The absence of Christine McVie on Say You Will suddenly unbalances Fleetwood Mac's delicate dynamic. Released on April 15, 2003, the LP ends up feeling like a conversation between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, rather than a true band effort.

That's what this album was originally supposed to be: a new duo recording. Place these same songs under the Fleetwood Mac banner, however, and the deeply underrated McVie's brief respites of pure, joyous pop are sorely missed. It's the principal reason Say You Will never rises above the middle of the pack in Fleetwood Mac's long discography.

The ironic part was that Nicks hadn't sounded this engaged since she put out Bella Donna more than 20 years before. Post-rehab, she finally returns for a Fleetwood Mac album as an important contributor. There's a refreshing melancholy about "Goodbye Baby," which shows Nicks can inhabit other personas besides that of the patented witchy woman. (Conversely, when she returns there for "Illume," it feels a little rote.)

As for Buckingham? Well, he's still just merrily weird. On the one hand, it's to his credit, since Buckingham was principally responsible for moving Fleetwood Mac away from the sometimes-staid sensibility that the group always tended toward – either with white blues or, later, soft rock. Too often of late, however, Buckingham seems to have hardened into a Musical Experimenter, and his solo stuff flirts with this almost unlistenable convolution.

Watch Fleetwood Mac's 'Peacekeeper' Video

Thankfully, Say You Will gives Buckingham a license to return to more mainstream impulses. He luxuriates in gorgeous Beach Boys-inspired harmonies and song structures (particularly on the terrific "Come") even while still indulging in yet another guitar-meltdown tune. There are moments when he almost pushes the album over into greatness — particularly with "What's the World Coming To" and "Bleed to Love Her" – but it still cries out for more of McVie's twinkling wonder and unabashed romanticism.

Funny asking for more from an LP that already clocks in at a potentially wearying 76 minutes. Fleetwood Mac's Say You Will would play better with a few tracks left aside, but more than a few others should have been Christine McVie songs instead.

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