LISTEN TO ME: BUDDY HOLLY
Even though he died at 22 in an Iowa plane crash in 1959, early rock ‘n’ roll and pop star Buddy Holly left a brilliant catalog of recordings. Seventy-fifth birthday observations for Holly, who was born Sept. 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas, include the all-star Listen To Me: Buddy Holly. Peter Asher - one-half of the 1960s British duo, Peter and Gordon, and later a successful producer - serves as executive producer.
The love Holly’s famous fans have for him, including Asher, echoes in the many high-profile remakes of his songs by such major acts as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Blind Faith, the Grateful Dead and Linda Ronstadt. That list grows through the 15 new recordings on Listen To Me.
Stevie Nicks sings one of Holly’s more rocking tunes, “Not Fade Away.” Her high-spirited rendition re-creates the original’s mmm-bop background vocals and adds slicing slide guitar. Among the disc’s younger artists, Pat Monahan, from Train, captures the youthful hope and longing of “Maybe Baby” in authentic but contemporary style. Other younger acts include Cobra Starship, featuring producer Asher’s daughter, Victoria, doing a joyful “Peggy Sue,” and The Fray in a richly orchestrated and deeply felt “Take Your Time.”
Asher matches songs and artists well throughout the disc. The characteristically sunny Ringo Starr sings and plays drums for “Think It Over.” No surprise that the most plaintive performance here is Chris Isaak’s yearning “Crying Waiting Hoping.” After his stay with Electric Light Orchestra, Jeff Lynne became a fifth Beatle through work with George Harrison, the Traveling Wilburys and, in 1995, the three surviving Beatles plus John Lennon on tape. Lynne’s “Words Of Love” is a loving tribute to both Holly and the Beatles, who recorded the song in 1964. And Beach Boys maestro Brian Wilson builds a gorgeous arrangement for title track “Listen To Me.”
Only Eric Idle’s misguided recitation of “Raining In My Heart,” reminiscent of Peter Sellers’ mid-’60s Beatles spoofs, misses this tribute’s honor roll. Otherwise, it’s an almost uniformly pleasing set of Holly songs that confirms his classic stature.
TRUE BLOOD: VOLUME 3
Set mostly in modern-day Louisiana, True Blood, the HBO series in which vampires walk openly among humans, witches gather and shape-shifters romp in the moonlight, has always accompanied its steamy goings on with cool music. The show’s third soundtrack CD maintains the series’ tradition of finding and creating songs finely attuned to the episodes in which they appear.
Remaking a classic is tricky, a quest likely to fail, but Americana chanteuse Neko Case joins Bad Seeds, Birthday Party and Grinderman front man Nick Cave and producer-arranger C.C. Adcock (the Lafayette musician who has a long history with True Blood) to interpret “She Not There” in a way that’s ferociously new yet true to the Zombies’ haunting hit from the ‘60s.
Rock star Jack White produces another remake of a ‘60s British classic, Donovan’s “Season of the Witch,” featuring Karen Elson and special guest Donovan.
Another Brit, P.J. Harvey, joins Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes for the lashing “Hitting The Ground.” Gano wrote the song, originally released on his 2002 solo album, and Harvey sings it with Patti Smith-style abandon.
The blues being a natural choice for the show’s Louisiana and Mississippi locale, Gil Scott-Heron turns Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil” into a hip-hop-flavored march with Satan. And West Baton Rouge Parish blues star Slim Harpo makes his second appearance on the True Blood soundtrack CDs with the supremely funky “Te Ni Nee Ni Nu.”