Various Artists

Vintage Music: Original Classic Oldies from the 1950's : Vols. 1 & 2

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What makes this 1986 compilation of early rock & roll is the careful hand of Steve Hoffman, who, along with Bill Inglot, was in the forefront of trying to guarantee quality CD reproduction in the early days of the format. Where other record companies were releasing CDs from whatever copy of a master they could get a hold of, Hoffman did his damnedest to find the original master. These tracks may waver in quality of performance (I'll take Buddy Holly over anything from Pat Boone any day), but they are uniformly dynamic in sound and in their original mono mixes with a minimum of tape hiss. On the performance side, the compilation shows how strange the '50s could get. Bo Diddley's guitar on his self-titled 1955 single sounds more alien each year, a rubbery snake sound charmed by the surreal lyrics and the insistent maracas and tom toms. Dale Hawkins' "Susie Q" sneaks into being, with Hawkins seeming to wake up in the first line not knowing where he is. And if modern times could serve up a dish as goofball weird as Clarence "Frogman" Henry's "Ain't Got No Home," I'll eat a Backstreet Boys CD.

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