Friday, September 9, 2011

Great, But Not Worth The Buy, Tango In The Night Is Delightfully Paradoxical.

The Good: Amazing songs, Great production, Lyrics, Vocals.
The Bad: A little short, Monolithic.
The Basics: Not since Rumours have I so looked forward to a Fleetwood Mac album, but unlike Rumours, the best songs on Tango In The Night are available elsewhere.

Sometimes things come along that I can easily acknowledge are wonderful, but I am nevertheless unable to recommend. This is usually either because something is unpleasant - which was my reason for not recommending Requiem For A Dream - or because of one of the many standards I actually have. In the case of compact discs, occasionally there are wonderful albums that I cannot recommend in the final analysis and usually the reason is because all of the very best tracks on the album are available elsewhere. That is exactly why I am unable to recommend Tango In The Night.

Don't get me wrong, Tango In The Night is a great album, firmly above average. It is so good that this seminal '80's pop-rock album has five songs from the album on the definitive compilation The Very Best Of Fleetwood Mac. The thing is, those five songs are the essential and best songs from Tango In The Night and honestly listeners will not be missing much by having only those songs in their permanent collections. That said, those five songs - "Big Love," "Seven Wonders," "Everywhere," "Little Lies," and "Family Man" - are the lifeblood of Tango In The Night and outside them (I could even argue that the essentials need not include "Family Man") the album is not bursting with anything that sounds different or is thematically deeper than those.

With a dozen songs, occupying 44:28, Tango In The Night is mostly a Fleetwood Mac vision of pop-rock music. All of the songs are written or co-written by the quintet and the album is co-produced by Lindsey Buckingham from the group. Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie provide all of the vocals and Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood and John and Christine McVie all play instruments on the album. The album is very much within the control of the band and it is hard to argue that the end result is not what the band intended.

That said, Tango In The Night is pretty incredible. This album has danceable and deep pop-rock hits. They are generally unified on the album by Mick Fleetwood's pounding drumming - "Seven Wonders" might well be one of his best performances - and Buckingham's production. The mix of keyboards, drums and bass dominate almost all of the songs, though the vocals are almost always pushed forward so they are easy to hear and understand.

The problem on the album with the instrumentals is the way they essentially make the same statement over and over again. The prevalence of the synths and keyboards to pounding drums on songs like "Everywhere," "Welcome To The Room . . . Sara," and "You And I, Part II" makes all of the songs resonate in the same way, despite that they have very different melodies. The general vibe to them is so similar that it is easy to get lost in the album and feel like the album is less distinct track to track than it otherwise could be.

Similarly, the vocals are often produced to such a quality that the natural voices of the performers are lost. The distortions on Buckingham's voice on "Caroline" make one wonder where his natural voice went. Conversely, though, McVie's vocals on "Little Lies" are haunting and natural though that is one of the few tracks on the album where the production elements are stripped back to give more of a natural voice against the synths. Nicks, unfortunately, suffers on songs like "Welcome To The Room . . . Sara" with reverbs and other electronic manipulations that prevent her full voice from being presented.

That said, the lyrics on Tango In The Night are some of the group's best and they are always presented in ways that they can be heard. "Tango In The Night," the single, is a poetic remembrance of love. The song, written by Buckingham, has a strong sense of imagery to it with its lines like "Listen to the wind on the water / Listen to the waves upon the shore / Try to sleep, sleep won't come / Just as I begin to fade / Then I remember / When the moon was full and bright / I would take you in the darkness / And do the tango in the night" ("Tango In The Night"). Buckingham captures a sense that has both a specific time and place and a universal feeling anyone who has ever been in love and had a special night can relate to.

The album is dominated, at its best, by love songs, though there is often a moody quality to that love, as there is on "Little Lies." That sense of conflict and inner turmoil is not unique to "Little Lies." Far less known, "Isn't It Midnight" delves into a similar emotional territory with its lines "So cool, calm and collected. / You had a style, a rakish style. / Well, my poor heart never connected. / You'd stay so long on my mind. / Well, isn't it midnight / on the other side of the world?" McVie, who wrote the song seems able to create some of the more murky lyrics on the album.

In contrast, Buckingham seems more repetitive on the album. "Caroline" and "Family Man" both repeat their titles far too many times within the songs. At least "Family Man" has a positive moral message and works because it is something different than a love or love loss song that is like what permeates the rest of the album.

On c.d., Tango In The Night seems shorter than it ought to, even with its problems with blending together. Still, for those looking for the essential 1980's produced pop-rock sound, it is hard to imagine better than Tango In The Night.

The best track is "Everywhere," the low point is the less memorable "Mystified."

For other Fleetwood Mac albums, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Mr. Wonderful
Kiln House
Future Games
Bare Trees
The Dance
The Very Best Of Fleetwood Mac


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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