Tribute albums always sound a little better in theory—sometimes even that’s not the case—than they actually are once put into practice. Take a beloved band and a seemingly random collection of artists going through the motions and you’re automatically setting yourself up for disappointment. But every so often, they get done right, and this happens to be one of those times.
Over a long, but appropriate 17 songs, nearly everyone tapped delivers an inspired take on Nicks and company classics and a few of their deeper cuts. Fleetwood Mac’s expansive, diverse catalog is actually ideal for an interesting tribute effort. There’s a lot to play with here, and the material has already proven it has staying power.
Alt guitar gods Lee Ranaldo and J. Mascis kick it off with an eerie and reverential take on the fantastic guitar instrumental “Albatross,” showing their respect while still letting things get a little bit weird, as expected. It’s the perfect first track to honor a band that rarely let itself be defined by genre.
From there, things mostly remain a pleasure. Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons delivers a sweet, sparse rendition of “Landslide;” The New Pornographers bang out a power-pop monster on the Christine McVie-penned Tusk classic “Think About Me,” and Best Coast’s bouncy, piano-based “Rhiannon” gives a more lighthearted, but still enjoyable perspective on the Nicks original.
Mixed in with those are two of the album’s standouts: Billy Gibbons & Co.’s “Oh Well” and Swedish songstress Lykke Li’s “Silver Springs.” Both Gibbons and Li turn in barn-burning performances that showcase the depth and breadth of FM’s range. Gibbons takes Peter Green’s already heavy, blues-rock opus, slows it down, adds some Texas-style fuzz and his trademark Southern grumble, reminding listeners that Fleetwood Mac were indeed a badass rock ‘n’ roll band, while on Nicks’ “Silver Springs” Li showcases the tender side of the band and all the emotional drama that plagued their career. Li’s vocals are as powerful and vulnerable as the song’s subject matter (allegedly Nicks’ breakup with bandmate Lindsey Buckingham) and the haunting production of dramatic percussion and reverb lends itself perfectly. It is the centerpiece of the album’s line-up and arguably its finest moment.
A dirge-y crack at “Gold Dust Woman” by Jack White-ex Karen Elson and a very Kills-esque “Dreams” by, well, The Kills are interesting efforts, as are Gardens & Villa’s ‘80s pop “Gypsy” and Craig Wedren and St. Vincent’s industrial-tinged “Sisters Of The Moon,” but the track sequence definitely feels top-heavy, with the most of the good coming in the first eight cuts.
The album closes with a tripped-out, psychedelic “Future Games” by MGMT, complete with vocals that don’t sound unlike those of a robot. It’s an experiment for sure, but a fitting end to a tribute album that does what all tribute albums should set out to do—offer original takes on a great band’s songs, while reminding listeners what made that band great in the first place.