Billy F Gibbons / Matt Sweeney & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Oh Well/Storms split 7”, 2012

storms frontYay to Dragcity for releasing this as a single for Bonnie fans who didn’t want to buy A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac earlier in 2012 just to own “Storms” on a physical format. “Storms” comes from Tusk, that great Fleetwood double LP of 1979. On the flipside we have Billy F Gibbons performing a Fleetwood Mac song from their early days with bluesman Peter Green, called “Oh Well.” So who’s Billy F Gibbons? Original founding member and guitarist of ZZ Top. Apart from hearing Eliminator belted out everywhere back in 1983, I’ve never given ZZ Top the time of day. Born in 1949 would make him around 63 at time of this recording.

storms labelOh Well… the Fleetwood Mac version (part one) is a blistering heavy blues with two wicked verses sung when the music stops, all about the evils of judging other people. The narrator is self-deprecating at first in order to justify his negative opinion of the ‘you’ to whom he’s singing, and therefore suggests he/she not “ask me what I think of you / I might not give the answer that you want me to.” Billy F Gibbons’s version is just as heavy, although a little slower. Some thundering stuttering rhythm guitar opens the song before the first verse appears in Gibbons’s rough and dry hoarse of a voice. The theme of judgment is repeated in the second verse, only this time it’s God doing the talking, telling the song’s narrator the same as what he’d just said to his friend, and then “oh well.” This has gravitas, especially the Tom Waits-like thumping percussion plus tinpot effects, although I prefer the speed and bluesy syncopation of the original. This one’s loud, needs a big volume to fully appreciate the song’s heavy depth, despite it’s lackadaisical brush off, “oh well” which reminds me of that Queens of the Stone Age song, “Monster in the Parasol.”

storms labelStorms… by the time this song was released, over ten years later, Fleetwood Mac were a radically different band. Tusk I think was some kind of break up or post-break up album, as reflected in the easy metaphor-title of this song, “Storms.” It’s a good-bye song, something Oldham specializes in, about the empty feeling, “a deadly calm inside,” and the dawning realization that love has gone, “Is there anything left to say?” The singer admits, “I did not deal with you I know / Though the love has always been,” and while professing that as much as she (the original is sung by Stevie Nicks) would like to offer a blue calm sea, she has “always been a storm.” It’s nice to see Will Oldham working with Matt Sweeney again, but I’m not sure they bring that much fresh interest to the song. However, Oldham’s singing is right on form here—he gets every nuance down beautifully. The music is a lovely crisp acoustic guitar on the surface with Sweeney’s electric guitar bringing a background melody, and a lightly pattering hand-drum beat. I own nearly everything by the F-Mac right up until Tusk but I haven’t listened to Tusk for a long time, and I guess this song was never one I’d paid any attention to, preferring the more intense Buckingham songs on that album. What is awesome is the ending, with a rain of falling electric notes among the acoustic strum, and um, some kind of fuzzy rain, and a keyboard too. Very emotive.

storms backI wonder who actually buys various artist covers albums? Well, fans obviously, and I’ve got a few of my own, specifically the one by Louisville artists covering the first Palace album, and forty old Dylan covers albums on vinyl, including the new one in 2014 featuring none other than Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy with Dawn Landes covering “Dark Eyes.” But I could never see myself buying a Fleetwood Mac covers album despite being a big fan of their first four albums. The Oldham/Sweeney cover of “Storms” is pretty, but nothing to get too excited about.

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About Alan Bumstead Vinyl Reviews

Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.
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