Record Review - 2 September 18 2002

Like his Chess label mate, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley has coasted on his reputation for the better part of four decades. While both have been swindled by nefarious record execs, it’s sad to see Diddley find more fame hawking sneakers than from his role as one the architects of rock ‘n’ roll.

Fortunately, Diddley’s tunes have a life of their own. Their frisky, thumping percussion, party atmosphere and egotistical boasting are resilient enough to be manipulated in a variety of ways. Though his famed trademark beat fueled only a handful of his songs, his influence slices across generations and races.

That diverse impact is reflected in the all-blues lineup of Hey Bo Diddley — A Tribute! Relatively young guitar-slingers Michael Burks (who kicks up dust on “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover”) and Eric Sardinas (doing his best George Thorogood on “Ride on Josephine”) join established pros Charlie Musselwhite (“Hey Bo Diddley”), Taj Mahal (“Bo Diddley”), Otis Rush (“I’m a Man”) and 11 others in trawling through the legend’s classic catalog, which is made up less of golden oldies than rugged archetypes.

The music’s sting is subverted somewhat by the backing band of accomplished studio pros. So nothing here surpasses the raw intensity of the original. Yet, motivated by the songs, the bluesmen acquit themselves admirably. Diddley’s legacy is well served.

Bo Diddley plays the Roxy Sat., Sept. 21.??