Buddy Holly, who would have been 75 this year, was rock & roll's master of less is more. His perfectly crafted songs deliver big emotional payoffs while being models of minimalism: two or so minutes, three or so chords, a handful of impeccably honed lyrics. Listen to Me: Buddy Holly, the year's second all-star Holly covers album (Rave On Buddy Holly came out in June), has a slightly oddball lineup (Natalie Merchant, the Fray). But most of the contributors succeed by honoring Holly's no-frills greatness with chiming pop rock (Jeff Lynne's "Words of Love"), torchy twanginess (Chris Isaak's "Crying, Waiting, Hoping") and, um, emo (Patrick Stump's urgent "Everyday"). The loveliest moment is Brian Wilson's "Listen to Me," which envelops Holly's tune in billowing harmony vocals. The prize for most spirited, though, goes to Ringo Starr, who bashes through "Think It Over" in a very Holly-esque one minute and 48 seconds.
From The Archives Issue 1139: September 15, 2011