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Fleetwood Mac

 Enough Lineup Changes to Make George Steinbrenner Jealous

 

Introduction
(Peter Green's) Fleetwood Mac
Mr. Wonderful
English Rose
Pious Bird of Good Omen
Then Play On
Kiln House
Future Games
Bare Trees
Penguin
Mystery to Me
Heroes are Hard to Find
Fleetwood Mac
Rumours
Tusk by thatcoolbrotha
Mirage
Tango in the Night
Behind the Mask
Time
The Dance
Say You Will
 

Ooh, visions of coke spoons, bell-bottomed California sunsets, and a twirling, barely-legal Stevie Nicks in black chiffon running though your head? Well hold them horses, bucko, because Fleetwood Mac has a hell of a lot of story to tell before we get to the Me Generation's I-Ching, the hairy-chested, long-haired, sensitive seventies soft rock Sgt. Pepper known as Rumours. Used to be a blues band, see, way back in the 60's. Had themselves a hell of a good blues guitar player in Peter Green, soon to be followed by a string of other guitarists, drug casualties, hippy chicks, religious nuts, and Dave Masons. Their history is spottier than Michael Jackson's "Little Thriller", if you know what I mean. Lemme tell you, they had their share of good albums, and in the end, pop music was pushed that ever little bit higher by Fleetwood Mac. So let's cut ourselves a line and get up for the downstroke, eh?

Note: FM has about a thousand live releases from the late 60's. I'm not reviewing any of those, or the supposedly good live release from 1980 either. I have one called The Original Fleetwood Mac Live in Chicago from 1968 or so and I remember it being quite dull. Maybe someday I'll redress these issues, but I don't think it'll be before the coming world war and resultant holocaust, so don't worry, be happy!

 


 

(Peter Green's) Fleetwood Mac - Blue Horizon 1968.

 

Recent graduates from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Drummer Mick Fleetwood, and Bassist John McVie joined guitar master Peter Green and formed themselves Fleetwood Mac. They quickly grabbed second guitar player (and slide king) Jeremy Spencer and made one of the best pure British blues albums ever. See, Peter Green had the kind of tone that makes young girls cry and old men wish they were young girls. B.B. King himself said Peter's tone was the best he'd ever heard. The man is fluid, his guitar is smooth like peanut butter and lyrical like Bob Dylan. It's a wonder why more people don't take to this guy. Jeremy? He's a slide guy, and a darn fine one as well. And, in case you don't know, Fleetwood and McVie are an unflashy but solid and rhythmical rhythm section. That sounds retarded. Maybe propulsive is a better adjective. Or maybe just thumpy. Oftentimes Fleetwood's drums sound tribal, like his toms are working overtime. I like it a lot. Probably copied from Ginger Baker, but you know how those things happen. No wonder why they named the group after the rhythm section.

So, to the album. You'll probably never hear this because it didn't sell dick in the U.S. (though it was top 10 for a long ass time in the U.K.), and it's out of print as of now. It's 100% blues songs. Really authentic sounding. I'm from Kansas City, and I could fucking smell the ribs smoking in the background on this record. Blues-wise, these guys kick the shit out of Cream, fer sure. A lot of the songs sound just like Elmore James (the kickass 'Shake Your Moneymaker' is an Elmore song, so there ya go). The singing is maybe sort of a bummer, but it's passable. These guys were mostly after the instrumental side, anyway. If you can find this one and you're a fan of the British blues at all, buy the living fuck out of it. Definitely worthwhile.

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 Mr. Wonderful - Castle 1968

So maybe originality wasn't this band's strong point at first. Remember all those slide guitar runs that sounded so boss hog on the last record? Well they're back like a case of the clap gained by using the toilet after Mr. Wonderful there on the cover. Mick looks like the unholy three-way offspring of an Albanian war refugee, Dikembi Mitumbo, and Mr. Larry Hagman, fer chrissakes. And eewk, the songwriting hasn't improved one smidgen, but they still sound authentic  as all get out. Sure they're all Limey twenty year olds and not old bald black guys? Green's songs are now far better than the Elmore James that has suddenly turned stale like day old dog nuts since the first record. Listen to 'Stop Messin' Around', the leadoff track here...whoo! Audio version of babyback ribs and longneck Budweiser, I tell ya. And, well, Jeremy Spencer's songs sound like the James covers, but only if Elmore were to have sucked really bad. Like all of his songs had the same opening riff. By the end of this record I was so sick of slide guitar I thought I was going to kill some person.  I'll also pay some props to the cool piano playing by new sort-of member Christine Perfect, she really adds some nice atmosphere, not to mention a set of tits. And speaking of boobs, the record's sort of a fumble, considering that this could have been even better than the first one, if they would have, you know, progressed a little bit. Luckily, in the U.S., they threw out some of the less useful stuff and replaced it with some prime grade A moocow for the album called...

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English Rose - Epic 1969.

I'll tell ya exactly why, even though this record shares nearly half its songs with Mr. Wonderful, you should buy this one and not its English twin. Firstly, it's got the sleazy, scuzzy original version of 'Black Magic Woman'. You get Peter Green's guitar tone, sure, but be forewarned you also get his voice...which ain't so hot, brothers and sisters. But still, its 'Black Magic Woman', and its got that cool guitar solo, but no bongos, and I love that song pretty illicitly. Number Two, you get a finer collection of songs by new dude Danny Kirwan instead of all those Elmore James covers that got so old on Mr. Wonderful. Other than that, its still no great shakes, but you gotta dig that Peter Green's guitar tone. Mmmm.

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Pious Bird of Good Omen - Columbia 1969.

Apparently the letter writing campaign worked, because Peter and company finally got to the bottom of a grave injustice being inflicted on their fans. After almost TWO YEARS and TWO AND A HALF ALBUMS (most of which were made of Elmore James covers), they still had never released a compilation album!!! What the flying fuck? So, prayers were answered and sighs of relief were heard across the land like nothing since the Rolling Stones decided to release their latest live album. Jagger and Fleetwood, those cruel, uncaring, detached, disgusting tightassed Micks! (Not racist! I swear! Those fucking Anglo Saxons.)

So, well, if you run across this in the record store (it can be identified by the large waterfowl and Woman of God on the front), be sure to turn it over and read the track listing...if you don't find 'Black Magic Woman', 'Albatross', a couple of other Green songs, a Kirwan song, a buttload of blues covers, and only ONE Spencer song (that guy wrote like half the original songs, and he only gets one? I guess they realized his songs all sound the same and suck nards), start smashing display cases because apparently, SOMEWHERE, there's a record store with a Fleetwood Mac album more obscure than this one I've got.  Some sort of German or Icelandic version! I have a strange need to be the coolest and most 'in' in the Fleetwood Mac club, but then again I'm not reviewing Tusk yet, 'cos I can't find it here in Russia, so fuck the shit outta me. I'm a dirty moron.

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Then Play On - Reprise 1969.

So now you've got the Mr. Wonderful / English Rose lineup, but with the conspicuous addition of a certain little folkie, Mr. Danny Kirwan. And the result is an album that sounds almost nothing like Mr. Wonderful's dull-as-shit blues. It's Country Blues! Or Folk Blues! Or, well, anything but the Chicago blues they were doing. Oh no, you haven't lost Peter Green's cool guitar tone, and personally I'd rather listen to blues like 'Show-Biz Blues' or 'Rattlesnake Shake' than 100 Cream songs, fer instance. Just don't be surprised if this album also has passages so folky and light you're afraid the fuzz on the turntable needle might just wipe the music right off the LP. Danny Kirwan was apparently real scared of the studio mike, see, and tends to play and sing real quiet and slow-like. This can have good effects ('My Dream' which is instrumental and at least pretty...'Although the Sun is Shining'  which is countryish, despite and probably partly because of its trite lyrics.) or bad ones (the awfully slow, long and dreadful 'Closing My Eyes' and 'When You Say'). In fact there's loads of instrumentals on this record. 'Underway' is another sad, underwatery Hendrix-ish one, the strange 'Madge' duo is generic boogie instrumental that shows the guys still wanna get down sometimes. That one fails at being entertaining, but whatever.

The centerpiece of the album is 'Oh Well', which starts out in the blues stomp tradition of Led Zep's 'Black Dog' ('Oh Well' was first, but this sequence really ain't in the same league, y'know) then quickly gives you several minutes of really slow, haltingly quiet atmosphere to ponder your darkest troubles to or maybe just pick your nose during while you wait for the fast part to come back in. Sure sounds like the drug demons were already creeping across the surface of Peter Green's brain at this time, and it was darn difficult for the guy to sound happy, much less optimistic. If you're in a pensive mood, this album could do it for you. A lot of the record is dark in a lonely, surrendered sort of way that, at the very least, lends some interesting feel to a lot of songs which could otherwise sink under their own weight (like say, 9 minutes of 'Oh Well').

You could really do worse than this album, but I can't recommend it to true rock people, 'cos it rarely rocks, and I can't recommend it to blues guys with all that bland boogie and super quiet parts. And folkies wouldn't dig the electric parts, and psychedelics...well fans of Syd Barrett might actually like parts of this. If a sorta sad, chance-taking album that was the last real thing Peter Green did sounds interesting, grab it.

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Kiln House - Reprise 1970.

Peter Green's unfortunate flakeout into religious psychosis leaves the Then Play On band without a leader, and with only a normal contingent of 2 guitar players, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer., who have to fill the void.  Now while the band still has guitarists, it no longer really has a Guitarist, not the blues hero fuckimuffin kind like Peter Green sorta was. They've essentially got a dual rhythm thing going, except neither one is Keith Richards and neither one is Brian Jones. This creates an interesting scenario for the Mac: since they were no longer convincing as hardcore blues guys, and they couldn't become a freakout soloing band like they flirted with on Then Play On, they'd have to play their third string option: writing catchy rock songs. Now, I dunno what exactly crawled into Mr. Green's head that made Then Play On such an oppressive listen, but what I do know is that Kiln House is a much lighter, shorter, and easily palatable record than Then Play On, and stands as the transitional album of the Mac's entire career. After this point they'd be considered 'soft rock', and before this they were on the more leaden side. Kiln House, on the other hand, is right on. It also marks the entry into the band of a certain Ms. Perfect on keyboards...

 The obvious feature of this spinning circle is Jeremy Spencer's odd fascination with 50's rock dudes...he emulates Elvis ('This Is The Rock'), hardcore shitkicking country ('Blood On The Floor'), and Buddy Holly ('Buddy's Song', 'Mission Bell'). Each track is alternately reverent and downright goofy, and it's all infectious. 'Hi Ho Silver' brings up visions of John Lennon doing Jerry Lee with his original Plastic Ono/Dirty Mac band, and is just as jumpin'.  And it's not like he tries to hide his impressions...'Buddy's Song' mentions 'Peggy Sue' outright and they probably spent a good week trying to get the vocal slapback echo on 'Hi Ho Silver' just right. I mean, I guess when you feel like the 'new kinda rock 'n' roll ain't got the same soul', you gotta go back to the fountain again. It's fun stuff, though if he'd tried it on another album I'd probably begin to shut his ass out.

 Danny's compositions split evenly between the six-string'em up we're familiar with, from catchy-yet-inconsequential but dependable boogie-blues workouts like 'Station Man' (which in no way deserves to be as long as it is, kinda like my '6 yards of Ryan') and 'Tell Me All The Things You Do', and folk-rock stuff that he's better known for. The best songs on the record, from a purely 'giggles in the tummy' way, are 'Jewel Eyed Judy', one of the best power pop hooks outside of a Wings album and the gorgeous instrumental 'Earl Gray', which prototypes, prefigures and predicts the next 5 years of 'soft rock' Mac to a perfect t-square.

 Kiln House is a surprisingly strong record, easily listenable and carefully crafted, even in the wake of what might've driven the band into pieces. And while it may not have the whollop of some of the early FM, it plants a few of the seeds that would later flower into the opium poppies of Fleetwood Mac and Rumours. And it's fun...

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Future Games - Reprise 1971.

Seems our guys have been listening to Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The smooooooth melodies and overall softitude can quickly put this man into a deep slumber. This is the first record with Bob Welch, faceless American guitarist extraordinaire, and is also missing wild man Jeremy Spencer who ran off and became a moonie or something (hey it was the 70's). So we've got Mr. Quiet Danny Kirwan doing most of the (haha) 'songwriting' here, and I'll be blighted if it ain't boring the paint off the walls. Lots of excessively long lilting acoustic / clean electric guitar tunes with heavily reverbed 'spacey' sequences that really go nowhere. I mean, look at those running times: title track - 8:16, 'Sands of Time' - 7:22. There isn't any reason that would stand up in court for these songs to be anything longer than maybe 3:30. So let's call this self-indulgent as well and drop the rating even lower. At least the guys can still play, but it's awful they have to be playing this kind of toothless dreck. And though pleasant in a 'come play with us Danny' sort of way, this album is so light and tapped out of energy I was reaching for Mr. Wonderful just to blow some of this cotton out of my ears.

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Bare Trees - Reprise 1972.

More soft rock. Erg. Is this better than Future Games? I say pretty close, but this gets the nod. Shorter track times help by leaps and bounds. Certainly it's still in the same style, but this time it uses more generic 'melody' and Bob Welch goes a little more to the forefront. His 'Ghost' song clogs my ears with some sensitive flute and really bland singing. You know you have troubles when Christine McVie is now by far the best singer in the band. Possibly this rocks a little more, too, but this soft Bread-style rock will turn off a rock fan so fast I wouldn't suggest trying it on one out of consideration for your personal safety. Again, there's little of true annoyance here (the Muppet singing and really gay melody on 'Sentimental Lady' for one), and certain songs like 'Homeward Bound' belie a bit of the old coolness, so don't think its a washout. What the hell is up with the noisy opening and wah-ed plastic funk of 'Danny's Chant'? Like that isn't out of place. Don't ruin my mellow mood, Mr. Kirwan. I even get halfway off on the Clapton-esque 'Sunny Side of Heaven', but mostly because you don't have to put up with any singing on it. Just make sure you're firmly entrenched in the early seventies light as a feather folk rock mode before you turn it on. Open those collars nice and wide.

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Penguin - Reprise 1973.

Hmm. Definitely snappier than the snoozy Bare Trees or Future Games but seemingly flatter and less experimental as well. Must be because they kicked Danny Kirwan out of the band because he was an angry drunken jerk. So since last time we're down to Christine and Mr. Welch as the veteran writers, and Welch hasn't been too much of a writing fool yet. We've got two new guys named Bob Weston (singing) and Dave Walker (guitar) but they make so little difference its no wonder they were jettisoned after this mediocre record. Hey, is the totally misplaced rock cover of 'Road Runner' turgid, or is it decent? Let's listen a second time and just call it totally lacking in exhuberance. The band at this time was like a black hole for excitement. Christine's tracks are the gems, but that's giving a lot of credit to cliched hook lines and pleasant melodies. Welch does his weird, sub-Jon Anderson 'serious' stuff again, but gosh...where's the excitement? It's not even soft rock anymore when he does a song, its like low-cal Santana with absent guitar and godawful vocalizations and lyrics. Eesh. There's no improvement here. I'm not even going to mention ugly bastards like 'Did You Ever Love Me'. Whatever good feeling that may come from this record is straight from the mind of Christine McVie and her only, except for Peter Green's return 'The Rain' maybe, which is nice but inconsequential. I don't know of anybody who would seriously like this one. Move on.

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Mystery to Me - Reprise 1973.

The useless loser of a singer from last time has gone back to stocking convalescence items at Walgreen's so (get your lineup cards out folks), we're down to Mrs. McVie and Mr. Welch as the songwriters, and Weston is here doing a little guitar work, and I'm about to say how lame this could be and then I hear the first track, a Welch track called 'Emerald Eyes'. This is the best track he's done for the band yet, no doubt. It's still weirdly prog in its lyrics, and he sings so much like a Muppet it hurts my soul, but the hook is there, and I get it. Fade in to Christine's 'Believe Me', which rocks around without hurting at all...hey! This album might not be so bad after all!

And wow, it's not. Actually I'm not going to write anything bad about this record. There...three hours of trashing Penguin and Future Games has left me wanting desperately to like something. Each and every song on here has a hook of some sort, and can possibly be called a good song. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not going to make you want to leave the wife and join a Bob Welch cult, but boy man alive did he improve. 'Hypnotized', though really simply a Bare Trees song with a hook, sounds like it could have been a hit in 1973, and his lyrics have come down to earth (finally). 'Forever' sounds like disco ELO, quite a coup for a Christine song. 'The City' rocks for real...and that ain't no jive. The most energy on a FM record in so long I don't even care to look back. At least since Jeremy Spencer was in the band. That envelope filter can really talk, y'all. And 'Miles Away' does pretty well at going fast. And 'For Your Love', the Yardbirds song Clapton hated so much....wow! The Chris closer 'Why' even sounds like it could come off of Rumours. Really! Embarrassment of riches! I can truly enjoy this record, except maybe for the monkey on the front licking ejaculate off his fingers....that turns my stomach. By far the best album the early band ever did since maybe the first Fleetwood Mac.

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Heroes Are Hard to Find - Reprise 1974.

The last one from the pre-hit maniac incarnation of the group and aren't we getting itchy for it already? I mean, this early history of the band is absolutely ignored by most everybody, and except for certain exceptions (Mystery for sure, a selection of the old blues work, Then Play On, small parts of Bare Trees, maybe) everybody would be just about right. Sitting through all these early 70's records, its no wonder why I start to grab at anything that remotely resembles a hook as being 'good'. I mean, Mystery to Me is good, but it isn't that good, now really guys...no Fleetwood Mac, anyway. Sounded like anybody could've done that record. I don't honestly like most any of this 1971-1974 kind of music at all, not like I sit around and listen to it to clear my mind or anything. Let's explain maybe why it sucks so bad. First thing, the only really effective songwriter through all of it is Christine, and she's only coming into her own as a songwriter...and really, are her songs any great shakes? No...but they shine like diamonds compared to the rest of this dreck. Welch had his moment on Mystery, but before and after that he was a strange non-entity. Second, the band themselves put out a record every year, and even did two in 1973. Could any band other than the Beatles do that consistently? Not a chance. Plus Fleetwood Mac didn't have normal band problems like drug use and partying, they had people go crazy on them, literally go nuts while in the band. They had to deal with their old management putting a group out on tour also called Fleetwood Mac. They had a lot of ego problems and infighting. They had new songwriters and guitar players almost every album. From 1970 - 1974 alone I'd say they seriously changed their sound three times (rock/ blues roots pop, slow psychedelic pop, hard rock/pop). So is there any doubt why a lot of these albums are less than revelatory?  I mean, Christine McVie must be one hell of a strong woman to go through all this and still be able to write positive, snappy love songs. My respect, Chris.

To this album. The opening 'Heroes Are Hard to Find' is as simple and snappy as you might wish a Christine McVie song to be, and so, hey! It's enjoyable. So what's with Bob's 'Coming Home', Bermuda Triangle' and 'Angel'? 'Coming Home' sounds like...what? Fucking Hawkwind? What kind of prog-influenced shit is this? The guy just couldn't keep his fingers out of the 'smooth prog' cookie jar, full of shapeless, melodyless mush like this. At the very least you might consider it to be harder-edged than say, something off Penguin, so at least it will irritate you rather than simply bore you into a fitful slumber. The organs, guitars, and Bob's undistinguished voice combine together and simply coat your ears with some sort of goo, preventing detection of such things as melody and beat. And our boy just keeps going and going. There is so little memorable material coming out of Bob Welch here I feel like going back and listening to Mystery to Me with a lot more bitter criticism than the charitable reception I just gave it.

Aaah! What I hate about this band is that it can put out such shit, and then let Christine McVie do something, well, if not great, then extremely acceptable! Her songs are so nice and melodic, even when they're drowned under a lot of overdubs and strings like 'Come a Little Bit Closer' they're very much acceptable, mediocre, ...jeez, I like that overblown shitty song. Its her melody and Perfectly Unoffensive Voice! Its so....schizophrenic....and I can't stand this kind of weird split with Mr. Retarded Bob Welch. I wish it were the 'Christine McVie Band'! Dammit, bring on the piano-driven, mid-tempo saccharine cliches and the indistinguishability!!! 'I wanna be inside your heart!' Yeah, baby! I wanna be inside something, but it ain't your heart!!!! SLATHER MY BODY IN the SWEET CREAMY NOUGAT FILLING OF CHRISTINE MCVIE, I LOVE THOSE SIMPLE, STUPID MELODIES!!!!! GIMME GIMME GIMME SIMPLE STUPID SONGS!!!!! GAAAWWESKJFDSKLFJALKSSEEOEOEOEOE!

Fuck what an awful album. C-, but only because I envision Christine McVie slamming Bob Welch's drunken testicles repeatedly in her piano until he coughs up the Los Angeles-area telephone number for STEVIE NICKS and LYNDSEY BUCKINGHAM before kicking his ass out of the door and into Obscure Former Fleetwood Mac Guitar Player-hood!! Woohoo bring on them Californian sex potatoes! I'll bring the bean dip!

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Fleetwood Mac - Reprise 1975.

Our favorite softer than soft rockers moved to California, jettisoned that slimy French Kiss fucker and picked up Young Hippies in Love Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham in an attempt to resuscitate their career, which sort of had never had much success anyway. Both of the newbys were into country music, see, and Lindsey liked the Beach Boys a lot, and he could play a mean guitar and write a mean melody, and she was really cute, and had a sort of husky voice, and was hot and wore lots of black chiffon on stage, so the stage was set for ass kicking HEAVY FUCKING METAL, maaaan!

This album sold shitloads, but its not perfect. The Christine song that starts off includes the line 'He Made a Woman Out of Me' so ugh. Lindsey's songs are sort of dumb at first. 'Monday Morning' and 'Blue Letter' which rocks like the Eagles used to rock, meaning its fast but its lame.

So the album is pretty awful at first then BINGO! 'Rhiannon'! A star is born! Sexy ass song, and John McVie is thumping around that bass like he's Bill Wyman Squared or something. Is there any guitar during most of the verses of this track? Who fucking cares! Turn up the bass! Yeahhh! What a song! The words are sort of hippy, but we're all adults here, and we can look a hot hippy chick in the tits and say 'Fine Fucking Song, Stevie!'...and 'Landslide' is too....really Dylan-folky. This girl is the best thing on the record fer sure. 'Im getting older too'? Whatever! NOW you're old as shit, but in 1975 you were like 12 years old!

John keeps that bass moving on 'Over My Head', a really halfway decent Christine song, but the words are dumb. Don't we know that already? Probably no dumber than Robert Plant singing about his lemon, but it's a girl and it makes my male insecurities itch like a mutherfucker when I hear a girl be all sensitive and corny like Christine always is. The song's catchy though, and has a great vocal hook, so lets just move on, eh?

'Crystal' is awful...dude, could Lindsey write a fucking song yet or what? Christine gives us another toe-tapping winner with 'Say You Love Me'...which sounds JUST like the Carpenters! With a Byrdsy sort of 12 string bit in there. Whenever there's a 12 string, the reviewer always pulls out the friggin Byrds metaphors...well fuck that. It doesn't sound like the Byrds at all. It sounds like Jose fucking Feliciano or Mott the Hoople or Mortal Reign or some shit, but not the godamn Byrds!

(Actually it sounds EXACTLY like something from Turn Turn Turn so Fuck Me!)

Okay okay, Buckingham had a hand in writing most of 'World Turning' which is neat, and sounds like Bad Company or something like that. Or the Firm! So the dude can write, but still his huge enormous ego he has had since, oh, about 1977 is totally unearned. The guy is SO not Brian Wilson or even any of those other cool pop guys Lindsey Buckingham likes but I can't remember 'cos I'm sleepy and hungover. That said, 'I'm So Afraid' sounds cool, and musically it beat the shit out of 'Witchy Woman' which I'm sure he started out by copying. Luckily he'd jettison this country lite-ness almost completely after this record. Those words are pretty wussy though fellah....gotta get your heart broken and then you'll write some LYRICS! Like on the next record!

Only half of it works most of the time, but some of the time it all comes together like Oreos and Bean Dip, so who am I to ass ream Marion Barry's Polynesian Au Pair and not give this an A-! An A- and a Smile, if you will! And you Must!!!!!!

Buy more Mott the Hoople records! They're great!

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Brian patruckerman@aol.com    Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: Stevie wrote "Crystal" not Lindsey it was a stevie song on their buckingham nicks album

 


 

Rumours - Reprise 1977.

If only for one album, Fleetwood Mac were able to pinch off their perfect blend of melody, atmosphere, and, in the immortal words of Mr. Robert Plant, LOWOWOWOWRRRVVEE!!!!

This album is a pop masterpiece on the level of, maybe Pet Sounds or at least Between the Buttons (ed. note: Just reviewed BTB and I don't like it so much. Forget that line.), an album when nearly each song strokes your melody button until you gasp with tingles. Its one of those records that has been so overplayed on classic rock radio that it's hard to judge exactly how strong an impact the songs had upon release. And I, for one, love the shit outta this fucknut, if only for the fact that it was the ONLY record I owned that would piss off everybody on my dorm floor if I played it loud enough. This didn't happen with Waylon Jennings, Marianne Faithfull, the Velvet Underground or my Experimental Audio Research album of bug screeches. This album is so MOR it has now reached the status of the extremely radical. Try it out yourself.

The first thing you gotta know here is that the melodies are so perfect, the instrumentals and singing so smooth, and the production so slick, you might not realize this is actually a ROCK album you're listening to. Or well, a California Rock album, anyway. But man, lisssen to that bassman thump on this record...a genius I say! A genius in our midst! And how that drummer thumps all around his kit like he's really tall or something! And that guitar player, he's avant garde, I tells ya! Not really, but he's interwstigj and interesting as well, and on one tune he plays a ONE NOTE GUITAR SOLO! Whoduzhethinkheisanyhow? Eddie Van Halen? Shredding tapping mutherfucker! And Stevie Nicks is still hot! And, ummmm Christine is still Christine!

The two couples in the band were on the Last Train to Clarksville during the taping of this record, so you know Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, as well as Fleetwood and his jelly and crap-encrusted ass dildo were not getting along well. Their Loss is Your Gain, O My Bratties! Let's go songwriter-by-songwriter to confuse the crackheads: Buckingham gives us 'Second Hand News' which really blows all kinds of goats, but has a melody that has stuck in my gourd for the past 3 days so I give it a 48 1/9 out of 10. As does 'Never Goin Back', if not worse. Do do dodo do do dodo do do dudo do do. Try to escape it, heathens! You can't! Acoustic! Bouncy! Melodic! Satanic Scat Porn! Love it! Then 'Go Your Own Way' which rules all the way to Saturday up and down this here avenue...wat a bitter fucker in those lyrics! Of course he sounds like the guy from REO Speedwagon singing on it, but Mr. Speedwagon never wrote anything as catchy as that shit that collects in my bellybutton, much less this mean bastard of a song. And those drums, JEEEEZUS, those are like the entire coolness of the world there! And there's the cool guitar solo, I Neil Young you not! Turn on the local Classic Rock station, wait a few minutes whilst picking your schnoz, listen to the song, and tell me I'm not the man. I'm the man! Its cool! And the a bunch of acoustic guitars come along and strangle the hell out of that one note solo and its as Beautiful as the first time you felt up a chick. I promise. Whoo! Wotta song!

Stevie's songs are the best she ever did, along with the other songs she did with this band. No really. Okay okay  'I Don't Want to Know' kinda licks Roseanne Barr's buttnugget but its also got one hillbilly deeelite of a melody I can hum for you! But the words suck! So skip it and play 'Dreams'...whoa that's got some ARRANGEMENT, muthafatha! Tha song rocks, boy howdy milk carton! Listen to how the rhythm changes up...how the drums turn the beat around and crescendo and shit like that. And how loud is that farthing bass? And a volume pedal on that guitar! Another classic! Love that song! And 'Silver Springs'? Okay I don't remember that track real well. 'Gold Dust Woman' FUCK! Whooo! Right on, brother man! 'Pack up gold dust woman, take your silver spoon...'. I heard Waylon Jennings do a version of this which eats! Eats your girlfriend's doily panties!  But don't worry, you bought this classic pop record instead of that mediocre country one, so yer in the clear.

Now Christine's songs are interesting. Check this shit: First one is 'Don't Stop', the Bill Clinton theme song...which he quoted for Miss Lewinsky whilst he was on the phone with a Fine Leader of Our Nation  and whilst her lips were in contact with his 'Orrin Hatch Bully Pulpit' if you noodle my jungle bunny, and I think you do. Its bouncy and retarded...get that? Retarded! Like football helmet retarded! But ITS GOT A MELODY TOO! Ugh! But forget it! Second song? 'You Make Lovin' Fun'...also TOTALLY, STANDARDIZED-TEST FAILING, UNCONSCIONABLY CRACK BABYISH! Dumb! But also MELODIC! Then 'Oh Daddy'...still melodic, but Dark, I tell you! Dark! And Slow! Love's not quite so great but she's admitting her codependency! Then, finally, 'Songbird' which is so beautiful I won't think about how much less attractive she is than Stevie Nicks during the entire song. Her marriage is ruined, but she's STILL OPTIMISTIC! What a tough woman! Or a masochist! Who knows?

One note: My Russkie-made CD-MP3 has 'Songbird' in the middle of the record instead of as the last song. It really should be last.

And dude, 'The Chain' is in there, and everyone wrote that, and its just about the best song on here. Is that an accordion in the background? Bagpipes? Damn your love! Damn your lies, crazy Fleetwood Mac bagpiper! Ficking aces on the bass on this song, lemme say, Mr. McVie. And those vocals, fuck! And that one note guitar solo, and then he plays all these other notes and its just not the same anymore. But holy frijoles what a classic...there's like 80% classic songs here!

Buy this before it's too late and you have to admit that you aren't hardcore enough for Fleetwood Mac.

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Steve Knowlton     Your Rating: A

Any Short Comments?: On the vinyl, "Songbird" is at the end of side one, so it's a nice stopping point before you have to get up and turn over the LP. It would sound dumb right in the middle of a CD, though.

dver     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Human beings can't do better than that.
Inspiration hits people even when they hate each other. You can do music for gods having the devil around. Unbelievable.

 


Tusk - Reprise 1979.

Capn's Note: While I get my record player back from baby-mangled hell, I'll do my own review of this album that I so luckily bought for $2 the day before Katia went Incredible Hulk on my stereo system. But, until then, I'll leave you in the capable hands of thatcoolbrotha...

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Mirage - Reprise 1982.

If you were thinking that maybe the dropoff in quality might happen here, smack dab in the beginning of the grab-the-bucks 1980's, where slick production, cocaine, and light-as-a-feather melody ruled, you'd be right. Score yourself some points. Hey, the band couldn't keep pumping out emotional masterpieces or weird double albums forever, you know? Not with all the China White goin' up their nostrils and with Stevie's solo career and whatnot. Nah, the classics had to stop somewhere, and the smooth, professional, but still rocking music they'd been doing since 1975 is nearly 100% replaced by AOR pop almost totally removed from the world of 'rock' music.

So in that case, the album is a complete washout of high production values and tossed-off melodies, right? Not a chance, Mr. Hagman! You'd be a fool to completely write this album off. Sure, a lot of the writing here is thinner than toilet paper and half as rough, it doesn't mean you can't get totally wrapped up in some of the cool sounds Lindsey tacks on the songs as he goes. What a genius this man is! Every song here, and I mean every song, has something neat to grab your attention and keep your interest. A cool background harmony here, an excellent guitar solo there. And if they don't rock anymore, what do they do with their songs? Well, dumb lightweight doo-wop 50's music is an option, and Lindsey goes to that well twice ('Can't Go Back', 'Oh Diane'). What about some herky jerky disco? Got it, on Stevie's worst song here ('Straight Back', where she sounds especially coked out).

Chris is still Chris, but her songs are even slicker than usual now, and often border on falling victim to the worst AOR tendencies one can imagine. But, luckily, again, Lindsey is there to throw in a cool texture or solo, like on 'Only Over You'. It really sounds like Chris is readying herself to finally go solo (which, in fact, she did) and is watering herself down even further in preparation. I'm also sure that after 12 long years she was happy to be making some real dough and to finally not have to put up with band members going insane (not for awhile, anyway).

The classics? Sho nuff we got a few. Three in fact. First on the disc is Stevie's classic style 'Gypsy', which is for sure in the league with 'Rhainnon' and 'Dreams', no doubt. It's in the pseudo-autobiographical style of 'Landslide', and I totally dig the bridge with its synth parts. 'Hold Me' is a Chris-led, whole band tune, that sounds like the best Chris tune you can imagine. The production tricks really shine here, Chris and Lindsey's voice textures match spectacularly, and in general the Meetwood Flack sound is most present on this song. Finally, the album closer 'Wish You Were Here' (not the annoying Pink Floyd song) closes with a duel between the piano and a Stones-y guitar solo that is simply sploogeworthy.

So what if most of the album is marking time? It sounds good, especially if you're not digging too deeply for real emotion, real writing, real performances...its a lot of window dressing, but its entertaining window dressing.

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Tango in the Night - Reprise 1987.

Our favorite Macs soldier on into the mid-80's, surviving Stevie's and Christine's solo careers and some truly Herculean coke habits in the rhythm section. If in 1982, they embraced pure pop, here Lindsey embraces the Miami Vice Big Beat (Copyright, 1986), He creates another album with such deep, slick, harmonic production, sometimes one can push the 'balance' knob all the way to one side and simply enjoy how well a particular bongo track is recorded. Its when the whole banana is screaming out at you that there can be problems. Listen, this is the sort of plastic, smooth-as-snot reverby production that nearly destroyed my childhood 15 years ago. Broke my home, got me addicted to glue, and caused my harelip to recur. Not really, but 1987 production is 1987 production. Luckily you also have 3 cool voices and Capn Hook Himself to walk you through.

 On Mirage, most of the songs were flat-out forgettable, if pleasant. Here, unfortunately, some of these songs flat out suck dong. 'Family Man', 'Caroline', Stevie's Madonna impression 'Welcome to the Room, Sara', the hair-metal riffage and truly over-the top drum sound of 'Isn't it Midnight', and ALL of 'You and I Part II' just make my eyes throb and my finger itch towards the >> button. This is where the production takes over the song completely and smothers what little melody Fleetwood may have ever intended on imparting to us. When it fails, Lindsey's production creates a soulless, emotionless soup of plastic reverb and snappy bass. Mick must've been totally muzzled (or totally drugged out) to create such a boring drum sound...through the entire record!

 When the songs work, though, the production pushes buttons deep in the brain pan that even I can't explain. One change from last time is that Lindsey's textures are darker, more menacing, more unsettled. With Mirage, everything was shiny and happy, here there be tigers in them woods. The dark, plastic hell of Lindsey's obsessive 'Big Love' is aural nirvana if you ask me. I even dig the disgustingly erotic grunt-fest at the end, but maybe that's because I remember how it made my sister's friends giggle way back in 1987. The title track can be accused of standing on the verge of cheeseville, but that sort of desperate tone in Lindsey's voice, and the cool, itchy quietness during the verse really save this one and make it one of the more interesting tracks. The 'edgy' guitar solo I'm split on, but hell, the guy's so good at neat guitar solos I'll have to give it to him. Stevie's 'Seven Wonders' is not at all as harrowing as her songs used to be, but hey! It's catchy, too! And ahh shit, 'Little Lies'. In the chorus where Stevie goes 'Little Lies', then Lindsey says 'Little Lies' is so cool. This is the song where the production sounds most at home. I don't even notice this as being particularly slick....it's just fucking good, that's all. Where Rumours was soft rock with edge, and Mirage was AOR with hooks, this is simply AOR, sure, but its the best that genre has to offer.

 So, in sum, you may find yourself hating parts of this record, but there's no need to deny the worth of the whole thing. If you found Mirage to be lacking in certain 'classic song' content, you'll be redeemed by this one. It's also the last studio album this lineup made, so You Know What You Gotta Do!

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Dver / Greece

Hey man, how can you leave out 'everywhere'. Christine just knows how to make good pop songs. The Dance version is one of the best live songs I have ever heard. Lindsey does this guitar riff there, amazing!!

 Well Tango has some really cheap, "too eighties", pop songs but it saved by Big love, Everywhere, Little lies and Seven wonders (which is an expectable 4/4 pop/rock Stieve slightly flat song, hooky melody though).

 

 


 

Behind the Mask - Reprise 1990.

Oh gosh, back to the band member roulette again. Lindsey's gone. What?!? Lindsey Buckingham is gone? The best songwriter to get within 10 miles of this group is gone? Tread carefully, oh readers, for we are now in uncharted territory once again. For 54 minutes...oh god. We're in the era of the CD now, aren't we. Fucking lasers.

 Our hero's been replaced by Billy Burnett and Rick Vito (nah, I dunno 'em either), two guys who have little of the harmonic sense of Mr. Buckingham and bring none of that production magic we've gotten so used to from Fleetwood Mac the last 15 years or so. Mind you, it's still 1990, so slick is the word, but a flat sort of slick, devoid of the neat touches and attention to detail heard on Tango. This sounds like it could really be anybody, especially when its not one of the girls' tracks. I'm not particularly digging the guitar playing, neither. Lindsey could throw out a distinctive, memorable, stinging solo on even the lamest of tracks, but these guys just let it lay there in the background and don't add an iota of fire.

 Unfortunately the guys do bring us back to the prog-isms of classic albums like Penguin and Heroes are Hard to Find, emulating the uber-genius Bob Welch (hadn't we lost him for good? why are these fools disturbing his grave? ) on the ultra 1990-new psychedelic 'In the Back of My Mind'. Its simply embarrassing, and the soulless rhythm track here leaves it all as flat as a pancake. Christine's little cameo here saves the track from the trash bin, but she only sings like 10 seconds, so what? Nothing. An excruciating 7 minutes.

 Where's Stevie to save us from this hell? She's the next best! She's wasting herself on hook-less crap like 'Affairs of the Heart', that's what. Oh yeah, the slickness is here in spades, so I guess this time she could get by without even attempting a melody, huh? 'Freedom' is stock full of borrowed retread melodies, but hey, it's about the best song on the record, so who's to call me nigga soul brotha except for my pimp daddy crack dealin head case John McVie? And 'The Second Time Around'...those there's some of the most obvious vocal edits I've ever heard! Wow! You must really suck as a singer now, Stevie...and you're getting fat as well. (Not to be totally sexist and to say fat chicks don't have any inner beauty or redeeming qualities, but....oh fuck it....fat American chicks piss me off. Put down the fucking Chee-toes and take a damn walk around the block already, you over-comfortable marketing victims!!!). Where oh where is my Fleetwood Mac of 1976?

 Christine, oh sweet reliable Christine. You saved all those old albums with your bleached-clean blowdried cliches I could hum along with so well. You're still there, aren't you, buried beneath miles of heavily reverbed percussion and synthesizers? Oh yeah...so what's that idiotic mess you're singing on 'Behind the Mask'? That's alright, you still have the disco power ballad 'Save Me'...I bet you could clean that song up and....nahh, it would still suck.

 Listen....there's very little of value on this record. This is the sound of a band that has almost completely lost itself. They've simply forgotten how to write! The new guys can't help at all, other than to rip off other 'soft rock' cliches such as doing a country song ('When the Sun Goes Down'), or playing a lot of corny, hollow Stones-y guitar lines ('Stand on the Rock').  The rest of this is simply pleasant, unmemorable, unmelodic dreck. Dire, dire stuff. Pass it by in your local dollar bin.

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Time - Warner 1995.

It gets worse, much more so, in fact. Stevie? Long gone. It seems Mick Fleetwood pissed her off real good by not allowing some song of her's (recorded as Fleetwood Mac) onto her solo boxed set. You've got the two guys from Behind the Mask gone too, just in case they may have actually improved from that album (not likely). So who've you got? Dave Mason, for one! That's right, the guy from Traffic....30 years ago! He used to jam with Hendrix....30 years ago! He had a fairly successful solo career repackaging his first solo album over and over....30 years ago! Get the idea? And a chick singer, Bekka Bramlett,  the daughter of Delaney Bramlett of 'with Eric Clapton' fame. Never heard of her before or since! A secondary British soft rock band back again with a new lineup, having lost it's most distinctive songwriters and singers? Lemme at it! I'm sure it KICKS MY ASS BLOODY!!!! Up and down this here avenue, over the ever-present piles of Russian dog crap and passed out bums and ALL!!! Drive me INSANE with MELODIC INVENTION and LYRICS I've JUST NEVER HEARD BEFORE!!!

 Nope. And its over an hour long this time around. Good bye synths, hello gently strummed acoustic and tasteful electric guitars. Goodbye barking Stevie, hello talentless Bekka. You really don't want to have to sit through this.

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 The Dance - Reprise 1997.

Hey now! The Rumours group 20 years after the fact, or maybe the Tango group 10 years after....filling you up with substandard new songs to make you cringe and reach for the square button? No way, Jose Feliciano! All your favorite FM hits performed live, and in the professional manner you come to expect from ones Mac. It really is quite amazing how good they do still sound live, especially Buckingham's guitar...what a player that guy is! These songs could have been totally lame except for his energetic, melodic, and...yes...inventive guitar playing.

 Ehh the voices could be better, but what do you expect from these old guys? Chris still sounds aces, though, and looks pretty good too. Stevie's creepily emotive purr is gone forever, but her sorta cool Dylanish murmur is in full effect. This can either be a blessing ('Landslide') or a bummer (the flat 'Rhiannon'). Lindsey's voice hits all the right notes, but he sounds like he's trying really hard to get there. Seeing his straining neck muscles and near-to-bursting veins on the video only makes the impression worse. I wonder if he had a really good time or whether he was just cashing in? The egotistical dude probably thought the world needed another 70 minutes of Buckingham and decided to grace us with his presence. Ehh....10 years is a long time. I'd say we probably could've used a dose of Lindsey and leave it there.

 So the songs? 'Tusk' with the U.S.C. Marching band! That's cool! 'I'm So Afraid', an obscure number I sorta Iiked on Fleetwood Mac is present, and the heavy atmosphere rules...simply rules! I love it when bands can do old album tracks and make them wish they were the hits and not something else. It's streeeetched out almost to the boredom point, but stops just before the signpost. There's Lindsey solo on 'Big Love', where he has to, you know, grunt all by his lonesome, if you drag my drainpipe, and I think you do. The cleaned up, no Big Drums, no Cloying Synths sound on this tune and 'Everywhere' is a big improvement on Tango, by the way. Even 'Don't Stop' rips as the show closer, that big, full sound just kicks everything forward. It's amazing how propulsive the band still is. Must be the fact that Mick and John can still play, and that Lindsey's guitar is just...so....GOOD! The new songs? Well, there's 4 of them, and they're not so bad. 'Temporary One' is a really fine Chris track, 'Bleed to Love Her' is allright, rocking...I dunno what the message is though, 'My Little Demon' is sorta dumb, what with the growls and childish lyrics, but I'll let it pass. Nicks' 'Sweet Girl' sure ain't no 'Gypsy', but she sounds so much better on this style now...midtempo sorta countryish rockers.

 So, in sum, you get just about the best sort of 'comeback' live album you could possibly ask for. Great versions of old songs, some rarities, some decent new songs, and a full, enjoyably gassed performance. If you're a fan of Fleetwood Mac, I'd recommend you seek this out immediately.

 

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Dver/Greece

Simply, one of the best albums I have ever heard. Yes, Lindsey is having a hard time getting the high notes but he gets them (I m so afraid: what a vocal! long solo though, Go insane: extremely high notes too, much better version). Everywhere is the best track there, with Lindsey's riff. FM is a  great live group. Real musicians. Perfect drum and base sound. I always wished Chains was closer to the studio version. The vocals are a little edgy. 'Say you love me', with extra backing vocals! Tusk is imposing. Get the dvd, it has all the songs. A really great job. 

 Live in Boston (2004) is awful. Lindsey just can't get the high notes anymore and changes the melodies. Go your own way has turned to a light heavy metal slower song having lost its energy. Peacekeeper lacks instruments. Say you will (the song) is good. I mean that's it guys, it seems we are close to the end, they are old, too old too rock n roll like they used too. The dvd is better than the cd. 
 I d like to read your "Say you will" review. I think it was a very very good album though Christine's absence proved to be important for sale figures. Perfect production but a lot of guitars.    
 
 

 

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