Apr 272018
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

fleetwood mac covers

Lindsey Buckingham is out of Fleetwood Mac for reasons that, a few weeks later, remain as enigmatic as many of the band’s best songs. He was fired – or quit? – amid reports that he wanted to work on a solo album while everyone else wanted to tour. This after reports a couple years ago that he wanted to do a Fleetwood Mac album and Stevie didn’t. Their professional lives today are as complicated and messy as their romantic ones once were.

And let’s be honest: He’ll be back in a few years for a dramatic “reunion tour.” But why wait that long to celebrate this great band? We decided to use the excuse of the recent news to pay tribute to one of the most cover-able bands of all time. And lord knows we’ve paid tribute before, full album tributes to Rumours and Tusk and much more (a bunch of links a the bottom).

But now, just as we did with the Talking Heads last month, we’re looking at the entire catalogue, ranking the top thirty covers of Fleetwood Mac songs from any album or era. There’s no specific Lindsey-focus or anything. Though the majority of songs are from the the classic lineup (including a number from Lindsey’s passion project Tusk), a handful come from the band’s blues beginnings before he or Stevie joined. If the record sleeve said “Fleetwood Mac,” it was fair game for artists to reinterpret – and boy, have they ever. Without further ado, thirty artists who listened carefully to the sound, then played the way they felt it.

Update 5/2: Hear an exclusive “Dreams” covers medley and discussion of this list and our Best April Covers roundup on SiriusXM Volume’s “Feedback”

30. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs – Second Hand News


Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs have released three albums of covers, featuring songs from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, for the most part attempting to faithfully recreate the original or, at least, the feeling. Their cover of Lindsey Buckingham’s “Second Hand News,” his relatively (by Rumours standards) upbeat tribute to the women who helped him deal with his breakup with Stevie Nicks is very similar to the original. However, you never forget that you are listening to Sweet and Hoffs, and not Buckingham and Nicks. And if the guitar playing sounds familiar, it’s because it is Buckingham himself wailing away. – Jordan Becker

29. Letters to Cleo – Dreams


Letters To Cleo creates a powerful rock sound for the ubiquitous “Dreams.” The group amps up the chorus by bringing noisy guitars and a stronger female voice than the original mellow Nicks. For the louder listening fan, check this one out. – John Lenhardt

28. Dixie Chicks – Landslide


In 2002, after spending several years atop the mainstream country charts, the Dixie Chicks returned to their bluegrass origins with the album Home. On the record, the trio included a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 classic “Landslide.” It was a logical selection, both musically and commercially. Country music in the ‘90s – including much of the Dixie Chicks’ work – was heavily indebted to ‘70s rock, and Fleetwood Mac was in the middle of a career renaissance too following a massive reunion album and tour. The cover was a smash hit for the Dixie Chicks, not only on country radio but on the pop and adult contemporary charts. Natalie Maines’ distinctive lead vocals, combined with sisters Martie Erwin Maguire and Emily Erwin Robison’s backing harmonies, gave their bluegrass interpretation a timeless feel. So much so that, 16 years after it was first released, the cover still sounds as current and fresh as the original. – Curtis Zimmermann

27. Land of Leland – Everywhere


This song was commissioned by the votes of Cover Me readers back in 2011 in a poll that saw “Everywhere” win out by only 5 votes. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where this gorgeous cover never came into existence. Justin Keller, better known as Land of Leland, lays down dreamy finger-picked guitar, double-tracked vocals and a killer sax solo. – Mike Misch

26. Stellavision – Blue Letter


Little-known fact: “Blue Letter,” a deep cut from 1975’s Fleetwood Mac, is itself a cover. Written by brothers Rick and Michael Curtis, who cut a demo of it with a pre-Mac Buckingham and Nicks, Mac’s “Blue Letter” shares the same brisk, poppy reading the Curtis Brothers gave it when they released it a year later. Stellavision’s cover slows it down a little and rocks it up a little, punching up the rhythm section considerably. Result: a rearrangement that might even have Lindsey saying, “I wish I’d done that.” – Patrick Robbins

25. Matt Sweeney and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Storms


The first of a few songs here off the great 2012 Fleetwood Mac tribute album Just Tell Me That You Want Me, guitar guru Matt Sweeney and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s take on “Storms” makes a quiet song even quieter. This fragile cover only just hangs together, just two straining voices and a few barely-played guitars. By the time they get to harmonizing on that all-time-great Stevie Nicks closing stanza, it’s oh-so-gradually built into just a little more robust. – Ray Padgett

24. The Pointer Sisters – Hypnotized


Going way back to the album Mystery to Me and the underappreciated Bob Welch era of Fleetwood Mac, “Hypnotized” is one of those “Oh yeah, that is a Fleetwood Mac song” sort of tunes. “Emerald Eyes” was the more popular song from the album, but “Hypnotized” is pound-for-pound just as good – and to some ears (mainly mine) even better. Surprisingly, given that this Pointer Sisters version of the song was released at pretty much the height of disco fever in 1978, this one trades in the mirror ball for funk and amps up the soul. With a killer opening bass line that would make Bootsy proud and the girls trading verses, this one may just top the original. – Walt Falconer

23. Liars – The Chain


I can’t think of any other “Chain” cover that never bothers with that famous bass-line breakdown. But then again, Liars throw out just about everything one might associated with the song. Even the melody is different, a slow dirge that sounds like a Nine Inch Nails song slowed down 200%. I have to imagine this one would be polarizing to a lot of Fleetwood Mac fans; it’s about the most dramatic reinvention here shy of Camper Van Beethoven (and oh, we’ll get there). I think it works wonderfully – just don’t expect to start singing along. – Ray Padgett

22. Seaweed – Go Your Own Way


Seaweed kills with a garage-rock cover of “Go Your Own Way” that was included in the Clerks soundtrack. This Sub Pop band provides pure passion on their rendition of the 1970s classic. Best paired with listening to live at a small punk club. – John Lenhardt

21. Fanfarlo – What Makes You Think You’re the One


This is the first of a few covers on this list I discovered while researching my Full-Albums post on Tusk. That album has some oft-covered tracks to be sure (“Storms,” “Sara,” the title track), but it also has a whole lot of tracks that almost never get covered. Fanfarlo’s “What Makes You Think You’re the One” is the best version of that song – and not just because it’s almost the only one. Like many Tusk tracks, the drums lead the way in Fleetwood Mac’s original recording. In Fanfarlo’s cover, though, they’re practically the only instrument not featured, as piano plonking leads into sweet horn solos. I think I hear the kitchen sink in there too. – Ray Padgett

20. Whiskeytown – Dreams


Whiskeytown – which featured the talents of Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary, among many others – might be better remembered if they hadn’t disintegrated due to the classic trifecta of ego, substance abuse, and record company bullshit. The band regularly played “Dreams” live, and recorded a version in the 1990s that remained unreleased officially until it appeared on the expanded version of the band’s great Strangers Almanac album in 2008. Not surprisingly, the cover is sloppier, twangier, and rocks harder than the original, and is quite good. That Adams (who is no stranger to gender-bending covers) changes some of the lyrics indicates that he was likely singing from memory and doesn’t damage the song in the least. But also might explain why it wasn’t released when it was recorded. – Jordan Becker

19. Best Coast – Rhiannon


Another one of several excellent cover songs from that Just Tell Me That You Want Me tribute, Bethany Cosentino and Best Coast speed up the pace a bit from the original and add some indie rock swagger to the song. Staying true to the gypsy-woman vibe Stevie Nicks brings to the original, this is a love letter to a great song. – Walt Falconer

18. Warren Haynes ft. Grace Potter and Railroad Earth – Gold Dust Woman


This version of “Gold Dust Woman” was released on Warren Haynes’ most recent and highly excellent record, Ashes & Dust. For years at festivals and live concerts with Gov’t Mule, Warren has been inviting Grace Potter on stage to sing the song with him and the band, so he brought her back for the studio version. The punch-counterpunch vocal back and forth adds some really cool texture to the song and seems to push the lyrics more to the forefront than in the original. Never quite straying from the arrangement we are used to hearing on Rumours, the presence of the roots-rock collective Railroad Earth acting as the backup band for Warren and his guitar virtuosity takes this one from good to great at the blink of a mandolin or a fiddle. – Walt Falconer

17. Judas Priest – The Green Manalishi


Before Fleetwood Mac morphed themselves into one of the most popular bands of all time, they were one heck of a blues band. But they were also a really great rock band during that Peter Green “Black Magic Woman” era, with exhibit A standing loud and proud in the form of “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown). Judas Priest take this already high-octane song and whip it around, driving it even faster down the road. The first couple of times you hear it, your ears will think that Rob Halford and the boys actually wrote the song instead of Peter Green. – Walt Falconer

16. Lissie – Go Your Own Way


When Iowa singer-songwriter Lissie was starting out a decade ago, it felt like she was churning out knockout cover songs on the daily. Her 2011 EP Covered Up With Flowers collects some of the best-ever covers of everyone from Lady Gaga to Metallica, Nick Cave to Kid Cudi. Any one of which would be an insane feat; she knocked them out like it was no big deal. Her “Go Your Own Way” is a little more faithful than some of hers, but swaps the acoustics for an electronic shimmer. As with most of her covers, though, the instrumentation is just an excuse for her to let loose with her stunningly powerful voice. Her restraint on the verses opens up into a massive, cathartic chorus – and when she starts wordlessly hollering near the end, your heart might just burst. – Ray Padgett

15. Abbie Mae & the Homeschool Boys – Landslide


“Landslide” is probably my favorite Mac song from the years they bestrode the world, and is demonstration alone of the difference Buckingham and Nicks made, as it is just that: Buckingham and Nicks alone. Myriad versions exist, so another one will pop along in a minute, but most try a little too hard to sweeten an already bittersweet piece of work. This strips it back into rudimentary banjo and a voice more plaintive even than Stevie’s. I know not much about Abbie Mae and the Homestead Boys or even how I come to have this in my collection. Their web domain seems to have been sold on and there is very little beyond a Facebook page and a Bandcamp link. Pity, even if my mind is still a little uncertain about the fiddle Pachalbel echo. At this point, I say it works. Just. – Seuras Og

14. Nickel Creek – The Ledge


Lindsey Buckingham’s first song on Tusk, “The Ledge” gives listeners a good idea what to expect from him over the next 70-odd minutes. Experimental and eccentric, this angular, ragged near-fragment is as anti-Rumours as it gets. Nickel Creek took a shine to the song, turning it into a live favorite. In their hands, “The Ledge” gains a great deal of warmth, what with their vocal blend and down-home instrumentation. – Patrick Robbins

13. Dana Buoy – Everywhere


Ambient chimes back this Akron/Family member’s vocals on the verses, setting up for a quiet and pretty meander. Just wait until the chorus though. It’s like an electropop version of the classic Pixies quiet/loud/quiet move. – Ray Padgett

12. The Staves – Songbird


Christine McVie’s Rumours standout is not only one of her best songs, but one of her best vocal performances. So it’s no knock on her to say that British sister trio The Staves deliver what might be, for me, the platonic ideal of this song. Stunningly harmonized, their “Songbird” might be the straight-up most beautiful cover on this list. – Ray Padgett

11. Charlie Musselwhite – Black Magic Woman


A song so well known in its Santana guise, some are still surprised that it is a Peter Green original. It first appeared on a 1968 single by Fleetwood Mac – then a quintessential, maybe the quintessential, white-boy blues band, in the UK’s 1960s blues boom. Charlie Musselwhite is old enough to be snuck into the original US blues scene of earlier, and was acquainted with all and sundry: Muddy Walters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker especially. Releasing his first record in 1966, he has never stopped blowing and is now appreciating he Native American heritage: he is of Cherokee stock, alongside his new musical partner Ben Harper. This cover from 2000’s The I-10 Chroniclescompilation stirs up the blues within a frenzy of mariachi and zydeco hues, suddenly lurching into another gear just as you think it ends. Terrific. – Seuras Og

10. Camper Van Beethoven – Tusk


Back in 2002, college-rock stalwarts Camper Van Beethoven recorded a song-for-song tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, claiming it was an outtake from 1987’s Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart sessions. Loose-limbed and somewhat erratic, much like the band themselves back in the day, this version of the title track is a psychedelically pleasing listen. And, since there are very few cover versions of this song out in the slipstream, the listening value is enhanced several notches. – Walt Falconer

9. The Cranberries – Go Your Own Way


OK, it’s virtually karaoke in it apeing the original structure, especially the drum patterns, but the extra mandolin, if it is, and Dolore’s never more rural accent gives grace and favour that never fail to uplift my heart. Her voice was a unique instrument, the vinegar to Sinead O’Connor’s salt. It is truly sad it is now lost to us. – Seuras Og

8. Le Blonde – Sisters of the Moon


There are a ton of electronic pop covers of Fleetwood Mac. The songs practically cry out for it, boasting insanely catch melodies and strong rhythms. Many lazy DJs simply add a four-on-the-floor beat, but Brooklyn duo Le Blonde take it way beyond that. They combine Stevie Nicks’ witchiness via one part Siouxsie Sioux, one part Avicii, turning Stevie’s Tusk anthem into a gothic dance banger. – Ray Padgett

7. Caitlin Rose – That’s Alright


With two critically acclaimed and criminally ignored albums under her belt, Caitlin Rose is an artist worth knowing. Part Patsy Cline part Jenny Lewis, Rose covers “That’s Alright” from the Mirage album on her debut release Own Side Now. This version of the song really brings out the Americana pedigree that was always lying just below the surface with the original. – Walt Falconer

6. Smog – Beautiful Child


I love all of Tusk, but if I were just picking a song or two to play, I don’t know that I’d ever gravitate towards “Beautiful Child.” It works in the context of the album’s back half, but it’s never stood out to me on its own. Luckily, Smog’s Bill Callahan heard something I didn’t. For a 2001 John Peel radio session, Callahan and co turned the song into a droning ambient-guitar masterpiece. It’s the slowest of burns, guitar, drums, and violin unfurling like molasses over the seven-minute runtime. But you won’t be able to stop it early. – Ray Padgett

5. Res – The Chain


Res (pronounced Reese) released the Refried Mac EP in 2013. It’s great – a soul reworking of Fleetwood Mac covers (plus one solo Stevie) that respects the originals without revering them. “The Chain” is a good example of Res making the song hers, with a little “It’s Your Thing”-style groove and an ending that doesn’t release tension so much as washes it away. – Patrick Robbins

4. Smashing Pumpkins – Landslide


“Landslide” is a classic song that everyone knows, and one identified with the instantly identifiable Stevie Nicks. Because of these factors, covering “Landslide” is a tricky affair. Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins manage to pull off their own beautiful, equally haunting version. They keep the melody and simplicity of the song the same, with the focus on vocals just as in the original. It would seem that choice might not be enough to set this cover apart, but the result is just the opposite. Corgan is the male counterpart to Nicks: an emotional, husky voice that seems to be reaching right through the air waves into our hearts. In this way, the Smashing Pumpkins cover has become a classic in its own right. – Angela Hughey

3. Watkins Family Hour – Steal Your Heart Away


“Steal Your Heart Away” is easily the deepest cut on this list. Even the most obscure Tusk oddity is no match for the rarest of birds: a cover of a recent-vintage Mac tune. Band members have publicly complained that no one listened to their most recent studio album, 2003’s Say You Will. Well, Sara Watkins and co. must have, turning this Buckingham nugget into a soaring country-rock masterpiece in 2015. – Ray Padgett

2. Lykke Li – Silver Springs


It’s amazing to me that Fleetwood Mac left their best song off Rumours and it is still one of the greatest albums of all time. “Silver Springs” thankfully gained second life as a single off the band’s massive 1997 live album The Dance. And the live video is exhibit A in why a Lindsey-less Mac isn’t the same no matter how talented the replacements. Lykke Li’s brings it to further prominence, a reverb-soaked blast of sheer vocal power. The cover is so good, Pitchfork dubbed Li “the Scandinavian heir to Nicks.” – Ray Padgett

1. Hole – Gold Dust Woman


In 1997, not long after Hole’s cover of “Gold Dust Woman” was released, Courtney Love interviewed Stevie Nicks, one of her fashion and attitude influences, for Spin magazine. When asked about the song, Nicks initially says that the “dust” is cocaine, but the song is about more than that. During the interview, Nicks throws out a bunch of different meanings, before finally admitting, “You know what, Courtney? I don’t really know what ‘Gold Dust Woman’ is about. I know there was cocaine there and that I fancied it gold dust, somehow. I’m going to have to go back to my journals and see if I can pull something out about ‘Gold Dust Woman.’ Because I don’t really know. It can’t be all about cocaine.”

Rumours is undeniably a great album, with top-notch writing, performing and production. But what makes it a classic is the way that the writers delve deep into dark, difficult areas. However, there was no way that Nicks would ever take the song into the intense, gritty place that Love does. For better or worse. – Jordan Becker

Not Mac-ed out yet? Dive into many more features on Fleetwood Mac covers:

  7 Responses to “The Best Fleetwood Mac Covers Ever”

Comments (3) Pingbacks (4)
  1. Gotta give it up for Joel R.L. Phelps and the Downer Trio’s cover of “Songbird,” which is achingly beautiful.
    https://youtu.be/DBZhb71mH9I

  2. I like The Corrs version of “Dreams”

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