Warner Bros. Records
For years Christine McVie has been Fleetwood Mac’s hidden strength. Though the addition of the carbonated California pop of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in the mid ’70s is credited with rejuvenating this warhorse ’60s band, their frothy effervescence would have quickly dissipated without the cap provided by McVie’s solid, fundamental musical approach.
In Mac’s vocal arrangements it’s her haunting smoky voice that provides the root melody for Buck/Nicks to soar through, and it’s McVie’s songs — “Over My Head,” “Say You Love Me,” “Don’t Stop,” “You Make Loving Fun, etc. — which consistently demonstrate the most soul and depth in the group’s book.
It is this quality of soulfulness that has distinguished McVie’s work over the years, from her game contributions to the Chicken Shack blues band and her first solo album, Christine Perfect, to her role in Fleetwood Mac and now a second solo record after a 15 year hiatus, Christine McVie.
The new solo project is less of a departure from her current day job than her first record was from Chicken Shack. Where Christine Perfect was far superior to anything Chicken Shack recorded, Christine McVie trades off the strengths of the Fleetwood Mac formula that she is such an essential part of. Though “Love Will Show Us How” is harder edged and simpler than a Fleetwood Mac song, stylistically it’s the similarities rather than the differences that stand out. Co-writer/guitarist/vocalist Todd Sharp uses the same kind of melodic single-line guitar figures that Lindsey Buckingham favors, and Buckingham himself guests on several tracks.
McVie’s songs are as eloquent and personal an account of her love life as, say, Joni Mitchell’s, but without the unseemly exhibitionism. (The name of her publishing company, Alimony Music, indicated her bemused attitude toward affairs of the heart.) Her expressions of love’s pain (“The Challenge”) and exhilaration (“So Excited”) are couched in simple, universal images like the lonely bed and the long awaited knock on the door, yet her subtle melodies and sly, confiding voice infuse the images with tremendous emotional resonance. In “I’m The One” and “Keeping Secrets,” she adopts a get-tough attitude about love as she refuses to allow herself to be a victim, yet in “The Smile I Live For” she accents her capacity for total surrender through some beautiful piano accompaniment.
Two of the album’s best songs feature vocal and instrumental exchanges with Steve Winwood. The opus-de-funk “One In A Million” is a dramatic vocal trade-off between the two that reminds you just how good a blues singer Christine is. In “Ask Anybody” McVie explores the psychology of her love entanglements with characteristic irony and that determined faith that keeps her searching for the ideal even after countless disappointments. The gentler, introspective tone she strikes here is supported superbly by Winwood’s brilliantly understated keyboard and backing vocals, all of which combines for McVie’s most moving vocal performance on the record. Let’s hope she doesn’t wait another 15 years to make her next record, because Christine McVie is, quite simply, the finest Fleetwood Mac spinoff solo album yet.
John Swenson / Creem / May 1984