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Various Artists Rave On Buddy Holly Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

A wonderful testament to Holly’s songwriting prowess, longevity and legacy.

Mischa Pearlman 2011

Anyone who’s ever stumbled across the likes of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Plays the Music Of R.E.M., or any of the Pickin’ On… series of bluegrass covers records, knows that tribute albums are often – if not usually – little more than badly told jokes with no punchline. By the same token, however, they can – much more rarely – actually offer something of value, insight and inspiration, such as Kathy McCarthy’s tribute to Daniel Johnston, Dead Dog’s Eyeball, or the Sweet Relief II compilation, which saw the likes of R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins and even Madonna cover the late Vic Chesnutt’s songs to raise money for artists struggling to afford health care.

On paper, Rave On, looks like a bizarre motley crew of musical polar opposites – Kid Rock immediately follows Modest Mouse, while elsewhere Paul McCartney, Florence + The Machine and Cee-Lo Green come across as uneasy bedfellows. Naturally, as with any sort of multi-artist compilation, there are highlights and low points. Unexpectedly, Kid Rock isn’t actually one of the latter, trading his kitsch, macho rock for a surprisingly soulful version of Well All Right. It’s not as inventive as Modest Mouse’s hushed reimagining of the iconic That’ll Be the Day, but it’s far from the travesty one might imagine. Elsewhere, the former Beatle tries a little too hard on It’s So Easy, while Fiona Apple and Jon Brion’s take on Everyday is, disappointingly, almost a carbon copy of the original.

However, these slight lapses are made up for by heavyweights Patti Smith and Lou Reed, who reinterpret Words of Love and Peggy Sue respectively with iconoclastic gusto. Cee-Lo also triumphs with his buoyant rendition of (You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care, as does Julian Casablancas, who sounds like a robotic, electrified Elvis as he sings his way through Rave On. Whatever the treatment of his songs, Holly’s knack of pairing of simplistic, catchy melodies with understated – almost flippant – melancholy always shines through. As such, over 50 years since his death, this is a wonderful testament to his songwriting prowess, longevity and legacy.

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