Rumours by Fleetwood Mac has become perhaps the record most emblematic of the vinyl revival. It was one of the biggest selling albums of the LP era, putting tens of millions of copies out into the world. It's a fabulous sounding record, one that for those discovering vinyl can really show off the pleasure of high audio fidelity. It's a generation spanner, too. Rumours can be one of those common ground records enjoyed by both parent and child. It's nostalgic, it's a great cornerstone for starting a record collection, and it simply rules. But everybody knows about Rumours! So today we devote this blog space to the best of Fleetwood Mac beyond Rumours.
Not everyone knows that by the time Rumours was released in 1977, the Fleetwood Mac name had already been in use for a decade and had over ten records to its credit. Though 1975's Fleetwood Mac was the first with the line-up that would go on to top the charts, there are plenty more treats in that sprawling early catalog. And of course that self-titled record has the genesis of the classic Mac sound, and a few monster hits in its own right with 'Landslide' and 'Rhiannon.' But let's get into some of the lesser known cuts.
Tusk is the sprawling double LP into which the band sunk an endless budget and all their label goodwill after the success of Rumours. It wasn't as filled with chart-toppers and sold only a fraction of the previous smash hit, but nonetheless is an engaging listen, constantly revealing new facets, and totally underrated. My personal favorite side of any Mac record is side 2 of Tusk, opening with Lindsey Buckingham's raging kiss-off 'What Makes You Think You're The One' and closing with the mystic psych rave up of the Nicks penned 'Sisters Of The Moon.' This is a gorgeous sounding record, one we tend to use at the shop after we tune up our stereo system to make sure everything is sounding tight. It's also an endlessly diverse record, ranging from the classic Mac of 'Sara,' to the stark punk-informed hyper-activity of 'The Ledge,' and featuring perhaps their most unconventional hit in 'Tusk.' All in all this is a hard album to get bored with.
A new decade for the band saw a new approach. 1982's Mirage was a far more concise affair. It is well composed retro-pop, super-smooth, and once again full of hits. Though maybe not quite as world dominating as some of their earlier hits, 'Gypsy' is perhaps the most quintessential songs of Stevie Nicks' career. Other highlights from this one include the sophisticated high drama of 'Straight Back,' and the pure pop of Christie McVie's 'Hold Me.' But really, this is a low-key great record front to back.
Speaking of Christie McVie's panache for perfect pop, 1987 brought Tango In The Night and the mega-hit 'Little Lies.' Another record loaded with hits, this one is easy to love, though VERY eighties.
The 1980s also saw the various members of the band attempt solo careers. Stevie had some big hits with 'Edge Of Seventeen,' and her duet with Tom Petty 'Stop Draggin' My Heart Around.' Mick and Christine made records too. But the most unsung, and perhaps most ready for rediscovery, are the oddball Lindsey Buckingham solo records Law & Order and Go Insane. Both possess that same mania and willingness to experiment as Tusk, and make for fascinating listens to contemporary ears.
The Bob Welch Era
What about before Stevie and Lindsey joined the group? Well, from about 1970 through 1975 the two main songwriters in the group where Christine McVie and Bob Welch, son of a California movie producer. They never had the same sort of commercial success as the later group, but left a trail of lovely full-lengths (five of them!) as well as a handful of bonafide forgotten classics.
The group had a little more of a west-coast psych-folk bend to their sound in those days. But you can also hear them playing with some of the same ingredients that would go on to define the group in its later heyday. Especially by the time they record Heroes Are Hard To Find, you can hear the group running right up to the edge of the sound that would send them into the stratosphere. Fans who've never treated themselves to exploring these records owe it to themselves to get on it. Bare Trees and Future Games in particular are great start to finish.
But what were Stevie and Lindsey up to before they joined up with the Mac? They have one LP to their name with the eponymous Buckingham-Nicks album. Long out-of-print, this one's a bit of a collectors' item these days, but also loaded with great music. A little folkier and not quite full-grown, it's still incredible to hear these distinct voices early in their development as songwriters.
The Blues Band
But wait there's more! We can travel even further back in time and find a barely recognizable band called Fleetwood Mac in the nineteen-sixties! You know the song 'Black Magic Woman,' they wrote that! In those days, Fleetwood Mac were part of the initial explosion of UK blues players mixing it up in what was one of the most fertile music scenes of all time.
The last record they recorded with Peter Green was called Then Play On, and it is absolutely the sound of a band on top of their game. It's a bit of a musicians' record, the sound of a group playing smartly off one another with enough expertise to start to bend the formulas of the genre. It's a little psychy, a little bluesey, and very good!
But perhaps my favorite track of this era, and their heaviest outing, is 'The Green Manalishi.' It's an unexpected blast of proto-metal from the late 1960's, riff-heavy and suspenseful. Blast this one, and consider this is the same drummer and bass player that would record one of the best selling pop records of all time about a decade later!