In The Meantime by Christine McVie

January 12, 2011

Christine McVie is living the quiet life of retirement far from the rock world of Fleetwood Mac. She was a member of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame band for close to three decades. She interrupted her retirement in 2004 to release her first solo album in twenty years.

Her nephew, Dan Perfect, wrote or co-wrote nine of the twelve tracks, co-produced the album, provided the guitar work, and also contributed backing vocals. Also on hand were bassist George Haskins, drummer Steve Ferrone, percussionists Lenny Castro & Louis Conte, plus backing vocals by David Isaacs. Christine McVie provided all of the lead vocals, plays all types of keyboards, co-wrote ten tracks, and co-produced the affair.

In The Meantime was released September 7, 2004. It was disappointing commercially as it did not chart in The United States and only reached number 133 in the U.K. It deserved more success as it was a very consistent and creative pop/rock album that was both melodic and soothing. Her keyboards are up front on most of the tracks which enables the sound to be instantly recognizable to her fan base. Her voice also remains a strong instrument that has not been worn down by the passage of years.

Many of the lyrics move in a personal direction as she looks at life. This is particularly true with a number of the ballads that inhabit the release.

The albums first three songs establish the excellent pop nature of the release. “Friend,” “You Are,” and “Northern Star” are all smooth productions. Her voice soars on the first song and the third is a well performed ballad.

Some other highlights include “Anything is Possible,” which has a nice funky feel and “Givin’ It Back” which was co-written by former bandmate Billy Burnette. It is a guitar song which provides a good vehicle for another strong vocal. Songs such as “Bad Journey,” “Forgiveness,” and “Sweet Revenge” brings her life journey up to date.

In The Meantime may not have the well known songs of her past but the twelve tracks come together to create a cohesive listening experience.

It has been seven years since Christine McVie has released a solo album. It is unknown when she will come out of retirement again but hopefully it will be soon.

Article first published as Music Review: Christine McVie – In The Meantime on Blogcritics.

Trouble In Shangri-La by Stevie Nicks

January 6, 2011

Stevie Nicks, the rocking witch queen of music, made a nice comeback during 2001 with the release of Trouble In Shangri-La. She had returned to Fleetwood Mac and had just completed a successful tour with the band.

The singer’s career retrospective box set, Enchanted, had been well received and her 1994 mundane release, Street Angel, was now seven years in the past. Her fans welcomed her back as the album reached number five on the Billboard Magazine Pop chart and number one on the Internet Albums chart.

There were multiple (eight) producers listed on the album, which is always a warning sign. Plus, there is an almost endless list of studio and guest musicians.

It somehow all worked out for the best, as Trouble In Shangri-La is a consistently excellent album throughout. While it may not have the well known songs of her earliest solo releases, it more than makes up for it in quality as a whole.

There are songs that reach back to Stevie Nicks’ mystical aura, such as “Sorcerer,” which takes her fans back to the magical universe of her past. Plus, she hits some high notes that she had not visited in a number of years, proving her voice had recovered from its problems of the past. “Planets Of The Universe” is a song that builds and projects a funky/sexy feel along the way.

There are personal songs, like “That Made Me Stronger” and “Fall From Grace,” which are both autobiographical, as they bring her life journey up to date. The second of the two is a rocker equal to the best of any in her catalogue.

There are duets as well. “Too Far From Texas” is a country rocker that features Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks, while “Bombay Sapphires” has some nice background vocals by Macy Gray.

There are tracks that cannot be put into any category. The title song is a solid rocker with a haunting chorus, while “Candlebright” is a nice, gentle acoustic piece.

“It’s Only Love” is a Sheryl Crow composition, who also produces and participates in the song, which is a simple and powerful track. “Love Is” is the album closer and features Sarah McLachlan on piano and backing vocals.

Trouble In Shangri-La brought Stevie Nicks into the 21st century and rejuvenated her career. It remains an excellent stop in her solo catalogue and is always worth a listen.

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The Other Side Of The Mirror by Stevie Nicks

December 31, 2010

The 1980s were coming to an end when Stevie Nicks released her fourth solo studio album May 11, 1989. It would reach number ten on the Billboard Magazine album charts and achieve platinum status for sales in The United States.

The Other Side Of The Mirror invites her listeners down the rabbit hole with her again to explore her magic world. While it is a place that had been visited a number of times, it is still interesting when she is at her creative best. There are highs and lows but when she is good, she is very good. On the real positive side, her voice is in much better condition than on her previous solo release.

“Rooms On Fire” was the lead song and big hit. It reached number 16 on The American Pop Singles Chart and rose to the number one position on the Mainstream Rock Chart. It was a pop/rock track similar to the Fleetwood Mac sound of the day. It is immediately familiar in a good way.

“Alice” sets the tone and theme of the album. It is a personal journey that is both dream and reality. Sometimes her lyrics can be obscure and difficult to understand, but here she treads the line between reality and myth well. The Kenny G solo is an added bonus.

There are a number of strong or at least interesting tracks. “Doing The Best I Can” is solid musically, but the lyrics deal with her substance abuse which gives the song a dramatic quality. “Whole Lotta Trouble” was one of three tracks she co-wrote with Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers fame, and is solid rock ‘n’ roll. “Ooh My Love” is one of those Stevie Nicks songs that is haunting and casts a spell. “Two Kinds Of Love” contains a nice duet with Bruce Hornsby plus some nice late 80’s era keyboards.

The album does contain what can be considered filler. “Cry Wolf” is a song written by Jude Johnstone and does not really fit her style. “I Still Miss Someone” is a Johnny Cash composition, and while it was not terrible, the space could have been put to better use.

The Other Side Of The Mirror does not have the consistent highs of her first two solo releases, but is still worth a visit now and then. The lyrics are a bit eccentric in places but all in all it is a presentable album.

Article first published as Music Review: Stevie Nicks – The Other Side Of The Mirror on Blogcritics.

Time by Fleetwood Mac

December 13, 2010

During the early nineties Fleetwood Mac was in disarray. Rick Vito left after only one album with the group. The real loss was Stevie Nicks who withdrew to concentrate on her solo career, which meant no Buckingham or Nicks as a part of the band. It is a testament to Mick Fleetwood and the McVie’s that they had the resolve to keep the group going.

New members Bekka Bramlett and Dave Mason joined the band, which when combined with the other holdover Billy Burnette, brought a very different approach to the group’s sound. Bramlett was the daughter of Delaney & Bonnie of Eric Clapton Fame. Her country leanings melded well with those of Burnette and they would form a duo after leaving the group. Dave Mason was an odd choice in some ways. He is a world class guitarist but his sound and style was shaped by his former group Traffic and probably would have fit the pre-pop Fleetwood Mac better. He was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with his former group at the 2004 induction ceremony.

Time was released October 10, 1985 and was their least successful commercial studio release as it did not even reach the album charts in The United States. The diverse personalities of the members did not mesh together, and their fan base did not respond to the disjointed nature of the album.

Christine McVie tries very hard with five songs, co-written with then husband Eddy Quintela. They may not be the best group of songs she ever produced, but they are solid pop and remain representative of her skill as a composer and singer. “Hollywood (Some Other Kind Of Town)” was an interesting throwback to her Future Games sound, but “Nights In Estoril,” “Sooner Or later,” and “I Do” are all very listenable pop songs.

I tend to think of Burnette and Bramlett as a duo and their contributions travel in a country direction which takes the group away from its strength. Bramlett is a good vocalist in her own right, but it was a stretch for her as the replacement for Stevie Nicks. Their best contribution is their own song, “Dreamin’ The Dream,” which is a gentle song which fit the bands preconceived profile well.

Dave Mason contributed two songs and he is who he is. His vocals and guitar playing are excellent and he is certainly the equal of Lindsey Buckingham, but not in this setting.

The release’s oddest track is Mick Fleetwood’s seven minute album closer, “These Strange Times.”

The album and the band just did not function as a whole in this incarnation. Bramlett, Mason, and Burnette would all be gone after touring to support the release and some old friends would return. Time remains one of the weakest albums in The Fleetwood Mac catalogue and should be explored only by hard core fans of the group.

Article first published as Music Review: Fleetwood Mac – Time on Blogcritics.