Friday, September 2, 2011

Short And Repetitive, Future Games Is Another Fleetwood Mac Album Worth Passing By.

The Good: Generally sounds good
The Bad: Blandly melodic, SHORT, Some unremarkable lyrics
The Basics: Cripplingly average, Future Games has a rather indistinct collection of eight short tracks that mellow their way nowhere.

In the pantheon of Fleetwood Mac albums, there seem to be several different phases and some are certainly better than others. While there are some albums that seem to be inarguably great, there are some that are definitely more "hit or miss." Future Games, which marks the official arrival of Christine McVie to Fleetwood Mac (she had appeared on earlier albums under her maiden name of Christine Perfect as a backup singer on a few tracks) seems to be one that people either like or hate. For my part, I fall pretty easily into the "leave it" collection of reviewers who have been subjected to Future Games on high replay. It is short, bland and too many of the riffs are repetitive within this album. Moreover, it does not have a single track that stands out and as a result, it is ultimately quite forgettable.

With only eight tracks, clocking out at a meager 42:24, Future Games is hardly an exemplary use of the compact disc medium. Instead, this short, indistinct album should have been combined with another one from this era when it was transferred to c.d. as it could be and the combination of two albums from this era could actually use a single c.d. better than just this album alone. Still, the album is distinctly the creation of Fleetwood Mac . . . at least as it existed at the time. This incarnation of Fleetwood Mac finally adds some estrogen and it is comprised of Danny Kirwan, Bob Welch, Mick Fleetwood and John and Christine McVie.

The quintet wrote all eight songs and Fleetwood Mac produced the album as well. The album includes one of the few songs that every member of Fleetwood Mac wrote together, in the form of "What A Shame." Rather impressively, Fleetwood Mac allows the two newcomers - Christine McVie and Bob Welch - to submit two songs each. In addition to writing and singing their own material, all of the members of Fleetwood Mac play an instrument and so it is very hard to argue that Future Games is not the creative vision of Fleetwood Mac.

The problem here is that with only eight short songs, all of which are rather mellow pop-rock, the album has a monotonous quality to it that is more draining than anything else. Some of Fleetwood Mac's albums are invigorating, some are mellow or moody. Future Games is just murky with the bass and deeper guitar chords dominating songs like "Woman Of 1000 Years." The songs are all slow and contemplative in ways that are utterly forgettable. Like some of the other early Fleetwood Mac albums, there is no distinct single on Future Games that makes one think there is anything indispensable on this album. In fact, the way one track melds into the next, this is one of Fleetwood Mac's most indistinct albums.

The combination of guitar, bass, and piano dominates and this might be the glaring difference between Future Games and virtually every other Fleetwood Mac album; Mick Fleetwood's percussion is not pounding or pronounced. Oftentimes, Fleetwood's drums bind an album such that the songs share a common energy. Here, it is the lack of strong percussion that makes the album seep together like some gelatinous musical experience. Christine McVie's pianos on "Morning Rain," for example, completely drown out Mick Fleetwood's drums.

In addition to more subdued percussion, Future Games is an example of Fleetwood Mac at its least distinguished vocals (at least of the albums I have heard so far). In addition to being split between Kirwan, Christine McVie and Welch, the vocals often involve harmonizing between the vocalists. The result are songs that sound alike vocally as an androgynous aural sensation that lacks articulation.

This type of harmonizing happens on songs like "Morning Rain," but here it might actually benefit the song. After all, it's not exactly the greatest set of lines in the world when McVie wrote "What's that you do / What's that you say / There's no use complaining / It's the only way / There's no use feeling dissatisfied / Cause how can you know until you've tried / Clear as the morning rain / Seeing it very plain / We've got to start again" ("Morning Rain"). I know I usually go easier on the older songs for having predictable rhyme schemes and obvious sentimentality, but in this case, the lines are so obvious and dull that its presentation actually might help the band survive the embarrassment of singing the lines.

This is not to say all of the songs are bad, not by any means. Despite the use of "la di da's" in "Sometimes," Kirwan's lines paint a bleak musical picture with wonderful lines like "Although my back is aching / I'll work the whole day through / Although you hear that I've been wasting / All my time / Taking the sun from the sky / Lifting our hearts to the day / Thinking of new revelations / Talking with nothing to say / Sometimes I get to thinking / About the times we used to have / But now you've gone away and left me-so alone." Kirwan adequately expresses a wonderful sense of futility and loss in the song and his lines here are pretty wonderful.

Ironically, songs like Future Games sound more like the Moody Blues than what one might expect from Fleetwood Mac. And when the lyrics can be heard, they are generally all right. Even McVie manages to close the album well with "Show Me A Smile." Singing to a child, she presents her own lines "Everything's going fast around you / There will be things to astound you / You'll be a man in no time / My little one" ("Show Me A Smile") and here the simplified diction works perfectly.

But all in all, this is an indistinct and average-at-best Fleetwood Mac album and fans will want more for their money, especially if they do go through the effort and expense of hunting this album down. There are much better uses of one's c.d. purchasing bucks!

For other Fleetwood Mac albums, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Mr. Wonderful
Kiln House
The Dance
The Very Best Of Fleetwood Mac


For other music reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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