Fleetwood Mac: Mirage (Warner Bros.) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Fleetwood Mac

Mirage

Warner Bros.

Oct 31, 2016 Fleetwood Mac Bookmark and Share


In 1979, Fleetwood Mac released Tusk, an ambitious double album that broke from everything people expected from the band that vaulted to pop rock royalty on the success of its previous album, Rumours, which went on to sell 40 million albums. Tusk, with its New Wave sound and schizophrenic sequencing, confounded many at the time, and as a result, Fleetwood Mac attempted a return to the formula with which they found so much success with Rumours. The resulting album was 1982’s Mirage, reissued here in both double CD and box set formats.

Of course, when bands consciously try to return to past glory, attempting to write in a manner akin to previous works in order to reclaim a base, it seldom works to the degree it’s intended. To the end that Mirage is a return to Fleetwood Mac’s halcyon days of songwriting, it is a success. Mirage largely eschews the experimentation and genre flux that was Tusk. But to the degree that it’s anywhere as strong as Rumours, there’s no contest. On first blush, Mirage sounds like Fleetwood Mac ripping off its previous self. But, like Tusk, which revealed itself to be one of the band’s strongest works over time (see the excellent deluxe reissue from 2015), Mirage also deserves a closer examination.

Like Warner Bros. did with Tusk and Rumours before it, Mirage is reissued now as a deluxe set with rarities, demos, outtakes, and live performance. Obsessing over this catalog is what Warner Bros. seems to intend with its Fleetwood Mac reissue project and, in this, it is successful. Obsessing over Mirage reveals it to both be exactly what it was at the time, a slight rehash, and yet more than that.

The Rumours sheen is all over Mirage. It seems obvious that the band was consciously attempting to reclaim earlier glory. Yet, the songwriting can be deceptively interesting. “Book of Love” finds Lindsey Buckingham moving further in the direction of the Brian Wilson influence that he dabbled with on Tusk‘s “That’s All For Everyone.” “Can’t Go Back” chirps with a bouncy ‘80s effect that’s invigorating. “Oh, Diane” is so Buddy Holly/‘50s rock and roll, you expect to hear a vocal hiccup. And Stevie Nicks’ “Gypsy,” a pop rock melody of the highest order, is the perfect encapsulation of everything that Fleetwood Mac is and was. Ending the album on the highest of notes is Christine McVie’s stunning “Wish You Were Here.” Yes, there are some real clunkers. “Only Over You” is not much beyond vocal swoon, and “Empire State” is the worst of ‘80s production and lyrical insipidness. But overall, Mirage holds up as stronger as a whole than one remembers.

Much, although not all, of the bonus material on this reissue is worthy of the package. “If You Were My Love,” which recently surfaced in more polished form on Nicks’ 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, would have been one of Mirage‘s standout tracks if included at the time. Nicks’ other outtake on this set, “Smile At You,” which eventually resurfaced on the band’s 2003 reunion album Say You Will, is presented here as a piano-driven ball of anger and frustration that may not have fit on Mirage as it was configured but remains one of her stronger tracks on this reissue. Elsewhere, McVie’s “Wish You Were Here” is present in an alternate version that is a fully orchestrated beauty. The live album included in the deluxe box, recorded in Los Angeles on the band’s 1982 U.S. tour, is full of a vim and vigor that belies Mirage‘s studio album sheen.

Mirage might not be one of Fleetwood Mac’s strongest efforts, but re-examination is more than worthwhile. Let’s hope Warner Bros. keeps the reissue project going. (www.fleetwoodmac.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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