According to veteran music supervisor Randall Poster, a tribute album is nothing more than another kind of soundtrack.
“I really think of these tribute records as movies — that might just be my own vocational habit,” Poster said. “By putting certain artists and certain songs up against each other, hopefully, if somebody plays it through, there’s a sense of story that comes through. When I do soundtrack albums for movies, I try to do the same things.”
Over nearly two decades, Poster has gained a top rep supervising music for feature directors like Wes Anderson and Todd Haynes; earlier this year, he won a Grammy for his work on HBO’s mob drama “Boardwalk Empire.”
But Poster has moved into the tribute biz in a big way. Last year, he and co-producer Gelya Robb helmed the Buddy Holly homage “Rave On,” a starry collection led by Paul McCartney (who owns Holly’s copyrights). The success of that Concord Music project spurred “Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac,” released last week on Concord’s Hear Music imprint.
Poster says his work on the soundtrack for Haynes’ 2007 feature “I’m Not There” — which featured a diverse cast of musicians interpreting the songs of Bob Dylan, the pic’s ever-morphing subject – was ideal preparation for his tribute work.
“That was a rare opportunity to really take on an artist’s repertoire in a very thorough and dynamic way,” Poster says. “It was really a Bob Dylan tribute record.”
Given the opportunity to plumb the oeuvre of another rock institution after the Holly set, Poster was drawn to the long, twisting history of Fleetwood Mac, which began life in the late ’60s as a British blues band.
Poster notes, “For a band of so many styles and generations, it seemed rare and right to take on. We wanted to musically draw the connective line from (founding guitarist-singer-songwriter) Peter Green up through the last, prime version of the band.”
Green’s 1967-70 era gets its due in bluesy renditions of his compositions by ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Trixie Whitley of Black Dub and the guitar duo of Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth) and J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.)
While other songwriting members of the band like Christine McVie and the late Bob Welch are represented on “Tell Me That You Want Me,” the lion’s share of the repertoire comprises songs by Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, whose tenure in the group spawned the ’70s hits “Fleetwood Mac,” “Rumours” and “Tusk.”
In fact, the album is virtually a Nicks tribute, for the female vocalist accounts for 10 of the album’s 17 tracks. Her erstwhile partner Buckingham — often cited as the band’s driving creative force in its heyday — is represented as a writer on just two tracks.
Poster notes that renditions of several Nicks classics — Marianne Faithfull’s “Angel,” Antony’s “Landslide,” Lykee Li’s “Silver Springs” — were earmarked early on, and her writing dominance on the package “kinda snuck up on me.”
In the immediate future, Poster will be busy with his main gig. “Spring Breakers,” a new collaboration with writer-director Harmony Korine, premieres in Venice in September. Work is wrapping on the third season of “Boardwalk Empire.” And, fresh off ecstatic reviews for “Moonrise Kingdom,” Poster and Anderson will begin their eighth film together in early 2013.
But Poster has also set a couple of album projects for the near future. Given his work on Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” and Hayne’s “Velvet Goldmine,” it’s unsurprising that his next tribute subject will be David Bowie.
“Then, I don’t know if this is a tribute record, but I’m going to make a record of Civil War music,” he says.
“These things, as you must imagine, are really fun to do,” he adds. “Hopefully, this is the dividend of working so hard doing these movies, and having enough creative good will that people will trust that the thing will work as a whole.”