As with most uneven tribute albums, the 19-tracks here are wildly diverse, many memorable, and some unlistenable. Surprisingly, Sir Paul McCartney’s “It’s So Easy” leads the negative ranks in its over-the-top spoken-word rants and near death-metal bellows! It’s as if the producers told him, “Now listen Sir Paul, this is a totally alternative collection with bizarre interpretations of beloved material, so get insane, okay?”
Modest Mouse doesn’t even use the melody of “That’ll Be The Day.”
But I quibble. There’s so much here to recommend: From The Black Keys’ “Dearest” and Cee Lo Green’s “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” to Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas’ “Rave On” and Patti Smith’s “Words Of Love.”
Graham Nash’s “Words Of Love” is beautiful. To hear Lou Reed’s engaging monotone on “Peggy Sue” is delicious and then to delve even deeper into “Peggy Sue Got Married” by X’s John Doe is satisfying. Nick Lowe, unlike Sir Paul, stays himself for a roots-reverent rendition of “Changing All Those Changes” (great pick!).
Between She & Him, Justin Townes Earle, My Morning Jacket, Kid Rock, Fiona Apple and Jon Brion, Florence & The Machine, Karen Elson (whose understated “Crying Waiting Hoping” steals the show), Jenny O. and The Detroit Cobras, you’ve got enough underground firepower to reimagine and rediscover these songs in whole new contexts.
Buddy Holly would have been 75 this year. Out of all the dead rock stars, his loss, at 22, robbed us of decades of memorable melodies. It’s a damn shame.