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Musicians young and old
pay tribute to Buddy Holly

Various Artists - Rave On Buddy Holly
(Hear Music)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: July 1, 2011
Buddy Holly

Review by Tony Bonyata

I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of most tribute albums - where a number of various musicians pay homage to a specific artist or event, but I take exception with this new one aptly entitled Rave On Buddy Holly. In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the pioneering rock & roller's birthday, a vast showing of artists, old and new, have come together to revisit, and often reinvent, many of Holly's beloved hits from the late '50s before his untimely death in '59 after his plane went down in an Iowa farm-field.

The album opens up with The Black Keys' wonderful take on Holly's sincere number "Dearest," that, with its sparse air of southern soul, wouldn't have sounded out of place on The Keys' frontman Dan Auerbach's fantastic 2009 solo album Keep It Hid. A number of other younger indie artists also offer up their own fresh takes on many of these rock & roll standards. The Strokes' singer, Julian Casablancas, turns in a reverb-heavy cover of "Rave On," where he even delivers his own take on Holly's trademark hiccupping vocal delivery. My Morning Jacket also offers up a heartfelt version of "True Love Ways," while Modest Mouse tackles Holly's most famous hit "That'll Be Day" and transforms it from a bouncy, upbeat rocker to a quirky and decidedly more introspective number. Other new acts also pay their respect with covers of "Heartbeat" (The Detroit Cobras), "Not Fade Away" (Florence And The Machine), "(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care" (with Cee Lo Green turning in a great country-laced vocal delivery over Carribean-flavored steel drums) and a delightfully faithful version of "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" (Karen Elson, with recently divorced husband Jack White on drums).

The album shines not only through the talents of these younger acts, but also from the works of older rock statesmen as well. Nick Lowe kicks up a bit of dust on his country-tinged rocker "Changing All Those Changes," while two old NYC punks - Patti Smith and Lou Reed offer up their own updates on the gentle "Words of Love" and noisy rocker "Peggy Sue," respectively.

No artist on this collection, however, better sums up the impassioned spirit of rock & roll in its infancy than Paul McCartney, as The Beatles were so heavily influenced by Holly's work when they were just getting started. Not only did they perform many Holly numbers in the early '60s - both on record and for their many BBC radio sessions - but, in fact, the first song that Paul, John Lennon and George Harrison (under the band name The Quarrymen) would put to wax together was a cover of Holly's "That'll Be The Day" (which, according to Record Collector magazine in the UK, is listed as the single rarest record in the world - worth a staggering $240,000!). Instead of performing a faithful version of Holly's hit "It's So Easy," Sir Paul instead pulls out all the stops for an incendiary, barn-burning take, easily making this the hardest-rocking track on the album.

'70s singer/songwriter Don McLean famously recalled "the day the music died" after Holly's death, on his famous 1972 hit "American Pie," but after listening to these reinvigorated versions of the bespectacled singer's back catalog, there's little doubt that Buddy Holly's music will continue to live on for a long, long time.

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