"With evident relish, [Chusid] profiles dozens of people
whose songs and compositions -- naive, amateur, deranged, at
the outer limits of the avant-garde, or just stupefyingly bad
-- can be seen as the musical equivalent of outsider art."
--The New Yorker
"Chusid documents nearly
two dozen cases of 'outsider music' in the articulate, expressive,
and intriguing book that he describes as 'a pan-galactic map
of crackpot and visionary music,' with all trails leading to
one place: 'over the edge.' ... He avoids hyperbole in favor
of documenting the artists' histories with interviews, eyewitnesses,
and enthusiasts to better articulate and communicate the artists'
appeal. It is this approach that makes the book completely indispensable
to anyone with so much as a fleeting interest in music. ... This
book and its surprisingly charming companion CD (sold separately)
could very well trigger a cataclysmic revelation."
--San Francisco Bay Guardian
in the Key of Z] surveys the outer reaches of the music kingdom,
where the Shaggs and Tiny Tim are superstars. ... The effect
is an unsettling assault on the very notion of 'good' and 'bad'
"This material is an acquired
taste, to be sure, but we find the wonderful eccentrics who populate
Songs in the Key of Z to be a savory antidote to the manufactured
boy bands, teen squeezes, and assembly-line thugs clogging the
charts these days."
think you were ever on the fringe check out Songs In The Key
Of Z, where some of the world's greatest misfits are gathered
together on one disc for the geek party of all time. ... Heartbreaking,
morbidly fascinating (kind of like watching a train wreck) and
strangely entertaining, Chusid's sonic universe can stand proudly
next to Dr. Demento's latest collection as a prime document of
--New City (Chicago)
"It's impossible to read
this book and not be intrigued."
--Sunday Star-Ledger (NJ)
"[A] primer to musicians
who come 'packaged with a special set of instructions.' ... By
recasting his subject as 'outsider music,' meaning folk art,
Chusid clings to the fine line that separates pathetically laughable
from jawdroppingly weird."
narrates each musician's vital statistics and career with rhythm
and respectful wit."
"So-called 'outsider' music
exists on a unique and awkward plane of appreciation. The artists
who make it are often extremely eccentric, or even deranged in
the clinical sense, so the music itself teeters on the brink
of lunacy, genius, exploitation, and novelty. Nevertheless, Songs
In The Key Of Z ... does a fine job displaying the genre's many
different facets. ... Since the stories often mean as much, if
not more, than the music itself, it's nice to have the companion
book on hand, as well: It's even more thorough and diverse than
the disc it accompanies."
has written a valentine to 'outsider' artists, musicians who
-- unlike frayed pop icons Phil Spector and Brian Wilson -- lack
total self-awareness but overflow with earnestness. Among others,
Chicago-based schizophrenic troubadour Wesley Willis, former
Pink Floyd songwriter Syd Barrett, and street musician Larry
'Wild Man' Fischer -- a man even weirdo Frank Zappa found captivating
-- are profiled in a voice many rock writers dream about mastering.
The 'outsider' genre was in desperate need of a biographer, and
luckily Chusid was there to tell each musicians's tale as if
he were writing about the next 'big thing.' He possesses a knowledge
of music culture that most contemporary rock critics think they
have. Guaranteed: this book will take readers to record stores
searching for Chusid's list of musical miscreants. Good luck
finding all of them."
... [has] become the dean of all musics demented, deconstructed
and, often, damn brilliant. ...Songs in the Key of Z ... could
very well be the first proper and somewhat encompassing documentation
of what Chusid likes to call 'outsider music.' By telling the
stories of freaks both famous and obscure ... Chusid finally
gives a face to those progenitors of out-there pop."