It's taken 46 years for Buddy Holly's debut LP to finally get treated with some real respect by its U.S. label -- in England, where they've treated Holly like a rock & roll god for 50 years, there's been an upgraded version of The "Chirping" Crickets out since 2000 on the BGO label, and this U.S. reissue sounds even better than that one did, albeit only slightly. The album originally appeared in November of 1957, at a time when rock & roll LPs were still a relative novelty and good ones few and far between, especially once ...
It's taken 46 years for Buddy Holly's debut LP to finally get treated with some real respect by its U.S. label -- in England, where they've treated Holly like a rock & roll god for 50 years, there's been an upgraded version of The "Chirping" Crickets out since 2000 on the BGO label, and this U.S. reissue sounds even better than that one did, albeit only slightly. The album originally appeared in November of 1957, at a time when rock & roll LPs were still a relative novelty and good ones few and far between, especially once you got past Elvis Presley's output. The "Chirping" Crickets wasn't quite a match for Elvis' best work in terms of sheer power or boldness -- how could it be, when Elvis had a million dollars worth of record company support from RCA (when RCA was one of the biggest labels in the world), including access to the top session players in the country to augment his own band, and to the best new songs from one of the business' biggest publishers, plus legions of songwriters knocking on his door who'd have happily sold their grandmothers to get him to record their work? It was like comparing the New York Yankees, with all the recognition and collective star aura and press support in the world, with a Negro League team with a million dollars worth of talent in their ranks and a lot of nerve, seeking recognition that had to be earned one play at a time. Buddy Holly & the Crickets were making their impact (and their records) with a lot less record company support and writing the book on rock & roll success from the sticks to the big city as they went along. They were coming off of a monster hit with "That'll Be the Day" and a healthy follow-up in "Oh, Boy!," but assembling 12 viable songs for an album was still considered a challenge in those days, to which the group rose amazingly well with help from their producer/manager, Norman Petty. As a piece of self-generated rock & roll -- half its songs co-written by Holly and/or one of the other Crickets, and many of the other generated from Petty's orbit -- The "Chirping" Crickets was amazingly close to a personalized artistic "statement," in the language of rock & roll, in a way that Presley's RCA albums, with all of the many creative hands involved, could never be. In addition to singing lead, Holly was still playing his own lead guitar parts on this album, a function on his records that he would later mostly cede to session guitarist Tommy Allsup. The album led from strength with the then-current hit "Oh, Boy!," the most perfect Holly-style song that he never wrote (Sonny West and Bill Tilghman authored it, with Petty's name also on the copyright, which, in the nature of the business in those days, may or may not have meant he had something to do with its composition) -- Holly's searing lead guitar part is put right in your face by the 2004 remastering. "Not Fade Away" was a classic that was ignored at the time -- it took the Rolling Stones, kicking the Bo Diddley-style rocker out of second gear and into overdrive, to get it recognized. And "Maybe Baby," lifted as a single in early 1958, would become a hit a few months after the album's release. "Tell Me How," co-authored by Holly and drummer Jerry Allison, is the lost single from the album, a punchy rocker with a killer beat and a searing lead vocal that should've been a hit but instead ended up on the B-side of "Maybe Baby" -- the record could easily have been flipped by the DJs and not done badly. "I'm Looking for Someone to Love" was the pounding, driving B-side of "That'll Be the Day," and "Rock Me My Baby" was a showcase for some of Holly's loudest, most uninhibited lead guitar up to that time. Some of the surrounding balladry is distinguished: "You Got Love" shows off Holly's gentler singing style while his crisp lead playing generates some excitement; Chuck Willis' "It's Too Late" and Roy Orbison's "An Empty Cup (And a Broken Date)" serve as vehicles -- the former more successfully than the latter -- for the...
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