Friday, January 30, 2009

Album review

Pat DiNizio
Buddy Holly
Grade: A

Next week marks 50 years since The Day the Music Died (Feb. 3, 1959), when Buddy Holly and others died in an Iowa plane crash. As UME Records commemorates the event with two vault busting releases (Memorial Collection, Down the Line – Rarities), Smithereens leader Pat DiNizio pays tribute with his own excellent covers collection.

You can tell it was a labor of love for the singer/guitarist, who considers Holly a formative influence, wrote a tune about the Holly’s widow (“Maria Elena”), owns Holly’s original tape recorder and uses Holly replica guitars by Fender. Most tracks here are orchestrated like the innovative Texas rocker’s posthumous top 20 single “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.”

DiNizio’s low vocal register gives several songs more of a dramatic heft (“True Love Ways,” “Raining in My Heart”). The Encore Chamber String Quartet’s updated arrangements – handled by former 4 Seasons member Charles Calello - provide a welcome richness (“Words of Love,” “Well…Alright”). Sixties pop idol Bobby Vee (whose band replaced Holly on the ’59 Winter Dance Party Tour) adds buoyant harmonies on “Listen to Me.” A smile-inducing a capella take on “That’ll Be the Day” caps things off.

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