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San Diego Union Tribune (04/17/2003), Improving with Age < Fleetwood Mac < Main Page

San Diego Union Tribune (04/17/2003), Improving with Age

San Diego Union Tribune, April 17, 2003

Improving with Age
Fleetwood Mac's long-awaited album gets better with every play
By George Varga 

Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone.

Or is it?

That's one of the crucial questions facing Fleetwood Mac on "Say You Will."
It's the legendary band's first new studio album in 16 years to feature singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, singer Stevie Nicks, bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood. And it comes at a time when the group, which has been dormant for the past five years, has earned a new cachet of hipness, thanks to cover versions of its songs by such admirers as Courtney Love, Billy Corgan, Camper Van Beethoven and the Dixie Chicks.

Along with singer-keyboardist Christine McVie, Nicks, Buckingham, Fleetwood and John McVie first joined forces 28 years ago. Their initial album together, 1975's "Fleetwood Mac," topped the charts in 1976 and yielded three hit singles, Nicks' witchy "Rhiannon" and Christine McVie's engaging "Say You Love Me" and dizzying "Over My Head."

Their next release, 1977's "Rumours," became one of the best-selling pop albums ever. Featuring such vividly autobiographical songs as "Dreams," "Second Hand News" and "Go Your Own Way," it memorably chronicled the ultimate disintegration of Nicks' and Buckingham's on-again, off-again love affair and the equally bitter demise of John and Christine McVie's marriage.

The tour that followed may have set a record for high-priced debauchery and rock 'n' roll excess. Personal and creative tensions nearly tore the band apart by the time its next album, the two-record "Tusk," came out in 1979.

But the group soldiered on through 1987's "Tango in the Night." It was then that Buckingham infuriated his band mates by refusing to tour, before angrily quitting to pursue his solo career. He returned to the fold for 1997's greatest-hits live album, "The Dance," and hugely successful reunion tour, which came lurching to a halt when Christine McVie decided life on the road was no longer for her.

Enter "Say You Will," the new album some fans never expected to hear.
It began life as a proposed Buckingham solo endeavor that predated "The Dance," before gradually becoming an official Fleetwood Mac project recorded mostly over the past 18 months. Buckingham produced or co-produced every song, and his intricately layered arrangements are featured on most selections, along with the most fluid and forceful guitar work of his career. But the album suffers from the absence of Christine McVie. A gifted singer and songwriter, she brought a bluesy vocal edge and emotional hue to the band, which she joined in 1970, as well as structural balance and concision.

She is featured on Buckingham's stirring "Bleed to Love Her" and "Say You Will's" Nicks-penned title track, which was written as an homage to Christine McVie and evokes the band's classic mid-1970s sound.

Originally intended as a 23-song double album, "Say You Will" is still too long at 18 songs and 76 minutes, although it improves with repeated listenings. McVie's absence means that Nicks and Buckingham each contributed nine songs, the majority about doomed love and the not-so-little lies that can shatter affairs of the heart.

Two of Nicks' songs, "Smile at You" and "Goodbye Baby," were written in 1975 and '76, and might have ended up on "Rumours" had they been completed in time. The former is clearly aimed at Buckingham, with such pointed lines as: What you did not need / Was a woman who was stronger / You needed someone to depend on you / I could not be her / I did not want to / My first mistake was to smile at you.

Not to be outdone, Buckingham contributes the ferocious "Come," which contains such withering couplets as: Think of me, sweet darling / When everything's going bad / Think of me, sweet darling / Every time you're feeling sad.

Some of "Come's" other lyrics, which can't be repeated here, are vicious. Who are they about?

"It wasn't directed toward Stevie, and Stevie has some concern about that," Buckingham acknowledged last month in a Union-Tribune interview. "It was about someone that I was seeing for a while, before I met my wife (photographer Kristen Messner). But we don't need to go into that. It is pretty vicious. But it's humorous, too. I think of it as being kind of a funny song ... ."

Humor, barbed or otherwise, is in short supply on "Say You Will," which ranges from Nicks' chilling "Illume (9-11)" and wistful "Thrown Down" to Buckingham's enigmatic "Red Rover" and lovely "Steal Your Heart Away."

But the album bristles with vigor and a new sense of commitment that confirms Fleetwood Mac is not about to rest on its laurels. And one of the most touching songs, Buckingham's tender "Say Goodbye," suggests a musical olive branch being extended to Nicks, as well as an ode to a band that endures now precisely because it has moved forward, however gingerly, from its tumultuous past: Saw your face yesterday / Thinking on the days of old / And the price we paid / For a love we couldn't hold / Oh, I let you slip away / There was nothing I could do / That was so long ago / Still I often think of you.


Date: 2003-04-17         Number of views: 1476

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