MusicHound (sometimes stylized as musicHound) was a compiler of genre-specific music guides published in the United States by Visible Ink Press between 1996 and 2002. After publishing eleven album guides, the MusicHound series was sold to London-based Music Sales Group,[1] whose company Omnibus Press had originally distributed the books outside America. The series' founding editor was Gary Graff,[2] formerly a music critic with the Detroit Free Press.[1]

Subtitled "The Essential Album Guide", each publication typically contained entries providing an overview of an artist's career and dividing their work into categories such as "what to buy", "what's next", "what to avoid" and "worth searching for".[3] Among the MusicHound album guides were titles dedicated to rock, blues, classical, jazz, world music, swing, and soundtrack recordings. Further to the canine analogy in the series title, albums were graded according to a "bone" rating system: five bones constituting the highest score, down to a bold-rendered "woof!", signifying "dog food".[4]

Graff has said that he had envisioned the books as buyer's guides, specifically: "something akin to a good record store clerk or that fellow shopper you meet while you're looking through the racks and with whom you strike up a spontaneous conversation".[1] Gale-owned Visible Ink also published a series of VideoHound film guides, beginning with 1996's Golden Movie Retriever.[5]

MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album GuideEdit

Edited by Gary Graff and published in 1996, MusicHound Rock was the first guide in the series.[1] A revised edition appeared in 1999, co-edited by Graff and Daniel Durchholz.[6] Among the guide's reviewers were US music critics Joel Selvin (San Francisco Chronicle), Mark J. Petracca (Creem), Greg Kot (Chicago Tribune, Rolling Stone), Brian Mansfield (USA Today), Thor Christensen (Dallas Morning News, Spin), and Roger Catlin (Hartford Courant).[7] Other contributors included: Gary Pig Gold, who went on to work on six subsequent MusicHound guides;[8] Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock, co-founding editors of No Depression magazine; The Big Takeover publisher Jack Rabid, who had previously written for Trouser Press's record guide;[9] Guitar World editor Alan Paul; and Anders Wright,[7] news editor of the music website Wall of Sound.[10] In 1996, the book contained entries for some 2500 artists; in this first edition, the reviewers deemed that 541 albums were worthy of a five-bone rating.[11]

The 1999 edition came with a CD, supplied by Capitol Records,[12] and included "What album changed your life?" sidebars written by celebrity musicians. Among the latter contributors were the following: Joan Baez, Peter Buck, Adam Clayton, Phil Collins, Jakob Dylan, Ben Harper, Mickey Hart, Lenny Kravitz, Simon LeBon, Stevie Nicks, Lou Reed, Robbie Robertson, Patti Smith, Sting and Pete Townshend.[13] The book's foreword was written by Doug Fieger,[14] singer and guitarist with the Knack.[15] Writing in The Riverfront Times in July 1999, Jason Toon noted "some unique elements" that the guide offered – such as details on each artist's main influences and who they in turn influenced – while comparing MusicHound Rock with reference works by Penguin, Rough Guide and AllMusic.[16]

Other publicationsEdit

MusicHound Classical: The Essential Album Guide (1996)
  • Edited by Garaud Mactaggart
MusicHound Country: The Essential Album Guide (1997)
  • Edited by Brian Mansfield and Gary Graff
MusicHound Blues: The Essential Album Guide (1997)
  • Edited by Leland Rucker; foreword by Al Kooper
MusicHound Folk: The Essential Album Guide (1998)
  • Edited by Neal Walters and Brian Mansfield;[17] foreword by Mark Moss[18]
MusicHound R & B: The Essential Album Guide (1998)[19]
  • Edited by Gary Graff, Josh Freedom du Lac and Jim McFarlin
MusicHound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide (1998)[20]
  • Edited by Steve Holtje and Nancy Ann Lee
MusicHound Lounge: The Essential Album Guide to Martini Music and Easy Listening (1998)
  • Edited by Steve Knopper
MusicHound Swing!: The Essential Album Guide (1999)[21]
  • Edited by Steve Knopper
MusicHound Soundtracks: The Essential Album Guide to Film, Television and Stage Music (1999)
  • Edited by Didier C. Deutsch; forewords by Lukas Kendall and Julia Michels[22]
MusicHound World: The Essential Album Guide (2000)


  1. ^ a b c d Ward, Steven. "Losin' His Mind in Detroit Rock City: An Interview with Gary Graff". Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  2. ^ Weingarten, Emily (October 17, 2006). "Interview Record (Gary Graff)". University of Michigan School of Music. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  3. ^ Jordan, Miles (July–August 1999). "Jazz Reviews: MusicHound Blues: The Essential Album Guide". JazzTimes. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  4. ^ Graff and Durchholz, p. xiii.
  5. ^ Craddock, Jim. "VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 1997". Goodreads. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  6. ^ "MusicHound rock: the essential album guide / edited by Gary Graff and Daniel Durchholz". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Graff and Durchholz, pp. xvi–xxii.
  8. ^ "Gary Pig Gold". Rock's Backpages. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  9. ^ Toon, Jason (July 21, 1999). "Rock Stock: A book report on the best tomes to consult before buying tunes [continued]". Riverfront Times. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  10. ^ Hiatt, Brian (February 25, 2000). "Academy Restricted L.A. Times' Grammys Coverage, Paper Says". Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  11. ^ "Gary Graff – MusicHound". Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  12. ^ Henkle, Douglas H. (July 31, 2014). "MusicHound / VideoHound (books) Discography". FolkLib. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  13. ^ Graff and Durchholz, pp. vii–viii.
  14. ^ "Alibris listing". Alibris. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  15. ^ The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, p. 552.
  16. ^ Toon, Jason (July 21, 1999). "Rock Stock: A book report on the best tomes to consult before buying tunes". Riverfront Times. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  17. ^ Terry, Peter (June 15, 1998). "Book Review: MusicHound Folk: The Essential Album Guide". Retrieved November 13, 2014.
  18. ^ Mabus, Joel (October 1998). "MusicHound Folk". Folk Alliance Newsletter. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  19. ^ "Blues Books: Listing and reviews of the blues in literature". Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  20. ^ Terry, Peter (December 16, 1998). "Book Review: MusicHound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide". Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  21. ^ Wood, Joe (1999). "MusicHound's Swing!". RetroSpective. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  22. ^ Wheeler, Jeffrey (December 1999). "December 1999 Film Music CD Reviews: MusicHound Soundtracks". Film Music on the Web. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  23. ^ PSF staff (November 1999). "MusicHound World". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved November 14, 2014.