Wednesday , February 28 2024

Music Reviews: Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Live,’ Plus the Palace Guard and Bill & the Belles

By the end of 1974, England’s Fleetwood Mac had been around for seven years and presented two faces to the public—first, as a blues-rock outfit and then as something closer to a mainstream pop-rock band—without ever making much of a mark in the U.S. album or singles charts. At a crossroads, they enlisted a pair of fledgling American artists, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who added their considerable talents to the group while re-energizing longtime members Mick Fleetwood and Christine and John McVie.

As you undoubtedly know, the revamped lineup met with virtually instant and overwhelming success, selling a zillion copies of their eponymous 1975 album as well as 1977’s Rumours, 1979’s Tusk, and the many singles these LPs spawned. They were at the top of their game and playing to huge and adoring crowds when they recorded the tracks preserved on 1980’s Live, their first concert album, which has just been reissued in an expanded edition.

Rather than featuring a single show, the original two-LP set culls tracks from gigs in multiple U.S. cities as well as London, Paris, and Tokyo plus two songs recorded at a sound check and three delivered at a private show for family, friends, and crew. Most of the material comes from the group’s 1979–1980 Tusk concert series but the source for a few numbers is a 1977 Rumours tour and one track dates from 1975. The program finds Fleetwood Mac energetically pumping out one hit after another, including “Sara,” “Over My Head,” “Rhiannon,” “Say You Love Me,” “Go Your Own Way,” “Dreams,” and “Don’t Stop.” Also included are such album standouts as “Monday Morning” and “Landslide” as well as a beautifully sung cover of Brian Wilson’s “The Farmer’s Daughter.”

The new expanded version of the LP—the latest in a series of “super deluxe” limited-edition box sets that has already embraced such Fleetwood Mac albums as TuskTango in the Night, and Mirage—offers an excellent remaster of the original release on two CDs as well as on a pair of 180g vinyl records. Also included are an LP-sized, 16-page booklet and a seven-inch vinyl single that features previously unreleased studio demos of two tracks that appear on the 1980 album: Stevie Nicks’s “Fireflies,” which the group later issued as a 45, and Christine McVie’s “One More Night.”

The biggest carrot, however, is a third CD that adds 14 previously unreleased live songs and a remix of a 12-inch version of “Fireflies” to the original release’s 18 tracks, expanding that 91-minute album by 76 minutes. This bonus disc features such concert staples as “Second Hand News,” “The Chain,” “Angel,” and “Think About Me,” as well as a trio of top 10 hits: “You Make Loving Fun,” “Tusk,” and “Hold Me.” (Though the latter didn’t ride the charts until 1982, it says something about the level of Fleetwood Mac’s success that they couldn’t even fit versions of all their biggest singles up to 1980 into a two-LP set.) Like the original album, this disc draws its material from more than half a dozen shows, in this case from 1977 through 1982.

Fleetwood Mac’s internal discord began well before they recorded most of these performances. (The three CDs in the new release include only one number, “The Chain,” that the group wrote collaboratively, which is perhaps an indicator that “Go Your Own Way” was more than a song title.) You’d never sense a lack of harmony from these tracks, however. The musicianship on most of them is tight and powerful, with Buckingham, Nicks, and Christine McVie all turning in impassioned vocal work, Buckingham shining on guitar, Mick Fleetwood drumming up a storm, and John McVie delivering excellent bass. In a few cases, you can guess why a track on disc three didn’t make the cut for the original album but many of the bonus performances are just as strong as the renditions on the 1980 release. 

It would have been nice if the producers had included a DVD of the Tusk documentary film, which is reportedly excellent. Fans without record players might also have appreciated digital versions of the demos featured on the vinyl singles. But these are quibbles, especially given that what Live does include is a generous helping of first-rate material from a world-class band at the peak of its powers. 

Also Noteworthy

The Palace GuardAll Night Long: An Anthology 1965–1966Who says time machines exist only in science fiction? This 12-track anthology will take you straight back to the mid 1960s. 

Though they were based in Southern California, the Palace Guard sound more reminiscent of the early Beatles and such other British Invasion groups as the Hollies. They never scored a national hit and are known today mostly just by music fans who happen to own the two Nuggets box sets that contain their songs “Falling Sugar,” which was popular on their home turf, and “All Night Long.”

Both of those numbers are here, along with enough additional material to suggest that the Palace Guard deserved more attention than they received. Among the highlights: covers of Claudine Clark’s 1962 hit “Party Lights” and Wilson Pickett’s “If You Need Me,” as well as such pop-flavored originals as “Oh Blue (The Way I Feel Tonight).” Granted, this is not earth-shaking music, but anyone who has an affection for the one-hit wonders on the Nuggets collections—the Standells, the Blues Magooes, the Cryan Shames, and similar fare—will want to check it out.

Bill & the Belles, (Happy Again). This latest album from Bill & the Belles—a two-man, two-woman outfit that includes no one named Bill—reportedly addresses the divorce of founding member Kris Truelsen, who wrote all the songs. That makes sense, given the lyrical content of numbers like “Blue So Blue,” “People Gonna Talk,” and the title cut, whose full name is “Happy Again (I’ll Never Be).” But the album—produced by the increasingly accomplished Teddy Thompson (son of Richard and Linda Thompson)—is much more smile-inducing than its subject matter might suggest: it delivers lilting, upbeat melodies, excellent harmony vocal work, and a pervasively playful mood.

A press release cites nods to Motown as well as to ’60s “girl groups” like the Ronettes and Shangri-Las, but most of these songs seem to reach back a bit further. You can imagine these folks being enamored of the Andrews Sisters—and certainly of the prerock-loving, country-, swing-, and pop-influenced Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks.

About Jeff Burger

Jeff Burger’s website,, contains half a century's worth of music reviews and commentary. His books include Dylan on Dylan: Interviews and Encounters, Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon, Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters, and Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters.

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