Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Bo Diddley

  • Where It All Began [Chess, 1972] C+
  • Got My Own Bag of Tricks [Chess, 1972]
  • The London Bo Diddley Sessions [Chess, 1973] D+
  • His Greatest Sides, Vol. 1 [Chess, 1984]
  • The Chess Box [Chess, 1990] A+
  • A Man Amongst Men [Atlantic, 1996] Neither

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Where It All Began [Chess, 1972]
How bad can a Bo Diddley record be? A lot worse than this. It might have horns, or feature his versions of the latest hits, only Bo and his producers (Pete Welding and Johnny Otis) know better than that. On the other hand, how good can a Bo Diddley record be? Unlike Chuck Berry, who must also transcend a certain musical homogeneity, Bo hasn't written a whole songbook of great lyrics, and anyway, his homogeneity is a lot more homogeneous than Chuck's. C+

Got My Own Bag of Tricks [Chess, 1972]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The London Bo Diddley Sessions [Chess, 1973]
This is the one the company will push, and it's his worst--give or take a joke or two, pro forma throughout. Hint: Bo's best-of is called Got My Own Bag of Tricks. D+

His Greatest Sides, Vol. 1 [Chess, 1984]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Chess Box [Chess, 1990]
Robert Palmer's noble notes to this modest two-CD collection makes all the connections I'd been noticing (kids' culture, rap) as well as plenty I didn't (to ring shouts, gospel, habanera). Palmer notwithstanding, Bo's lyrics aren't up there with Chuck Berry's, although they signify for sure. But of course the key is rhythm, or rhythms--there are as many diddleybeats as there are Diddley songs. The '80s were Bo's time to take his rightful place among the great originators for the same reason they were James Brown's time to ascend to the top of the heap. A+

A Man Amongst Men [Atlantic, 1996] Neither

See Also