Holly’s essence shines through

By Luke O’Neil
July 5, 2011

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Tribute compilations come with an inherent high degree of difficulty. There’s a tricky balance to land between paying homage and reinvention. Too often these things end up sounding like a lazily plotted Pandora station with a tenuous through-line. In the case of Buddy Holly, the proto-rocker without whom none of the acts on “Rave On’’ would exist, it’s further compounded. It’s a testament to the consistency and strength of his voice that Holly manages to assert himself throughout in a rock ’n’ roll seance that utilizes the musical medium talents of disciples like Paul McCartney (who Paul-McCartneys his way through “It’s So Easy’’), other veterans like Lou Reed (whose “Peggy Sue’’ is a typical bum out), and Patti Smith (who gets spooky on “Words of Love’’). Perhaps it’s a generational bias speaking, but indie rockers like Modest Mouse on “That’ll Be the Day’’ and My Morning Jacket on “True Love Ways’’ come closer to capturing the lovelorn essence of Holly’s originals. Not all of them, though. The Black Keys are uncharacteristically boring in the barely there “Dearest,’’ while Julian Casablancas tosses off a muddy “Rave On.’’ No surprise that Cee Lo Green and Florence and the Machine pick up the pace and sing the lights out, or that Kid Rock seems like he showed up for an Aerosmith tribute. Forget about considering the album as a whole and figure out which of the 19 translators here appeal to you. The originals will always be there waiting. (Out now)

ESSENTIAL “True Love Ways’’