Sound Judgment-- August 17, 1997

Fleetwood Mac
"The Dance" (Reprise)
* (One Star)

No matter that it's been only nine years since Lindsey Buckingham left Fleetwood Mac, only six since Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie said bye, only two since the survivors scraped up a tour billed behind REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar. If you want to get together to record an album of warmed-over live versions of familiar hits, call it a "reunion" and concoct a massive media blitz, well, that's your prerogative.

Just don't whine when they call you has-beens.

If emotional tension once lit a fire under the sparkling pop of this British-American outfit -- one of the best-selling groups of all time -- less noble designs drown it like spoiled milk. "The Dance," which comes 20 years after the explosive "Rumours" and features five of its songs, is a crass exercise in rote, note-for-note exploitation of mythology. The motive -- money? nostalgia? who cares? -- is moot, because the musical results serve the even dirtier role of chipping away at a pop legacy.

Sure, that distinct blanket of harmonies feels warm and familiar while Nicks and Christine McVie log worthy vocal turns on such tunes as "Rhiannon" and "You Make Loving Fun," with drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie chugging along halfheartedly underneath.

But it's the mercurial Buckingham -- once the group's strongest songwriter and creative guiding light -- who provides the most distressing moments. Coming off like Kenny Loggins on an all-night drunk, Buckingham's strained vocals singlehandedly destroy renditions of "The Chain" and "Go Your Own Way."

He also turns in the shabbiest of four new compositions, a tossed-off number called "My Little Demon." Featuring sequenced sound effects and a jagged-edged bass rumble -- albeit with a nifty little guitar line -- it bumbles along before mercifully seguing into Nicks' sweet and gentle "Silver Springs," one of the disc's soothing respites.

Christine McVie's jaunty "Temporary One" and Buckingham's subdued "Bleed to Love Her" make passable turns, with Nicks' wiser and warmer "Sweet Girl" standing as the top new tune.

It would take a lot more, though, to atone for the middling work that surrounds them. This "Dance"? Insipid, uninspired and ultimately insignificant.

By Brian McCollum