Wall of Sound CD Review (August 20, 1997)

Fleetwood Mac: The Dance
Reprise
Rock/Pop
Rating: 72
 
  File Under: Tangos in the night
The members of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours division have said a lot about each other over the years, but nobody said hell would have to freeze over for them to get back together. So here they are, the most successful lineup in the group's thirty-year history, and one of the most celebrated and cheerfully neurotic groups in pop-music history, reassembled for the latest in a string of multimedia rock-and-roll reunions.

Make no mistake that The Dance presents the Fleetwood Mac relapse as a major event--an album, an MTV special, a home video, a reunion tour. Twenty years ago, these five musicians released one of the most successful albums ever (it's still the No. 3 bestseller of all time, behind Michael Jackson's Thriller and the Eagles' Greatest Hits); now, after enduring middling careers apart, they've done what all good sixties and seventies bands have learned to do--cash in on their peak audience's nostalgia.

Compiled from three live performances, the new album commemorates the twentieth anniversary of Rumours, with a handful of new songs thrown in for good measure. The welcome news is that The Dance is all right; it's warm and spirited, even if the Macs do show a bit--but only a bit--of wear and tear since their heyday as pretty and handsome pop archetypes from California. Stevie Nicks looks better than she has in years and slips nearly agelessly back into the sultry tones of "Dreams," "Rhiannon," and "Landslide." Christine McVie is still sturdy and dependable, while Mick Fleetwood and John McVie remain a solid rhythm section. And Lindsey Buckingham--well, he always was the star of the show, even if ex-girlfriend Nicks got most of the media attention. As a guitarist, he's facile; check out the bluesy licks he squeezes into "The Chain" and "I'm So Afraid," the frenetic fingerpicking on an acoustic version of "Big Love," and the trademark solos in "Go Your Own Way." His singing is a little ragged, but it still conveys that desperate, on-the-edge quality that made him seem idiosyncratic two decades ago and nearly a genius in hindsight. And whoever let the USC Trojan Marching Band stick around for "Don't Stop" even deserves a nod of approval.

The Dance's calling card may be all those chestnuts, but Fleetwood Mac--like the Eagles before them--isn't quite ready for the oldies bin. Four new songs appear on the album, and they actually fit nicely into the proceedings. Buckingham's yearning, moody "Bleed To Love Her" and the boppier "My Little Demon" show that he's still the edgiest of the group's three songwriters. Nicks' "Sweet Girl" has an agreeably gentle twang and Christine McVie's "Temporary One" is upbeat and affirming, addressing the group's situation with its promise that "the sea that divides us is a temporary one/ and the bridge will bring us back together." That's ultimately the biggest surprise on The Dance--not that Fleetwood Mac still sounds good playing its hits, but that the band can offer some fresh material that, unlike most reunion projects, doesn't make you rue the inevitable album of all-new songs. --Gary Graff

Thanks to Dustin Friedman for the submission.