The Crickets & Their Buddies - CD Review

The CD review is courtesy of Shawn Nagy of (also & The Lance Monthly). For more information we recommend you to visit Shawn Nagy has 49 tracks by The Everlys on rotation on the station.Have a look and listen! Thank you so very much Shawn. We have bookmarked the WebSite and I am sure many more readers will.

In their first US release since “T-Shirt” way back in 1988, The Crickets (J.I. Allison, Sonny Curtis & Joe B. Mauldin) gather their musical friends (“buddies”) to perform their most popular tracks from the ‘50s & ‘60s (Buddy & post-Buddy).

Long overdue & delayed by legalities, for years this release was expected to go unreleased and few recorded tracks had to be deleted unfortunately. Sovereign Artists picked it up in the USA, and even has issued it as a high definition CD (HDCD) and in 5.1 Surround Sound as a DVD-A (DVD-Audio for those new to the format). On with the tracks, individually:

1. Rodney Crowell (and backup vocalists) starts off with perhaps the most popular Buddy-era tune, “That’ll Be The Day”. Add a wailing saxophone and it swings along quite nicely, somewhat in one ear & out the other. Maybe I’ve just heard the song remade too many times. This version seems to be a little more uptempo than the original & includes all the little hooks that the original did too.

2. Without looking at the notes I wasn’t sure who I was hearing on this one. It’s none other than Phil Everly & his son Jason together on Rave On. Why not with Don? Fans have longed for years to hear the Everly Brothers sing “Wishing” which Buddy originally recorded as a demo to offer them. I’m old school when it comes to performance I guess, and find it irritating when singers purposely sing the lines off-time or different than original versions, so I found a few lines a bit strange. The shortest track on the CD at 1:53. Good enough, but featuring Phil & Don would have been pretty monumental.

3. The famous Bo-Diddley beat starts off “Not Fade Away” featuring Tonio K. and Peter Case. A fairly blistering version with harmonica & drive throughout with the hoarse bluesy vocals. Tonio K is none other than Steve Krikorian who appeared on the Crickets “Remnants” & “Long Way >From Lubbock” LPs from the ‘70s.

4. For me, the highlight of the CD is the next track featuring Eric Clapton. “Someone Someone” was one of the first Crickets post-Buddy recordings from 1959. Originally recorded in Clovis, NM at Petty Studios it featured Earl Sinks on vocals & The Roses on backups. Most UK readers will associate the tune with “Brian Poole & The Tremeloes” who made it a UK #2 hit in May of 1964. Not since then has the song received any real recognition, but Clapton’s take on this one gives the song a whole new life, and a more melancholy, smooth feel. This almost didn’t make it to the release, and I’m sure glad it did - it’s a great track that deserves a push as far as promoting the release is concerned.

5. “The Real Buddy Holly Story” featuring Sonny Curtis on vocals. This will please many Buddy & The Crickets fans that have heard this on documentaries and in concert, but have had a hard time finding Sonny’s solo release of the track. Lots of good instrumentation to help the story on this one, starting off with fiddle, banjo, then switching to a distorted guitar R&R sound, just the way Buddy’s sound evolved. A vocal crack at the :18 mark could have used an edit, otherwise a nicely done, overdue treatment of Sonny‘s “true“ Buddy Holly Story, spurred on after he viewed the mostly-fictional Busey movie (which infuriated all that knew Buddy).

6. “Everyday” is done by J.D. Souther with some good acoustic picking & cello added. Good musicianship here, I personally don’t care for JD’s vocals on this one. He sounds weak & out of breath, I don’t find it does the classic justice. Sorry, just my opinion - and what I consider to be the weak track of the CD.

7. “More Than I Can Say” featuring Sonny Curtis with Nanci Griffith and great guitar work by Albert Lee. Very smooth take, with different drum pattern in the verses, and nice piano solo. I’ve never quite figured out their association with Nanci Griffith and I find her nasal vocals usually excruciating, but this surprisingly floats along nicely.

8. “Heartbeat” featuring Nanci Griffith. It would have been neat to feature the original guitarist Tommy Allsup on this one, but it’s all fine regardless. Again, I’m no Griffith fan so I’m glad this one is short.

9. “Blue Days Black Nights” - an early Nashville/Decca Buddy tune that he recorded at Bradley’s Barn originally with Sonny Curtis on guitar. This one features Bobby Vee on lead vocals, his son Robby with some slick guitar leads, and Nanci Griffith again on harmony vocals. Bobby did a good Buddy tribute CD a few years back that is also worth checking out, he sounds quite different on this one. The whole song is given a country/swing feel and it works great. Ben Hall (who wrote it) would be proud.

10. “Learning The Game”, the most haunting track from Buddy’s Apartment recordings is given a moving treatment here too. Great piano work, cello by Ron de la Vega, and superb vocals by Albert Lee are the only instrumentation. Buddy would get shivers from this one, another standout track on the release.

11. “Well - Alright” is Waylon Jennings’ last recording (tells you how long this release was in the works). Features Albert Lee on guitar, and probably could have done without the backup vocals by Sonny Curtis & Nanci Griffith. Nothing spectacular, but nonetheless great to have Waylon on the project. Odd to think that his music career started with Buddy, and ended with Buddy…full circle.

12. Former member of The Hollies, Graham Nash sings both lead and harmony vocals on "Think It Over" with Bobby Keys on sax, Albert Lee on guitar and Glen D. Hardin all contributing to this great bluesy rock 'n' roll shuffle. A neat rendition and a different sound than the rest of the tracks.

13. I thought I had a faulty CD for a second, as this one starts off with a scratchy 78 sound, but then it kicks in with the scratchy vocals of John Prine. Sonny & Nanci on backups, and some slick guitar work. Prine is his usual monotone self, and there’s a bass flub at the 1:45 mark. Nanci finishes it off with “Oh Boy” and more 78 scratch, neat thought - kinda in one ear & out the other though.

14. A surprise is razor-throated, hard-rocker Vince Neil from Motley Crewe on “I Fought The Law”. It gave me a laugh vocal wise, the instrumentation & lead solos are great. Hey, something for everybody I guess.

15. Line by line is repeated on “Love’s Made A Fool Of You” featuring Johnny Rivers. J.I. Allison drummed on some of Johnny’s best ‘70s recordings, and now the favor is returned. Good guitar work by Rivers & Albert Lee, also features JI and (no relation) Keith Allison on backup vocals. Don’t let the first stop near the end fool you.

Overall, a relief to see this finally get released. Noticeably, but understandably “Peggy Sue” is not included (who likes singing about their ex-wife!?), so make sure you go & see The Crickets on one of their live performances (which seem to be less often these days) to watch J.I. Allison do his magical drumming. It is a genuine thrill to see the man behind the kit. I’ll put in the blurb here too that it is a joke and just plain-old inexcusable that The Crickets were not included when Buddy Holly was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of (Shame) Fame. That really blows the Hall’s credibility right there for me.

As for the CD, the different formats are a great option for the hard-core Cricket collectors, and Sovereign Artists have put a great effort into this release. The mix & the recording sound great. The Crickets have redone these songs many times, but this release is a significant milestone for them, and can maybe put the re-recording of the same tracks to rest for the future. Good performance on the most part by the guests, and great musicianship by The Crickets. Their releases never seem to be in print very long, so grab a copy of this one while you can. This is a long overdue return to the US market - and hopefully not their last!