A Tribute to Greatness A Little Less Than Great
A band that’s been around 40 years has seen its share of covers, and Fleetwood Mac is no exception. Recent memory bears Smashing Pumpkin’s haunting “Landslide,” and Hole’s snarling “Gold Dust Woman.” Just Tell Me that You Want Me – A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac, the 17-track tribute album to the legendary band, eschews known entries for the all-new, and embraces fellow classic artists alongside the newbies, the traditionalists with the experimentalists, to offer a wide array of artistic interpretations of Fleetwood Mac songs. The end result is hit-or-miss, with some artists going for straight covers, where others achieve reinvention.
The best tracks are seemingly grouped together. Early on we get the 1-2-3 punch of Trixie Whitley, Billy Gibbons & Co., and Best Coast. Whitley–a 25-year-old Belgian with the lived-in voice of a woman twice her age–adds soulful bite to “Before the Beginning,” where the original relied on an easy groove to do all the work. Gibbons similarly transforms “Oh Well” by removing the fast giddy-up of the original to create a dark, stomping slow burn built over a single writhing bass riff, making the original sound cartoonish by comparison. Best Coast rounds out this group with a sunny, upbeat “Rhiannon.”
The next winning streak kicks off with Lykke Li who applies her own echoed vocal to lovely effect, bringing out the hurt, loss and eventual threat of “Silver Springs.” Karen Elson’s delicate voice makes the crashing doom of “Gold Dust Woman” all the more potent, while Matt Sweeney and Bonnie “Prince” Billy bring a sweetened acoustic “Storms.” Just past this half-way point, the album takes an electronic bent, updating the 80’s synths of “Straight Back” with Washed Out’s layered guitars and vocals. Electronic sound–whether retro or modern, spacey or noisy–continues throughout the rest of the album with Tame Impala, Gardens & Villa, The Crystal Ark and album-closer MGMT. For some reason, The Kills are placed in the middle of this second half to break the trance with a spare “Dreams,” featuring an undercurrent of violence weaved into the distortion.
The majority of artists on Just Tell Me that You Want Me evoke fresh life out of songs by a band with their own long, storied career.