Welcome back to the Mac Attack! We left off a while ago with Kiln House, Future Games and Bare Trees, so let’s pick it up with Penguin, Mystery to Me and Heroes are Hard to Find. But first, let me majorly geek out about Fleetwood Mac going on tour this coming spring. Now let me sob that tickets for their NYC show (on April 8th in Madison Square Garden) are like, $500. Each. And prices in other East Coast affiliated cities like Philadelphia, DC and Pittsburgh are all comparable to the NYC prices. Oh, cruel universe of music, why would you taunt me so? I am currently looking for ways to get press badges or something, because I feel like that is valid, but I’m not coming up with anything. I even emailed the Fleetwood Mac fan site in desperation. As if fans could do anything for me.
But anyways, back to the Mac Attack!
Penguin (1973) is the seventh studio album by Fleetwood Mac, whose line up after Bare Trees included Mick Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie, and Bob Welch. Penguin added Bob Weston and Dave Walker to the mix, and the difference in style is noticeable. Penguin has a little more of an edge to it than Bare Trees or Future Games. The Weston and Walker contributions to Penguin give the album a different flavor from their previous releases, but the difference isn’t as dramatic as when Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer left the band, and the band left the blues behind. If anything, this album brings a little bit of that blues sound back in their cover of Junior Walker’s “(I’m A) Road Runner.” We owe the harmonica on the album to Weston and Walker, and I really love harmonica, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear it with Fleetwood Mac. That being said, my harmonica buds were built by John Popper and Blues Traveler, so I wasn’t impressed by the licks, just pleased they were there. Christine McVie’s songs continue to be a pleasure on this album, and they continue to bounce. Favorites include “Dissatisfied” and “Remember Me.” Her style is still close to what it had been in Kiln House, but already we can hear in “Dissatisfied” the vocal layering that will eventually become songs like “Little Lies” on 1987’s Tango in the Night. Dave Walker wrote one song on Penguin — “The Derelict,” and I really like this song. It’s got a little bit of a country/folk twang due to the banjo played by Weston. But I understand why Walker didn’t make it to a second Fleetwood Mac album. This song is really, really good, but a completely different vibe. It feels nothing like a Christine McVie song, for example. It also sounds nothing like a Bob Welch song. All in all, Penguin is a great album that pushes into a different feel, but the new sound doesn’t stick beyond this record.
Mystery to Me (1973) is a lot of fun!! I really like it! I also really like the Bob Welch era Fleetwood Mac music. I like Bob Welch. I’ve been pretty pleased with his contributions to the band since Future Games. Mystery to Me is the second and last album to feature Bob Weston as part of the band (he was sacked for having an affair with Mick Fleetwood’s wife), and the fourth album with Bob Welch. Also, Mystery to Me is the first Mac album to have songs that I recognize! It has a few of them! “Just Crazy Love,” “Hypnotized,” and a Yardbirds cover, “For Your Love” all rang more than bells in my mind. I know I’ve heard them in car commercials or movies or something. Especially “For Your Love,” but I’m probably recognizing the original song and not this Mac cover. There was a moment in “The City” when I thought to myself, “wow, I can kind of hear a Stevie Wonder influence going on.” Which would make sense, since the single “Superstition” came out in 1972. Of the three albums in this post, Mystery to Me has been my favorite, though I would rank it under Future Games (I really liked Future Games a lot). I think that the band is filling out their current voice to its full potential in this album, which makes it strong. There’s never a doubt that this is Fleetwood Mac, even though the band will change again in just two short years. For now, Mystery to Me is the most Fleetwood Mac-ian album that the band has produced, and the musicians are finally comfortable with their composing styles. They even overlap a little, with Christine McVie singing “Keep Going On,” which was written by Bob Welch. This album works. It works well, and I would strongly recommend it. I am also noticing a pattern: the middle album of a set of three tends to be my favorite of the three, though the first grouping defied that. It’s going to continue for at least the next post.
Heroes Are Hard to Find (1974) is the ninth studio album by Fleetwood Mac! Yay! Which makes this the fourteenth album that I’ve reviewed so far as part of the Fleetwood Mac Attack! In general, I like Heroes Are Hard to Find, but I don’t like it as much as I like Mystery to Me or Future Games. I enjoy Christine McVie’s title track, and the song “Bermuda Triangle” entertains me (mostly because I think it’s kind of silly). As before, I like Bob Welch’s songs. This is the fifth and last album with Bob Welch as a member of Fleetwood Mac, which makes me sad now. His style has really grown on me. It was especially helpful that I became mildly obsessed with the song “Future Games” after my last post. I like the direction that Welch is going with his music, the soft rock with that bouncy drumbeat. I like it. I’m also pleased with Christine McVie’s constantly tweaking style. She goes from the Legendary Christine Perfect Album to slower, more melodic pieces. It’s like she’s slowly injecting gracefulness into her musical style as she learns to fully capitalize on her clarinetty voice. As an album, Heroes Are Hard to Find is a little bit lackluster, but it’s a good bridge album to what the band would have been if Welch had stayed on. As is, Welch resigned from the band after Heroes Are Hard to Find, but not until after he had convinced Mick Fleetwood and the McVies to relocate their base of operations to Los Angeles in order to get more support from Warner Bros. I wish this album were a little bit better, as Welch’s swansong, but it’s not terrible. In fact, it’s pretty good. It’s a nice listen. In fact, the more I listen to Heroes Are Hard to Find, the more it grows on me. But you do have to stick with it. “Silver Heels” is a great track, so is “Prove Your Love.” (I like Christine’s mildly feminist tones in this album, p.s.). Give it a listen; let me know what you think of the album.
Now, I think it’s time for a little re-evaluation. In my first Fleetwood Mac Attack! post, I divided the band into two eras, but I realize now that my division was a little wrong (don’t hate me, other fans. I’m learning). I think we can see four real waves of the band. Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, followed by a wibbly wobbly Jeremy Spencer/Danny Kirwan transition period, then Bob Welch’s Fleetwood Mac, then Buckingham-Nicks Fleetwood Mac. Each have their beautiful moments. Peter Green gives us both the original “Black Magic Woman” and “The Green Manalishi.” Then Play On and Kiln House are both super fun albums. I absolutely love and adore Future Games and its title track. But the greatest thing is that there’s still more Fleetwood Mac to come. There’s still a few more decades of Fleetwood Mac to come, and if my boyfriend and I can find the finances, there will eventually be a concert to close out this blast through the Mac’s music.
Up next is Fleetwood Mac (1975), Rumours (1977) and Tusk (1979)!