Saturday, June 25, 2011


How many tributes to Buddy Holly have been done?  I own three, I know there are others.  This one is for his 75th birthday this year.  Of course, he missed all of them after his death at 22, which is part of the allure. Do we really need more interpretations?  Well, he still seems to attract the attention of new generations of fans and artits.  Part of that attraction is that he didn't grow old and fat and obsolete.  He stays frozen in our pop culture with perfect songs and perfect glasses. 

It's almost a rite of rock 'n' roll passage that every five years, new hit makers join forces with past masters to pay tribute.  This time out, the cool kids include Florence + The Machine, Cee Lo Green, She & Him, Julian Casablancas,  and My Morning Jacket.  The Hall Of Fame team features Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Graham Nash and, inevitably, Paul McCartney.  I assume he insists on getting a track on each tribute, since he owns the catalogue.  Two bad, as usual McCartney tries too hard to sound hip, and tries to raunch up It's So Easy, making one of the few mockeries here.

Of the 19 cuts here, most artists simply play it straight, with better results than Sir Paul.  Justin Townes Earle sounds suitably rockabilly, and She & Him put a girl-group vocal on top of the classic Crickets twang, an interesting twist.  Leave it to the brilliant Nick Lowe to find a rare Holly composition, Changing All Those Changes, and point out what a great writer he was.  Just 22, and all those classics he either wrote or recording.

Some do get some modern touches, such as Words Of Love, turned into a more produced ballad by Patti Smith, complete with some Spanish dialogue, no doubt in tribute to Maria Elana, Holly's widow.  Modest Mouse tries to turn That'll Be The Day into some sort of grungy blues.  But really, it's more fun to hear relative youngsters such as My Morning Jacket's Jim James croon along to rich strings, just like Holly did on True Love Ways.

As with most tributes, it's a novelty record, one which won't get a whole lot of play top to bottom, but it's not bad for a few listens, and you can cherry-pick some cuts for the iPod dog walk.  Rave On.

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