Here’s Something Else!: Recommended Fleetwood Mac, But Not From “Rumours”

All hail Fleetwood Mac‘s Rumours, this 1977 paean to Love, American-style — or California-style, anyway. Memorably cinematic, it chronicled with a lush directness (quite literally, it turned out) the way that relationships coalesce then dissolve.

More than three decades later, one estimate put total sales at 30 million copies, even as lovers’ quarrels blossomed and died between each of the group’s members. So, enough of all that. Rumours — actually, the 13th recording issued by Fleetwood Mac, which had notable earlier success as a blues-based English band fronted by Peter Green in the 1960s — has had its day.

Here, Something Else! Reviews presents five recommended Mac tunes found elsewhere:

“TANGO IN THE NIGHT” (TANGO IN THE NIGHT, 1987): Like a number of Fleetwood Mac recordings subsequent to Rumours, this one grew out of a solo project by quirky, wild-haired writer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham — and the title track bears the most striking resemblance to his own angular individual efforts.

They were always welcome asides, but perhaps no where more so than on this late-1980s release. The title track scuffed up a session that might have collapsed under the high-gloss pop sheen of hit tunes like Stevie Nick’s “Seven Wonders” and Christine McVie’s “Little Lies.”

“SILVER SPRINGS” (THE DANCE, 1997): Originally recorded by Nicks during the sessions for Rumours but hidden as the B-side to “Go Your Own Way,” “Silver Springs” had only previously appeared 1992’s four-disc retrospective 25 Years-The Chain before Fleetwood Mac resurrected it for a live reunion show.

This heart-rending recollection by Nicks of a passion denied (different in that she often hid behind a witchy-woman persona both as a solo artist and in this band) wrestles with a newfound desire to present some steely resolve and move on. Nicks sings that “the sound of my voice will haunt you” … before crying out: “Was I just a fool?” That dichotomy later seemed to play out on stage between Nicks and her former beau Buckingham — they appeared to stalk each other, at times — as a reformulated 1970s-era Mac mounted a celebrated reunion tour on the 20th anniversary of Rumours.

To show that it goes both ways, The Dance also included a terrific Buckingham composition called “Bleed To Love Her,” part of another aborted solo release that preceded these sessions. The reunion album sold 5 million units, becoming the first Fleetwood Mac CD to top the U.S. charts since 1982’s uneven Mirage.

“BLACK MAGIC WOMAN” (ENGLISH ROSE, 1969): Green recorded his song two years before Santana covered it and — just as Jimi Hendrix had before with Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” — forever made the tune his own.

The infrastructure of this soaring plea for an elusive love is already here, though Green’s contemplative solo leads to surprisingly insistent call for reconciliation. Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood once described this original version as “three minutes of sustain/reverb guitar with two exquisite solos from Peter.”

Green, who had met Fleetwood and Mac bassist John McVie as members of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, later descended into mental illness. His departure led to a more mainstream turn for the band. Still, tunes like this illustrate why the early edition of group — even without Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham — charted five times in the U.K. between 1968-73.

“HYPNOTIZE,” (MYSTERY TO ME, 1973): An album-rock radio staple, this record helped make the final argument for Fleetwood Mac’s move into pop music.

“Hypnotize,” with its dreamy AM-era sexuality and garrulous, riffy guitar soloing, is only just getting the hang of the success that would follow — but it’s the most complete portion of the bridge between Fleetwood Mac’s first and second hit-making periods.

Singer Bob Welch had his own subsequent solo hit with “Sentimental Lady,” which was originally featured on Fleetwood Mac’s 1972 release Bare Trees.

“SARA” (TUSK, 1979): Tucked into an expanded double-album format that allowed Buckingham to experiment with the punk and New Wave sounds of the day, “Sara” is the second-best Mac composition from Stevie Nicks, even if it only peaked at No. 7 in the U.S. in 1980.

At first, as Nicks sings of a friend “drowning in the sea of love, where everyone would love to drown,” “Sara” is reflective and smooth on its surface. Soon, however, she reveals lingering regrets — even as Fleetwood and John McVie play at a jarringly different pace behind an at-first perfect piano facade played by Christine McVie.

The song, which works almost as a response to “Dreams,” Nicks’ career-making hit from Rumours, keeps building toward a nakedly emotional moment of sadness over innocence lost: “All I ever wanted, was to know that you were dreaming,” Nicks finally admits.

On “Sara,” she talks, as she had on “Silver Springs,” about lost love with a revealing lack of artifice. That frank simplicity is all the more powerful on a bracing, often weird release like Tusk — which had, as its bizarre lead single, this paranoid excursion of a title track that includes the USC marching band.

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  • Chris Holmes

    I would also like to nominate the original version of “Sentimental Lady”, from the excellent Bare Trees album.

  • Jeremygthorne

    Silver Springs is a great song.
    Song composition and writing just doesnt exist like that today.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s five more:

    “The Way I Feel” and “Why” from Mystery to Me- two ballady type things from Christine McVie; the former is winsome and demure, the latter more insistent and yearning with a great string arrangement.

    “Come a Little Bit Closer” and “Silver Heels” from Heroes are Hard to Find- the first, another gorgeous Chris ballad with a nice slide guitar/horns/strings hook, and the second a somewhat funky Bob Welch rocker that namechecks Paul McCartney and Etta James. Old Bob knew how to get a- dare I say- grungy sound out of his guitar when he needed.

    “Sunny Side of Heaven” from Bare Trees- a supernaturally lovely instrumental by forgotten man Danny Kirwan.

    I’ve always thought pre-LindseyStevie Mac was unfairly overlooked, can’t you tell?

  • Anonymous

    I’m with you on pre-LindseyStevie Mac. I was trippin’ hard on that stuff last year. I’d add “Future Games,” “Woman of a Thousand Years,” “Bright Fire,” “The Green Manalishi,” “Albatross,” and “Emerald Eyes.”

  • Anonymous

    I really like “Emerald Eyes”, “Albatross” (one of the inspirations for Lennon’s “Sun King”, or so it’s told), and “Future Games”. “Eyes”, especially, gets stuck in my head sometimes…

  • mark

    All great songs, though all pretty well-known (except for Tango in the Night). Some of my favorites from the Nicks-Buckingham era that often get overlooked (one from each non-Rumours album) are:

    I’m So Afraid – unforgettable chord progression and one of Lindsey’s most passionate vocal performances. Even better on the Live album, real powerful.

    Storms – sad and beautiful Nicks ballad, with tastefully spare production

    Eyes of the World – amazing, intricate guitar work, the longest riff this side of Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing”

    Isn’t It Midnight – buried in the middle of some fairly boring tracks near the end of Tango in the Night.

    As the author of “Fixing a Hole,” I should also mention that Fleetwood Mac was actually the inspiration for it! Here’s why: when I was 15 or so and Tango in the Night was released, it was the first Mac LP in 5 years. What, I thought, would a Fleetwood Mac album from 1984 or so have sounded like in lieu of the three solo projects that occurred around then? I put one together with four songs each from Lindsey’s “Go Insane,” Stevie’s “The Wild Heart,” and Christine’s self-titled LP. I called it “Play in the Rain.” And it was darn good, better than either Mirage or Tango, I dare say. Not the most cohesive album in the world, but the abrupt shifting between styles was pretty much de rigeur for post-Rumours Mac, as the three songwriters moved in three very different directions (and severed their romantic ties). More than 20 years later, it occurred to me I could do the same thing with the Beatles, on a much larger scale.

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