Tribute albums are often items to avoid -- well-meaning but sometimes sappy or self-absorbed affairs. Three new tribute CDs, though, and are worth your ears:
Various artists, "Rave On Buddy Holly" (Fantasy) () -- The spare twang and chugging rock style pioneered by lanky Texan Buddy Holly in the 1950s has been nurtured in succeeding generations by acts ranging from Marshall Crenshaw to the aptly named Raveonettes, and three of those generations gather here for a rollicking rave-up of Holly's classics.
Opening quietly, with delicate and faithful readings of "Dearest" (the Black Lips) and "Everyday" (Fiona Apple with Jon Brion), this collection quickly gets weird with none other than Paul McCartney. The Beatles were certainly influenced by Holly, and McCartney turns in a freewheeling run through "It's So Easy" that, thick with distorted vocals and hard riffs, sounds like something John Lennon would've included on his 1975 love letter to classic "Rock and Roll." It also ends with McCartney yelping through a goofy rant as if he were Wolfman Jack, drawing the song out to nearly five minutes -- twice the length of nearly any Holly cut.
Elsewhere, there are more interesting interpretations from intriguing choices -- Cee Lo Green's quick and flirty "(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care," My Morning Jacket's wonderfully delicate "True Love Ways" with a string section, the intriguing way Modest Mouse turns "That'll Be the Day" into a creepy threat, and the deftly controlled country-rock of John Doe's "Peggy Sue Got Married" -- and some requisite duds -- like the basic bar-band slop of Justin Townes Earle's "Maybe Baby," Patti Smith's droning ruination of "Words of Love" and Lou Reed's typically tuneless deconstruction of "Peggy Sue." Graham Nash, whose first band was named after Buddy, closes the overall worthwhile set with a sweet, sad, piano-and-strings arrangement of "Raining in My Heart." There's definitely enough here to make you say, "Oh Boy!"