Bo Diddley

The Story of Bo Diddley: The Very Best of Bo Diddley

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Back in the late '80s, when the CD boom was on and people were busy feeding their new machines like the discs would disappear, MCA Records lavished some attention on the Bo Diddley catalog, putting out a few reissues of his earliest albums, a couple of hits compilations, and one flawed if well-intended box set -- and that was it. Across the nearly two decades since, labels have seemingly assumed that Bo Diddley doesn't sell, apparently unwilling to test the hypothesis that if they would stop merely reissuing the same 14 songs and dug a little deeper, he might sell. That's exactly what the European division of MCA has finally done with this 54-song collection, which manages to overlap the Diddley Chess Box volume and still deliver a brace of previously unanthologized songs by the rock & roll legend. The Chess Box still has more rarities and outtakes, but this set does finally throw the biggest no-brainer of Bo Diddley's entire catalog into the mix -- "Here 'Tis," which was never a hit for him but, thanks to its being covered by the Yardbirds on Five Live Yardbirds, is probably known by about a million Eric Clapton fans. That, plus pieces like "Willie and Lillie," the "I'm a Man" follow-up "I'm Bad" and other usually ignored '50s-era tracks, and recordings as late as 1970's "Elephant Man," helps to make this one of the most comprehensive looks at his career, as well as lots of fun -- and for just plain fun, it's hard to beat the rapping 1963-vintage "Bo Diddley's a Lumber Jack" or the girl group-accompanied "We're Gonna Get Married" from three years later. There's also a good biographical essay in the accompanying booklet by producer/compiler Peter Doggett, who has done a generally excellent job here -- even the sound is state of the art by 2006 standards, something that one can't say at all about the Chess Box or other 1980s/1990s releases from this library. The only complaint one might reasonably have is the scattershot nature of the programming -- the tracks aren't remotely in chronological order and freely jump across 15 years of musical styles and history from one to another. But it's still the most ambitious legitimate release on Bo Diddley in at least 15 years, and a prime addition to his library, even if it had to come out of Europe in order to get produced.

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