The joke goes something like this: Lindsey Buckingham was such an integral part of Fleetwood Mac that the band needed two guitarists to fill his space. What’s really funny, though, is that the addition of Rick Vito and Billy Burnette is the best thing to ever happen to Fleetwood Mac. On Behind the Mask, the band doesn’t surrender an inch of the territory it staked out in the Seventies. This notoriously unstable family keeps its center still for once, using the same slow-push melodies, thudding drums and endlessly repeated refrains. And right up front, Vito and Burnette play those slides and solos that leap out of a song, have their say and sink back into the ensemble.
Vito and Burnette’s presence is one of the reasons Behind the Mask doesn’t sound like a supergroup’s last stand. The songs they wrote or co-wrote fit in fine, and their vocals are manly and unremarkable. More impressive is the growth in song-writing the women show. Stevie Nicks’s last solo album had enough moments of grown-up honesty to forgive her juniorgrade mysticism. On this album, all of her tunes sound thought out and still rock hard, especially “Love Is Dangerous,” a funky romp that keeps the imagery to a bare minimum and lets her voice communicate the title’s message.
Audiences always expect more from Christine McVie; on Behind the Mask she comes through with sensitivity and style, keeping high hopes grounded on “Skies the Limit,” backing off and giving in on “Save Me.” But it’s the title song that puts Fleetwood’s past – both on record and in scandal sheets – in perspective. It catches McVie still reeling, deciding a trip to the moon isn’t worth the gas, because “you can make the darkness mean more than it ever did.” Not since Rumours has Fleetwood Mac recorded pain so unwaveringly and sounded this together.