Boston Globe (04/13/2003), With new disc, band grows it's own way
Boston Globe, April 13, 2003
With new disc, band grows its own way
Fleetwood Mac is older and wiser, and the songs on 'Say You Will' reflect that
By Steve Morse, Globe Staff
For years, Fleetwood Mac starred in rock's longest-running soap opera. Internal feuds and shifting love affairs among band members kept the gossip columnists humming. Drummer Mick Fleetwood blew the whistle in his autobiography ''Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac'' when he admitted he had been romantically linked with Mac singer Stevie Nicks after she had been romantically connected to co-singer Lindsey Buckingham. And let's not forget bassist John McVie and keyboardist Christine McVie were once married. And so it went.
Today, however, there is an almost eerily peaceful camaraderie among the members of Fleetwood Mac. The soap opera has given way to a mutual admiration society, and the music has not suffered. The new Fleetwood Mac album, ''Say You Will,'' which comes out Tuesday, is a sterling 18-song set of melodic, multilayered pop-rock that ranks with the group's best work. Christine McVie is now gone - she has retired to a castle in England - but the rest of the band has carried on with fresh motivation.
''We appreciate each other more now. It has been profound and touching to find each other again as people,'' Buckingham says from his Los Angeles home. ''And without Christine this time, we felt it wasn't so much a challenge as it was a new opportunity.''
Indeed, McVie no longer writes one-third of the songs, allowing more room for Nicks and Buckingham. They now have a 50-50 split, with each contributing nine tunes on the new disc.
''It's very surreal not having Christine,'' says Nicks, ''but I always try to preface Christine's departure by saying `We made a great record without her.' It was her decision to go. She didn't want to go on the road anymore, so that's the reason she left. She lives in a castle 30 miles outside of London and has a bunch of dogs, and I'm sure she's going to have sheep and horses any day. She's also an incredible chef and gives dinner parties. She is totally enjoying her life, so bless her.''
In her absence, Fleetwood Mac definitely didn't slip into writer's block. The group even contemplated releasing a double CD after recording a total of 23 songs but thought against it because of the nation's tight economy. ''Just in case this record is the last one we ever make, we want it to still be selling in Best Buy in five years,'' says Nicks, now 54. ''And double albums don't sell for very long.''
The prolific output came as a surprise even to Fleetwood Mac. ''Twenty years ago, the idea of being 50 years old seemed like having one foot in the grave,'' notes Buckingham, who is 55. ''I can't say I would have predicted that I'd still be as in the thick of the creative process as I am." (Buckingham is in the thick of life in general these days; he is the father of two young children - a 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.)
The album starts strongly with the Buckingham song ''What's the World Coming To,'' a piece of social commentary about rampant materialism: ''You can't plant no seeds where there's only greed,'' he sings. And Nicks shortly adds a sensitive track, ''Illume,'' that was inspired by her being in Manhattan during the terrorism of Sept. 11, 2001. ''I cannot pretend that the heartache falls away,'' she sings movingly. Nicks was staying at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at the time and lit up incense in her room to kill the acrid smell that wafted across the city from the explosions. On a solo tour to back her ''Trouble in Shangri-La'' album, she cancel ed a date at Radio City Music Hall and an appearance on the ''Today Show.'' ''I was terrified and almost packed my bags and went home,'' Nicks says.
Both Nicks and Buckingham, however, are careful not to overdo the social commentary. ''We're too old not to be careful,'' says Nicks, who has been mortified by the recent abuse heaped upon her friends the Dixie Chicks for their offhanded comment in London that they were ''ashamed'' to be from the same state as President George W. Bush. ''I'm sure they regret that remark,'' says Nicks, whose song ''Landslide'' was just covered by the Dixie Chicks and became a Top 40 hit for them.
The rest of the new Fleetwood Mac album finds Nicks in more traditional form, penning mystical songs such as ''Running Through the Garden'' (based on a Nathaniel Hawthorne story about a young girl whose father keeps her at home in a poisonous garden) and ''Silver Girl,'' a semiautobiographical tune about ''being a silver girl lost in a high-tech world,'' with a further verse about how ''shadows move across her face, and you cannot see her soul unless she lets you.''
Because of the added flexibility from McVie's absence, Nicks was finally able to record two songs that she had to leave off the band's best-selling ''Rumours'' album back in the '70s: the lullaby -ish ''Goodbye Baby'' and the space-rock track ''Smile at You.''
As for Buckingham, all of his songs are brand new and feature his multitracked guitar style. His best tracks are the love songs ''Steal Your Heart Away'' and ''Bleed to Love Her,'' as well as the acoustic ''Say Goodbye,'' with fast-clipped acoustic guitar in the manner of Leo Kottke.
Hard work pays off
''It's a strong album,'' says Rick Krim, VH1's executive vice president in charge of music and talent relations. ''There are plenty of albums today with one or two great tracks, but this is a cohesive album from start to finish. It's not a radical departure, but anybody who is a fan of vintage Fleetwood Mac will not be disappointed. And the adult record buyer is out there. Look at how James Taylor sold a million records with his last effort.''
Much of the credit has to go to Buckingham. ''Lindsey is so good in the studio,'' Nicks says effusively. ''He would get there at 9 in the morning and many nights stay until 10.... I'd get there at 2 in the afternoon and leave at 7. But because Lindsey did all those incredible guitar parts, that's why he also had to mix the record, since the rest of us didn't even know all those guitar parts were there. It's his little wall of sound, and it was done painstakingly by Lindsey.'' (When the band tours this spring - it comes to the Worcester Centrum Centre May 27 and 28 - the group will have two additional guitarists to help re-create those arrangements.)
Over the years, Buckingham and Nicks have learned that mutual respect means leaving each other's lyrics alone. ''I never tell Lindsey that you can't use this word or that sentence, and he doesn't dare say to me that you have to change this second verse or whatever. We tried that 30 years ago, and it never went over. So we say `This is the song, and if you don't like it, we won't do it.' But neither of us has ever been open to changing our work. That was established so long ago that it's not a problem now.''
Buckingham doesn't mind, however, if Nicks refers to him in a song, as happens on the new track ''Thrown Down,'' with the verse ''You're not like other people/You do what you want to do.''
''That line sums Lindsey up,'' says Nicks with a laugh. ''But he loves it. He loves the fact that I write about him. It makes him happy.''
Thanks to John Run for posting this to the Ledge.
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