Hopefully I don't have to include the background info on Mr. Holly for most of you, but just in case, real quick...
In one of the most surprising deaths in music, Buddy Holly died in 1959 during a plane crash at the age of 22. Now, Buddy was this awesome geeky-looking rock 'n' roll guy, who was considered one of the most creative of his time. He had chartered a plane for between tour locations, which crashed, taking the lives of him, Ritchie Valens, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, and the pilot, Roger Peterson. Ever heard the Don McLean song "American Pie," where he sings about the "day the music died"? This was it - Feb. 3, 1959.
Here's the full listen link on Spotify.
We start things off with "Dearest" as covered by The Black Keys. It's a gentle introduction into a classic rock album, with definite new voices at work. I have a feeling the sound of "stripped down" is going to be pretty constant throughout this, given that we're so used to hearing so many more layers to the bands working here. While TBK bring in this layer of choral vocals in the far background, almost giving a ghostly sound, there's a simple snapping and guitar to the rest.
"Everyday" features Fiona Apple and Jon Brion, and is a very familiar song to us all, even if that's just in the chorus. Again, we get a very simple sound, with a slight guitar strum keeping the rhythms up, and a bell singing along as they go through. It's an easy listen with a cool take as a female voice changes us how we're used to it. The optimism of this time never ceases to amazing me.
In a really interesting take, we get Paul McCartney's recording of "It's So Easy." There's much more of a harsh rock feel throughout thi one than I was expecting, but maybe I've heard too many happy-go-lucky covers of this. Paul lets go and brings some great guitar shredding to the track, which has these treatments to the vocals that do take you back a bit to the 50's and a sound we're unfamiliar with. The backers aren't just taking on the whole chorus - they bring new rhythms to support. The whole track is a great tribute number. Here's the one live performance he provided, appropriately in Texas.
"(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care" is taken on by Cee Lo Green. Betcha didn't expect that name, now didja? Ok, enough of that speak. The song's only a minute and a half long. But holy cow, it's a good one. Seriously, take the time to hear it - you'll never believe it's Cee Lo, but he sounds amazing! There's a nice island steel drum added in, and his voice is just light enough to remain enjoyable because he keeps us happy in the love. Mad respect for this guy and his job on this tribute track.
You may remember Karen Elson from a previous post of mine on her album. Today, we see her cover "Crying, Waiting, Hoping." There's almost a folk/country feel to it throughout, giving it a pretty interesting sound. Actually, this, and the last track, sound right out of the 50's/60's to me. I am really wondering what recording techniques were used, or if this was intentional or an artist personal choice. Who knows.
"Rave On" gives Julian Casablancas the same echo-y, old-school sound as well. I think he brings a lot of that to the table himself though, with some definite throwback vocal choices, such as the "eh-eh-eh"s at the end of some words. The subject matter is love too, which is cute, considering it's not what 'rave on' would be thought of now.
Jenny O takes her higher-pitched voice to "I'm Gonna Love You Too." 50's girl singer? Oh hell yeah. It's evident that some people wanted to pretend they were back in the time at hand for this recording, and all the more power to them. Who doesn't dream of having been a 60's pop star or an 80's hair band god? It's all in good fun, and if they want to make something out of it, good for these artists!
"Maybe Baby." You know it - admit it! It's one of those oldies-but-goodies, and works even today. The guitar carries it in the way Buddy Holly only could make it sing. It's just an overall good song, musically and lyrically, and I love and want to bop around the room during the whole thing. In fact, I will do so. Enjoy the video!
"Changing All Those Changes" is done by Nick Lowe. Again, the guitar is what covers this one. The difference here is that the voice doesn't does equally as much. Guitar though - man, that thing is an instrument of beauty on Buddy's songs. It makes this song so much more than it would have ever otherwise been.
Patti Smith takes on the much-different sounding "Words of Love." Up until now, we've gotten a very upbeat album filled with ful, old-school rock-and-roll. Straight up. Patti takes us to an almost late-60's sound here though, complete with guitar effects that almost sing of citar. It's a downright romantic song, not only in lyrics, but in complete sound.
Maybe this is just the slower part of the record. "True Love Ways" slows us with My Mourning Jacket. It's almost like hearing an old tune from a Nashville artist, which was, indeed, part of the beauty of this time - more cross-over and appreciation. There's this string backing to the song that makes for a slow dance song more than a relaxing one. Really, it's the beginning of those cheek-to-cheek dances we girls only dream about.
"That's Be The Day" was probably my most anticipated song for this whole album, and I immediately was not a fan of the way Modest Mouse took it on. It's too trance-inducing and slow to properly enjoy the classic rock the song typically provides. It's too modernized maybe? I don't know. I think there are some really great covers throughout the album, and history in general, but this is not one of them. We need this song, in particular, to have a certain mood to it, and this is lacking everything in that realm.
Kid Rock... yes, I just typed that... picks up the pace for "Well All Right." By now, I'm convinced there was a very particular reverb method chosen by the producer and/or mixer for the album, trying to make it sound like it was made at least 50-60 years ago, but keeping it clear enough to enjoy via computer speaker. This song, itself though, it really very good! It's cool to see Kid give props to his name's roots, and his voice isn't horrible throughout it. He does bring his more gritty sound to the table, but somehow it works out very well.
"Heartbeat" is done by The Detroit Cobras, and is the first non-effected vocal track I think I've heard in a while. It's really great and downright fun. Actually, I'm a big fan of this lyrically as I listen - "heartbeat, why do you miss when my baby kisses me?" It's cute and honest. Musically, we get another great guitar line, along with a beat that's literally got my foot tapping (it's really hard to type with a computer on my lap and tapping, by the way).
Lou Reed comes in with a completely unexpected sound (he must have worked with Sir Paul on this one) for "Peggy Sue." It's certainly a harder take on an older classic. Would psychedelic be out-of-place in this writeup? Oh well - I'm bending the rules and going for it - this has that sound. Seriously, I know Holly was ahead of his time with some guitar treatments, but this is just kind of funny. Also, there's a severe disconnect between the vocal track and the music, which really does scream of old recording techniques.
"Peggy Sue Got Married" is taken on by John Doe, and provides a much more blues-based feel throughout. It's just a little sadder, with lower chords and rifts carrying it. Instrumentally, we've got a lot more going on here, including, what sounds like, a bigger drum set, and a little bit of piano. There's also an interesting muffled sound to the overall song, not just the vocals. Truly an interesting track.
Graham Nash plays us out for "Raining In My Heart," possibly the saddest song on the album (and yes, I know I thought that earlier, but this takes the cake). With just a gentle piano backing an even gentler voice, and the tone remains that way throughout. Definitely one to end out the evening to.
Added to My Playlist:
- "(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care"
- "Maybe Baby"
- "Well All Right"
- "Raining In My Heart"
The mood changes toward the end, but this album is worthy of a good listen from time to time. Overall, it's a great compilation of artists and songs, and the work is solid. As a tribute album, I'd say it's definitely something to be proud of.