Tango In The Night (2017 2-CD Edition)
With its tropical dusk artwork and by now steady(ish) band lineup, the pop-rock edition of Fleetwood Mac was enjoying major success in the charts and releasing some jewel singles for radio, to boot. The group was by now a far cry from the original Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer that I saw as a teenager and the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie were not improvising but playing set progressions – very well but sometimes anonymously – to enhance the songwriting of the now Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham frontline. Now the latter is an intriguing character. A more than able guitar player and a good singer with an intrinsic knowledge of what makes a memorable melody. But somehow, even having listened to him and his work for many years, I still don’t feel I know him in any way, at all. He somehow remains a somewhat distant figure, ostensibly a tad aloof or detached ? yet he cannot be, as his songs run straight to the hearts of so many. He seems perhaps competent but not cool or relaxed. More the chap that gets things done efficiently rather than someone you could share a few stories with in a bar. I have never met him and to review his records I don’t need to…I suppose. But here speaks a writer who likes to understand musicians by hanging out with them..never mind. As for Stevie Nicks..well acquaintances such as Waddy Wachtel and Leo Sayer have nothing but praise for the lady – alluring, mystical, with a unique and haunting voice. By comparison, Christine McVie seems somewhat shyer and more self-conscious, but my what a fabulous writer and singer! It’s an assemblage of talent here, without question.
The first disc in this set is the original album, same track sequence but remastered. Big Love retains its gripping acoustic guitar-led sonic attack and air mystery and striking arrangement. The axe work seems clearer and the bass has a tad more depth. Seven Wonders starts solemnly but sweetens via the keyboard and lovely Nicks vocal and complementary singing. It’s threaded with concise hooks. As is Everywhere. After its fairy dust intro the song whisks the listener into an emphatic and stealthy rhythm from which no escape is possible, McVie singing with authority but sensual appeal. I still find the arrangement a bit stark and safe, more should be happening. Yet these albums sold in millions, which negates what I am saying I reckon.
Caroline has a touch of tropical in the setting yet not voodoo, more of a considered backdrop for Buckingham’s steady vocal ; Tango In The Night, the title track is a reverby clubfooted tango, with bursts of fuzz guitar that seems to go nowhere in particular. Mystified takes its time, with a hint of Philly soul. What would Billy Paul have done with this ? the musical box keys seep into the easy melody and light guitar floats above the song. Little Lies has everything a durable pop song should have, a gorgeous melody, well-pitched tempo and bass sound, twinkly keys and vocals of immense skill. No wonder radio loved it to bits. It’s a song you cannot perform any other way but this, any attempt at rearrangement and the song evaporates. Delicate strength in every way.
Family Man is brisker but not a memorable song, in this company. Welcome To The Room..Sara sounds confident and again a touch tropical with the percussion, now clearer. Nicks sings with an easy power and with a slightly nasal tinge, as only she can. Isn’t It Midnight is much rockier and pacier and probably my favourite cut on the collection, though the guitar still sounds timid, it should be howling! When I See You Again is as mellow as the album gets, gentle acoustic guitar and light strings. Closing track You And I, Part 11 is sprightly, with harpsichord patch employed, drums playing across the beat whilst the percussion pursues a steadier path. The keyboard sounds straight from Disney, still…
The second disc has different takes and even songs not included on TITN and is a delight for fans, without doubt. In the album notes, Lindsey notes that Nicks was not around an awful lot for the recordings. Relationships were stretched, to say the least.
Down Endless Street is based on a naïve melody and sounds more European than American British. Buckingham’s breathy vocal is heard over a robotic beat. The song itself is quite catchy but doesn’t go anywhere. It could not be further from the original Mac and could even be a Sparks number. A demo of Special Kind Of Love brings us a better song though the band does sound as if it is feeling its way along. An airy song which would have fitted well on to the released record. Seven Wonders is an early version with much better guitar wisps over the intro and really cool vocals.
Tango In The Night is again a demo and apart from some slight hesitancy, not unlike the released version ; Mystified is an alternate edition of the song and maybe more relaxed. I really like this. Book Of Miracles is an instrumental which really should have opened the released album, a cymballum-like keyboard tone is used but it’s a sunshine effort rather than a spy film theme one. Next is a demo of Where We Belong being a fast-paced song with impassioned vocals and an underdeveloped arrangement with electric keyboards to the fore. A nice song to have, indeed.
Ricky is a choppy song with loud congas and somewhat ploddy bassline. There is something of David Byrne about the lyric phrasing; a run-through of Juliet shows the group in quasi-Stonesy action, Nicks exploring a soul vein. Pretty funky and probably not suitable for TITN, but still listenable and with a great bridge. Needs the late Bobby Keys ! Isn’t It Midnight is an alternate and rockier mix that works well. Ooh My Love is a demo is a great Nicks performance full of attitude just kept in check, reply chorale to the chorus lines. Add an instrumental demo of Mystified and then the complete You And I,Part 1 & 11 with its stealthy enchanted forest intro, taking its time before dropping into a totally different tempo for the song itself, layered vocals bordering on doowop.
A record with a story and this gives us a taste of the fuller story.
(Many thanks to our friends at Warners)
Fleetwood Mac’s Tango In The Night – 2017 2-CD Edition is out now on Warners.
For more information visit the band’s website: https://www.fleetwoodmac.com/tango