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Album Reviews Article Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac (1975)

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac (1975) Deluxe Edition

Fleetwood Mac 1975, Deluxe EditionFLEETWOOD MAC

Rhino (4-CD, 1-LP Box Set)

**** (four stars out of five)

The latest, and possibly the last, in Rhino’s series of deluxe boxed Fleetwood Mac albums (they’re not really going to tackle Behind the Mask and Time, are they?) sits in a most peculiar position.

On the one hand, 1975’s eponymous LP features some of the band’s most beloved songs — “Rhiannon,” “Landslide,” “Crystal,” “World Turning”; three more sizeable radio hits — “Say You Love Me,” “Over My Head” and “Monday Morning”; and, of course, the most seismic new additions the group’s ever-changing lineup had seen, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.

On the other hand, however, Fleetwood Mac is so dwarfed by what came next, the mega-platinum double punch of Rumours and Tusk, that it is often… not overlooked, but certainly underrated. A fate which this box loudly declares to be utterly without merit.

The original album is problematic, it is true. The lineup was still finding its feet in the studio, still figuring out its capabilities. The songs which would probably have made it onto the record regardless of who the new kids might have been — McVie’s “Sugar Daddy,” “Over My Head” and “Warm Ways,” and Michael and Richard Curtis’s “Blue Letter” — could have been recorded just as successfully by at least the last couple of incarnations, while “Say You Love Me” escapes that definition only by virtue of a distinctly Buckingham-esque arrangement.

Sonically, too, it felt a little underwhelming, a bit too nice. A bit easy listening. Nothing like the aural feast that tears from the grooves of Rumours and beyond. Or maybe that’s just hindsight talking, because the first thing you notice this time around is, just how aggressive it can be.

Four discs (plus remastered vinyl of the original album) serve up Fleetwood Mac and four attendant single edits (disc one); early versions and a live appearance on the Warner Bros. sound stage (disc two); a compilation of tracks from the accompanying tour (disc three) and, finally, a 5.1 surround sound mix that brings a whole new ambiance into play.

Remixed, the album feels tougher, wilder. Buckingham’s guitar is seldom less than in-yer-face, while it feels as though the original mix was completely set aside, in favor of what the early versions and the live tracks reveal to have been the group’s natural sound.

Not every track has been re-envisioned, not every change is for the best — the added laughter and effects appended to “Sugar Daddy” do not raise the song above its customary mawkish demeanor, and the vocals on “I’m So Afraid” feel thinner than the song demands.

But “Over My Head” suddenly touches Tusk‘s “Warm Ways” in the quest for all-encompassing perfection; “Landslide” and “Crystal” feel more raw than ever; and “World Turning” is simply unhinged. Again, you catch hints of this in the alternate versions, and extensions of it in concert… the seven minute “Rhiannon,” taken from the Sound Stage tapes, is a tout-ensemble peak that Mac in general, and Nicks in particular, never recaptured. History itself might not have been rewritten had this mix been deployed back in 1975, but the album’s reputation may well have been.

With just one of the non-album tracks, the aptly-named “Jam #2,” having seen release in the past, the box is generous. The live discs afford us the opportunity to hear this lineup tackle selected highlights from the past (“Hypnotized” is a genuine treat), and though the liner essay feels a little too rote, the booklet itself packs some terrific photos. Indeed, no matter how much you love the other box sets in this series, Fleetwood Mac might well be the one you need to hear the most.

Maybe they should tackle Behind the Mask next.

Dave Thompson / Goldmine / April 2018, p. 31.

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Album Reviews Article Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac (1975)

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac Deluxe

Fleetwood Mac 1975, Deluxe EditionFLEETWOOD MAC

Fleetwood Mac: Deluxe

Reprise R2 559454 (1 LP/3 CDs/1 DVD). 1975/2018. Fleetwood Mac, prods.; Keith Olsen, prod., eng.; David Devoe, Dan Hersch, others, engs. ADD? TT: 3:27:04

PERFORMANCE **** 1/2

SONICS ****

I’ll never forget the first time I heard this album. I’d been a keen fan of Fleetwood Mac since its early days, and each release was greeted with great expectations. Like a lot of British blues bands of the late 1960s, in the mid-’70s the Mac seemed to struggle toward a difficult career coda; lineups didn’t last, and we even had to endure a completely different band touring under the Fleetwood Mac name.

But from the first joyous moments of Fleetwood Mac, it was clear that this new version of the band was something special. I’d heard and liked the California power pop of Buckingham Nicks, but had no inkling how well that duo could complete an entirely new Fleetwood Mac identity. Hearing Lindsey Buckingham’s “Monday Morning” ring out of my speakers was akin to hearing “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” for the first time. The extraordinary harmonies of Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, and Christine McVie were the sound of angels, as yet another British singer found her true roots in California.

Fleetwood Mac 1975, Deluxe EditionThe shock of how good this record was accumulated as the disc played out and it became clear that the Mac had changed stripes. Always a guitarist’s guitar band with some great songwriting but vocals that were secondary to the overall sound, this Fleetwood Mac was all about the songs and the singing. Buckingham’s inspired guitar work was in support of the whole meal, but was not itself the main course. For the first time, the band featured three outstanding singers and songwriters, who balanced each other fully in all the compositions. The stalwart rhythm section of Christine McVie on keyboards, her husband, John McVie, on bass, and Mick Fleetwood on drums kept the core identity of the band on course.

Perhaps most important, the new lineup brought Christine McVie into focus. By this time, the Mac had long been a guy’s band, with Christine a featured element. Now she was the fulcrum between the old and new lineups, her dusky soprano the anchor between Buckingham’s jolly, effusive tenor and Nicks’s soaring alto. With Buckingham and Nicks as her band partners, McVie, one of the greatest R&B singer-songwriters England has ever produced, upped her writing game. She delivered soulful expressions of sexual emotion in “Say You Love Me,” “Over My Head,” and “Sugar Daddy,” and of abiding tenderness in “Warm Ways.” What’s more, it was now a woman’s band, with Christine and Nicks contrasting brilliandy. Nicks countered McVie’s earthiness with an ethereal, otherworldly quality in her writing epitomized by her self-branding vehicle, “Rhiannon,” and the timeless life metaphor of “Landslide,” still so apt today. Buckingham’s shimmering pop songs, including “World Turning,” cowritten with McVie, fit perfectly.

What we hear here is the magic of discovery. This band hadn’t even played together live when they began work on these tracks with producer Keith Olsen, and they were all finding something new about themselves. Perhaps one can’t attribute spirit or emotion to the technical job of recording sound, but I believe that Olsen’s original analog vision for this music can’t be improved on by a digital remastering. The 180gm vinyl of this new set is heavier than the original LP, and lovingly mastered by Dan Hersch in what might be called a modernization. Fleetwood’s drums are now closer to the front of the mix, but something unexplainable is missing from the sense of how it all hangs together. Instead of the music surrounding Buckingham’s voice, now it shoots past. Playing the new LP, I kept wanting to turn the volume up, but that only further diluted the song’s emotional core. If you want an LP of Fleetwood Mac, get an original pressing.

The real pay dirt is in the three CDs. The remastering, though inferior to the original CD, sounds appropriately bright, and fuller than the previous digital transfers in 1984 and 2004. Disc 1 also includes mixes of the singles “Over My Head,” “Rhiannon,” “Say You Love Me,” and “Blue Letter.” On Disc 2 we hear ideas being worked out in early takes, as well as live tracks from a Warner Bros, soundstage, where “Over My Head,” Rhiannon,” and “World Turning” hint at the concert staples they would become.

On disc 3, Fleetwood Mac morphs before live audiences into the band we still recognize today. The foundation jam tracks “Oh Well” and “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Pronged Crown),” from the Mac’s Peter Green era, still strut their stomp but are clearly not where this group is headed. The beautiful, hypnotic “Station Man,” a relic from the wonderful Kiln House, does manage to fit within the contours of the New Mac, and the expanded set list, which includes the soulful “Spare Me a Little,” emphasizes even more how much the new lineup has begun to orbit Christine McVie. Disc 4 is a DVD with a 5.1-channel surroundsound mix of the original album and two-channel, 24-bit/96kHz mixes of the four singles from disc 1. The music is also available as digital downloads and from streaming services.

Say you love me to my face

I need it more than your embrace

Just say you want me, that’s all it takes

Heart’s getting torn from your mistakes.”

—Christine McVie from “Say You Love Me”

John Swenson / Stereophile / April 2018

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Album Reviews Article Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac (1975)

Mac-ing a mountain out of a molehill

REVIEW
Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac — Deluxe
** (two stars)

Rhino 0081227940669
(CD/2CD/3CD+DVD+LP)

Do you need another expanded copy of Fleetwood Mac? We’re not so sure. There’s the remastered album, though arguably it has always been a mixed bag, carried on the strengths of Stevie Nicks’ and Christine McVie’s excellent contributions.

There is a disc of demos which, in truth, don’t stray too far from the finished products, with only slight alterations being generally noticeable, such as some added guitar work on “Say You Love Me” or a fully acoustic “Landslide.” Similarly extras such as Jam #2 and single versions of the hits were all issued on a 2004 package.

The remainder showcases previously unreleased live takes from the Jorgensen Auditorium in Connecticut, among other venues and while overall enjoyable, versions of songs like “Rhiannon” reveal that at their worst, the band are given to bloated pomp; with chief offenders being the indulgent guitar playing of Buckingham and Nicks’ clumsy lyric changes.

There are some interesting live cuts of “Why” and “Hypnotized” (Mystery To Me); “Station Man” (Kiln House); “Spare Me A Little Of Your Love” (Bare Trees); “Don’t Let Me Down Again” from Buckingham/ Nicks and Peter Green’s “Oh Well” and “The Green Manalishi With The Two Pronged Crown” — clearly performed with love but still best heard when performed by early Mac.

Completlsts will want It but better was to follow, and this set is overall a reminder of that.

Hannah Vettese / Record Collector / January 2018

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Album Reviews Article Buckingham McVie

REVIEW: Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie

Fleetwood Mac – Stevie Nicks = Buckingham/Mcvie. Typical Fleetwood Mac math, yet somehow it adds up to a pretty-good album.

Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVieOver past few decades, a couple of would-be Lindsey Buckingham albums have been co-opted into Fleetwood Mac albums. Tango in the Night (1987) and Say You Will (2003) both began as Buckingham solo projects, but fate, not to mention the record company, intervened. This time, though, things have worked out the other way around, sort of.

Since Christine McVie rejoined Fleetwood Mac in 2014 after a 16-year absence, the band have talked excitedly about a new era and a new album, and have been recording new material. All of them except Stevie Nicks that is. Nicks has been doing Fleetwood Mac and solo tours but apparently, has little interest in recording.

Apparently, the rest of the band got tired of waiting for her. Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie also features the Mick Fleetwood/John McVie rhythm section. So that’s four-fifths of Fleetwood Mac. Though Buckingham and McVie have claimed their album was not intended as a Fleetwood Mac record, that’s only because Nicks precluded the idea. It is safe to say that any new Fleetwood Mac album would have featured much of the material on Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie. All this makes it difficult to listen to Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie without thinking of it as a companion piece to Say You Will, which featured all involved save McVie.

Even after all these years, it’s never simple with Fleetwood Mac.

Still, Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie commands some attention in its own right. McVie has not released anything since her 2004 solo album. Save a low-key Mac EP, Buckingham has not been heard from since 2011. Do the pair, who between them have written some of the most enduring radio hits of the last 40 years, still have it? Do they, at their ages (Buckingham is 67; McVie turns 74 this year), have anything new to say, and can they still sing, even?

This is a “duet” album, which is not to be mistaken for a “duets album”. Each of the ten songs alternates between a Buckingham vocal and a McVie vocal. There are no duets. Not surprisingly, Buckingham fairly dominates affairs, writing or co-writing nearly all the tracks and co-producing with Mitchell Froom. The sound is crisp, clean, and slightly DIY, in the manner of Buckingham’s last several solo albums.

And the songs?

Buckingham still has it, because he never really lost it. He still has a way with an incisive-yet-catchy, quirky-yet-charismatic melody and arrangement. He is more straightforward here than on his solo releases, keeping his trademark fingerpicking filigree at a minimum and his eccentricities in check. His “Sleeping Around the Corner”, a years-old, remodeled solo outtake, has one of those classic, giddy choruses he is so good at, and it would be a great opener on any album. Single “In My World” is nearly as good, with Fleetwood and John McVie laying down their trademark, rock-solid, less-is-more groove. In fact, one of Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie ‘s true pleasures is Fleetwood’s drumming, deft as ever.

“Love Is Here to Stay” is a breezy, fingerpicked ray of sunlight. All the effortless “Lay Down For Free” is missing is some Nicks harmonies. “On With the Show” seems to address her absence, with Buckingham proclaiming, “I will stand with my band / There’ll come a day / When we all feel the same.”

As for McVie, well, her method has not changed much, either. She still deals in sweet, guileless romance. She has lost something, though. Time has taken a substantial toll on both singers’ voices, but McVie seems to struggle just to sound like herself. More importantly, often there is not enough of a pure pop rush to make up for her simplistic lyrics and phrasing. “Red Sun” gets some good vibes out of her familiar rolling piano sound, and the hard-boogying “Too Far Gone” just barely manages to avoid being an embarrassment. Only the beautifully stark piano ballad “Game of Pretend” stands on its own without the production propping it up.

A curious album to be sure, Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie could just as well have been released as two separate EPs. In particular, it is difficult to hear McVie in the Buckingham-fronted songs. Still, in the end, an almost-Fleetwood Mac album turns out to be a pretty good Fleetwood Mac album, especially this late in the game.

LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM / CHRISTINE MCVIE
Rating: 6/10

John Bergstrom / Pop Matters / Wednesday, July 12, 2017

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Album Reviews Article Buckingham McVie

Bright and breezy

ALBUM REVIEW: Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie – Buckingham/McVie

***1/2 (3 and a half stars out of 5)

If you’ve ever wondered what a golden era Fleetwood Mac album might sound like without Stevie Nicks, here’s your answer. From 1975’s self-titled effort to ‘87s Tango in the Night, the Mac’s transatlantic reinvention and huge global success was built on the potent creative relationship between the British trio of Mick Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie and American pair Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Boasting a unique combination of interpersonal friction and natural musical understanding, the quintet crafted some of the finest, most emotionally raw pop-rock songs ever made.

In particular, Buckingham and McVie struck up an immediate rapport, elevating each other’s songwriting as his idiosyncratic musicianship melded perfectly with her penchant for penning melodic, romantic gems. That was most apparent on Tango in the Night, a record that, with Nicks largely absent, was largely shaped by the duo and went on to shift 15 million copies.

Fast forward three decades and the circumstances surrounding the genesis of this release are somewhat reminiscent of that period. After McVie re-joined the band in 2014, she and Buckingham swiftly realised their collaborative spark still burned bright.

A new Fleetwood Mac album might have been in the works, but Nicks was again on solo duty. So, instead we have Buckingham/McVie.

Stylistically speaking, this is a simple sounding record full of immaculately produced, easy listening vignettes that are incredibly bright and breezy. McVie’s musical aesthetic forms the blueprint, with her gifted co-creator reining in his experimental tendencies to complement her easy going pop sensibilities.

“Feel About You” is a bubbly ‘60s bijou with instrumental nods to “Everywhere” and the exquisitely tuneful “Red Sun” offers a relaxed gospel-style chorus that has the air of a soothing nursery rhyme. “Lay Down For Free” finds the pair’s vocal interplay as enchantingly timeless as ever, while “Too Far Gone” echoes “You Make Loving Fun.” Its electronically swaggering groove, brilliantly clipped chorus and tribal drum bursts are an absolute blast.

With Mick Fleetwood and John McVie also playing on the LP, strands of Fleetwood Mac’s DNA are, understandably, woven into the fabric of these songs. “Love Is Here To Stay” recalls a slower, more optimistic “Never Going Back Again” and the sparse piano and guitar strains on “Game of Pretend” immediately bring to mind “Songbird.” “Carnival Begin” is a hazy dream-like number that could have featured on Tusk, with Buckingham’s closing solo his most intense contribution.

Where the simmering undercurrent of love and hate betwixt Buckingham and Nicks always gave their music a certain spikiness, the collaborative vibe here is noticeably more relaxed, enjoyable and carefree. The only downside to such harmony is that these songs are very middle of the road and some will find them far too bland and beige. If you’re looking for a little edginess in your life, feeding ducks at the local park or eating a non-organic apple with the skin on will offer more than this record.

It won’t wipe away the frustration with Nicks for potentially depriving us of a final album from Fleetwood Mac’s classic line-up, but without her presence the dynamics at play on this classy, mature and well sculpted offering do present another fascinating portal into the inner workings of music’s longest running soap opera.

Simon Ramsay / Stereoboard (UK) / Monday, June 26, 2017

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Album Reviews Article Buckingham McVie

REVIEW: Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie

Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVieAlbum review: Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie is an engaging side project for Fleetwood Mac members.

Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie
Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie
Atlantic
***1/2 (Three and a half stars)

The sessions that eventually spawned this album might well have heralded the return of Fleetwood Mac – indeed, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie contribute throughout here – but when Stevie Nicks stalled on her involvement, the songs instead became an engaging side project for Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie.

The mood throughout is part sun-dappled Californian sunshine and part crisp English winter, and McVie – who by her own admission turned her back on music for much of her 16-year break from touring and recording – is the undoubted star.

“Carnival Begin,” which closes the album, finds McVie brooding over a “new merry-go-round”, a transparent reference to returning to the recording fold.

“Game of Pretend,” another McVie composition, considers the complex world of relationships, a key Fleetwood Mac battleground over the decades. Buckingham shines, too, particularly on the radio-friendly “In My World,” “Sleeping Around the Corner,” and “On With the Show.” Throughout, there is a clarity of thought and sound that rolls back the years.

Nick March / The National (Middle East) / Monday, June 12, 2017

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Album Reviews Article Buckingham McVie

REVIEW: Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie – strange and beautiful

Fleetwood Mac’s last masterpiece, Tango in the Night, relied heavily on Buckingham/McVie compositions, with the group’s third great songwriter, Stevie Nicks, generally absent. Now that McVie and Buckingham are back together in the touring Mac band for the first time since 1997, they’ve reunited in the studio for this succinct collection of gentle pop-rockers, familiar yet far more strange and beautiful than 2013’s brittle Fleetwood Mac EP.

Buckingham’s spidery guitar shivers through “Love Is Here to Stay” and slays the solo on “Carnival Begin,” while McVie’s undimmed gift for melody illuminates every song.

Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie
(East West)

**** (4 / 5 stars)

Damien Morris / The Guardian (UK) / Sunday, 11 June 2017

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Album Reviews Article Buckingham McVie

REVIEW: Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie’s strange, surprising collaboration

Our take on the unexpected full-length team-up between the two Fleetwood Mac songwriters

 

 

Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVieWell, here’s an album nobody thought would happen – the first-ever collabo from Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie. It’s full of surprises, considering we’ve all spent years already listening in on both their private worlds. But these two Fleetwood Mac legends have their own kinky chemistry. When McVie jumped back in the game for the Mac’s last tour, the songbird regained her hunger to write. And Buckingham remains one of the all-time great rock & roll crackpots, from his obsessively precise guitar to his seething vocals. They bring out something impressively nasty in each other, trading off songs in the mode of 1982’s Mirage – California sunshine on the surface, but with a heart of darkness.

So we’ve made it to the second paragraph of this review without mentioning any other members of Fleetwood Mac. That’s an achievement, right? We should feel good about that. So now let’s discuss how weird it feels that a certain pair of platform boots was not twirling on the studio floor while this album was being made. Stevie Nicks is the unspoken presence on this album, the lightning you can hear not striking. There’s something strange about hearing Lindsey and Christine team up without her, but that just enhances the album’s strange impact. This would have been the next Mac album, except Stevie didn’t want in. It sounds like that might have fired up her Mac-mates’ competitive edge – but for whatever reason, these are the toughest songs Buckingham or McVie have sung in years.

“In My World” is the treasure here – Lindsey digs into his favorite topic, demented love, murmuring a thorny melody and reprising the male/female sex grunts from “Big Love.” In gems like “Sleeping Around the Corner” and the finger-picking “Love Is Here to Stay,” he’s on top of his game, with all the negative mojo he displayed in Tusk or his solo classic Go Insane. McVie is usually the optimistic one, but she seizes the opportunity to go dark in “Red Sun.” And what a rhythm section – Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, cooking up the instantly recognizable groove no other band has found a way to duplicate. Everything about this album is a little off-kilter, right down to the way the title echoes the pre-Mac Buckingham Nicks. But if this had turned out to be a proper Fleetwood Mac reunion album, that would’ve felt like a happy ending – and who wants happy endings from these guys? Instead, it’s another memorable chapter in rock’s longest-running soap opera, with both Lindsey and Christine thriving on the dysfunctional vibes.

Rob Sheffield / Rolling Stone / June 7, 2017

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Album Reviews Article Buckingham McVie

REVIEW: Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie

Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, June 9 2017Fleetwood Mac’s guitarist and keyboardist team up for a new album

People often think of Fleetwood Mac as a band propelled to artistic eminence by interpersonal turmoil. Who could forget that Rumours, the band’s defining album, was the product of a period of libertine excess and relational meltdowns? Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were on the rocks, Christine McVie and John McVie were divorcing and Mick Fleetwood’s civilian marriage was disintegrating, too. Long before bloggers began parsing insinuating lyrics from Taylor Swift and others who’ve passed through her orbit, there was perverse sport in scrutinizing the wistful, wounded or prickly lines in Fleetwood Mac songs, not to mention group members’ on-the-record comments and on-stage interactions, for evidence of unresolved conflict.

No such history hangs over the pairing of Buckingham and Christine McVie, he a famously exacting guitarist and producer, she a blues-schooled keyboardist, and each of them singers and songwriters responsible for significant chunks of their band’s discography. Over the decades they’ve ventured into a handful of direct collaborations, but they haven’t truly explored the potential of their partnership until now. Their album features most of the band’s classic lineup (notably, minus Nicks), but gets its identity from ideas generated within the closed circuit of the duo; all of the songs are credited to Buckingham, McVie or both.

When McVie rejoined Fleetwood Mac in 2014, no longer content with the tranquility of retirement in the English countryside she’d chosen a decade and a half earlier, she and Buckingham struck up a tentative creative conversation, she sending him snippets of lyric, melody and chord progression, he fleshing them out and passing along his own incomplete song ideas to her. “This was just for me to get familiarized with playing and performing again,” McVie told Stephen Deusner in a recent cover story for Uncut. “One thing led to another, and by the time we knew what was happening, we had six basic tracks in the bag….” Their casual exchange reactivated musical muscles she hadn’t used in a while and reaffirmed her faith in the relevance of her contributions.

In the mythology built up around the music of Fleetwood Mac, McVie represents an irrepressibly sanguine voice and Buckingham a more barbed one, but to reduce them to polar opposites — the optimist vs. the pessimist — is to miss out on the nuanced outlooks that come into focus when they’re working side by side. He remains quite skilled at enhancing shifts in tone with his production. The pensive resolve of his “On With the Show” gives way to breezy resignation with the introduction of sun-kissed harmonies and a crystalline guitar figure. In the propulsive pop-rock number “Lay Down For Free,” he dwells on a lover’s elusiveness, then pivots to buoyant defiance, lifted by the entrance of shimmery vocals and guitar. During “Carnival Begin,” McVie broods in the shadows, until the warm haze of harmonies and Buckingham’s delicate, single-stringed counterpoint illuminate her expression of desire.

McVie and Buckingham make room for unfurling multi-faceted emotions in their songcraft itself. In “Sleeping Around the Corner,” he offers reluctant reassurance, intoning, “If you want me to stay, you’ve got to let me go” over spasmodic digital beats. “In My World” is his melancholy expression of idealism. In “Love Is Here To Stay,” he savors the sweetness of romance in spite of his seasoned wariness. There’s a willfulness to her giddy affection in “How I Feel,” a self-conscious insistence that celebrating the pleasure she takes in another person is, in itself, a worthwhile gesture. In “Red Sun,” she tries to separate out the bitterness from the solace in a lover’s memory. “My mind is filled with journeys, echoed with your smile,” she sings. “No, you won’t take that away from me, even if you try.”

The marvel is that these two longtime band mates can simultaneously stand on their own and exert a gentle pull on each other, expanding our appreciation of them as living, breathing artists, rather than subjects of tabloid-heightened legend.

Jewly Hight | NPR | June 1, 2017

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Album Reviews Article Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night (1987) Tango in the Night - Deluxe & Expanded Editions (2017)

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac – Tango in the Night [Deluxe Edition]

Fleetwood Mac, Tango in the Night, Neal Preston
(Neal Preston)

FLEETWOOD MAC
TANGO IN THE NIGHT
Warner Brothers (3-CD, LP, DVD Box Set)

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Five years on from their last album, Mirage and 10 years after Rumours, Fleetwood Mac were more-or-less in tatters when they re-emerged in 1987. Lindsey Buckingham was in the throes of a new solo album, Stevie Nicks in the grip of all manner of personal problems, Mick Fleetwood and the McVies were living their own lives. If Tango in the Night was not a contractual obligation that they had no choice but to fulfill, then it’s hard to imagine why they even thought they could make a record.

Actually, the answer to that is simple — Christine McVie did a TV program, Fleetwood and Buckingham joined her for the occasion and between them they hatched what was simultaneously one of the most anticipated albums of the age and, once past the admittedly sizable fan club, one of the most unnecessary. 1987 was the year of hair metal et al. Who cared about Fleetwood Mac?

Even today, Tango is viewed less as the final installment of that imperious succession of monsters that this latest incarnation of the band had released, and more as the first in the run of “who cares?” sets that wound down the band’s original career (Behind the Mask and do-you-even-remember Time followed it up.)

And yet… song for song, performance for performance, Tango in the Night is one of the strongest albums in the band’s entire canon. Be honest — even Fleetwood Mac (1975) and Rumours have the songs you skip on the occasions you play them; Tusk is only perfect if you weed out one-third of its bodyweight; and Mirage… well, it’s Mirage, isn’t it.

Tango, though, defiantly boasts just two truly deplorable songs, and as they are both the work of Ms. Nicks (“Welcome to the Room… Sara” and the positively wretched “When I See You Again”), we will accept that she maybe wasn’t in the best place for the sessions… and, according to the liners, wasn’t even in the room for more than a couple of weeks.

Even the love grunts that punctuate “Big Love” were recorded by Lindsey and Christine, and then sped up to a Nicksian pitch, and on the subject of “Big Love,” it’s peculiar the way history has written it off as little more than a barrage of snorting, to which a half-written song has been painfully grafted. Because, listened to again, it’s great and, if you can overlook the retching, it’s a nigh-on perfect locomotive rocker, and second only to the title track in terms of intensity.

Tango in the Night itself is phenomenal, an anguished guitar work-out that harks back to the Peter Green-era “Green Manalishi” in terms of deliverance and release, and makes you wish that this was the side of Fleetwood Mac that snagged the headlines… add “I’m So Afraid,” “The Chain” and “Tusk” to the line-up and there’s barely another band on earth can touch Mac for that earthy, emotional ooomph.

Christine McVie, too, seems more than usually inspired; the songs on which she takes at least a co-credit (the hits “Everywhere” and “Little Lies,” and three tracks written with Buckingham) include some of her finest ever Mac contributions, with “Mystified” maybe her best of all time. And, while the production (very ’80s, as you’d expect) might well have painted over a lot of the cracks that had obviously splintered the quintet, a second disc of demos and alternates (and a couple of B-sides) reinforces the strength of both songs and players. The “full version” of album closer “You and I, Part II,” now sensibly subtitled “Part 1 and 2,” is consummate Fleetwood Mac; a song that effectively incorporates everything that had made them so magical for the past 12 years. What better way could there have been to conclude this phase of the group’s existence?

The remainder of the deluxe box set, in comparison to those that preceded it, feels sparse but really, it isn’t. One disc rounds up the various 12-inch mixes that accompanied the album’s five singles; another serves up the promo videos and a lush 5.1 mix of the album; and finally, the original LP is present on vinyl, and a lovely job they made of it.

Yes, the liners could have been more expansive, delving deeper into the triumphs and tragedies that we know accompanied the sessions… and for heaven’s sake, how many times did the author need to refer to the band’s career as a dance? Across a touch over two pages, Tango becomes “the last dance,” “a graceful turn in the extended dance,” “a complex moment” in a “complicated dance” and, of course, we are still being moved by the band’s “dance with history.” Which makes you wonder which of their albums is next for the beautifully boxed, deluxe-o-rama treatment? Well, it probably won’t be Time. The one after that, on the other hand…

Dave Thompson / Goldmine / June 2017 (p34)

Categories
Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night (1987) Tango in the Night - Deluxe & Expanded Editions (2017)

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night (Deluxe Edition)

The music of Fleetwood Mac could fairly be said to define the 1970s – in all its style, tumult, and excess.  Where did that leave the union of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, and Lindsey Buckingham once a new decade emerged?  1982’s Mirage found Fleetwood Mac trying to recapture the magic of 1977’s epochal Rumours, and succeeding in large part.  Yet Mirage felt as if it firmly had one foot planted in the previous decade.  With its belated follow-up, 1987’s Tango in the Night, the band embraced the 1980s and created an album for all time.  In true Mac fashion, the group was also dissolving in the process.  Now, Tango in the Night is the fourth of their albums to receive a multi-format reissue campaign from Warner Bros. Records and Rhino including a slipcased 3-CD/1-DVD/1-LP Deluxe Edition box set.

The tango, is of course, a dance characterized in part by “stylized body positions” per Merriam-Webster – or an “interaction marked by a lack of straightforwardness.”  Both of those definitions have bearing on the Mac’s nocturnal dance, as producer-arranger Buckingham and longtime co-producer Richard Dashut crafted a stylish and beguiling set of textured, varied soundscapes that could hardly be called straightforward; note even the lurking, ominous eyes in the otherwise-tranquil, Henri Rousseau-inspired cover artwork.  The productions embraced the technological advances of the late 1980s and the prevailing, synthesized radio-friendly sound, while crucially never ignoring that Tango in the Night was a “band” record.  It may not be as conceptual as Rumours or as boldly experimental as Tusk, but Tango remains a potent collection nonetheless.

Seven of the twelve songs on Tango were, in full or in part, penned by Lindsey – betraying its roots as a solo album.  The pulsating opener “Big Love” is quintessential Buckingham, with the band offering taut accompaniment to his vocals, guitar and Fairlight sampler.  Both utterly contemporary and appropriately edgy, with Buckingham providing the provocative male and female utterances that are a key part of the track’s rhythm, it became one of Tango‘s six (!) singles and made it all the way to the top five of the Hot 100.  “Caroline” is an impressionistic and mysterious ode to, or warning about, a captivating woman, driven by its thick, heavy and percussive drum sound.  Title track “Tango in the Night” captures Buckingham’s mastery at creating a sonic atmosphere as it shifts from calm to restive, a soft ‘n heavy mélange of rumination.  “Family Man” is a gentler composition with its simple lyric statement of “I am what I am/A family man…”

Three tracks were co-written by Buckingham and McVie, who are currently preparing for the release of their first joint album, simply entitled Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie.  Their swooning “Mystified” is a gentle, lightly tropical oasis on Tango, while the rocker “Isn’t it Midnight” (co-written with Eddy Quintela, McVie’s then-husband) is a cool depiction of a roguish figure.  The gleaming, uptempo “You and I (Part II)” has sweetness and longing in equal measure.  (Part I of the song was released on a non-LP single; while that edited version isn’t present on the Deluxe Edition, the combined full version of Parts I and II can be found on Disc Two.)

In David Wild’s typically excellent liner notes to this reissue, Stevie Nicks notes that “Christine is the hit songwriter in Fleetwood Mac.”  Indeed, McVie penned the album’s two chart-topping and arguably most enduring hits: the shimmering romantic declaration “Everywhere” (No. 1 AC/No. 14 Pop) and the bittersweet, insistent “Little Lies” (No. 1 AC/No. 4 Pop).  The latter was also penned with Quintela.  Both songs proved undoubtedly that Fleetwood Mac, a decade post-Rumours, were still indisputably a force with which to be reckoned.

Stevie Nicks’ three major contributions to Tango all showed different aspects of her strong personality despite the fact that she wasn’t closely involved with the album’s creation.  “Seven Wonders,” predominantly written by her friend Sandy Stewart, is a wistful reflection with a big hook, given a strong pop-rock sheen in Buckingham and Dashut’s production.  Nicks brought Gone with the Wind imagery to “Welcome to the Room…Sara,” a personal account of her stay at the Betty Ford Center.  Though the lyrics are typically enigmatic, the emotional underpinning shines brightly.  The tender “When I See You Again” boasts both gravitas and intimacy as a duet performed by famous ex-lovers Nicks and Buckingham.

An entire disc of Demos, Alternates, and B-Sides is available as part of the Deluxe Edition or the 2-CD iteration, and as per usual in this series, these rarities are exceptional finds.  All of the tracks are previously unreleased other than the B-sides: Tango yielded four unique flipsides including Buckingham’s “Down Endless Street,” Buckingham and Nicks’ “Book of Miracles,” and Buckingham and McVie’s “You and I (Part I)” and “Ricky.”

“Book of Miracles” is Lindsey’s instrumental arrangement of Stevie’s “Juliet,” which subsequently appeared in a different, full version with lyrics on her 1989 solo album The Other Side of the Mirror.  “Juliet” itself is heard in a raw, rocking run-through version, too, as well as a demo of Nicks’ “Ooh My Love,” which would also find its way to The Other Side.  Listen for Stevie’s effusive in-studio chatter following “Juliet” for an extra bit of fun.

Of the alternate versions, an early take of “Seven Wonders” is compelling even in embryonic form, while two versions of “Mystified” – an instrumental, and a lo-fi vocal version – in tandem offer a window into the song’s creation.  The rather fully-produced demos included here are real treats, as well.  “Tango in the Night” is radically different than the completed version.  There are a couple of never-before-released songs, too.  Buckingham’s “Special Kind of Love” is a slice of buoyant pop, and his and McVie’s “Where We Belong” has an in-progress feel that leads one to wonder how it would have developed had the band continued refining it.  Nicks’ “Joan of Arc,” also mooted for Tango, is not among the still-generous array of selections here.

The Deluxe box also boasts a third disc of fourteen 12-inch remixes sure to please completists.  These reinterpretations by Arthur Baker and John “Jellybean” Benitez of five Tango tracks (“Big Love,” “Seven Wonders,” “Little Lies,” “Family Man” and “Everywhere”) don’t supplant the originals, of course, but capture a particular time and place – that of the late-1980s dance/pop scene.  Their inclusion is mightily welcome on this set.  Unlike previous releases in this series, no live concert has been included, likely because Lindsey Buckingham departed the group before the tour supporting Tango.

The Deluxe Edition’s DVD has the album’s five era-defining music videos, and a pristine 24/96 stereo version of the album. (No surround mix was available this time around.) For listeners with the capabilities to enjoy it, this high-resolution version is the preferred way to experience Tango in the Night.  A vinyl LP of the original album only rounds out the package.  A gatefold houses the LP as well as a slots for each of the discs in a unique sleeve.

The various components of Tango in the Night have been optimally remastered by Dan Hersch, while the previously unreleased material has been lovingly mixed by Brian Kehew with Bill Inglot, who produced the set with Steve Woolard.  David Wild provides the essay in the 12-page LP-sized booklet, drawing on fresh and revealingly candid (and often humorous!) quotes from Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and Mick Fleetwood.  Mick marvels at the “strange but true” story of the band, but one thing is clear listening to this revitalized Tango in the Night – that these rock-and-roll survivors could put aside their differences to come together and create something vital.  This Tango is as mysterious and beguiling as ever.

Joe Marchese / The Second Disc / April 18, 2017

Categories
Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night (1987) Tango in the Night - Deluxe & Expanded Editions (2017)

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night

If you were never much of a fan of the world-beating, Buckingham-Nicks version of Fleetwood Mac, Tango in the Night was the album that bore out all your reservations. Bland, self-indulgent, easy-listening, cold, clinical, calculating, mercenary: On the surface, especially in 1987, it was all of that where the band’s previous million-sellers hadn’t quite checked all the boxes.

Time and trends have been kind, though. Tango in the Night’s hits never really left the radio, becoming nearly as ubiquitous as those from Rumours. And a lot of what was previously dismissed as overproduction now simply sounds modern. Lindsey Buckingham, the band’s grand marshal, has been given his rightful place among rock’s bonafide Creative Geniuses. The climate is ripe for critical reassessment.

Fair enough, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

From a cynical perspective, Tango in the Night is the sound of a band doing exactly what it had to do in order to reclaim lost sales (the preceding Mirage and Tusk had sold mere millions rather than tens of millions), please record company execs and radio programmers alike, and keep pace with then-current trends.

The whole thing has a gauzy, digital coating that comes from a combination of cold professionalism and heavy reliance on technology. It’s all right there in the two most enduring radio hits, “Everywhere” and “Little Lies”. Both Christine McVie compositions, they are the very embodiment of adult-oriented, FM-radio easy listening. Where McVie’s previous unabashed love songs felt endearing and sweet, these feel slight and rote. McVie and her bandmates seem like mere vehicles that are necessary for the technology and production to flow through. To a cynic, “Everywhere” and “Little Lies” have stuck around for their utility. When there are no more FM radio stations or waiting rooms around not to offend anyone, they will finally go away.

Those specific hits are emblematic of the album as a whole. The other tracks are either second-tier versions of them or toned-down versions of Buckingham’s whimsical indulgences.

But it all works. Each track is so listenable, so much a ready-made, state-of-the-1987-art symbol of the Fleetwood Mac you know and love, that the whole collection takes on an additive power. Yes, this is Fleetwood-Mac-by-numbers, but it is the best Fleetwood-Mac-by-numbers you could possibly imagine. Which, even 30 years later, is preferable to a lot of other pap on the radio.

The project that became Tango in the Night began as a Lindsey Buckingham solo album, which is its saving grace. His arranging skills and attention to detail make the even boilerplate material interesting. Take away the twinkling harp on “Everywhere”, the tinkling xylophone on “Mystified”, or the sneering backing vocals on “Little Lies”, and the songs hardly demand to be heard twice, much less a hundred times.

Stevie Nicks did not have much involvement in Tango in the Night, as she was busy with her solo career and averse to recording in ex-lover Buckingham’s home studio. When she does show up, she sounds disheveled. This quality works to the band’s benefit on “If I See You Again”, one of those vulnerable Nicks ballads. When Buckingham takes the vocal at the end, it is easily the album’s most poignant moment for anyone familiar with the pair’s turbulent history.

For his part, Buckingham picks up the slack and delivers a solid set of songs. “Caroline” remains one of the most fun, sing-along-inducing melodies he has written. The sultry title track, while not subtle, features some of his most scorching guitar work. It also lends the album some much-needed dynamics. “You and I, Part II” is breezy yet laced with regret. In hindsight, it is easy to hear Buckingham trying out techniques that would serve him very well in his subsequent solo work.

This “30th Anniversary” edition of Tango in the Night has an excellent audio remaster to recommend it. It can’t remove some of the dated synth sounds, but it does get rid of a lot of that gauzy coating and add more dimension and definition. The second disc, with outtakes and demos, offers few revelations aside from a couple nice Buckingham/McVie tracks that were shelved. The Deluxe version adds 12” remixes from Arthur Baker, videos, hi-def audio, and vinyl.

Yes, on the surface Tango in the Night confirms every troubling notion about the world-beating version of Fleetwood Mac. But this well-done reissue also reaffirms a surprising number of the strengths that got them to that position.

Fleetwood Mac
Tango in the Night
Warner Bros.
US: 31 MAR 2017

Rating: 7/10

 

John Bergstrom / Pop Matters (UK) / 12 April 2017

Categories
Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night (1987) Tango in the Night - Deluxe & Expanded Editions (2017)

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night (Deluxe Edition)

Fleetwood Mac’s peak occurred between 1975 and 1977, when the band—reinvigorated by the addition of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks—issued an eponymous album and Rumours. Many critics viewed the 1979 follow-up to the latter LP, Tusk, as a bit of a disappointment, and after that it was all supposedly downhill—way downhill.

I’m not buying this party line, as I’ve noted in my reviews of deluxe reissues of Tusk and 1982’s Mirage. I think those albums were largely terrific, and I can say the same about 1987’s Tango in the Night. I’m probably not alone in rejecting the critical consensus about Tango, moreover, since the CD has sold more than 15 million copies and ranks as the second-bestselling album of the group’s career (after Rumours).

The record, which started out as a Buckingham solo project and wound up being his last album with the group, has now joined the Fleetwood Mac reissue series. And, like its predecessors in that series, this repackaging lives up to its “deluxe” billing. Three CDs respectively deliver a 2017 remaster of the original album; 13 B-sides, demos, and early and alternate versions; and more than a dozen 12-inch mixes of five Tango tracks. There’s also a DVD that includes videos for five of the tunes and a high-resolution stereo mix of the LP; and, for those who miss the pre-digital era, a vinyl record that contains the 2017 remaster. If all that’s not enough to keep you busy, you can turn to the enclosed oversized booklet, which features an essay about the album, plus lyrics, photos, and credits.

The rhythmic original LP, which sounds better than ever thanks to the remaster, is loaded with pleasures, not to mention hit singles. Among the highlights: Buckingham’s “Big Love,” which gives Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” a run for its money in the sensuality department; and such ear candy as “When I See You Again” and “Seven Wonders,” both with passionate Stevie Nicks vocals; and the sublime “Everywhere,” “Little Lies,” and “Mystified,” all sung by Christine McVie. Songs like these leave no doubt that Fleetwood Mac were masters of melody and production and that any one of its three vocalists would have been enough to make another band famous. A few tracks, such as “Family Man,” deliver more studio wizardry than emotion but the bulk of this material is the real deal.

Disc two is stronger than you might expect. “Down Endless Street” is as catchy as anything on the original album and, while you can see why Tango’s versions improved on some of the outtakes and demos here, they’re virtually all interesting and well-executed.

It’s difficult to be as enthusiastic about disc three, which dilutes everything that’s special about Fleetwood Mac by introducing disco beats and embellishments. If you’re nostalgic for Studio 54, this is the record for you. If not, you’ll likely prefer the songs on the original album.

I have mixed feelings about the DVD. It’s good to see the videos—which feature “Big Love,” “Seven Wonders,” “Little Lies,” “Family Man,” and “Everywhere”—but it would have been better to have some concert material from the period; what we have here instead are pretty visuals accompanied by a lip-synching band. As for the high-resolution version of the album on the DVD, it sounds even better than the CD; but it would have sounded better still if it were a 5.1 surround mix.

Happily, the album is being made available in several formats. Casual fans can opt for a single CD with the remastered album, though I’d recommend that listeners seriously consider a two-CD package that incorporates the disc of outtakes and other rarities. The everything-but-the-kitchen-sink edition described above is a somewhat more debatable (and, of course, pricier) purchase, but if you’re a big fan of the group, you might well be glad to have it.

Jeff Burger / The Morton Report / April 3, 2017

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Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night (1987) Tango in the Night - Deluxe & Expanded Editions (2017)

Fleetwood Mac: Tango In The Night

Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night 1987Fleetwood Mac
Tango In The Night
*** (3 stars)
Warner Bros 0081227946388
(3CD+DVD+LP/2CD/CD)

Big box for Big Love

If their roller-coaster career offers frequent comparison to a high-gloss soap opera, then Tango In The Night is surely the lull before the storm: everyone seemingly on their best behaviour, the sleekest of production values and a plot that moves the story on while never straying too far from the crowd-pleasing formula that won us over in the first place.

Some 14 albums in, this actually ended up the second best-selling of their career but, despite outward appearances, all was not well with the classic line-up, who hadn’t actually released a new record in five years. Stevie Nicks was largely absent promoting her own material during the 18 months that work took on the album, and Lindsey Buckingham quit in August 1987, just four months after its release.

Largely remembered for the mainstream pop hits of “Little Lies” and “Everywhere,” this 12-track 30th anniversary collection has been remastered and the deluxe edition, packaged with a vinyl repress, comes with a CD of B-sides, outtakes and demos (10 of which are previously unissued). A third disc compiles 14 ubiquitous remixes in all their ’80s glory and the DVD includes the five singles’ videos and a stereo mix of the set.

Mark Elliott / Record Collector (UK) / April 2017 (p92)

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Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night (1987) Tango in the Night - Deluxe & Expanded Editions (2017)

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night (expanded)

Any kind of contemporary reflection on Fleetwood Mac is going to necessarily make reference to the band members’ endeavours off the field of play. That’s not because they were better known, or even as well known, for their extracurricular activities as their music, but rather because the individual members’ personal lives seeped into the songs with such frequency and ferocity as to render the two worlds inextricable. There was certainly never a Chinese wall.

If anything, Rumours’ resurgence in recent years, the result of a bright new Urban Outfitters-clad generation discovering it, has been pleasantly innocent and pure, with the evergreen nature of the songs themselves apparently holding the core appeal rather than the stories behind them. It seems daft to talk about a record that’s shifted 28 million copies in a manner that suggests it’s somehow been hard done by, but there was a time when Rumours wasn’t cool — when “Dreams” was most prominent in the popular imagination for having just been covered by The Corrs, and when the very specific Seventies production style — clean lines, sharp tones — was viewed as positively kitsch.

Overall, though, Rumours — and, by way of extension, the entirety of the band’s Buckingham-Nicks glory years — is always going to be viewed through the prism of what was going on behind the scenes because that tension, be it romantic, creative or chemical, made the songs what they were. “Go Your Own Way” wouldn’t hit home the way it does if you didn’t know that every syllable was actually, honestly dripping with seething resentment. Fleetwood Mac’s folklore made their self-titled album, Rumours and, to a lesser extent, Tusk and Mirage what they were.

This is precisely why Tango in the Night is the anomaly in the catalogue. Unlike its predecessors, it wasn’t a product of the strife surrounding it; for the first time, Fleetwood Mac made an album in spite of intra-band turbulence, rather than because of it. By the time they started work on it in late 1985, nobody in the group was in an especially good place; as Lindsey Buckingham would later surmise, “everybody was leading their lives in a way that they would not be too proud of today.”

They were drugged up and worn out. It was probably the glow of youth wearing off; the lifestyle they’d fallen into as individuals had lost its lustre by this point. Stevie Nicks was struggling, her prodigious cocaine habit no longer romantic but sad; she wasn’t long out of the Betty Ford Center, and had more or less lost interest in the band with her solo career burgeoning. When she did turn up to cut vocals for Tango in the Night, she made a point of knocking back brandy beforehand; as a result, Buckingham would quietly bin most of her takes after she’d left.

His own investment in the band had dwindled, too. He’d put out two solo LPs, Law and Order and Go Insane, and was intending to cut a third when Mick Fleetwood nudged him back in the direction of writing for the group, if only because the financial rewards were likely to be more lavish. Despite his own personal issues, Fleetwood remained the anchor and the likeliest cheerleader for another record, with Christine and John McVie adrift; the former making her own records and the latter quite literally, as he retreated from music to go sailing.

Relations were strained, then, and nobody could reasonably claim to be on top form. That they managed to make a record isn’t necessarily all that impressive. Contractual commitments probably would’ve seen to that either way, as they did for The Rolling Stones around this time in the Eighties; Undercover and Dirty Work are now long forgotten and so they should be, sounding every inch what they were — albums made at a time when Ronnie Wood was probably the member of the band of most sound mind (talk about dire straits). The minor miracle was that Fleetwood Mac made a classic with Tango in the Night.

That there were multiple songwriters within the band was basically the foundation they were built on and the strange thing is that it never really proved problematic, either between themselves or in terms of how the records ran; even McVie’s contributions on Rumours, for instance, which are unlikely bedfellows for the rest of the album in terms of content and tempo, never derailed the overall sense of cohesion. Buckingham had overseen a similar atmospheric homogeny on Tusk in masterful fashion, bringing together no end of disparate creative threads to create a sprawling record that wasn’t ever properly fractured. It’s quite the trick and it’s one he pulled off again on Tango in the Night; it’s obvious that the writers were in very different places musically and personally, and yet the whole album is dripping with the same coat of lush pop gloss, laid on thick enough to conceal the fault lines.

The singles from the record would go on to rank amongst the band’s biggest hits; on that front, it’s McVie and her sharp ear for melody that are the stars, with “Everywhere” and “Little Lies” the out-and-out pop highlights. The former has an irresistible buoyancy that falls just the right side of the line in terms of its saccharine charms where, say, “Don’t Stop” overstepped the mark in its cloying optimism. The latter, meanwhile, features one of the hooks of the decade on the chorus. “Big Love” would become a setlist staple, too, simmering with the viscerally nervous energy that’s always been Buckingham’s calling card; that sense of simmering drama runs through the title track also, and he’s such a methodical writer that you know it was there by design rather than accident – even if the situation surrounding him surely fed into it.

As much as Tango in the Night might be viewed as a classic, it certainly isn’t timeless; everything about the sonic architecture screams the Eighties. It’s largely Buckingham’s doing and the instrumentation consistently sounds very much of its era — the chugging guitars on “Isn’t It Midnight,” the twinkly synths throughout “Seven Wonders,” the simple electronics that “You and I, Part II” opens with and that sound like they were plucked straight from an old arcade game like Outrun.

With that decidedly retro image of Tango in the Night in mind, though, it’s easy to forget just how vibrant, rich and layered the production is. That’s really brought to the fore on this remaster, on which the songs are a little brighter and deeper than we’ve ever heard them. Buckingham was a stickler for detail on the original and it was this perfectionism that led to him applying the same palette to every track, regardless of who’d written it, an approach he’d been refining ever since Tusk.

The sound, then, involves a clear break from the group’s Seventies identity, but many of the same themes continue to swirl. That’s especially true of Nicks’ contributions; always the band’s most confessional songwriter, she mines her own demons as usual, recapping rehab with “Welcome to the Room…Sara” and dropping a lyrical clanger in the process, her interpolation of the titular line from “The First Cut Is the Deepest” less nimble intertextuality than bizarre shoehorning.

She’s on affecting form throughout, though, and inevitably her relationship with Buckingham pops up on “When I See You Again”; given that this is the final album by the classic Rumours lineup and frankly the final true hit full-length they had, in the wider imagination that track is probably the one that closed the book on their tormented musical back-and-forth. Buckingham left the band a few months after the album came out, missing most of the tour in support of it; years later, he’d admit that he did so in order to finally put Nicks behind him. That frisson, clearly, had yet to properly fizzle out.

The reissue itself arrives to mark the thirtieth anniversary of Tango in the Night’s release and, as usual, is pleasant but not essential in and of itself. The remaster, as mentioned, makes everything a touch punchier than in 1987, and whilst the bonus material is by no means indispensable, there’s plenty of it and lots to aid the more devoted fan in picking apart Buckingham’s creative process.

The second disc offers up the B-sides “Down Endless Street” and “Ricky” — the former’s worth a look, the latter less so — as well as previously unreleased demos of songs that didn’t make the cut, like “Ooh My Love” and “Juliet.” The stripped-back alternate take of “Mystified,” also new, is perhaps the pick of the bunch, along with an early sketch of the title track that lacks vocals. Disc three collects the 12-inch mixes (remember them?) and will doubtless hold value for nostalgists; this is definitely a record that lent itself to being chopped up and bent out of shape, so solid was its pop grounding.

If Tango in the Night really is the point at which Fleetwood Mac ‘stop’ in the minds of anybody beyond their committed followers — and let’s be honest, the man on the street would probably struggle to name an album of theirs after this one — then it genuinely is a fitting place for them to have brought the curtain down. The Eighties stylings are so pronounced as to be almost aggressive and you can understand why, on a superficial level, that still puts off the same kids that are just now getting into Rumours, but scratch beyond that and you still have the consummate Fleetwood Mac record; brilliant pop songs, plenty of high drama and a story surrounding it all of its own, of the hazy portal the album provided them to escape from their problems.

It’s a remarkable testament to the talent of the five of them that they produced a classic despite being so burnt out heading into it, like a washed-up old prizefighter coming back for one last bout and rolling back the years to upset the odds. For many other bands, Tango in the Night would’ve been their masterpiece. It has to settle for second place in this particular catalogue, but divorced as they are stylistically, Tango in the Night shares something in common with Rumours — it reinforced the bedrock of the Fleetwood Mac mythology. One last time, they took their broken hearts and made them into art.

Fleetwood Mac
Tango in the Night (expanded)
Label: Rhino Release Date: 31/03/2017

Joe Goggins’s rating: 9/10

 

Joe Goggins / Drowned in Sound (UK) / March 28, 2017

Categories
Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night (1987) Tango in the Night - Deluxe & Expanded Editions (2017)

Timely reissue coasts from gloss to gloom

Fleetwood Mac’s 1987 classic Tango in the Night is a blend of solid-gold pop and super-slick production, interwoven with the sound of a band sliding into chaos.

Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night 1987The mid-80s were not the kindest time for 60s and 70s rock legends. For every gimlet-eyed operator who successfully navigated an alien and unforgiving landscape of power ballads, crashing snare drums, Fairlight synthesisers and MTV moonmen – the Eagles’ Don Henley and Glenn Frey; Tina Turner – there were scores who seemed utterly lost. It was a world in which the natural order of things had been turned on its head to such a degree that the drummer from Genesis was now one of the biggest stars on the planet. David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed … at best, they ended up making albums that diehard fans pick over for tiny morsels that suggest they’re not as bad as the reputations preceding them; at worst they made stuff they’d spend subsequent years loudly disowning, involving terrible clothes, inappropriate producers, awful cover versions and – in extreme cases – attempts to rap.

In theory at least, Fleetwood Mac should have been in more trouble than anyone. The band that reassembled after a four-year hiatus to record 1987’s Tango in the Night was in even greater disarray than usual. The celebrated complications in their personal lives that had fuelled 1977’s 40m-selling Rumours were still taking a psychological toll, as was the band’s celebrated capacity for excess. Singer Stevie Nicks emerged from rehab, free of cocaine but soon to become addicted to clonazepam, a tranquilliser so strong she claimed not to remember a subsequent four-month US and European tour. Nicks rarely turned up to the recording sessions at guitarist and vocalist Lindsey Buckingham’s home studio; when she did, Buckingham banished her and drummer Mick Fleetwood to a Winnebago on the driveway, horrified at the state they were in. Bassist John McVie’s drinking was out of control; he had an alcohol-induced seizure the year Tango in the Night was released. The era was brought to a suitably miserable close when Buckingham and Nicks had a physical altercation after the former announced his departure from the band.

Tango in the Night should have been a disaster; instead it sold 15m copies. But despite Buckingham’s belief that its synthesised slickness successfully “bulldozed” away the chaos behind its making, this 30th-anniversary edition, complete with two CDs of outtakes, B-sides and remixes, reveals Tango in the Night isn’t quite so straightforward. It is certainly polished to gleaming perfection – the only outtake that isn’t improved on is the version of closer “You and I,” four minutes longer and packed with gorgeous vocal harmonies and dreamy atmospherics, curiously excised from the album. And there’s some bulletproof pop songwriting here, a lot of it from the pen of Christine McVie, always the most poised of Fleetwood Mac’s trio of composers: “Little Lies,” the peerless “Everywhere” and “Isn’t It Midnight,” the latter a confection of booming drums, precise, tinkly synth and wailing guitar solos that sounds as if it’s just waiting to appear in the background of a film starring Ally Sheedy.

But there are also tracks that speak loudly about Tango in the Night’s background. Most obviously, Nicks’s performances, which are pretty frayed at the edges. She pulled herself together for “Seven Wonders,” a song as gold-plated as any of McVie’s – though, in fact, it was written by Sandy Stewart and her contribution to its composition extended to mishearing and thus mis-singing a line. The reality of Nicks’s situation is revealed in “Welcome to the Room … Sara,” a fractured retelling of her time in rehab (“This is a dream, right?”) and “When I See You Again,” an acoustic ballad – or as acoustic as anything got in Tango in the Night’s heavily buffed sound world – on which she sounds authentically zonked, a spectral presence at the centre of her own song.

Buckingham, meanwhile, couldn’t seem to stop an unsettled twitchiness seeping into even his most commercial songs: the staccato vocals of “Family Man”; the title track’s surges from quiet tension to florid solos; “Big Love’s” backing of grunts, moans and scampering guitar riffs. The latter found an unexpected audience in Ibiza as a Balearic anthem, but it’s hardly blissed out. Quite the opposite: it’s edgy and self-loathing (“I wake up alone with it all”); music with its eyes nervously darting about.

This deluxe reissue feels timely. Buckingham may publicly fret that Fleetwood Mac are “incredibly unhip”, but we now live in a world where their influence hangs heavy over pop, from the sound of Haim to hipster DJ collective Fleetmac Wood, who play nothing but Fleetwood Mac records. Rumours is hailed as a work of consummate songwriting power, rather than the kind of thing punk came to save us from, Tusk is viewed as an experimental tour de force rather than a confused sprawl, and even 1982’s soft-rock compromise Mirage is lauded by artists including Hot Chip. But somehow Tango in the Night has escaped critical re-evaluation: something of what you might call the unrevived 80s – the aspects of the decade too crushingly uncool to warrant nostalgia – still clings to it.

But if anything, Tango in the Night seems even more deserving of the “flawed masterpiece” tag than Tusk. The gloss can’t hide the turmoil, no matter how thickly it’s applied. As with Roxy Music’s Avalon, you’re struck by the sense of an album with something far darker and odder at its core than its reputation as a yuppie soundtrack suggests. In the 30 years since its release, the five people behind Tango in the Night have not managed to make another album together. That’s a pity – as the run of albums that began with 1975’s Fleetwood Mac and ended here demonstrates, the quintet were once an unstoppable musical force, even when forces conspired to stop them. But listening to Tango in the Night’s repeated lurches from breeziness to angst and sparkle to gloom, it doesn’t seem terribly surprising.

Alexis Petridis / The Guardian (UK) / Thursday 23 March 2017

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Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night (1987) Tango in the Night - Deluxe & Expanded Editions (2017)

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night

Tango in the Night is the final album the band would record as an infamous quintet. It’s a pop and production masterpiece, yet remains this monolithic, lucrative idea of a Fleetwood Mac record.

Rating: 8.7/10

It started with “Sara.” The first two Fleetwood Mac albums to feature Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks—the self-titled album and Rumours—featured production typical of the pop-rock generated in Los Angeles in the ’70s. They were professional and pristine, exhibiting an instrumental and emotional warmth that was, in terms of the actual recording technique and the cerebral atmosphere of the people making the records, a product of isolation. On their next record, Tusk, Buckingham shifted the balance of Fleetwood Mac’s studio pop. He deliberately produced his songs so that they sounded trebly and makeshift—as if they were translated from brain to tape as quickly as possible—and produced Nicks’ and Christine McVie’s songs with a lush and carefully-sculpted dimensionality. “Sara,” a song Nicks wrote to a daughter she never had, is so gently shaped that every instrumental and vocal materializes in the song like vapor in the atmosphere. At the Blockbuster Music Awards in 2001, Nicks said that when she writes songs, she tries to “make little worlds” for the listener. Whether intentional or not, this sensibility invaded Buckingham’s production of the song; “Sara,” as it appears on Tusk, is its own world, a complete environment, a beach house built out of sighs.

The follow-up to Tusk, 1982’s Mirage, was a kind reflexive scaling back; both Warner Bros. and Buckingham wanted to regenerate the success and the coherent atmosphere of Rumours. It didn’t take. The band members had already drifted too far from each other: Nicks sang country-western and synth-pop songs; Buckingham quoted Pachelbel’s Canon; McVie’s formal romanticism began to take on a crystalline quality; the production flowed in the direction of their individual fascinations. After a brief tour, the band went on hiatus. Nicks released two successful solo albums; McVie and Buckingham put out one each. In 1985, Buckingham had begun work on an additional solo album, when Mick Fleetwood suggested Buckingham fold his new songs into the more monolithic, more lucrative idea of a Fleetwood Mac record.

The resulting album, Tango in the Night, is exactly that: a monolithic, lucrative idea of a Fleetwood Mac record. It was recorded over eighteen months between 1986 and 1987, mostly at Buckingham’s home studio in L.A. Buckingham devoted himself to the record, laboring intensely over its songs, its sounds, and the integrity of its design. Recording technology had advanced substantially since the early ’80s, and Buckingham found the methods by which he could determine the shape and temperature of a Fleetwood Mac song had expanded.

“Most of the vocal parts were recorded track by track,” he told the *New York Times *in 1987. “The voices used in the textured vocal choirs were mostly mine. I used a Fairlight machine that samples real sounds and blends them orchestrally.” Out of these newly available materials, he could practically build an entire band, which was useful at the time. Mick Fleetwood was almost entirely consumed by his cocaine habit, and the band had been experiencing an internal drift for years. “Constructing such elaborate layering is a lot like painting a canvas and is best done in solitude,” Buckingham added.

The album’s artwork, “Homage a Henri Rousseau” by Brett-Livingstone Strong, is so lush and romantic that it walks a fine line between formal elegance and kitsch, blending the terrestrial with the celestial. It’s an accurate illustration of Tango in the Night’s sound design, of the glitterings and humid shimmers that Buckingham placed in the songs. He made each track on Tango just as he produced “Sara”: less an arrangement of bass, guitar, drums, and vocals than a complete world, a living panorama. There’s a phenomenal wholeness to the recordings on Tango that seems like a superficial compensation for how deeply fragmented the band was at the time.

After Nicks resurfaced from her cocaine addiction at the Betty Ford Clinic, she visited Buckingham’s studio for a few weeks. Three of her recordings figure into the finished Tango, only two of which were written by her. Her voice, invariably hoarse after years of cocaine abuse, often warps or fails the already incomplete material. She howls her way through “Seven Wonders,” a song written mostly by Sandy Stewart. (Nicks receives credit because she misheard “All the way down you held the line” as “All the way down to Emmiline”; for Nicks—and I don’t disagree—sometimes accident and authorship are indistinguishable.) For all of its bluster, the song is not only enhanced by the incidents of its arrangement but is the incidents of its arrangement; try to imagine the song without its synth hook and hear the rest of it evaporate. On “When I See You Again,” Nicks’ voice almost crumbles and shatters into atoms. “Stevie was the worst she’s ever been,” Buckingham told Uncut in 2013. “I didn’t recognize her…I had to pull performances out of words and lines and make parts that sounded like her that weren’t her.” Fittingly, each verse and chorus that Nicks sings sounds generated by a different uncanny assemblage of Stevie, among them one who sings in a kind of mutilated whisper. After the bridge, Nicks completely disappears. Buckingham finishes the song.

Buckingham’s songs on Tango are less knotted than they were on Tusk and Mirage, newly permissive of space. The first single, Buckingham’s “Big Love,” is a song that inadvertently simulates the essential failure of the album. It is devoted to a totally abstracted and imaginary form of love, while Tango in the Night is devoted to a totally abstracted and imaginary form of Fleetwood Mac (neither of which could be assembled in reality). The song’s arrangement feels austere and detached, a byproduct of the narrator’s alienation, but it’s also decorated with overlapping, pointillist guitar phrases. Even the empty spaces on Tango feel like deliberately-wrought emptinesses—for instance, the airy synths that hover over the verses of McVie’s “Everywhere,” or Buckingham’s title track, which through its sense of space imparts the feeling of rowing through fog and mystery.

Still, it’s McVie whose work is most realized by Buckingham’s impressionism. Her “Everywhere” is the best song on the record. Like “Big Love” it too is about encountering an idea too big to contain within oneself (love, again). But where “Big Love” apprehends it with icy suspicion, “Everywhere” responds with warmth, empathy, and buoyancy, describing a kind of devotion so deeply felt that it produces weightlessness in a person. Its incandescent texture is felt in almost any music that could be reasonably described as balearic. Elsewhere, “Isn’t It Midnight,” McVie’s co-write with Buckingham and her then-husband Eddy Quintela, seems an inversion of the values of “Everywhere,” a severe ’80s guitar rock song that gets consumed by a greater, more unnerving force by its chorus, as if it’s succumbing to a conspiratorial dread. “Do you remember the face of a pretty girl?” McVie sings, and Buckingham echoes her in an unfeeling monotone (“the face of a pretty girl”) while behind him synths chime in a moving constellation, UFOs pulsing in the dark.

This is the essence of Tango in the Night: something falling apart but held together by an unearthly glow. More of a mirage than Mirage, it is an immaculate study in denial (its most enduring hit revolves around McVie asking someone to tell her “sweet little lies”). It’s a form of dreaming where you could touch the petals of a flower and feel something softer than the idea of softness. In this way, Tango seems to emerge less from Buckingham’s pure will and imagination than from a question that haunts art in general: How can one make the unreal real, and the real unreal?

The remaster of Tango in the Night isn’t as topographically startling as last year’s Mirage, where new details seemed to rise out of the mix as if in a relief sculpture; it sounded good on CD in 1987. The reissue does sound warmer and brighter, and the instruments feel less digitally combined, which lifts background elements to the surface, like the seasick drift of the bass notes in “Caroline” and the coordinated staccato harmonies in the title track. The reissue also includes two discs of b-sides, demos, and extended remixes, several of which were previously unreleased. “Special Kind of Love” is described as a demo but sounds like a completely developed Buckingham song, gentle and simple, with every edge expressively filigreed; it could’ve been a potential second sequel to “You and I.” “Seven Wonders” appears in an earlier, more relaxed arrangement, with Lindsey’s guitar warmly swanning between the notes that would eventually be reconstructed in perfect digital isolation by a synthesizer.

The demos also reveal the ways in which the songs could fold into and out of each other. On the “Tango in the Night” demo you can hear Buckingham, at the edge of every chorus, begin to invent the trembling choral part that opens “Caroline.” Nicks’ eventual solo track “Juliet” is present in two of its primordial forms—as the instrumental “Book of Miracles” (credited to both Buckingham and Nicks) and as a five-minute “run-through.” The run-through is especially curious, reducing “Book of Miracles” to a formulaic blues-rock over which Nicks’ voice produces a just-barely musical static, full of wobbles and distortions and exclamations. After the take she says, ecstatically, “I thought that was wonderful! I didn’t play! I did not play because I am so smart!”

Nicks exhibits a strange, dissonant giddiness in this moment that isn’t present in any of the band member’s memories of the recording process. At the time, in his interview with the Times, Buckingham imaginatively described Tango in the Night as a restorative process. “This album is as much about healing our relationships as Rumours was about dissension and pain within the group,” he said. “The songs look back over a period of time that in retrospect seems almost dreamlike.” Twenty-six years later, Buckingham summarized the experience to Uncut in more severe terms: “When I was done with the record, I said, ‘Oh my God. That was the worst recording experience of my life.’”

The jealousy and resentment he felt toward Nicks for the success she experienced in her solo career, and the prevailing feeling that his architectural work on the band’s records went unnoticed and unappreciated, had built to a flashpoint. Later in 1987, the band met up in anticipation of the promotional tour for Tango, for which they had already secured dates and signed contracts. At the meeting, Buckingham announced he was quitting the band. “I flew off of the couch and across the room to seriously attack him,” Nicks told Classic Rock in 2013. “…I’m not real scary but I grabbed him which almost got me killed.” They spilled out of McVie’s house and into the street. Buckingham ran after Nicks and threw her up against a car. She “screamed horrible obscenities” at him, and he walked away, from the moment and the band. What’s left, after these harsh fragments of reality are swept away, is Tango in the Night: a remarkably complete album, a lavish garden growing out of negative space. Just a dream.

Brad Nelson / Pitchfork / March 11, 2017

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Album Reviews Article Mirage (1982) Mirage - Deluxe & Expanded Editions (2016)

REVIEW: Mirage (Expanded Reissue)

Fleetwood Mac
Mirage (Expanded Reissue)
(Warner Brothers/Rhino)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Often considered the belated follow-up to 1977’s mega platinum Rumours, 1982’s Mirage was a clear retreat from the somewhat abrasive, occasionally commercial avant-pop of the controversial Tusk. While that album has, over the decades, come to be respected as Lindsey Buckingham’s creative zenith, it appears Warner Brothers was less enthusiastic about their star act’s detour into the artsy abyss. Perhaps Mac were tired of it themselves, because the slick, glossily produced Mirage seems a capitulation to an audience who might have found the dense, inconsistent, but bold Tusk a musical and drug-fueled bridge too far.

While Mirage was no Rumours, its dozen sophisticated pop songs include such near-classics as “Love in Store,” “Gypsy,” and “Hold Me,” the latter two appearing on most subsequent Mac hits packages. But there are other, often unappreciated gems here too. Selections such as Buckingham’s folksy “Can’t Go Back,” Stevie Nicks’ surprisingly effective foray into country “That’s Alright,” the frisky pop/rock and sumptuous harmonies of “The Eyes of the World” and the closing “Wish You Were Here,” one of the always dependable Christine McVie’s more affecting and least appreciated pieces, are well worth reexamining.

It’s not a great album but it’s a good one, especially for Mac’s avid pop fans, and ripe for rediscovery on this newly remastered and expanded edition. A second disc with 20 previously unreleased rarities includes early, stripped down demos, alternate arrangements and outtakes of nearly every tune, plus some that didn’t make the final cut, and is well worth the price of admission. The no-frills versions are a welcome contrast to the finished product’s often over-produced slickness, and such oddities as a four minute in-studio jam on drummer Sandy Nelson’s 1959 instrumental “Teen Beat” with Buckingham at his most frazzled and unhinged is a major find.

But the real excitement is relegated to the pricey “deluxe” package that includes not only a 5.1 surround audio-only DVD of the album and a remastered vinyl reproduction, but a live show from the ‘82 Mirage tour. This 74-minute concert catches the band on a particularly inspired and improvisation filled night in LA as Mirage was ensconced atop the Billboard charts. It kicks off with a propulsive seven-minute “The Chain” that smokes the studio take into oblivion and features extended performances of two Tusk tracks with a nearly 10-minute “Not That Funny” along with another 8 minutes of “Sisters of the Moon,” closing with an unplugged emotional “Songbird” all in front of a clearly engaged audience.

Whether that’s worth dropping nearly $90 is up to you, but this is an invigorating presentation. It captures these five musicians (before they added an unnecessary backline to bolster the live sound) bouncing energy off each other and feeding from the crowd with exhilarating results.

Hal Horowitz / American Songwriter / Tuesday, September 20, 2016

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Album Reviews Article Mirage (1982)

It’s not just a ‘Mirage’

On the heels of last year’s deluxe box set of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, Warner Bros. Records has just announced the legendary band’s Mirage will be next to get the lavish treatment. On July 29, the label will unveil the 1982 chart-topping smash in a variety of physical formats:

  1. Deluxe Edition (3 CD/1 DVD/1 LP): Original album remastered, plus B-sides and rarities; the original album on vinyl; a disc of live performances; and a 5.1 mix on DVD
  2. Expanded Edition (2 CD): Original album remastered, plus a disc of B-sides and rarities
  3. Remastered Edition (1 CD): Original album, remastered
    Digital downloads will also be available.

Mirage was the band’s third U.S. No. 1 album following Fleetwood Mac and Rumours, and spun off classic hits including “Gypsy” (No. 12 U.S.) and “Hold Me” (No. 4 U.S.) as well as “Oh Diane” (No. 9 U.K.) and “Straight Back” (No. 36 U.S. Rock). The original album has been newly-remastered for all formats.

Read the full article at The Second Disc:
It’s Not Just A “Mirage”: Fleetwood Mac Classic Gets Expanded To Box Set, More

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Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac (1975)

ALBUM REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac

Not only is Fleetwood Mac no longer blues oriented, it isn’t even really British: The two newest members, Lindsey Buckingham (guitar and vocals) and Stevie Nicks (vocals, acoustic guitar) are American, and all five members are now based in Los Angeles.

The band began its spiritual journey to L.A. a half-dozen albums ago on Future Games when it was led by the often dazzling guitarist/singer Danny Kirwan. Kirwan is long gone but his inspiration lingers in the songs and singing of Christine McVie (who’s also developed into an effective keyboard player) and in the electric guitar playing of Buckingham, who likes to interpose aching, Kirwanesque leads and textured, Byrds-like rhythm lines. Thanks to their efforts, Fleetwood Mac is easily the group’s best and most consistent album since Bare Trees, the last to feature Kirwan.

The four songs written and sung by Christine McVie make it clearer than ever that she’s one of the best female vocalists in pop, and a deft song craftswoman as well. “Say You Love Me,” “Over My Head,” “Sugar Daddy” and “Warm Ways” transform conventional pop-song structures into durably attractive and believably genuine pieces – each sounds like an ideal radio song. McVie’s singing — slightly husky, not beautiful but unaffected — is simply captivating; she does everything right.

But her contributions have been a strong point since she first appeared with the group on Kiln House; what makes this album a marked improvement over the last several are the efforts of Buckingham, who gives Fleetwood Mac a distinguished and fitting guitar and vocal presence, something the band has lacked since Kirwan’s departure. Of the four tracks he dominates, “Monday Morning” has the most initial appeal, but the hard-edged guitar song, “World Turning” (a McVie/Buckingham collaboration) and the gorgeously somber “I’m So Afraid” stand out more and more as the album grows more familiar.

Nicks, on the other hand, has yet to integrate herself into the group style. Compared to McVie’s, her singing seems callow and mannered, especially on “Landslide,” where she sounds lost and out of place — although to be fair, this is more a problem of context than of absolute quality. Her “Rhiannon,” colored by Buckingham’s Kirwan-style guitar, works a little better and “Crystal,” on which Buckingham joins her on lead vocal, suggests that she may yet find a comfortable slot in this band.

Thanks to the rapport that is evident between McVie and Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac adds up to an impressively smooth transitional album.

Bud Scoppa / Rolling Stone / September 25, 1975

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Album Reviews

ALBUM REVIEW: Bare Trees

Fleetwood Mac’s last two records, Kiln House and Future Games, have between them provided me with perhaps a hundred hours of enjoyment. And that’s the ultimate test of a record’s worth.

Personally, I was never interested in early Fleetwood Mac, the British blues band; but this Fleetwood Mac has little in common with that group except for the name and the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. The closest thing I can think of to the kind of music the new Mac plays is the moody rock of the middle-period Beatles. Kiln House is similar to Beatles ’65 in its dual concerns with vintage rock ‘n’ roll and muted, romantic pieces. Jeremy Spencer took care of the former area, while Danny Kirwan extended the style best represented by McCartney’s “I’ll Follow the Sun.”

Since Spencer left, the band has been forced to re-orient itself somewhat: Kirwan has become the sole focal figure, and this central role has forced him to deal in the visceral as well as the moody areas. But Kirwan had already shown on Kiln House that he was well equipped to handle both. His “Jewel Eyed Judy,” “Tell Me All the Things You Do,” and “Station Man” are among the best examples of the soft-hard rock song, with their lovely, silky vocals and smoking guitars. If Kiln House holds up somewhat better than the gentler Future Games, Kirwan’s dynamic songs are at least as responsible as Spencer’s presence on the former album.

Bare Trees falls somewhere between the last two Fleetwood Macs; that is, it hits harder than Future Games, but its concerns are much more introspective than those of Kiln House. Kirwan has written two melancholic, really elegaic songs based on the bittersweet poem of an elderly woman, “Thoughts On A Grey Day,” that closes the album. The first song, “Bare Trees,” its title suggested by a line from old Mrs. Scarrot’s poem, moves along exhilaratingly, even though its lyric is a metaphor of age and approaching death; perhaps it’s the acceptance of the cycle that gives the music a hopeful, almost happy feeling. The second, “Dust,” is a great deal more somber, but it retains Kirwan’s deft melodic touch, manifesting itself in both the sighing vocal and in the guitar lines that sweep softly alongside it. ‘Dust’ sets the stage for the poem, which is similar in effect to the “Voices of Old People” track on Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends. The group has thoughtfully preceded the poem with about 15 seconds of silence, sufficient time to pick up the tone arm if you’re not in the mood.

The rest of Bare Trees isn’t nearly so melancholy, nor is it structured to conform to the theme Kirwan has developed. Christine McVie’s two songs, “Homeward Bound” and “Spare Me A Little Of Your Love” (which sounds like a hit single to me), make it clear that she’s become a fine songwriter and a persuasive vocalist — she’s somewhere between Sandy Denny and Dusty Springfield, and there’s no doubt that she could make it on her own. Bob Welch’s two contributions, however, don’t approach the power of Future Games. His “The Ghost” and “Sentimental Lady,” while not unattractive in themselves, are the weakest tracks on the album. Both are trite.

As before, it’s Danny Kirwan who makes the difference. There’s nothing on Bare Trees to equal “Station Man” and “Jewel Eyed Judy,” but, aside from “Dust,” Kirwan’s songs here rock much more than his Future Games material did. He really lets loose on “Danny’s Chant,” which features tough-guy electric guitar sounds purely for their own sake. His “Child Of Mine” is a lyrically disjointed but musically forthright rock ‘n’ roll song. And Kirwan’s instrumental, “Sunny Side Of Heaven,” shows off his unique electric guitar style to good advantage. Like most outstanding guitarists, Kirwan gets a sound that is more plainly human than mechanical. His guitar tone is piercing but tremulous — powerful but at the same time plaintive, especially in the upper ranges.

With his multiple skills, Kirwan can’t help being the focal point. It is his presence that makes Fleetwood Mac something more than another competent rock group. He gives them a distinctiveness, a sting. He makes you want to hear these songs again.

Bud Scoppa / Rolling Stone / June 8, 1972

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Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Future Games (1971)

ALBUM REVIEW: Future Games

Back in the Bar-Mitzvah days of the drug culture the British music scene was shaken by what came to be known as The Blues Boom. Beginning with a small corps of dedicated musicians in the early Sixties, blues bands proliferated at a feverish pace until by 1968 nearly every person in the British Isles between the ages of 16 and 35 was in a blues band. But by its very popularity the blues boom insured its own destruction. After all with so many people in unsuccessful blues bands how could anyone afford to buy anyone else’s records? So the boom subsided as the less accomplished musicians in the lot went on to find some measure of economic stability as light bulb designers, pop artists, members of hard rock groups, or what have you.

Of the many second generation British blues musicians who remained active Peter Green was among the most promising. During his tenure with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Green had distinguished himself as a fine singer and guitarist – a worthy successor to Eric Clapton. Indeed, on much of Mayall’s second American album, A Hard Road, Green was the dominant personality. It came as no surprise when in 1967 Green left the Bluesbreakers to form his own band, Fleetwood Mac.

The other band members were Mick Fleetwood, a comically attenuated drummer; John McVie, Mayall’s longest lasting bass player: and Jeremy Spencer, a fanatical admirer of Buddy Holly and Elmore James, whom Mike Vernon had discovered playing piano at a seedy blues bar in a seedy British town. Not long after releasing their first album the band was augmented by guitarist Danny Kirwan, a mere slip of a lad, who if he progressed at the expected rate seemed well on his way to becoming God Jr. The band’s second album, English Rose, most certainly rates as one of the best British blues albums, handily fulfilling everyone’s expectations. One of the album cuts, “Albatross,” was released as a single and rose to the top of the world charts.

It was not long before the band left Columbia and the tutelage of Mike Vernon and after nearly signing with Andrew Oldham’s Immediate Label found a home with Reprise. This event was marked by the release of a single, “Oh Well,” which had been quite successful in Europe, but flopped in the US, followed shortly by an album entitled Then Play On.

With Then Play On and increasingly in their live performances the band began to show rather disintegrative tendencies, torn between Green’s hard-driving intense style. Spencer’s imitations of old rock stars, and Kirwan’s growing predilection for mush-mouthed balladry.

Green quit and the happy balance of English Rose was lamentably short-lived. Kiln House was released and Christine Perfect (Mrs. John McVie) formerly of Chicken Shack joined the band. While Fleetwood Mac was often very good at this stage, with Green’s departure they had suffered a discomforting loss of intensity. Last year while on tour in California, Jeremy Spencer quit, defecting to one of the many strange religious cults so popular in Southern California. (I have some sympathy with Spencer. If I had to go to Los Angeles again I might join some strange religious cult). Spencer’s place was filled, more or less, by American singer-guitarist Bob Welch.

So, it is with a lineup of Kirwan, McVie, Welch, Fleetwood, & McVie that Fleetwood Mac is heard on Future Games. For my taste, the album has little to commend it. Danny Kirwan is out front on most of the cuts and sadly his singing and playing appear to have lost their edge. His voice drones, innocuously, he plays almost aimlessly, and the songs he writes are just too long. One of them, “Sometimes,” might have been good but it lingers on purposelessly and painfully for six and a half minutes. Only once, on “Morning Rain” does his playing briefly equal his past performance and his tough, rather disjointed style almost re-emerges. Christine McVie puts in far and away the best performance of the album, but this too is disappointing in the light of her past achievements and potential. Her voice sounds surprisingly weak and emotionless here. Her piano playing too is not up to her known capabilities. Still one of her songs, “Morning Rain” does have its moments. While Fleetwood and McVie handle their rhythm chores competently they have usually been heard to be much better. As for Bob Welch his talent appears to be notable only in its lack of distinction, but perhaps he too has the ability to do better.

Future Games is a thoroughly unsatisfactory album. It is thin and anaemic-sounding and I get the impression that no one involved really put very much into it. If Fleetwood Mac have tried to make the transition from an energetic rocking British blues band to a softer more “contemporary” rock group, they have failed. If they have simply lost interest, I hope they regain it in time to salvage what was once a very promising band.

Loyd Grossman / Rolling Stone / December 9, 1971

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Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Kiln House (1970)

ALBUM REVIEW: Kiln House (Reprise)

An echo-chambered “This Is The Rock” starts off Kiln House, Fleetwood Mac’s latest album, setting the stage for one of the strangest albums this group has ever given us.

Known initially as a blues band, they evolved into a combination of blues, rock and some jazz. Now Fleetwood Mac is into old rock, heard for the most part of this album. “This Is The Rock” is straight out of the world of Gene Vincent with a yelling-singing style, heavy echo, strutting music and echoed back-up singers. ‘Hi Ho Silver’ is more old rock, but done closer to a group singing style.

All these old styles are augmented with Fleetwood Mac’s more up-to-date professionalism, without losing the 1950s flavor. “Buddy’s Song” is an obvious tribute to Buddy Holly, although the lyrics may sound as if they’re making fun of the singer. To a “Peggy Sue” arrangement, they sing “You say you’re going to leave, well that’ll be the day, Maybe baby you don’t know, I left Peggy Sue a long time ago.”

For no apparent reason, but then maybe one isn’t necessary, a good Western song called “Blood on the Floor” pops up. It’s the kind of tune you’d called a “cowboy song,” talking of jails and “I’m not sorry but I’m sore, blood on the floor.”

The album is so varied. “Earl Gray” is an instrumental, “One Together” is close to folk with a heavy touch of country, and “Mission Bell” is done in what seems to be the exact same arrangement of the original hit. Kiln House is an interesting album. Fleetwood Mac seems to have put some fun into its life.

Mike Gormley / Detroit Free Press / December 13, 1970

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Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Then Play On (1969)

ALBUM REVIEW: Then Play On (Reprise)

Nowadays Fleetwood Mac is stepping out on its own. Tired of being another British blues band, the group has said goodbye to Elmore James and is moving into the pop-rock field. On this album, they fall flat on their faces.

Most of the music on the album is slow and wandering – instruments in search of an idea. Of the songs in this category, “My Dream,” with its pleasant melody, is the only one that works. The eclecticism is excessive here, most of the songs soundings like warmed-over early Fish, with traces of such bands as the Doors. Plus several two-guitar raveups. Peter Green, once such a promising guitarist, is merely competent – nothing more, nothing less. Even the blues material is inferior to their earlier work. To be sure, there are bits and pieces of interesting, spacey music scattered throughout the album, but it’s the nondescript ramblings which dominate the set.

The best thing Fleetwood Mac has ever done is “Oh Well,” a single currently available only in England. On part one, the two guitars work with and against each other in perfect balance, and when the music pauses, there’s these fine lyrics, post-Dylan, rock and roll sassy: “I can’t help it ‘bout the shape I’m in/I’m not pretty, can’t sing and my legs are thin/But don’t ask me what I think of you/I might not give the answer that you want me to.” Part two, an instrumental , gets a bit cumbersome, but still attracts where similar songs on the album repelled. The reason this is available only in England is that the band’s manager is positive that “Rattlesnake Shake” (an album cut distinguished from the others only by the fact that it’s up-tempo) will hit as a single in America and on the European Continent. That man is 1969’s False Prophet of the Year. I’d trade this whole album straight across for “Oh Well,” and would be getting the better deal.

John Morthland / Rolling Stone / December 27, 1969

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Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac (1968)

ALBUM REVIEW: Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac — My Heart Beat Like A Hammer, Merry Go Round, Long Grey Mare, Hellhound On My Trail, Shake Your Moneymaker, Looking For Somebody, No Place To Go, My Baby’s Good To Me, I Loved Another Woman, Cold Black Night, The World Keep On Turning, Got To Move (Blue Horizon 7-73200).

I was slightly disappointed. Peter and his boys are competent and dedicated enough to have made a better LP than this, which consists of nothing much new or adventurous in the blues field, merely their attempts to duplicate what has already been done by countless other blues artistes. Doubtless it’ll appeal to Fleetwood Mac fans as opposed to blues fans. Also the recording quality was too often flat — compare this with the punch of Elmore James or Howlin’ Wolf items. This is a shame because throughout the album some brilliant touches come through. “I Loved Another Woman” is perfect, and the instrumental and vocals are mostly very competent, and often inspired. ***

Peter Jones and Norman Jopling / Record Mirror / March 2, 1968

Categories
Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac (1968)

ALBUM REVIEW: Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac (1968)

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac (Blue Horizon).

One of the group events of last year for blues fans was the formation of the ex-Mayall guitarist Peter Green’s own group. They blow committed blues and aren’t afraid to rock. From the first bars of “My Heart Beat Like A Hammer” the music is kept at white heat intensity, or a warm, red glow for the medium-paced outings like ‘Merry Go Round’. Jeremy Spencer contributes nice slide-guitar, piano and vocals; John McVie, also ex-Mayall, is on bass, and Mick Fleetwood, drums. Producer Mike Vernon and engineer Mike Ross get a good sound on the rhythm section, which is usually the weak point of British blues recordings.

Melody Maker / February 24, 1968