Review Summary: A brilliant album from a rock and roll legend.
When John Lennon walked on to the set of the Ed Sullivan show in 1964 his first words were “Is this the stage that Buddy Holly played on?” When Bob Dylan accepted a Grammy in 1998 he stated, “And I just want to say that when I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth National Guard Armory and I was three feet away from him...and he looked at me. And I just have some sort of feeling that he was - I don't know how or why - but I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in some kind of way.” The conclusion of this is simple; Buddy Holly is in no uncertain terms a musical legend. As an artist he is a primary influence behind The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys
and The Rolling Stones
, even if his music were near unlistenable his name would be cemented in musical history for that alone.
As with any artist of this stature there is a certain mystique that surrounds their music and honest opinions (most notably negative ones) are hard to come by. Just look at The Beatles
, how can anyone say the Beatles made bad music, when they are The Beatles
; the biggest, most significant and most successful musical act of all time? Thankfully such moral dilemmas are of no issue here because in addition to being massively musical significant Holly was also a hugely talented and innovative musician in his own right, and that is an often understated aspect of his legacy.
Perhaps the most initially striking thing about Holly’s music which history often discounts is that Holly is not cool, at all. He is for want of a better word, a square. One look at the man himself reveals the obvious and it’s abundantly clear from his music. He was the Rivers Cuomo
of his day, unlucky in love, unlucky in life but a genius at writing a pop hook. As a native of Lubbock, Texas (a town with more churches per person than anywhere else in the world) Holly is exactly the opposite of everything Elvis
was. He was a grittier alternative to the king, a critic’s rock and roll pioneer instead of a housewives’ favourite and unlike Elvis
he successfully converted the black audience with his talent, avoiding the white man stealing black music criticism which is so often targeted at Elvis.
The Chirping Cricket’s was Buddy Holly’s debut album and his only one released before his tragic death at the age of 22. Musically Holly’s melodies are still fresh and interesting half a century later and sound something like Brian Wilson
if he were a hillbilly. Although slightly top heavy the album is still full of catchy ditties and Holly’s trademark “Hiccup” vocals matched up with complimentary (and for the time groundbreaking) harmonies. Instrumentally it’s bouncy 50’s/60’s pop with a feint bluegrass/country vibe, a homage to Holly’s roots but also features many “new” instruments from the genre such as the use of a Celesta. Lyrically too Holly made great strides forward in that he gradually moved away from writing love songs. By modern standards (or even the standard ten years later) his lyrics are weak and cliché but judged within the context of the age in which they were made Holly was once again ahead of the game. Choice cuts are the fast paced rocker ‘Not Fade Away’ and the more ballady “You’ve Got Love” but there isn’t a weak song to be found and at only twenty eight minutes in length the album is a swift and enjoyable blast from the past. The Chirping Cricket’s
is an album worth checking out not just because of the legend of Buddy Holly and not just because of the impact it had on music but because the guy wrote a lot of damn good tunes.