Fleetwood Mac (1968)
My Heart Beat Like A Hammer/Merry-Go-Round/Long Grey Mare/Hellhound On My Trail/Shake Your Moneymaker/Looking For Somebody/No Place To Go/My Baby's Good To Me/I Loved Another Woman/Cold Black Night/The World Keep On Turning/Got To Move
Fleetwood Mac's debut, blues-soaked album, featuring the now legendary talents of guitarist Peter Green, the album followed, quite belatedly, in the bluesy footsteps of The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, John Mayall's Blues Breakers, The Kinks, Chris Farlowe, Them and The Animals to name just a few who caught the blues bug in the mid sixties.
The first track, My Heart Beat Like A Hammer is a strident, lively blues rocker, as is the blues guitar-driven magnificence of Merry-Go-Round. Long Grey Mare sounds like an old blues cover, but it is, in fact, a Peter Green song. The stark, piano-driven Hellhound On My Trail is the real thing, a Robert Johnson song, but it is less blues rock than the others, funnily enough. Elmore James's Shake Your Moneymaker is in direct contrast, though, as searing a slice of blues guitar you will have trouble finding. It rocks at a hundred miles an hour from beginning to end.
Looking For Somebody is another authentic-sounding Green song, featuring some intoxicating harmonica from him. Chester Burnett's No Place To Go is a slow burning, grinding blues, with a thumping, typical metronomic beat and more superb harmonica. As I said in another of my reviews of early Fleetwood Mac, it is incredible just how different the two incarnations of the band were. Basically, they are two different bands, despite the name. My Baby's Good To Me has an excellent, convincing vocal and more wonderful slide guitar from Jeremy Spencer. "She got a fine pair of legs, my baby's a sight to see..." They don't write 'em like that anymore!
I Loved Another Woman is an atmospheric. Deep, bassy blues chugger with shades of Black Magic Woman. I just love the full, rich sound on this one. Cold Black Night ploughs the same fertile furrow and is another great track. It ends abruptly, however. These songs sound so authentic too, yet they are self-penned. The World Keeps Turning is a stark, acoustic blues guitar and vocal track that sounds so "Delta", it's untrue. Got To Move is a cover and is energetic in its delivery, with an impassioned vocal, with some more stonking slide guitar. Overall, an impressive and totally uncommercial debut album.
Mr. Wonderful (1968)
Stop Messin' Round/I've Lost My Baby/Rollin' Man/Dust My Broom/Love That Burns/Doctor Brown/Need Your Love Tonight/If You Be My Baby/Evenin' Boogie/Lazy Poker Blues/Coming Home/Trying So Hard To Forget
This was Fleetwood Mac's second album of fine British blues rock. Released in August 1968, it added to the band of of the first album with a horn section and also Christine McVie, then of Chicken Shack, on keyboards. The horn section is never dominating, however, always gently underpinning the drums and guitar. Some have criticised the album for simply being more of the same, but I have no problem with it. It is quality blues rock and has outstanding sound reproduction too, and that is fine by me. As for the cover photo of an emaciated (and demented) looking Mick Fleetwood, though, I am not so positive there.
Stop Messin' Round is a live-sounding solid blues featuring a really clear, separated stereo sound, great drums and some fine, sharp guitar breaks. Indeed, the album was recorded "live" in the studio, so to speak, by microphones as opposed to directly from the sound board. Therein lies much of the album's grotty, earthy, authentic appeal. I've Lost My Baby has a delicious, deep bass sound and more searing blues guitar. Rollin' Man is an incredibly catchy, shuffling, upbeat blues groover. Elmore James' Dust My Broom had been covered by many artists, but Mac still do it justice. Check out that superb guitar.
Love That Burns is a sumptuous slow blues featuring some impressive subtle horn backing. Doctor Brown is a typical, rousing, driving piece of blues rock. Need Your Love Tonight is similarly rocking, using the same old riffs, for sure but if you like them, you like them. If You Be My Baby slows the pace down a bit, but the drums still power it along with more of that knife through butter guitar. Evenin' Boogie is a rollicking instrumental featuring some saxophone up front for the first time.
Lazy Poker Blues rocks, as does Coming Home, while Trying So Hard To Forget is classic slow Delta blues. There is not much more that can be said about the album, really, it is 24-carat blues and if you like blues rock, you will like it.
The non-album track, the brooding, bassy I Held My Baby Last Night is a fine cut too. Mystery Boogie is a lively, enjoyable instrumental.
English Rose (1969)
Stop Messin' Round/Jigsaw Puzzle Blues/Doctor Brown/Something Inside Of Me/Evenin' Boogie/Love That Burns/Black Magic Woman/I've Lost My Baby/One Sunny Day/Without You/Coming Home/Albatross
This was 1968's second Fleetwood Mac album, tweaked a bit and released in different form in early 1969 for the US market. The band also increased from a four piece to a five-man outfit with the inclusion of guitarist Danny Kirwan. It also featured another pretty grotesque appearance by Mick Fleetwood on the cover, this time in drag.
These early Fleetwood Mac albums were a bit like early Beatles and Rolling Stones ones in that some were for the UK market and some for the US, and some crossing over of tracks between albums took place.
Six tracks were from Mr. Wonderful. The new tracks that were not on that album were - Jigsaw Puzzle Blues is a solidly bluesy instrumental, featuring some nice bass, that uses the Rolling Stones song in its title; the muscular, slow-burning Something Inside Of Me; the now iconic, infectious single Black Magic Woman, which was, of course, recorded two years later by Santana; One Sunny Day, which was a searing slice of psychedelic guitar-driven blues (check out that knife through butter guitar); the plaintive slow, bassy blues of Without You and the instrumental number one single, the brooding Albatross.
On reflection, I feel that this is the better of the two albums, in that the tracks that replaced those from the previous album are better than those they took the place of. It stands alone as a really good album.
The Pious Bird Of Good Omen (1969)
Need Your Love So Bad/Coming Home/Rambling Pony/The Big Boat/I Believe My Time Ain't Long/The Sun Is Shining/Albatross/Black Magic Woman/Just The Blues/Jigsaw Puzzle Blues/Looking For Somebody/Stop Messin' Around
Yet another UK blues rock band from the mid to late sixties showing just how they could play the blues is they were straight from the Southern USA and were ageing black musicians. They were not, they were young lads from the UK and the music they came up with was incredibly authentic. John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Cream, Free, The Kinks (at times), The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Duster Bennett, Jellybread, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Alexis Korner, Chicken Shack, Top Topham… the list is endless. Fleetwood Mac, in this incarnation, were not, of course, the stadium gigging “AOL” superband of the mid seventies. They played the blues and they played them straight. A bit scratchy and raw at times, but isn’t that part of the appeal?
This album, with its marvellously pretentious title, was released in 1969. It is basically a compilation of the band's first four singles and their "b' sides. Need Your Love So Bad is the slow, stately blues that many people know. Coming Home is a cutting, grinding, industrial slab of pure blues rock. Rambling Pony is even more authentic, blues-wise. The Big Boat is straight from the Mississippi Delta. Indeed, pretty much all the material is copper-bottomed plus rock of the highest quality, featuring excellent guitar throughout from the prodigiously talented Peter Green. The two exceptions are the popular hit singles, the huge number one brooding, mournful instrumental Albatross and the catchy Black Magic Woman. While the latter is definitely bluesy, it has an addictive refrain that renders it more accessible than some of the other tracks. It is, however, a great blues single. It was later covered, successfully and convincingly, by Santana.
The guitar on Just The Blues is razor sharp. One of the best moments on the album. This is a track that features blues artist Eddie Boyd, with Fleetwood Mac on backing. The other is The Big Boat. In fact, Just The Blues is probably my favourite cut from the album. Jigsaw Puzzle Blues is a jaunty instrumental, referencing the track from The Rolling Stones’ Beggars’ Banquet.
This is a great album of its time and genre. Blues rock was just so strong in the UK at this time. By the time the seventies came around, its light was fading, which was a shame.
Blues Jam In Chicago (1969)
Recorded on 4th of January 1969
Fleetwood Mac are one of those groups who had two totally different incarnations. This is very much part of the early Chicago blues-based Peter Green version. Green, John McVie, Danny Kirwan, Mick Fleetwood and Jeremy Spencer meet up in Chicago with legendary bluesers Willie Dixon, Otis Spann, Buddy Guy and David “Honeyboy” Edwards among others to produce a virtually ad hoc album of genuine, axle-grease soaked blues.
It was all done in a day, and yes, it is rough and ready, to an extent, with some between song chatter before they get into their groove, and a few false starts here and there. Once they hit it, though, oh Lordy. This is the essential Fleetwood Mac, for me, a million miles away from Rumours and drenched in the blues. Peter Green’s guitar is superb throughout, as indeed is all the instrumentation. It must have been heaven for the Chicago blues fans of Fleetwood Mac to play at their spiritual home like this. You can just tell they loved it.
There are two volumes that were released and on both the sound quality is stunningly good, especially considering their age and spontaneous nature. The albums don’t really lend themselves to track by track analysis, just put either of them on, put your feet up and let the blues wash all over you.
Then Play On (1969)
Coming Your Way/Closing My Eyes/Fighting For Madge/When You Say/Showbiz Blues/Underway/One Sunny Day/Although The Sun Is Shining/Rattlesnake Shake/Without You/Searching For Madge/My Dream/Like Crying/Before The Beginning
This album, from September 1969, the last to feature Peter Green and barely featuring Jeremy Spencer saw Fleetwood Mac shift direction away from searing, guitar-driven, gritty blues to a slightly more psychedelic, laid-back, hippy style. The blues is still there in a lot of the guitar sound, but there is definitely far more of a hippy dreaminess to the group's sound now. It is the beginning of the more gentle rock sound that featured on the series of albums that would take the band up to their huge sea change in 1975.
The sound on the album is ok, but it is not quite as good as on the previous albums. It could probably due with losing a couple of tracks as it is a bit sprawling, but that is nit-picking, really. The cover also gives a clue as to the future direction, as it has gone very proggy.
Two Danny Kirwan tracks from the English Rose album from earlier in the year appear again - One Sunny Day and Without You.
Coming Your Way is a rhythmic, percussion-driven serving of laid-back bluesy hippiness. Closing My Eyes is a sleepy, slightly proggy ballad. It features a nice Spanish guitar part in the middle. Fighting For Madge is a riffy, upbeat instrumental. When You Say is a bit of a dirge-like ballad with a clumsy "la-la-la" chorus. The blues are back on the lively slide guitar-driven stomp of Showbiz Blues. Underway, an instrumental, is a nice, understated, bassy sort of speeded-up Albatross and Although The Sun Is Shining is an ethereal, dreamy acoustic ballad, nothing like anything the group had done previously.
Rattlesnake Shake is the album's most authentic grinding blues rock number and it is no surprise that it was a Peter Green track, his last great bluesy contribution to the group. It is a fine slice of blues rock and is probably the album's best cut. Searching For Madge is a good one too - over six minutes of rocking blues jamming of the sort that appeared on the group's Live Blues Jam In Chicago albums. The band get into a live-sounding bass and drum groove and simply keep it up, despite a brief pause a couple of minutes in. Mick Fleetwood's drum solo, however "seventies" it may undoubtedly be, displays his innate rhythmic ability. It is very Ginger Baker-ish.
My Dream is a gentle, melodic, light guitar instrumental. Like Crying is a blues, but a folky one. The final track, Before The Beginning, perhaps appropriately, is a Peter Green one, and is a slow, brooding number with an Albatross-style backing. Overall, the album is a bit of a transitional one. I prefer the bluesy urgency of the earlier ones, and the improved sound and melody of those that were to come.
Two excellent non-album tracks were the proggy two parts of Oh Well and the glorious hippy psychedelia of The Green Manalishi. The catchy, slow but tuneful instrumental World In Harmony is appealing too.
Crazy About The Blues (1970)
Hey Baby/It's You I Miss/Gone Into The Sun/Tell Me You Need Me/Crazy About You (Can't Hold Out Much Longer)/Down At The Crown/Tell Me All The Things You Do/Station Man/Purple Dancer/Station Man/Crazy About You (Can't Hold Out Much Longer)/One Together/I Can't Stop Loving Her/Lonely Without You/Tell Me All The Things You Do/Jewel-Eyed Judy
This is a compilation of early Fleetwood Mac material from 1969-1970, including both studio and live material - which feature the line-up featuring Jeremy Spencer and the recently-deceased Danny Kirwan (June 2018). Peter Green had left by now. The first four tracks are from Christine Perfect's pre-Fleetwood Mac "Christine Perfect Band".
The Christine Perfect tracks are all excellent, both in delivery and sound quality. The bluesy Hey Baby and It's You I Miss are followed by two more folky, ethereal tracks, which see Christine sounding almost Fairport Convention-esque, particularly on Gone Into The Sun.
Tell Me That You Need Me ends up quite rocky. Christine continues on vocals on the upbeat, lively Crazy About You (Can't Hold Out Much Longer). This song really reminds me of something else in places, but I am not sure what, something by Paul Weller, I think. Broken Stones, possibly, but faster. The guitar on this is seriously good. It is amazing just how different early Fleetwood Mac were from their stadium rock eventual incarnation. Down At The Crown is sort of beardy pubby folk meets blues rock. Not the best cut, but still in possession of some powerful guitar. The first take of Tell Me All The Things You Do is nowhere near as good as the second (live) one that is included, either in sound quality or performance.
Station Man is a more convincing blues rocker, with a nice, melodious bass hook. Purple Dancer is a bit hippy-ish, with hints of folky psychedelia. It is better in its live format, however. You do feel, though, that without Green, the band had lost some of its innate bluesiness.
The final seven tracks are all live, which, although retaining a little bit of hiss to the sound, have a raw "upstairs at a London pub" sort of live appeal. The second, extended cut of Tell Me All The Things You Do is a great slab of searing, guitar-driven blues rock and is a suitable epitaph for the guitar talents of Danny Kirwan. Indeed, Christine McVie named the track exactly thus, speaking after his death.
Kiln House (1970)
This Is The Rock/Station Man/Blood On The Floor/Hi Ho Silver/Jewel Eyed Judy/Buddy's Song/Earl Grey/One Together/Tell Me All The Things You Do/Mission Bell
Released in September 1970, this was the first Fleetwood Mac album without guitarist Peter Green, and Jeremy Spencer would be making his final appearance.
Keyboardist/singer/songwriter Christine McVie did join the band, unofficially, however. It marked the beginning of the end of the original band and start of a new period for them, but although the previous album, Then Play On, had been more acoustic/prog rock orientated, this one still had quite a bit of blues about it. I really like it. It is a blues rock record in places, but one made by a band having a little fun while they did it. I have seen it compared to The Rolling Stones' Between The Buttons, and I can hear why. It is certainly not as bluesily intense as the earlier Peter Green material, but it points the way for the next direction the group would take. The dreamy hippy-style cover was a pointer too.
This Is The Rock is an upbeat piece of Sun Records era Elvis-ish country rock with a bluesy edge, blues being used in other musical contexts, while Station Man is solid, bassy blues. Check out that great guitar. It is an excellent track. Mick Fleetwood's drums and John McVie's bassy merge together most impressively near the end of the track.
Blood On The Floor is a lachrymose country twanger that taped in to the country rock boom of the period. Hi Ho Silver (nothing to do with the Jeff Beck song) is a country/blues rock stomper with many nods to Big Joe Turner's Honey Hush. It rocks convincingly from beginning to end, driven along by some superb Danny Kirwan guitar. Kirwan also shines on the laid-back strains of Jewel Eyed Judy, this time on vocals as well. It is a fine example of early seventies rock.
Jeremy Spencer's Buddy's Song is a tribute to Buddy Holly, packed full of Peggy Sue-style rolling drums and suitably hiccuppy vocals. Spencer was always the most "rock 'n' roll" of the band. Earl Grey is an instrumental showcasing Danny Kirwan once more. It is like a slightly more tuneful and faster Albatross. One Together has a pleasing, gentle dream rhythm and melody. Again, it is a bit country rock in style with vocal harmonies, something the group didn't really do before. It is a bit Beach Boys-esque from the same era. Tell Me All The Things You Do is an addictive rocker, featuring some great wah-wah guitar. Along with Station Man, it is the best cut on the album.
Mission Bell sounds like something from Paul McCartney's McCartney album, with hints of Buddy Holly too, and it ends the album with a definite expression of how the group would sound over the next few years. This one definitely marked the end of Fleetwood Mac as a blues outfit for good.
Future Games (1971)
Woman Of 1000 Years/Morning Rain/What A Shame/Future Games/Sands Of Time/Sometimes/Lay It All Down/Show Me A Smile
It is often thought that Fleetwood Mac had two distinct phases - the Peter Green blues band and the Buckingham/Nicks soft rockers. It is often forgotten that from 1971 to 1975 there was the Bob Welch era of folky, often acoustic material. Welch replaced Jeremy Spencer, Christine McVie joined officially and the group, despite Danny Kirwan still being there initially, became a bit like America, CSNY or Bread. What is in no doubt is that they sounded nothing like Peter Green's original Fleetwood Mac, they were already a different band.
Woman Of 1000 Years is a sleepy, acoustic dreamer of a number typical of early seventies blissed-out soft folk rock, full of gentle vocal harmonies and chilled out acoustic strumming. Morning Rain ups the tempo on a vibrant piece of country rock, with a few funky guitar licks thrown in. It is all very, very CSNY if you ask me. So very 1971. Kirwan's guitar still shines out, though, ringing like a bell. The vocal harmonies are quite Beach Boys-inspired too, from their music of the time. The band all merge together vocally in a convincing and cohesive fashion. It is actually quite uplifting to hear it all come together. I'm rambling a bit here but listen to the song, I am sure you will get what I am saying. This was a band offering something completely different to their previous sound and enjoying it.
What A Shame shows that the group had not completely lost their rock edge on a punchy, brassy, chunky instrumental workout with some edgy, choppy guitar and some saxophone featuring, the cut rocks along solidly. Future Games is a beguiling, eight minute long Bob Welch song that rambles along in a folk rock way, punctuated by some fine guitar. It is very hippy/psychedelic in feel and is probably a couple of minutes too long but at the same time there is a certain addictiveness to it.
Sands Of Time was a single, not a successful one, but it has an appealing psychedelic pop sound that goes well with the America-style harmonious vocals. Nice bass on it too, and lead guitar for that matter. It is definite grower of a track. It is over seven minutes long, but it doesn't seem it as it flows on its smooth, untroubled way. Sometimes is a pleasant, melodic and lengthy Elton John-ish number while Lay It All Down is probably the album's rockiest cut, in an early seventies Mott The Hoople sort of way. The final number, Show Me A Smile, is a laid-back Christine McVie ballad. It is ok, but doesn't quite hit the spot that some of the other tracks does. Overall, though, this was a much underrated, little-mentioned album that deserves some attention.
Bare Trees (1972)
Child Of Mine/The Ghost/Homeward Bound/Sunny Side Of Heaven/Bare Trees/Sentimental Lady/Danny's Chant/Spare Me A Little Of Your Love/Dust/Thoughts On A Grey Day
This was the album, from 1972, where Fleetwood Mac properly set out their post-blues rock direction. It is a pretty typical early seventies soft-ish rock album, but muscular enough to keep it from being thought of as country rock. In many ways, it actually is the band's most cohesive and complete album thus far. It is sort of ethereal and easy on the ear. Very Traffic-like in places. Future Games had got half way there but this one went the whole way in terms of re-inventing the band. Make no mistake, this is a proper seventies rock album. In the midst of all that glam rock stomping, mature, musically creative offerings like this tended to get forgotten. It lacked the prog-rock indulgence that was so popular at the time so it seemed doomed not to be given much attention, which was a pity.
Child Of Mine is an excellent rocker to kick off with. Danny Kirwan is still contributing his impressive guitar and the rest of the band back him up in fine fashion. Mick Fleetwood's drumming is as rock as it has ever been and John McVie's bass rumbles reliably away. Bob Welch's The Ghost sounds so like much of the Traffic-influenced material Paul Weller would record some twenty-thirty years later, even down to the flute, while Christine McVie's Homeward Bound is a superb riffy rocker that captivates from the very first Honky Tonk Women cowbell notes. I really like this and am enjoying listening to it properly for the first time. The sound quality is excellent too.
Sunny Side Of Heaven is a guitar-driven, melodic instrumental that almost sounds, wiuth its twangy guitar sound, like The Shadows from the same era. Bare Trees finds seventies folk rock meeting gentle funk on another highly impressive number. Kirwan's guitar is again top notch, as is Mick Fleetwood's cymbal work. Bob Welch's Sentimental Lady was a tender, laid-back number similar to some of the material The Beach Boys were putting out at the same time. Welch's American voice was giving the group their first US tone in their sound.
Danny’s Chant begins with some Hendrix-esque fuzzy guitar feedback before settling into a slightly funky, wah-wah guitar-driven semi-instrumental workout. Spare Me A Little Of Your Love is a wonderful slow rock ballad of the sort Christine McVie would come to specialise in post 1975. She began it here with this one. Parts of it remind me of Van Morrison’s Linden Arden Stole The Highlights, although that wasn’t recorded until 1974. Check out that rocking bit right at the end too. Dust is an Al Stewart-ish tender number and is the album’s last proper song, as Thoughts On A Grey Day feature an old lady (credited as Mrs. Scarrott) narrating a poem (from her home in Hampshire), which was an odd end. Let not that detract from the fact that this was a very good album and a real forgotten gem.
Remember Me/Bright Fire/You Make Me Feel/(I'm A) Road Runner/The Derelict/Revelation/Did You Ever Love Me/Night Watch/Caught In The Rain
By 1973, the hugely talented guitarist Danny Kirwan was fired after arguing with the other band members during the Bare Trees tour and he was replaced by guitarist Bob Weston and vocalist Dave Walker. It was the only album that Walker would appear on. It was the first Fleetwood Mac album that I was aware of, noticing the cover as I flipped through piles of albums in record stores as a teenager.
Kirwan would be a huge loss to the band as the entered a real bridging point before the renaissance of 1975. All traces of blues rock were now gone, permanently, and Bob Welch's West Coast sound, together with Christine McVie's tuneful, romantic songs dominated the group's output now, paving the way for the band's total re-invention in 1975. The album was the closest thing so far to what was to become the trademark Fleetwood Mac sound.
Remember Me is a harmonious Christine McVie soft rocker and Bob Welch's Bright Fire is as laid-back and unthreatening as his tracks were expected to be. You Make Me Feel is very much a Christine McVie prototype for her Rumours stuff. It is instantly recognisable as the sort of thing Fleetwood Mac would go on to do in the mid-late seventies. It is a good one, actually, very easy on the ear.
The group's cover of Jr. Walker & The All-Stars' (I'm A) Road Runner is surprisingly muscular and stomping, with a fine vocal from Walker. If you heard this and didn't know who it was, you would 1000% not identify it as Fleetwood Mac. It is really enjoyable, actually.
The Derelict is a folky number with Walker again contributing a convincingly strong vocal. There is some fine harmonica on here too. the track is sort of solid country rock in style. This, along with (I'm A) Road Runner would be the only two tracks Walker contributed to. He left the group in mid 1973. Revelation is a deep, rhythmic rock number with an equally deep, mysterious vocal, some rolling drums and killer guitar parts. For a Bob Welch song, it is surprisingly brooding and grinding. I like it a lot. Did You Ever Love Me is the album's final Christine McVie song and it is a catchy, summery number with a vaguely Caribbean, steel band backing.
Night Watch is more recognisable as a breezy, sleepy Bob Welch song. Original guitarist played guitar on it but was strangely uncredited. The track has an extended instrumental fade-out. Caught In The Rain is a chilled-out acoustic and backing vocal instrumental to end with.
I have read quite a bit of negativity about this album, but I have always found it pleasantly enjoyable, with fine sound quality and musicianship throughout. Quite where it fitted in with the musical zeitgeist of 1973 is unclear, though.
Mystery To Me (1973)
Emerald Eyes/Believe Me/Just Crazy Love/Hypnotized/Forever/Keep On Going/The City/Miles Away/Somebody/The Way I Feel/For Your Love/Why
This was Fleetwood Mac's second album in 1973, following, in October, on from the underrated (in my opinion) Penguin. This is very much a Bob Welch/Christine McVie album, with both singer/songwriters contributing (Welch seven songs, McVie four). Incidentally, the album was recorded on The Rolling Stones Mobile Unit, as indeed was Penguin.
Emerald Eyes is a dreamy, laid-back opener from Bob Welch. The sound is all very AOR now and the song leads into McVie's piano-driven rocker, Believe Me, which, although upbeat and lively, is still in the same mature vein. As on the previous album, she was laying down the foundations for the material that would form the basis of some of the group's trademark late seventies/eighties sound. She continues on the breezy, tuneful Just Crazy Love, showing just what a developed songwriter she was becoming. Those basic blues days of the late sixties seemed a long way away now.
Hypnotized is a delicious, slow and sort of psychedelic number from Welch that sorts of gently swirls around your mind with its subtly infectious understated rhythm. It is one of his best songs for the band. I am sure both Sting and Chris Rea had listened to it as I can hear both of them in there.
In 1973, it seemed that everyone had to dabble in reggae, and Forever is the group's contribution to the trend. It is ok, but a tiny bit clumsy in places. Christine is back on the pleasingly low-key groove of Keep On Going. It is a Welch song but she takes lead vocals and indeed, it sounds like one of her songs. It also features some nice percussion and a Spanish guitar break. The City contains some bluesy wah-wah guitar as the group slightly revisit their heritage on the bluesiest cut they had laid down for a while. It is a fine track.
Miles Away is also a good one, an insistently rocking number again containing some good guitar and a mysterious, brooding vocal. Somebody, another Welch track, is similarly grinding but in a relaxing way, featuring more fine guitar interjections. It is almost funky in places and is another top quality number.
The Way I Feel is a plaintive but entrancing McVie ballad with an acoustic and piano backing and, of course, her winsome, smoky-sounding vocals. The Yardbirds' For Your Love is covered next, and it stands as a bit of an incongruous throwback to a previous era but, having sad that, it is solid and muscular and does the business in its seventies garb. A nice nod to the blues is found on the intro to the album's closer, Christine's Why. It breaks out into more typical fare but is none the less attractive for it. As with the previous album, this was a most underrated, mature and satisfying offering. The group's releases from this period deserve more exploration, I feel. This was a really solid piece of work.
Heroes Are Hard To Find (1974)
Heroes Are Hard To Find/Coming Home/Angel/Bermuda Triangle/Come A Little Bit Closer/She's Changing Me/Bad Loser/Silver Heels/Prove Your Love/Born Enchanter/Safe Harbour
Released in September 1974, this was the last of the Bob Welch albums, that had begun back in 1971. He left soon after this and the group began their well-known re-birth in California. Actually, they had re-located there before the recording of this album. The Welch era is a sadly undervalued one, he was a talented individual and it was so sad that he eventually took his own life. His contributions over this period should never be forgotten.
The cover, once again, after Mr. Wonderful in 1968, has Mick Fleetwood displaying his horribly ribby-looking chest. Do us a favour eh, Mick.
Heroes Are Hard To Find is a catchy, rocking poppy number full of brass and a great Christine McVie vocal that was released as a single but was not, unfortunately, successful. If The Mac had released it three or four years later it would no doubt have been a hit. Coming Home is an Elmore James blues song, but it is covered here in typically Bob Welch spacey, dreamy style, rendering it almost like a new song. Angel is quite a heavy rock number from Welch and Bermuda Triangle is a mysterious, semi-spoken bluesy number that has echoes of Chris Rea's later material, for me.
Come A Little Closer is a beautiful Christine McVie piano-led ballad with breaks out into something majestic with her voice in full Songbird mode. It is a bit of a lesser-known classic. Welch's She's Changing Me is a catchy pop song while McVie's Bad Loser is a rumbling, drum-powered brooding rock number. Welch's Silver Heels is a rhythmic, vaguely Billy Joel-esque song with Welch wishing he could "sing like Paul McCartney". Actually, he sounds rather similar to him.
Christine's Prove Your Love is mellow and seductive, as her material so often could be. It is a lovely, warm and romantic song. Born Enchanter is a deep, bluesy grinder from Welch, full of sombre but melodic rhythms. Safe Harbour is a virtual instrumental (vocals right at the end) with obvious nods to Peter Green's Albatross.
So ends an often overlooked period in Fleetwood Mac's history that contained some really impressive albums. The stratosphere awaited now though....
Fleetwood Mac (1975)
Monday Morning/Warm Ways/Blue Letter/Rhiannon/Over My Head/Crystal/Say You Love Me/Landslide/World Turning/Sugar Daddy/I'm So Afraid
This album, from 1975, was the beginning of the second phase of Fleetwood Mac, as the blues rock of its original incarnation was dramatically turned on its head by the arrival of Californian bed-buddies Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Almost at a stroke they turned into the mega-group that many know them for being. Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan seemed light years back in time now. It is quite startling, incredible really, just how radically Buckingham and Nicks utterly changed the whole raison d'être of what had been a quintessential UK blues rock band.
Buckingham is not involved on every track at all, but his production dominates the whole album. He had made the group into a West Coast pop/rock band and gnarled old bluesers like Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood had to dramatically change their ways, and songwriting. Christine did this extremely well, it has to be said, writing and singing several copper-bottomed AOR classics over the next few years. You would have thought that she had been born to it.
Monday Morning, with its melodic, acoustic and drum-driven sound, sets the tone not only for this album but for, in effect "Fleetwood Mac Part Two" - The Buckingham/Nicks era. It is all rousing, singalong, breezy stuff with a distinctly summery, Californian feel to it. It is completely different to anything Fleetwood Mac had done before, yet, for many people, it will sound like archetypal Mac. Warm Ways is the same in its laid-back, warm, West Coast ambience and rubbery, Beatles-style bass runs. Blue Letter is absolutely classic second phase Mac upbeat country rock, as The Eagles go all West Coast. It is a rollicking, lively and extremely catchy number. Once again, let's be honest, it is not Fleetwood Mac as they began at all. This new line-up may as well have given themselves a new name. Nowhere in rock was the same group defined by two such completely different styles.
Then there was Stevie Nicks - flowing clothes, gypsy prettiness and a breathy sexuality. Her whole persona was never better expressed, musically, than on Rhiannon, a song that resulted in many female children being given this Welsh Celtic ancient name. It was an ethereal, beautiful and beguiling song that really sticks in the mind. This was adult-oriented, easy listening soft rock at its very best. The equally sultry, deeper voice of long term band member Christine McVie enhances the appealing gentle rock groove of Over My Head.
Crystal is a harmonious, Eagles-style piece of country-ish slow rock. Someone brought up on Shake Your Money Maker or Need Your Love So Bad simply would not have believed this to be Fleetwood Mac. Christine McVie is back again to lead the addictive easy rocking strains of Say You Love Me. Nicks' seductive tones are back on the tender, acoustic Landslide, which was another pointer as to some of the band's future sound.
World Turning is the only track that has a bit of the blues about it, being a brooding bluesily acoustic-driven folky stomper. It is only here that the band's blues roots can be detected. Who knows, they may have gone down this road anyway as the seventies progressed. Mick Fleetwood's drumming is excellent on this as is Lindsey Buckingham's guitar. As well as being perceived as a bit of a paranoid, temperamental trouble-maker, he was also a fine musician. Sugar Daddy is superb mid-seventies, organ-powered Christine McVie fare. She mastered this sort of thing really impressively. The album ends with the mysterious, heavier, drum-dominated vibes of I'm So Afraid, which act as a precursor for The Chain, from the Rumours album. Again, it features some fine guitar.
This was one hell of a change of direction and was a very appealing album. Rumours was up next. Funnily enough, though, I prefer this often-overlooked offering.
Second Hand News/Dreams/Never Going Back Again/Don't Stop/Go Your Own Way/Songbird/Silver Springs/The Chain/You Make Loving Fun/I Don't Want To Know/Oh Daddy/Gold Dust Woman
What is there to say about Rumours that hasn't already been said? The living soap opera of an album played out against a background of inter-band relationships, affairs, splits and divorces - John & Christine McVie - acrimonious divorce; Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks - relationship split; Nicks and Mick Fleetwood - affair. At least ABBA managed to stay relatively dignified during similar implosions. This was all played out pretty publicly. God knows how this album ever got produced and the fact it became the best selling pop album of all time is remarkable. Of course, a lot of these salacious revelations have come out years after the album was released and at the time many people had no idea what was going on. Those balls hanging down on the cover, though. Strange.
It is also surprising that the album was so successful, released, as it was at the height of punk, when "old AOR music" such as this was supposed to be despised and sacrificed on the altar of The Pistols, The Clash and The Ramones. The funny thing is, and was, that Rumours rode happily on despite all this, accepted by everyone as a good album, transcending trends and continuing to do so all these years later. It is almost immune from criticism, for some reason. It is a timeless album that appealed then, appealed in the eighties, and nineties and into the new millennium.
For me, although I do not dislike it, I have never absolutely loved it, although there are so many tracks on there that are pretty much impossible to dislike. It is certainly not essential listening in my world, although I own it. I didn't get it in 1977, though. I didn't need to. It was all over the radio. I knew loads of tracks from it before I even bought it, many years later. In 1977, nice, well-brought up girls bought it, punks certainly did not, neither did blokes in general. It was probably different in the US, where it was phenomenally successful.
For those who don't know the album, (I can't believe there are many who don't), it is a masterpiece of so-called "adult oriented rock", very West Coast, a mixture of hook-laden harmonious rock, country rock with a bit of folk thrown in. Electric guitars, acoustic guitars, solid drums, infectious keyboards and perfect female vocals all merge beautifully together with some of the highest quality sound you will experience. It is one of those albums that gets played in hi-fi shops to demonstrate the quality of their equipment.
The highlights are many. Mine are the hauntingly beautiful Stevie Nicks song, Dreams and Christine McVie's stunningly appealing Songbird. The mainstream radio driving hits are thoroughly irresistible, one has to admit - Don't Stop, You Make Loving Fun and Go Your Own Way. There are also lesser-mentioned gems like the folky Never Going Back Again and the two distinct parts of the beguiling rock of The Chain, familiar for years as BBC's motor racing theme. Nicks' ethereal slow country-ish vibe of Silver Springs is entrancing too, particularly as Nicks changes character from winsome to aggressive as the song develops. Then there is the bluesy Gold Dust Woman with Nicks sounding like Patti Smith. Another rarely mentioned good one.
So there you go, an album out of its time, never in any era. It just exists. It will no doubt be shifting copies in hundreds of years' time.
Incidentally, there is a great take of Go Your Own Way (entitled Early Take) on the Deluxe Edition of the album, with Lindsey Buckingham only on vocals. It is raw, edgy and almost punky in its rough attack. I prefer it to the eventual incarnation of the song. Gold Dust Woman (Early Take) is broodily magnificent too. Silver Springs (Early Take) has Stevie Nicks even more "in your face" as the song progresses. Dreams (Take 2) is beautifully sparse and soulful. The album could have sounded considerably different and far more gritty if these takes had been used instead.
Over And Over/The Ledge/Think About Me/Save Me A Place/Sara/What Makes You Think You’re The One/Storms/That’s All For Everyone/Not That Funny/Sisters Of The Moon/Angel/That’s Enough For Me/Brown Eyes/Never Make Me Cry/I Know I’m Not Wrong/Honey Hi/Beautiful Child/Walk A Thin Line/Tusk/Never Forget
Double albums, oh double albums. Read most double album reviews and you will hear the words “sprawling”, “indulgent”, “lacking cohesion” together with accusations of them being far too long. All those apply to Tusk and have indeed been used many times, by many critics.
I remember when it came out, in October 1979, over two and a half years after the colossal seller that was Rumours and the huge expectation that it carried with it. I also remember the disappointment of pretty much everyone who heard it. While Rumours had been recorded as the couples within the band all fell out, by the time they produced Tusk they were utterly shattered, relationship-wise. The success of Rumours had meant that the group could pretty much release what they wanted, like The Beatles on The White Album or The Beach Boys on Smiley Smile and there were definite moments of indulgent nonsense present. However, the dysfunction of the band, the presence of experimental post punk at the time and the eventual genesis of the album resulted in something that deserves at least a bit of exploration. Was it really as bad as so many said? Let’s see.
It begins with Christine McVie’s soft, ethereal Over And Over which has definite echoes of the material she did in the early/mid seventies with the band’s previous incarnation. It has a nice, laid-back slow country-ish vibe to it. As with all her tracks, it is difficult to find fault with it. The Ledge is a short, frantic and quirky Lindsey Buckingham song with a punky edge to it that will not have gone down well with easy listening, soft rock Rumours fans. Personally, I like it, it has a quirky vibrancy to it and shows a willingness to diversify and innovate, something he was able to do, of course, from the huge position of strength that Rumours had bestowed upon him. Christine’s solidly rocking, riffy Think About Me was a single and is suitably hooky. Nothing wrong with this in my book, it is fine sounding track. Buckingham’s slow, acoustic folky stomp of Save Me A Place is perfectly acceptable - melodic and attractive. Stevie Nicks' Sara, also a single, is everything you would expect from one of her songs - mysterious, seductive, mystical. It just washes all over you as if Stevie is cooing and purring while giving you a massage and then getting more passionate as she sings the “Sara” bit.
Lindsey’s What Makes You Think You’re The One is very Lennon-esque in its cynicism, vocal sounds and stompy beat. It has some fine descending guitar parts too. Again, I really like it. Stevie’s Storms is as entrancing you would hope it to be. That's All For Everyone was a Buckingham song, sung by McVie with an airy, Beatles-ish sound to it with a bit of seventies-era Beach Boys too. It is followed by the quirky, folky madness of Not That Funny, which was an odd choice for a UK single, and is probably the first track to be a bit questionable. Buckingham seems to be trying to ape Talking Heads’ David Byrne in his yelping vocals (he was known to admire him). There is some great fuzzy guitar near the end, though. Nicks’ Sisters Of The Moon (predictable title alert) and is a quality number, as her songs mostly were. It is more powerful than some of her others were with a chunky, insistent beat.
The old side three begins with one of Nicks’ finest songs, the gently rocking, tuneful Angel. Lovely vocals, lovely bass, lovely guitar. Perfection. Lindsey’s back again next, with Christine whooping up the vocals on the frantic, buzzy, country punk of That’s Enough For Me. Christine returns herself on her own, beautiful, dreamy Brown Eyes. Her husband John contributed a nice bass line too. That vibe continues on the tender Never Make Me Cry. Buckingham’s I Know I’m Not Wrong is a lively Second Hand News-style, vaguely Cajun stomper (most of his songs are stompers, aren‘t they?). It has Christine on vocals and is catchy and toe-tapping.
McVie’s Honey Hi is as loose and demo-ish as anything else on the album, actually, but is none the worse or it, being really fetching and appealing in a winsome, breathy sort of way. Stevie Nicks’ Beautiful Child is as beautiful as its title. Walk A Thin Line is a beguiling Buckingham song sung by McVie over a slow, marching beat. Tusk, another perplexing choice for a single, was a completely captivating one, full of the tribal drum sounds so de rigeur in 1979-80 and odd, random vocals. I remember being fascinated by it back then, and I still am. Never Forget is a sumptuous McVie song to finish this delicious chocolate box of an album with.
The overall accepted vision of the album is that Lindsey Buckingham’s increasingly madcap experimentation dominates, the listeners being pacified and comforted by the airy, dreamy Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks songs that, when taken on their own, would have made an acceptable eleven-track single album. Also, a lot of the album was recorded individually due to intra-band tensions, the Buckingham songs in particular, so it sort of functions as three different solo albums in one, like latter-era Beatles albums (or indeed earlier Fleetwood Mac ones). That said, good songs are good songs and, as far as I am concerned, I like lots of them, disparate in their initial creation or not. The notion that it is some sort of Smiley Smile made up of half-formed, barely listenable demo versions or that there was worthless Revolution 9-type material on here is wrong on both counts. Yes, the tracks are all different, but I don’t find it as mis-shapen an album as others seem to. It runs fine to me, its very diversity is its strength. Take Buckingham’s songs out and you would have a smoother album, for sure, but a far less stimulating one. A bit like with the Yoko Ono tracks on those later Lennon albums. The Buckingham songs are much better than that anyway.
You could almost say that this was an album closer to the creative, diverse offerings the band put out in the mid-seventies and that Rumours was simply a one-off, different album. This was as inventive as The Clash’s London Calling was a month later but was never credited as such. It should have been. In my opinion, it knocks spots off Rumours.
I feel this sounds a much better album in 2020 than it did in 1979, time has mellowed people’s feelings towards it. Hell, it’s a good one. Surprisingly good and satisfying. Why it flopped I am not sure. You could almost make a strong case for it being their best album. There’s a shock for you.
Love In Store/Can't Go Back/That's All Right/Book Of Love/Gypsy/Only Over You/Empire State/Straight Back/Hold Me/Oh Diane/Eyes Of The World/Wish You Were Here
After the rich, sometimes experimental diversity of parts of 1979's sprawling double album, Tusk, it was back to stadium-pleasing AOR all the way on this blatantly commercial 1982 offering. It stood pretty incongruously alongside the contemporary musical trends of the time - post punk, new romantic, electro pop and new wave/two tone.
Love In Store is a wonderfully poppy and catchy Christine McVie soft rocker of the type that was now second nature to both her and the band. As often was the case, Christine took lead vocals on Lindsey Buckingham's new wave-ish , appealing pop of Can't Go Back. Stevie Nicks' trademark breathy vocals return on the typically sensual, but lively That's All Right, which also has a bit of a country rock twang to it.
Lindsey Buckingham's Book Of Love is a harmonious, slightly sixties-ish celebratory number, with fine, vibrant McVie vocals and a general level of enthusiasm all over it. His songs were more mainstream pop on this album. Nicks' songs didn't ever change much, always retaining that airy, classy feel to them and Gypsy is no different. They seduce you instantly. There is not a Nicks song that I do not like. There is a lot of Dreams about it too.
Only Over You is a sumptuous, slow burning smoocher from the ever-throaty, husky McVie. This was dedicated to her ex-lover, Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson. It would have sounded good on his Pacific Ocean Blue album. Her voice has delivered so many great songs over the years yet it was never a great voice, it was more of a characterful, unique one. Buckingham's songs still retained their punky vibrancy, however, and the upbeat Empire State is no exception, featuring a fine mandolin solo as well. His tracks were often underrated - an album of them would sound rather Nick Lowe-ish, I reckon.
The beguiling Straight Back is a kind of ethereal Rhiannon part two from Stevie Nicks. It features some nice subtle piano parts. Hold Me was a single and is suitably attractive - melodic and joyful. The same applies to the sixties/Roy Orbison-ish Oh Diane, also a middle of the road radio staple single. This was as overtly poppy as Buckingham got, he was back to quirky rock 'n' roll/new wave on the infectious Eyes Of The World. I really like this, the acoustic/lead guitar interplay near the end is outstanding and uplifting. Old Lindsey was a bit of a misunderstood genius, wasn't he? I think so anyway.
Christine McVie's soulful, evocative early Mott the Hoople-esque (listen to the piano ending) Wish You Were Here ends this most pleasing album. I have to admit I've always had a bit of a thing for Christine. She never lets you down. One of the great rarely credited singer/songwriters.
A fine non-album track is Nicks' strong, bluesy rock of If You Were My Love. Other rarities include her Smile At You, which is similarly hard-rocking. Both these tracks were a bit of a departure from her usual, dreamier fare. Goodbye Angel is a rock 'n' roll-influenced slow ballad type song from Lindsey Buckingham. If You Were My Love is a sleepy, piano-backed, slightly rambling Stevie Nicks song. Cool Water is a mournful, acoustic, harmonious blues dating from 1936, written by Bob Nolan, with a seventies Beach Boys vibe to it. Put A Candle In The Window is a Christine McVie bluesy rocker similar to her early/mid-seventies material. Teen Beat is a punky, rolling drum thrash of an instrumental. It could almost be The Ramones.
Tango In The Night (1987)
Big Love/Seven Wonders/Everywhere/Caroline/Tango In The Night/Mystified/Little Lies/Family Man/Welcome To The Room...Sara/Isn't It Midnight/When I See You Again/You And I, Part II
Five years on from 1982's Mirage, many of the tracks of this final album from the Rumours-era five piece group were intended for a Lindsey Buckingham solo album. He was persuaded by Mick Fleetwood to use them for this one last hurrah for the group, and they managed to get the increasingly drugged-up Stevie Nicks to contribute too, three songs at least. It was hugely successful and yielded no less than six singles, as albums tended to do in that period. Overall, it is a pleasant, attractive and lightly poppy album that suited the carefree late eighties perfectly.
Lindsey Buckingham's infectious, drum-powered Big Love is very much of its era, with a very mid/late eighties vibe to it - soft rock meets subtle dance grooves. It is an effective mix, though, ad it captivates from the first note. The swirling lead guitar is excellent. A similar intoxicating, smooth and slick rhythm is found on Stevie Nicks' blissful Seven Wonders. Also intoxicated was Nicks herself, as mentioned, and this lends a certain edgy tone to her voice which enhances her vocal. Christine McVie's floaty but irresistibly commercial Everywhere was deservedly a big hit.
Buckingham's Caroline is another insistent, drum-driven number with impressive, uplifting vocals. It has that essential pop catchiness to it that merges with vaguely experimental off the wall vibes that he specialised in. Tango In the Night is a mysterious song in the same vein, enhanced by some intricate acoustic plucked guitar parts.
McVie and Buckingham wrote the sleepy, ethereal ballad Mystified and it has a laid-back beauty to it. Little Lies was also a McVie song and it was the album's other big hit. Along with Everywhere it often appears on eighties compilations. It very much sums up that mid/late eighties period. It is as good as eighties pop got. Buckingham's Family Man has a rhythm typical of its tome too, and features another fine McVie vocal. It was also a single and its chorus tells you why. It is sort of Madonna-esque in places and is one of the album's most appealing numbers.
Welcomes To The Room....Sara was evolved from Nicks' time in rehab when she was known as Sara. It is an insistent, chunky song with some suitably unhinged (vaguely) sounding vocals. Isn't It Midnight is a chugging, riffy McVie/Buckingham rocker in a sort of eighties Stones/solo Mick Jagger style. It features some killer lead guitar. Nicks' When I See You Again also finds her vocal sounding slightly damaged, spoilt by intoxication and, because of that, sounds so sad. Buckingham salvaged her drunken efforts and pasted them together in an attempt to get a full song, hence its edgy, unfinished feel. She sounds completely at her lowest ebb, to be honest, nothing like the mystical nymph of earlier songs. Thankfully she came out the other side.
The albums returns to normality with the breezy You And I, Part II. In conclusion, this was a happy-sounding final offering from the group's classic soft rock line up, but the Nicks songs give it an underlying darkness.
Don't Stop - 50 Years
I am exactly the sort of Fleetwood Mac fan that this excellent compilation is aimed at. Yes, I have all the early blues albums from the Peter Green period, Rumours and Tango In The Night but that's as far as it goes for me with the Mac. So, this one suits me fine. I am not sure whether the remasters on here are new ones done specifically for this collection or whether they are taken from the recent "deluxe edition" remasters of their classic albums. Either way, I have to say that the sound quality is simply superb. (Just trying to ascertain it, I think the remasters date from 2015). Check out Seven Wonders or Don't Stop as they pound out of your speakers and you realise that, as clichéd a band as they were in the seventies, rather like The Eagles, for what they did, there were not many better. The musicianship is peerless and the vocals of either Stevie Nicks or Christine McVie (or both of them in their perfect harmony) are sumptuous. Both melodious and strong when necessary.
You can't move for 50th anniversary collections at the moment and this, of course, in this case, (as with all of them) emphasises that Fleetwood Mac have been around for one hell of a long time. They are one of those bands that had two incarnations - the early, raw bluesy one featuring the talents of guitarist Peter Green is completely different to the West Coast, easy rock of the one most people will be buying this collection for. No group had two so utterly different styles under the same group name and some of the same members. Yes, that smooth, easy on the ear, warm sound of tracks like Think About Me or Love Shines, the slick disco of Family Man, the radio-friendly pop of Oh Diane and the huge hits from Rumours is pretty irresistible at times, but, for me, you can't beat that stonking early blues sound. So, I urge people not to dismiss that part of their career and try not to listen to the seventies/eighties material only. Highlights are Black Magic Woman; Shake Your Moneymaker; Need Your Love So Bad; Man Of The World and Station Man. These are all energetic, muscular blues cuts of the highest quality, dating from the British Blues Explosion of the mid-late sixties. Fleetwood Mac came in at the end of that, but they were good, of that there is no doubt. Check out the psychedelic, dreamy rock of Hypnotized too. In fact the whole of Disc One, which covers the band from their Peter Green blues phase through their Danny Kirwan era to their laid-back Bob Welch period, is truly excellent, packed with little-known gems like Spare Me A Little Of Your Love, Tell Me All The Things That You Do and Did You Ever Love Me.
So, as a "casual" Fleetwood Mac kind of guy I can heartily recommend this to anyone of a similar outlook. It is a really enjoyable listen from a quality band(s).