Fleetwood Mac – Say You Will (2003)

Share this:

by Nick DeRiso

They were the Chanteuse, the Wild Hair (in more ways than one) and the Songstress. And now Fleetwood Mac has had a hit album in every decade since the 1970s.

The reason seems to be in their very makeup: This is the rare group that has enough hardness (in the spindly tunes of Lindsey Buckingham) to attract the average rock music fan; enough magical mystery (in the gauzy stuff from Stevie Nicks) to attract the fanciful; and a dollop of old-fashioned power-pop (the now-missing Christine McVie) to lure in the rest.

In many ways, they were the perfect concoction for FM radio. Throw in the juicy melodrama of their lives, though, and it’s all the more surprising that any of it turned into great music. (Unlike say, P-Diddy or Mariah Carey.)

Buckingham and Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in 1974, after a period of years in which the group – led by drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie – had languished in relative obscurity playing blues rock.

They certainly sold some records, then. But also gossip magazines. First, singer Christine broke up with her husband, John McVie. Stevie broke up with Lindsey, then got into a brief relationship with Fleetwood.

It was like As the Stomach Turns.

Yet, this rock-group soap sold. And sold. The group’s second album with Buckingham and Nicks, 1977’s perfectly titled “Rumours,” moved 17 million units.

So, they screwed it up by putting out a double album next. Then everybody had a go at a solo career, recording only sporadically as Fleetwood Mac. One by one – first Buckingham, then Nicks and then Christine McVie – they all left. Then everybody got back together for the inevitable reunion tour.

Nobody ever got back together in the bedroom, though. The group struggles to this day to square up its own backstage entanglements – some of which should be eased by the fact that Christine is staying home for this CD and tour in 2003.

Still, while that ensures there will be no dirty looks during concert performances, it also unbalances the group’s delicate dynamic – which made “Say You Will,” and the resulting tour feel more like a solo effort featuring two people, Buckingham and Nicks.

And Buckingham and Nicks are best enjoyed when there are the brief respites of pure, joyous pop – respites that never come – from Christine McVie.

That said, Stevie Nicks hasn’t sounded this engaged since she put out “Bella Donna” more than 20 years ago. Post-rehab, she finally returns on the album and tour as an important contributor.

Nicks displays a refreshing melancholy “Goodbye Baby,” showing she can inhabit other personas besides that of the witchy woman (“Illume”) – which is getting a little rote.

Buckingham? Well, he’s still weird. Even though Lindsey is principally responsible for moving this group away from the sometimes-staid blues sensibility that Fleetwood Mac always had, he’s hardened into an musical experimenter – one whose solo stuff can sometimes be unlistenably convoluted.

Yet, with the responsibility of carrying the CD and tour squarely on his shoulders, Buckingham does OK – luxuriating in some gorgeous Beach Boy-ish harmonies and song structures (“Come”), even if he must indulge himself with one guitar meltdown tune.

While it’s uneven, “Say You Will” is a better end for Fleetwood Mac than their last original offering – 1995’s ill-conceived “Time,” a CD that included, for some reason, both McVies, Fleetwood … and 1970s rocker Dave Mason.

Then again, Mason had a hit with “We Just Disagree.”

Could’ve been a Fleetwood Mac tune, you know?

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
Share this: