Music Reviews

Bob Seger & Joe Walsh In Concert

     Bob Seger                                                              “Ride Out”                 (Capitol)

     There is a lot to admire about Bob Seger. He has been a rock music icon for over 40 years but he’s always shunned the stereotypical rock & roll lifestyle of wanton excess. Despite his wealth and fame, Seger never left his native Detroit even through all of its seismic problems. Well before anyone ever heard of paternity leave, Seger took a lengthy hiatus from recording and touring to help raise his family.

Seger will turn 70 years young this May but at a time when most have either stopped working or have contemplated doing so, he is relaunching his career. This past fall he released his first studio album in eight years, “Ride Out,” and supported it with a lengthy tour across the USA including a recent sold-our concert at Madison Square Garden. While no one should expect “Ride Out” to be the equal of his 1975 breakthrough album, “Night Moves,” or even 1980’s “Against The Wind,” it is a well-crafted effort.

The opening track, “Detroit Made,” which despite its title was not written by Bob but rather by legendary tunesmith John Hiatt. Baby boomers may remember how Seger allowed Chevrolet to use his hit, “Like A Rock,” in TV ads for very little cost at a time when the American automobile industry was getting massacred by imports. “Detroit Made” is a classic uptempo rocker that sounds as if it could have been recorded 40 years ago and it’s a terrific tribute to the American auto.

The title track, “Ride Out,” uses the car as a metaphor for leaving your comfort zone and discovering new people and places. “Let’s Talk About” is a bluesy list of what is ticking Bob off these days yet he never comes off as preachy.

Seger has always showcased the many influences of his music. “Adam & Eve,” a duet with his longtime backup singer, Laura Creamer, is pure country while “All Of The Roads,” has the ingredients of a ‘70s rock power ballad including the use of a sizable chorus.

To play off the title of one of his many song titles, Seger shows that he hasn’t forgotten what makes for great rock & roll

Ray Charles                                                          “Genius Loves Company”     (Concord)

     These days duet albums between permutations of musical superstars is rather common but that wasn’t the case a decade ago when Concord Records had the late Ray Charles pair up with a variety of artists. This was a clear case of art meeting commerce because Concord wanted to test out the idea of using Starbucks as a venue for selling compact discs. It’s funny that even in this digital age when music retailers as Tower Records, HMV, and the Virgin Megastore have gone belly-up, the nation’s best-known retail coffee chain is still selling CDs.

Concord has re-released “Genius Loves Company” and improved its sound through a remastering process. Ray happily plays a supporting role to James Taylor and Van Morrison on their respective compositions, “Sweet Potato Pie” and “Crazy Love.” He manages to coax Elton John into making “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” less lugubrious.

Ray seemed to be having the most fun singing tunes where he and the guest artist are meeting on neutral ground; meaning that neither artist had recorded a version of the song before this duet. Although Ray’s voice had significantly frayed by 2004, it’s fun hearing him and Michael McDonald take a stab at the 1963 Freddie Scott hit, “Hey Girl.” The same can be said about him teaming up with Gladys Knight on Steve Wonder’s “Heaven Help Us All.” The most poignant moment on the album, and particularly timely as we move into 2015, is when he joins forces with old buddy Willie Nelson on the 1966 Frank Sinatra chestnut, “It Was A Very Good Year,” a song that is tailor-made for Willie’s twangy voice.

If you missed it the first time around, this is a great time to get caught up with “Genius Loves Company.”

****

The Mets may not have given their fans much of a reason to cheer at Citi Field the last few years but they have certainly give fans of classic rock reason to come out to the park as they have hosted post-game concerts by REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, and last year, Huey Lewis & The News. This year, the Steve Miller Band, will be performing after the Saturday, June 27th game with the Reds while Heart, led by Ann & Nancy Wilson, will perform after the Saturday, July 25th game with the Dodgers.

Diva Disks

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Few terms are thrown about as carelessly in pop culture as the term “diva” is. However when you are talking about female singers who have stage presence in every way imaginable as Lady Gaga, Bette Midler, and Aretha Franklin do, then it is entirely appropriate to apply it. As happenstance would have it all three have new albums out.

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga   “Cheek To Cheek” (Interscope/Columbia)

The pride of Astoria, Tony Bennett, is still going strong at 88 years young and clearly has no intention of retiring. One attribute that has separated Tony Bennett from the late Frank Sinatra is that Tony never belittled younger talent even if they were from vastly different musical genres as rock, country, or rhythm and blues. Thus it isn’t strange that Bennett would want to team up with a fellow New Yorker, Stephanie Germotta, better known as Lady Gaga, for an album of standards.

A little skepticism about this musical hook-up is understandable. Lady Gaga is one of the best-known artists of the 21st century. She ranks just behind Taylor Swift and Katy Perry in terms of album sales and her concerts sell out probably faster than theirs do.

Just as Carly Simon and Linda Ronstadt introduced a lot of baby boomers to the Great American Songbook, Lady Gaga is doing the same for millennials.

Gaga seems to be as much at home singing the works of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington as she is singing her big hit, “Poker Face.” Her voice is similar to that of Ella Fitzgerald’s. She and Bennett have a natural chemistry on “Anything Goes,” “They All Laughed,” and “Anything Goes,” that is reminiscent of Steve Lawrence and the late wife and singing partner Eydie Gorme.

Album producer Danny Bennett (Tony’s son) wisely avoids making this strictly a duets album by allowing them to have solos. It’s not a surprise that Tony, whose voice has not frayed much over the years, shines on “Sophisticated Lady” and “But Beautiful” while Gaga delivers nicely on Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life.”

Bette Midler                                              “It’s The Girls”          (Warner Bros.)

It has been eight years since Bette Midler released an album and that was a holiday disc titled “Cool Yule.” Just prior to that she recorded tribute albums to the late Peggy Lee and Rosemary Clooney. Midler is once again mining pop music’s past as she salutes the pop hits made famous by female vocalists, be it singing groups or individuals, with “It’s The Girls.”

Bette does a good job mixing up the timelines on this album as she includes ‘40s and ‘50s pop (The Andrews Sisters’ “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon” and The Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman”), “ ‘60s Brill Building classics (“Be My Baby,” “One Fine Day, “Tell Him,” and “Give Him A Great Big Kiss” ), and classic Motown (“Too Many Fish In The Sea,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and “Come And Get These Memories”) to a ‘90s smash, TLC’s “Waterfalls.” The catchy swing title track, “It’s The Girl,” was recorded by New Orleans’ the Boswell Sisters in 1931.

Oldies fans will not only cheer the song selections but also the way producer and pop historian Marc Shaiman recreates the sound of those terrific LA studio musicians who played on so many ‘60s and early ‘70s chart successes, the Wrecking Crew. He also smartly pairs Midler with the inimitable Darlene Love on “He’s Sure The Boy I Love,” a tune which Love recorded under the aegis of the infamous Phil Spector over 50 years ago.

I’ve always preferred the uptempo, bawdy Bette to balladeer Bette. Her slow-as-molasses covers of “Come And Get These Memories,” Baby, It’s You,” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” are funereal dirges.

Three rotten cuts out of fifteen tracks is not a bad ratio. “It’s The Girls” is a laudable project.

“2014 Grammy Nominees” Review

VA - 2014 GRAMMY NOMINEESOne of the inevitabilities of getting older is that it gets a lot harder to keep up with today’s music. Part of the reason for this is that the pop music charts historically have been determined by the tastes of younger listeners and that is by definition going to lead to a disconnect with an older demographic.

Another problem is that unlike when a lot of us were growing and would listen to Top 40 radio stations such as New York powerhouse WABC or Philadelphia’s WFIL you could hear a diverse array of music ranging from adult contemporary (from such artists as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Perry Como), soul, country, and of course, rock. Sadly, so-called programming experts created stringent formats so that the days of a radio station playing a true variety of musical genres went the way of television variety shows.

“The 2014 Grammy Nominees” compact disc is a terrific primer for those of us who enjoy music but have not followed the pop charts since Casey Kasem used to count them down weekly.

The album opens with arguably the hottest male singer today, Bruno Mars, performing his big hit, “Locked Out Of Heaven.” The National Football League clearly knew what they were doing when they gave him their vaunted halftime entertainment spot at this year’s Super Bowl. Mars is adept at a catchy slow ballad, “Nothing On You,” as he is on uptempo tune as “Locked Out Of Heaven.”

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is the most controversial song on this album for reasons that had nothing to do with its lyrics but rather because of potential plagiarism. The family of the late legendary singer Marvin Gaye sued Thicke because they felt that “Blurred Lines” crossed the line from being a Gaye inspiration for Thicke to being a reworking of his gigantic 1977 hit, “Got To Give It Up,” thanks to a similar bass line and high pitch background vocals. Last week the Gaye estate and Thicke settled the dispute.

Justin Timberlake took a long sabbatical from recording in order to concentrate on an acting career that has produced both big theatrical hits and stiffs. There was understandably a world of attention given to him when his first single in years came out, “Suit & Tie,” which featured a stylish video with this duet Jay-Z. Even though “Suit & Tie” sold well, it was the follow-up single, “Mirrors,” that got Timberlake a Grammy nomination for best male pop performance.

There is little argument that Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” was the catchiest single of 2013 thanks to Pharrell Williams silky smooth vocals and the bass hooks that are played by Nile Edwards of Chic fame. It is difficult to comprehend some of this song’s lyrics. The way Williams sings the tag lyric “We’re up all night to get lucky” sounds more like “Mexican lucky.”

You can argue until the cows come home over whether Katy Perry or Taylor Swift is the hottest pop singer on the charts today. (Sorry, Miley Cyrus fans.) Both are represented on this Grammy CD.

Perry’s big hit “Roar” is a classic stadium anthem rock tune with Perry nicely referencing the 1983 Survivor hit, “Eye Of The Tiger,” which was used as the theme from the Sylvester Stallone flick, “Rocky III.”

Taylor Swift has made a career out of writing catchy songs about the flaws of her former paramours. “Begin Again” is another in her litany of tunes in which she makes lyrics out of all the things that the men in her life did wrong.

Sara Bareilles is a throwback to the old school female singer-pianist (think Carole King). In 2007 she had a big hit, “Love Song,” whose upbeat title belied the fact that even though she was as skilled tunesmith she found it hard to write a love song on demand because her own rocky relationships. Bareilles is back with “Brave,” a philosophical tune about not being intimidated by anything.

I knew very little about the hip-hop duo of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis until I saw them perform on a recent “Saturday Night Live.” “Same Love” is a song which shows both their support of gay marriage and expresses the dangers of making assumptions about a person’s sexual preferences.

Country fans can listen to tracks by Kacey Musgraves, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean on this album.

The Grammy Awards are conferred by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences whose president is Bayside native Neil Portnow.

‘The Great American Songbook Revisited’

533daeb9840d9.preview-300With three decades or so standing in between their careers, and very different styles of music as their focus, Gloria Estefan and Doris Day wouldn’t seem to have all that much in common. But two new albums of standards just may lead you to think they do.

Gloria Estefan “The Standards” (Sony Music Masterworks)

Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine were one of my favorite musical acts of the 1980s as they could mix smart catchy uptempo tunes such as “Conga,” “Bad Boy,” “Betcha Say That” and “The Rhythm’s Gonna Get You” with heartfelt ballads that weren’t syrupy Hallmark cards, as exemplified by “Anything For You,” “Don’t Wanna Lose You,” “Here We Are” and “Can’t Stay Away From You.”

Estefan was still a major force on the pop charts when she was badly injured and nearly paralyzed in March 1990 when her tour bus was rammed by an out-of-control truck on a snowy Scranton, Pa. highway. She would make a full recovery and even produce a No. 1 hit in 1992, “Coming out of the Dark,” whose title and lyrics obviously referred to her struggle to recover both physically and mentally from that near-fatal experience.

In the ensuing years she has shown less interest in competing on the pop charts and has instead focused her energies on holiday albums, as well as making recordings in Spanish.

In 1994 Estefan recorded an album of her favorite Top 40 hits from the 1960s and ’70s. Twenty years later she once again mined popular music’s past by digging into the Great American Songbook with her new album, simply titled “The Standards.”

Estefan is well aware that Rod Stewart, Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon and many other rock stars have employed the same idea for albums with mixed results. While there is some overlap in terms of song choices, it’s clear that she was diligent in trying her hand at tunes that were not covered by her contemporaries.

Her renditions of “Good Morning Heartache” and “What a Difference a Day Makes” are serviceable but they won’t make anyone forget Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington, or even the ’70s remakes of those tunes that became hits respectively for Diana Ross and Esther Phillips.

The only serious misfire here is the Louis Armstrong chestnut “What A Wonderful World,” which was co-written by Forest Hills Gardens native Bob Thiele. Estefan is done in by a drawn-out and turgid string and woodwind orchestration. Her singing is OK on the tune but let’s face it: Only longtime Corona resident Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, with his joyous and throaty vocals, could do this tune justice.

This is not to say “The Standards” is a disappointment. Estefan would make George and Ira Gershwin proud with her interpretations of “Embraceable You,” “How Long Has This Been Going On,” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” No one has ever come close to recording “Young at Heart” as well as Frank Sinatra did, but Estefan’s phraseology brings out the importance of the lyrics.

The standout tune is “Sonrie,” which is Spanish for “Smile.” She does an admirable job singing the Charlie Chaplin signature song, which is also associated with Nat King Cole, in Spanish, though it is not a literal line-for-line translation. The alterations were in all likelihood made for rhyming purposes.

Doris Day “The Essential” (Sony Legacy)

Doris Day was one of the most popular singers and actresses in the 1940s and ’50s. These days the 92-year-old Day is best known for being an animal rights activist in Carmel, Calif., where she has lived since basically retiring from showbiz nearly 40 years ago.

“The Essential Doris Day” is a 36-song, double-CD of her best-known work. “Que Sera Sera” is of course the tune most identified with her, and yes, it’s included in this compilation. Sylvester Stewart, better known by his stage name, Sly Stone, was such a big Doris Day fan that he covered “Que Sera Sera” on his 1973 “Fresh” album. Sly had only recorded his own compositions until that point.

Other future standards that Day made hits out of were “When I Fall in Love,” “It’s Magic,” “Secret Love,” “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and “Moonlight Bay.”

Granted, a lot of tracks here have not aged well, but there is something delightfully nostalgic recalling a time when record labels would hire big orchestras and choruses to back up singers. I guarantee that will never return.

A great singer who never reached stardom

5318b3724b6ec.preview-300Sports fans are well aware of the number of can’t-miss top draft picks in baseball, football and basketball who were never able to live up to expectations, much to the chagrin of the teams that signed them to lucrative contracts and the fans whose hopes were dashed. As former Mets star Rusty Staub famously quipped, “Potential means that you haven’t accomplished anything yet!”

The pop music world is littered with artists who looked like big hit makers but for one reason or another failed to light the charts on fire. “American Idol” fans can recite the names of most of the past winners as proof.

Back in the late 1960s, a singer from New Orleans named Merry Clayton was touted to be a certain superstar. Music mogul Clive Davis, whom many refer to as “the man with the golden ears,” described the frantic bidding war that took place between record companies for Clayton’s services, around the time the Miracle Mets won the World Series, in his first book “Inside the Record Business.”

Lou Adler, who had achieved fame in the mid-sixties working with Jan & Dean, Johnny Rivers and The Mamas & the Papas, won the bidding war against Columbia, Warner Brothers, RCA and all the other big record labels, as he signed her for his new company, Ode Records. Adler would also sign a veteran songwriter from Brooklyn named Carole King at the same time. Lou would be the first to admit that he was far more optimistic about Clayton’s record-selling prospects.

Clayton was a 21-year-old singer when she got her big break by singing key parts of the Rolling Stones’ 1969 record “Gimme Shelter” with Mick Jagger. Her piercing vocals toward the end of the recording made music industry executives take notice.

Clayton recorded a pair of albums for Ode in the early 1970s but they “stiffed,” to use an industry term for records that don’t sell. Clayton’s luster faded quickly as she was not able to convert her one big chance into her big break. She did at least forge a very respectable career as a backup singer on recordings and concert appearances for other artists.

Clayton would have been one of many forgotten figures in music had it not been for last year’s documentary about backup singers, “20 Feet from Stardom,” which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Clayton, along with Darlene Love, were the key figures in the film. The critical praise that “20 Feet from Stardom” received was the impetus for Legacy Records to release a 17-song compilation entitled “The Best 0f Merry Clayton.”

Listening to Clayton sing, you won’t be tempted to hit the “next” button on the music-playing device of your choice because the quality is that good. Odds are you will be as stumped as to why stardom eluded her as Lou Adler is to this day.

Luck and timing play a big part in a lot of things in life — perhaps even more so in the music industry than in some other arenas.

One fine tune on Clayton’s “Best of” album is “A Song for You,” written by Leon Russell and considered a universal pop classic. It’s one of those well-known tunes that was recorded by a lot of artists, such as Ray Charles, the Carpenters and the composer himself — but it never became a hit for any of them. (“The Shadow of Your Smile” suffered the same fate.) Clayton’s robust rendition is as good a version of “A Song for You” as you will hear.

Even though Clayton originated the role of The Acid Queen in the 1972 London production of The Who’s rock opera, “Tommy,” it seems as if everyone associates the character and the song of the same name with Tina Turner.

Clayton’s last real shot at a hit was her 1975 recording of the theme from the TV show “Baretta.” Unfortunately for Clayton, Sammy Davis Jr. recorded the song as well and won the battle on the singles charts.

Clayton’s cover versions of Neil Young’s “Southern Man,” James Taylor’s “Country Road,” Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands” and Bob Dylan’s “Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn)” pack more energy and superior production values than those made by the composers themselves on their recordings.

And if you’re looking for an undiscovered gem, check out her verison of an obscure Carole King song, “After All This Time,” a tune clearly influenced by the Rascals’ 1967 smash “Groovin’.”

It’s better late than never to appreciate Merry Clayton’s considerable talent.

“42nd Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies”

Although it doesn’t get a fraction of the media attention that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame s, the Songwriters Hall of Fame has actually been honoring musicians longer. The Songwriters Hall of Fame also pays tribute to composers from all genres of popular music.

The Class of 2011 included well-known names as Garth Brooks, Leon Russell, New Orleans living legend Allen Toussaint, as well as lesser known to the public but giants within the music biz, John Bettis (who wrote numerous hits for the Carpenters as well as “Human Nature” for Michael Jackson and “Crazy for You” for Madonna) and the writing tandem of Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly (who penned another Madonna hit, “Like A Virgin,” Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and “I Drove All Night,” the Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You,” and the Divinyls’ 1990 suggestive novelty hit, “I Touch Myself.”

Among the highlights at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Dinner held at Times Square’s Marriott Marquis were Chrissy Hynde performing “I’ll Stand By You,” Leon Russell crooning his iconic 1971 ballad, “A Song for You,” and Billy Joel and Garth Brooks’ dueting on “Shameless” which was written by the former but turned out to be a big country hit for the latter.

It would be nice if there was an actual Songwriters Hall of Fame museum. Sadly, the only tangible evidence of the Songwriters Hall is a small wing in Santa Monica’s Grammy Museum.

Records

By Lloyd Carroll

Paul Revere & The Raiders                                                   “The Essential”          (Legacy)

      When the discussion turns to the names of rock bands that are not enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, very few pop musicologists get worked up about the omission of Paul Revere & The Raiders. That’s a shame because it borders on the criminal that these guys are forever being ignored by Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner and his snooty friends who are the arbiters of who gets rock’s highest honor.

Paul Revere (yes, he is a descendent of Sarah Palin’s favorite patriot) and the Raiders were the first rock band ever signed to Columbia Records; sold more records than any other American group during the British Invasion’s 1964-67 heyday; and logged more hours on television, thanks primarily to Dick Clark, than any rock group in the 1960s. Yes, that includes the Monkees.

Although there were numerous personnel changes from the time the quintet got its start in Boise, Idaho in the late 1950s, the nucleus always consisted of keyboard player Revere and occasional saxophonist/lyricist/lead vocalist and perennial heartthrob Mark Lindsay.

Things did not start out swimmingly for the Raiders. They lost a chart battle with a rival group from the Pacific Northwest, the Kingsmen, in the spring of 1963 for who would have the national hit with the controversial “Louie, Louie.” It would not be the last chart war that the guys would lose. They came up second best in their battle with Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon in1965 with “Action” and again in 1966 when the Monkees had a Top 20 hit with “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” after the Raiders cut the track first. It is a shame that Legacy couldn’t find room for those recordings in this 2-CD “Essential” package.

Paul Revere & the Raiders have often been referred to as a garage band because of their deceptively simple sound. They say that the greats often make things look or sound easy and that is certainly the case here. A lot of credit also has to go to the Raiders’ producer, the late Terry Melcher, who was Doris Day’s son. Songs as “Hungry,” “Good Thing,” “Him or Me” and “Ups And Downs” do not sound dated despite being around 45 years old.

While the vast majority of their records were catchy tunes about relationships, the Raiders were capable of cutting hits that had serious meanings. 1966’s “Kicks,” a tune written by Songwriter Hall of Fame members Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, was the first rock hit to point out the negatives of drug use. The guys scored a number one hit in 1971 with a John Loudermilk-penned tune, “Indian Reservation.” Mark Lindsay’s on-point phrasing of the lyrics brought more attention to the shameful treatment of Native Americans than any televised news documentary could have.

Chuck Berry                               “Icon” (UME)

      It is hard to believe that it is nearly impossible to listen to any of Chuck Berry’s songs on any New York City radio station. You have to dial in to the right side of the AM dial to try to find low watt New Jersey stations as Morristown’s WMTR (1250 AM) and Eatontown’s WHTG

(1410 AM) to hear his or any other of the great pioneering rock & roll hits.

Universal Music Enterprises’ “Icon” is an excellent 12-song primer of why Berry’s compositions have been recorded by a who’s who of rock including the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Electric Light Orchestra, and Johnny Rivers, just to name a few.

Choosing a dozen tunes from Berry’s sizable catalog is a daunting task. It is hard to argue with the end results since all of the Mount Rushmore tunes as “Maybelline,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock And Roll Music,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” and “Carol” are included here.

Although it wasn’t one of his biggest hits when it was released, “You Never Can Tell,” is wisely part of this reissue since it was used in a very memorable dance scene involving John Travolta and Uma Thurman in the classic 1994 film, “Pulp Fiction.”

Also included is Berry’s suggestive 1972 hit, “My Ding-A-Ling,” that was recorded live in London. WABC and a number of other powerhouse radio stations at the time banned the song from their playlists but it still wound being Berry’s only number one hit of his glorious career. The lyrics still make me laugh nearly 40 years later.

Records

By Lloyd Carroll      

Various Artists                             “Rave On”      (Concord Music)

       Buddy Holly         Icon”                          (UME)

       Rock & roll is chock full of “what if” questions. Certainly on the top ten list of most rock aficionados’ lists would be “Could you imagine how much richer American pop culture would have been had Buddy Holly not died at age 22 in a plane crash along with Ritchie Valens and JP “Big Bopper” Richardson in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3, 1959?” Twelve years later Don McLean further immortalized Holly to baby boomers with his iconic “American Pie” that referred to that fateful frigid night as “the day the music died.” Holly also inspired a Broadway show and a 1978 biopic that starred a still sane Gary Busey.

Buddy Holly would have been celebrating his 75th birthday next month if he were alive. Concord Records commissioned a number of artists to record their favorite tunes associated with Holly, while Universal Music Enterprises, which holds the rights to Holly’s original recordings, has compiled a dozen of his best, in a new compilation titled “Icon.”

Paul McCartney owns the publishing rights to Holly’s catalog so he clearly had the pick of the litter here. On “It’s So Easy,” which was a big hit for Linda Ronstadt in 1977, he tries so hard to give a different interpretation that the song is unrecognizable and quite awful to boot. He bizarrely attempts to emulate Dave Edmunds’ 1971 hit cover of Smiley Lewis’s “I Hear You Knocking” by singing through a fuzz box.

Sir Paul is happily the only weak link here. Fiona Apple duets with Jon Brion on a touching version of “Everyday” while Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame, delivers a faithful, heartfelt version of “Raining In My Heart” to close the album. Other veterans who deliver are Kid Rock on the lively Motown-style“Well All Right”; Lou Reed on a very moody take on “Peggy Sue”; and Patti Smith who shows a rare romantic side for her with “Words of Love.”

The biggest surprise is how Cee Lo Green, of “Forget You,” and “Crazy” fame and one of the hosts of NBC’s “The Voice,” wonderfully captures the sound of Holly and his backup band, the Crickets, on the rather obscure “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” that was written for Holly by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame composing/production team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

As fine as the aforementioned Holly tribute album is, as the old cliche goes, there’s nothing like the real thing. “Icon” captures a dozen of Holly’s most memorable recordings from such catchy seminal rockers as “Oh Boy!” and “Maybe Baby” to the full orchestral ballad, “True Love Ways,” which was recorded in New York City mere weeks before his untimely passing. Also included here are tunes that were written by fellow up and coming pop stars at the time, Paul Anka and Bobby Darin, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” and “Early in the Morning,” respectively.

Stevie Nicks                                              “In Your Dreams”     (Reprise)

    Judging from both the album cover and her voice on her new album, “In Your Dreams,” Stevie Nicks has found a way to cheat time. She looks and sounds just the way we all remember her when he she was cranking out hits with Fleetwood Mac in the mid to late 1970s.

As has long been the case in her music, Nicks is full of contradictions. In the opening cut, “Secret Love,” she is content with a “no strings attached relationship” while on the very next track, “For What It’s Worth” (not the Buffalo Springfield classic), she yearns for a grand romance.

It has been six years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans so Stevie’s concern for the city in “New Orleans” may be a bit late but it serves as a reminder that the Crescent City is still not what it once was.

Nicks has been singing about spooky characters way before “Twilight,” HBO’s “True Blood” and the CW’s “Vampire Diaries,” so we have to indulge her slow ballad, “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream).”

The title track, “In Your Dreams,” is the kind of snappy, uptempo hummable tune that we haven’t heard from Nicks since “Stand Back,” “Edge of Seventeen” and “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” back in the early ‘80s.

“In Your Dreams” shows that Stevie Nicks can still carefully craft fine pop music.