problematic: incredibly there's no Adele, none of the big Black Keys' records, no Pink, Lana del Rey, no The Hold Steady or sainted alt-country star Jason Isbell.


Instead we get Deerhunter, UK supergroup The Good, The Bad & The Queen and two too many Elvis Costello records (Mighty Like a Rose and Brutal Youth, really?). Oh, and Bjork's Vulnicura.

For the most part though, 1001 is dutifully predictable — all the usual Rock 101 standbys are here — Dylan, Springsteen, The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Band, Paul Simon, The Eagles, cover star Prince and David Bowie (who, perhaps surprisingly, tops the list of albums for a single artist with nine albums represented).

There's little new to say about these records that hasn't been dredged over a million times and few contributors try (on Bowie's Ziggy Stardust — "Bowie abruptly re-defined what being a male rock star was all about").

The losers? Poor old Lou Reed gets just two solo albums (Transformer and Berlin), country legend Merle Haggard just one (I am a Lonesome Fugitive) and there's nothing from heartland rocker Bob Seger, Yes fans will look in vain for the much lauded Topographic Oceans, while Godfather of Soul James Brown gets just one entry (Live at the Apollo). Lorde meanwhile sneaks in with 2017's Melodrama, but not the smash debut — and arguably stronger album — Pure Heroine (the only other New Zealand entry is Crowded House's UK hit Woodface) while Australia, thanks no doubt to the many Aussie contributors, gets Nick Cave, The Triffids, The Go-Betweens, The Avalanches (look them up) and The Saints (for a great take on our album culture, readers should check out Nick Bollinger's 100 Essential New Zealand Albums [2009], which must be due for an update!).

1001 already seems a rather quaint reminder of a time when albums had a cultural impact

Meanwhile the 50s here are dispatched in a curt 20 pages. No Elmore James, Otis Rush or Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters doesn't get an entry until the 60s' Live At Newport.

Jazz gets the usual nods early on — Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Coltrane — and then is pretty much forgotten. Got to make room for those Led Zeppelin albums, right?

But it's good to see lesser-known artists and albums represented: Steve Earle's Guitar Town gets a spot, as does underrated Chicago hip hopper Lupe Fiasco, Brian Eno's 1978 album Music for Airports (which has assumed more importance with each passing decade), 60s garage rockers The Sonics, Joe Ely's magnificent Honky Tonk Masquerade, Curtis Mayfield's There's No Place Like America Today and The Gun Club's The Fire of Love (the last three courtesy of ex-New Zealand journo Garth Cartwright).

If there's a weakness here, it's the UK-centric leanings — especially from the 80s onwards — nice to see XTC represented twice (Skylarking and Apple Venus) but X-Ray Specs, OMD, The Waterboys, The Boo Radleys and, I remember quite liking Jah Wobble's Rising Above Bedlam when it came out but haven't thought of it since. Maybe you had to be there.


Most troubling though, is that this edition doesn't even mention music streaming.

The foreward by Rolling Stone founder Michael Lydon seems to have escaped the new-edition update and blathers on about "flipping through bins of LPs trying to decide which was worth my precious $2.99".

Indeed 1001 already seems a rather quaint reminder of a time when albums had a cultural impact.

That's long been supplanted by tracks and digital streaming and one wonders how long franchises like this can justify the trees felled when plenty of digital iterations are around.

Imagine looking back at this in 30 years' time — will Prince, Bowie, even Dylan be as central to pop as they are today?

Critic Greil Marcus recently wrote that he played a university class full of pop culture aficionados Chuck Berry's Maybelline and no-one knew who it was. None of my 14-year-old daughter's friends know who Michael Jackson is. Anyone remember 1940's superstar Bing Crosby?

Everyone will have their quibbles about some of the selections but there's some amazing music here.

As Lou Reed says: "different people have peculiar tastes."

Forget dusty record stores — the best way to consume this is with Spotify or Apple Music at hand.

Discover, discuss, delete and download.

●1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, Editor Robert Dimery (Pier 9)