Bo Diddley

Tales from the Funk Dimension 1970-73: Drive by Bo

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In the first half of the '70s, Chess tried to relaunch Bo Diddley's career by making his material and production more in line with contemporary rock and soul trends, as it had with several other of the label's rock & roll and blues stars of the '50s and early '60s. Tales from the Funk Dimension 1970-73: Drive by Bo is a compilation of no less than 76 minutes of music from the four albums he recorded during this period, all of which were received pretty poorly by both critics and the marketplace. Sadly, this anthology doesn't reveal Diddley's output from the era to be underrated, or worthy of revisionist assessment. It's mostly missing the elements that made Diddley such a great innovator in his prime: not just the famous Bo Diddley rhythm, but also the shimmering imagination of his guitar playing and amplification, as well as the humorous bite of his songwriting. Instead, it sounds like what it was: a talented singer and guitar player trying to fit into the day's trends, rather than helping to set them. As a consequence, it not only comes off as a fairly anonymous early-'70s blend of rock, soul, blues, and funk; Diddley himself comes off as a fairly anonymous contributor to the mix, as if he's just lending his name to ideas that are being cooked up to sell something. While there are flashes of slashing guitar work that are uniquely Diddley-styled (particularly on the tracks from the 1970 LP The Black Gladiator), as well as some of his wisecracking ribald attitude, the songs are generally too long and rambling, without much in the way of substance or riffs. Sometimes it's worse than that: the covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Band are pointless, some detours into counterculture topicality are clumsy or undistinguished ("Pollution," "Bad Trip"), and "I Don't Like You" has some downright bizarre operatic vocalizing. The packaging and liner notes are good, but that's no substitute for good songs or production that would have brought out Diddley's strengths instead of trying to change him into something he wasn't.

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