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Album review: Various artists, 'Rave On Buddy Holly'

Buddy Holly transcended the ‘50s because he was not only a dynamic singer and performer, he was a great songwriter whose explosive growth presaged the rise of do-it-all groups like the Beatles, Beach Boys and Rolling Stones. By the time he died in a plane crash at age 22 in 1959, he had already written several albums’ worth of classics. He would’ve been 75 on Sept. 7, which prompts “Rave on Buddy Holly” (Fantasy), a collection of 19 Holly-associated songs performed by host of disciples, from fresh-faced Florence + the Machine to the always spikyLou Reed.

The performances range wildly in ambition, from straight-forward readings (Justin Townes Earle’s “Maybe Baby”) to spooky reinventions (Julian Casablancas’ electro-shock “Rave On”). Several performances misfire, notably Paul McCartney’s oddly unhinged “It’s So Easy” and Kid Rock’s ersatz soul take on “Well All Right.” But a high percentage either humbly honor the essence of the song, or invite us to hear it again with fresh ears: The exuberant, Caribbean flair that Cee-Lo Green brings to “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care,” the sweetly intimate harmonies of Fiona Apple and Jon Brion on “Everyday,” and Patti Smith’s hymnlike reading of “Words of Love.”

greg@gregkot.com

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