Fleetwood Mac back on track

By Edna Gundersen
USA Today
Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Rumours confirmed Fleetwood Mac’s place in rock history. The question now is whether the storied ’70s band has currency in 2003.

Four of the five original members of Fleetwood Mac reunited for the recording of Say You Will, to be released on April 15.

A new Mac attack starts April 15 with Say You Will, the band’s first studio album boasting a quorum of core members since 1987’s Tango in the Night.

Singer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who left after Tango and returned for Mac’s lucrative 1997 reunion, produced the album, which also features singer Stevie Nicks, bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood. Singer/keyboardist Christine McVie retired.

The album, recorded in Los Angeles over the past 18 months, contains new songs written by Buckingham and Nicks. It also has a studio version of Bleed to Love Her, which had been included on 1997’s live reunion disc, The Dance.

Snippets of Say You Will can be heard in Fox promos for That ’70s Show.

That decade found Fleetwood Mac in peak form. Rumours, the top-selling album of 1977 and third-best in 1978, spawned hits Go Your Own Way, Dreams, Don’t Stop and You Make Loving Fun, and for a time it reigned as the biggest seller in history. It has sold18 million copies and ranks ninth among U.S. best sellers. The band sustained success in the ’80s when Nicks’ solo career also flowered, but splintered lineups in the ’90s led to decreased sales and airplay.

Although fans rallied for the 1997 reunion tour and chart-topping album, pop’s current climate tends to relegate veteran acts to the oldies circuit.

“It’s difficult to think of Fleetwood Mac making a bad album, but I’m not sure how much difference that would make,” says Anthony DeCurtis, Rolling Stone contributing editor. “The new music is entirely secondary. The best parallel would be Paul McCartney, who made a pretty good record (Driving Rain) in 2001. He had a huge successful tour, but the record didn’t do much.

“That’s the problem Fleetwood Mac faces. Obviously, they’ll do big business on the road. The larger issue is: Will radio play this record? It’s amazing to think that the band that helped invent FM radio may go begging to get airplay. Fleetwood Mac is imprisoned by its own gilded cage.”

Considering the success of tours by the Rolling Stones (three original members) and The Who (two), Christine McVie’s absence shouldn’t impede ticket sales, he says. “The version of Fleetwood Mac that most people know is 80% intact,” says DeCurtis, who predicts a box office gold mine. But in record stores, “these bands almost exist in a vacuum.”

DeCurtis says he doubts that the Dixie Chicks’ current hit cover of Nicks’ Landslide will fuel Mac interest. But Billboard director of charts Geoff Mayfield says, “I put that in the ‘it can’t hurt’ category.”

Recent sales patterns reveal increased interest in vintage rockers, he says. He notes that roughly 30 acts that appeal largely to older audiences, including McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and James Taylor, last year enjoyed their best sales weeks in the 12 years SoundScan has been tabulating data.

“People with gray hair are buying records,” he says. And unlike their younger counterparts, “they’re not burning CDs or file-swapping as much.”

Say You Will may not reach the sales of Rumours, but it could thrive even without much radio support.

“It’s not fair to expect another Rumours,” Mayfield says. “Considering the reunion album was their first No. 1 debut in a long while, the new record has a pretty good chance for a handsome start.”

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