SOUND OFF: GLEE Dreams & Fleetwood Mac RUMOURS
Last night GLEE took on the catalogue of Fleetwood Mac - namely, their 1977 Grammy-winning Album of the Year, RUMOURS - and proved that you can do justice to the originals - as inimitable as they may be - but still go your own way with them. And, have your own way. Also, Broadway baby Kristin Chenoweth made her long-awaited return as boozy April Rhodes just in time to duet with Matt Morrison on the Stevie Nicks-penned classic "Dreams" and a few of the secondary leads - namely Santana, Artie and Quinn - got a chance to shine with these silvery takes on the solid gold classic rock tracks. While some of the tribute shows have been hit-or-miss in the past, Fleetwood Mac and the self-avowed queen gleek herself, Stevie Nicks - who was on set for Gwyneth Paltrow's taping of "Landslide" earlier this year, cheering the cast on - surely won't be digging an early grave with her silver spoon after hearing and seeing these sensitive and respectful takes on her tunes - and Lindsey Buckingham‘s and Christine McVie‘s, as well. But, I guess if anyone in the group has an issue with any of these covers, they can always cast a spell using some white witches and black magic. Speaking of which - or witch - too bad they didn't do "Gold Dust Woman" or "Silver Springs"! And, no cover of "The Chain"? But, I suppose they're saving them for "Rumours: Part 2" or, perhaps, an all-Stevie Nicks episode - particularly if it happened to feature songs from her splendid new album, IN YOUR DREAMS, which is out this week (her first new album this decade). So, break out your feathers, rings, and shawls, we've got all the gypsy magic you can handle inside thanks to the ever-revolving door of the ever-evolving cast of GLEE paying due respect to the similarly designed/aligned folk/rock super-group of the 70s making their momentous musical marriage somehow oh-so-apropos to the times, no?
Don't Stop... Believing
Wikileaks to WICKED, the topical references and homages implicit in the GLEE universe are many and mostly marvelous. Sure, sometimes they miss the mark, but, more often than not there is so much packed into one episode that you have to watch it more than once to really get down to brass tacks - or, this being a Fleetwood Mac tribute, gold and silver tacks. That doesn't mean most - or barely anyone - does, beyond the repeat-worthy musical numbers, which each episode has at least one or two worth revisiting time and time again. One thing is for sure after last night‘s episode: GLEE attacked the Fleetwood Mac back catalogue head-on in "Rumours" and the way the themes of the band's colorful background and it's merry-go-round of lovers met quite magnificently with the veritable glee-go-round of the cast on this show. This episode managed to juggle as many storylines as usual - if not more, given the Sue subplot (and props for the Ann Coulter get-up and the Bowie outrageousness) - though the overly dramatic opening was a bit overdone. The appearance of April Rhodes was a welcome surprise and it's a shame she wasn't featured more over the course of Season Two - and the same can most definitely be said of Idina Menzel, who has only been shown in flashbacks - but, hopefully, Cheyenne Jackson and Jonathan Groff - who returns as the fan favorite Jessie St. James next week for the "Prom Queen" episode - will get their musical moment in the spotlight at long last. Rhodes and Will in a number from her Broadway musical was something to be seen - and shuddered at. What a high note, though! Chenoweth looked very HOUSEWIVES OF... in her white-and-black gold-accented number during her appearance, which was spot-on given her character's lamentable plight. While The Warblers were a welcome addition to the GLEE universe - and played perhaps too-central of a role for the majority of this season - the show seems to have lost some of its focus and footing in the final episodes of the sophomore season as seen last night, making it more obvious than ever that the show has been treading water - particularly plot-wise (Emma, Will, Sue and Rachel, especially) for a while in many regards while it became THE BLAINE/KURT SHOW for better and worse. Indeed, the show certainly seems to remake itself every single week - which is a much-repeated comment in this column - and while that is both a good thing and a bad thing, depending on the circumstance, it is equally important to point out when that provides to be a hurdle as opposed to a boon. The variety show nature of the show works in its favor more often than not - and far more successfully in a storytelling way than it probably should, thanks to the songs conveying so much emotional, thematic and dramatic weight. Maybe too much. Whatever the weather, GLEE manages to compensate for the second-tier plots of some episodes - "Night of Neglect" and "Tonight" come to mind, especially, although last week's 90-minute episode was awfully short on the songs and story, too, as fun as it was at the time, come to think of it now - with the musical numbers in tribute episodes like this: Madonna to Britney to Gaga to Fleetwood Mac. One hopes GLEE will pay tribute to an entire Broadway show - though THE ROCKY HORROR GLEE SHOW almost counts - or complete composer's catalogue - Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim would be a fabulous place to start - at some point in Season Three. Or, is that too much to ask given the concentration on 21st century content all through Season Two? I suppose there is little room for complaint given two musical theatre songs last week - by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber, no less - so we should count our blessings; and successfully cast spells.
The song-stack of six songs was equally distributed among the three foremost songwriters of Fleetwood Mac, with "Dreams" and "I Don't Want To Know" from Nicks, "Don't Stop" and "Songbird" by McVie, and "Never Going Back" and "Go Your Own Way by Buckingham. Lea Michele served up "Go Your Own Way" saucily and Naya Rivera acquitted herself quite well with "Songbird. The elegant and effortless "Dreams", courtesy of Kristin Chenoweth and Matt Morrison, along with the effusive "Don't Stop" finale were the centerpieces of the night and packed a pretty powerful punch. "I Don't Want To Know" as performed by Cory Monteith and Dianna Agron was appropriately affectionate, while Kevin McHale, etc. pulled off "Never Going Back Again" with aplomb. Fleetwood Mac is not as easily adaptable to any and all dramatic situations - no matter how contrived - as many Madonna or Gaga songs may be, so it was particularly enjoyable to see how the creators would deal with the tricky-to-justify songs as the episode played out in real-time. Their steering clear of "Gold Dust Woman", the infamous B-side, "Silver Springs", and one of the most famous of all songs from RUMOURS, "The Chain" - at least as sung by the cast, since it was used as source music - all seemed intentionally avoided so as to not raise too close of comparisons with the idolized band when they are at their idiosyncratic best, as they unquestionably were when they created RUMOURS. Smart move. That doesn't mean that it wouldn't be interesting to hear Ryan Murphy & Co. try their luck with those songs - and more Mac material - given the breadth of talent (and supporting guest stars like Chenoweth, Paltrow, Jackson and more) in the future, but when testing the waters with a sacred entity such as Fleetwood Mac, perhaps it is best to stay in the shallow end the first time out. Next time, knowing they did the classics justice the first time out - which they did - then, and only then, can they dive and delve even deeper into much more treacherous waters. Who knows, maybe even "Tusk" someday? Doesn't McKinley have a marching bad? They do! So, there you go.
Attention was duly paid to the magic and majesty of the music of Fleetwood Mac throughout "Rumours" and the storied legacy of the band - both in front of and behind the scenes - was cemented with the celebration enacted - and for all its worth, with these worthy covers and praiseworthy references treating the band as deities. No, no one here is going to top the songwriters themselves on singing their own songs - let alone the combustible combination of the five members of Mac altogether, as on the studio versions of "Don't Stop" and others featured in the episode last night - but moments like Morrison and Chenoweth's "Dreams", Rivera's "Songbird" and Michele's "Go Your Own Way" give credence to the concept of there being alternative takes that bring light - and voice - to other aspects of the expertly written pop songs as can clearly be seen - and heard - here. While Christine McVie's songs are not quite on the level of the contributions to RUMOURS coming from Stevie Nicks - "Gold Dust Woman" and "Silver Springs", neither featured tonight (though the underscore for the hallway glaring scene between Santana and Sam was reminiscent of the bass line for the former in a twinkling, winking homage) being Nicks‘s best - they were given equal weight with the others to good effect, with both coming off satisfactorily. Buckingham's songs always hit a pungent chord and tonight's episode's iterations reinforced that concept again, for sure. Additionally, the source tracks - such as with "The Chain" coming after the Finn/Rachel motel spying scene - was an added delight (an enjoyable attribute of the Britney and Gaga episodes, as well) for the Fleetwood Mac fans among the Gleeks.
Murphy and Co. - Murphy himself penning the episode, which was directed by a mastermind of MAD MEN, Tim Hunter - brought Fleetwood Mac into the GLEE universe in a reverent and relevant way and this episode makes one hope for more such worthy tributes to great bands in the future - The Beatles and The Who would be two great places to start next season. The possibilities are endless - as is the chameleon-like ability of this cast to make oh-so many potentially troubling tracks their very own beyond the set-ups and scenarios which give the material a whole new energy, hue, style and significance - dramatic, thematic or otherwise. Case(s) in point: well, actually, nearly everything on "Rumours". Even Quinn and Finn's duet was a memorable couple moment for the files (anything is better than more Top 40 treacle like "Candles", to be perfectly frank). Bottom line: Forget the originals of these songs because they are untouchable - take it all in and try to get a hold of the affectionate and appreciably accomplished versions of the versatile singers singing the songs on display here and you, too, may fall under the spell that RUMOURS held in 1977 all over again - or, for the very first time ever. Such is the charm and allure of much of what GLEE has to offer us all, of any and every generation and age, no? And, anyway: It might just be a breath - or, a hit - of what once was and spark something anew within you in the process. And, hey, even a momentary mirage of the magic of the past sometimes is enough to wake the dead - or at least holds power enough to wake something in a new generation of believers. Many of these songs will live forever and GLEE has now respectfully presented them in a dynamic and enjoyable way for a whole new generation to dig (or dig again) - whether with silver spoons or not.