It’s finally happening. We’re finally in the home stretch for the Mac Attack! This issue, we will be looking at the beautiful Mirage (1982), sexy Tango in the Night (1987) and sweet like candy corn Behind the Mask (1990). For some reference to your favorite Fleetwood Mac reviewer and the Mac’s own timeline, I was born the same year that Behind the Mask came out. Ponder that for a moment. I don’t care if you like Fleetwood Mac or not (my lovely boyfriend isn’t their biggest fan, but he could just be jealous :P). If I love them and know others of my age who do as well (in multiple countries, mind you!), then this is a band with real staying power. Really. Like, someone please fly me to their next concert in Dublin. Please.
Anyway, onto the music!
Mirage is fun. I don’t know how they did it, considering the drastically different song stylings of Tusk (1979), but the three songwriters of the Mac brought it back together. Their voices are still very specifically each of them individually, but the confluence of their songs works. The album is tight. It’s also pretty upbeat. And I mean that literally. Most of the songs have fast beats, and even some of the slower tunes (thinking of “That’s Alright”) still manage to be somewhat peppy. Of course, thematically the songs tend to be littered with residual angst and pain, with Christine McVie’s offerings lending a loving air (“Love In Store,” “Hold Me,” “Only Over You,” “Wish You Were Here”). Nicks’ tunes (“That’s Alright,” “Gypsy,” and “Straight Back”) quickly run the gamut of her style, incorporating deep, slightly transcendental lyrics with the dramatic prose of her music, with a countrified twist breaking through in “That’s Alright.” “Gypsy” is my hurricane song (as in, I listened to it a lot during Hurricane Sandy).
And Buckingham’s songs… Most of Buckingham’s songs on this album make me chuckle. It seems like the thing he really wanted to keep off of Tusk was the unison shouting. You can hear it in “Empire State” and in “Eyes of the World.” His other tracks (“Can’t Go Back,” “Book of Love,” “Oh Diane”) don’t have the shout, but there is definitely something humorous about the way they are. I don’t know what it is. I can’t place it, but something about Buckingham’s songs, maybe the musicality of them, is funny. They’re entertaining. I love the ladies’ songs on this album, but it’s Buckingham’s hilarity that makes it for me. I always have fun when I listen to to Mirage. Always.
I only have one complaint about Tango in the Night, and it’s a simple complaint. There is no tango music, nor any music that was noticeably inspired by tango music, on this album. Other than that, I’m pretty down with Tango. Notably, Tango in the Night is the fourteenth studio album by the Mac, and the fifth and final album featuring the fivefold talents of Christine and John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Lindsay Buckingham, and daddy on the throne Mick Fleetwood. Tango is the band’s second most successful album after Rumours (1977) ten years prior, and it is definitely worthy of its success. Tango is dark, sensual, sweaty (maybe it has more in common with tango than I thought…).
Part of what makes this album so successful musically is the band’s complete embrace of the 80s. Tusk in ’79 and Mirage in ’82 were both fairly borderline, but by 1987 pop music had completely changed direction, and Fleetwood Mac gracefully adopted some new sounds for Tango in the Night. But within that, they didn’t sacrifice their unique blend to a new era. They merely advanced themselves. And they did it well. Six of the twelve Tango tracks became successful singles. My personal favorites from this album are “Everywhere,” “Isn’t it Midnight,” “Little Lies,” “Welcome to the Room…Sara,” and “Family Man.” Christine did sweep this album for me, I must say. But everything else is so good. Listen to this album, if you haven’t. It will make you feel like a conqueror. A dark, sweaty conqueror. A.K.A awesome.
Good bye, Lindsay Buckingham. We’ll miss you until you return. Until then, your replacements gave us Behind the Mask. The replacements, two guitarist/singer/songwriters Billy Burnette and Rick Vito, pushed the band to a six-piece ensemble that had four singer/songwriters. Even for the Mac, it was a bit much. The music on this album is enjoyable, but it’s not quite the same. As a whole, the album lacks the oomph of the classic era of Fleetwood Mac. It pushes towards a country-rock hybrid that would be more popular about five years ago as opposed to 23 years ago. And although Nicks and Vito’s styles seem to convene well, there’s definitely this sense of otherness to Behind the Mask. It doesn’t feel like the same band most of the time. Of course, it kind of wasn’t.
That being said, the first two tracks (“Skies the Limit” from McVie and “Love is Dangerous” from Nicks/Vito) are really superb and received some airplay when they came out. Seven minute long “In the Back of My Mind” is almost a power anthem, but it definitely feels like it belongs much earlier in the band’s chronology, somewhere between Future Games (1971) and Bare Trees (1972), in my opinion. Newbies Burnette and Vito collaborate on the bouncing though generic “When the Sun Goes Down,” and Burnette’s name takes credit on “When it Comes to Love,” one of the most unique tracks on the album. My conclusion: It’s like in Doctor Who when the Doctor regenerates and the companion stays the same. For the first few episodes, you can’t stand this new guy, but you know that if the show sticks with him long enough to find all of his talents, then and only then will he really become the Doctor to you. I hated Matt Smith, now I’m probably going to cry when he goes. This is just a Fleetwood Mac regeneration. It’s like Christopher Eccleston. Not without merits and fantastic moments, but still not Tom Baker.
Next up, the last installment of the long-drawn-out Fleetwood Mac Attack! We’ll be looking at Time (1995), Say You Will (2003), and the new 4 song EP Extended Play (2013). Be on the lookout for some bonus tracks between now and then, too!