Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Rave On Buddy Holly" (album review)

The first thing that struck me about Rave On Buddy Holly, the new tribute to Buddy Holly coming out on June 28th, was that it reminded me how many great songs he wrote.  Every couple of tracks I was saying to myself, 'shit, how did I forget about that one'.

Almost as impressive as the songs themselves is the roster of artists called upon to perform the covers.  Some of today's biggest indie rock stars are alongside up-and-comers and Rock And Roll Hall Of Famers for this collection.

The album proves that a well-crafted song will stand up in nearly any genre it's performed in.  If the tempo were just a tad slower, "Everyday" by Fiona Apple and Jon Brion would make a perfect lullaby.  Country-tinged tracks from Karen Elson and Nick Lowe are rock solid. Jenny O's version of "I'm Gonna Love You Too" is delightfully cutesy.  The indie darling duo of She & Him are a perfect match for any Buddy Holly song, in this case it was "Oh Boy!".

Of course not everything works.  Cee Lo Green's stab at "(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care" is fine, but he plays it a little bit too safe.  Conversely, Lou Reed's take on "Peggy Sue" gets respect for trying something different, but fails by being an awkward collision of worlds.  A handful of artists seem to phone it in, including My Morning Jacket and Justin Townes Earle, both of whom simply play their songs as dull versions of their own material.  The Strokes' Julian Casablancas is the lucky one who gets to take on "Rave On", but he does it in the completely unlistenable style of his atrocious solo album.

The surprising takes on some of these songs more than makes up for the disappointments.  Paul McCartney's bluesy rock take on "It's So Easy" is shocking, in a good way.  An upright bass plucks through the smoky jazz of Florence + the Machine's rendition of "Not Fade Away".  Patti Smith's vocals have never sounded richer than they do here on "Words Of Love".  I was concerned about Modest Mouse tackling "That'll Be The Day", but their deconstructed version is intriguing and begs for deeper exploration.  Most surprising though, is a horn-centric version of "Well All Right" by, of all people, Kid Rock.

This tribute album should hold a lot of appeal to a wide range of people.  Music historians and Buddy Holly fans will appreciate the revisiting of these classics.  Younger fans of the bands who participate should appreciate the performances, and the introduction to a crucial artist in the history of rock n' roll.

Best tracks: "Crying, Waiting, Hoping", "I'm Gonna Love You Too"

Track listing for Rave On Buddy Holly:
  • Dearest- The Black Keys
  • Everyday- Fiona Apple & Jon Brion
  • It's So Easy- Paul McCartney
  • Not Fade Away- Florence + the Machine
  • (You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care- Cee Lo Green
  • Crying, Waiting, Hoping- Karen Elson
  • Rave On- Julian Casblancas
  • I'm Gonna Love You Too- Jenny O
  • Maybe Baby- Justin Townes Earle
  • Oh Boy!- She & Him
  • Changing All These Changes- Nick Lowe
  • Words of Love- Patti Smith
  • True Love Ways- My Morning Jacket
  • That'll Be the Day- Modest Mouse
  • Well All Right- Kid Rock
  • Heartbeat- Detroit Cobras
  • Peggy Sue- Lou Reed
  • Peggy Sue Got Married- John Doe
  • Raining In My Heart- Graham Nash

Listen to the album here:
Buddy Holly - Rave On by concordmusicgroup

Rave On Buddy Holly website

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