Album Review: Various Artists – ‘Rave On Buddy Holly’

Rock’n’roll legend’s songs are tackled by some cheeky young pups – and the less reverent the better

Because he died while rock’n’roll was still in its dribble-chinned infancy, [a]Buddy Holly[/a] seems a semi-mythical figure today, an Old Testament prophet knowable only through secondhand sources and grainy YouTube clips. Were it not for that fateful plane crash in 1959, however, he would have been 75 this year; young enough, certainly, to still be recording, and a mere six years older than the oldest contributor to this celebration of his legacy.

The best of these 19 cover versions sound nothing like the Holly originals, which, half a century after they were written, says a lot about their longevity and versatility. [a]Paul McCartney[/a]’s brash, raucous rendition of ‘It’s So Easy’ is near operatic in its silliness, while [a]Julian Casablancas[/a]’ delay-heavy sci-fi riff on the title track would probably sound as unfathomable to its author as he himself sounded to the jazz bores of his day. Even curmudgeonly old [a]Lou Reed[/a] chips in with a perverse, industrialised cover of ‘Peggy Sue’.

In particular, commendations are due to the rye-soaked lament Modest Mouse make of ‘That’ll Be The Day’, [a]Florence And The Machine[/a]’s jazzy, percussive ‘Not Fade Away’ and [a]Cee Lo Green[/a]’s 95-second, camp-as-Christmas charge through ‘(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care’. As is often the case with tribute albums, though, not everything comes off – Patti Smith’s narcoleptic ‘Words Of Love’ springs to mind – and a few of the songs stick too closely to the originals, going to show that it’s best to do something daft and unexpected rather than just trace the lines of greatness. You can’t improve on perfection, but you can certainly play around with it.

Barry Nicolson

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