Battle of Famous Albums can only happen when a band has two records that stand out in their discography and that are generally in very close competition with each other in terms of popularity and critical reception. If the band has more than two peaks, it won’t apply. Nor if one of the two peaks is regarded as much higher.
Rock ‘n’ roll albums released in the 50s are a curious bunch in that few actually sit down to listen to them. One has to go past the first Google search page to even find a discography fully documented, let alone get any actual reviews of the albums. And it’s not hard to see why time forgot them: these LPs were released during an era when the single was the dominant force for rock and pop in terms of selling, listening and evaluating the artist. Usually the albums were just a way of re-advertising the previously-released singles and consisted of nothing but filler surrounding the hits. Record companies had more to do with their assembling than the actual artists did. Why should we care about them if the artist didn’t?
Well…because once in a while they turned out to be pretty fucking great. I don’t know about you, but when I hear a hit from the legendary Buddy Holly, an artist that changed everything with his song-writing and image, I definitely ain’t stopping there. Now to be honest, I don’t know much about the story behind The “Chirping” Crickets and Buddy Holly as albums, how they came to be and exactly how much input did Holly have with the choosing of the tracks, the sequences and the such; but what I do know is that the quality of the songs make them both count as indispensable listens.
Released in 1957 and 1958 respectively, the two records form what essentially is Buddy’s whole album discography, if we exclude That’ll Be the Day – a strange release of songs that were already 3 years old and that smells more like a cash-in for the record company. So what are the differences then? Did Holly get a chance to develop and experiment in his short album discography (and life)? I would say the answer is yes.
It is not hard to see that with the second release he was already heading into a more pop territory, with more sophisticated arrangements and touches: Everyday is a love song packed as a soothing lullaby, Words of Love is driven by a gorgeous guitar sound, while Peggy Sue breathes catchiness with almost every single line. At times, it definitely sounds as if Buddy couldn’t wait to get away from the rock ‘n’ roll format that he perfected on his first album. But at the same time, he never really loses what made so many people resonate with him in the first place – this is not the type of sophistication that looks down on you, it’s the accessible type that motivates you to go out there and do your own thing. The rock ‘n’ roll, youth-orientated spirit is still there.
But what about the rockers on Buddy Holly? Do they reach the heights of the previous album’s classics that are Oh, Boy!, Not Fade Away and That’ll Be the Day? Maybe not in terms of sheer impact and not to the effect of where-did-that-come-from, but surely Rave On!, I’m Gonna Love You Too and Ready Teddy are just as representative of Buddy as a rock ‘n’ roller. Plus, he loses the doo-wop backing vocals which were always rather hit and miss if you ask me.
All in all, Buddy Holly as an album seems to take from The Chirping Crickets what made Holly a star in the first place and add an extra dimension to that. And more importantly, it does so without losing the rock ‘n’ roller’s artistic identity. I can only see it as an improvement. The second album it is.
Categories: Battle of Famous Albums