May 222020

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Fleetwood Mac album covers

It seems that we like the Mac over here at Cover Me. This is our third Full Album Fleetwood Mac feature, following on from Rumours and Tusk, the other exemplars of this most acclaimed iteration of the ever-evolving band. Sure, loads of us (myself included) adore the 60’s into 70’s UK white-boy blues band, but c’mon–only a real curmudgeon would deny the greater pulling power of the Buckingham-Nicks Mark 1 years. Not that this pair, accomplished songwriters both, were the only pull; Christine McVie continued to add value with a constant drip feed of classics. And, looking back, given the “other” music breaking through in 1975, the so-called year zero of punk rock, how was it that this epitome of smooth found (and still finds) such purchase?

The story is well-trodden. A blues band down on their luck, reeling from the loss of all their most potent forces, and of several replacements of lesser merit, come close to throwing in the towel. Mick Fleetwood, drumming mainstay from the start, chances on Lindsey Buckingham, offers him a gig with the band. Buckingham said yes, but only if his girlfriend could also be recruited. What could go wrong? Well, the relationship of Buckingham and Nicks, as well as that of John and Christine McVie, were both going rapidly south. Fleetwood was also divorcing his wife (not a band member). Luckily the rot didn’t really hit until 1975’s eponymous LP had been made and released to no small success. Mind you, the mayhem didn’t stop the follow-up, Rumours, from doing better still, and the various co-sanguinous shenanigans thereafter making Tusk the critics’ favorite. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. This piece is to celebrate that brief window, possibly, of relationship harmony, maritally and otherwise. Possibly.

Fleetwood Mac, the album, was released in July 1975. Given it having the same title as their 1968 debut, a different kettle of fish altogether, this often attracted FM ’75 the sobriquet of the White Album, courtesy its iconic cover art. A slow burner, with singles initially failing to chart on either side of the Atlantic, the band relocated to L.A., playing anywhere and everywhere to gain some sort of traction. This hit paydirt, the record topping the Billboard chart a full year and change after release. A constancy of radio play helped this progress, as well as the singles being alternate or remixed versions of the album tracks, necessitating dual acquisition. I recall being a fairly early adopter, finding Fleetwood Mac still my first choice over the next two releases. The three songwriters, each with their differing styles, plus a (sort of) cover or two, added up to a celebration of summery soft-rock, forever on playlists for sunbaked road trips. Plus loads of opportunities for cover artists to meld and morph.

The Meat Purveyors – Monday Morning (Fleetwood Mac cover)

On the original, Lindsey Buckingham’s “Monday Morning” leapt out of the traps triumphantly. An older song, written in anticipation of the nonexistent followup to Buckingham/Nicks, this was part of the portfolio Buckingham delivered to his new band. The Meat Purveyors kick some additional sawdust into this hoedown of a version, the band being an alternative bluegrass band, rather than the death metal suggested by the name. Active for ten years from 1998, they had a healthy approach to tackling non-genre material. This comes from 2004’s Pain By Numbers. Bios of the band suggest they too had their fair share of relationship issues, possibly thus the choice of material.

Kamahl – Warm Ways (Fleetwood Mac cover)

An archetypal C. McVie song, “Warm Ways” lends well to many styles, even what is possibly best described as easy listening. Kamahl is a an Australian institution. Of Malay Tamil origin, he has had a multi-decades long career, and is still actively plowing his groove at the age of 85. Possibly too smooth for most ears acclimatized to this site, he has nonetheless attractive shades to his voice. Lose a bit of the stilted phrasing and his cover of “Warm Ways” would be perfect for what it is. He looks disarmingly like a younger James Brown, but is more Johnny Mathis in approach and wardrobe.

The Curtis Brothers – Blue Letter (covered by Fleetwood Mac)

Another song projected for the second Buckingham/Nicks record, “Blue Letter” is the only non-Fleetwood Mac band member-written song on the album. Michael and Richard Curtis moved in the same aspirant circles as Buckingham and Nicks, both as friends and collaborators, only later getting an opportunity to release this, their own version, no doubt with the royalties helping defray studio costs. A spunkier, simpler version than the “original,” it rushes along with a power-pop ambience that hides the nuances brought out by interpretation. Interestingly, another song worked on by the brothers and their friends ultimately became CSN’s “Southern Cross,” with Stephen Stills adding himself to the credits.

Waylon Jennings – Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac cover)

“Rhiannon” is one of two songs on this record irretrievably associated with Stevie Nicks, appearing innumerable times in her live solo and non-Mac output. So who better to sing a fey song about a Welsh witch than grizzled old country outlaw Waylon Jennings? Don’t answer that. His phrasing a little saddle-sore to keep up with the rhythm, and he sounds a little uncomfortable with the lyric, even slightly embarrassed as he holds back, waiting for the early fade. Sure, he has done worse, but I can think of a whole lot of other Fleetwood Mac songs he might have been happier doing. Still, I’m grateful that he tried.

Randy Crawford – Over My Head (Fleetwood Mac cover)

With a hint of Nashville, plus a few dashes of Dolly Parton (another contender in the most breathy vocal stakes), there is actually no real way of mistaking the vocals of Randy Crawford. The strings are kitsch, the rhythm section sound tuxedoed out, and don’t get me started on the backing vocals, but, despite this, she carries off her “Over My Head” cover, if just. Maybe I am being kind, for it ain’t a patch on the Perfect delivery of Ms. McVie, but there is a smidgen of residual charm remaining. That and her ethereal voice.

Adam Smith – Crystal (Fleetwood Mac cover)

Unusually, “Crystal” is a Nicks-written song sung by Buckingham. It initially on the sole Buckingham/Nicks album, and then on Fleetwood Mac, making it technically a cover by the time it there appeared. Stevie Nicks has since conclusively drawn it back to her bosom, and it’s become a staple of her solo shows. There are surprisingly few covers, Adam Smith appearing more to cover the altogether simpler B/N version, than the far more atmospheric band mode. So who Smith? It seems he is an Appalachian mountain boy, now based in Arizona, via a stint in Nashville. I guess file under prolific rather than successful.

Engelbert Humperdinck – Say You Love Me (Fleetwood Mac cover)

No, don’t skip this one. I know, I know–Eng the Hump, what was I thinking? But give it a go, squint your eyes a bit and imagine, just imagine. What if he had followed Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond into Rick Rubin’s studios? He certainly has more of a voice than my prejudice ever recalls and, if Tom Jones (with whom he famously shares/d management with) can be construed latterly cool, why not Eng?  Maybe ditch the spray-on tan and sideburns ensemble and smile a little less cheesily, but with some classier material, like this song, we could have a winner. OK, I’m overegging it a little, but as covers of “Say You Love Me” go, this one’s not bad.

Britta Phillips – Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)

If “Rhiannon” is the civilian’s favorite, “Landslide” must be the music lover’s, with well over a hundred cover versions in existence, even including those Stevie Nicks hasn’t inveigled her way into. As much as anything else, it is the electronic keyboard arrangement that clinched it for Britta Phillips to rise above the competition. Her voice may be standard bland midwest AOR (don’t hate me), but by virtue of elbowing out any other references to the original, it succeeds. The gradual and unobtrusive bass leads you to least expect the sudden shards of distorted guitar cutting through, a rough blade to excise the beauty of the usual middle eight. Possibly more famous as a cartoon: the singing voice of Jem, than her later band work with Luna, she has most recently appeared with her Luna bandmate/husband Dean Wareham as Dean and Britta. The gradual and unobtrusive bass playing is her own.

Leo Kottke – World Turning (Fleetwood Mac cover)

Here’s another case where the back story obscures what is a cover and who is covering who. Back in 1968 a band called Fleetwood Mac put out a record called Fleetwood Mac. It included a song called “The World Keeps On Turning,” written by Peter Green. It’s a good song and has some cool cover versions. Mick Fleetwood, custodian of the flame, asked Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie to see if they could give it an overhaul, which they did, an early collaboration between them. Leo Kottke is better known as an acoustic guitar picker, on the fringes of the 1960s/70s American Primitive movement, if a little more polished than some lumped in that genre. This comes from a curveball album he made in 1997, Standing In My Shoes, adapting his dexterity to play within a full band, adding his idiosyncratic vocals on a trio of tracks. Go listen again to the swirling undercurrent of his fingers over those strings.

ut1004bp – Sugar Daddy (Fleetwood Mac cover)

Why is there always one, a song wilfully uncovered on an otherwise unsullied selection? “Sugar Daddy,” a little lyrically “of its time” in the sentiments expressed, albeit mild compared with the shenanigans ensuing in and around the band and its associated diaspora, is one that causes great anger in those mild-mannered folk in the Steve Hoffman messageboard community. So it was going to be a sweet bedroom gurner or this, ut1004bp having a YouTube channel you can subscribe to. Here he specializes in singing, spectacularly badly, over karaoke backing tracks. There are others. The one thing I will say is that, one listen to this, and the Steve Hoffman opinions rapidly diminish.

Vampyromorpha – I’m So Afraid (Fleetwood Mac cover)

With a name like Vampyromorpha, I would have had to include this band regardless. Luckily, they do a decent version of album closer “I’m So Afraid,” a heavier piece of work than most songs preceding it. The song takes on a life of its own in the live setting, becoming an ear-splitting wigout that Lindsey never fails to enjoy, whether with the Mac, on his own, or with the short-lived duo with Christine McVie. This cover comes from Vampyromorpha’s 2016 recording, Fiendish Tales of Doom; who could guess they are exponents of a doomcore metal? Based in Bavaria, Germany, their bio suggests they specialize in horror, death, hell, demons and witches. Heavy enough to make Buckingham seem like Leo Kottke, and, whilst not my normal steaming vial of brimstone, I find it quite moving.

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