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Robert Palmer, New York Times, January 9, 1981 (excerpted from longer article about music in general)


Following the ups and downs of Fleetwood Mac through the years has been a little like following a particularly convoluted soap opera. The band's original lead guitarist left to take religious vows, and at one point a manager with whom the group was quarreling sent an ersatz Fleetwood Mac out on the road. Musicians have come and gone. When the band's latest configuration prospered, with platinum albums and successful world tours, the musicians' personal relationships began to suffer. John and Christine McVie dissolved their marriage, and the romance between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac's most recent recruits, turned sour. But along with Mick Fleetwood, the band's drummer and manager, they managed to keep Fleetwood Mac together.

A happy ending? Not quite. After working in recording studios for two years, Fleetwood Mac released "Tusk," an ambitious, eccentric double album. Fans and critics who had admired the group for its lush pop-rock found the new record puzzling, and the tour that followed it was uneven. There were several problems, the most serious of which was that Stevie Nicks seemed to be losing her voice.

Will Fleetwood Mac retain its immense popularity, and if so, will its five members continue to put aside their personal differences and function as a unit? Will Stevie Nicks overcome her vocal problems? The soap opera continues. The latest episode, a double album called "Fleetwood Mac Live," (Warner Brothers) which was recorded on the "Tusk" tour, isn't very revealing.

On "Tusk," Lindsey Buckingham emerged as Fleetwood Mac's unofficial musical director, and his inventive guitar work and quirky vocals are responsible for the new album's liveliest and most interesting moments. Miss McVie is a fine songwriter and an appealing, atmospheric vocalist, but her live performances tend to be sober and professional, and Miss Nicks, who's normally more outgoing, sounds distant and restrained here. Too much of the music sounds like five individuals contributing letter-perfect parts to someone else's project. Obviously, "Fleetwood Mac Live" is a holding action. What trials and tribulations await the band around the next curve in the road? Stay tuned.