35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
J P Ryan
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Yes, every one of the 20 tracks on this set is excellent, and many are seminal classics. But as my esteemed colleague with the "unhelpful" votes writes, this is 1997's Chess comp in new clothes, song for song, and not newly remastered either. Bo Diddley's March 1955 Chess debut, 'Bo Diddley' b/w 'I'm A Man' represented Bo with a fully developed style and persona, one side redefining children's nursery rhymes against an masterfully arranged and recorded track that is pure rhythm long before J.B.'s mid-sixties funk bombs. Emphasizing tom-toms, Jerome Green's sizzling maracas, and the primal jangle of Bo's guitar, it was backed by a blues classic that inspired Muddy Waters' 'Mannish Boy'. This is surely one of the most influential singles ever, and followups such as the irresistable 'You Don't Love Me' and 'Pretty Thing' are just as explosive, original, and uncompromised. Bo's influence on second generation rock 'n' rollers such as The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Animals, and (obviously) Pretty Things insured his work would shape popular music for decades to come. And on their classic 1973 debut New York Dolls included just one cover, Mr. Diddley's 'Pills'. All these great recordings and more are included on this collection. Yet, unforgiveably, very little of Bo Diddley's great body of work - his fat years cover roughly 1955 to '66 - remains in print in his own country. By all means snap this up if you are a neophyte looking to buy your first Bo collection, for the music is utterly undated, even thrilling. However, clocking in at under an hour, the set remains merely acceptable (the remastering is very good), certainly not generous. For fans there is nothing here we don't already have. The notes are nothing special, which reminds me that it's time for the 1989 "Chess Box" to get the sonic upgrade - and, while we're at it, expanded treatment - the first generation's most innovative rock 'n' roller deserves. That set, despite sonic limitations due to the problems endemic to early digital, contains unissued rarities, seldom heard gems, and classics. But it is most revelatory for Robert Palmer's brilliant in depth essay analyzing and celebrating Bo's work, an essential read that remains the most intelligent piece I've seen about the music (the box also contains a biographical piece). And expand that box to three discs! Bo issued a string of fine albums during his 'golden decade', plus some terrific single sides and unissued material (some is collected on the superb and - naturally out of print - "Rare & Well Done"). The man is 78 as I write this, recent victim of a stroke, yet the 50th anniversary of his classic debut went virtually unnoticed, as did his 75th birthday. Sonic innovator, grunge craw-dad, rap progenitor, rhythm king, the man deserves at least some of the accolades, sensitive reissue campaigns, and serious critical attention Ellington, Armstrong, Elvis, Sinatra, and others received on such occasions.