The collected history of Fleetwood Mac feels like that of at least three bands. One of those three is the biggest, the fans’ favourite – the quintet with Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks all to the fore. Its last outing was 1987’s Tango In The Night, but the signs indicated a revival of this line-up was on the cards. Unfortunately Nicks had other ideas, opting to pursue her solo career, but the other four remain, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie on drums and bass guitar respectively supporting the other two named protagonists. To all intents and purposes, then, this is Fleetwood Mac – the revival.
Now the admin is out of the way, what about the songs? With some of Buckingham’s writing intended for her, Nicks’s presence is missed on occasion, but there is too much of worth here for that feeling to linger, as McVie and Buckingham write beautifully together. Their best songs are effortless, and the ease with which they can work is clear in the way they finish each other’s musical sentences and fill in harmonies we didn’t even know were missing. Each of these perfectly formed miniatures is structured with a songwriter’s instinct, before the studio polish we now come to expect from the band is applied.
In My World and Red Sun are the pick of the songs. The former’s furtive guitar line brings in a breathy vocal, but the wary verse blossoms as the key change to a strong chorus is executed. The latter is a glorious singalong moment, more acoustically derived, as McVie sings about when the “red sun kisses the sea”. The unifying elements are the strong melodies, beautifully sung, that transfer effortlessly to the radio. The studio touches are the icing on the cake, each nuance of Buckingham’s guitar nicely caught.
There is nothing of great surprise here, which while reassuring to fans does also lead to the criticism that McVie and Buckingham are just that bit too predictable through the course of an album. There is however no lack of emotional input to songs like Feel About You, where McVie exults of how her love is “the sky at night, black and white… you’re so beautiful, that’s how I feel about you”.
On With The Show sounds a little weary, coming as it does towards the end of the album, and the mind does wander to thoughts that the trials and tribulations of Fleetwood Mac’s history – even in recent years – have to come out in the music somewhere. Yet listen more carefully and there is a close bond with You And I, the closing track from Tango In The Night, which makes itself clearer as the song progresses, the instrumental coda ultimately trumping the vocals.
With their classic albums now in the throes of the deluxe reissue treatment, the music of Fleetwood Mac is never likely to be far from the ear, and with these new songs its discography grows still further. The fact the musical material in 2017 stands alongside their previous work says much for its quality, even though the hint of routine persists. Fans need not hesitate.