Bo Diddley's
2-CD Compilation Set

As previously reported, "I'm A Man/The Chess Masters 1955-1958", the major new BO DIDDLEY 2-CD compilation set released by Hip-O Select, is currently garnering rave reviews. Here is a further selection of recent reviews of "I'm A Man/The Chess Masters 1955-1958":

  • Dusty Groove America website:
          I'm A Man -
          The Chess Masters 1955 to 1958
          Bo Diddley
    CD (Item 467398) Chess/Hip-O Select, Mid 50s -- Condition: New Copy
           The birth of a genius -- and an amazing batch of early material from the legendary Bo Diddley! Even at his start, Bo was unlike anyone else -- a completely unique, completely self-contained bluesman who not only brought a wealth of new songs and styles to Chess Records, but who also did so with a good deal of humor as well! This beautifully-done 2CD package perfectly traces Diddley's early roots at Chess -- by going in session-by-session order, starting with key early singles, and moving into some of his weirder, wilder grooves. Given the shortness of the tunes, there's a huge amount of material in the package -- a whopping 48 tracks in all, offered up in master takes, alternates, and other odd versions -- complete with information on all sessions and players. Titles include "Heart O Matic Love", "She's Fine She's Mine", "Pretty Thing", "Diddley Daddy", "Bo Diddley", "I'm A Man", "Who Do You Love", "Love Is Strange", "Down Home Special", "Bo Meets The Monster", "Say Man", "Say Boss Man", 'Mona", "Our Love Will Never Go", and "Crackin Up". (Limited Edition.)

  • Robert Fontenot, Oldies website:
          Bo Diddley: I'm a Man:
          The Chess Masters, 1955-1958

           Bo Diddley purists will be glad to be able to trade in several of their old compilations at once, historians will rejoice at hearing the birth of "The Originator," and newbies can cheaply and easily get into the back catalog of one of rock's most unique characters. Also essential for Chicago blues fiends.
           Pros - 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.
           Cons - A few of his classic early-Sixties tracks are missing... but that's for another comp.

  • Guide Review - Bo Diddley:
          I'm a Man: The Chess Masters, 1955-1958

           No one doubts that Bo Diddley helped lay the foundation of rock and roll by taking Chicago blues and doing... well, no one knows exactly what to it. Indeed, it's his very iconoclast nature that has ironically ensured he rarely gets mentioned in the first pantheon of rock architects. Sure, Chuck and Jerry Lee and Little Richard and Elvis blazed their own trail, but with a square guitar? Covered in fur? Playing a hambone beat? With maracas and a female guitarist? You get the picture.
           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.

  • Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Allmusic website:
          Bo Diddley:
          I'm a Man - The Chess Masters, 1955-1958

           When a musician has a beat named after them, there's no doubt that they have their own signature - a calling card that is recognized as their own even when others play it. It's rare that a musician gets credited with something so unique but such an honor can also be a mild curse, as it implies that's all there is to their music. Bo Diddley, the man who patented a propulsive variation of the shave-and-a-haircut beat so instantly identifiable as one of the main strands of rock & roll's DNA, suffers a bit from that curse. Not that anybody denies that Bo is one of the architects of rock & roll, but the omnipresence of the Bo Diddley beat can lead some listeners to dismiss him as a one-trick pony. Also, the sheer primal urgency of his rhythms and his no-nonsense persona could be overshadowed by the flamboyance of Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis, or the quickfire verbal skills of Chuck Berry. Diddley has had moments of resurgent popularity, his songs have been covered by generations of rockers, bands play his music without realizing their debt, but he's never quite had his work undergo a critical reappraisal, one that would let more than the diehards know how rich and varied his work is. With any luck, Hip-O Select's new double-disc set I'm a Man: The Chess Masters, 1955-1958 will help usher in that long overdue reappraisal.
           I'm a Man chronicles the first four years of Bo's career, when he was cutting singles instead of albums, just like almost all other rockers in the late '50s. Such emphasis on singles gave sessions a purpose: there was no room for filler, nothing recorded with the intent of padding out an album, so they were often concentrated and intense, as Bo's were. This covers sessions recorded between March 2, 1955 and December 1958, proceeding in chronological order so the alternate takes pile up quickly and there are a lot them - roughly 12, some of them unreleased, some of them previously appearing on various compilations over the years, including the excellent Rare & Well Done. Sometimes, alternate takes differ only minimally from the master, but that's not the case with Diddley's early Checker/Chess recordings. Here, there are some startling differences, notable almost immediately with the two previously unreleased alternates of his calling card "Bo Diddley." Both are almost brutal in their rhythms, which is where the real difference on these takes lie: over the course of three takes, it's possible to hear the Bo Diddley develop, as the rhythm becomes lighter and danceable, more rock & roll and less blues. The rest of that first session is hard blues, highlighted by "I'm a Man," which turned into nearly as big an anthem as "Bo Diddley."
           Bo never backed away from the blues after that session - his rock & roll always had an earthy, gritty grounding in the blues - but in the wake of the success of "Bo Diddley," he started opening up his music almost immediately, with his second session producing the A-side "Diddley Daddy," a much lighter rock & roll tune where the presence of Little Walter on harp is mediated by the Moonglows' cheerful harmonies, a bit of a surprise considering the down-n-dirty precedent of "Bo Diddley," "I'm a Man," "Little Girl," and "You Don't Love Me (You Don't Care)." As the next few years rolled on, Bo was often full of surprises like that, turning out some of the hardest, toughest early rock & roll singles, but he also could be light on his feet, boisterously, bawdily funny and sometimes just flat-out strange, as on the murky, ominous "The Great Grandfather" and the sawing violin of "The Clock Strikes Twelve." Much of this is evident on the best Bo hits comps, but it comes into sharper relief on I'm a Man because of the context. Hearing Diddley's music develop - and rather rapidly, for that matter - illustrates his depth and range and provides no small share of revelations, either. Chief among these, of course, is the first release of Diddley's original version of "Love Is Strange," a hit for Mickey & Sylvia that bears the writing credit of Ethel Smith, who was Diddley's second wife. Bo's version isn't a duet and it's heavier on the rhythm than Mickey & Sylvia's, plus it lacks Mickey Baker's guitar riff that ushers out the chorus - all essential differences that illustrate how Diddley's music had an essential, earthy core. He may have been grounded in this blues and rhythm - and more than any of his peers, he placed equal emphasis on both - but he expanded it to encompass dusty, atmospheric, almost cinematic instrumentals like "Spanish Guitar," rock & roll love songs like "Dearest Darling," or the sweeter-still, previously unreleased "Our Love Will Never Go" whose dreaminess was echoed in "Crackin' Up," only there he flips the sentiment around and blames the girl for a relationship going south, proving that you can't take the swagger away from Bo - after all, during these four years he had no less than six songs with his name in the title! Of course, much of this was delivered with his tongue firmly in cheek, and this was hardly the only instance of his wicked sense of humor: whenever he and Jerome Green, his main man on maracas, trash talked, the results were riotous, whether it was on the very funny "Cops and Robbers" or the immortal "Say Man," also heard here in a very different alternate take with a few different jibes.
           Here, Bo's humor and easy experimenting stand out because of the session-by-session context, but they also serve a dual purpose of emphasizing just how hard his core classics rock. In this setting, "Bring It to Jerome," "I'm Bad," "Who Do You Love," "Hey! Bo Diddley," "Mona," "Before You Accuse Me," and "Diddy Wah Diddy" pack an enormous wallop, sounding bigger and badder than they do on most regular Diddley comps. That restored vitality is nearly as instructive as clear evident progression of Bo's music over these four years, which is why it's a necessary historical document, but to belabor that point is to make I'm a Man seem academic, which it decidedly is not. It's Bo Diddley music, after all, so it's a party that never ends. Let's just hope the party continues on further volumes that extend into the '60s.

  • David Blakey, Webmaster
           "I'm A Man/The Chess Masters 1955-1958" is now available on-line from outlets such as and CD Universe or to download for free (residents of the US and Canada only), via its agreement with Universal Music, from the SpiralFrog website. SpiralFrog is entirely supported by advertising, allowing free legal download of its music.
           The CD Edition of "I'm A Man/The Chess Masters 1955-1958" is limited to 5,000 non-numbered limited edition copies and comes complete with a free guitar magnet while stocks last.
           The 49 tracks comprise every master recorded for Checker Records by BO DIDDLEY during the years 1955 to 1958, plus 12 alternate takes. There are 8 previously unreleased tracks, highlighted by a pair of alternate takes of "Bo Diddley", a ballad titled "Our Love Will Never Go" and a take on the Mickey & Sylvia hit "Love Is Strange".
           The music comes with complete discographical information compiled from the Chess files, tape boxes and with the input of BO DIDDLEY's biographer and discographer, George R. White. The set also includes comprehensive liner notes by noted journalist/critic/disc jockey Chris Morris and was produced by three-time Grammy Award-winning reissue producer Andy McKaie.
           These are among the most important rock & roll recordings ever and this is the first time that they have been released in this fashion.
           Hip-O Select website:
           SpiralFrog "I'm A Man/The Chess Masters 1955-1958" download webpage (US and Canada residents only):

          David Blakey, Webmaster,
          Lynn Cameron, Technical Support,
          BO DIDDLEY-The Originator

          A Celebration of his unique contribution to Popular Music.

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