Book Review: ‘Nuggets Redux’ by Rev. Keith A. Gordon

At the time of its release, few recognized the significance of the Nuggets 2LP compilation. To be sure, both Elektra head Jac Holzman (who commissioned the project) and Lenny Kaye (who masterfully curated it) felt Nuggets was important, but nobody expected it to shift major numbers.

In fact it didn’t, and – in part because of licensing considerations – it promptly went out of print. Sire Records reissued it a few years later with the same music and liner notes but an inferior package design. That one didn’t sell, either: cutout copies were easily found in record stores; I bought mine for $1.99.

But today, more than a half century later, few if anyone would discount the importance of Nuggets. Following on from Kaye’s wide-net rallying cry (“It’s a nugget if you dug it”), the album and its myriad spinoffs and imitators launched a cottage industry. Rescuing great lost tunes – from an era that seemed to have more than its share of great tunes – Nuggets set the template for what a thoughtful compilation could be.

This year has seen a number of Nuggets celebrations in the form of all-star concerts, and a recently Record Store Day vinyl issue gave the classy boxed-set treatment to the venerable comp.

And with the renewed profile of the Nuggets set, the prolific Keith A. Gordon has taken the opportunity to pen his latest book, Nuggets Redux. The book is a track-by-track exploration of the album. Drawing on his extensive knowledge, Gordon provides more backstory and narrative connective tissue than Kaye could do in his liner notes.

Gordon’s breezy, knowing writing style delivers the information with a tidy balance of facts-n-figures leavened with an appreciation for the musical forms. Nuggets Redux can easily function as a sort of expanded liner note for the album, and time spent with the book should provide useful clues to readers as to where they might go for further investigation.

For all its virtues, though, this comparatively slim volume does nonetheless feel a bit padded, laden as it is with long sections lifted (with attribution, of course) from other reviews, essays and interviews by other writers. To the book’s slight detriment, all of that outside-sourced writing makes Nuggets Redux feel more like an edited volume (with Gordon as its capable editor) than the latest book from the good Revered.

All that said, it’s still worthwhile, and Nuggets Redux will yield dividends to anyone who appreciates the albums upon which it’s based.

Related: Here’s my interview with Lenny Kaye about Nuggets.