The variety in Holly’s first two albums reveal why he’s an icon of American popular music. There’s no self-pity or pathos in his voice, just an unmistakable clear tone and that wild hiccup. Almost every cut has some striking characteristic, like the wordless, swaying harmonies in “Words of Love.” He walks between raw rock ’n’ roll and a polished pop sound, and even in his most sentimental songs he’s believable. Kevin Gray mastered this mono SACD (preceded by last year’s LP versions) from the original master tapes and, due to the limitations of the sources, did as good as could be expected. Erick Labson’s 2004 remasters for Geffen are too compressed and bright, and the bass is artificially prominent. Steve Hoffman stayed faithful to the first-generation masters he used for his 1985 compilation on MCA, From the Original Master Tapes. Though it’s not a track-for-track match, I mention it because it’s held in high regard by collectors, and the SACD bests it with a more spacious soundstage. I have an early pressing of Coral’s 1959 The Buddy Holly Story, and the SACD is equally well balanced while offering even better vocal presence.