MUSIC REVIEWS: ‘Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac’

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Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac

Various Artists

Concord

★★★

The 1970s are long gone, but Fleetwood Mac’s influence lives on.

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Album cover for Blackberry Smoke “The Whippoorwill.” more >

“Just Tell Me That You Want Me” pushes the band’s music into the 21st century by rounding up a dozen or so modern acts — including MGMT, Best Coast and Lykke Li — and asking them to put their own stamp on the group’s classics.

Marianne Faithfull makes an appearance, too, singing “Angel” in a voice that’s become coarse with age, while ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons rasps his way through a swampy, guitar-fueled version of “Oh Well.” Both artists are Fleetwood Mac’s peers, and their presence lends some old-school cred to an album filled with fresh faces and new names. “Just Tell Me That You Want Me” spends most of its time focusing on a younger generation of Fleetwood Mac disciples, though, to mixed results.

It’s fun to hear the Kills, Washed Out and Lykke Li — three acts that make very modern-sounding music — tackle songs that are older than themselves. The Kills take the dreaminess out of “Dreams,” turning it into an angry woman’s lament, and Lykke Li croons “Silver Springs” like a modern-day torch singer. Washed Out’s rendition of “Straight Back” rides a wave of harmonies, acoustic guitar and pulsing kick drum, finding a surprising amount of mileage in a song that originally stalled on the charts back in 1982.

Not all cover songs are created equal, though. During a straightforward version of “Landslide,” folk singer Antony sinks beneath the weight of his own heavy vibrato, and Best Coast’s bubblegum version of “Rhiannon” sounds less like Fleetwood Mac and more like a subpar Go-Go’s. MGMT’s nine-minute “Future Games” is downright bizarre, drowning most of the song’s original beauty in a psychedelic swirl of distorted vocals and electronic squiggles.

Even so, the album skates by on the strength of its diversity. There’s something jarring — and slightly fun — about hearing Miss Faithfull’s wizened croak immediately after the New Pornographers’ bright harmonies, and the disc’s stronger covers tend to carry the weaker ones. Credit for the album’s smart sequencing goes to producers Randall Poster and Gelya Robb, who released a Grammy-nominated tribute to Buddy Holly last year and achieve similar results here.

The Whippoorwill

Blackberry Smoke

Southern Ground

★★★

With their mutton chops, Duane Allman haircuts and ever-present aviator sunglasses, the guys in Blackberry Smoke look as though they just stepped out of the 1970s. They sound that way, too, mining the same intersection of country, Southern rock and bluesy soul as groups such as Little Feat and .38 Special.

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