Welcome back to the Mac Attack! Yes, it has been too long. No, I did not finish before their reunion tour began. Will I finish before it ends? Who knows? I’m done making timeline based blog promises. Sorry!
So here we are: where Fleetwood Mac becomes Fleetwood. Mac. What is it about the addition of Buckingham/Nicks to the group that makes them explode on the charts? Why did the Bob Welch era Mac not hit the superstar ceiling and then shatter it? What makes Rumours one of the highest-selling albums of all time? What is it What? What?
Let’s take a look.
Adding Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to the group wasn’t like any other band member change that Fleetwood Mac had gone through since their formation in the late 60s. There was something about the chemistry that just exploded, and the band decided to re-brand themselves. Hence Fleetwood Mac (1975). If you’ll recall, the very first Mac album was also self-titled, so this move appears to be a very blatant call for a new image. Fleetwood Mac ’75 is also the 10th studio album released by the band. So there are all sorts of reasons for the repeat name. (Personally, I much prefer this Fleetwood Mac album to the ’68 one). Fleetwood Mac ’75 reached number one on the US Billboard top 200.
The ’75 album is wonderful. It blends quick, up tempo tunes like “Monday Morning” with smooth jazzy numbers like C. McVie’s “Warm Ways.” “Crystal” comes in off of Buckingham Nicks, as well as the previously unrecorded smash hit “Rhiannon.” Other hits off of this album include Christine’s “Say You Love Me” and “Over My Head,” and Stevie’s “Landslide.” The only dodgy song on the album (in my opinion) is the last track, “I’m So Afraid.” I don’t like that song. If you like it, go ahead and that’s fine. It doesn’t do anything for me. Penultimate track “Sugar Daddy” is also questionable, but it’s fun to sing and thus redeemed. Over all, Fleetwood Mac ’75 was the strongest album that the band had released thus far, and the chemistry of the group is undeniable. It remains one of their best albums (both in general and in my opinion), and of the Buckingham/Nicks era Mac, it is a tour de force in their early talent and dynamic. Probably the second or third best Fleetwood Mac album of all time.
Fleetwood Mac ’75 was the best Fleetwood Mac album when it was released, and it held onto that title for two years. Then, oh then — magic happened. Magic, also known as Rumours (1977). (Point — This brief Rumours review deals only with the original release and not the 4 disc re-release from this year. I’ll get to that one eventually). (Second point — I wrote a long review of Rumours last year, which you can access here).
Rumours is the crowning glory of Fleetwood Mac achievement, but I’m not just saying that because it is one of the highest-selling albums of all time. I’m saying that because it is glorious and wonderful and perfect. Rumours was birthed amongst the contention of a divorce and a long-term relationship breaking up. As such, it is rife with anger, hurt and betrayal. Buckingham and Nicks, the powerhouse duo that they were, dissolved their relationship at the same time as the McVie marriage fell apart (due to someone’s continued infidelity, looking at you, Christine). But instead of breaking up the band (as it would have done to many other bands, including the previous incarnations of Fleetwood Mac), the group stuck together with neutral Mick Fleetwood as a cornerstone. And together, they wrote and sang some of the most honest and heart wrenching break up songs about each other. Can you imagine being Lindsey Buckingham playing lead guitar as Stevie Nicks sings (pointedly, about you) that “players only love you when they’re playing”? Or being John McVie as ex-wife Christine serenades her new boyfriend with “Songbird” and “You Make Loving Fun”? I certainly can’t.
If you want to read more on my take on Rumours, follow the link above to my older, in-depth review of the album. I’ll post it here again, for good measure. Two fun anecdotes about Rumours: One, after my ex-boyfriend cold-heartedly dumped me like a dirty sock, my sister Kaleigh’s break-up counseling homework was to listen through Rumours in order instead of getting stuck on “Never Going Back Again” on repeat. This advice was some of the best I’ve ever gotten. Two: About a week after my 22nd birthday, my then-friend Arturo got me a copy of Rumours on cd as a gift, to which I replied, “I could kiss you right now!” He made me a lovely dinner, then we listened through the album as I explained the story of the band to him, and then he kissed me! And now we’ve been dating for six months! Woohoo!! So the inception of my new relationship was spurred by the greatest break up album of all time. (This story would be even better if Arturo hadn’t eventually decided that the Mac isn’t really his style, which is sad) (I love you, Arturo!)
Rumours, of course, leads us to Tusk (1979). I have mixed feelings about Tusk. The first time I listened to it, I didn’t realize that it was a double album, so I thought that over an hour was pushing it for length. I thought that a lot of the songs were slower and much more boring than necessary. I thought that it was a little unmemorable. And ultimately, I thought it failed in comparison to its antecedent Rumours. So I put Tusk away (metaphorically, as I only own Greatest Hits ’88 and Rumours). I decided I didn’t like it and didn’t care to listen to it. I liked the song “Tusk,” but the rest was kinda not my flave.
But upon listening to the album again, I have changed my mind about it. I still think that there are more slow paced songs than necessary, and that it’s not as good as Rumours. But there are more gems on the list than just the eponymous “Tusk.” For example, I am infatuated with Lindsey Buckingham’s “The Ledge” and Stevie Nicks’ “Sara” (though I prefer her eventual “Welcome to the Room, Sara” on a coming album). In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think Tusk‘s problems have nothing to do with the songs. I enjoy the songs. The songs are good.
The big problem with Tusk is that it doesn’t function well as an album. All of Buckingham’s music is experimental, and McVie and Nicks are both angling on different types of melodic slowness. McVie is diving into jazzy, bluesy beauty, and Nicks is exploring piano friendly folk flare. On none of their other albums with Buckingham and Nicks do the three styles clash so strongly. On top of that, there seems to be no concept of theme driving the album. I feel like the band got all of their favorite unreleased songs together and compiled them kind of willy nilly in order to release lots of songs for their newfound fan base. But in deciding to release a lot of songs, they ended up not releasing a solid album.
Tusk has always been kind of contentious. John McVie even says that it sounds like the work of three different solo artists put together, and story goes that Stevie Nicks nearly quit the band when the boys decided to name it Tusk (it was an inside phallic joke). Regardless, it peaked at number four in the US and number one in the UK.
Next up on the Mac Attack: Mirage (1982), Tango in the Night (1987) and Behind the Mask (1990)