Bo Diddley - Breakin’ Through The B.S.

TJR says:

Not in my collection.

The Pro review:

If nothing on "Breaking Through the B.S." is quite as convincing as his live performance or such seminal albums as "In the Spotlight" or "Have Guitar, Will Travel," and if much of the new album has a slightly homemade feel (it was recorded in Diddley’s Florida home studio), there is still plenty of the adventurism that has always permeated his music. Herein, Bo tackles rap, Prince-fueled funk, soul ballads and his patented rockers with equal abandon, a fact partially attributable to his collaboration on several cuts with his young protégé Scott Free, who also co-produced the new album with Diddley. "I am a dude who likes to experiment, to find something new in my music," Diddley said. "There is only one Muddy Waters, one Bo Diddley, one Chuck Berry, one Elvis Presley. Let them have their own styles. Ain’t nobody else going to have their styles anyway. So I do what I do." "Breaking Through" shows that Bo has more than loving, gun-slinging or road-running on his mind these days, as angry titles like "Down With the Pusher," and "Wake Up, America" attest. Diddley, exposed to the problems of drugs and crime as sheriff of Los Lunas, New Mexico in the late Seventies, said he nearly lost his daughters to drug abuse, a fact that still has him enraged. Rarely has he dealt as directly with topical subjects such as racism, drugs and poverty in song as he does here. "It’s the only way I can get this message across," said Diddley. "America needs to wake up." The record is Diddley’s first since the 1983 Europe-only release "Ain’t it Good to be Free." He said he is satisfied with the new album, both musical and lyrically, saying he intentionally worked the songs to appeal to a mass audience. "It’ll meet everybody," Diddley promised. "Any one of these songs could be a big record." Well, maybe. Though containing some remarkable moments, "Breaking Through the B.S." remains an uneven affair. Beginning with the psychedelic collage of "Turbo Diddle," side one is a musical imbroglio. Ranging from an amusing Prince send up, "Bo Pop Shuffle," ("I can shake your whole body body, baby, just like an aftershock") to a stinging rapper ("Down with the Pusher"), to a positively antiquated Diddley-as-Berry-White track called "Slipped-n-Fell-n-Love," its eclecticism is nearly too confusing, obscuring the album’s best moments. As the side draws to a close, the disco blunder of "You Tricked Me" nearly blows the whole project. Side Two saves it. Only "Wake Up, America" disappoints; the instrumentation is flaccid and Bo’s croon is languid and tired, despite the inspirational message of the lyrics. With that out of the way, though, Bo lays back and plays what he knows best. "Jeanette, Jeanette," though little more than a remake of Little Richard’s "Jenny, Jenny," is redeemed by its unabashed rocking. "I Broke the Chains" is a groovy blues, a la Slim Harpo, while "R.U. Serious" (did someone say Prince?), is the most solid recording here, a walking blues going 70 mph. Exciting stuff. The record culminates in the swaggering guitar dogfight "Jus’ Like Bo Diddley," which shows the Bo-dacious Diddley in prime form, cool-eyed and leering, bragging and confident. A classic Diddley yarn. Not perfect, but a fine return. If Bo’s willingness to risk occasionally throws him on his face, at least there’s no need to accept "Breaking Through the B.S." apologetically, as we did the Traveling Wilburys. Music like Bo’s doesn’t get old or outdated. As Mick Jagger once mused, it just gets gooder.

Kevin Featherly

Extra notes:

¹ Bo Diddley, who died June 2 at age 79, was the subject of one of my favorite interviews, conducted in Solana Beach, Calif., during the summer of 1989 when I was a struggling young journalist (as opposed to the struggling middle-aged journalist that I proudly regard myself as today). At the time Bo was 60, and was coming off a major star turn in Nike’s "Bo Knows…" commercial - still considered the greatest sports ad ever aired. He tried to capitalize on his raised profile by releasing an LP of new songs, titled "Breaking Through the B.S." The story I was told at the time is that staffers at indie label Triple X Records (home of Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper and an early incarnation of Jane’s Addiction) spotted Bo on a steet corner in Hollywood, waiting for a bus. They asked him if he had a recording contract - he didn’t - so the worshipful upstarts dragged him upstairs to their offices and signed him up. Triple X was optimistic and accommodating, and its principals treated Bo like the king he was, but in the end the deal didn’t work out. The resulting album, which sported possibly the most amateurish cover art ever consented to by a major recording artist, produced no hits and never came close to charting. Unlike Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan, Bo never enjoyed his desired sunset comeback. ~, 2008.

The complete “A-list” discography of Bo Diddley:

Bo Diddley 【1958】 (1958) Go Bo Diddley (1959) Have Guitar Will Travel (1960) Bo Diddley in the Spotlight (1960) Bo Diddley is a Gunslinger (1960) Bo Diddley is a Lover (1961) Bo Diddley’s A Twister (1962) Bo Diddley 【1962】 (1962) Bo Diddley and Company (1963) Surfin’ with Bo Diddley (1963) Two Great Guitars (1964) Hey Good Lookin’ (1965) 500% More Man (1965) The Black Gladiator (1970) Another Dimension (1971) Where It All Began (1972) The London Bo Diddley Sessions (1973) Big Bad Bo (1974) Ain’t It Good to be Free (1983) Breakin’ Through The BS (1989) This Should Not Be (1993) Promises (1994) A Man Amongst Men (1996) Moochas Gracias (2002)