Buddy Holly was just 19 years old when he cut his first professional recordings in January 1956; in February 1959, Holly died in a plane crash en route to his next show, and in those three short years, he created one of the most distinctive and enduring bodies of work in the history of rock & roll. Holly was a gifted songwriter, an excellent guitarist, and a strong and unique singer, and his music ranged from traditional country and straight-up rockabilly to smart, sophisticated pop and buoyant rock & roll, and few artists from the first era of rock could boast a body of work as consistently strong. The Essential Buddy Holly is a three-disc set that collects 54 of Holly's biggest hits along with a handful of choice obscurities, and 15 bonus tracks featuring Holly's backing band the Crickets. Given how much fine music Holly made, it's hard to call any collection "Essential" unless it's a box set that includes absolutely everything he committed to tape, but The Essential Buddy Holly certainly comes close. All the major hits are here (including "That'll Be the Day," "Peggy Sue," "Not Fade Away," "Maybe Baby," "Rave On," "Oh Boy," "Everyday," and many more), alongside plenty of lesser-known gems (particularly early cuts like "I'm Looking for Someone to Love" and "Midnight Shift"), and some of the curious overdubbed demos that drifted into circulation after Holly's passing ("That's What They Say"). The only real quibble with this set is why it features the Crickets' later recording of "Love's Made a Fool of You" instead of Holly's superior original version. But if you need some Buddy Holly in your collection, The Essential Buddy Holly delivers a great cross-section of his music in one package, and it's a fine tribute to one of rock & roll's greatest pioneers.