The Good: Excellent vocals, music, musical variety, lyrics
The Bad: SHORT!!!!
The Basics: A perfect outing by Fleetwood Mac presents a wide array of well-written, exceptionally-accompanied songs that endure to this day.
Before yesterday, the only album by Fleetwood Mac that I had heard (and owned!) was The Dance (reviewed here!) the live album that reunited the group after an extended sabbatical. When I picked up Rumours on a lark yesterday, I was quickly blown away by the consistent quality of this album. As well, I truncated an extensive search that I was preparing to embark on completely as a fluke. In one of the earlier seasons of Alias, one of the songs at the end of an episode beautifully closes the episode with the sweet, sad vocal ". . . And I love you, I love you, I love you / Like never before . . ." ("Songbird") and I could not find what the song was. It turns out, it's on this album! That's a whole lot of work saved.
Rumours is the 1977 album by Fleetwood Mac that is one of the best-selling albums of all time (19X platinum in the U.S., over 30 million copies sold worldwide) that spawned four hit singles and revitalized the career of the band. Songs from Rumours that are standards on the oldies and light rock stations include "Go Your Own Way," "Dreams," "The Chain" and "You Make Loving Fun." President Clinton used the song "Don't Stop" as the predominant anthem of his Inauguration Ball.
For those as unfamiliar with Fleetwood Mac as I am, Rumours is an eleven-track album that clocks in at a dreadfully short forty minutes. There is a 2004 reissue of the album that is longer (it includes "Silver Springs") and even one that includes an additional disc. Listening to the original release is something of a disappointment only in that it harkens back to the terrible days of records and cassettes when everything was fairly short because of the limitations of the medium.
That's the only genuine flaw of Rumours. At the point this album was made, Fleetwood Mac was a quintet consisting of John and Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood. The five of them have exceptional balance as musical artists and performers and Rumours endures as one of the most diverse listening experiences of the entire rock and roll era.
The album's sound ranges from the pure pop of "You Make Loving Fun" to the slow sadness of the stark vocalization of "Songbird" to the classic rock and roll sound of "Don't Stop." "I Don't Want To Know" has an almost-Country twang to it while the rock and roll force of "Go Your Own Way" could not be further from it. While some musical artists struggle to find a sound, Fleetwood Mac's performance on Rumours comes across as disciplined and experimental rather than sloppy and wandering. The album drifts from style to style, following up heavy drum tracks like "I Don't Want To Know" with the quiet, soulful track "Oh Daddy," which delays the drums for a significant number of stanzas and then they are far quieter and more tentative.
What binds the album together as a truly great collection of musical stories is the quality of the writing and the quality of the instrumentals. In today's pop-rock pantheon bands largely tend to fall into the guitar/bass or piano/keyboards category with one of those two instrument combinations being the dominant backing sound. There are remarkably few bands these days that effectively combine bass, guitars, piano/keyboards, drums and vocals. Perhaps that's because Fleetwood Mac sets the bar so high.
On Rumours, Fleetwood Mac presents a musical style that effectively balances the various musical instruments that the performers play. Rumours illustrates many of their talents in that regard quite well. On "Never Going Back Again," for example, Lindsey Buckingham exhibits his incredibly guitar-picking skills while on "Don't Stop," he simply blends his intrumentals into the full band sound along side Christine McVie's synthesizers and Mick Fleetwood's drums. It's impressive to hear how much balance the group can achieve musically and Rumours is a masterwork of equality among the band's members as far as instrumentation and vocals go.
Indeed, the vocals range from the full band on "Don't Stop" to the melodic voice of Lindsey Buckingham on "Never Going Back Again" to McVie's solo on "Songbird" to Stevie Nicks getting her chance to front the group on "Gold Dust Woman." While Nicks is relegated mostly to supporting vocals on Rumours, she writes well on both "I Don't Want To Know" and "Gold Dust Woman."
Which leads us to the lyrics. Rumours is a consistently well-written album with all of the members of the band contributing to the writing, even though John McVie and Mick Fleetwood only co-wrote "The Chain" with the rest of the group. Most of the lyrics are written by Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie. Both are gifted lyricists.
McVie's lyrics range from the singsongy simplicity of "You Make Loving Fun" to the raw emotionalism of "Songbird." "You Make Loving Fun" opens with the simplistic rhymes of "Sweet wonderful you / You make me happy with the things you do. / Oh, can it be so, / This feeling follows me wherever I go . . ." Fortunately, she makes up for such easy rhymes on other tracks, notably "Songbird." Christine McVie also was the sole writer of "Don't Stop," which is pretty impressive considering how fully it includes the band.
Buckingham's lyrics tend to focus a lot on breaking up on Rumours. "Never Going Back Again" quite simply laments "She broke me down and let me in / Made me see where I've been / Been down one time / Been down two times / I'm never going back again. . ." "Go Your Own Way" is also one of Buckingham's tracks and it's hard to think of a better phrased tell-off song than his ". . .You can call it / Another lonely day / You can go your own way / Go your own way!" I'm surprised it's not covered more often.
Ultimately, even in its short version, Rumours endures as a classic album that is easily accessible to audiences today. This serves as a model for those discovering pop rock-music as to how good rock and roll can be and how diverse its sound may be. Of course, listening to it now might well make the listener pine for the days when the radio was filled with music so well-written and so diverse in its sound.
The best track is "Songbird," the weak track (if there has to be one) is "Oh Daddy."
For other, former, Artist Of The Month bands, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Greatest Hits - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Actually - Pet Shop Boys
Forty Licks - The Rolling Stones
For other music reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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