Q Magazine, Review, Reissues
Fleetwood Mac have been through many different incarnations over the course of their five-decade existence. There has been the psychedelic blues period in the late ’60s, the freaky jazz-rock of the early ’70s, and then the mega-selling West Coast pop years, including the bit where they loved each other, and then the bit where they hated each other. MARK BLAKE joins he dots of their definitive work.
Last of the Guitar Heroes
THEN PLAY ON (Reprise 1969)
By Fleetwood Mac’s third album, their co-founder, guitarist Peter Green was frazzled by LSD, convinced he’d found God and demanding he and his bandmates giveaway all their money. He wasn’t alone Fellow guitarist Jeremy Spencer had become disillusioned, barely
played on the LP and would join a religious commune soon after. Fleetwood Mac might have been in psychic disarray, but Then Play On is both a sterling swan song for Green and a showcase for thee newly recruited 19-year-old guitar prodigy Danny Kirwan. Sturdy blues songs such as Rattlesnake Shake share space with trippy psych-rock (Coming Your Way) and Oh Well, a single whose double A-side mashup of hard riffs and spaghetti western melodrama was so good it was included in the LP’s second pressing.
Listen To: Oh Well
Lost in Space
FUTURE GAMES (Reprise 1971)
After Peter Green’s departure, Fleetwood Mac made four largely forgotten albums with American guitarist/frontman Bob Welch. Future Games is the first from the Mac’s lost-era
with their earlier blues shapes replaced by jazz-rock, stoner lyrics and harmony vocals. Welch joined his new bandmates and their extended family of roadies in a communal house in Hampshire. The group’s fascination with hallucinogenics and all things mystic permeate the fees of Woman Of A 1000 Years and Sands Of Times tellingly, Welch once convinced himself a flying saucer driven by a Navajo shaman had landed on the house’s tennis court. Future Games reflects this space cadet environment, and while its excellent title track isn’t quite the burnished West Coast pop of Rumours, it’s heading that way.
Listen To: Future Games
Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll
RUMOURS (Reprise 1977
When Fleetwood Mac invited Lindsey Buckingham to replace Bob Welch in 1975, he
insisted his girlfriend, singer Stevie Nicks join too. The Buckingham-Nicks duo regenerated the band, encouraged keyboard player Christine McVie’s nascent’ songwriting, and helped turn that year’s self-titled LP into a US Number 1 hit. But it was the next one, Rumours, which transformed Fleetwood Mac’s lives. Dreams, Don’t Stop, The Chain and Go Your Own Way became huge hits,while detailing Buckingham /Nicks and Christine McVie and her bass playing husband John’s disintegrating relationships; the marital disharmony compounded by the group’s Herculean drug intake The 40 million-plus selling Rumours’ sumptuous harmonies and easy grooves are a smokescreen. Inside its as hard as nails.
Liston To: The Chain
That Way Lies Madness
TUSK (Reprise 1979)
In 1979, Tusk was deemed a failure, after shifting four million copies in the same time
it took Rumours to sell 10 million. Perhaps the public were put off by Tusk sounding like two albums jammed together. Since making Rumours, Lindsey Buckingham had become obsessed with punk and, apparently, chopped off his flowing locks in solidarity with The Clash. Buckingham’s disarmingly raw songs (The Ledge, Not That Funny, the fabulously odd title track) seemed to fight a rear-guard action against Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie’s gentler compositions. Furthermore, those infra band low affairs had descended into bitter resentment and the drugs had taken over. The result an uneasy but brilliant listening experience and arguably the strangest greatest Fleetwood Mac album yet.
Listen To: Tusk
Welcome To The Machine
TANGO IN THE NIGHT (Warner Bros. 1987)
In the eght years between Tusk and Tango In The Night, Fleetwood Mac managed one studio album, the unremarkable Mirage; Stevie Nicks became a solo star and her ex-partner Lindsey Buckingham didn’t. Buckingham was persuaded to turn his next solo venture into a band LP. He agreed on the condition he ran the whole show. Everything on Tango… is an homageto the studio technology of the time: Big Love, Family Man and Little Lies are machine-polished, radio-friendly pop songs, with thee composers’ voices sometimes the only discernibly human element in the mix. While those programmed drums and bleating synthesisers might be a tad rich for the modem palate, some of the songs are as good as anything on Rumours.
Listen To: Big Love
25 YEARS: THE CHAIN (Warner Bros. 1992)
While there has been several Fleetwood Mac compilations over the years (reaching back to 1969’s US collection, English Rose), only 1992’s four-disc 25 Tears: The Chain box set collates material from all areas of the band to date. The means the evergreen Dreams, Rhiannon and Don’t Stop coexist side by side with such Peter Green staples as Albatross and The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown), and even a few items from the overlooked “Bob Welch Years” (see the spooked-sounding Bermuda ‘Mangle). For those put off by the price, there’s a two-disc version, which pays lip service to pretty much every Fleetwood Mac incarnation, and includes the lesser-heard Silver Springs, one of Rumours’ great lost songs.
Listen To: Albatross