Tantalize a Fleetwood Mac fan with news of a tribute album and they’ll go a bit soft inside; the 45-year old band has gone through so many permutations of line up, artistic temperaments and internal melodrama that the choices of covers are really quite boundless. Fleetwood Mac, now a quartet since the departure of Christine McVie, havn’t released a new studio album since 2003’s rather tepid Say You Will, but, said Stevie Nicks recently, they are likely to tour again in 2013. So the release of A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac seems fortuitously timed, not only to the upcoming tour, but the more generous discussion these days of the band as an inspiration to a surprising array of contemporary artists like Metronomy’s Joseph Mount, Animal Collective’s Dave Portner and Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan. All have cited the impact of the band, notably Lindsey Buckingham’s edgier, experimental forays, on their own work.
Although those three don’t show up on A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac, there’s plenty of youthful artists on this release: Lykke Li, Washed Out, The Kills and MGMT crowd out Mac contemporaries like ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Marianne Faithfull. Not a bad thing, but it seems that, judging by the selections here, that Stevie Nicks — who wrote 10 of the collection’s 17 tracks — was the primary architect of Fleetwood Mac’s sound. Despite a nice handful of Peter Green offerings, A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac is disappointingly scant on songs from Buckingham, Christine McVie and other past Mac members.
As with any tribute album, this is a mix of pretty straightforward covers — like Li’s hollow bleat on ‘Silver Springs’ or Best Coast’s sincere but matter-of-fact ‘Rhiannon’ — and more dynamic, off-the-wall interpretations, like Karen Elson’s wonderfully wicked ‘Gold Dust Woman’ or Gibbons’ exuberant, dirty grind through Green’s ‘Oh Well’. The New Pornographers’ sunny take on McVie’s ‘Think About Me’ is briskly and pleasingly off-kilter while Tame Impala’s woozy psychedelic amble through ‘That’s All For Everyone’, nudges Buckingham’s keening, pain-wracked lullaby into a handsome, slow motion haze. Antony Hegarty tenderly shapes “Landslide” into his very own raw confession while Black Dub’s Trixie Whitley sensually stokes the bluesy, 43-year-old fires of Green’s ‘Before the Beginning’ with masterful confidence.
Although it makes more sense to dig out Tusk if experiencing a Mac attack, A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac does its best to trumpet the very significant artistic import of the band, a predominantly British group that got weirdly ghettoized into a soft rock, “California sound” purgatory, nestling the band, incongruously, next to the Eagles or Jackson Browne. Fleetwood Mac, in all of its shape-shifting forms, deserves to be extracted from the clutches of “easy listening” back to the cooler rock and roll pantheon where they rightly belong. While A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac is far from perfect — notably the grievous misstep of overlooking Buckingham and McVie’s work — it most effectively recognizes the band’s mesmerizing, “uneasy listening” force.