Only one instance comes to mind.
Around 1976 or so, I was given a couple of LP’s by Lucio Battisti. I was very into Italian music at that point, even pop music – not just the wave of 70’s Italian progressive rock. The Battisti LP’s came to me via Armando Gallo, the Italian photographer. However, I knew little about Battisti – his history, his older career etc.
Odd as it may now seem, an LP got scheduled for U.S. release by Lucio Battisti, by RCA Records. “Images” (1977) was an album composed of recent Battisti songs – now sung in English. As I was possibly the only guy working in a record store who was interested at all, it wasn’t difficult to ask my manager to request display material for the store. Duly, a box of empty LP covers, some posters and a press kit arrived at our store.
In the press kit was a photocopy of an extraordinary piece of writing by Richard Williams, probably originating in Melody Maker, a British music newspaper. In some detail, it put Battisti’s work into perspective for me, and let me know which of his earlier albums I should be on the look-out for. He was ‘spot on’ – he had ‘em all, had listened etc. What a great review!
Of course, every sword has a 2nd edge. Some time later, I read his review of “Images”, which he completely dismissed. I rather enjoyed it, but I had really enjoyed the LP from which “Images” was mostly drawn, “Io Tu Noi Tutti”. Williams didn’t like that one either. I guess the year or two between his initial Battisti article and RCA’s push hadn’t been kind to the world of reviewers and popularity in England.
Alternately, there were reviewers in various papers where I would know to try the record if they didn’t like the title in question. But, really…while I read some 80’s dross, I tended to form my own opinions and stayed away from ‘record reviews’ after a point – but exactly when, I can’t say. I was the guy at the record distributor who wrote the sales catalogue – it was my job to know what stuff was. I didn’t need a reviewer to tell me what the sales staff could sell.
These days, I am truly dismissive of record reviews. I don’t even read magazines that I can actually read anymore! My two favorite magazines are Strange Days and Record Collectors Magazine, both from Japan. I can look at the pictures, topics and advertisements. That’s enough! I only ever glance at Mojo or Word while still on a news-stand.
My friends have been a bigger influence on my record purchasing power than any reviewer. A recommendation from a friendly clerk in a record store packs more punch, too. I don’t suppose anybody ever reads a blog and decides what music to try next?