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REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night (Deluxe Edition)

The music of Fleetwood Mac could fairly be said to define the 1970s – in all its style, tumult, and excess.  Where did that leave the union of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, and Lindsey Buckingham once a new decade emerged?  1982’s Mirage found Fleetwood Mac trying to recapture the magic of 1977’s epochal Rumours, and succeeding in large part.  Yet Mirage felt as if it firmly had one foot planted in the previous decade.  With its belated follow-up, 1987’s Tango in the Night, the band embraced the 1980s and created an album for all time.  In true Mac fashion, the group was also dissolving in the process.  Now, Tango in the Night is the fourth of their albums to receive a multi-format reissue campaign from Warner Bros. Records and Rhino including a slipcased 3-CD/1-DVD/1-LP Deluxe Edition box set.

The tango, is of course, a dance characterized in part by “stylized body positions” per Merriam-Webster – or an “interaction marked by a lack of straightforwardness.”  Both of those definitions have bearing on the Mac’s nocturnal dance, as producer-arranger Buckingham and longtime co-producer Richard Dashut crafted a stylish and beguiling set of textured, varied soundscapes that could hardly be called straightforward; note even the lurking, ominous eyes in the otherwise-tranquil, Henri Rousseau-inspired cover artwork.  The productions embraced the technological advances of the late 1980s and the prevailing, synthesized radio-friendly sound, while crucially never ignoring that Tango in the Night was a “band” record.  It may not be as conceptual as Rumours or as boldly experimental as Tusk, but Tango remains a potent collection nonetheless.

Seven of the twelve songs on Tango were, in full or in part, penned by Lindsey – betraying its roots as a solo album.  The pulsating opener “Big Love” is quintessential Buckingham, with the band offering taut accompaniment to his vocals, guitar and Fairlight sampler.  Both utterly contemporary and appropriately edgy, with Buckingham providing the provocative male and female utterances that are a key part of the track’s rhythm, it became one of Tango‘s six (!) singles and made it all the way to the top five of the Hot 100.  “Caroline” is an impressionistic and mysterious ode to, or warning about, a captivating woman, driven by its thick, heavy and percussive drum sound.  Title track “Tango in the Night” captures Buckingham’s mastery at creating a sonic atmosphere as it shifts from calm to restive, a soft ‘n heavy mélange of rumination.  “Family Man” is a gentler composition with its simple lyric statement of “I am what I am/A family man…”

Three tracks were co-written by Buckingham and McVie, who are currently preparing for the release of their first joint album, simply entitled Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie.  Their swooning “Mystified” is a gentle, lightly tropical oasis on Tango, while the rocker “Isn’t it Midnight” (co-written with Eddy Quintela, McVie’s then-husband) is a cool depiction of a roguish figure.  The gleaming, uptempo “You and I (Part II)” has sweetness and longing in equal measure.  (Part I of the song was released on a non-LP single; while that edited version isn’t present on the Deluxe Edition, the combined full version of Parts I and II can be found on Disc Two.)

In David Wild’s typically excellent liner notes to this reissue, Stevie Nicks notes that “Christine is the hit songwriter in Fleetwood Mac.”  Indeed, McVie penned the album’s two chart-topping and arguably most enduring hits: the shimmering romantic declaration “Everywhere” (No. 1 AC/No. 14 Pop) and the bittersweet, insistent “Little Lies” (No. 1 AC/No. 4 Pop).  The latter was also penned with Quintela.  Both songs proved undoubtedly that Fleetwood Mac, a decade post-Rumours, were still indisputably a force with which to be reckoned.

Stevie Nicks’ three major contributions to Tango all showed different aspects of her strong personality despite the fact that she wasn’t closely involved with the album’s creation.  “Seven Wonders,” predominantly written by her friend Sandy Stewart, is a wistful reflection with a big hook, given a strong pop-rock sheen in Buckingham and Dashut’s production.  Nicks brought Gone with the Wind imagery to “Welcome to the Room…Sara,” a personal account of her stay at the Betty Ford Center.  Though the lyrics are typically enigmatic, the emotional underpinning shines brightly.  The tender “When I See You Again” boasts both gravitas and intimacy as a duet performed by famous ex-lovers Nicks and Buckingham.

An entire disc of Demos, Alternates, and B-Sides is available as part of the Deluxe Edition or the 2-CD iteration, and as per usual in this series, these rarities are exceptional finds.  All of the tracks are previously unreleased other than the B-sides: Tango yielded four unique flipsides including Buckingham’s “Down Endless Street,” Buckingham and Nicks’ “Book of Miracles,” and Buckingham and McVie’s “You and I (Part I)” and “Ricky.”

“Book of Miracles” is Lindsey’s instrumental arrangement of Stevie’s “Juliet,” which subsequently appeared in a different, full version with lyrics on her 1989 solo album The Other Side of the Mirror.  “Juliet” itself is heard in a raw, rocking run-through version, too, as well as a demo of Nicks’ “Ooh My Love,” which would also find its way to The Other Side.  Listen for Stevie’s effusive in-studio chatter following “Juliet” for an extra bit of fun.

Of the alternate versions, an early take of “Seven Wonders” is compelling even in embryonic form, while two versions of “Mystified” – an instrumental, and a lo-fi vocal version – in tandem offer a window into the song’s creation.  The rather fully-produced demos included here are real treats, as well.  “Tango in the Night” is radically different than the completed version.  There are a couple of never-before-released songs, too.  Buckingham’s “Special Kind of Love” is a slice of buoyant pop, and his and McVie’s “Where We Belong” has an in-progress feel that leads one to wonder how it would have developed had the band continued refining it.  Nicks’ “Joan of Arc,” also mooted for Tango, is not among the still-generous array of selections here.

The Deluxe box also boasts a third disc of fourteen 12-inch remixes sure to please completists.  These reinterpretations by Arthur Baker and John “Jellybean” Benitez of five Tango tracks (“Big Love,” “Seven Wonders,” “Little Lies,” “Family Man” and “Everywhere”) don’t supplant the originals, of course, but capture a particular time and place – that of the late-1980s dance/pop scene.  Their inclusion is mightily welcome on this set.  Unlike previous releases in this series, no live concert has been included, likely because Lindsey Buckingham departed the group before the tour supporting Tango.

The Deluxe Edition’s DVD has the album’s five era-defining music videos, and a pristine 24/96 stereo version of the album. (No surround mix was available this time around.) For listeners with the capabilities to enjoy it, this high-resolution version is the preferred way to experience Tango in the Night.  A vinyl LP of the original album only rounds out the package.  A gatefold houses the LP as well as a slots for each of the discs in a unique sleeve.

The various components of Tango in the Night have been optimally remastered by Dan Hersch, while the previously unreleased material has been lovingly mixed by Brian Kehew with Bill Inglot, who produced the set with Steve Woolard.  David Wild provides the essay in the 12-page LP-sized booklet, drawing on fresh and revealingly candid (and often humorous!) quotes from Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and Mick Fleetwood.  Mick marvels at the “strange but true” story of the band, but one thing is clear listening to this revitalized Tango in the Night – that these rock-and-roll survivors could put aside their differences to come together and create something vital.  This Tango is as mysterious and beguiling as ever.

Joe Marchese / The Second Disc / April 18, 2017



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