Everybody knows that cover bands dream of rock stardom, but do rock stars dream of being cover bands? That’s the question at the heart of Legacy: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Less an act of homage than a self-administered pat on the back — Legacy was executive produced by Mac daddy Mick Fleetwood for the album’s 20th anniversary — it divides the original’s 11 songs among 11 different acts, ranging from Elton John and Jewel to matchbox 20 and the Cranberries.
Although the theory behind tribute albums is that they testify to the songs’ enduring power, the truth is that remaking a classic puts any artist in a difficult situation. Although the obvious approach is to play the song straight, that’s rarely the right solution. For instance, it’s hard to admire the accuracy of the Cranberries’ ”Go Your Own Way” without noticing how it doesn’t measure up to Fleetwood Mac’s.
Playing with the arrangements doesn’t always work, either. Elton John’s keyboard-heavy take on ”Don’t Stop” may be more Stevie Wonder than Stevie Nicks, but that doesn’t really illuminate the song; likewise, though Shawn Colvin’s lean, funky invocation of ”The Chain” keeps its distance from the original, it leaves the listener hungry for the old, familiar hooks. Perhaps that’s why most of the acts here opt for near imitation. Jewel doesn’t do much to ”You Make Loving Fun” beyond making it sound like a Jewel song (not necessarily a compliment), while Tonic’s ”Second Hand News” differentiates itself simply by adding distortion (not necessarily a plus).
Fortunately, a few tracks do shed new light on these old favorites. Matchbox 20 radically rethink ”Never Going Back,” shifting into a minor key and making the music as dark as the words, and Duncan Sheik’s string-drenched ”Songbird” almost sounds like Jerome Kern. But such moments are few and far between, making this a Legacy of questionable value. C+