Song of the Year

By Ben Kessler
City Arts
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Saluting Stevie Nicks’ “Soldier’s Angel”

Years from now, 2011 may be remembered as the year postfeminism produced poster girls for the status quo. Female-fronted hits such as the movie Bridesmaids and the TV show New Girl were hailed as breakthroughs, despite their unremarkable content. (Bridesmaids even showed up on some confused critics’ year-end best lists.)

Ironically, inordinate media attention turned this distaff escapist trend into a genuine threat to women’s cultural advancement. The “women in comedy” hype carries the suggestion that lucrative half-truths are the best female artists can hope to achieve; risking personal expression turns funny chicks into Debbie Downers.

My choice for best pop song of last year, Stevie Nicks’ “Soldier’s Angel,” points the way out of hype. As if responding to Bridesmaids and New Girl, Nicks shows us how 21st-century pop artists can speak truth and navigate politics.

In “Soldier’s Angel,” Nicks tells how her visits with wounded veterans at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital unsettled her as a woman, citizen and icon. Lindsey Buckingham’s resonant guitar notes ensure that the song is threaded through with dread in the face of mortality. Against this stirring backdrop, Nicks’ voice—scarred and pitted by time and trouble—expresses a veteran artist’s perseverance for inspiration.

Imagining how the soldiers to whom she ministers must see her, Nicks sings, “I am a soldier’s girlfriend as I look upon their faces/ They make me remember my first love/ Goin’ out to dances.” Buckingham’s presence as guitarist and background vocalist connects her romantic recollection to our collective Fleetwood Mac memories. As “smart” pop critics might say, Nicks “implicates the audience” in her healing mission.

The refrain of “Solder’s Angel” speaks of the “war of words between worlds” within which Nicks’ mission is enmeshed. This must refer to the partisan scapegoating that has infected American political discourse. While Hollywood entertainment like Bridesmaids and New Girl promises escape from political conflict, Nicks elevates the discourse to a philosophical, even spiritual plane.

“Soldier’s Angel” was a 2011 highlight, but it may resonate even more profoundly in this election year. As Nicks warns: “No one walks away from this battle.”

Fleetwood Mac: Over 100 million served

By C. Bottomley & Jim Macnie
VH1.com
Thursday, May 29, 2003

The Big Mac is back, and Lindsey Buckingham explains how the pop stalwarts pieced together the very impressive Say You Will.

Never say never. In 1987, Lindsey Buckingham bid farewell to Fleetwood Mac, and it was a big change for the band. With partner Stevie Nicks in tow, the lanky singer/guitarist/songwriter joined the ever-morphing Brit ensemble in 1975; during this 12-year stint he helped transform the group from respected also-rans to the epitome of platinum-selling rock stars. Inspired by Buckingham’s romantic turmoil with Nicks (as well as the disintegration of John and Christine McVie’s marriage), 1977’s Rumours sold 17 million copies. It was full of irresistible soft-rock and passionate hard pop. Ultimately, it even spawned Bill Clinton’s campaign theme, “Don’t Stop.”

He issued a string of gorgeous solo discs, but retirement didn’t agree with Buckingham. Something was missing. Maybe it was Nicks’ witchy mysticism and gentle soul. Perhaps it was Christine McVie’s perky pop-craft and honeyed harmonies, or Mick Fleetwood and John McVie’s rhythmic backbone. Either way, with 1997’s The Dance, Buckingham was back in the fold, and the band began working on a stockpile of his songs.

Younger groups might still look to Rumours as their template, but Say You Will, the Mac’s first album in eight years, beguiles, bewilders, and rewards. Buckingham’s guitar takes center stage, with fertile freak-outs and up-to-the-minute atmospherics that dazzle with their daring. McVie sat this album out, so songs like “Peacekeeper” bristle with Buckingham-Nicks’ethereal harmonies and chug-along pop beats. There’s even the odd diversion into political commentary. The band that made Say You Will is an inclusive and broad-reaching entity. Unlike many groups their age – 36 years if you’re counting – the Mac still have their teeth. Or should that be tusks?

On the eve of their American tour, Buckingham spoke to VH1 about reinventing the Mac, painting in the studio, and which of the band’s songs could get him out of bed.

VH1: Is getting back into action and starting a new tour second nature at this point?

Lindsey Buckingham: The challenge of getting into that mold is more about how you present it. People like The Eagles tour all the time without having an album. For us, it’s how you dignify having made a very fresh album which is basically a reinvention of the name Fleetwood Mac, and present it in a way that is still familiar – not too challenging!

VH1: Say You Will is a very progressive album, though. Some parts border on being experimental.

LB: I would say so, too. I remember when Rumours came out, it got some crappy reviews. But in a year’s time, a lot of people were revising their opinion of it. But yeah, this album is a sort of marriage between the best of Rumours and the best of Tusk. And yet, it is breaking new ground.

VH1: How did the album come about after such a long lay-off?

LB: It was an epic effort. It started off as a solo album of mine. Most of the songs that ended up on Say You Will were cut with Mick before we did the Dance tour. After Mick and I had gone into the studio and John [McVie] came in to play some bass, some people thought, “This is interesting.” There was this intervention happening, where people said we needed to do a live album and tour. When the tour was done, I went back into my garage and finished all those songs pretty much in the state that you hear them on the album. “Peacekeeper” and “What’s the World Coming To” were the only ones that were cut later.

VH1: You like to play with the studio on your solo albums, and Say You Will is pretty thick with audio ideas and treatments.

LB: It was gratifying for me, because during my time away from Fleetwood Mac, I felt like I got better at using the studio as an instrument. I consider the process that I use on my own to be a kind of “painting.” The studio is not only an extension of the guitar; it’s an extension of your imagination.

VH1: How was the recording process this time around as a reformed group?

LB: One of the things that we wanted to do was present something closer to the energy of what we do on stage. Some of that was suggested by the fact that when we played as a three-piece, we all had much more room to maneuver. In a way, we’ve done the best playing I’ve ever heard on a recording. So it was about reeling that out and not worrying about anything other than what we do best.

VH1: How is it now that Christine has left?

LB: Well, when I first joined the band, I had to adapt to fit in, because so much of the [musical] space was already taken. John is a fairly intricate bass player, and Christine’s keyboard sound took up a lot of space as well. Not in a bad way, just in terms of what was left over. We don’t see her absence as any kind of detriment. It’s just different. Stevie and I were able to broaden our own particular landscapes as writers. It was kind of a gift, and very much in the tradition of a band that has re-invented itself many times!

VH1: Mick and John are an unbelievable rhythm section. Describe what it is that they do.

LB: Mick is a diamond in the rough. He does what he does, and after all this time, he still doesn’t know quite how he does it. He doesn’t want to know! There’s a real Zen feel to that: he knows he has a feel. But he’s just the ultimate in “dumb” – in the best sense of the word! He values that: he values the idea of feeling loose and having a groove that sits appropriately behind the beat. John is sort of an enigma. He’s a strange combination of [Charles] Mingus and [Paul] McCartney. He doesn’t talk about it, but he’s extremely smart and extremely melodic with what he does. It’s very easy to underestimate what he does – until you really listen to it. Through all the incarnations of the band, those two guys have been the thread.

VH1: Which of Stevie’s new tunes touches you the most, as a fan of hers?

LB: I like “Illume” a lot. I like “Thrown Down” a lot, too, sort of for my own petty needs because I felt I helped [articulate that tune]. “Say You Will” is real catchy, and will probably be the next single.

VH1: Is making a record all craft or do your ideas come to you from your subconscious?

LB: Sometimes when you’re in the process of “painting,” you get yourself into some sort of a reverie, where the subconscious comes to the surface a bit. With me, the songs don’t come fully formed before they start being worked on. I tend to think the process of making the record is part of the writing process, in terms of being flexible about what comes in and what changes.

VH1: What message would you want listeners to come away with after listening to “Murrow Turning Over in His Grave”?

LB: Edward R. Murrow was around when there was some standard for reporting on television. When he retired, he gave this speech about how TV was being used to distract and amuse and not particularly educate anyone. He said if the people responsible for what was on TV didn’t strike a balance, “history would take its revenge.” I wrote that song during the OJ Simpson trial. In some ways, that was the beginning of a new low, with Court TV popping up out of the blue and all that stuff which pretends to be objective news reportage, [but] is completely opportunistic.

VH1: In our house we often play “Think About Me” to start the day. If you were to play one Fleetwood Mac song in the morning, what would it be?

LB: I guess you could always fall back on ‘’Don’t Stop.’’ It’s harder to respond to a question like that when it’s you who’s made the music. But that’s one that goes across the board as an uplifting message.

Fleetwood Mac revived

By David Bauder
AP (press release)
Friday, May 9, 2003

AP – Seven years ago when guitarist Lindsey Buckingham began working on a solo album, he was confronted by a cold reality: his record company had no interest in a Lindsey Buckingham solo album.

A Fleetwood Mac album, however, was a different story.

The company got its wish. One of rock ‘n’ roll’s brand names – and longest-running soap operas – has been revived this spring with four-fifths of its most famous lineup.

A new album, “Say You Will,” is the first project with all-new material for Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bass player John McVie since 1987. Missing is retired keyboard player Christine McVie, making this edition more muscular and guitar-oriented.

“All of us in this band, every time it comes around and happens again, are surprised and delighted, because we never think it is going to happen again,” Nicks says.

The classic lineup – with Christine McVie included – had reunited for a nostalgia tour and live album in the late 1990s. But becoming a creative unit again was another thing entirely.

Even before the tour, Buckingham had invited the band’s old rhythm section to work with him on his solo album. But Buckingham’s solo work has never sold very well and Warner Bros. was disinterested. Realizing it was the only way to get the music out, and after years of work, the three men decided to invite Nicks to join them in the summer of 2001.

She was just about to leave for a long concert tour to support her own solo album. So she sent a disc of 17 songs she had written over several years – but never released – to Buckingham, Fleetwood and John McVie, who were working in a California studio.

Buckingham, the band’s producer, saw Nicks’ gift as a test. And the Fleetwood Mac soap opera began a new installment.

“Her involvement emotionally came in stages,” he says. “She had sent stuff over, but I don’t think she had a lot invested in what she sent over.”

Not so, Nicks says.

“I didn’t feel like I was dipping in my toe,” she says.

“I had to go on this tour because Warner Bros had just released my record. … I gave them the CD and said, ‘I’ll be back as soon as I can.”‘

Buckingham and Nicks with different interpretations of the same event?

There’s a shock. Even cursory fans know their history: The couple’s romantic breakup fueled the mega-selling album “Rumours,” and they’ve danced delicately around each other’s psyches ever since.

“All of that is never going to be behind us,” says Nicks, as she gazes at the ocean from her California home. “Our destinies are so entwined. We fight a lot. We have a lot of arguments. But in the long run, we’ve worked it all out.”

Buckingham is now a married father of two. Nicks is single, and has spoken candidly about how hard it is to mix relationships and her career – the new song “Silver Girl” is a big-sisterly ode to friend Sheryl Crow, who is confronting the same issues.

‘Say You Will’ says Fleetwood Mac’s on again

By Edna Gundersen
USA Today
Sunday, April 27, 2003

Pop’s longest-running soap opera has been renewed for another season. Harmonious negotiations, a revised cast and a fusion of two scripts yielded Fleetwood Mac’s long-awaited studio reunion, Say You Will, which enters Billboard at No. 3 after selling 218,000 copies its first week.

Singer/songwriters Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, former lovers whose Rumours-era split left a bitter wake, each contribute nine songs, some originally destined for their solo albums. Drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, founding members of the storied band, returned to the fold, while keyboardist Christine McVie opted to retire.

Sturdy musical roots and fragile emotional ties make Mac both a reliable and unpredictable commodity in rock. Fans embraced the band’s lucrative comeback in 1997, yet the players retreated into uncertainty. Buckingham resumed work on a solo album, but when a Warner Bros. executive disparaged it, he shelved it in anticipation of a leadership change at the label.

“It was a lame-duck situation, so I played a waiting game,” he says. “I said to Mick, ‘Let’s cut some tracks with Stevie.’ If there was no interest in my solo album from the new regime, I figured it could morph into something else.”

Incoming chief Tom Whalley did fancy Buckingham’s songs, but it was a moot point, since a Mac homecoming was in full swing. Before Nicks left on a solo tour in July 2001, she handed Buckingham a 17-track demo containing songs dating back to 1976. On New Year’s Eve, she listened to the tracks Buckingham had polished while producing the record.

“I realized I needed to add new material,” Nicks says. “I told Lindsey, ‘I know you’ve already been waiting for me for six months, but I need 30 days.’ I told my brother, ‘Fire up the 12-track Akai,’ I got all my journals and went to work.”

She delivered four songs in four weeks. Smooth sailing? Not quite. Sparks flew when Buckingham’s desire for a two-CD set was overruled, despite his willingness to absorb any financial loss entailed in a configuration that yields less profit per track than a single disc.

“Some things conspired to force me to rethink that: politics in the band, certain things that were said,” Buckingham says. “Then we had a confrontational experience in getting a running order everyone was all right with.”

Now he’s fretting over the set list for a tour starting May 7 in Columbus, Ohio, and heading east. The tour swings to the South and Midwest in June and hits the West Coast in July.

“It’s more daunting than ever,” he says. “The new album needs to be dignified, but people with a bottom-line mentality say you can’t do too many new songs. How do you do a show that’s not too much of one thing? I’m losing sleep.”

Nicks says creative tension and her uneasy dance with Buckingham are the least of her worries.

“Mick and John could fire us and start over,” she says.

Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks

Nicks, who calls herself a "nervous nellie" tells US, "Now, instead of Prozac, I watch the Fine Living Network. That calms me down."

By Shirley Halperin
US Magazine
Monday, April 21, 2003

Fleetwood Mac Is Back!

Twenty-six years after the release of their smash album Rumours, Mac delivers Say You Will, their first studio effort since 1995. Though much has changed (the once-hard-partying band is now drug-free), Mac’s wistful sound is still the same-thanks in large part to trendsetting singer Stevie Nicks. The single 54-year-old, who splits her time between Phoenix and Southern California, chats with US.

You’ve toured for the better part of 30 years. Learn anything? That you have to take care of yourself. In the old days, we’d go straight to the bar after a concert. Well, we don’t do that anymore because we can’t!

But you still enjoy some rock-star perks, right? We have a 738 private jet. It’s like our own party!

The peasant look is in. Your style finally caught on! It feels terrific to know I had an effect on style, but I think those designers should send me money!

What kind of guy scores a date with Stevie Nicks? Someone who is not jealous of what I do and who digs my lifestyle. My life is fun, and for the right man, it would be a gas! But I’m never home, and it’s hard for a man to be left behind. So I never look for Mr. Right, but I know he can always walk into my life. I like that.

Is it strange sharing the stage with your ex, Lindsey Buckingham? Sometimes he takes me back to 1971-he’s still thin and pretty gorgeous. Often, I think we live in a parallel universe, where we’re not sure if it is 1973 or 2003.

Return of the Mac

By James McNair
Independent Review (UK)
Friday, April 18, 2003

Fleetwood Mac, the zillion-selling adult-rock stars of the Seventies are back. And no, it’s not just for the money. JAMES MCNAIR talks to the band about their soap-opera-like past and hopes for the future

As settings for a Fleetwood Mac interview go, Culver City Studios seems suitably grandiose. Its exterior facade is a white colonial mansion that featured in Gone with the Wind. Orson Welles filmed Citizen Kane here, and in 1933, this is where King Kong fell for Fay Wray. Today, though, Fleetwood Mac are here, just outside Los Angeles, to rehearse for an upcoming US tour in support of their new album, Say You Will. Eleven years after their White House gig in honour of President Clinton’s inauguration, it’s still location, location, location.

The Mac are, of course, best known for their zillion-selling 1977 colossus, Rumours. And the story behind that AOR classic is almost as famous as the music itself. Fuelled by most of California’s cocaine – the drummer, Mick Fleetwood, reportedly considered a sleeve-note dedication to his dealer – Rumours featured “Dreams” , “Go Your Own Way” and “Don’t Stop” , songs that commented on Stevie Nicks’ messy break-up with the guitarist, Lindsey Buckingham, and Christine McVie’s split from the bassist, John McVie. Nicks went on to have a brief affair with Fleetwood, whose first marriage was on the rocks, while Christine McVie started seeing the band’s lighting director, Curry Grant. Even an Eastenders scriptwriter, I put it to Fleetwood, might have baulked at such close-knit dating.

“It was all part of the ongoing saga that makes the band unique”, grins the lanky 55 year-old. “Unique even to this day, let me tell you. I went to Hawaii recently with my wife Lynn and our kids, and Stevie rented a house just down the road. My wife is a soulmate, but Stevie is a soulmate, too, and Lynn knows that. There’s so much you can enjoy with that dynamic.”

Say You Will marks the departure of the keyboardist/songwriter, Christine McVie. More important, perhaps, it sees the return of Buckingham for what many consider the first proper Mac studio album since 1987’s Tango in the Night. The new record has garnered some excellent reviews, and with Christine gone, Stevie and Lindsey share the songwriting credits much as they did in their pre-Fleetwood Mac duo, Buckingham-Nicks. Talking to Buckingham, however, one senses Say You Will’s precise, nine songs apiece tally is not mere happenstance.

“There were some problems with the track-listing near the end”, confides the guitarist, now 53. “Stevie was in Hawaii on vacation while I was in Los Angeles trying to master the album, and we got into some over-the-phone conflicts. It’s been hard for Stevie to feel good about what we’ve accomplished, and I really hope she will at some point. She’s yet to say ‘Good work on my songs, Lindsey.’ ”

Managed by the man Buckingham calls “Big, bad Howard” (Kaufman), Nicks clearly holds a strong negotiating hand. Her solo albums – witness 2001’s Trouble in Shangri La – have consistently sold far more than those of Buckingham, and as many of the Lindsey songs on Say You Will were originally slated for solo release, you could argue that the Fleetwood Mac brand is something he’s falling back on – and not for the first time. What’s unquestionable, however, is that Buckingham’s presence has usually served to enliven Fleetwood Mac. Indeed, without his diligent production skills and sussed, sometimes feral-sounding musicality, the post Peter Green Mac have often sounded rather bland.

This time, Buckingham’s edge and grit fire his US media critque, “Murrow Turning Over in His Grave” (named after the noted critic of McCarthyism, Edward J. Murrow), and the deliciously barbed “Come” (Think of me, sweet darlin’/ Every time you don’t come”). Some have alleged that he wrote the latter about Anne Heche, a former lover who went on the have a lesbian relationship with her fellow actress Ellen Degeneres. “That surprised me as much as it did everybody else,” says Buckingham, but as he’s now happily married with two young children, it’s perhaps understandable that he declines to comment further. Asked whether people still tend to assume that his and Nicks’ lyrics are about each other, however, he’s more forthcoming.

“Yeah, they probably do,” he laughs. “And in Stevie’s case, at least some of them may be. Why ‘may be ‘? Because it’s not for me to say if they’re about me. I suspect some of them are, but then Stevie has written songs all through our relationship that I assumed were about me, then discovered that they weren’t, or that they were hybrids. I can be as confused about that as the general listener.”

Stevie Nicks is almost 55 now. Her hair is still pleasingly big and blond. With her Yorkshire terrier Sulamith asleep in her lap, she tells me that she misses Christine McVie and her “crazy English humour” every day. “It used to be like that TV show Charmed, where they go: ‘The power of three!’ ” she says, reminding me that she publishes her songs through Welsh Witch Music. “Chris and I had the power of two.”

Nicks is now single. Her relationship with Buckingham, she said in 1997, “was as close to being married as I ever will be again.” Listening to songs such as “Destiny Rules” and “Thrown Down” – “He fell for her again/She watched it happen,” runs the opening of the latter – it’s hard to decide whether she stills holds a candle for the guitarist or is simply exploiting a highly marketable aspect of rock’s greatest soap opera. She may be doing both.

” ‘Thrown Down’ is about Lindsey,” Nicks admits, “but I wrote that around the time of the Dance tour in 1997. Let’s just say he continues to be a well of inspiration, which is terrific.”

Right. But can she and Lindsey talk about their relationship more openly now? “You want the truth?” , she says. “We don’t talk a lot about our past. We never have. It’s like ‘Do we need to go there?’ And it hasn’t turned out so bad, has it? Each of us has good, balanced lives now, and we’re still able to make music together. So apart from being married and having our own family, what more could Lindsey and I have asked for?”

And her affair with Fleetwood? How does she view that these days? “That was a long, long time ago,” she whispers. “It was like a little dream. What has lived, though, is that Mick and I still have a great love and respect for each other. Our relationship was so short that it didn’t have time to build up animosities and jealousies. Mick will tell you -and I will tell you – that a lot of the reason it didn’t continue was because we knew it would be the end of Fleetwood Mac. So we were very mature about that; we made the right decision.”

One new Nicks song that certainly isn’t about Buckingham – or Fleetwood, for that matter – is “Illume (9/11)”. Nicks was in New York when the twin towers were attacked, and “Illume” documents her feelings at the time. “My Rochester show was canceled because of an act of war,” she says,” and at one point we had a military escort on our wing. That whole period nearly drove me into a mental home.”

“I read Stevie’s poetry for that song before she came in with the music,” says Fleetwood. “She was very unsettled by 9/11, as we all were. The groove for “Illume” is incredibly simple, and she was like : ‘Is this any good? Is it doing enough?’ I said, ‘In my opinion, Stevie, this is all about you; this is your modern-day “Gold Dust Woman.”‘ It has that Edith Piaf element coming through; that thing where the singer’s relationship with the lyric is incredibly personal and powerful.”

Fleetwood, one soon realises, is the Mac’s most fervent flag-waver. He’s done everything in his power to keep this band alive, and his close friendships with Nicks and Buckingham have left him well placed as diplomatic go-between. Toward the end of my chat with him, I can’t resist playing devil’s advocate. What would he say to those who claim the Mac have reconvened for the cash? “Fleetwood Mac has morphed its way back,” he says. “You might say that this album is the result of eight years of people slowly getting to know each other again, so if somebody wants to be cynical and say that this is a money-making exercise, they’d be hard pushed to make a case. I don’t know how we get stuff done sometimes, because we’re a semi-dysfunctional family with four different managers, and it’s a nightmare, really. The truth is that I hope we make a load of cash. But how we’ve come to this point has been in the lap of the Gods.”

Buckingham gets back into ‘that thing’ of Fleetwood Mac

By Joel Selvin
San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Lindsey Buckingham started working more than six years ago on the new Fleetwood Mac album, “Say You Will,” that hits stores today. He just didn’t know it at the time.

Buckingham originally thought he was making another solo album when he started recording with former band mates Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass for the first time since he left the group in 1986.

“At that point, some sort of light bulb went off somewhere,” Buckingham said, “in Mick’s head or Warner Bros.’ Probably everywhere, unbeknownst to me. People started saying ‘We got John, Mick and Lindsey in the studio maybe.’ ”

The band did reunite for a 1997 live greatest-hits album, “The Dance,” and sold-out tour, but Buckingham went back to his solo album. “The live album and the tour that followed was basically the result of a kind of an intervention that we had on me to sort of say ‘You’ve got to put your album down and do this,’ ” said Buckingham, a notorious obsessive who has spent years sealed away recording albums.

When he did finish the solo album, the label wasn’t all that enthusiastic. “When we got off ‘The Dance’ and I got finished with it maybe a year after that, and took it to Warners, they had been bought out by AOL and they were sort of on their way out as a regime. (Warner Chairman) Russ Thyret didn’t like my stuff anyway. It was like, well, geez. And Mick and I decided to start cutting some tracks of Stevie’s and it just sort of morphed into that thing.”

“That thing,” of course, is what the Warner publicity campaign is calling the first new Fleetwood Mac studio album since the 1986 multiplatinum “Tango in the Night,” conveniently omitting two entirely forgettable, far less successful albums released under the franchise name with different lineups in the interim. But Warner is right in spirit — “Say You Will” is the second coming of the ’70s supergroup, even without keyboardist-vocalist Christine McVie, a triumphant return to form for a group that has been all but washed up for the better part of 20 years.

“We rented a house over on the west side (of Los Angeles) and we moved all of my gear over there,” Buckingham said on the phone before a rehearsal for a tour that starts May 7 (July 8 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose). “I started engineering. Probably 95 percent of the time spent in this house was really spent working on Stevie (Nicks) ’cause my stuff was pretty much completed and the other 5 percent was just opening up my tracks, recalling my mixes and getting her voices on them.”

The 76-minute CD — at one point in the session, band members pondered a two-CD set — rekindles the trademark sound with magician’s ease, simultaneously recalling such varied past efforts as “Rumours,” “Tusk” and “Tango in the Night.” “Certainly on the album, you do have things that fall in the category of being very familiar or very Fleetwood Mac,” said Buckingham. “Then you have things like ‘Come’ or ‘Red Rover’ or ‘Murrow Turning Over in His Grave,’ which, in many ways, are more adventuresome than anything we’ve ever done.”

Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac apparently need each other in important ways.

Not only has the group failed to produce any memorable records since Buckingham left, but Buckingham has spent countless thousands of hours crafting brilliant solo albums that are appreciated by no more than a slender handful of big Mac’s audience. After the current project changed from a Buckingham solo album to a new Fleetwood Mac record, he noticed a different attitude at the label.

“I was always seen as the troublemaker,” he said, “as someone who would shake up the status quo of what was a good thing. I was really trying to be honest to what I thought was important, which was to do your work, look into things that help you to grow. To think long term and to do it for yourself. And not run one thing into the ground because that’s what sells. There’s always been a kind of wariness between myself and the record company and vice versa and none of that helps in terms of getting the machine behind you.”

Without Christine McVie, the songwriting and vocals come down to Buckingham and Nicks, who recorded an album as Buckingham Nicks before joining Fleetwood Mac. They first met when Buckingham attended Menlo Atherton High School and they began working together seriously when they were at College of San Mateo. At this point, almost 40 years later, they blend like the seasoned collaborators they are.

“It’s that inexplicable thing that we’ve always had,” he said.

“There’s a song on there called ‘Thrown Down’ that I think she tried about three different times with three different producers and never made it anywhere. It was supposed to go on a solo album. It was just obvious to me it needed a guitar riff in the chorus. It was a fairly simple thing, for some reason. There seems to be an understanding between us as to what to do.”

Buckingham talked about “reconciling” the styles of recordings he used with “Rumours,” the band’s 1977 release that still ranks among the best-selling albums of all time, and “Tusk,” a 1979 double-record set that was a stark departure from the band’s sunny trademark sound.

“If you go back to ‘Tusk,’ ” he said, “that was an album where I was trying a certain approach, you might call more of a painting approach, where I was sort of working on my own in a studio with a machine and kind of allowing things to happen. It was kind of a subconscious approach, one-on-one with the canvas, as opposed to working with the group, which is more verbal and political, more like moviemaking, probably. I had to lobby to get that album made the way it was made. Everyone was quite happy with how it turned out. In fact, Mick would tell you now it’s his favorite album, as it is mine. But at the same time, when it did not sell 16 million albums, a dictum kind of came down from the group that we’re not going to do that anymore.” Buckingham, 55, is recently married, raising a son, 4, and daughter, 2.

For someone who once groused that he would rather belong to the Clash, Buckingham has more than made his peace with Fleetwood Mac at this point.

“The subtext of all of this is really that we are here,” Buckingham said, “and, in many ways, are better than ever, maybe breaking the mold a little bit.

I know there certainly are enough ’80s Boomer acts still making music. But the fact is that we are here and still caring so much about it and, in many ways, doing the best work we’ve ever done at a point in our lives where, you know, the cliche of rock ‘n’ roll being: By the time you’re 40, you’re either burned out or tapped out. It feels very fresh and very new, and still solid. The history, it’s deep. And we’re just thrilled to be here.”

Mac drama continues in new CD

By Howard Cohen
Miami Herald
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Decades since Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks turned their rocky romance into the aural soap opera classic, Rumours, the Fleetwood Mac pair still find new ways to get on each others’ nerves.

Case exhibit: the recording of Say You Will, in stores Tuesday and the duo’s first album of original material with the band in 16 years.

”We had a few little bumps near the end of the project when she came in off the road after her tour,” Buckingham says. “We had made quite a start on her stuff and I think she was glad to have the collective arms around her because her tour was quite a burden on her. But, in some ways, she was looking at me, [thinking], `What’s he going to do to my songs?’ ”

Nicks, a rock star in her own right, hadn’t had to answer to her old boyfriend in quite some time. But, among other roles, Buckingham produced the edgy Say You Will and it originated from his aborted solo album.

”There was plenty of drama, plenty of arguments, things we really had to hash out,” Nicks says. “But that’s what makes a great record. If everything went blissfully smooth it would be a blissfully boring record.”

Song sequencing and selection were the primary issues.

”In the beginning it was a double record with 23 songs,” Nicks says. “But in January we decided to make it a single record. With the way the country is going and the economy, maybe we don’t want to put out a double record right now.”

Say You Will, like the risky 1979 Tusk, reveals the differences in approach taken by these songwriters.

Buckingham, 55, aims not only to push the envelope, but to light it afire with scorching guitar leads and quirky arrangements that, on songs like Murrow Turning Over in His Grave and Come, border on industrial metal. Nicks, 54, prefers a more conventional pop-rock style.

TOUGHER SOUND

Say You Will represents the first time since 1970 that Fleetwood Mac has recorded an album without vocalist-keyboardist Christine McVie, 59, who opted out of the band following the 1997 reunion tour and live CD, The Dance. Her backing vocals remain on two tracks Buckingham reworked from his solo project.

Minus McVie’s buoyant love songs, Say You Will ends up a heavier, fresher, guitar-oriented opus — an antidote to the comparatively tepid pop of ’80s albums Mirage and Tango in the Night, records that led to Buckingham’s departure.

”I had left the band in order to keep growing and to make sure that I allowed myself to remain in a creatively nurturing environment which Fleetwood Mac had become the antithesis of in 1987,” he says. “When we went into this project I was able to take on more responsibilities.”

Now the primary voices, Buckingham and Nicks were also able to return to the confessional hallmarks of Rumours.

But yesterday’s gone. Buckingham is now married to photographer Kristen Messner and the couple have a son and daughter. ”I have nothing but good memories of growing up in an upper middle class family in northern California. I always thought I would have kids,” he says. “I never found the right person but I wasn’t the right person at the time, either. I happened to meet someone that I get along with very well.”

Nicks, still single, contributed to the new CD Smile at You, reputedly from an old ’70s demo. Guess the target. What you did not need was a woman / Who was stronger / You needed someone to depend on you / I could not be her.

Such politics-of-the-heart tunes also rub against topical songs with a broader world view. Buckingham offers a caustic media commentary, Murrow. Nicks delivers her melancholic poem, Illume (9-11).

In hindsight, then, Say You Will is the balanced album that probably would have been a better followup to Rumours than the eccentric Tusk. It’s also, with the possible exception of Rumours, the first studio work to approximate this band’s energy on stage. (The tour hits the Office Depot Center June 7.)

”That’s no accident,” Buckingham says. “Approaching things without Christine gave us some opportunities to play differently. With everyone having that much more room to maneuver as a musician it allowed it to be more masculine.”

POP LANDSLIDE

The timing for a new CD couldn’t be better. The Dixie Chicks’ recent cover of Nicks’ 1975 composition Landslide became a big crossover hit.

‘They took Landslide to a whole other genre of people — a k a much younger people! They opened up dialogues from kids: `Hey, I love this Landslide song, so let’s go see what else Fleetwood Mac wrote.’ For that, we are forever in debt,” says Nicks.

So spirits are high. ”We get along very well now,” Nicks says. “I think all of us are realizing how lucky we are. . . . Who wouldn’t want to be in Fleetwood Mac? That’s what I keep telling myself any time I have a problem.”

Then she laughs. The recording hassles all but forgotten. Until it’s time to write for the next CD.

‘Will’ power

Billboard
Monday, April 14, 2003

On “Say You Will,” due this week from Reprise, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks have collaborated together on their first Fleetwood Mac studio album since 1987’s “Tango in the Night.” Drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie are both on board as well, but Christine McVie appears on just one of the set’s 18 tunes and will not be touring with Fleetwood Mac this summer.

Luckily, Nicks penned the set’s sunny title track, which is catchy and destined to be a radio hit. Buckingham’s meaty, bass-heavy stomper “Murrow Turning Over in His Grave” is another highlight, while the driving rocker “Running Through the Garden” showcase’s Nicks’ passionate vocals. The single “Peacekeeper” is No. 15 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart this week.

“The whole energy in Fleetwood Mac right now is incredible,” Fleetwood says. “Our story is a really happy one at the moment. We’ve pushed some envelopes with this new album. We’ve made an album that we love, and we’re not frightened or insecure about who we are.”

The group’s first tour since 1997 will kick off May 7 in Columbus, Ohio.

Rock’s longest-running soap opera returns

The Mac is back. Fleetwood Mac records first new studio album in 16 years — without Christine McVie

By Jim Farber
New York Daily News
Sunday, April 6, 2003

Twenty-eight years after Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac, they still don’t view the group the same way. The making of “Say You Will,” their first album of new material recorded with the band in 16 years, proves it.

“If I had my way, I would have started the album with the material most likely to offend as many people as possible,” Buckingham says with a giggle. “Stevie would bury all that stuff at the end.”

“I am not what you’d call an envelope-pusher,” Nicks says. “Lindsey is there to make sure our band isn’t too safe. I’m there to make sure it isn’t too nuts. It’s all about that balance between us.”

Never more so than now. “Say You Will” — in stores on Tuesday — represents the first time that songwriters Buckingham and Nicks have recorded a Fleetwood Mac album without the band’s third writer and harmonizer, piano player Christine McVie (who joined the band in 1970, five years before Nicks and Buckingham).

The result changes the Fleetwood dynamic crucially. Lacking the light touch of McVie’s sentimental pop songs, as well as her jaunty keyboard, “Say You Will” ends up a heavier, stranger and riskier work than Fleetwood Mac has made before. It’s as big a leap ahead as they made with 1979’s “Tusk,” their eccentric and unlikely followup to one of the most popular albums of all time, 1977’s “Rumors,” which sold 14 million copies.

The perception of “Say You Will” as a quirky work pleases Buckingham to no end. He says he wishes the band had kept getting weirder after “Tusk,” instead of putting out such pop-oriented ’80s albums as “Mirage” and “Tango in the Night.”

“The politics in the band at the time put the lid on that,” the 55-year-old guitarist says. “I felt like I was treading water.”

One reason for the more adventurous approach on “Say You Will” has to do with its convoluted origins as a Buckingham solo project. Back in the mid-’90s, Buckingham was making a solo album when he invited the band’s old rhythm section — drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie — to play along. They all got on so well, it led to the 1997 album “The Dance,” the first full Mac reunion since 1987.

Halfway through the roadshow to support that album, however, Christine McVie told the other members she didn’t want to tour or even be in the band.

“We spent the next eight weeks trying to change her mind,” Nicks says.

According to Buckingham, the pianist was having problems with her marriage, and longed to return to England. She wound up divorcing and moving to the outskirts of London.

The group says there are no hard feelings; Buckingham stresses that he relates to her need to flee, given his own escape from the band in the ’80s. But the band members have rarely spoken with McVie since. (The pianist wouldn’t comment.)

While Buckingham then wanted to complete the solo album he’d started before the reunion, he says the band’s record label, Warner Bros., had no interest in it. So the material he had begun recording became the basis of “Say You Will.” Nicks, who was committed to her own solo tour at the time, handed over 17 demos of her songs to the band to let them hammer them into shape.

Without McVie’s piano playing, Buckingham says, “the remaining musicians had 33-1/3 percent more room to maneuver. We were able to flex our muscles and explore a more masculine sound. It’s closer to what we’re like live.”

According to Buckingham, the absence of McVie’s songs also allowed “Stevie and I to squarely face each other and create the kind of dynamic we had before we joined the band.” In that respect, “Say You Will” recalls the solo album released by the duo before they joined Mac — 1974’s “Buckingham Nicks.”

In the lyrics to the new album, the pair make eager use of their complicated personal histo ry. Several of Nicks’ songs refer to her busted romance with Buckingham, which ended more than 25 years ago. The album closes with farewell numbers to each other. Nicks, 54, wrote hers in the ’70s. Buckingham composed his around the time of “The Dance.”

Of course, the group has been airing its dirty laundry (with hugely profitable results) ever since the “Rumors” album, which chronicled two simultaneous breakups within the band (the second being the McVies’).

Buckingham marvels that “after all this time, Stevie and I still have something to give each other.” (He has been married to Kristen Messner since 2000.) Nicks says of her relationship with Buckingham, “We can never replace each other.”

They say they understand each other far better now than they have in decades. But Nicks emphasizes that they still argue every day. “That will never change. We are very different people. Stick us in a house together for a year and trauma will come out of that. But the result is, we don’t make a blah record.”

They also don’t make a short one. “Say You Will” features 18 songs. As Nicks jokes, “You need two days to listen to this record.”

But it’s time well spent. The set features some of the fastest and most intricate guitar work to date from Buckingham, and some of the most honest lyrics from Nicks. The group wants to bring as much of that excitement as possible to its upcoming tour, which will feature several old Christine McVie songs.

But the band faces a dilemma in capturing what Buckingham calls “the spirit of the band now.”

“There are forces that would be happy just to present this as a nostalgia act,” he says. “But we want to walk a line — to be fresh and dignified and yet not alienate too much of the audience.”

No doubt, the members will argue about how to accomplish that, not just for this tour, but for as long as they continue to play.