Fleetwood Mac’s new album, Say You Will, may well have been titled The Buckingham & Nicks Show. The album is the band’s first full-fledged studio outing in over 15 years, and longtime member Christine McVie’s absence is a catch-22 of sorts. Though her contributions were often eclipsed by the sheer power and mysticism of the band’s other chief songwriters, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, the anchor McVie’s more sober compositions provided has become evident in her absence. With three socially-conscious tunes stacked up at the start of the album (“Murrow Turning Over in His Grave” is an anti-media tirade and “Illume” is Nicks’s inevitable meditation on 9/11), the rest of Say You Will finds Fleetwood Mac getting down to what they do best: crafting expertly-arranged songs about crumbling personalities and deteriorating relationships. The production is perhaps too slick—vocals are obscured with panning and filter effects on tracks like “Red River” and the hook on “Smile at You” is so lacquered with voices it almost evaporates—but Nicks’ voice is potent enough to cut through the mire and her vocals are often layered with harmonies seemingly pulled from a 1970s time capsule. The rich, organically textured “Thrown Down” and the somber, presumably autobiographical “Silver Girl” sound as if not a day has passed since 1977’s Rumours. “Miranda” examines the addiction of modern fame (“She sticks the camera right into her arm”) while songs like the title track tread more middle-of-the-road. Though the band thankfully steered clear of any obvious attempts to update their sound for the new millennium, the album’s biggest flaw is its digital-era ambition. Like Tusk before it, the 18-track Say You Will is a bit over-bloated. There are few throwaways, if any, but with two figurative finales (Buckingham’s “Say Goodbye” and Nicks’s requisite answer, “Goodbye Baby”), it seems the Mac have thrown in everything but the kitchen sink.
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