Artists pay tribute to Fleetwood Mac
JUST TELL ME THAT YOU WANT ME: A TRIBUTE TO FLEETWOOD MAC
Founded in 1967 as a British blues-rock band led by guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, Fleetwood Mac evolved into a massively popular co-ed California pop-rock quintet featuring three commercially potent singer-songwriters.
The songs of Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, the writer-performers in 1970s and ’80s edition of Fleetwood Mac who created the band’s biggest hits, figure prominently in the new multi-artist tribute to Fleetwood Mac. Also making the track list are songs by Green and the recently departed Bob Welch.
Interpreted by artists of various generations, Fleetwood Mac’s finely crafted songs show how adaptable they are. The interpreters also play to their own strengths and sensibilities.
Sweden’s Lykke Li, no stranger to songs about unrequited love, connects with the haunting, Wuthering Heights mood of Nicks’ “Silver Springs.” As vocally aligned as Li and Nicks’ are in range and timbre, Li has her own distinctive voice.
Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley perform Green’s 1969 British hit, “Albatross,” with reverb-heavy guitar, a heartbeat pulse and an interlude of seaside reverie. Trixie Whitley and producer Joe Henry cast another Green piece, “Before the Beginning,” in low, swampy strokes of doom. ZZ Top singer-guitarist Billy Gibbons picks a Green selection, too, and, no surprise, it fits him like a favorite old guitar strap.
Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino reinvents Nicks’ “Rhiannon” above strict staccato piano chords. For better or worse, she strips the piece of its original mystery by making it a sunny pop song. Marianne Faithful’s weathered take on Nicks’ “Angel,” another of the album’s Henry productions, holds the authoritative weight of a dramatic reading.
Heavy use of electronics distinguish the Mac tribute’s more radical interpretations, especially MGMT’s sci-fi adaptation of “Future Games” and the Crystal Ark’s “Tusk.” Adventurous though the latter performers are, they wisely keep melodies and structures too good to mess with in place.
Booker T. & the M.G.’s
Organist Booker T. Jones, guitarist Steve Cropper, drummer Al Jackson Jr. and bassists Lewis Steinberg and Donald “Duck” Dunn formed the house band for the Memphis-based Stax and Volt labels, the South’s answer to Detroit’s Motown Records.
Between 1962 and 1969, Stax expert Rob Bowman writes in accompanying liner notes for the reissued Stax classic, Green Onions the Stax-Volt house band played for 95 percent of the labels’ releases. Adding to the group’s importance, Cropper engineered sessions and all of the band members produced sessions.
Beyond backing soul hits by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Rufus and Carla Thomas, William Bell, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, Sam and Dave and others, Jones, Cropper, Jackson, Dunn and Steinberg recorded and performed as Booker T. & the M.G.’s. The group’s 1962 single, an infectiously grooving instrumental called “Green Onions,” became a No. 1 rhythm-and-blues and No. 3 pop single in 1962.
Naturally, a full-length album followed. The band mostly sticks repetitively to its successful “Green Onions” formula: supple, understated, sometimes virtuosic organ solos from Jones, fiery guitar flights from Cropper and a deep in-the-pocket rhythm section.
Selections include “Green Onions” knockoff “Mo’ Onions”; an instrumental version of the Isley Brothers’ then recent hit, “Twist and Shout”; and hip takes on Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman” and “Lonely Avenue.” Breaking out of formula, Jones also beautifully makes the connection between gospel and soul through “A Woman, A Lover, A Friend.”