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Monday, December 10, 2012

Bo Diddley: The Originator


1) Pills; 2) Jo-Ann; 3) Two Flies; 4) Yakky Doodle; 5) What Do You Know About Love; 6) Do The Frog; 7) Back To School; 8) You Ain't Bad; 9) Love You Baby; 10) Limbo; 11) Background To A Music; 12) Puttentang (Nursery Rhyme); 13) Africa Speaks; 14) We're Gonna Get Married.

This hodgey-podgey mess would be Bo's last self-sustained album of the 1960s: other than two «supersessions» with Muddy and Howlin' Wolf, he would be refraining from recording new ma­terial over the «psychedelic years» — finally realizing, perhaps, that one of the last things the world was truly interested in at the time was yet another helping of the good old Bo Diddley beat. Thus, The Originator, coming out in early 1966, became Bo's goodbye to his decimated pack of fans — for the next four years, he would sink in the shadows, biding his time and thinking about building himself a brand new image from scratch.

In the meantime, this album throws together a bunch of widely varying, chronologically scattered stuff — ʽPillsʼ, for instance, was a minor hit going back all the way to 1961; ʽJo Annʼ was a single from the less commercially fruitful year of 1964; ʽLimboʼ is a re-recording of ʽLimberʼ from In The Spotlight (faster, cooler, and spiced up with a snazzy dose of «yakety sax»); and I have no idea how much of the rest was specially recorded for these sessions, but the very fact that «The Originator» had to stretch out so far back in time shows that even the mighty Bo, with his seemingly unending supply of optimistic energy, was feeling disoriented.

Of course, in some subtle way drawing attention to an old song called ʽPillsʼ in 1966 was a novel move — "she went through my head, through my head, while I was layin' in the hospital bed" sounds highly relevant, and «edgy», for the circumstances. Plus, it does feature one of Bo's catch­iest melodies, even if he almost certainly nicked it off some Cuban dance or something. The bad news is, you still get this song on most of Bo's compilations, so its presence alone does not justify finding out how well The Originator matches its title in toto.

What else is there? Well, actually, a few of the tracks are funny blurbs with individualistic twists. ʽTwo Fliesʼ acts out a dialog between... two flies (how did you know?), set to a generic shuffle beat, but kinda funny (Bo has always been a better actor than singer anyway). ʽBackground To A Musicʼ has Bo speaking in the name of the «background» itself, demonstrating several of his well known rhythmic techniques at a staged «job interview». Most unusual and eccentric of all is ʽAfrica Speaksʼ, which is a natural round-the-fire tribal chant with, indeed, authentic Africans in­volved in the chanting — a bit of realistic «world beat» way, way before these things became na­tural in pop music, and hence, doing a bit of justice to «The Originator».

On the other hand, there are still predictable lows — rough, rote ballads (ʽWhat Do You Know About Loveʼ), perfunctory rehashes of the Diddley beat (ʽYakky Doodleʼ almost reads like a Bo Diddley cover of the Rolling Stones' cover of Bo Diddley's ʽI Need Youʼ), unsuccessful attempts at inventing pseudo-new dance moves (ʽDo The Frogʼ), and a strange pro-school sermon (ʽBack To Schoolʼ) dominated by an electric organ so poorly tuned that the result is almost completely unlistenable (or maybe the engineer accidentally wiped his ass with the tapes before starting work on the final masters).

Overall, it's all in the same ballpark as Bo's albums from the three previous years — a bit less monotonous than 500% More Man, perhaps, but certainly unfit for a proper «goodbye record»: not that Bo ever planned turning it into a goodbye record, of course — however, the one most wise decision he could have done in 1966 was take a long, well-deserved break, and turn into a careful «listener» for a while, instead of persisting in the mostly discredited emploi of «the origi­nator». That he did, and we are all grateful.

NB: do not confuse the LP The Originator with a much later 2-CD compilation also called the same. It is definitely true that a collection of Bo's bestest deserves being called The Originator far more than a third-hand-derivative LP which originates insect dialogs and spoken confessions of musical patterns, but rules are rules: the original Originator originated first, and even if the origination of the unoriginal Originator originally originated prior to the original Originator, this originates no originality for the unoriginal Originator as such. Is this an original statement or what?..

1 comment:

  1. You've managed to make an original statement in a review people will read just to read your original review. I seriously doubt anyone will ever hear this record, though.