Fleetwood Mac is not easy to pigeonhole. Part of this is due to their talent and timelessness; more significantly, the band’s leader and line-up has changed 3 times over, taking the band from its incarnation with Peter Green at the helm as one of the fiercest English-blues bands on the scene, to a more adolescent stage with Bob Welch steering and producing hippie-of-the-times songs, to its final incarnation in which the ferocious duo of Buckingham and Nicks turned Fleetwod Mac into what it has now been hallmarked as. Point is, the band is more than Nicks and Buckingham, and the hope is that any Fleetwood Mac tribute album would duly recognize the band’s colorful history with remarkable covers that are juxtaposed in a way that reflect the unique unfurling of the band’s growth and self-discovery.
Well, the hard truth is that Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac doesn’t quite satisfy that tall order. With legendary soundtrack aggregator and tribute album curator Randall Poster (hot off of his hit Buddy Holly tribute album Rave On) presiding over the project, there was a lot of promise and built-up press, but the finished project falls flat. Of the 17 tracks, 10 are Nicks songs, leaving the remaining seven to be divvied up unevenly between McVie, Welch, Buckingham, and Green. Even with this skewed sampling, there was still a lot of room for creativity when it came to the assemblage of this album. For instance, it could have been done according to incarnation – the blues tracks coming first, the McVie and Welch tracks serving as the filler, and the Nicks/Buckingham selections dominating the second half, as they did in the band’s literal history. Instead, it feels as if these covers were randomly assigned a track number without much discernible consideration of the band’s awesome history. The end result: an uneven album with the first half being more approachable and listener-friendly and the second half being far more left of center and experimental.
Of course, it isn’t entirely fair to judge this album based on an expectation of unity and cohesion. Tribute albums rarely make history for the exact reason that it is nearly impossible for them, by nature, to have a singular point of view. Rather, a look into the actual merits of each individual track serves as a much better way to gauge the greatness of a tribute album. Still, even after doing that, the album underwhelms. Some tracks transform and inspire, like rising star Trixie Whitley’s bold and breathy take on Green’s “Before the Beginning,” and the New Pornographers’ modernized and power-pop painted rendition of “Think About Me.” Others that don’t disappoint include Antony and the Johnsons’ completely ethereal version of “Landslide,” which features Antony’s signature sensitive warbling, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Matt Sweeney’s stripped-down and haggard version of “Storms.”
But these tracks are the exception and not the rule. The majority of the covers are just… fine, and this blandness seems to particularly afflict the Stevie selections; Best Coast’s “Rhiannon,” Marianne Faithful’s “Angel,” and Karen Elson’s “Gold Dust Woman” all fail to achieve anything beyond insipidness. Whereas these middle tracks fail to breathe new life into some of the Mac’s catchiest songs, the majority of the tracks (especially Washed Out’s rendering of “Straight Back”) featured on the back half of the album over-inflate the selections and festoon them with one too many effects.
Of course, when it comes to the art of cover songs, to experiment is indeed a compliment- and it’s clear that all of these tracks, whether overdone, underdone, or done just right- were born from a deep sense of reverence for the Mac. Though the album fails to congeal into a unifying and well-directed “Thank You!” to Fleetwood Mac, it does provide the band with the ultimate testament of appreciation: a genre-bending collective that features interpretations of all different shades.
Check out more about the bands and stream the album at its website.