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CD review: Fleetwood Mac tribute has plenty of ground to cover

Various artists

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

Posted 10:22am on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012

With few exceptions, multi-artist tribute albums are irritatingly patchwork, too sympathetic or perfunctory, overthought or underthought.

They age badly or aren't worth a second thought. (Producer Hal Willner has created more than his share of the exceptions.) Sometimes they want to be liked by the wrong people: the tributees, not the audience.

Just Tell Me That You Want Me, with 17 tracks by 17 artists -- mostly indie-ish, rock and electronic, many-striped, individually produced and organized into a whole by Randall Poster and Gelya Robb -- pays homage to Fleetwood Mac but also brings a few new dimensions to the band's music.

Fleetwood Mac started in 1967 as an English band playing black music, and through various mellow moves became an American band playing white music -- the trebly, melodic, AM-radio slick mysticism of Rumours or the FM, arty ramshackle of Tusk.

The last third of Just Tell Me That You Want Me is skippable, but at its best stretches, new obsessions complement those of the originals. Washed Out -- electronic artist Ernest Greene -- takes Straight Back, a post-disco dirge from the 1982 album Mirage, and fills it with more hiss and sheen.

The New Pornographers claim Think About Me, from the super-pop phase, and replicate it closely, adding backward guitar phrases. The young, husky-voiced Trixie Whitley sings the early Before the Beginning, with Marc Ribot supplying clouds of slide guitar. Antony quietly sings Landslide with spare guitar backing. Karen Elson, produced by Beck, with Cole M. Grief-Neill playing various instruments, roughs up Gold Dust Woman.

A few of Fleetwood Mac's contemporaries show up nicely. Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top remakes Peter Green's Oh Well, from first-version Fleetwood Mac, dense and dirty, protecting and controlling his slow tempo. Marianne Faithfull does Stevie Nicks' Angel, yielding to expanses of guitar, from Ribot and Bill Frisell, and vibraphone, from Kenny Wollesen.

This is all very tasteful. What's needed is defiance, which is what Best Coast provides with Rhiannon. The register and tone of Bethany Cosentino's voice comes reasonably close to Nicks'. But it uses no minor chords, which defined the song as it was. More often, we're used to hearing somebody find the moody shadows of a happy thing. This does the reverse, and transforms an almost official piece of American art.

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