by: Ritchie Valens

Ritchie Valens was only 17 when he died in 1959. His musical legacy rests on about an album and a half of completed studio material, a poorly recorded high-school concert, and a handful of demos and rehearsal tapes, all of which meant Bill Keane was facing a problem when it came time to release a second album of Valens material on Keane's Del-Fi label. The resulting LP, Ritchie, actually turned out better than perhaps it had a right to, and while it didn't yield any huge hits, and was essentially cobbled together, it has an internal coherence that is pretty remarkable given the circumstances. Tracks like "Cry, Cry, Cry" and the fiery "Fast Freight" sound polished and finished, while the obvious solo studio demos like "My Darling Is Gone" and "Now You're Gone" have a kind of poignant intimacy. A couple of cuts here are studio jams, and it is highly doubtful that "Big Baby Blues" or "Ritchie's Blues" would have appeared on the LP had Valens lived, while "Rockin' All Night," a studio run-through with Valens on guitar, is clearly a rehearsal for the harmony singers, who can be heard working out parts in the background. Still, given the paucity of Valens material (he had only been working in a recording studio for about seven months when he died, and that time was pieced in around tour dates and appearances), this second LP is a bit of a minor miracle. ~ Steve Leggett

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