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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Fleetwood Mac, Say You Will December 6, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Stevie Nicks has featured in the This Weekend… slot before, but have I mentioned that I’ve most Fleetwood Mac albums of the Nicks/ Buckingham era? Probably not. Thing is that for years I avoided listening to them, too big, too mainstream, too 70s, and then something changed. Perhaps it was Nicks herself whose voice and approach I always liked, or the Waddy Wachtel production connection with the Church’s most commercial moment in the late 1980s – the Starfish album and the single Under the Milky Way. Or perhaps it’s a Melody Maker essay from the 1990s that reappraised the genuinely strange Tusk and noted how influenced by punk and new wave was one Mr. Buckingham. Or was it a process of audio osmosis during the Clinton campaign(s) in the 1990s, where Don’t Stop was on constant rotation? Whatever, something softened me up sufficiently that I started buying up their back catalogue.

Anyhow, I hardly need mention this:

…or this:

….or this:

…and note in passing that they are smart pop/rock tracks? I thought not.

Fast forward to the early 2000s and I’m in a pub in Skibbereen and an album comes on the speakers and it just happens to be Say You Will, their 2003 album. Now this is, it has to be said, in some ways a curious effort – a mix of the explicitly political and personal that leans indirectly on the post 9/11 period. And musically it’s curious too.

There’s an observation in the allmusic review of it which notes that it’s not a Fleetwood Mac album as such, or not entirely. Christine McVie is missing in action (though returned to the fold for their current tour) and Fleetwood and John McVie ‘are so grateful to have the two superstars back in the group that they cede ground to Buckingham and Nicks, who never collaborate as much as share space.’ It also notes that it’s far too long at 80 minutes and could be shorn of a good half of that. That may be true, but what to cut, what to cut?

Say You Will is perfect as the single, Goodbye Baby near elegiac as is Silver Girl, Red Rover is possessed of a fury at the events of the early to mid-2000s, What’s the World Coming To likewise, Murrow Turning over in his Grave seems to musically reference Tusk, Peacekeeper speeds along even if I could do without the in party hippyish lyric in the chorus… and note the names.

In any case I tend to think that the divergence of sound is a feature rather than a glitch. Both Buckingham and Nicks play to their considerable strengths and the songs where they most obviously collaborate most clearly are all the better for being supported by the others around them which bring a certain light and shade. Indeed this can be a strangely difficult album to listen to for one that is positioned in the mainstream, there’s all manner of quirky little musical motifs and structures that add a certain sort of dissonance.

On that Allmusic argues that Buckingham could sound ‘wilder’, but I’m unconvinced. If anything that’s the story of his life in Fleetwood Mac – “could sound wilder”. It’s that he doesn’t, that he keeps the energy that is clearly infusing his musical aesthetic somehow under control that inflects the group, that makes what could sound in other hands like MOR/AOR hackwork sound – particularly when set in tandem with Nicks voice – somehow greater than the sum of the constituent parts across an entire career. There’s something admirable in that.

Say You Will

Peacekeeper

Goodbye Baby

Red Rover

What’s the World Coming To

Steal Your Heart Away

Silver Girl

Comments»

1. LeftAtTheCross - December 6, 2014

Ah here WBS, Fleetwood Mac?? I admire you’re catholic taste in music, but there are limits 🙂

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eamonncork - December 6, 2014

Don’t mind him Wbs. I’m thoroughly enjoying it as I snort cocaine by my swimming pool. It’s more soft rock we need on this thread.



When you’re running down my West Coast AOR boy, you’re walking on the fighting side of me.

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dmfod - December 6, 2014

I don’t even think Fleetwood Mac count as a “guilty pleasure”. They’ve been pretty comprehensively rehabilitated over the last fifteen years.

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WorldbyStorm - December 6, 2014

That’s very true dmfod – though I suspect my 21 year old self would have been appalled. And possibly my 31 year old self so I have a lot of sympathy for LATC’s position.

EC, a good book on the 70s period I found was Barney Hoskyn’s Hotel California, though a bit more detail wouldn’t have gone amiss rather then very broad brushstrokes.

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LeftAtTheCross - December 6, 2014

I’ve a mere 6 months or so until my 51 year old self can comment here and I’m fairly certain I’ll still have the same opinion then about Fleetwood Mac WBS. I did see them play live once, in Wembley Arena, in 1989, and they were awful. I was a stweard at the gig rather than a punter I should add.

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WorldbyStorm - December 7, 2014

I’ve no doubt they’ve done grim gigs and there’s no disputing taste and if you don’t like them you don’t like them and that’s more than fair enough.

The thing about Buckingham is that he is well known for being captivated by punk and post punk and new wave and trying to drag in aspects of the latter – however muted – into their approach and sound. Tusk is genuinely a very very strange album.

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eamonncork - December 7, 2014

I think the Left needs to have an honest debate on AOR. Failure to do so for reasons of musical correctness is merely driving people into the arms of those advocating more extreme solutions such as Gallagher and Lyle, Air Supply and the solo works of Pete Cetera.

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