Saturday, May 25, 2019

Money, Ego, Power, Control and Laziness Destroyed Fleetwood Mac

Where to begin. This is truly a sad state of affairs. It might be all about money. Fleetwood Mac had to tour. And they had to tour NOW! And the tour had to go off without all of the endless preparation and the perfectionism the band had practiced in the past. Most all of it orchestrated by former band leader, Lindsey Buckingham. A bit of a mad scientist genius who in recent months had become adept at giving diplomatic critiques of his former co-workers. Phrases like "fragmented" were used to describe his relationship with ex-girlfriend Stevie Nicks. His general assessment was simply that his old band had "lost perspective". And even though he admitted that a more visceral reaction was part of his grieving process at the beginning, he never stooped to low brow invective.

Rock band breakups are notoriously loud. But these decibels were mostly fans who threw their hands in the air wondering out loud what could have precipitated this division. Why now? Over what? And who? And while I maintain that Stevie Nicks appears to be the ring leader, it's clear that even Christine McVie was part of the coup. And large bags of Live Nation cash appear to be a big motivator as well. Drummer Mick Fleetwood was overheard complaining about his own personal finances months prior to the ultimatum. The band needed a stadium tour that wouldn't be the usual grind of rehearsals and outtakes. This would be the new loosy goosy Mac. Just wing it. Who wants to hear "Don't Dream It's Over?" And why not throw some girl power at "Black Magic Woman"? It is about a woman, right? And Stevie could be Stevie unfiltered. Like at the rock and roll hall of fame where her speech was interrupted by the space-time continuum. If only we had an eternity or so to hear about all of the people she stepped over to get to her second induction.

Meanwhile, the faithful are still dumbfounded by the lack of concern for their exiled hero. And then without warning, they learn that Lindsey is in a hospital gown posing bravely with his wife. Nothing to see here. As if open heart surgery was an outpatient procedure. And since we know it takes about 2 months to bounce back from a pesky little flew bug, it's quite miraculous that only 4 months later, Buckingham is playing guitar for his daughter's high school graduation. If he were like his former band, this would have been a pay-per-view event with commemorative t-shirts and DVD's. Yet his wife Kristen chose a tasteful twitter photo and a modest explanation.

Buckingham lives in a world now free of pretentiousness. And his former band lives in a world free from that pesky perfectionist. They have barely acknowledged his existence since casting him to the curb. Even though there is likely a healthy percentage of Mac concert goers who are still unaware of the personnel change. You would think though that humanity might trump money at some point. But the last few months were all about breaking the glass ceiling as fans watched the bottom fall out of their favorite band.

None of us can control how others treat their own family. And some of us are having a hard time grappling with the callous way this merry band of party revelers have carried on. But we can take solace in the idea that God and the Universe have at least freed our hero from the shackles of those who undervalued his brilliance and made off with his wears. At least now he can be free to create and live a life far away from the drama that supposedly drove his former band to creative heights.

And while Rumours was the dramatic triumph, it is actually dwarfed by the output that follows. Much of which can be attributed to Buckingham who lifted it, organized it, filtered it and eventually perfected it. His expertise in the studio and at the control board was instrumental at getting this band into the rock and roll hall of fame and for a career that was revived again on "Say You Will".

This should have been a happy ending where all of them walk peacefully into the sunset. But the band leaned on their soap opera pedigree in order to come up with an explanation for what they did. In the end, a combination of money, fame, notoriety, self-fulfillment and ego destroyed one of the great franchises in rock history. Yes all of the old bands will meet their demise at some point. But this one could have died from natural causes.

This writer wishes Lindsey Buckingham a full and complete recovery. I also wish that his former band mates would disband their dreadful cover band so the rest of us can remember them as they once were.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

First Signal's Line of Fire Is An Unapologetic 80's Melodic Rock Hook Fest

Harry Hess and Frontiers Music have been at this since 2010. One well oiled melodic rock release after another. And because the music scene is mostly dead, this music sits on the internet, almost completely ignored. A generation ago this would have been a record label's dream. Hess, who's real job is to sing lead vocals for the Canadian band Harem Scarem, moonlights as a vocalist for this Frontiers project band. Industry heavyweights like Eddie Trunk have thrown constant shade at projects like this because "these aren't real bands that tour". Okay, Eddie, point taken. But this is real music that dwarfs most of the new music that does tour.

First Signal's latest project is called "Line of Fire". And it features some of the strongest melodic rock you'll hear in 2019. A format that is mostly dead despite the #rockisnotdead hashtag. And hence this is why much of this music lies dormant, absent of the clicks being generated by auto-tuned pop stars. Hess is a singer you can place even if you've never heard his voice. Somewhere between Joe Elliott and Jeff Scott Soto. His voice is rough and smooth at the same time. And whereas the other FS projects have been good, this time it's hitting on all cylinders.

The album opens with the Bon Jovi-esque "Born To Be A Rebel". The chorus screams of music's victorious past while dragging the listener into the story line. "Marty, the flux capacitor is set to 1988". The hooks resonate with complete musical thoughts. Another thing you'll discover right away are guitars that don't showboat but actually flow smoothly and melodically with the structure of the song. "A Million Miles" is airier and works almost like a pop song. The beginning is lighter and then transcends into a more robust landscape. The melody is sugary sweet and instantly singable.

"Last of My Broken Hearts" captures a Def Leppard meets Journey vibe in the best way possible. A sparse vocal that is then enveloped in power ballad instrumentation. The hook will browbeat you into submission. "Tonight We Are The Lonely" mixes some modern rock shading with the past and the result is some soaring vocals riding shotgun with a galloping soundscape. The song gets better as it progresses. "Walk Though The Fire" opens with one of the coolest guitar riffs I've heard in a while. This song strongly echoes Foreigner in during their "Inside Information" period or possibly Bad Company during "Holy Water". Vocally, Hess does his best Lou Gramm meets Brian Howe. The result here is one of the strongest songs on "Line of Fire".

"Never Look Back" keeps the "Inside Information" vibe going. Another slice of easily digestible big hook power pop. Any of these songs could be released as singles. The quality of songwriting is evident because it takes little or no time to get into these songs. They overflow with originality. The album's title track is a tad more aggressive and progressive in nature but still fits in well with the other material. The album finally slows down for a classic power ballad showcasing some scintillating acoustic guitars. "Here With You" is reminiscent of Leppard's "Two Steps Behind" but makes it's own indelible stamp. Again, this record is brimming with hit singles.

"Need You Now" mixes Journey and Nelson but also has a late night driving in the rain feel to it. Think the Golden Gate bridge in 1986. "Falling" is more of a rocker that opens fast and maintains speed throughout. Not the strongest song on the album, but strong on any other album. The last track, "The End of The World" finishes strong and has a soaring melody and lyrics open to interpretation. Line of Fire is that rare sweet spot that combines metal, pop and rock into a tapestry that should appeal to music fans everywhere. This is my album of the far....