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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Say You Will
Artist: Fleetwood Mac
Label: Warner Brothers
Length: 18 tracks
Always treat reunion albums with a great deal of respect and care. They could have a dangerous potential to con you out of your money. The scene is 100 sales persons in a swanky New York office strategising how to sell a product to a bunch of people who have wonderful memories of the original album of 25 years ago and how, by cover art, the lead-off single and the choosing of the right billboards, magazine covers, etc., they can enchant with romantic reminiscing a 40-something population to buy something that they are now actually 25 years away from appreciating. It happened with Bat Out of Hell 2, and I was conned. So, thought I, treat Fleetwood Mac with Lindsay Buckingham back on board with serious caution.
Yet the sales team were working their magic. The front cover of Uncut and a reminder of that amazing story of hedonism, incestuous affairs and divorces that created Rumours, that amazing classic album of the late 70s, had me remembering the music that felt like refreshing west coast breezes and sunshine-made music--and most exquisite music at that. You could almost feel the sand between your toes as you listened. So I had my vinyl back out listening to Rumours, Tusk, and the eponymous album that brought this edition of Mac together and that might actually be better than the bigger selling Rumours. I even acquired for the first time Tango In the Night, the last album they were all together for. I was being set up big time.
And so I bought it BUT not the special book packaged edition with four extra tracks, even with a cover of Dylan's "Love Minus Zero/No Limits." "Cautious," I said! So is it a great work of marketing men and woman or another great work of a legendary band. Well, the band wins. You need not tread cautiously anymore because though it is far from flawless, Say You Will is an excellent piece of work. Of course, we had a hint that it would be on the reunion live tour souvenir The Dance, which came out on DVD and CD in 1997. Even "Bleed to Love Her" from that album appears in its studio form here.
Indeed, that song is the genesis of the reunion when Buckingham asked Fleetwood to drum on that song, originally to be a track on his solo album, he could not have expected that that solo album would be joined on to the next Stevie Nicks solo album to make one rather long at 18 tracks Fleetwood Mac record. The point seems proven in that the final two songs are two "goodbye" songs one from each writer.
In essence that is what we have here. Christine McVie, though she appears, is the one Rumours line-up member to have left, and there is no doubt that she is missed, as she brought another angle to the songwriting. Her third way is missed here as that space between Buckingham's experimental guitar and technological wizardry and Nicks' enchanting wispy witchy beauty. The album can too easily be divided on those lines.
Buckingham can be accused of overindulgence at times. Guitar solos skid and screech to almost heavy metal workouts at times distorting a song like "Red Rover" out of any enjoyment. The stereo effects are most intriguing and keep the listener alert but are always on the edge of much too fussy. However, there are many great moments. "What's The World Coming To" is Buckingham at his best, and as the CD goes on, he becomes less flowery with the electric posturing, and that trademark finger dancing acoustic style finds the gentle and space to say "it is good to have you back."
"Thrown Down" has Nicks seducing you with those little half-step melodious twirls that are simply that has the hairs on the back of your neck standing up to boogie. After her overindulgent use of hedonistic substances between her first solo album Bella Donna and the recent Sheryl Crow aided Trouble In Shangri-La, it is good to hear Nicks so fresh, fragile and free. These songs are her best in twenty years.
Christine McVie apart, this has all the best ingredients of Fleetwood Mac's former success, but where Buckingham plays his trump card is to give it enough of a tweak to push the envelope into the third millennium. It is never dated, which means that those of us who are 25 years older do not have to realize that we can never go back to the eras and spirit of 1977 but can enjoy one of the best bands of that era meet us right here in our forties.
Abandon caution! This is not safe--it is good!
Steve Stockman 5/11/2003