During his lifetime, Holly released just three studio albums. Songs and albums continued to be released for years after his death, taking songs cut from albums, demos, alternate takes, whatever the record company could get their hands on, as rock became more and more popular, and demand for his music grew. He was a prolific writer and performer in his short time on earth, so the difficulty in making a collection like this isn't in finding material to add, but rather in figuring out what gets cut from the single disc. The number of tracks is curiously small; all tracks are from the fifties, and so they average about two minutes per song. But this will mean his very best made the cut.
Holly's style is an intertwining of pop, rock, country and rockabilly, which he incorporated into his music after seeing Elvis Presley perform. Holly put together a band called The Crickets, and his first album was with them; he was simultaneously signed with another company as a solo artist, and a solo album followed shortly afterwards. This collection doesn't make distinctions between the two, and essentially there is none. Much of the writing is Holly's, and both acts are his voice and his arrangements.
If you've listened to oldies radio, you've surely heard many of the songs here, even if perhaps you weren't aware they were Holly's at the time. "That'll Be The Day" was his first single, and it was a huge hit for him. It was also the title of his third and final album. It was a compilation of sorts, put together from several sets of earlier sessions. This is not that same album; in fact, "That'll Be The Day" is the only song here from that album, and it has already appeared on The Crickets album.
So the real question is if these songs from sixty years ago still hold up today, and the answer is absolutely. I was impressed by the sound quality. For music from such a different time, the songs are crisp and clean, and sound great. Putting yourself in this time period, you can see why so many gravitated to Holly's music. It has a certain spirit to it. Much of the music at the time was simple dance music, largely interchangeable. Holly had more of a rhythm to it. In "Oh Boy!", the music breaks at the end of the first two lines before building back up again. Another artist would likely have set a single best from the beginning and maintained it throughout. This is perhaps very subtle, but it goes to how carefully he crafted his songs.
One of the most covered songs here is "Not Fade Away"; it's been covered by Sheryl Crow and The Rolling Songs, among others. It has a unique rhythm pattern, often referred to as a variation of the Bo Diddly beat, which itself was a variation of a West African beat. It's a great example of how Holly combined elements from a variety of sources to create his sound. It may seem like a minor thing in today's age where a million types of music are available at the touch of a button, but Holly was an originator, on the forefront of a whole new genre.
Buddy Holly is one of the most influential artists in the history of rock and roll. If you pay attention to rock music closely enough, you can hear the effect he's had through the years. This is a part of his legacy, and so a piece of history. Even today, his music is melodic, it's interesting, it's engaging, it's fun! It's really tough to listen to this album without tapping your feet, tapping your fingers to the beat, singing along. If you're not at all into "oldies", maybe this won't sway you, but if your mind is open to many kinds of music, if you like rock, you really can't go wrong with this album.