Fleetwood Mac: ‘Mirage’ (Remastered Expanded Edition)

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Fleetwood Mac: Mirage 

It’s hard to fathom 34 years have passed since the release of Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage. The stakes were high in 1982 as the highly efficacious lineup of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie was close to imploding. Relationships were strained after a tumultuous tour, in addition to the band’s double LP Tusk failing to live up to the mega-success of the now legendary Rumours. At the time of its release in 1979, Tusk was considered a commercial disappointment, although over the years it has been reevaluated as a misunderstood masterpiece. But back in the days of multi-platinum smashes and music industry excess, if a record sold 20 million copies, its follow-up was misguidedly expected to equal or surpass its predecessor. However, that feat proved impossible to duplicate as Rumours managed to dominate the Billboard chart for 31 weeks, spawned four hit singles, won Album of the Year at the 1978 Grammy Awards, and eventually sold an astronomical 45 million copies worldwide. In contrast, Tusk only sold moderately well in comparison (a respectable 4 million units), but failed to reach number one (peaking at number 4), and delivered only two top-ten hits. Therefore, to say expectations were high for the superstar team’s fourth effort would be somewhat of an understatement.

After a substantial hiatus, Fleetwood Mac reunited to record the bulk of Mirage at Château d’Hérouville in France, which resulted in an unambiguous divergence from the experimental Tusk. Mirage offered a more radio friendly balance of straight forward pop-rock compositions by Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks, tempered with Buckingham’s idiosyncratic, but infectious concoctions. Not only was Mirage the group’s first release since Nicks and Buckingham launched solo careers to differing degrees of success, but it also served to bridge the gap between the startling Tusk and the more accessible Tango in the Night. Mirage was the group’s conscious attempt to deliver a more focused set, which harkened back to the sounds more akin with the band’s fruitful albums during the mid-1970s. Mirage managed to return the band to Billboard’s top spot for the first time since Rumours, while concurrently serving as the band’s introduction to a new audience via heavy rotation on MTV with a pair of eye-catching music videos; the desert-themed “Hold Me” and the conceptualized storytelling of “Gypsy.” Russell Mulcahy directed the video for the latter, which at the time held the honor as the most expensive music video clip ever made, and was fittingly selected as MTV’s very first “World Premiere Video” in 1982.

While Buckingham continued to eschew the straightforward rock stylings of previous songs like “Go Your Own Way” in favor of continuing draw from his well of inspiration initiated during the Tusk sessions, Mirage currently remains as Fleetwood Mac’s last album to date which sounds like a full-fledged group effort. Although cracks have clearly started to develop within the group’s musical path, all of the band members sound fully present in the mix, as opposed to Tango in the Night, which sounded as if Stevie Nicks’ contributions were edited in as a last minute afterthought.

This newly released deluxe edition provides a much needed sonic upgrade, superbly delivering an enhanced crispness to the previous murkiness and lackluster sound quality heard in its original 1980s release. Mirage has been impeccably remastered, which casts a much needed new light upon the album’s material, especially Christine McVie’s exceptional ballad of longing “Wish You Were Here” and the energetic fizziness of “Love in Store,” as well as Stevie Nicks’ folk-country flavored “That’s Alright” and album-oriented rock gem “Straight Back.”

Other highlights include Nicks’ alternate version of “That’s Alright” and two previously unreleased tracks “If You Were My Love” and “Smile at You,” which recall hints of “Sara” and “Sisters of the Moon.” Also included are remastered versions of the previous B-side “Cool Water” and the outtake “Goodbye Angel,” in addition to the superior subtleties of the original album version of “Straight Back.” The deluxe set also features the original extended music video version of “Gypsy,” work- in- progress demo versions. The super deluxe box set includes a DVD of a newly created 5.1 surround mix, and a vinyl LP of the remastered album.

Mirage is available as a remastered single disc, a two-disc set of the original album plus outtakes and B-sides, and a super deluxe 3 CD/1DVD/Vinyl LP edition which also includes a full disc of live tracks culled from a concert recorded at The Forum in Los Angeles during the band’s excellent but brief 1982 Mirage Tour.

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Charles Kelley: ‘The Driver’

Kelley

Charles Kelley: The Driver

Lady Antebellum star Charles Kelley strikes out on his own with his first solo record, The Driver. At first, you may be wondering why the member of a mega-successful country trio would willingly leave his band mates in the dust to kick up his boot heels, but you won’t have to listen very long to resolve that burning question.

Kelley’s impressive solo debut features duets with Stevie Nicks, Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert, and contains captivating material from songwriting heavyweights Tom Petty (“Southern Accents”) and Chris Stapleton (“Lonely Girl”). Despite all of that, Kelley remains firmly planted in the driver’s seat on the album as his resounding vocal delivery effortlessly claims center stage.

The album’s shining moments include the haunting hit title track co-written with Eric Paslay and the gorgeous mid-tempo ballad “Round in Circles,” which Kelley co-penned with his singer-songwriter brother Josh Kelley. But it’s the surprising realism of the heart wrenching album closer “Leaving Nashville” that will not only give you chills, but will convince you why it was necessary for Kelley to deliver this first-class and important solo bow. The Driver serves as a much-needed reminder that there are still a few artists who firmly grasp the concept of how to make an album with a vital beginning, middle and end.

Don Henley Returns with ‘Cass County’

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Don Henley: Cass County

Don Henley has returned with Cass County, his first album in 15 years. The legendary founding member of the Eagles recently delivered his fifth studio effort after a lengthy absence from his solo career. Titled after the Linden, Texas county of his childhood homestead, the revered country-rock icon charmingly duets with Dolly Parton (“When I Stop Dreaming”), Merle Haggard (“The Cost of Living”), and Martina McBride (“That Old Flame”), without sounding forced or contrived. Predominantly recorded in Nashville and Dallas over a 7-year span, Cass County leans decidedly more towards country than rock while featuring stellar guest appearances by Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, and Jamey Johnson, as well as recurrent collaborators Trisha Yearwood and Stevie Nicks.

“The majority [of the album] was done right here in Nashville and I can truthfully say that I enjoyed making this record more than any record I’ve made in my career,” Henley recently boasted.

An exquisite cover of Tift Merritt’s “Bramble Rose,” featuring the unlikely pairing of Miranda Lambert and Mick Jagger, sets the tone for this country-pop flavored collection. Henley’s instantly recognizable voice is a bit more seasoned, but the 68-year-old rock star sounds as if he was born to perform this new material. After all, Cass County isn’t too far a leap from his tenure with the Eagles nor his own solo work, wherein Henley has recurrently and effectively blurred the lines of pop, rock, and country throughout his five decade career.

Other album highlights include the sardonic “No Thank You,” the woeful “Waiting Tables,” and the alluring “Take a Picture of This,” all of which are greatly stamped with Henley’s distinctive vocal style and songwriting acumen. However, it can’t go without pointing out the atrocity of relegating “It Doesn’t Matter To The Sun” (featuring Stevie Nicks) to bonus track status (available exclusively on Target’s deluxe edition), as this poignant duet definitely deserves its place among the album’s proper track list. This glaringly obvious oversight, plus Henley’s cover of Jackson Browne’s “Here Come Those Tears Again,” make it all the more prudent to obtain a physical copy of the aforementioned 18 track disc.

Despite the lengthy time period since Henley’s previous solo set, 2000’s Inside Job, Cass County managed to sell an impressive 87,000 copies in its first week of release, as well as landing atop Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart, making this his first number one solo LP.