The Bottom Line
- These 48 tracks represent no less than the birth of rock and roll... from one angle, anyway.
- Six of these tracks have never been released, and the rest have never been together in one set.
- Bo's unique style is well-served by the benefits of modern remastering.
- Sequenced chronologically, so you can hear Bo become Bo.
- A few of his classic early-Sixties tracks are missing... but that's for another comp.
- Release date: October 23, 2007
- Hip-O Select 000923102
- Studio (1955-1958)
- Alternate versions
- Limited edition
Guide Review - Bo Diddley: I'm a Man: The Chess Masters, 1955-1958
This new 2-CD set, therefore, limited to 5000 non-numbered copies, is a good place for anyone to hear the genre's birth pangs, despite the limited edition gimmick. The release of this set makes at least four Bo comps obsolete, and while you don't get his less-celebrated and sadly underrated early-Sixties gems like "Road Runner," "500% More Man," and especially "You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover," the presence of eight unreleased takes and a dozen alternate versions -- including formative takes of his signature song, "Bo Diddley," and his biggest Top 40 hit, "Say Man," are more than enough to make up for it. (This is not even to mention the album tracks most fans of Fifties rock should know but don't, like the eerie ballad "The Clock Strikes Twelve," featuring Diddley on violin, or "Bo Meets The Monster," a novelty that's at least as authentic and chuckle-worthy as "Monster Mash.")
As befits a collectors' package like this one, the documentation on these 48 tracks is extensive, and there's even a free guitar-shaped magnet lurking in the packaging. But anyone who's casually heard and loved his theme song is gonna love the blues-fried groove on display here: Bo was not only one of the era's most innovative musicians, he was also one of its most consistent. Which means maybe the Originator isn't just boasting out of primitive rockstar hubris. He earned this one.