A Vivoscene Feature Review by Brian Miller
Vivoscene rating 8.7
Great tribute albums are a rare occurrence, among them being such gems as Beat The Retreat (Richard Thompson), Return of the Grievous Angel (Gram Parsons), Timeless (Hank Williams) and Stone Free (Jimi Hendrix). Last year’s offering notable offering Rave On Buddy Holly, with producers Randall Poster and Gelya Robb at the helm, came closer to the mark than anything else in years. Poster and Robb have collaborated again to offer up their tribute to Fleetwood Mac, one of the most listened-to bands in rock music history.
Was there ever an album that received more plays on the turntable and found its way into more households than Rumours? If you were there, you’ll know what I mean. So when it comes to producing a tribute album dedicated to the group, the producers have a monumental task on their hands with Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac, for several reasons I’ll attempt to address.
No one sings like the divine Christine McVie, or like Stevie Nicks used to (for better or worse), or plays a brainiacal guitar like Lindsay Buckingham, and no studio has ever managed to capture on record that powerhouse combination of Mick Fleetwood’s drumming and John McVie’s bass lines. The chemistry between the members of the band was explosive. And not much has been made of this, especially considering how many pop masterpieces they produced, but they were the first group to address adult romance, and by that I mean the breakdown of relationships, the prevalence of infidelity, and the impending swelling in the divorce statistics of the Boomers. So their songs meant a lot to several million fans, and that significance almost transcended the rock/pop perfection of their music. The twelve million or so fans who bought Rumours haven’t forgotten that album by any means, and the ubiquity of the music cast a long shadow on everything else the group did in the decades since. The group’s follow-up album Tusk was met with disappointment, disdain and puzzlement, the upshot of which was that Fleetwood Mac never did regain their hallowed ground.
Then there are the die-hard loyalists to Peter Green and Danny Kirwan, former members of what many consider to be the ‘best’ Fleetwood Mac incarnation, when the group was an English blues band coming up with masterpieces such as “Oh Well”. These blues fans consider that the boys sold out when Buckingham/Nicks joined up and that Rumours was well, rubbish.
The good news about the current tribute album is that for the most part it’s an intriguing and inventive look at the band’s music by some of the best of the current crop of musicians. Standout tracks include Karen Elson’s “Gold Dust Woman”, the Billy Gibbons and Co (ZZ Top) take on “Oh Well” that is truly a stunner and could well teach The Black Keys a thing or two about dynamics, shading and timing, and The New Pornographers rendition of “Think About Me”, which delivers a close replication of Fleetwood Mac’s exciting harmonies. And the Kills’ version of “Dreams” is a re-creation, a true reinvention of this well-worn track that confirms they’re one of the most authentic and exciting rock duos on the scene today. Crystal Ark’s “Tusk” is pretty terrific too, but could have used closer miking of the drum tracks. The closer “Future Games” by MGMT, is a fittingly spacey conclusion that improves upon the original.
You can stream the entire album Just Tell Me That You Want Me here:
For this listener, though, the highlight of the album is Trixie Whitley’s bluesy “Before The Beginning”. Why she’s not a superstar is a mystery. She’s got the pipes, the dynamics, and the inherent drama in her voice to take on some of the greatest songs ever written. The guitar work on this track is a magnificent piece of work too.
Less successful are Marianne Faithful’s “Angel” and Best Coast’s version of “Rhiannon”, both of which frankly pale by comparison with the rest of the performances on the album, as well as the originals.
The album’s a keeper, though. Kudos to Randall Poster and Gelya Robb. We eagerly await their next project; they’ve got it going on when it comes to tributes.
Watch: The Kills “Dreams”