REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/03/2009
Fifty years may not seem like a long time, but in musical terms it is an eternity. Buddy Holly died February 3, 1959 just after midnight when the small plane in which he was flying slammed into the ground at an estimated 170 miles per hour. The pilot, The Big Bopper -- who at the last minute talked future country superstar Waylon Jennings into giving him his seat -- and Ritchie Valens, who won a coin toss with Tommy Allsup for the last seat on the plane, were also killed.
Buddy Holly recorded his first songs in 1955 and achieved chart success and popularity from 1957-1959. In that short period of time, he amassed a huge and lasting body of work. His studio techniques, staccato guitar sound and unique vocal phrasing combined to make his sound very different and tremendously influential.
Buddy Holly recorded a vast amount of material in four years. At the time of his death he had enough unreleased material to last seven years. Today his entire catalogue has been released in a number of forms and formats. So do we need another Buddy Holly compilation? I am going to say yes!
Memorial Collection is a three-disc, sixty song compilation that spans the length and breadth of his career. The material is presented chronologically and each track is notated in the accompanying booklet. The producers have wisely chosen to combine some of his lesser known material with his best known hits. They have also wisely left the songs as they were recorded and resisted a common urge to tinker and change which would have harmed their original intent.
All of his most famous songs are present here. “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Oh Boy,” “Maybe Baby,” “Rave On” and “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” should be turned up loud as they blast out of the speakers. Lesser known but superior songs such as “True Love Ways,” “Not Fade Away,” “Brown-Eyes Handsome Man” and “Love’s Made A Fool Of You” all show his versatility and inventiveness.
For the collector and the Buddy Holly aficionado, it will be the first and the last series of tracks that are the most important, as four have never been released in the United States and one other rare cut that is probably his last unreleased song.
His undubbed tracks from 1955 that are credited to Buddy & Bob include “Soft Place In My Heart,” which had never seen the light of day. Holly and Bob Montgomery (vocals and guitar) are backed by Sonny Curtis (fiddle), and Don Guess (bass). “Down The Line” and “You and I Are Through,” from the same time period and also credited to Buddy & Bob, had never been released in the USA. They may have a primitive feel but show Holly at the beginning of his musical journey and hint at his future. They also provide an invaluable look into the early formation of rock ‘n’ roll.
Just before his death he would record several tracks at his apartment in
Buddy Holly, the man and his music, have been frozen in time for half a century. There is always the theoretical question of what would have happened to him if he had lived? Would he have continued to be a superstar or faded from the scene as did many of his contemporaries? Would he be a producer or playing the oldies circuit? Sadly, none of these questions will ever be answered.
Buddy Holly did not have the charisma of Elvis Presley and probably did not define a part of the rock ‘n’ roll sound as did Chuck Berry. While he was extremely talented, I feel that his greatest and most memorable strength was that he was able to make music that resonated with the masses. He never appeared to be above it all.
Memorial Album is the most fitting kind of remembrance of Buddy Holly as it presents a comprehensive look at his music, which was the lasting legacy of his life cut short fifty years ago today.