Monday, December 2, 2013

10 Reasons Why Fleetwood Mac Needs Christine McVie

Few bands in the history of rock & roll have exemplified the division-of-labor work ethic as effectively as classic-era Fleetwood Mac (1975-1988): If Stevie Nicks was the star and Lindsey Buckingham the musical genius, Christine McVie, possibly the lead singer people think of least when they think of FM, was the heart and soul. And as Billy Joel (who, like McVie, needs to get his ass back where it belongs: in a recording studio making new pop music again) once sang, it's all about soul.

So the one bit of good news on a terrible weekend of devastating news was the old news (yes, I'm still behind) reported on November 24 by Rolling Stone.com from a Guardian interview that McVie, now 70, would rejoin Fleetwood Mac if they asked her to. Since I'm not getting my reunions of The Smiths or ABBA (which was sort of like a Swedish FM, whose various members -- spouses-turned-exes John and Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks +/- both Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood -- also loved and lost each other while making music together), Fleetwood Mac featuring Christine McVie again might actually be the next best thing.

I lost interest in Fleetwood Mac after the artist formerly known as Christine Perfect (what a fitting maiden name!) left the band in 1998 to retreat to country life in the middle of nowhere, England, and I haven't listened to one note of new music that the band has recorded together since then. I remember FM's Lindsay Buckingham-free years after 1987's Tango in the Night (during which FM released two studio albums: 1990's Behind the Mask and 1995's Time, the latter of which Nicks also sat out), and they weren't pretty.

I never got into Fleetwood Mac's original bluesy incarnation, in which McVie costarred from 1970 to 1975. The band needed Buckingham Nicks (that was actually the name of Stevie and Lindsey's duo project before they joined FM for 1975's eponymous U.S. breakthrough) as much as it needed McVie. Buckingham provided the quirk that pushed boundaries and the band past the level of classic soft rock into the realm of daring art pop; Nicks' ethereal witchy-woman persona gave FM sex appeal; and Christine McVie's earthy sensuality and her melodies of love were its humanity. Each was an equally essential ingredient of the Mac attack.

Nicks has had the most success as a solo artist, and she remains the band's biggest name. (Though aside from The Beatles, Genesis, New Edition and FM, I can't think of another group with three or more offshoots that enjoyed Top 10s on Billboard's Hot 100. Eagles would qualify had Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good" gone just two notches higher in 1978.) But McVie actually wrote and sang lead on more Top 40 FM hits than both of her singing-songwriting bandmates combined: nine, compared to five for Nicks and three for Buckingham, making her Fleetwood Mac's commercial MVP -- and not just because she knew how to churn out a radio smash. Her creative touch was just as formidable. Here are 10 examples of just how much so: My Top 10 Fleetwood Mac moments featuring Christine McVie on lead vocals and as primary songwriter.

10. "Songbird" (from Rumours, 1977) The late Eva Cassidy helped make it a modern classic on her posthumous 1998 album Songbird, but McVie wrote it and sang it first. (It's perhaps FM's best known non-single after Nicks' "Landslide.")


9. "Don't Stop" (from Rumours, 1977) Also known as the soundtrack to Bill Clinton's 1992 U.S. Presidential campaign. (The video below is from McVie's September 2013 onstage reunion with her musical exes in London.)


8. "Never Forget" (from Tusk, 1979) With a slightly countrified swing, McVie closed my favorite FM album even more masterfully than she opened it (with "Over & Over").


7. "Hold Me" (from Mirage, 1982) The first time I was consciously aware that I was listening to and loving an FM hit.


6. "You Make Loving Fun" (from Rumours, 1977) Everybody wants a lover like that.


5. "Honey Hi" (from Tusk, 1979) Yet another stunning example of McVie's effortless seduction technique.


4. "Everywhere" (from Tango in the Night, 1987) McVie's "Little Lies" was the biggest hit from the album (No. 4), but I preferred her on the 1988 follow-up single (No. 14), which boasts one of the best intro/outro combos of the decade.


3. "Say You Love Me" (from Fleetwood Mac, 1975) The first Fleetwood Mac song I ever heard, though at the time I was too young to know -- or care -- who was singing it. At 6 years old, I just couldn't get enough of that "falling falling falling" at the end.


2. "Brown Eyes" (from Tusk, 1979) So haunting, so gorgeous.


1. "Think About Me" (from Tusk, 1979) Christine rocks! One of  my favorite Fleetwood Mac singles, perhaps second only to "Tusk." If I listen to it once, I'm going to listen to it five more times.

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