Released just after his death, Ritchie Valens’ debut is pretty solid second generation rock and roll, occasionally with a Latin twist (depending as well upon which version of the album you listen to, as there are conflicting track listings out there).
The songs a fairly good balance between ballads and rockers. At times he reminds me a little too much of Buddy Holly, but that’s only on occasion. When he incorporates hints of Latin music he really distinguishes himself.
The performances mostly find a good balance between rawness and competence, like so much early rock and roll. (I.e. these are not the greatest musicians in the world but they are good enough.)
But, on the whole, the really incredible thing is how death has enshrined this guy into the popular imagination of a particular generation. Yes, Valens was very young when he died and therefore even younger when he performed this music. And yes, the music is pretty good for the era, especially given his age. But I’m not sure Valens really stands out compared to his contemporaries to the degree that legend has said he has. Moreover, his legend, and his tiny output (23 songs, I think) has created album after album after album, a movie, and any number of other things. A lot of this has to do with the plane crash, I think. Because, when I listen to this stuff, I hear talent, sure, but I don’t know that I hear the potential that everyone else seems to. After all, early rock and roll was falling out of favour and it wouldn’t be long before this kind of thing would be quite passe.
Anyway, it’s a good record. I’m not sure it’s an absolute classic of the genre.
All songs written by Ritchie Valens, except where indicated.
- “That’s My Little Suzie” (Valens, Robert Kuhn) – 1:52
- “In a Turkish Town” – 2:16
- “Come On, Let’s Go” – 2:00
- “Donna” – 2:28
- “Boney-Moronie” (Larry Williams) – 2:46
- “Ooh, My Head” – 1:48
- “La Bamba” (Traditional; adapted by Ritchie Valens) – 2:06
- “Bluebirds Over the Mountain” (Ersel Hickey) – 1:45
- “Hi-Tone” (Al Hazan) – 2:06
- “Framed” (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) – 2:13
- “We Belong Together” (Robert Carr, Johnny Mitchell, Hy Weiss) – 1:57
- “Dooby-Dooby-Wah” (Valens, Kuhn) – 1:53