While it was a fine – if overlong – comeback, many Fleetwood Mac fans were left high and dry when longtime keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie chose not to return to the fold for 2003’s Say You Will. In her absence, the group’s musical balance shifted toward the high-flown stylings of legendary bandmates Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. While the yang of rock-diva lyrical flourishes and crazed distortion guitar most certainly has its place, things weren’t the same without McVie’s calming yin.

Nevertheless, McVie’s choice was made and speculations flew. Had she lost her voice? Perhaps she’d grown sick of the music business? Could it be that her songwriting well had finally run dry? Thankfully, In the Meantime proves these guesses largely incorrect. Granting that the frequency of her releases – the previous solo album having hit stores in 1984 – may reflect a somewhat chilled opinion of the recording biz, McVie’s refined vocalization, solid playing and formidable composition skill remain intact.

Press releases have touted the album as a low-key, low-production affair, but one listen proves that the sound isn’t anywhere near as unpleasantly spare as those descriptors would imply. The foundations laid by McVie are nicely built upon by embellishing tracks from a small crew of studio players. The additional instrumentation improves the overall sound of the songs without demolishing the intended feel of intimacy; the extra musicians aren’t big names (the most prominent is McVie’s own nephew) and their subtle playing keeps the focus on McVie.

Seeing as In the Meantime’s songs are just as satisfying as anything she ever performed under the ‘Mac, it’s a shame none of them appeared on Say You Will. That album contains enough filler that it seems as though the remaining members were trying to cover for the semi-retired McVie. Thankfully, as this latest solo venture shows, she hasn’t used the lack of an illustrious surrounding band as an excuse to stem her creative flow.

[Colin Marshall likes Fleetwood Mac…ha ha!]