Click Here To Purchase Listen To Me: Buddy Holly

Contents: Various Artists

Audio CD 

Label: Verve Forecast


Ever since the concept of tribute albums took hold, the avalanche of collections by and for a variety of artists has become an uneven recording sub-genre. Woody Guthrie has been modernized, Elvis has been metalized, and Dylan has perhaps had more tribute recordings with his words and music than he ever recorded himself. 

Still, every once in awhile, a tribute collection is something special, and Listen To Me borders on being a musical event. For one matter, producer Peter Asher (of Peter and Gordon fame, the first producer for James Taylor) was himself among those who looked to Buddy Holly for his own early direction. During the early ‘60s, Liverpool and “Swinging London” were a good distance from Lubbock, Texas, but Holly’s poppy blendings of country and blues influenced everyone on both sides of the pond. In fact, Holly had virtually created the template for the rock explosion to follow in his wake. In particular, he was a singer/songwriter who travelled and played with a genuine band, not merely with replaceable supporting musicians. As a result, Buddy Holly is more than worthy of renewed appreciations from the best of contemporary musicians, and the reach of Holly’s legacy is evident from start to finish on Listen To Me. A wide range of performers demonstrate respect, affection for, and an awareness of what Holly was all about.

Listening to Holly’s songs through the lenses of his admirers, it’s easy to see how his music established several trails of influence in the decades after his death. Take rock and roll. The album’s title track, “Listen to Me,” is performed by Brian Wilson with the Beach Boys brand of innocence that was a continuation of what Holly expressed in his early, hopeful songs of love. Blending Holly with the Beach Boys, Ringo Starr’s “Think It Over” reminds us no group was more in debt to Holly than the Beatles. To underline that point, Jeff Lynne’s version of “Words of Love” owes as much to Lennon/McCartney harmonies as Holly. Pat Monahan takes a different course, with “Maybe Baby” retaining the Holly bounce with a girl group backing that echoes what other singers were doing during Buddy’s time. Other contributors offer a more modern approach as with Cobra Starship’s loving version of “Peggy Sue” which sure sounds like what Holly might sound like now if he was doing it today.

Then, consider Holly’s country roots which set the stage for so much to come. Country & Western of the very old school is what Chris Isaak provides with “Crying Waiting Hoping. “ “That'll Be The Day” is what you’d expect from Linda Ronstadt, a singer representing 70s country/rock with room in her contribution for the players to jam in the middle. Taking it the other way, “All Right” by Lyle Lovett is better described as rock/country—putting the emphasis in the other half of that equation. Some songs are simply perfect matches of singer and song as with Stevie Nicks doing “Not Fade Away” and Jackson Browne’s soft ballad version of “True Love Ways.”

But there are offerings that are completely original re-castings of Holly’s catalogue, showing Holly’s music can be adapted in many different settings. “Learning the Game” by Natalie Merchant is simply one voice, a piano, and a violin.  “Everyday “by Patrick Stump is a bit more experimental with even more violins and various kinds of percussion. It would be a spoiler to describe what Eric Idle does with “Raining In My Heart”—suffice it to say Holly works even in a Monty Pythonesque sketch. Rounding off the set, relative newcomers The Fray and Imelda May demonstrate the music of Buddy Holly still has meaning for performers from generations born long after “the day the music died.”

With luck, that’s really the point of Listen To Me. The music of Buddy Holly is alive in his original recordings and not limited to all the music of those who carried on the flame of what he set ablaze in the early decades of rock. Listen to Me demonstrates new settings, new voices, new interpretations show the melodies, lyrics, and even Buddy’s trademark vocal stutter belong in the consciousness of new listeners in the 21st Century. Still, to take things full circle, I’d wager every contributor to this collection hope those hearing these songs for the first time on Listen To Me will take an interest in how it all began and track down the first performances of Buddy Holly and The Crickets—and let the inspiration begin yet again.

        Click Here To Purchase Listen To Me: Buddy Holly