05/15/2003 3:00p ET
Daniel Wolfson - Reviewer
When I first heard about the impending release of Fleetwood Mac's new album 'Say You Will' several months ago, I was none too excited. The last ten odd years have been a chaotic time for the band, with absences on recordings, first by Lindsey Buckingham, then Stevie Nicks, then both. And one of Lindsey's absences was filled by Dave Mason, which effectively killed a proper Traffic reunion. While 1997's "The Dance" featured a full Mac reunion with some interesting new material, I still wasn't too keen on a new studio album, especially after learning that Chriistine McVie has retired and moved back to England. This plus the fact that there were to be eighteen tracks on the disc made me wonder the issue was quantity vs. quality. What do you get when you combine all these ominous prospects?
Their best album in over 20 years, that's what! And an early candidate for Album of the Year. The disc starts with "What's the World Coming To?" by Lindsey, a catchy number which asks the musical question that we've all been asking for the last two years. This is followed by "Murrow Turning Over In His Grave" also a Lindsey Buckingham composition, which continues the apocalyptic vision of it's predecessor. The chorus, a well done round arrangement, reminds me of "Black Betty", that 70's arena rock tune by Ram Jam.
Stevie provides the next two numbers. The first is the hypnotic 'Illume (9-11)' which Stevie, who was in NYC on 9-11-01 wrote in her hotel room at the Waldorf Astoria that night. The several references to incense refers to her burning it all night to cut off the smell of the conflagration at Ground Zero which was very apparent even sixty blocks to the north. "Thrown Down" is the most classic Fleetwood Mac song on the disc.
My personal favorite song on the disc, "Miranda", is a hypnotic tune by Lindsey. The guitar reminds me of Lindsey's solo version of "Big Love" from '"The Dance", a version which made the original studio version sound like the most overproduced song in music history. "Red Rover" is perhaps my least favorite song on the disc but features some outstanding guitar work.
Stevie's "Say You Will" is the most commercial song on the album, which may well be why the album was named for it. Lindsey's "Peacekeeper", which easily could be about Iraq, is uneven. As Matt Rowe pointed out, it does indeed have a middle reminiscent of "Kodachrome", so much so that Paul Simon might deserve a writing credit. Lindsey fares much better with "Come", which features a flamenco intro and then a very un-Fleetwood Mac heavy style which is very invigorating.
Stevie has the next 3 songs. "Smile at You" and "Running Through the Garden" are both excellent songs which feature some of Stevie's best vocal work in years. And "Silver Girl" supposedly dates back to the "Rumours" days, yet would also fit in comfortable on 1982's "Mirage".
Lindsey's "Steal Your Heart Away" has an almost Travelling Wilburys feel with some beautiful harmonies. His "Bleed to Love Her" which debuted at 'The Dance' has one of my favorite guitar parts I've heard from him.
"Everybody Finds Out" has a nice dance groove to it. "Destiny Rules" has an intro which recalls "The Chain" and then drives into an archetypal Mac sound, yet at a noticeably faster tempo.
The disc concludes with both Lindsey and Stevie offering their goodbyes. First Lindsey with "Say Goodbye", a terrific acoustic guitar piece with Don McLeanesque vocals. Then Stevie gets her turn with "Goodbye Baby" in which either the narrator or their addressee is dying, bringing the disc to a poignant end.
"Say You Will" is a terrific collection of songs. It's not perfect, but it is their best work since "Mirage" and deserves to mentioned in the same breath as "Rumours" and "Fleetwood Mac". Even with Christine's absence as a writer and singer, though she did sing on a few songs, the band holds its own. Stevie Nicks seems to have taken over as the main creative force here, although Lindsey, while co-opting several other artists styles for several songs here, at least does it right.
As for the DVD-Audio mix, it is done very well and consistently. The rear channels are used for echo, vocal harmonies, and interestlingly, much of the percussion. Since Fleetwood Mac's vocals alone would be enough to warrant spaciousness, the full advantage taken of 5.1 is done incredibly well. The extras, which are merely band pictures, (though in striking black and white) are almost non-existent. One very important thing about this release is that the CD and the DVD-A were both released on April 15th. If the DVD-A folks continue to offer simultaneous releases of both formats (as will be the case with Steely Dan's "Everything Must Go" on June 10) this will be a big boost for the format.
In conclusion, the Mac is back! I only hope Lindsey's and Stevie's conjunctive Goodbye songs which close the recording are only lyrical license and not goodbye to their fans. Fleetwood Mac has scarcely had more reason to stay together and start again. Oh, Christine?
Copyright © 2002-2003 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
Say You Will
Released: April 15 2003