Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
It may be hard to believe, but in Fleetwood Mac’s hugely successful career, they’ve only had one song go all the way to number one on America’s Top 100. That would be “Dreams,” the second single from 1977’s Rumours, and it saw Stevie Nicks running through the gamut of emotions after her breakup with Lindsey Buckingham, a subject she doesn’t even try to disguise. “Who am I to keep you down?” she asks at the start, before reminding him of the consequences of leaving her – he’ll be alone, trapped with his memories of her. But he’ll come through it all in the end, when (not if) the rain washes him clean. The backing is spare, with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie not just providing the rhythm but the musical focus, while Buckingham adds atmosphere with very occasional guitar flourishes. It all makes for beautiful uneasiness, and the song’s success was much deserved.
“Dreams” has been the subject of a lot of covers; interestingly, the less a cover sounds like the original, the stronger the song is. Rather than a case of familiarity breeding contempt, this proves how amenable it is to being pulled and stretched and changed into something new. Here are five versions that know what they have, and subsequently, they’ve lost nothing.
The Electric Peanut Butter Company – Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Adrian Quesada and Shawn Lee are coming from very different places – Austin and London, to be specific – but they’re very united in their approach to psych-soul retro-funk. They give “Dreams” a little “Cissy Strut” and a whole lot of groove.
Sandro Perri – Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Torontonian Sandro Perri takes the spaces between the instruments in Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and somehow makes them more vast. The song becomes slower, airier, and more mysterious as a result, with Perri’s higher voice sounding more lost than Nicks ever did. (Excuse the last 100 seconds of silence.)
Black Shakespeare feat. Charlie Charles – Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Born in Kingston, raised in Brooklyn, Black Shakespeare gives “Dreams” a reggae infusion. With the assistance of Charlie Charles, he makes it sound like it had always been of Jamaican origin and not not-so-sunny California.
Bon Bon Club – Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)
“We play covers of other people’s songs, with just fuzzy bass, stand-up drums, mini-synth and a wood block,” the Bon Bon Club say on their Bandcamp page. Sadly, they don’t seem to do that very much, as said page only features half a dozen songs. Thankfully, one is their cover of “Dreams,” which reconfigures the song’s melody and makes it truly fresh again.
Res – Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)
The digital-only Refried Mac EP was one of the best all-cover releases of 2013. Shareese Renée Ballard, a.k.a. Res, gave some Philly indie-soul to four FM hits and one solo Stevie. Her “Dreams” has a repetitive bass pattern and ticking-stopwatch track that give the song a different kind of tension that you won’t want relieved.
The original Fleetwood Mac version of “Dreams” can be found on Amazon.