“If your heart isn’t in it, you shouldn’t be here at all.”
One long-standing rock and roll parlor game that has always worked exceptionally well with Fleetwood Mac, is sitting around in a group trying to decipher the true meaning behind the lyrics. One might have hoped, with Time, that the group would have just listened to even the surface meanings of the lyrics and gotten a clue.
That opening line is from the first failed single off of this failed album, “Blow By Blow,” by new band member Dave Mason, formerly of Traffic (oh, how the mighty have fallen) and a solo career. I’ll bet he’s wishing he’d paid attention to those lyrics back in 1995.
Two things became excruciatingly clear with Time. One, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood are the foundation the Mac was built on and, two, no one -- no one -- will ever replace Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks as the heart and soul of the band.
Oh, this disc is awful. When the band lost Buckingham on 1990's Behind The Mask, it was easy to think, “Okay, this is not great, but it’s not horrendous either. Give them another album and maybe they can work it out.” But when Nicks decamped between that disc and this, there was no more Fleetwood Mac -- only no one told the record company.
In 1975, almost overnight, the commercial era of Fleetwood Mac was born. But that self-titled disc and Rumours, which followed, defined the band for the rest of all time. If it wasn’t those five people, it wasn’t going to be Fleetwood Mac. I mean, it would be like trying to replace Mick Jagger or either Lennon or McCartney -- can’t be done.
And, again, as with Behind The Mask, Mason, Bekka Bramlett and Billy Burnette, the Buckingham and Nicks replacements this time around, are not inherently bad -- mostly. One of the disc's highlights, outside of Christine McVie’s “I Do,” which could have been a monster hit on a real Fleetwood Mac album, is the opening number “Talking To My Heart.”
But, this is lyrical junior high: “Be careful what you’re saying, you’re talking to my heart.” Why would the Mac revert to something so banal when the band was so well known for the rich undercurrent in their lyrics?
On “Winds Of Change,” another decent song, there’s no mistaking Bramlett for Stevie Nicks -- a wise choice on her part. No swish of veils here. No twirling in ridiculously high stiletto-heeled boots. No faux witchie-woo. But what is it doing on a Fleetwood Mac album? This belongs on a Dolly Parton album -- and Parton clearly has influenced Bramlett, vocally.
Dave Mason’s songs “Blow By Blow” and “I Wonder Why” are from another album altogether sonically, or so it seems. Listen to those songs and see if you don’t hear 1980-era Alan Parsons Project.
Fleetwood Mac was always about the drama in the songs as well as the songs themselves. Christine McVie tried, she really did. But I think she knew where this was going. Analyze these lyrics from “All Over Again,” her last song on Time, if you doubt: “Well, it’s time to say goodnight and finally turn out the light / I have to let you go, time to move on, don’t you know.”
Oh yeah. We so know after hearing this.
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