Tuesday, 9 September 2008

"Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger" by BO DIDDLEY. A Review Of His 1960 Checker Records LP Now Reissued And Remastered Onto CD In 2004 Onto Universal's "Rock 'N'Roll 50th Anniversary Edition" Series.

In 1979 I arrived for the first time into New York City off the EI 105 from Dublin to JFK and that evening was desperate to christen my visit to the great city by seeing a killer gig. So I opened The Village Voice and saw an advert for "Bo Diddley - Chess Records Legend" who was playing in a small bar off 6th Avenue - blocks away from where I was staying in West 16th Street. I wandered down, paid in and almost immediately a huge man passed me on route to the stage. He was wearing a black leather hat with silver buckles around the rim and a matching black leather suit. Diddley was at least 6 foot tall and was carrying his trademark and truly beautiful red coloured box-shaped Gretsch guitar. He plugged it in and launched into "Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger". About 5 seconds into its chugging rumba-meets-rock’n’roll rhythm, the place went absolutely bananas! I'm sure Bo Diddley had done this a thousand times before and I'm sure every time it was magic. It was like witnessing Muddy Waters with his Mojo in full swing - sexy, fun and utterly mesmerizing. I went out and bought a vinyl re-issue of the album the next day in Crazy Eddie's and it's been my pal ever since.

Elias McDaniel was born in 1928 in Mississippi, inducted into the Rock `n' Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987 as a true crossover innovator and sadly passed away in June 2008 with his self-made legend intact and still beloved. "Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger" was his 5th album for the Chess umbrella of labels and was issued 15 September 1960 on Checker LP 2977 in Stereo in the USA.

This 2nd CD re-issue bolsters up the LP's original 12 tracks with 5 bonuses (38:56 minutes). Tracks 13 and 14 are "Working Man" and "Do What I Say" which initially appeared on the first CD outing in 1989 as two previously unreleased tracks at that time, while the last 3 are "Prisoner Of Love", Googlia Moo" and "Better Watch Yourself" and are new to this issue as previously unreleased in the USA. The reason I concentrate on the bonuses is that - like the album itself - the quality of the 5 is fantastic! They're not just filler - they really are 'so' good - they might as well be Side 1 of a sixth LP! They were recorded in January and February of 1960 and ERICK LABSON's remastering of them is typically superlative (he's handled almost exclusively the whole of the Chess Label re-issues - over 800 re-master/mastering credits to his name).

The 12-page booklet reproduces the gorgeous full colour front sleeve, a colour outtake from the shoot, the album's original rear sleeve (LP 2977), full session details, new liner notes by noted reviewer Bud Scoppa and the original blue and white Checker label for the Stereo LPS-2977 version is pictured beneath the see-through tray as well - all very nice touches.

Bo Diddley has never really received the recognition he's deserved because many have viewed him as a one-trick, one-sound pony - which is a shame, because he was so much better than that. And like so many of the greats - he created his own sound, image and penned most of his own tunes. Hopefully this lovely reissue will change all that and make people reassess. Highly recommended.

PS: It should also be noted that this issue is part of the "ROCK 'N' ROLL 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION" Series issued in 2004 by Universal in the USA. 'Rock 'N' Roll 50th Anniversary Edition' is a secondary series title and is displayed vertically on the side inlay beneath the see-through tray of each release, but unfortunately, if you try to search databases for ANY titles under this moniker, it doesn't recognize the 'name' at all. For those interested - the series includes:

1. "After School Session" by CHUCK BERRY (1958 debut LP on Chess, see REVIEW)
2. "St. Louis To Liverpool" by CHUCK BERRY (1964 STEREO LP on Chess, see REVIEW)
3. "The Chirping Crickets" by THE CRICKETS (their 1957 debut LP featuring BUDDY HOLLY, see REVIEW)
4. "Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger" by BO DIDDLEY (1960 STEREO LP on Checker, see REVIEW)
5. "Rock Around The Clock" by BILL HALEY & HIS COMETS (ground-breaking 1955 LP on Decca, see REVIEW)
6. "Buddy Holly" by BUDDY HOLLY (1958 1st solo LP on Coral, see REVIEW)
7. "Rock, Rock, Rock! - Original Soundtrack" by VARIOUS (Chuck Berry, The Flamingos and The Moonglows) (1956 Chess 'Rock'n'Roll Movie Soundtrack LP, see REVIEW)

I bought all 7 of these titles and I can't recommend them enough - each album remastered, colour artwork lovingly restored and each bolstered up with 3 to 5 relevant releases from the time (many previously unreleased). Fans of Haley, Holly, The Crickets, Berry, Diddley and Rock'n'Roll in general should quickly acquire all of these exemplary CDs. They make for the best basis of a collection in a minefield of lesser compilations.

1 comment:

Cary said...

Bo Diddly was an amazing and pioneering musician, and it sounds like these compilations actually do him justice! Has anyone seen his display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? I work for Positively Cleveland, and we're working to get the word out about the Rock Hall. I highly encourage all music fans (and especially Bo Diddly fans) to check it out. You can start on our website: http://www.positivelycleveland.com/visiting/things_to_do/cleveland_rocks/rock_hall. There are a lot of awesome upcoming events so it's totally worth looking into!

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