Back in the late 1990s, Mick Fleetwood pulled together “of the moment” artists (Jewel, Tonic, Tori Amos, etc) to cover songs from Fleetwood Mac’s epic Rumours album for a compilation called Legacy. The album was decent enough, but the bigger impact was that it kept the Rumours legacy alive. Most would argue that the mid 1970s was the peak of Fleetwood Mac’s creative output, and that corresponds with a lot of strife and drama occurring between the band’s members at the time. Pain begets art, I suppose. But Rumours is a testament to the theory that a band of Fleetwood Mac’s caliber is greater than the sum of its parts. All five members are wildly talented in their own way, but none would ever see the level of success that Rumours achieved in their own solo work.
Fourteen years later, and we have another Fleetwood Mac cover album, this time covering their full output and not just one album. Just Tell Me That You Want Me (a lyric from 1979′s “Tusk”) arrives on August 14th, but the tracks are available to listen to here. The artists on this compilation are less mainstream than the 1998 Tribute album, but from what I’ve heard, it’s clear that even indie bands are influenced by the Mac. Some of the tracks take on a new life in the hands of these interpreters, such as The Kills bringing an ominous vibe to “Dreams,” but it’s not always welcome. Best Coast misfire big-time with their perky version of “Rhiannon,” clashing with the less-than-optimistic original.
For me, the key to a great covers album is either the new versions are updated without losing the heart of the original or the artists covering the songs bring out something that wasn’t there originally. One of my favorite covers is from Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons, who brings his distinct vocals to the 1975 gem “Landslide.” Antony doesn’t bring anything new to Landslide” in terms of interpretation, but his vocals soar on a song that has varied meanings to so many people.
On a personal note, this song has had multiple meanings to me through the years, but right now the line “I’m getting older too” drives it home. Rumours was a staple on our turntable as I was growing up, but I didn’t discover “Landslide” until Fleetwood Mac released their live album The Chain in 1997. I’ve related this song to a relationship ending, moving away from family and friends, and now the simple act of aging. Whether Stevie Nicks wrote this song about career choices, drug addiction or any other inspiration, it remains a brilliant song that so many people can relate to. On a day like today (July 20, 2012), when at least 12 of my fellow Coloradoans have been shot down in a gratuitous act of violence, words do not come to mind easily to make sense of it. Hearing Antony’s version of “Landslide” this morning at least met my uneasiness with a small sliver of comfort. That is a sign of a great song and a great performance connecting with a listener, and for that I am grateful.