Photo of Peery's Egyptian Theater by F. Jennings, 2010
The second half of my experiment with late '50s pop comes in the form of The Buddy Holly Collection, and I fid this set just about as enjoyable as the early Everly Brothers collection I picked up at the same time. I chose The Buddy Holly Collection because it seemed like the most comprehensive collection of Holly's stuff available, short of getting the exhaustive box set. The problem with the latter option is that such sets always include the four existing takes of each song set back to back, making the CDs unuseable for casual listening (unless you want to hear three nearly-identical "That'll Be the Day"s in a row).
As it turns out, I already have some buyer's remorse about the The Buddy Holly Collection, as much as I like it - it's not as comprehensive as I'd hoped (Holly recorded a lot more music during his short career than I'd guessed), and it dedicates too much space to his early, pre-fame work. But I think that most sets of this kind do that, trying to capture Holly's full career arc (arguably, I should have gotten the recent 3-CD Memorial Collection, which does a better job of this). What this all means, though, is that the first disc of The Buddy Holly Collection takes a while to get going - the first eight tracks are pretty much throwaways. Around the middle of the disc, though, the songs swing to the opposite extreme as you get to Holly's first string of hit singles, "That'll Be the Day", "Not Fade Away", "Everyday", etc. These songs are great, of course, but it's jarring to hear them all in a row after twenty minutes of Holly playing pretty anonymous-sounding rockabilly numbers like "Baby, Won't You Come Around Tonight".
The second disc is a much better listen, even if it doesn't have as many of his big hits. Holly had two recording contracts, one as a solo artist and one with the Crickets, so there's a good variety to the songs from this period, and I don't even mind the last few songs, which are demos that Holly's producer Norman Petty dressed up with full arrangements by the Fireballs after Holly's death. The songs on the second disc also have more impact because I'm less familiar with them. It's unfortunate that the set gets off to a slow start, but The Buddy Holly Collection does a pretty good job of showing off Holly's impressive skills as a vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist. One of my favorites from the set is "Wishing" - recorded in '58, it was part of Holly's reunion with Bob Montgomery, his original songwriting collaborator from his high school days. Holly's double-tracked vocals are very nice, and the song has a sweet melody - one of the quirks of Holly's suddenly-cut-off career is that the song wasn't released as a single until '63, four full years after his death.
"Wishing" by Buddy Holly