962 - Fleetwood Mac 'The Dance' (1997)

My Rating: 2.65 out of 5
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: X
Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums: X
The Mojo Collection: X

Chart Peak (UK/US): 15/1

Favourite Tracks: The Chain, Temporary One, Don't Stop
Least-Favourite Track: My Little Demon, I'm So Afraid, Bleed To Love Her

So what do you do if you're Fleetwood Mac and every single person in the known-universe has already bought one of your greatest hits albums? Record a live album featuring all your hits so that everyone buys them again is what you do. More than 5 million people did exactly that making this one of the best-selling live recordings ever.

I must admit I'm not a big fan of live albums. I can see the point when it chronicles a performance of truly epic proportions (like Jerry Lee Lewis At The Star Club or The Who Live At Leeds), but all too often we get some insipid, badly-recorded show from the 137th night of the Estonian tour that bands punt out instead of a studio album because they can't think of any new songs.

And that's pretty much what you get here; superannuated supergroup crank out the old faves for MTV Unplugged, bung in a few hastily-assembled new numbers to make sure all the fans buy it & go home with enough cash to build yet another guest wing on the mansion. Ah, but of course the big difference here is that this band are a little bit special. They can actually play, they can sing & they can really write tunes. You'd have to be a cynical, black-hearted fellow not to be beguiled by songs like The Chain, Dreams, Go Your Own Way, Silver Springs, Rhiannon (etc, etc, etc).

And that means this album scores pretty well but that's not quite the whole story. I enjoyed it as a showcase of great old songs & slick musicianship (particularly Lindsey Buckingham's guitar) & the recording quality is crisp, but as a live performance it feels more like a run-through than an electrifying once-in-a-lifetime event. The new songs don't stand up well alongside the classics, the classics never deviate all that far from the studio versions (a point that is underlined when they finally go out on a limb for show-closer Don't Stop complete with brass band accompaniment) & even the banter between tracks is a bit 'ho-hum'. Calling it 'The Dance' is hardly inspired either. You just get the feeling that they could have done it so much better if they really wanted.


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