Buddy Holly

That'll Be the Day

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The tendency of most critics is to dismiss this album, comprised as it is of the songs from Holly's 1956 Nashville sessions, which yielded a somewhat too tentative, country-oriented sound that suited neither him nor the public. In actual fact, at least ten of the 11 songs on this LP (the one exception being the ballad "Girl on My Mind") have aged almost as well as anything that Holly ever recorded. "Rock Around With Ollie Vee," "Blue Days, Black Nights," "Ting-A-Ling," "I'm Changing All Those Changes," "Modern Don Juan," "Love Me," "Don't Come Back Knockin'," and "Midnight Shift" are all decent, solid early rock & roll; he sounds too countrified by about half on much of the record, especially on the early version of "That'll Be the Day," but these were not bad records, even if they weren't going to break his talent out to a mass audience. What's more, at least at the time of his first sessions in January of 1956, few white artists and even fewer producers at major labels had yet figured out what mix of country, R&B, and blues worked on a rock & roll record. Given all of this, this is a better than decent album with one real gem ("Rock Around With Ollie Vee"), and if not for the fact that they mostly feature a completely different lineup of musicians and were also contractually separate from the rest of his eventual output for Coral/Brunswick/Decca, roughly half of the songs here could have been filtered into either of Holly's later official LPs without doing any violence to the newer material. Even the ballad "You Are My One Desire" -- though it doesn't really resemble much else that Holly ever did -- is given a hauntingly passionate performance. That'll Be the Day isn't a revelatory piece of rock & roll history, but it's a more substantial and enjoyable prelude to the main body of Holly's career than it's usually given credit for being, extending his serious legacy backward a full album. [In 1967, Decca Records reissued That'll Be the Day as The Great Buddy Holly, with a new cover and stripping off the song "Ting-A-Ling." In 1975, British MCA gathered together the 11 songs off of this album and an alternate take of "Rock Around With Ollie Vee" from a different session and released it as The Nashville Sessions.]

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