Friday, 6 February 2009

Buddy Holly - Down The Line/Rarities

With an immaculate bit of timing, this little beauty arrived on my doorstep on the morning of February 3rd, the 50th anniversary of the death of Buddy, Ritchie and the Bopper. I was sent a review copy direct from Universal/Geffen so I can’t comment on the packaging because this was just a single sheet showing the track listings of this release and The Memorial Collection, a three CD set which I’ll review in a couple of days. From what I gather though, the packaging on the retail copies are okay without being particularly inspiring either. It’s the music that counts though and on that count, this release is superb. Despite Buddy being the recipient of a vinyl box-set in the late 70’s, no legal version has surfaced on CD. Legal wrangling has held back such a release though Vigotone probably did swift business with their unofficial “What You Been A-Missin’ box in 1995.

This 2CD set runs in at a healthy 59 songs and ranges from his first recording at the age of 14 through to the legendary "Apartment Tapes" from the weeks before his passing. From a Joe Public perspective this release will be a bit rough around the edges, but for the fans that it’s obviously aimed at, it’s manna from heaven.

Hearing the boy tackle Hank Snow’s My Two-Timin’ Woman is fascinating, and the sound quality is surprisingly good for the vintage and recording conditions. We’ve all seen the photos of Buddy and Bob’s business cards with the legend, “Western and Bop”. Well these undubbed early 50’s tracks from Buddy’s home and Wichita Falls fall mostly in the Western category (except Down the Line which smokes). He had a right good go at the Bop part when he was back at the Nesman Recording Studio in Wichita on 7th December 1955. Now without Bob Montgomery the band consisted of Buddy, Sonny Curtis, Don Guess and Jerry Allison - possibly the finest Crickets line-up ever. Buddy had been hit by the Elvis bug and the influence is clear.

The Garage Tapes are on offer undubbed, as they were on Rollercoasters’ “Ooh Annie” CD last year. The Rollercoaster sounded clearer to me but if you haven’t got that, this is still a great way to hear Buddy, J.I. and Joe B. Mauldin rip through some rock ‘n’ roll classics from Brown-Eyed Handsome Man to Blue Suede Shoes. The only number that doesn’t really work is Ain’t Got No Home.

The second CD really is the ducks nuts with a host of undubbed classics from Clovis circa ‘57/’58. Highlights are the handclap-free Love’s Made A Fool Of You and Oh Boy. The re-workings of That’ll Be The Day into promos for Bob Thiele and Murray Deutsch are great fun as well. The "Apartment Tapes" have become a part of rock folklore and a listen here will explain why. Cut at Buddy’s New York apartment between December ’58 and January ’59 there are some beautiful moments. A lot of the songs originally came out with backing bands added and they played a part in keeping Buddy in the charts years after his death. But hearing them here in pristine quality with just Buddy and his acoustic guitar, the beauty is sometimes overwhelming.

So a great release that will hopefully sell in big enough numbers to encourage more official releases and even, dare I say it, a box-set.

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