First impression: Fleetwood Mac’s four-song Extended Play

Fleetwood Mac Extended Play 2013By Mikael Wood
Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The four songs on the new Fleetwood Mac EP — which the legendary pop-rock outfit put up for sale on iTunes on Tuesday morning with little advance warning — arrive steeped in echoes of the past, in at least one case quite literally: “Without You,” a strummy acoustic number overlaid with harmony vocals by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, reportedly dates back to sessions for the two singers’ 1973 album as a long-haired vocal duo deeply opposed to shirts.

But the other tunes on Extended Play, newly composed by Buckingham and co-produced by him and L.A. studio pro Mitchell Froom, feel no less rooted in earlier iterations of this on-again/off-again institution.

“Miss Fantasy” has some of the folky back-porch guitar action of “Never Going Back Again,” while the stripped-down “It Takes Time” could be Buckingham’s version of Christine McVie’s big piano ballad, “Songbird.” And opener “Sad Angel,” which you can hear below, shimmers with the glossy textures of 1987’s Tango in the Night. (Incidentally, if you want to get a sense of Fleetwood Mac’s enduring influence on synthed-up young rock acts like Phoenix, go straight to Tango — it looms larger these days than the vaunted Rumours does.)

Nothing about this self-reference surprises, of course, especially given that Fleetwood Mac is in the midst of a giant arena tour that will bring the band to the Hollywood Bowl on May 25 and Anaheim’s Honda Center on May 28. Old hits are what the members are playing onstage — “Don’t Stop,” “Dreams,” “Go Your Own Way,” “Silver Springs” — so old hits are what the members are hearing in their heads.

And yet Extended Play — Fleetwood Mac’s first studio output since Say You Will in 2003 — doesn’t sound stale or overworked; indeed, the songs have an impressive crispness (after only a handful of spins, anyway) that makes their familiarity seem less like evidence of a tapped creative supply than like proof that this is simply the kind of music Fleetwood Mac writes.

“I remember you,” Buckingham sings over and over again near the end of “Miss Fantasy,” and he might be addressing his own melody. But it’s a good one. You’ll remember it too.

Where Do I Start With Fleetwood Mac?

Fleetwood Mac Extended Play 2013By Alex Heimbach
The Slate
Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fleetwood Mac, which put out a new EP today, was one of the few music choices my parents and I could agree on. I would scream along with the rocking chorus of “The Chain” on the way to school and dance around the house to “Little Lies.” Since then, my appreciation for the band—from Lindsey Buckingham’s virtuosic guitar playing to the group’s layered harmonies—has grown more sophisticated, but the songs still pack the simple, emotional wallop they did for me 15 years ago.

Alternately credited with and cursed for creating “adult contemporary,” the members of Fleetwood Mac are almost as famous for their personal drama as for their classic songs. Originally, though, Fleetwood Mac was a simple British blues band, formed in 1967 by guitarist Peter Green and named after drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. This lineup, with a few additions, put out three albums, which did well in the U.K., but received little attention stateside. (One of the singles from that era, “Black Magic Woman,” became a major hit for Santana.) In 1970, Green left the band after suffering from a mental breakdown (he was later diagnosed as schizophrenic). A year later Christine McVie, John’s new wife, officially joined. A keyboardist who wrote her own music, Christine increasingly came to shape the band’s sound. Mick and the McVies stuck together through the early ’70s and more personnel changes—one of their guitarists joined the Children of God and another had an affair with Fleetwood’s wife—as they tried to replicate their British success in the U.S.

They didn’t have much luck until 1974, when Mick recruited the American folk duo Buckingham Nicks. For their first album together, this new version of Fleetwood Mac combined Christine’s songs with some that Lindsey and Stevie had already written. The eponymous result finally brought the band the American popularity they’d been looking for, selling five million copies and reaching No. 1 on the charts. It had four hit singles, including McVie’s poppy “Say You Love Me” and Nicks’ haunting “Rhiannon,” which highlighted her wild performance style.

Success also brought trouble, as it does. The band’s two couples began to unravel—as did Mick Fleetwood’s marriage to model Jenny Boyd—just as they returned to the studio. And so the musical legend of Rumours was born: The album is made up of songs that Christine, Lindsey, and Stevie wrote about their dissolving relationships. The most famous of these are Buckingham and Nicks’ dueling takes on their doomed love, her ethereal “Dreams” and his aggressive “Go Your Own Way.” But at the heart of the album is the only song all five of the band members ever collaborated on, “The Chain,” which emphasizes their commitment to carrying on as a group despite their personal disagreements.

After the massive sales of Rumours, the studio invested heavily in the band’s follow-up. But Buckingham was determined not to repeat himself and began experimenting with different recording techniques (including, for instance, laying on a tile floor as he sang into the microphone). Meanwhile, Stevie had embarked on a secret affair with Mick—which ended, much to her chagrin, when he left her for her best friend. Eighteen months and the largest recording budget of all time produced the messy Tusk. The album sold about a quarter of the copies its predecessor did, but the unnerving title track, which features the USC marching band, balances Buckingham’s desire for punky weirdness and the rest of the band’s gift for grandeur.

The band put out two albums in the ’80s: 1982’s Mirage—which was largely overshadowed by Nicks’ solo release Belladonna—and 1987’s Tango in the Night. Tango was troubled; the band’s lifestyle remained extravagant and Nicks had abandoned coke for Klonopin, which made her spacey and unreliable. Buckingham and McVie, who had a hit with my old favorite, “Little Lies,” took over most of the songwriting duties, but Nicks, with the help of Sandy Stewart, still managed to contribute one great song, the cheerful “Seven Wonders.”

After another blow-up with Nicks, Buckingham left the band right before the Tango in the Night tour. The split wasn’t permanent, but the band never really recovered; in 1997, Christine McVie permanently retired from Fleetwood Mac. The remaining foursome has toured sporadically since then. Their 2003 album, Say You Will, was fairly successful, but failed to live up to their earlier work.

The new EP is the band’s first new material since then. The best of its tracks, “Sad Angel,” hearkens back to the catchy pop-rock of Rumours, rather than the smoothed-out sound of their more recent stuff. Perhaps they’ve rediscovered the knack they used to have for transmuting a troubled dynamic into powerful songs, though it’s hard to tell on the basis of just three new songs, all by Buckingham. (The fourth track, “Without You,” is an old Buckingham Nicks tune.) However it turns out, I’ll always have “The Chain.” And if you’ve never given the band much thought, you’ll find 10 tracks to get you started below, both as a Spotify playlist and on YouTube and Amazon. Enjoy.

“Rhiannon” from Fleetwood Mac (1975)

“The Chain” from Rumours (1977)

“Black Magic Woman” from The Pious Bird of Good Omen (1969)

“Seven Wonders” from Tango in the Night (1987)

“Tusk” from Tusk (1979)

“Dreams” from Rumours (1977)

“Second Hand News” from Rumours (1977)

“Say You Love Me” from Fleetwood Mac (1975)

“Little Lies” from Tango in the Night (1987)

“Go Your Own Way” from Rumours (1977)

Fleetwood Mac release Extended Play EP

Fleetwood Mac 2013 Neal Preston
Fleetwood Mac have released four songs on Extended Play, their first new music in 10 years. (Neal Preston)

Four-song set marks the band’s first new music in 10 years

By RJ Cubarrubia
Rolling Stone
Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fleetwood Mac have returned with their first batch of new music in 10 years. Extended Play, available now exclusively on iTunes, contains the new tracks “Sad Angel,” “It Takes Time” and “Miss Fantasy,” penned by Lindsey Buckingham. It also includes “Without You,” a rediscovered and revamped track originally written by Stevie Nicks from the pair’s Buckingham Nicks project.

Extended Play is Fleetwood Mac’s first studio release since the 2003 LP Say You Will. Buckingham promised the EP was on the way earlier this month during a concert in Philadelphia. In January, he talked to Rolling Stone about how his relationship with Stevie Nicks has developed over the years.

“It’s still evolving, and that’s the beauty of it too. I’ve known Stevie since high school. We were a couple for many, many years, and we’ve been a musical couple forever,” Buckingham said. “After all this time you would think there was nothing left to discover, nothing left to work out, no new chapters to be written. But that is not the case – there are new chapters to be written.”

Fleetwood Mac are currently on a North American tour. Their next show is tonight at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. For full tour dates, visit the band’s website.

ALBUM REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac, Extended Play (EP)

Fleetwood Mac EP April 30, 2013By Michael Gallucci
Ultimate Classic Rock
Tuesday, April 30, 2013

RATING: 7/10

The last time Fleetwood Mac made an album together, they were minus Christine McVie and enough good songs to fill its 75-minute running length. They’re still without McVie on their new four-song EP, but they fixed Say You Will’s biggest problem by keeping Extended Play at an economical 17 minutes. And if it sounds more like a Lindsey Buckingham record than an actual band one at times, at least Extended Play is the best thing released under the Fleetwood Mac moniker since 1987’s Tango in the Night.

In fact, Extended Play, which is available exclusively on iTunes, sounds a lot like Buckingham’s recent solo albums, but with a punchier rhythm section and Stevie Nicks’ backing vocals. All of which give the music way more life than if Buckingham – whose insular approach to his solo records often make them sound thin and narrow – would have recorded them himself.

The opening “Sad Angel,” propelled by acoustic guitar and a killer hook, crackles with more energy than anything the band or Buckingham, who wrote and sings lead on all but one of the EP’s four tracks, has done in years. It doesn’t hurt that Nicks and Buckingham still make a great singing team, chiming in on the choruses like it’s 1977 again. The song is the highlight of Extended Play and its only real uptempo track.

But the remaining three songs are almost as good, especially the closing “Miss Fantasy,” a shuffling pop number featuring a whispered vocal by Buckingham, with Nicks pushing along the choruses. The hushed piano ballad “It Takes Time” is mostly Buckingham until the final minute, when strings swell around the spare melody. And Nicks and Buckingham share lead vocals on “Without You,” a leftover cut from the pair’s pre-Fleetwood Mac duo days written by Nicks.

Fleetwood Mac have been performing a couple of the songs on their current tour, so in a way, Extended Play doubles as a show souvenir for fans wanting new material from the band. It’s not essential Mac by any means, but after all these years, and all these years apart, it’s nice to know that they’re still capable of making some sweet music together.