Philadelphia Inquirer, April 19, 1987


by Ken Tucker, Inquirer Popular-Music Critic

If Tango in the Night, the first Fleetwood Mac album in five years, is ultimately a disappointment, it's only because of the anticipation the album has inevitably inspired.

Ever since the band's commercial and aesthetic triumphs Fleetwood Mac (1975) and Rumours (1977), Fleetwood Mac has stood apart from other rock- superstar acts. In contrast to the tidy, homogenized, anonymous music made by most best-selling bands of the '70s (quick - name three songs by Journey) Fleetwood Mac and its music have been gratifyingly complicated and confusing.

Here was a major act, for instance, whose members always seemed to be quarreling - this was implied as clearly in the band's lyrics as it was in its interviews. Above all, you got the sense that the music mattered so much to this mismatched bunch that the performers felt it was worth battling over.

No such urgency informs Tango in the Night (Warner Bros.). In fact, you might say it's the first Fleetwood Mac album without an emotional subtext.

Don't misunderstand - this is a good, generous album performed with great skill and intelligence. It's one of the few superstar releases around these days that doesn't pander to its audience, and Lindsey Buckingham continues his remarkable development as one of the most adventurous producers in popular music.

But of the dozen songs on Tango in the Night, only a few have the excitement and innovation of Fleetwood Mac's best music. Two are the songs Stevie Nicks has written for the album. Both "Seven Wonders" and "Welcome to the Room . . . Sara" have the sort of vague, and vaguely cliched, imagery that we've come to expect from Nicks, but like the best of her previous work, she invests that vagueness with a romantic delirium unmatched in current rock.

For all her flightiness and studiedly ditzy image, Nicks is simply a wonderful singer of rock-and-roll. The way she draws out the word certain midway through "Seven Wonders" is one of those utterly inexplicable, wholly marvelous moments that occur all too rarely in modern pop. Nicks has a knack for writing very commercial, accessible songs that frequently contain moments of mystery that keep you listening over the months and months that her hits are played on the radio.

Buckingham's skill is somewhat similar; he does with his guitar and his production style what Nicks does with her voice. On both "Caroline" and "Family Man," Buckingham repeats the title phrase until it's nearly meaningless, but he surrounds that meaninglessness with rich, thick layers of guitar and drums to achieve a serene, dreamy sound that's hypnotizing.

Before the arrival of Buckingham and Nicks in 1975, Fleetwood Mac was considered a British blues-rock band that served primarily as a showcase for Christine McVie's vocals. Americans Buckingham and Nicks added not only a pop aspect to the music, moving the band into the commercial mainstream, but also brought to the group a kind of passion, a sort of aesthetically pleasing neurosis, that disturbed the calm surface of the music. In other words, Fleetwood Mac became an interesting rock band.

Both Nicks and Buckingham have had successful solo careers in recent years; there's a sense in which they don't need Fleetwood Mac anymore, except that the tension of group collaboration sometimes brings out the best in them. For that reason alone, the release of Tango in the Night is a welcome event, as will be any future Fleetwood Mac albums the group might be moved to record.

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