When Buddy Holly died in February 1959 - in the plane crash that also claimed Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper - he was just 22 and had only been a star since the fall of '57, when his first single with the Crickets, "That'll Be the Day," went to Number One. But in that time, Holly recorded a full, prophetic body of work, setting a big part of the stage for the British Invasion with his savvy, forthright desire and pop-hook allure charged with Fender sting and country-blues jump. Not surprisingly, Paul McCartney (who owns Holly's publishing catalog) and ex-Hollie Graham Nash pay engaging tribute here. McCartney romps through "It's So Easy" like he's leading the Beatles in Hamburg; Nash comes to "Raining in My Heart" with a deft balance of folk-rock sparkle and overcast-afternoon sigh. But there are 17 other tracks on Rave On, at least half a dozen too many. Florence and the Machine treat "Not Fade Away" like it was a Soft Cell hit; Modest Mouse sound only half-awake in "That'll Be the Day." Some of the best moments are the straightest (Nick Lowe, Justin Townes Earle) and the weirdest (Kid Rock's trucker's-funk spin on "Well All Right"). But Patti Smith's slow, haunted redesign of "Words of Love" is this album's most faithful salute. She delivers the song like a precious wish - just the way Holly wrote it.
From The Archives Issue 1134: July 7, 2011