Voices by Nick Coleman review – an enthusiastic history of the best pop singers

Nick Coleman loves voices, in particular those of the singers who rose above the babble of life in the second half of the 20th century to create the great outpouring of pop music that evolved, as he points out, from the unreflecting entertainment of the Beatles’ first album to the poetic soul searching of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks in barely five years. Those examples are the brackets chosen by Coleman, a journalist and critic, to define the sheer velocity of pop’s evolution in the 1960s. Its gathering sense of seriousness is illustrated, in his account of the voices he most loves, by a pair of records from a single source, Bob Dylan . The first, performed in a Greenwich Village folk club in 1962, is a version of “No More Auction Block”, an 18th-century spiritual; the second, recorded 20 years later, is a Dylan original called “Blind Willie McTell”, a panoramic survey of a nation that began with the near extermination of its indigenous people and fed itself on the proceeds of slavery. Works such as these exemplify a phenomenon: “It was as if beneath pop’s brightly coloured, ever-busy materialist surface, something slower and graver was taking hold,” he […]

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