Memorial Collection: 97/100
Down the Line: Rarities: 78/100
Major piece of rock’s DNA finally
For those of you late to the party,
Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holley—his first records misspelled his
name “Holly,” so he went with the error—was a bundle of
contradictions born in 1936 in Lubbock, Texas, who managed to squeeze
out a bunch of classic tunes before dying in a famous plane crash at
age 22.inspiring a certain band to name itself The Beatles, after his band
The Crickets) and a seeming inability (whether by his record company
or the executors of his estate) to return his seminal catalogue of
original recordings to print after a magnificent six-LP box set some
decades back.It’d be nice to have that set on
shiny silver discs, but let’s count our blessings with the five we
have here. The Memorial Collection is pretty much everything a normal
fan needs: three CDs, in chronological order, from the early
recordings of Buddy & Bob (Montgomery) to the Crickets’ various
incarnations to the solo recordings made in New York and, finally, a
judicious selection from “the apartment tapes,” made in Buddy’s
living room at 11 5th Avenue in New York, with his new bride Maria
Elena present. Down the Line: Rarities, as advertised, is two discs
of material for fanatics and scholars—from a home recording of a
Hank Snow song laid to tape before Holly’s voice had changed to the
entire Buddy & Bob oeuvre, recordings of the Crickets from the
Hollys’ garage (home of the cricket that—after ruining countless
attempts at recording rehearsals—gave the band its name), outtakes
of released material and, finally, the entire apartment tapes, which
includes a version of “Wait til the Sun Shines, Nellie,” recorded
at his mom’s request, and Maria Elena (who was Puerto Rican)
counting to 10 in Spanish. Here, too, are two slow, solo-with-guitar
takes of “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” interpretations of the song
that are simultaneously sexy, dangerous and tender.
Listening to a piece of music after a
lengthy time away from it lets you hear with new ears, and I was
delighted with what I heard here—and I mean heard: Erick Labson at
Universal Mastering West has done an amazing job with these ancient
tapes, bringing out subtleties I’m sure weren’t this clear on the
LPs. For one thing, the insouciance and clarity of the melodies Buddy
wrote (with occasional help from Bob Montgomery, his producer Norman
Petty and various Crickets) completely erased the mawkishness of the
early songs’ lyrics from my mind. We can also hear his songwriting
undergo a change after he’d had a couple of hits. Suddenly "love"
was no longer just a syllable to rhyme.
so MOR by the time the Beatles arrived that young people would’ve
considered him as irrelevant as they did Elvis at the time. But then
I heard the apartment tapes: one guy, a guitar and a bunch of
original and borrowed songs. There’s so much emotional promise in
“Slippin’ and Slidin’,” so much lyrical growth in “Learning
the Game,” that now I’m not so sure.
If you’re intrigued by what you’re
reading here, pick up John Goldrosen’ Holly biography;
astonishingly enough, there are no liner notes included with the
Memorial Collection for the generation now discovering this music,
which is as essential to the birth of rock as anything by Elvis or
Jerry Lee Lewis or even Little Richard. And Holly’s life is as
amazing as his music. It’s good to have him back.
Click here for a 17-track List of the Day in memory of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.
Click here for That'll Be the Day (the Music Died): 50 Years Later, featuring artist commentary from Paul Westerberg, Black Lips, John Doe, The Avett Brothers, Robyn Hitchcock and many more.