Mojo’s Cold Shot: Bo Diddley, “Drive By: Tales From the Funk Dimension”

Written by Mojo's Cold Shot, Music

One of the many things I love about Popdose is our collective freedom to write different kinds of posts: Sometimes you gets yourself a Cold Shot related to some bit of blues news, or sometimes we reach back into the archives to espouse the greatness of an evergreen-but-bona-fide classic.

And still other times, such as this week, we share discoveries that might not be new—but they’re new to us.

Not long ago, cruising Bomp‘s spam of the week, this tasty little CD came up for grabs: Bo Diddley’s Drive By: Tales From the Funk Dimension 1970-73, compiling tracks from four lost classic Chess albums issued in the early 1970s and available on—get this—Australian import.

Are you kidding me? After buying roughly 8,000 albums and being graced by probably as many promo copies, record titles alone rarely—if ever—sway an album purchase. But with a name like that, even in these cash-strapped days, it sounded just too good to pass up. Blues-funk of the early 1970s can be fantastic, as the old guard like Bo Diddley, Albert King, and Buddy Guy latched on to the urban sounds coming out of Chicago blues clubs and the second wave of the Memphis Stax soul sound led by Black Moses himself. So Mojo laid his money down.

Diddley was one of those geniuses, like James Brown or Booker T. Jones—or Prince, for that matter—who not only innovated his own rhythms and sound, but could also integrate his music into the current style. And he sounds go-oo-od in a funk mode, doing an oddly appropriate-for-2009 Hendrix style rock blues with the economics-themed “Bad Trip,” and a tasty little Diddley-style reinterpretation of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Down On the Corner.” He also sweetly covers CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising” in a country-gospel mode.

But he wasn’t just aping the popular artists of the day; Diddley updated his early self-named dance tracks with “Bo Diddley-Itis,” and does some flat-out gospel soul a la Wilson Pickett with “Infatuation.” And like James Brown did at the time, he does a little street-level social commentary with “Stop The Pusher,” and takes the Marvin Gaye mountaintop view in “Pollution.”

It’s all blues-based rock with fat, funky bass lines. Stuff that, if it doesn’t move your groove thang, have someone check for a pulse. All the 20 tracks—and I don’t say this lightly—are fantastic, with “Funky Fly” the greatest jam of the lot. Oh, all right, I’ll concede that the song “Shut Up, Woman” and its rantings probably aren’t very appropriate for these times, and even if they were Diddley definitely goes overboard with poor-at-best Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters impressions in the same song. But the rest of it’s totally worth the investment. Bottoms up.

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