Halifax Daily News Review SYW (Nova Scotia)
HEADLINE: Fleetwood Mac: old and improved
BYLINE: RON FOLEY MacDONALD
FLEETWOOD MAC SAY YOU WILL ***** (Reprise/Warners) - It seems no big-selling band can resist the commercial pressures of getting back together these days. Even long-time holdouts such as The Eagles are putting the finishing touches on a new studio album of original material, to be released late this spring. And, of course, The Beatles papered over their differences in the mid-'90s to polish up two of John Lennon's demo tapes and create the first new Fab Four songs in a quarter century -- all to launch their Anthology series just a few years ago.
Well, Fleetwood Mac is the latest to release a reunion album, albeit with one member -- Christine McVie -- vowing to sit out (she ultimately makes a couple of guest appearances on the new CD, along with the likes of Sheryl Crow and Dave Palmer). Still, the lineup is four-fifths of the classic mid '70s crew that made albums like Rumours and Tusk the very definition of mainstream best-selling California pop.
All of this buildup should have made for a skeptical public, and overwhelming expectations for a weak, watered-down contractual obligation album designed to be a quick cash-and-grab by a bunch of burnt-out musicians bent on building up their pension funds.
On the strength of Say You Will (on Reprise/Warners), however, that scenario couldn't be farther from the truth. The 18-song CD is a stunning collection of songs that may actually be Fleetwood Mac's very best album. Ever.
With Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks utterly revitalized, the group sounds confident and unrestrained. The songs are quirky, tuneful and amazingly fresh. The playing and production is crisp, clear and invigorating.
While there's nothing particularly innovative on the CD, the album is blessed by a sense of invention that makes every track an adventurous listen. And while the band occasionally went off the rails in the past -- Tusk remains a challenging listen -- there's an astonishing sense of discipline shot through Say You Will.
With the album ranging from the superb, out-and-out pop of What's The World Coming To and Steal Your Heart Away to the forceful eccentricity of Murrow Turning Over In His Grave, Say You Will is nothing short of spectacular.
There are some delicious moments on the disc that are totally unexpected. Like the children's choir that suddenly takes over the out-choruses of Stevie Nicks's title song Say You Will, and then fades suddenly away. Or Buckingham's skittering guitars that burble away under the nonsense syllables of Red Rover.
The only real disappointment is the weirdly bland first single, Peacekeeper, which seems to have snitched part of its chorus line from Paul Simon's 1973 hit Kodachrome.
It could be a clever homage, of course. Whatever the case, Say You Will sounds less like a contrived bit of washed-out profit taking and more like an unexpected career highlight. It's a rich, rewarding album that comes as reminder that some of the '70s greatest pop talents -- Steely Dan comes to mind, and they have a new album due in June -- still have some substantial tricks up their sleeves.
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