This is a story of the convoluted and sometimes torturous road taken by drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. These two Brit Blues vets had been in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers before deciding to strike out on their own. Over the next few years Fleetwood Mac plodded along as guitarists Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan came and went. "Albatross," an instrumental, was the group's most notable song. An ironic title to say the least. Things looked up when Christine Perfect joined in the early '70s. She soon became McVie's wife taking his name for the remainder of her career - even after they split. But that was later. Bob Welch joined, but he too departed figuring the group was a dead-end. Apparently, he'd also had an affair with Fleetwood's wife. Had to go. To add insult to injury, Welch managed a solo hit with "Sentimental Lady," a new version of a song he wrote and recorded with Fleetwood Mac. At this point Fleetwood Mac barely existed. That's when an ex-manager decided to launch his own bogus touring version of Fleetwood Mac. The tour was soon halted. The reason had more to do with the fact no one cared about Fleetwood Mac, bogus or original, than any threatened legal action.
As all this was swirling, Fleetwood and Mr. & Mrs. McVie came across two struggling California musicians, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The two were romantically involved, but that would end soon enough, giving both parties plenty of stuff to write about. Their one album "Buckingham/Nicks" had stiffed so bad most people were using it as a doorstop. Figuring there was nothing to lose, on either side, Buckingham and Nicks became the latest addition to Fleetwood Mac. The Blues hit the street and Fleetwood Mac turned hard toward pop-Rock. The commercial results were stunning.
"Fleetwood Mac" and "Rumours" were among the '70s most popular albums and for good reason. "Fleetwood Mac" had the spacey Welsh-witch ode "Rhiannon" and Buckingham's raw "I'm So Afraid." There was also the moving "Landslide" later covered by Smashing Pumpkins. "Rumours" was even better with "The Chain," "Gold Dust Woman" (covered by Hole) and the twin punch of "Go Your Own Way" and Bill Clinton's '92 presidential campaign song "Don't Stop" (please no Bill & Monica jokes).
"Tusk" followed, but this double album was all over the place. The over-blown title track was definitely an acquired taste. Some songs like "Angel" were refreshing for their Rock 'n' Roll simplicity. "Tango In The Night," from the mid '80s, was another step down with "Isn't It Midnight" being the most memorable track. The arguments, affairs, mistrust and a fair amount of drugs crippled Fleetwood Mac. New members, Billy Burnette and Bekka Bramlett (daughter of Delaney and Bonnie) replaced Buckingham and Nicks but nothing really came of it. In '97, the group's most popular line-up resurrected themselves long enough to cash in with "The Dance," recorded "live" with friends, fans and label execs making up the audience. Fleetwood Mac stripped down to a quartet of Buckingham, Nicks, Fleetwood and John McVie to record '03 effort "Say You Will." Christine McVie was credited as a guest musician.
The next year saw the release of the digitally remixed "Fleetwood Mac," "Tusk" and "Rumours - Deluxe Edition" albums. All contained alternate takes, demos and tracks not included on the original albums. The four remaining principles toured once again.
A few years passed before Fleetwood Mac returned with The Unleashed North American tour. "The title of the tour, 'Unleashed,' perfectly describes how we all feel when we get onstage together -- especially in 2009," said the group in a statement. And on an even more promising note, Buckingham vowed to try and get along with Nicks - the ex-love of his life - for the trek's duration.
Coda: Each member of Fleetwood Mac's most accomplished line-up busied themselves with solo projects. The most commercially successful was Nicks. Christine McVie had a shorter spurt highlighted by the hit "Got A Hold On Me." Fleetwood and John McVie kept a much lower profile but occasionally worked together, including contributions on Buckingham's fifth solo album, '08's "Gift Of Screws."
While on tour in '13, Fleetwood Mac issued their first new music in 10 years on iTunes. "Extended Play" contained "Sad Angel," "It Takes Time" and "Miss Fantasy," composed by Buckingham and "Without You," a track originally written by Nicks for the pre-FWM album "Buckingham/Nicks."
1968 Fleetwood Mac
1968 Mr. Wonderful
1969 Then Play On
1969 Fleetwood Mac In Chicago /Blues Jam In Chicago, Vols. 1-2
1970 Kiln House
1971 Future Games
1972 Bare Trees
1973 Mystery To Me
1974 Heroes Are Hard To Find
1975 Fleetwood Mac
1987 Tango In The Night
1990 Behind The Mask
1995 Live At The BBC (features a pre-Buckingham/Nicks line-up)
1997 The Dance (Live)
2003 Say You Will
2004 Fleetwood Mac: Live In Boston
2013 Extended Play (EP)
It all comes down to "Fleetwood Mac" released in '75 and the follow up "Rumours." These are Fleetwood Mac's best and freshest sounding albums. Usually, pop and Rock don't mesh. This is the exception.
"English Rose" is a compilation of Fleetwood Mac's Blues period and does the best job of chronicling it. Some people have a great affection for the pre-Buckingham/Nicks Fleetwood Mac albums. These are generally unremarkable Blues oriented outings with good songs scattered throughout. Fleetwood Mac went on a long decline following "Rumours." "Tusk" is the typical double album - overlong, overbearing and barely enough good songs for a single LP. "Tango In The Night" is OK but after that the wheels came off. Just remember, "Fleetwood Mac" and "Rumours" are the main reason people paid for "The Dance."
One of the first things that becomes apparent with "Say You Will" is that nobody, with the possible exception of David Bowie, can hang around for better than 30 years (even though it has been more off than on for Fleetwood Mac) without finding their comfort zone. Fleetwood Mac's glory days were the mid-to-late 70s with their airy, acoustic/electric, almost organic sound. So why, if they are going to tread old ground, do they keep returning to the '80s? "What The World Is Coming To" is typical Buckingham "Tusk" era (OK that was '79) chaos while his "Steal Your Heart Away" wants to be "Hold Me." Nicks fairs no better with her "Running Through The Garden," an attempt to recreate the "Edge Of Seventeen." The sparse, uptempo, "Destiny Rules" is the closest they get to their '70s style. For Fleetwood Mac fans this album will do, for everyone else it's better to dust off their '70s albums. Speaking of which, there's the "Rumours - Deluxe Edition." The 1970s saw the birth of the environmental movement, eco-friendly projects and recycling. The latter seems to have particularly resonated with Fleetwood Mac. First, there was the "Rumours" album - a major commercial and artistic success. About one-third of the album's songs appear again on the group's "Greatest Hits." Nearly all of those songs found their way onto "The Dance," a "Greatest Hits Live" concept. "Rumours" is Fleetwood Mac at the height of their powers and in the midst of personal break-ups. The tracks that didn't make it on the original album are included on the digitally remastered version. They are generally good but it's clear there is other, better material. Still, for anyone interested in hearing every volley of the Buckingham/Nicks break-up this package is essential. Like "Rumours -Deluxe Edition," the remastered "Fleetwood Mac" and "Tusk" albums sound better than their original incarnations but the added material can be hit or miss. Nobody's a genius all the time.