Rave On Buddy Holly is a behemoth and overwhelming success of a tribute album. If this was the accompanying soundtrack to a major biopic, it would be a best seller already.
Almost every song is a raging success—holy shit Cee-Lo, did you just invent another crazy [good] style of singing?? And the cuts that don’t completely hit the mark are still damn good—Patti Smith’s “Words of Love” is a solid song but lacks the energy most every other track possesses, but, maybe that was the point, and I like it anyway.
With hit after hit, Rave On reminds the listener just how prolific Holly was given the fact he penned all of these tunes before his tragic death at age 22. The album displays Holly’s knack for crafting short and catchy pop songs that stand up over half a century later. It also shows The Black Keys (“Dearest”) do possess the ability to reign themselves in and not sound bored or restrained.
I am only half kidding when I say Holly’s greatest posthumous achievement may be the fact that his song writing enables 2011 Paul McCartney and Kid Rock (not together) to be totally enjoyable. McCartney’s version of “It’s So Easy” is one of the sharpest songs on the album. Kid Rock’s “Well All Right” is the kind of music he should make all ofthe time. Its fun, it shows off his pipes, and it has serious soul (and thankfully no Lynyrd Skynyrd samples.)
Justin Townes Earle’s cover of “Maybe Baby” leaves you wondering if his participation on this project influenced the upbeat and successful contemporary rockabilly (is that even possible?) sound on his recent album, Harlem River Blues. Julian Casablancas clearly saw La Bamba at age 9 and has been practicing his “Rave On” swoon since. The swagger Casablancas brings to the track is exactly what was missing from M. Ward’s flat 2009 cover of the same tune.
Some tracks are updated in the style of the artist (Modest Mouse’s “That’ll Be The Day”) and some sound like they could have been an unearthed cover by one of Holly’s peers (My Morning Jacket’s “True Love Ways”). All are successful. Almost all the press surrounding this album is positive and is likely to contain something to the effect of: “Rave On Buddy Holly is more thanjust a tribute album.” What they should really be saying is that Buddy Holly is more than just a pop star.
Oh, and in case I didn’t emphasize it enough, that Cee-Lo cover of “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” is blerdtastic! (ed. note: I did not force him to put this line in here.)