Q magazine, Issue #44, May 1990

by Peter Kane

Behind The Mask

Fleetwood Mac As sagas go, the continuing one entitled Fleetwood Mac has packed in enough internecine intrigue to have the Ewings, the Forsytes, even the Borgias, queuing up for lessons. Still, the family that plays together is supposed to stay together, so when Lindsey Buckingham bid adieu with 1987's hyper-successful comeback, TANGO IN THE NIGHT, there was the usual closing of ranks before Rick Vito and Billy "son of Dorsey, nephew of Johnny" Burnette were recruited in a two-for-the-price-of-one swap to complete what is something like the tenth or eleventh line-up to date. Plus a change, as Bobby Robson might have it.

The newcomers have been readily absorbed into the Mac's way of doing things while adding just a polite extra push as and when required. WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN, for instance, has a tangible rockabilly tilt to it, while what is popularly considered a driving beat underpins both Love Is Dangerous and Stand On The Rock. As though not to be outdone, even a couple of contributions from Stevie Nicks, Freedom and AFFAIRS OF THE HEART, romp along in a more straightforward fashion than is customary for the flaky Faerie Queen. It's as though the infusion of new blood has brought out a more competitive edge to the enterprise.

However, with Miss Nicks still dividing loyalties between the band and her own extra-curricular solo activities and the new boys easing themselves into the job, it's hardly surprising to find the ever-reliable Christine McVie contributing what are the most polished moments. As well as possessing a finely tuned pop ear, in her own understated way she's been as responsible as anyone for establishing and maintaining the adopted Californians as doyens of the soft rock option. Skies The Limit proves a suitably optimistic starting all over again point with the hallmarked elements neatly in place: chugging rhythm, lightly fingered keyboards, impeccably mannered guitars and pastel harmonies built on to the simplest of structures. Save Me beefs up the pattern while Do You Know About Love? is one of those well engineered ballads that's designed to warm the cockles of anyone's heart.

True to form, the playing throughout is never wasteful whilst still managing to conjure up a deep textured whole; none more so than on the title track which comes complete with an intricate weave of voices and acknowledgement that relationships aren't just sunshine and flowers.

Like born-again virgins, the fluttering middle-aged hearts can take some swallowing, of course. But after all these years, through the domestic dust-ups and what is unquestionably the most convoluted history in rock, Fleetwood Mac have perhaps earned the right to escape to a world where all the sharp edges have been removed as and when they choose. BEHIND THE MASK, by playing to acknowledged strengths, keeps the fantasy pretty much intact. They're good for a few more chapters yet.

Thanks to Villavic for posting this to The Ledge and to Anusha for sending it to us.