Saturday, May 04, 2013

Reviews x 2: Fleetwood Mac's New 4 Track EP "Extended Play"

Fleetwood Mac: Extended Play – EP
by Simon Sweetman
Off The Tracks

Though you could argue it’s phoned in by the title alone, I really like this four-track EP by Fleetwood Mac, the band’s first release in a decade and their second set of recordings sans Christine McVie. Once again her presence is missed – because it’s now just The Stevie and Lindsey Show and her counterpoint was (always) crucial.

Where Say You Will, the band’s last album, was far too long (some 75 minutes) Extended Play is probably just a bit too short – six tracks might have been nice. But it’s a move I applaud. For two (crucial) reasons. Firstly, Fleetwood Mac is a hits-act, running the nostalgia circuit, giving its fans what they want, delivering shit-hot performances, still white-hot with Lindsey’s guitar prowess front and centre, that oh-so-capable rhythm section, Nicks still playing the twirling white-witch bogan-fantasy to the hilt and – yes – The Stevie and Lindsey Show is a big part of the sound and look and story of the band’s tours – as it has been since 1975 (with just a slight break). So fans want to hear the hits and a new album would be a waste of time but a new EP allows them a fan-souvenir and a chance for the band to slip in just a wee bit of new material. A nice touch, I say.

But the other great reason for a four-track EP at this stage in their career – far more important, I say – is this idea of simply offering all you have to say at any one moment and nothing more. Or, put another way, offer up your best work – avoid the filler. So Fleetwood Mac only has four songs they want to share right now. So be it. See reason one above – no one is going to a Fleetwood Mac show for the new material.

I don’t see this move of releasing an EP as misguided, I think it’s smart that a band like Fleetwood Mac releases an EP over an album; that they’ve done so at this stage in their career pleases me. More bands should be releasing just the good material.

So, all that said, is the material on the EP good enough?

For the most part, yes. And – it has to be said – thanks to Lindsey. Three of the four songs are from Buckingham, who really has been doing the heavy-lifting since Tusk. And – in the decade since Say You Will – he’s the Mac member that’s offered the most outside of the band; his solo albums a grand showcase for his skills; each album offering something new, a fresh angle. The other song is one that Buckingham had a hand in way back; has been resurrected.

So, opener, Sad Angel is the sort of immaculate pop song Buckingham has been scrubbing since his first solo album and in the way the riff dissolves into the hook it bears some resemblance to his great solo track Trouble. It’s a strong new addition to the Mac cannon.

Without You is a re-recording of a pre-Mac Buckingham/Nicks demo – and though it’s lightweight it plays into the history and is something for fans to hear; to reconnect with that soap-opera back-story that is so important to this band. It’s the weakest song on Extended Play however.

But It Takes Time is gorgeous, Lindsey at the piano, deciding – essentially – that if the band is missing Christine McVie and Christine McVie Songs he’ll just write one. It Takes Time wouldn’t have been out of place on the recent return from Bill Fay. It’s my pick for winning track on EP – it’s the something special you often find on EPs.

And the closer, Miss Fantasy, is another strong pop song. Flavours of the Mac of old. Just enough to distinguish it – and the other songs here – from Lindsey’s solo career; it’s deceptively slight at first – just 17 minutes after all – but you hear the textures, that lovely feel that is signature.

Will it change the world? No. Will it keep the fans happy? Of course.

Fleetwood Mac, Extended Play (LMJS Productions) * * * 1/2
By Howard Cohen
The Miami Herald

Fleetwood Mac’s first new music since 2003’s Say You Will is short on Stevie Nicks, who resisted recording a full album with the group. The resulting four-track EP, released to iTunes as a digital download, makes you wish for more on the strength of Lindsey Buckingham’s three new songs.

Nicks contributes the folksy Without You, a reject from the 1973 sessions for the Buckingham Nicks LP. The pair harmonize over Buckingham’s tinny acoustic strumming. Meh.

Much better: Buckingham’s fresh songs in which he returns to writing crisp, accessible, engaging California pop/rock, like the infectiously melodic and rhythmically driving Sad Angel and the breezy Miss Fantasy, a piquant taste of Mirage-era Mac that makes great use of the famed rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie.

His stark solo piano ballad, It Takes Time — imagine Christine McVie’s Songbird as its closest cousin — intrigues the most because it’s unlike anything the guitarist has released.


Anonymous said...

Can't imagine anyone calling "It Takes Time" gorgeous. It's an embarrassing piece of melodrama.

Anonymous said...

"Nicks contributes the folksy Without You, a reject from the 1973 sessions for the Buckingham Nicks LP. The pair harmonize over Buckingham’s tinny acoustic strumming. Meh."


Anonymous said...

I didn't think Without You was a reject. I thought it was supposed to go on their second album, but they joined Fleetwood Mac instead of making a second album.

Anonymous said...

I think Without You actually was planned for their follow-up BN record. I love the song, and always have. I'm surprised not as many people enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

The guitar playing is what kills it. Hard to hear them and they seem to be straining to be heard. A simple acoustic like arrangement, like when they sing Landslide live would have been better. Softer more intimate vocals. Lyrics are great but the phrasing seems off too.
I can't stop playing Sad Angel....

Anonymous said...

It's been almost a week now since I picked up EP and I'm more and more frustrated by it every time I listen. I can't really find anything positive to say about it aside from the chorus of Sad Angel is good. Without You should have stayed in the trash or the vault or on YouTube, and the other 2 songs are unlistenable. I can't even believe LB released It Takes Time. It's just... tragic. Perhaps if Stevie had bothered to put in a little effort and brought a new tune to the table, just one, it might have been more impressive.

If this is how they're doing it now, I really hope they don't bother with anything more.

Anonymous said...

It's been almost a week now since I picked up the EP and it's been on constant play for the whole week.. Not even mixed in with other tracks. Just these 4. All week long! And I still love it. I think Sad Angel is brilliantly catchy, Mick and John are so tight on this and Johns bass runs give me goose bumps! I love Lindsey's It Takes Time, its simple, raw, fragile, reflective... and Miss Fantasy I think is lovely... Without You I like because of the two part harmonies on it... plus the guitar playing... I was never a huge fan of the original bad sounding demo that everyone seems to love... but I like this! I say they are on to something and should explore more. I understand the reason Stevie didn't contribute more or was more involved so going in I didn't expect a lot of input from here... Pleased with what they've offered so far.

Post a Comment