The Good: Excellent singing, Nice lyrics, Good concert feel, Variety, Length, Instrumentals
The Bad: Conversations rely on knowledge of group/quickly become boring
The Basics: The Dance is a live album that is incredibly well written, with a balance of musical sounds that illustrates why Fleetwood Mac has endured all of these years.
Every now and again, we come across an incredible deal in whatever we're looking for. We find a $50 DVD mispriced at $20 or a rare trading card we've been hunting for years for for 1/10th of the book value. Sometimes, the lark c.d. we pick up turns out to be the best value we've gotten in some time. The Dance by Fleetwood Mac is like that. When it first came out, I was working in a department store and I loved the song "Silver Springs." I was tempted to get The Dance, but I wasn't about to pay $19.95 plus tax. Back in the day, my ex-wife fell in love with "Landslide" and I think the original is better than the Dixie Chix/Sheryl Crow remake. So, when I found The Dance on sale for $9.95 before Christmas, I decided to get it as a gift for us.
I'm quite glad I did.
The Dance does what a great live album ought to. It very effectively pulls the listener out of their home or car (wherever they are listening to it) and places them front row center at a concert. In the case of this quintet, it's a pretty incredible place to be. The listener gets a wonderful variety of songs that capture the group in various stages of development and make a compelling performance of it. Our ears are entertained throughout this album and it keeps us wanting to hear more.
Fleetwood Mac's music here is a decent variety of rock and roll ("Tusk," "Don't Stop"), pop ("Temporary One" and "Everywhere") to songs that have a more folk sound to them (like "Rhiannon" and "Landslide"). They have an incredible way of mixing the tracks so unlikely songs flow very well into one another, like the heavy, oppressively noisy sound of "My Little Demon" eases into the passionate and sad "Silver Springs." Similarly, the slower "Sweet Girl" accelerates perfectly into "Go Your Own Way."
This album has an excellent balance of male and female vocals, which is a difficult thing for a band to do. Yet here, John McVie and Lindsey Buckingham have almost as many vocals as Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks. The album comes across sounding quite mature; like individuals with great respect for one another and wish to sound like the best of any one of them at any given moment. As a result, the songs chosen are an excellent representation of each of the musical artists' talents.
The instrumentals on The Dance are surprisingly diverse and they illustrate the profound talents of the musicians, notably drummer Mick Fleetwood. Fleetwood does a great job on the opening track ("The Chain") providing percussion that does more than simply keep a beat. It is expressive and emotive, powerful and instantly hooks the listener in. The amazing thing about Fleetwood is that he is unrelenting. Even through the long guitar solo on "I'm So Afraid," his drumming may still be heard keeping pace. He is a tireless drummer and that is most impressive.
Similarly, the guitar work is incredible. John McVie and Lindsey Buckingham have amazingly nimble fingers that continue to make fast work of delicate fingerings with no apparent problems. On one of the weaker tracks, "Say You Love Me," the intricate strings are dealt with without flaw and that's most impressive on a live album. And it's not like the vocals drown out the instrumentals. No, here they are given equal weight and the listener cannot help but be impressed by knowing that actual human beings make this music. This is not the overproduced spiritless pop garbage too often present on the airwaves today. Instead, Fleetwood Mac is giving us an incredible musical performance.
The lyrics here, like most album, are the key. Fleetwood Mac makes poetry and puts it to music. Take "Silver Springs;" "I'll follow you down till the sound of my voice will haunt you." Sung by Stevie Nicks, it takes on a hypnotic cadence and it captures the angst of the narrator. And who today would put out a song called "Rhiannon?" It's such a great name and the diction and language in the song is indicative of a keen sense of poetics that is often lacking in today's new releases.
In fact, the only real detraction of this album is in the conversations between tracks. I like that usually. On Dar Williams' live album Out There Live (reviewed here!), it's nice to hear how she came up with some of her songs and such commentary has been something I've always hoped for on one of Heather Nova's live albums. On The Dance, however, the conversations are less about how songs were created and instead messages to the audience, little lessons and more frequently, conversations on how this album came to be. A lot of it, i.e. referencing John McVie as an ex-husband, depends on a knowledge of this band and their history. It's rather off-putting to those who were not aware of them until recently. That is to say, there are aspects of the album that come up in the inter-song conversations that allude to events one would only know as a fan of the group as opposed to someone who is simply listening because they enjoy these songs. This inconvenience is made more problematic by the fact that these conversations are not separate tracks, instead they are put on at the end or beginnings of songs, so they are not easily skipped over.
In the end, The Dance is a fun album and it's only now that I own it that I realize that it would have still been a value at $19.95, even with the added tax. The disc runs 79 minutes and that's always nice. The music is accessible to anyone and emotive enough that there will be something that touches anyone. The best track is the wrenching "Silver Springs" and the weakest link, which is fairly subjective here, is the new track "Sweet Girl," which has just a little too much of a country twang for my personal tastes.
For other live albums, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Live In Europe - Tina Turner
Rare, Live And Classic - Joan Baez
Between The Lines: Sara Bareilles Live At The Fillmore - Sara Bareilles
For other music reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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