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Music Review: Fleetwood Mac – Behind The Mask

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After over a decade of stability and massive commercial success, change was in the air for Fleetwood Mac. Lindsey Buckingham had left and been replaced by not one, but two guitarists making the group a sextet.

Rick Vito and Billy Burnette were the new members of Fleetwood Mac. While their time with the group would be fairly short, they were both seasoned musicians in their own right. Their period with the band was not appreciated by many long term fans but that is probably due to style rather than talent. Vito has been a long term stalwart of Bob Seger and his lead guitar work can be heard on many of his releases. He was a part of Bonnie Raitt’s touring band during the nineties, and has remained an in demand session guitarist. In addition he has released eight solo albums. Billy Burnette had music in his genes as he was the son of rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Dorsey Burnette. He would have a successful solo career before and after his time in Fleetwood Mac, and was originally reluctant to join.

Behind The Mask was released April 10, 1990. It only reached number 18 in The United States but was a big hit in England, as it topped the album charts.

The album is not bad but didn’t measure up to the group’s best pop work. The highlights are Christine McVie’s and Stevie Nick’s contributions as they fall into the Fleetwood Mac comfort zone. Vito’s and Burnette’s contributions are well constructed and presented but not what one expected from Fleetwood Mac at the time. It all added up to a somewhat disjointed release.

I tend to like the Christine McVie songs the best as they have a consistent appeal. The title song may be dark but represented the type of sophisticated pop she had been producing for nearly twenty years. “Save Me” and “Skies The Limit” are the type of pop concoctions that one had come to expect from her.

Stevie Nicks makes a nice comeback after her desultory performance on Tango In The Night. “Love is Dangerous” is a nice funky up-tempo rocker. “Freedom” is a haunting rocker that stays with you. “The Second Time” is a nice ballad which was co-written with Vito but it bears her stamp.

Vito and Burnette create some excellent, if out of place material. I can’t help but think that if songs such as “Hard Feelings,” “In The Back Of My Mind,” and “Stand On The Rock” had been removed from the album and released in a different context, they would have faired a lot better.

Behind The Mask is very good in places but is not among the better Fleetwood Mac pop releases. Its place in the group’s catalogue is that of a filler album.

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