Say You Will
Warner/Reprise Records


 Fleetwood_Mac_Say_You_Will_CD_small.jpg (6497 bytes)

  So is this the return of the unstoppable Mac of the late ‘70s? Well, yes and no. Lindsey Buckingham is back for the first time in 16 years and so is his unrelenting experimentalism, but the pop tune craftsmanship and smooth, soulful voice of Christine McVie (who actually fronted more Mac hits than either of her two more visible band mates) is gone. So really, this is a pick up from where Buckingham and his long ago paramour Stevie Nicks were before the duo joined Fleetwood Mac in 1974. Sure, there are obvious throwbacks to the halcyon days. Nicks’ title track could be from Tusk, as could the beautifully sparse melancholy of Buckingham’s “Say Goodbye,
 but, surprisingly, the big problem here is Buckingham’s maverick nature itself. “Red Rover” is an acoustic based bit of brilliance and would be stunning ala the live performances of “Big Love” and “Go Insane” from the last tour, but on the studio versions, Buckingham simply goes too far. The vocals are nearly indecipherable and distortions take away from
the effect of the song itself. This also mars another potentially great track called “Miranda.” The good thing is, when he hits, he hits big! “Come” is one of the most devastating tracks in the history of Fleetwood Mac. Its feverish, hallucinogenic mix only adds to the chaos. Topping this track off is a mind-altering solo that should permanently cement the fact that Buckingham’s playing is truly awe inspiring and tragically underrated. Also, Nicks’ writing is as solid as ever. Her post-911 track “Illume” reeks of the impressionist poetry that is her trademark. More rocking numbers like “Destiny Rules” and “Running Through The Garden” are truly fitting displays of her vocal ability and the haunting album closer “Goodbye Baby” is as ghostly and sad as a song comes. Ironically, the best songs for radio are the least passionate. While songs like the timely “Peacekeeper” and “What’s The World Coming To” are well written and played, they seem to lack the fire of the deep cuts. Of course, the only Mac constants, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie play solidly if not slightly restrained by Buckingham’s hit or miss production style. Say You Will amply displays that the band is still capable of the greatness of their past. Unfortunately, without the invaluable and often overlooked contributions of keyboardist and vocalist Christine McVie, this is no more the Fleetwood Mac of yore than the version without Buckingham and/or Nicks. Imagine Rumours without “Songbird,” “Don’t Stop,” and “You Make Loving Fun.” That’s what Say You Will is. The body of Fleetwood Mac is its rhythm section. The brain is Buckingham and the soul is Nicks. Maybe if we didn’t know what we were missing, it would be easier to see the obvious brilliance of what’s here. Unfortunately, without Christine McVie, the heart of Fleetwood Mac is clearly gone. (3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505)

Chris McKay/concertshots.com