Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Memorial Collection

Dead in the "American Pie" plane crash of 1959, the early rock icon lives on in marketers' dreams.

Buddy Holly was one of the half dozen or so white geniuses the '50s propelled out of the American boondocks--in his case, Lubbock, Texas. Delicate yet explosive, nerdy yet macho, channeling Bo Diddley and predicting Lennon & McCartney, he wrote a phenomenal number of excellent songs in the 18 months between "That'll Be the Day" and the death that provides the excuse for this three-CD reshuffle. Like the career, the songs were superbrief: mean length, 2:14. Figure all 60 would fit easily onto two discs, then settle for the 50 on 2005's double-CD Gold. The selling point here is 11 "undubbed" early and late recordings. Stripped of bass and drums, they sound more like old-time country music and less like, well, Buddy Holly, who by the end was happily exploring string sections.

Blender, Apr. 2009