Review: Fleetwood Mac ‘Live (Deluxe Edition)’ – Revisiting The Expanded Double-Live 1980 LP

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*Photo of Fleetwood Mac’s original, vinyl 1980 LP ‘Live’ taken by your intrepid blogger

There was a time, believe it or not, before the internet. In those dark ages, the only places to buy a ticket to a concert was the box office of the theater/stadium or to go to an “authorized” ticket selling outlet. Usually the places that sold concert tickets were record stores which was convenient since even I knew where they were and I was pretty geographically challenged in those days. I knew where places were located, but I didn’t know street numbers. I had to give directions based on landmarks. “Drive straight on the street by the school until you see the big gnarly tree then turn right…” and so on. I was in high school, what did I know? While I had become a huge music fan in the late 70s, it wasn’t until June of 1980 that I was able to attend my first concert. Def Leppard opened (their first tour), the Scorpions were next (“The Zoo” was the only track I knew) and finally Ted Nugent in a loin cloth was the headliner. Needless to say, I was hooked on live music from that moment on, despite the hearing loss caused by Mr. Nugent… For that show, I bought the ticket from my friend Matthew who had a conflict of some sort and couldn’t attend.

Generally, that’s how I got tickets early on. I bought them from friends. It wasn’t until 1981 that I got the experience that every concert goer went through at least once back in the 70s/80s, I camped out overnight for tickets. Concert tickets generally went on sale at 8am the morning of whatever pre-chosen date they announced on the radio, usually months before the show. People would start to form a line for tickets the night before they went on sale. They’d have sleeping bags, food, lawn chairs… likely some beer and there was always weed. Once again, it was my friend Matthew and I who somehow convinced our parents that late summer of ’81 to sleep out for Van Halen tickets. We hadn’t seen them yet and when Fair Warning dropped, we knew we had to see this band. We were camped out in front of Tiger’s Records in the suburbs of KC with a nefarious looking, “unwashed and slightly dazed” crowd waiting for the record store to open so we could get our “choice” Van Halen tickets (and boy, we did). There was this old hippy in line behind us… I say old, but I was a teenager, the guy could have been 25 for all I know. He certainly looked old to my teen eyes. We started chatting over a couple of beers and I asked the codger, “What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen? What band is best live?” His answer evoked quite a bit of surprise in me, when he responded without hesitation “Fleetwood Mac.” And this guy had supposedly “seen everybody.” I didn’t think to ask which tour he saw them on… The Mac may seem mellow to some ears, but my college roommate had all heavy metal albums with a couple of Fleetwood Mac LPs so they couldn’t have been that mellow.

Fleetwood Mac’s story is the thing of legend now. The Mac was formed by former members of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers: guitar legend Peter Green with a rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood (drums) and John McVie (bass). Green was the star – he was the singer/guitarist – but he named the band after the rhythm section… prescient as they are the only members who stayed for the entire Mac career. Green, who sadly passed away last year, eventually left and that led to a revolving door of singers and guitarists. Eventually Christine Perfect joined on keyboards and vocals… and then married John McVie. After their then current guitarist Bob Welch split to go solo, the McVies and Mick Fleetwood were left to look for yet another replacement. They discovered a little band creatively named Buckingham-Nicks with guitarist/vocalist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks. Their debut album didn’t sell many copies (although I do have one on vinyl) but attracted the remaining members of Fleetwood Mac because of the album’s producer, Keith Olsen. They were not only shopping for a guitarist, they were shopping for a producer. He gave them the Buckingham-Nicks LP as a “resume” of sorts. They hired him and offered Buckingham the job of singer/guitarist… he refused to accept unless they included Nicks in the band…

That lineup: Buckingham/Nicks/Fleetwood/J. McVie/C. McVie, known as their “classic lineup” now I suppose, was an almost instant hit. The first LP, which McVie refers to as “the white Fleetwood Mac album” yielded the hits “Rhiannon,” “Over My Head,” and “Landslide” amongst others. They say when a band does a self-titled LP in the middle of their career it’s usually symbolic of a “rebirth” for the band… I’d say that was definitely the case here. They were bigger than they’d ever been. The success wasn’t without cost however. During the recording of the follow-up, one of the best selling LPs of all time, Rumours, Buckingham and Nicks who were a couple broke up. The McVies’ marriage also ended. All of those crazy passions and breakup recriminations found their way onto the album in songs like “Dreams” and “Go Your Own Way” and perhaps more positively on “Don’t Stop.” It was beyond a smash hit. I actually traded my brother Supertramp’s Breakfast In America for his copy of Rumours. I think we both won on that trade.

What to do next? That kind of success usually breeds a lot of pressure to repeat it and I think Buckingham decided to take a creative left turn to avoid the pressure of that success. He was also highly influenced by punk rock and that also fueled his decision to make some changes to Fleetwood Mac’s sound. The resulting LP Tusk was a surprise to a lot of people expecting Rumours 2.0. Tusk was (in my opinion) a sprawling masterpiece of a double-LP. While Nicks and Christine McVie continued to write and perform songs in the vein of the previous two albums, Buckingham went for a more experimental sound. Nowhere is that more evident than on the title track. The album didn’t reach the successful sales numbers of Rumours, how could it have, and the other members of Fleetwood Mac were pretty upset with Buckingham who had helmed the project and even recorded some songs at home in his bathroom. The LP still sold 4 million copies – one to my brother who was always way ahead of everybody when it came to music – which sounds like a success to me.

The Fleetwood Mac tour for Tusk rolled through Kansas City a mere two months after my first concert (Nugent/Scorpions/Def Leppard) at the exact same place, Kemper Arena in the West Bottoms. Sadly, I did not see them on that tour. I still don’t know if the hippy outside of Tiger’s was talking about that particular show as his greatest concert. The review in the paper said they looked tired and only Buckingham and Fleetwood, who they said played off each other, were able to generate any excitement. They said it looked like Christine McVie was about to fall asleep at the piano. Cruel indeed, but let’s remember you can’t always trust the newspaper. I have to admit, I’ve never seen Fleetwood Mac in concert and that pains me. The closest I ever got was seeing Stevie Nicks solo on her Wild Heart tour with no less than Joe Walsh opening. She sang “Rhiannon” as an encore and it was sensational.

But lucky for me, Fleetwood Mac like many bands who have spent a lot of time and money in the studio recording an album, decided to follow Tusk with a double live LP, creatively titled, Live. I’m on record here at B&V for loving live albums. Many people have a differing view of live LPs… I had a college friend who complained to me once, in response to hearing Springsteen’s Live 1975-85, that the live songs didn’t sound enough like the studio versions. I said, “Uh, Stew, you should be looking for a greatest hits LP, not a live LP.” Even Tom Petty said a live LP was just “your greatest hits sped up.” But for me, the 70s and even the early 80s was the golden era of the double-live LP. Not every live LP broke a band wide open like Kiss’ Alive or Frampton Comes Alive. Not every live LP made the list of “greatest live albums ever.” But there were so many great double live albums where the band could stretch out a little and it gave you the experience of seeing them live. Everybody did double live LPs in those days from Skynyrd to Neil Young. LPs like Aerosmith’s Live Bootleg or Fleetwood Mac’s Live were solid, if not occasionally spectacular live documents of a point in time in the life of a band. I never bought into the critics who dismissed live albums as merely “tour souvenirs. 

When I first bought Live in 1980, on vinyl, I was thrilled that they had some new songs on the album. “Fireflies” written by Stevie Nicks is one of their best tunes. She wrote it about the struggles and battles the five members had in creating Tusk. The band didn’t breakup because of splits in the romantic entanglements but it almost did over the writing and recording of Tusk. Buckingham resurrected a Buckingham-Nicks chestnut, the rocking, “Don’t Let Me Down Again” which sent me on a journey to find their debut LP. Christine McVie contributed the (somewhat typical for her) ballad “One More Night” which sounded like it was done in a studio. Likewise their Beach Boys’ cover “Farmer’s Daughter” also sounded like a studio outtake (turns out it was)… But I was so into Fleetwood Mac I was just happy to have those new tracks. 

While Live wasn’t a live album that was going to change your life like say, the Allman Brothers Live At the Fillmore East, it was a really good live document of one of the world’s greatest bands at or near the peak of their popularity. Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar skills on this album are insane! On songs like “I’m So Afraid” the solo’ing is mad good. He stretches out a Tusk track, “Not That Funny” to 9 minutes. I also have to say Mick Fleetwood’s drumming is amazing as well. He’s really under appreciated. I don’t know if that KC Star newspaper review helped make those two performers jump out at me, but they leave an impression. I love that they do “Oh, Well” a track recorded before Lindsey and Stevie joined the band. There’s a great selection from the three previous LPs this line up had put out from “Dreams,” and “Over My Head,” to “Over and Over” and “Sara.” This lineup of the band always sounded so good and this LP is no exception. And as a bonus for me, “Over My Head” was recorded at Kemper Arena in KC… I probably know people that were in the audience. Hell my friends Bob G and Brewster were probably there and didn’t tell me. 

Today the Mac released a Deluxe Edition of Live and you know how we love our “deluxe editions” here at B&V. I’ve spent the last 8 hours doing nothing but listening to this version of the album and I really like it. For all the tracks on the original album – and the selection was great – there were so many more you could have wished for and they’re now all on this expanded version. There’s another 15 songs and there’s no overlap (save one song), these are all different songs than the original. It elevates Live from a mere double-live album to something more akin to the aforementioned Springsteen Live 1975-85 or Petty’s Live Anthology. It should be noted that there not only tracks from the 1980 tour, but a smattering of songs from as early as 1975 and as late as 1982 found here. 

The deluxe stuff starts with maniacal version of “Second Hand News” with Lindsey and Stevie doing harmonies. “The Chain” is epic here… I always wondered why it wasn’t on the original. They even go back to the early Fleetwood Mac stuff with “The Green Manalishi With The Three Pronged Crown,” a track later covered by Judas Priest. What a great nod to Peter Green. Another Tusk track that I always liked, “What Makes You Think You’re the One” sounds great live. “Gold Dust Woman,” “Angel” and “Sisters Of the Moon” rank amongst my favorite tracks from Stevie Nicks and they’re all on this expanded edition. Finally Stevie gets her “live” due. “Tusk” was always a hard track to pull off live, without a marching band, but I dig the version here even though it’s accordion driven. Maybe all those old guys at the family reunions playing polkas paid off… 

Christine McVie plays a very affecting version of “Brown Eyes.” Her 1982 performance of “Hold Me” from Mirage may seem out of place here but man, I like it. Her track, “Songbird” is as beautiful live as it was in the studio. Call me a softy but I love that song. As an added bonus there are two more tracks recorded in Kansas City… I know, I can be a geek sometimes about stuff like that… The only song that seems superfluous is an extended version of Stevie’s “Fireflies” that I’m not sure was necessary. 

If you’re a fan of live music and miss concerts or just a fan of Fleetwood Mac, you must check out this expanded edition. There’s a chance many of you haven’t heard the original so I believe this will be a treat for you. In this age of streaming, everyone should be going back and revisiting those classic, fabulous double-live LPs and this is no exception. Pour a glass of something you enjoy, turn this one up loud, close your eyes and maybe, just maybe you’ll feel like you’re at the show…and if you really feel it, hold that lighter up over your head and sing along. 

Cheers! 

 

Stevie Nicks: The New Rock Hall of Fame Inductee’s Essential Albums

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I can’t believe I’ve been so bone-crushingly busy lately that I haven’t had a chance to do what I love…sit back, crank tunes and then think entirely too much about what I’ve just heard. And then, of course, share it with you. The end of the year was crazy. The Rock Chick and I are in the midst of moving to new quarters. Every time I’d drop the needle on an album, she’d appear with boxes for me to carry, “tote that barge, lift that bail,” indeed. I can barely stand upright… thank heaven for bourbon to ease my back pain.

If you’re like me, you couldn’t turn the page on the calendar from 2018 to 2019 fast enough. Jesus, what a shitty year. Too many crazies out there, too much bad news. However, I did see one bit of good news. Stevie Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac fame, is going to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame this year as a solo artist. She’s in somewhat rare company there – Clapton is in solo and with Cream, each Beatle (save for Ringo) are in the hall as solo artists and with the Beatles, and I’m sure there are a few others – so good for her. I have to admit, I’ve always been a fan of her spacey, rootsy rock and roll. We often tend to focus on the harder rock end of the spectrum here and I don’t think we give the women rockers their due at B&V.

Ah, Stevie. I used to describe her as the “Mistress of Her Generation.” I didn’t say that because she’d burned through half of Fleetwood Mac (Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood), the better part of the Eagles (Don Henley, Joe Walsh) and producer Jimmy Iovine… I called her that because we all loved Stevie Nicks. Every man of a certain age will get a peculiar, glazed look in his eyes when he hears Stevie Nicks sing. She was the cool, stoner chick that we all aspired to go out with in high school. Beautiful, mysterious, and wildly talented, she had it all. And likely she was carrying…

When I first got into music, I was way behind my brother. He had twice the number of albums that I did. Oddly, he traded me Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours for Supertramp’s Breakfast In America, which was a great album, but it was no Rumours. I listened to that album endlessly. Almost every song was played on the radio. “Dreams” was a song I’d been aware of even before I knew who it was or even liked music. It always seemed to be on the radio. I can close my eyes and I’m back at the neighborhood, public pool and there’s Stevie singing, “Do you have any dreams you’d like to sell?” I can think of a few… I would stare at this little pixie of a woman on the front and back cover… who was this “Gold Dust Woman”? Even my college roommate whose record collection was almost exclusively heavy metal (Van Halen, Sabbath, Zeppelin) had a few Fleetwood Mac albums…

While I loved Fleetwood Mac’s follow up album, Tusk, I may be in the minority there. I have to admit when I first heard it, the only songs I really, truly loved, other than the bizarre title track, were Stevie’s songs. “Sisters of the Moon,” “Sara,” “Storms” were all great tunes. Show me a man who says he didn’t mist up a little the first time he heard “Beautiful Child” after a break up and I’ll show you a liar. “Angel” was a great rock song that only Stevie could write and sing and only Lindsey could play guitar on… It is one of the quintessential Mac tunes for me. I guess the record company guys realized that Stevie’s songs were the best ones on the album and so Tusk did what all the romantic breakups in the band couldn’t do – it pushed the members to do solo stuff. It almost broke them up.

Stevie’s first two albums are just incredible. I can remember driving up and down the main drag where I grew up with the windows down and blasting “Edge of Seventeen” or her duet with Petty, “Stop Dragging My Heart Around.” Her backing band on those first two albums was sublimely talented. Waddy Watchel on guitar, members of both the Heartbreakers and the E Street Band (Roy Bittan, piano) backed Stevie on those first couple records. Jimmy Iovine produced them both and they were smash hits.

I saw Stevie on the 1983 tour in support of The Wild Heart. Joe Walsh opened. It was amazing. We had nose bleed seats and crashed down to the stage. Stevie sang “Beauty and the Beast,” and I swear she was looking at me and my friend next to me. We certainly qualified as “the Beast” in question. Her band that night included Watchel (guitar), Bittan (piano), Benmont Tench (keyboards), and Liberty Devito from Billy Joel’s band on drums. Instead of concert T’s we all bought the same photograph of Stevie and taped them to our walls. Jeez, what fan boys we were!

After doing the best tracks on Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage album, Stevie’s hot streak started to falter. It’s the classic Hollywood rise, fall, rise storyline. I remember my college girlfriend bringing me the aptly titled album Rock A Little. She knew I dug Stevie and she liked the song “Talk to Me” which looking back, may have been her attempt to send me a message… I wasn’t the most communicative of boyfriends. That album was a surprise for me. Stevie went heavy into the drum machine/synth sound of the 80s. The magic seemed to be fading. Stevie had cowrote most of the tracks on that album and her stuff was always better when she alone wrote it…

What we didn’t know was she was burning out from too much cocaine. Drugs always creep up on these guys. She finally got over that only to succumb to an addiction to Klonopin which led to excessive weight gain and a whole host of other problems. I think most people lost track of Stevie after that. But she emerged from all of that and started releasing a series of late period albums that are the kind of records B&V was born to write about. Here are the B&V Essential Stevie Nicks LPs:

  1. Bella Donna, 1981 – We all already loved Stevie from Fleetwood Mac and this album solidified her as a solo force to be reckoned with. From the hits “Stop Dragging My Heart” around and “Edge of Seventeen” to some of the deeper tracks, this is a great album. “After the Glitter Fades” and “Think About It” are two of my favorite deep cuts. The music is all real instruments – guitar, acoustic guitar and piano – coupled with Stevie’s nasally, throaty vocals. This album is almost perfect.
  2. The Wild Heart, 1983 – This was almost a sequel to Bella Donna. Iovine is back in the producers chair and most of the same musicians are assembled. A taste of the 80s synth sound is here in the first hit, “Stand Back” where Prince plays an uncredited synth riff. I heard Stevie say, “Prince just showed up and did this amazing thing on keyboards with just two fingers.” One can only wonder why Prince was hanging around… naughty, naughty man. “If Anyone Falls” was also synth heavy but still a great tune. “Enchanted” rocked and “Beauty And The Beast” features strings. Stevie was on fire.
  3. Trouble In Shangri-La, 2001 – An album, I must admit the rock chick turned me onto. After a number of misfires through the end of the 80s and 90s, I’d all but forgotten about Stevie. She’d actually asked old friend Tom Petty to write songs for her and he gave her a stern talking to about being confident and writing her own songs which resulted in “That Made Me Stronger.” My favorite track was an older Fleetwood Mac outtake, “Planets of the Universe.” I heard that song and knew Stevie was back. Sheryl Crow helped out on a couple of tracks on this record as well. This was a miraculous comeback album.
  4. In Your Dreams, 2011 – It had been a decade since her last album and I was thinking maybe she was done when this great record came out. Produced by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics’ fame, this record jumped out at me. “Secret Love” was a great opening track. “For What It’s Worth” is a beautiful acoustic track. Stewart seems to capture all the elements of Stevie’s early work, without being nostalgic. He even gets Stevie rocking on the harder edged “Ghosts Are Gone.” Check out the title track as well.
  5. 24 Karat Gold – Songs From the Vault, 2014 – I admire the truth in advertising in the title – these are all old tracks Stevie wrote back in the 70s and 80s, but I fear the title put people off. Once again we have Dave Stewart at the producers helm with none other than Nicks’ old pal Waddy Watchel helping. Stevie wrote so much great music for Fleetwood Mac, but with three writers she couldn’t get all her stuff on the records, so she had plenty of leftovers. Hell, “Silver Springs,” one of her greatest songs was a b-side. “Starshine” is a nice, tight little rocker that opens the proceedings. “Carousel” and “The Dealer” are two of my favorite Stevie songs. It was a brilliant idea for her to revisit these tracks she’d only demo’d before.

Congratulations Stevie on your induction to the Rock Hall! Folks, enjoy spelunking through this woman’s catalog. Her music and wonderful melodies will stick with you.

Cheers!