Friday, September 30, 2016
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: FLEETWOOD MAC - MIRAGE (Deluxe)
This is the latest deluxe reissue of Mac from the multi-platinum years, available in a couple of variations. The economically-minded buyer can get a no-nonsense two-disc version, the regular album with a new remastering job on the first, while the second features a whopping 20 cuts in the alternate version/outtake/leftover category. Those with collector/audiophile tastes can grab the set with a third CD of a live concert from 1982, a DVD with the 5.1 surround and 24/96 stereo mixes, and a heavyweight vinyl pressing to boot.
One thing about these Fleetwood Mac albums, they do sound spectacular, thanks to the no-expense spared way they recorded at the time, the top talent involved and the very precise, clean production led by Lindsay Buckingham. So all the versions leap out in this latest upgrade, which may be the peak of Buckingham's crafty work. I'm not saying it's the best of the group's albums, just the best-sounding. It needed a couple more catchy singles, a couple more of the Rumours-style strong numbers.
The band did however get back to business with the album, after the sprawling Tusk double album, viewed as Lindsay's folly. The emphasis here was on more concise tracks, with the single Hold Me having that upbeat Mac signature sound and Gypsy a made-to-order Stevie Nicks hit. But listen closer to Buckingham production treats such as Love In Store and Book Of Love, with the ringing notes, quirky sounds and overall eccentricity, and you'll find him completely subverting the cliche rock band approach. Most amazing is how many cool sounds he could conjure from his guitar.
The outtakes and early versions are pretty interesting, as for the most part they are steps along the journey. Most groups would have been satisfied at this point, but most groups didn't have a visionary like Buckingham, and deep enough pockets to let him play around for months more. There are three cuts left off the album, including the Nicks track If You Were My Love, which showed up on her 24 Karat Gold vault collection, Smile At You, another of hers that was resurrected for the Say You Will album, and Buckingham's Goodbye Angel, reworked for the box set The Chain in 1992. It's great to finally have the b-side to Gypsy on an album, the group's take on the old Western number, Cool Water.
The live concert on the big box shows the group still struggling with identity, or at least Buckingham's idiosyncrasies. The Chain, Rhiannon, and You Make Lovin' Fun are there for fans, along with strong new songs Gypsy and Eyes Of The World, but with an overabundance of favourites to choose from, Buckingham comes out with Not That Funny and Tusk, eye-raising if not downright mood-killing at a big show. Well, Go Your Own Way and Songbird always saved things at the end.
There's never a whole lot of talk about Mirage, partially thanks to Rumours colossal success, and Tusk's buzz kill before it. But it's actually a charming set, and either deluxe version gives you much more to discover.