We haven’t retro-reviewed anything for quite some time, so yesterday I went mining through some of the older albums I have been listening to decide what was worthy and interesting to write about. Then, I stumbled upon something new (Just Tell Me That You Want Me, the Fleetwood Mac tribute out in 2 weeks in honor of the band’s 45th anniversary), and I knew exactly what kind of old I wanted to review.
On top of 45 years of a musical legacy, LxL has greatly neglected Fleetwood Mac and its member’s work so I felt some Fleetwood love was much needed. Fleetwood Mac’s catalog is as diverse as anyone with their beginning steeped deep in the psychedelic blues movement alongside Cream and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers to their latter days as more of a soft rock, A.M. radio outfit. While change is a big storyline behind the band, their staple 1979 album, Rumours, still very much defines the band and its smash commercial success was actually well deserved, and still stands as the greatest breakup album of all time, and one of the most timeless pop records as well.
In case you have never heard the story behind Rumours, here are the cliff notes. In 1977, the five piece British-American band had just come off of the quadruple-platinum Fleetwood Mac, the band’s 10th album but first album in their most well-known form consisting of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks. But following that self-titled release, each of the member’s love lives imploded, with John and Christine getting divorced after an 8 year marriage, Lindsey and Stevie in an on/off relationship bickering constantly when they weren’t making music, and Mick Fleetwood just discovering that his wife cheated on him with his best friend. So what do you do with a band of four ex’s and a fifth wrecked by a humiliating affair? It would seem all too evident that the band would break up, but instead they all wrote breakup songs about each other, and then got together to record them for the sixth best-selling album in U.S. history, Rumours. I can’t imagine how awkward that would be to divorce or break up with someone, and then be forced to tour every waking moment with them for months at a time, singing venomous songs you wrote about them playing write alongside them.
The legendary back story aside, these are magnificent pop songs and put together, the album plays like a greatest hits collection. From the playfully defiant opener “Second Hand News” to the closing allure of “Gold Dust Woman”, breaking up never felt so good. While numerous songs on Rumours deserve attention, but I will stick with breaking down a few: “Dreams”, “Songbird”, and “Go Your Own Way” each properly representing the three different singer/songwriters in the group.
“Go Your Own Way” is maybe the most recognizable song on Rumours these days, and represents the freewheeling lovable spirit that Lindsey brought to the group (as he shows every week on SNL’s “What’s Up With That“.) “Songbird” captures the pure melancholy of Christine McVie’s songwriting and voice, sort of beautiful piano ballad that brings to mind Art Garfunkel’s vocal performance on “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. “Dreams” brings the sort of mystique that Stevie built her career on, with the gypsy songstress cooing and wooing her way through Rumour’s most poetic breakup song.
I’m sure if I was born in the 60’s and these songs were popular in my formative years, they may have driven me crazy from all the radio play. But coming at Rumours as someone with no prior biases and before I knew any of the back story behind the album, I couldn’t believe how brilliantly it was crafted in terms of songwriting, melodies, harmonies, and the record having its own defined sound. After knowing the history of the album as well as the band itself, it makes Rumours all the more special.
Can’t Miss: “Dreams”, “Second Hand News”, “Songbird”, “Gold Dust Woman”
Can’t Hit: none