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Monday, 8 August 2011

Rave On Buddy Holly

It's a firm belief of mine that every single person in the world should own at least one Buddy Holly album.
While he is rightly lauded as legendary it niggles with me that he doesn't spring to the mind of the general public as fast as say Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard do when rock and roll is discussed.
Here is a man who similarly to Elvis Presley brought rock and roll kicking and screaming into the populist mainstream.
He was the conduit that helped take rock and roll from A to B in my opinion.
Prior to Buddy it was one thing, and then after Buddy another.
Without even taking a mild stab at a revisionist view I can quite safely say that he also influenced some of the greatest bands that the world have ever seen.
The Rolling Stones were one, and The Beatles themselves were pretty unstinting in their reverent acknowledgement of the debt that they owed Buddy Holly.
So with the excuse of an anniversary upon us it now seems the prime moment to push Buddy back into the spotlight, and I can't think of a better way to do that than release an album of covers of his songs by some of the most critically acclaimed artists of the last fifty years.
The Black Keys open it all up with their take on Dearest. The soulful Motown-esque vocal is a joy to listen to, and the finger snaps and backing singers help make the song sound as if it is coming to us from a different era.
Fiona Apple doesn't really bring anything new to Everyday, apart from a female vocal lead, and an attempt to give it a very subtle folkish feel.
To subtle to matter much to be honest. The end result is nice, but nice sometimes just doesn't cut it.
Meanwhile Paul McCartney plays a ramshackle It's so easy that relies on the arrangement, layering and backing vocals to cover the fact that it really isn't that great.
Second surprise of the tracks includes is the Florence and the Machine reconstruction of Not fade away. There's some Tom Waits New Orleans styles meanderings backing up a hair on the neck raising vocal performance.
The benchmark set by Florence is then matched by Cee-Lo Green with his interpretation of (You're so square) Baby, I don't care.
Jack Whites ex wife to be (or maybe not as I'm not up to date on celeb relationships) is up next and provides another surprise with her rendition of Crying Waiting Hoping.
Top notch emotive vocals paired with a great production and a subtle layering of strings to accompany her provide a real winner. Lovely stuff indeed.
Julian Casablancas then doesn't so much take Rave On and make it his own, but give it a laconic overhaul that is more than able to stand alone in its own right as a pretty cool track.
I'll be honest here. I haven't a clue who Jenny O is, but I do want to find out more.
Her take on I'm gonna love you too, carries a refreshing country vibe that successfully avoids falling into the line dancing blue rinsed perm safe as houses rut that seems so palatable for people of a certain age.
JustinTownes Earle is the maaaaaaan. His version of Maybe Baby is going down as the canines dangly bits. If they wanted to release one single from this that would manage to convey what the project is about then it is this track. An outstanding contribution.
She & Him are the first of the artists involved who really let the side down by reaching the dizzying heights of sounding like a crap wedding band.
Changing all those changes from Nick Lowe sounds exactly what you would expect from Nick Lowe covering Buddy Holly.
It's a perfunctory performance that fails to hit the heights, but instead manages to scrape by inoffensively enough.
It's in sharp contrast to Patti Smith who gets proceeding back on track with a sublime and warmly enveloping Words of Love. You could slowly submerge yourself in this one and lose yourself in its comforting embrace.
My Morning Jacket's version of True Love Ways barely strays from the original, but strangely enough is wholly captivating in its apparent love for the material. Maybe they thought that it would be best not to fuck with perfection and just go hell for leather in trying to emulate it.
That'll Be The Day as envisioned by Modest Mouse is simply left field genius and has to be heard to be appreciated.
Kid Rock is a bit of a revelation on Well Alright.
With some big Memphis sounding horns backing him up he sounds like a real soul man. I mean a genuine soul man and it rolls neatly into the Detroit Cobras and there version of Heartbeat, that while it isn't going to have anyone saying they've reinvented the wheel should serve them well enough as an introduction to their sixties garage oeuvre.
Lou Reed does what Lou Reed does next.
Or in other words if you like him then you may view his version of Peggy Sue in a more charitable light due to familiarity. Others will consider it an abortion of a track. I'm actually a fan and I find it hard to find anything positive to say about it. Maybe he couldn't hear his vocals in the studio with his head stuck that far up his arse.
On the other hand John Doe nails Peggy Sue Got Married by giving it a Velvet Underground backing and giving his voice a bit of a John Cale feel to it without ever drawing too far away from his own signature.
Raining in my heart sung by Graham Nash is a very fine ending to a very fine album.
Easing the tempo down just slightly opens it up to more possibilities and the harmonica break fits like a glove.
I genuinely hope that this album opens the door for a great deal more Buddy Holly appreciation as it very rarely sets a foot wrong.

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