Ritchie Valens

Greatest Hits [Audio Fidelity]

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Ritchie Valens was only 17 when he died in 1959. His musical legacy rests on about an album-and-a-half of completed studio material, a poorly recorded high school concert, and a handful of demos and rehearsal tapes, all of which present a problem for collections of this sort. If you include a full disc's worth of music, you need to dip into unfinished or badly recorded material, which is a quality issue. On the other hand, if you only include finished studio projects, then you've got an extremely brief sequence on your hands. In the particular case of Valens, who had no real time to refine or develop his obvious talents, less is best, and that's the route taken by the makers of this anthology. It includes Valens' big hit, "La Bamba," its flip side, "Donna" (which was actually the A-side, but "La Bamba" has emerged over time as Valens' signature tune), a halting, beautiful version of "Bluebirds Over the Mountain," and the oddly haunting "In a Turkish Town." The sound here is as good as you're going to get it, making this compilation an excellent purchase if you want to hear this young musician at his best. Collectors and serious fans should probably pick up one of the longer anthologies, since the demos and unfinished tracks most of them feature are certainly interesting, if hardly essential.

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