Various Artists – ‘Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac’

Each generation discovers the brooding magic of the Mac anew

Fleetwood Mac were always cool. Their recording sessions had more sexual tension than a book club reading of Fifty Shades Of Grey. The band members treated private jets like Boris Bikes. They tried to credit their dealer on an album sleeve. They recorded an album, 1977’s ‘Rumours’, that’s sold over 40million copies. Always, always cool. And in 2012 The Mac are having a moment again, what with dangerously ace all-girl trio Haim confessing a debt and Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino turning fangirl. Now comes the tribute album with NME faves Tame Impala and MGMT putting a spin on their favourite Fleetwood chestnut.

Of ‘Just Tell Me That You Want Me’’s 17 tunes, only seven weren’t written by Stevie Nicks. Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham gets a couple of dedications as Tame Impala faithfully replicate ‘That’s All For Everyone’ with a psychedelic hue and The Crystal Ark take on ‘Tusk’, which fails to out-weird the original, which was recorded live with a marching band in an empty football stadium. Keyboardist Christine McVie is given some love from The New Pornographers, who make ‘Think About Me’ sound dirtier than it is. Original guitarist Peter Green, meanwhile, has ‘Albatross’ taken on by Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis, but they can’t add to the magnificence of the chart-topping instrumental despite elongating it by a minute. Meanwhile, MGMT bring the vocoder weirdness on ‘Future Games’, written by Fleetwood Mac’s most underrated bod, Bob Welch. It swirls about in Benjamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden’s rainbow spirals before collapsing in a heap of bleeps and fuzz.

But in the main it’s all about Nicks’ 1975-to-’82 heyday. It’s hard to fault any artist who falls for her intoxicating songwriting, all romance, witchiness and self-mythology, but tapping into it is tricky. The Kills misread ‘Dreams’, and Karen Elson never owns ‘Gold Dust Woman’. But when someone gets it, the results are remarkable. Antony Hegarty doing ‘Landslide’ is heartbreaking, Craig Wedren and St Vincent spook up ‘Sisters Of The Moon’, and Washed Out do a remarkable job of making ‘Straight Back’ seem as if a hazy beach scene was what Nicks was going for all along. It’s not what Best Coast were going for on the piano plink-plonk of ‘Rhiannon’, which seems slight until Bethany’s vocal wins you over. But without doubt the album’s greatest moment belongs to Marianne Faithfull, whose own mythology is powerful enough to make ‘Angel’ her own. If you don’t already know the Mac, treat this as your way in. You won’t be coming out in a hurry.

Nick Levine

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