Mercury News, April 26, 1987


THERE was a time when a new Fleetwood Mac album was accorded the same fanfare a Bruce Springsteen or Michael Jackson album is given today. Just turn the clock back to 1977 when Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" LP sold 15 million copies -- a feat since surpassed only by the Bee Gees' "Saturday Night Fever" (28 million) and Jackson's "Thriller" (35 million).

But Fleetwood's glory days didn't last. After their experimental, mixed-bag follow-up album, "Tusk," sold only 4 million copies, group members Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood turned their attention to outside projects.

Nicks became an arena headliner in her own right. Buckingham made three solo albums. Fleetwood went to Africa to make an ethnic dance record. John McVie toured with John Mayall. And Christine McVie made the underrated pop album, "Got a Hold on Me," in 1984.

Fleetwood Mac's new "Tango in the Night" (Warner Brothers) is only the band's second album of original music in the '80s -- and the first since 1982's dubious "Mirage." It was shipped without fanfare to stores (indeed, many fans didn't even know the group was recording again), but it represents their most alluring work since "Rumours."

The album's recent single, "Big Love," signaled trouble with its breathy cream-puff sound, but the rest is much more inviting. The group sounds recommitted, especially in the delicate, ethereally beautiful vocal harmonies that are its trademark.

And the songs are again nicely balanced between the bewitching confessional pop of Nicks, the open-hearted love songs of Christine McVie and the offbeat musings of Buckingham. They complement each other just as they did in their late-'70s zenith, even if some arrangements sound like a recycling from that period.

Arranged and partly recorded in Buckingham's home studio in Los Angeles, the tracks have a warmth missing from the "Mirage" LP, which was recorded in a castle in Europe. The warmest tunes, not surprisingly, belong to Christine McVie, whose song "Everywhere" is a joyous affirmation of newborn love. She later combines with Buckingham on the New Age pop of "Mystified," another love song of singular beauty.

Nicks checks in with her own gems. "Seven Wonders," a cosmic tale of romance that appears to float out of King Arthur's time, has an angelically upbeat vocal. She's equally disarming on "When I See You Again," about meeting a lover for the last time. The mood is enhanced by soft acoustic guitar and a final verse sung by Buckingham, who, not coincidentally, was her lover during the '70s.

Buckingham's contributions are more checkered, but also more adventurous. His "Big Love," the album's aforementioned single, lays a big egg, but his other songs mostly glisten. His Al DiMeola-like Spanish guitar is a highlight on "Family Man," which concerns owning up to the responsibilities of fatherhood. Elsewhere, Buckingham experiments with Moroccan and Caribbean textures, then opens throttle on the title track, "Tango in the Night," which describes a romantic moonlight dream and has a guitar solo that screeches into the stratosphere.

For that matter, his guitar playing is a focal point throughout the album. He is a master of filigree melodic lines, tremolo touches and the occasional bent-note wail that makes his playing all the more versatile and energizing.

Some critics will surely find Fleetwood Mac an anachronism in 1987. But this album not only restores the grace of their glory days, it proves the band still has some creativity to spare. There is no word yet as to whether they will tour, but they've at least survived the studio with respect intact.

Thanks to Karen for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.