If ever there was a case of the media building up and then knocking down a band, it was the one involving Fleetwood Mac in the late 70s and early 80s. The critics cheered when the group—newly energized by the addition of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks—delivered its chart-topping eponymous album in 1975 and the even better Rumours a year later. But many of those same critics spoke less kindly of the follow-up to Rumours, 1979’s Tusk. According to them, it eschewed commercialism in favor of self-indulgent experimentation, though major experimentation was in fact largely limited to the excellent title cut. Then, when the group reverted to fully accessible form on its next studio album, 1982’s Mirage, reviewers griped that the band was going backwards; never mind that this radio-friendly LP delivered exactly what the critics claimed was missing in its predecessor.
Well, as I noted last year, Tusk ranks among the most underrated albums of the rock era. But Mirage—which Fleetwood Mac’s members recorded in France after pursuing solo projects—is arguably even more underrated. Rolling Stone, for example, allowed that it found the group returning to “simple pleasures” but awarded it only three stars and said “the band seems to have lost its spirit.”
As the fans who took the album to the top of the charts apparently knew, nothing could be further from the truth. This is the sound of a band at the peak of its powers, delivering one great piece of ear candy after another. The melodies are irresistible, the hooks will hook you, and the harmony vocals are impeccable. “Love in Store,” “Hold Me,” and Stevie Nicks’s “Gypsy,” the album’s three hit singles, are all on a par with the tracks on Rumours, and “Only Over You”—which Christine McVie dedicated to the Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson, her love at the time—ranks with her most sublime efforts. And I defy anyone to turn down the volume during the infectious “Oh Diane,” which draws inspiration from early pop/rock.
This is the sound of a band at the peak of its powers, delivering one great piece of ear candy after another.
This deluxe edition of Mirage, the latest in a series of Fleetwood Mac reissues, contains three CDs, an audio-only DVD, a vinyl LP of the original album, and a 12-page, oversized booklet that includes lyrics, credits, photos, and liner notes. Disc one preserves a remastered version of the original album while the second CD collects 20 oddities, including outtakes, demos, and alternate takes, all but three of them previously unreleased. Some of the early renditions of tunes that wound up on Mirage pale by comparison with the final recordings, but fans should enjoy such curiosities as “Suma’s Walk,” the instrumental that evolved into “Can’t Go Back” and a somewhat stripped-down version of “Oh Diane.” And there are some gems here as well, most notably “Goodbye Angel,” which features a compelling lead vocal by Buckingham.
If you already own the original Mirage, though, the biggest reasons to upgrade to this package are CD number three and the audio DVD. The former preserves 13 songs culled from an October 1982 concert at the Forum in Los Angeles, including Mirage’s “Gypsy,” “Eyes of the World,” and “Love in Store” plus such earlier high points as “You Make Loving Fun,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “Rhiannon.” As for the DVD, it features a spectacular 5.1 mix of the original album, plus a reading of “Cool Water,” the Western classic popularized by the Sons of the Pioneers, that shows off the Mac’s vocal prowess. On a good sound system, even longtime fans of Mirage will hear things in this immersive mix that they never heard before.