University Wire (04/22/2003), CD Review: Nicks, Mick Reunite
University Wire, April 22, 2003
CD Review: Nicks, Mick Reunite
by Tanya Dawson
(Cavalier Daily) (U-WIRE) CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- After more than 30 years, Fleetwood Mac's longevity has become almost a paradox: They can't really break up because they're never really together. After all, for the last 15 years, every studio album finds at least one of the co-ed quintet's members MIA.
Their latest album, "Say You Will," begins yet another chapter in what has become the never-ending saga of the career of Fleetwood Mac. The long-awaited new studio album includes the participation of four out of the five "golden" members -- that is, those responsible for the group's most successful release, 1977's "Rumours": Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
This time, it's Christine McVie who decided to stay home. Still, while the singer and keyboardist's absence frustratingly keeps "Say You Will" from being a true studio reunion, the return of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham -- back in a big way for the first time since 1987's "Tango in the Night" -- helps turn "Say You Will" into a decent return to form. Although Christine McVie certainly is missed, the remaining four members have successfully produced the "sound" that made them one of the best-selling and most loved bands of the '70s.
The Mac are, of course, best known for the zillion-selling 1977 colossus, "Rumours." And the story behind that classic is almost as famous as the music itself. In fact, if there are any soap writers out there looking for new material they need look no farther than Fleetwood Mac. "Rumours" featured "Dreams," "Go Your Own Way" and "Don't Stop" -- all songs that commented on Stevie Nicks' messy break-up with the guitarist, Lindsey Buckingham, and Christine McVie's split from the bassist, John McVie. Nicks then went on to have a brief affair with Fleetwood, whose first marriage was on the rocks, while Christine McVie started seeing the band's lighting director, Curry Grant. Even an avid soap-watcher has to catch her breath in order to keep up with all these love triangles.
In fact, when listening to tracks such as "Destiny Rules" and "Thrown Down," one cannot help but find it hard to decide whether Nicks still holds a candle for Buckingham, or is simply exploiting a highly marketable aspect of one of rock's greatest soap operas.
She may be doing both.
Either way, the songs are great and give nothing less than what's expected from Nick's enchanting voice.
The songs (all written by Nicks or Buckingham) recall the strummy, shimmering, California pop of classic Mac, while also tackling emotionally timely topics such as 9-11. Buckingham's artful yet tempered production instills the tunes with texture and depth, drawing you into the tracks, while at the same time injecting solos fiery enough to challenge players half his age.
And although I am partial to Nicks, most would agree that her distinct voice and dark, rich tones are better than ever. What's more, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie are as in sync as an old married couple (which they almost are at this point).
At this point in their storied career, it would have been easy for Fleetwood Mac to just go into the studio and sleepwalk their way through another album, replicating the past before hitting the road for some easy money. Surprisingly, however, there are some songs that depart from the classic Mac formula -- and manage to succeed as well. "Murrow Turning Over in His Grave" is one of the album's more avant-garde tracks -- a big, dense clash of guitars, staggered rhythms, sound effects and Buckingham's desperate vocals. But this is not the only time where The Mac ventures out on a limb. Sometimes it works -- as on that song -- and sometimes it doesn't, like the rather excessive lumber and thunder of "Come." But at least they're still taking their chances, unlike the vast majority of "classic rock" acts that long ago lost their sense of adventure.
Longtime Fleetwood Mac fans need not fret though -- the majority of the album is quintessential Mac and plenty of moments exist that are very true to the best of their earlier work. In fact, there are many songs that feel almost familiar from the very first listen. "Thrown Down" is a particular standout, loaded with Buckingham and Nicks' unforgettable harmonies.
Aside from the absence of Christine McVie, perhaps the only other downfall of "Say You Will" is its length. It feels as if one could leave the room, make a sandwich, run to the store, complete four years of college, come back, and it still would be playing! (Okay, a bit of an exaggeration). The album does, after all, contain 18 songs that run over 76 minutes together. For the more dedicated fans, this isn' t really a problem, but the uninitiated listener may find that some of the songs could have easily been done without. Memo to the Mac: "Don't Stop" may have been a smash hit, but it's not exactly the best policy when choosing an album's track listing.
So, what's the bottom line? For all the die-hard Mac fans, "Say You Will" certainly pans out as a just reward for our long wait.For those who aren't yet fans, there is no time like the present, and this latest album is an accessible place to start.
Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge.
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