Fleetwood Mac caught a lot of criticism for their 1979 album Tusk, mostly because they had not produced another Rumours. They took the easy way out by releasing their first live album on December 8, 1980. They also went conservative as ten of the eighteen tracks had originally appeared on their Fleetwood Mac and Rumours albums and only three from Tusk
Live was a two disc LP recorded at various locations between 1977-1980. As such the album does not have a complete concert feel but rather is a number of individual live tracks. The sound is not as slick which gives the group a less polished feel than their recent studio releases which was nice. They also rock a little more live than in the studio which was another positive component of the album.
There were three new performances that were recorded live but not during a formal concert. Two original compositions and one cover song were recorded at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium before their crew and some friends. “Fireflies” by Stevie Nicks was a mid-tempo rocker that became a minor single hit. “One More Night” was a poignant Christine McVie ballad. The gem was a cover of the obscure Beach Boys song, “The Farmer’s Daughter.” It placed the emphasis squarely upon their harmonies which were some of the best of their career.
There were two surprise song choices. “Oh Well” was originally released by the pre-pop 1969 Fleetwood Mac and here Lindsey Buckingham gives one of his better guitar performances. He may not have been Peter Green but he was very good. They also reach back for “Don’t Let Me Down Again” which originally appeared on the Buckingham-Nicks album.
I find it interesting the three Tusk tracks are presented back to back. “Over & Over,” a seven minute “Sara,” and a nine minute “Not That Funny” are over twenty minutes of the band at its live best.
Most of there hits were included for commercial appeal. “Monday Morning,” “Say You Love Me,” and “Dreams” begin the album. “Over My Head,” “Rhiannon,” “Go Your Own Way,’ and “Don’t Stop” complete the list of many of their major hits up until that time.
Live was a successful release, both musically and commercially, at the time it was issued. It remains a good look at Fleetwood Mac in the midst of their most successful period.