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The Philadelphia Inquirer


Steven X. Rea, Inquirer Staff Writer

Mick Fleetwood would like it known that Mick Fleetwood's Zoo is not just Mick Fleetwood surrounded by a gang of anonymous session players. For one thing, the Fleetwood Mac co-founder doesn't sing ("Thank God for that!" he jokes) and didn't write any of the songs that his new group performs. The other guys - bassist/keyboardist George Hawkins, guitarists Billy Burnette and Steve Ross - take care of that stuff.

Fleetwood just drums: the kind of crisp, galloping, assertive drumming that has been the backbone - and the backbeat - of Fleetwood Mac since 1967, when he and some renegade members of John Mayall's Blues Breakers got together to form the group.

Fleetwood Mac went through myriad personnel changes on its way from three chord British blues and boogie band to Anglo-American pop supergroup, but all that's another story.

This story is about Mick Fleetwood's Zoo, which has made a record called "I'm Not Me" (RCA) and has just embarked on a nationwide tour wherein Fleetwood and company perform some songs from said album and more. The quartet headlines tonight at the Ripley Music Hall.

"We're definitely ready to play," an eager Fleetwood said by phone late last week in Los Angeles. "I love the road. It's been about a year and a half since Fleetwood Mac last toured. On this tour we're playing much smaller halls. There's no way we can sell out any huge halls. I'm really pleased that that's the case, in actual fact - to not have to go through the huge drama which all that can be."

"I'm Not Me," a collection of exuberant pop rockers that variably recall Fleetwood Mac (Mac cohorts Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie lend a hand on several tracks), the Beach Boys and some rave-up rockabilly, was a long time in the making.

Fleetwood, 41, reports that he started work on the album before Fleetwood Mac went out on its early-1982 "Mirage" album tour, and didn't complete it until this past spring. Zoo members Hawkins and Ross are old friends of Fleetwood's, and Burnette, son of rockabilly great Dorsey Burnette, "came around to show us some songs - we were looking for songs to record - and he never left," Fleetwood said, chortling.

And although it's Fleetwood's face on the album cover and his name that's played up in radio and print ads, the lanky percussionist insists that it's a real "band" band.

"I hope it's apparent that they (Burnette, Hawkins and Ross) are as much a part of this situation as I am. In terms of putting the thing together, one could consider me the catalyst, but we're in this together."

Fleetwood said that even if the Zoo takes off commercially (its first single, "I Want You Back," looks as if it's fizzling), he doesn't foresee any conflict with that other group with which he's associated.

"In a weird sort of way it may seem more threatening to Fleetwood Mac than Lindsey or Stevie (Nicks) going out and doing an album. Because, you know, 'Micky formed a band.' But that's just the nature of what exists: A drummer needs people to play with. And only because of that does it perhaps seem a little more sinister than it really is. I'm not forming another band because Fleetwood Mac has had a parting of the ways."

Which brings us to the inevitable Fleetwood Mac status report. According to Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks is catching her breath following a "massively" successful tour and a "massively" successful solo album. Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham is finishing up a solo album, as is keyboardist Christine McVie.

As for bassist John McVie, "he's sitting on his boat. John's the wise one," Fleetwood quipped. "Actually, he's anxious to work. But he isn't particularly motivated to do something like I'm doing and just go out and create a situation where you can be active."

Fleetwood said the five Mac members had "tentatively reckoned that during the summer we're going to gird up our loins and get into the studio and hopefully go on the road and all that. We're all still there."