Listen To Me: Buddy Holly is the second star-studded tribute to the late, great singer-songwriter to be released this year. Comparisons to Rave On Buddy Holly, released in June, are inevitable. Both albums feature an ex-Beatle (Paul McCartney on Rave On, Ringo Starr on Listen To Me), as well as Zooey Deschanel (with She & Him on the earlier one, solo here). A mixture of veterans and modern artists contributed to the two projects. It’s a reflection of the wide-ranging influence Holly continues to have, fifty-two years after his death. Rave On has the arguably hipper line-up, with generally more adventurous interpretations of the material. Listen To Me, executive produced by Peter Asher, is still worth a listen but budget-conscious listeners might want to cherry-pick.
Imelda May, accompanied by her rockabilly guitarist husband Darrel Higham, turns in the best of the sixteen tracks. Her retro-rockin’ version of “I’m Looking For Someone To Love” captures the spirit of the original while still sounding fresh; Dave Priseman pitches in a hot trumpet solo. Other highlights include the title track, ably handled by Brian Wilson. Ringo Starr offers a ramshackle take on “Think It Over,” while Chris Isaak gives a sensitive reading of “Crying, Waiting, Hoping.” Lyle Lovett contributes a fine, rocked-up version of the often-overlooked Holly classic “Well…All Right.”
Of the newer artists, Cobra Starship fares best with an energetic “Peggy Sue,” featuring lead vocalist Gabe Saporta joined by bandmate Victoria Asher (daughter of Peter), singing as Peggy herself. Both Patrick Stump and Zooey Deschanel are sturdy on “Everyday” and “It’s So Easy,” respectively. Though they seem to give it their all, The Fray kind of squeeze the life out of “Take Your Time.” Pat Monahan, lead singer of Train, does a respectable job of “Maybe Baby.”
Kind of a cheat is the inclusion of the Peter Asher-produced 1976 Linda Ronstadt cover of “That’ll Be the Day.” Yes, it’s a good version and the liner notes try to justify its inclusion by saying it couldn’t be done better. Still, all the other versions are new so it’s too bad they couldn’t rope Ronstadt into the studio to record something new as well. Adding to the lows, Natalie Merchant’s weepy “Learning the Game” is listless. Another big thumbs-down is the album-closing “comedy” version of Eric Idle reciting “Raining In My Heart.” Intended as a bit of irreverence, the track is pretty much a waste of space and a crappy way to end an otherwise listenable tribute.
Listen To Me: Buddy Holly will be available as a CD or download via Verve/Forecast on September 6th, one day shy of Holly’s seventy-fifth birthday.
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