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Cream of The Crate: Album Review # 177 – Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac

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cream of the crate: album review # 177 – fleetwood mac: fleetwood mac

cream of the crate: album review # 177 – fleetwood mac: fleetwood mac 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

 

"Fleetwood Mac adds up to an impressively smooth transitional album." - (Rolling Stone - 1975) .. .. .. "Fleetwood Mac represents not just the rebirth of the band, but in effect a second debut for the group." - ( Stephen Eriewine - AllMusic .. .. .. "This album introduces a sound that would not just become familiar, but much loved." - (This review)

This is album retro-review number 177 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

Links to the previous 150 reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.

One of the great complaints about much of the music of the early to mid 1970’s, was that it was the era of the endless guitar solos (at the best), and endless guitar noodling (at the worst).

Then there was the massive overproduction and the finessing of the music until all semblance of originality was gone. This was a major reason for the rise of the punk movement, but, not all the music from that period suffered these issues.

This fantastic group was known as Fleetwood Mac and this, a vinyl album, is self-titled – Fleetwood Mac.

Released by Reprise Records in 1975, it has the identifying code of MS 2225. The album only has eleven tracks, six on the first side and five on the other side.

cream of the crate: album review # 177 – fleetwood mac: fleetwood mac
Vinyl Label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The story of Fleetwood Mac is the story of a band that started its life on one side of the Atlantic Ocean (in the UK), and finished up living, working and recording on the other side of that ocean, in the USA.

The members of Fleetwood Mac that came from the UK to the USA were renegades from the great British blues group – John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

They were John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.

The early form of the group, which incidentally is made of of the names of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, consisted of guitarists Peter GreenJeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan and Bob Welch.

Sometimes the group operated with three guitarists and sometimes they operated as a as a quartet, the word “fluid’ comes to mind.

According to their bio in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – “There are arguably three “definitive” Fleetwood Mac lineups.

One of them is the blues-oriented band of the late Sixties, which arrayed three guitarists (Green, Spencer and Kirwan) around the rhythm section of Fleetwood and McVie. They are best represented by 1969’s Then Play On, a milestone in progressive blues-rock.

After Green’s exodus in mid-1970, the remaining members cut the more easygoing, rock and roll-oriented Kiln House. Early in 1971, a born-again Spencer abruptly left the band during a U.S. tour to join the Children of God.

The second key configuration found Fleetwood, McVie and Kirwan joined by keyboardist Christine McVie (born Christine Perfect, she’d married bassist McVie) and guitarist Bob Welch, a Southern Californian who became the group’s first American member and a harbinger of new directions“.

This configuration produced a pair of ethereal pop masterpieces, Future Games (1971) and Bare Trees (1972). 

Kirwan, who was having personal problems, was asked to leave in August 1972. The remaining foursome, joined by new recruits Dave Walker (vocals) and Bob Weston, recorded Penguin (1973); sans Walker, they cut Mystery to Me (1973).

Again reduced to a quartet with Weston’s departure, they released Heroes Are Hard to Find in 1974.

By 1975 the best loved and what has been described as the “platinum” version of the group formed when Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined John and Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood.

cream of the crate: album review # 177 – fleetwood mac: fleetwood mac
The “Platinum” lineup: Fleetwood, Nicks, McVie J, McVie C & Buckingham – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

This is the lineup on this album, and they produced this tenth and much loved album – called Fleetwood Mac, also known as the “White Album” [Although mine is now a paler shade of yellow thanks to ageing]

This album went to #1 in the UK, #2 in Canada, #3 in Australia and #4 in new Zealand. It scraped into #23 in the UK, where they were still moaning about the group moving away from their blues base!

Now while the album was successful it is not but not by any stretch of the imagination, or fact, their most successful!

That would come to be their next album – Rumours, which went to #1 almost everywhere.

Another seven studio albums, including Rumours, followed taking the group up to 2003. These were supplemented by eight live albums and twenty two compilation albums.

The group has been a tangled mess of ‘comings and goings’ by various members of the “platinum” lineup, and as recently as 2014 when Christine McVie who left permanently in 1998 returned.

Seriously, the machinations involving members and personal issues, professional issues and just plain craziness makes the group’s history a downright mess!

What is indisputable, is the brilliant reputation they gained, particularly with the “platinum” lineup.

I chose the “White Album” as my Cream of The Crate album over my Rumours copy because it is in fact the first of this great lineup, and it so shows the beautiful chemistry between the members.

This is despite it not having the magnitude of “hits’ of other albums, but it does have some ripper tracks that clearly define the direction of the group.

Track Listing:

Side One

Monday Morning
Warm Ways
Blue Letter
Rhiannon
Over My Head
Crystal

Side Two

Say You Love Me
Landslide
World Turning
Sugar Daddy
I’m So Afraid

cream of the crate: album review # 177 – fleetwood mac: fleetwood mac
Rear cover: Including track listing – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Monday Morning kicks off side 1 of this album.

It features the voice of Christine McVie providing lead vocals for a Lindsey Buckingham composition.

Bright, uptempo and it does have a strong element of “pop” about it – but, so what? The fact that in earlier incarnations the group was blues based simply means they eventually realised that if they wanted to eat, they had to reach a broader audience.

They achieve this because the song is well constructed, played with a bright and confident feel with a melodic overtone and really, it captures that “California Feeling” so popular at the time. At 2:45minutes it was made for radio, but yet it was actually never released as a single.

The group would often open live shows with this track and it’s easy to see why, or rather hear why, as it bounces along and is a “feel good” track.

Monday Morning

Track 2 – Warm Ways was in fact released as a single.

Well, this was the case at least in the UK, but then again it was a different version to that which appears on this album. Written and performed by Christine McVie it is a gentle ballad, a really nice track.

Following this is Blue Letter, track 3.

It is particularly notable as the only track on the album not written by one or more members of the group. It was written by brothers Michael and Richard Curtis.

The track matches up well with Monday Morning as a good uptempo track and received much acclaim. It still stands the test of time today.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 177 – fleetwood mac: fleetwood mac

Track 4 is Rhiannon.

I make no bones about it, it is one of my all time favourite Fleetwood Mac tracks, and a damn fine track on this album.

Written and delivered by Stevie Nicks, she convinced us all that not only was she a “Welsh Witch”, but she added an element to the group’s vocals that helped them stand out both as a lead singer and backing vocalist.

She cut a pretty damn fine figure on stage as well!.

As she has told the story, while she was a struggling musician in 1974 (shortly before joining Fleetwood Mac) along with her then boyfriend, Lindsey Buckingham, young Stevie Nicks read a novel, called Triad, about a girl named Rhiannon.

She thought it was a beautiful name and decided to write a song about it.

According to Stevie – “Rhiannon is the story of a lady that is from another world ~ called the Bright world ~ and she leaves her kingdom to become the wife of a king ~ a mortal king ~ but goddesses really can’t marry mortal kings, if they do they lose their powers ~ their magic powers.

And they don’t lose the knowledge of them they just ~they know everything that’s going to happen they just can’t do anything about it. Which is a much more difficult way to live than not having magic powers is to not be able to use them and know exactly what’s coming and to not be able to tell anybody.

So she comes down and does her whole trip, and it’s just a whole story ~ it’s a wonderful story.

And she has these birds that sing and that is the legend of the song of the birds of Rhiannon.

And they sing this song that is uh, said takes away pain and suffering and if you hear the song you just sort of blank out and go away and then when you wake up everthing’s all right.

And it is a wonderful, wonderful story which I use a lot, because there’s a lot of ~ there seems to be a lot of need for the story of Rhiannon around lately, because if people are sad or have lost anybody or something the story really makes a lot of sense.” [Stevie Nicks, Starsound Special RKO Radio, December 21, 1981]

cream of the crate: album review # 177 – fleetwood mac: fleetwood mac
Stevie Nicks is, Rhiannon

 

The song rises and falls, it cascades with a silvery vibrato and the guitar work of Buckingham is superb!

In fact it is a master-class of playing an understated guitar solo that proves “space” is just as important as “fill”.

Really, the whole musicianship on this track is perfect! As for the performance of Stevie Nicks, which is simply outstanding.

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night and
Wouldn’t you love to love her?
Takes to the sky like a bird in flight and
Who will be her lover?

All your life you’ve never seen
A woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?

She is like a cat in the dark and then
She is the darkness
She rules her life like a fine skylark and when
The sky is starless

All your life you’ve never seen
A woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?
Will you ever win?

Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon

She rings like a bell through the night and
Wouldn’t you love to love her?
She rules her life like a bird in flight and
Who will be her lover?

All your life you’ve never seen
A woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?
Will you ever win?

Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon

Taken by
Taken by the sky

Taken by
Taken by the sky

Taken by
Taken by the sky

Dreams unwind
Love’s a state of mind

Dreams unwind
Love’s a state of mind

Dreams unwind
Love’s a state of mind

It is almost a trance like/narcotic like/magic like ending as the song dissolves into a soul stirring conclusion as Stevie repeats the “Taken by the sky”.

The chorus in the background is both beautifully placed and is beautifully balanced.

Rhiannon

The following track is Over My Head.

This isn’t a spectacular track, it hasn’t got the passion and mystery of Rhiannon, yet it is a most pleasant soft-style rock track that features Christine McVie on vocals.

Released as a single from the album and it struck a chord in the hearts and ears of music fans and as a consequence was really their first “hit” track.

It only reached the #20 position in the USA but more importantly, it drew the buying public’s attention to the album, which resulted in a very nice 8 million units sold worldwide.

cream of the crate: album review # 177 – fleetwood mac: fleetwood mac
A young Mick Fleetwood – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The 45 RPM single version of the song—released for radio airplay—was a remixed, edited version that differed noticeably from the version on the this album.

The singles version is easily distinguished by a cold start (versus the fade-in intro on the LP version), louder guitar strums in the choruses, and less ensemble vocal work overall.

In addition, whereas the single version fades during its 3-bar instrumental outro, the album version tape-loops it to 6-bars upon fade out. Finally, while the album version has relatively wide stereo soundstage, the single version is mixed very narrowly (essentially mono) with stereo reverberation effects on some bongo passages and select guitar flourishes. [Wikipedia]

The version available to you to check out is of course, from the album.

Incidentally, many writers and reviewers have claimed it was Christine McVie’s attempt to write about her failing marriage to John, although to my knowledge she never confirmed this.

Despite the bongos being drawn out of the mix in a more effective manner in the “single version”, they are nonetheless quite effective, courtesy of Mick Fleetwood, and whereas as an instrument were often used during the 1950’s, by the 1970’s were rarely heard.

Over My Head

Track 6 – the final track on side one is, Crystal.

A nice track it is dominated somewhat by organ and acoustic guitar melodies.

Turning over the album, track 1 on side 2 is Say You Love Me.

Taken from the album as single #4 it charted very well reaching #11 on the Billboard Top 100.

Written by Christine McVie and featuring her singing lead vocals it was possible almost as well known as Rhiannon. The guitar work in this track is pretty damn sweet, and all over it is a nicely balanced and well produced piece of music, more than ably demonstrating Christine’s lyric writing abilities.

cream of the crate: album review # 177 – fleetwood mac: fleetwood mac
Christine McVie – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The nice thing about this album version is that it has overdubbed guitars which definitely gives the track a richer sound.

Have mercy, baby on a poor girl like me,
You know I’m falling, falling, falling at your feet,
I’m tingling right from my head to my toes,
So help me, help me, help me make the feeling go.

‘Cause when the loving starts, and the lights go down,
And there’s not another living soul around,
Then you woo me until the sun comes up,
And you say that you love me.

Have pity baby,
Just when I thought it was over,
Now you got me running, running, running for cover.
I’m begging you for a little sympathy,
‘Cause if you use me again it’ll be the end of me.
‘Cause when the loving starts, and the lights go down,
And there’s not another living soul around,
Then you woo me until the sun comes up,
And you say that you love me.

Baby, baby, hope you’re gonna stay away,
‘Cause I’m getting weaker, weaker everyday,
I guess I’m not as strong as I used to be,
And if you use me again it’ll be the end of me.

‘Cause when the loving starts, and the lights go down,
And there’s not another living soul around,
Then you woo me until the sun comes up,
And you say that you love me.

‘Cause when the loving starts, and the lights go down,
And there’s not another living soul around,
Then you woo me until the sun comes up,
And you say that you love me.

And you say that you love me.
And you say that you love me.

Fallin’ fallin’ fallin
Fallin’ fallin’ fallin

Say You Love Me


The following track is Landslide.

This is a very nice ballad featuring the voice of Stevie Nicks with some pretty acoustic guitar and a small but very nice piece of electric guitar.

It wasn’t a track I had intended reviewing and playing, but as I re-listened to it while writing this review, I realised that is was a track often overlooked among the more power-based tracks on the album.

It is a very poignant track, maybe wistful even, and maybe it is a reflection that I have now lived far more years than I have left, that it struck a fresh chord – a fresh note of emotion in me – so here it is.

Landslide

Track 3 on this side is World Turning.

The song is credited to Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie, but its roots go way back to the group’s first album, when a track with the same name was written by Peter Green, the then guitarist/founder of the group.

Some ten albums later the track was revisited, and reworked by Buckingham and McVie until this version eventuated.

cream of the crate: album review # 177 – fleetwood mac: fleetwood mac
Lindsey Buckingham

 

The track has many good features if not innovative for the time.

They make use of the now well known “talking drum”, played for them by a Nigerian friend of the group, and an instrument that they used many times of world tours.

It is hard not to like the Dobro guitar sound on the track, and I must say well played by Lindsay Buckingham.

It is a perfect track for demonstrating the power of Christine McVie’s voice – overall it is a brilliant track. The harmonies are tight and the drumming is even tighter, and no wonder that they often extended to 20+ minutes on tour performances.

World Turning

Track 4 – Sugar Daddy.

Well, if an album has to have a weak track, for me, this is it!

The final track – I’m So Afraid leaves me with mixed feelings.

It does have some very nice guitar work, once again from Lindsey Buckingham almost with an overtone of “terror”!

Was it reflective of his breakup with Stevie Nicks?

After all, as she said in a recent interview in the Guardian newspaper in 2015 – “He and I will always be antagonising to each other, and we will always do things that will irritate each other, and we really know how to push each other’s buttons.” 

That antagonism was hard to disguise at the time this album was made.

I believe the solo was often extended for up to 7 minutes in live performances. It is a nice production but . . . . what a down-tempo track to finish off with.

OK, so better music minds than mind were involved in the track placement – but I would not have finished off a great uptempo album with this track!

cream of the crate: album review # 177 – fleetwood mac: fleetwood mac
John McVie – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

So, there we have it.

Not their most popular album, not the one that sold the most copies, but it was the one that announced to the world that this line-up of Fleetwood Mac was an “El Primo” lineup.

What we find is that this album introduces a sound that would not just become familiar, but much loved.

The album itself is well balanced with a good combination of fine ‘rockin'” tracks, a really nice ballad, some classics and fully represents the qualities the group would come to build an even stronger set of music on in the future.

cream of the crate: album review # 177 – fleetwood mac: fleetwood mac
Fleetwood Mac: 2015 – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

In 2018, Buckingham was fired from the band and was replaced by Mike Campbell, formerly of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Neil Finn of Split Enz and Crowded House.

For some of us, it just wasn’t quite the same after that!

So it is definitely an album to have in any collection, even if you have other Fleetwood Mac vinyl or CD’s in your collection.

This album, the self titled Fleetwood Mac (or the White Album) is the key that unlocked the door to a very good musical future.

It is readily available, and while I will always prefer the vinyl product, the re-released Cd does contain some additional tracks that are worthy of having but the great news is, that there is a re-released vinyl set with additional material as well.

The original version (this album), is available on Ebay for $35.00.


VIDEOS:

A drop into Youtube reveals some very good live performances of material from this album including a fabulous version of Rhiannon!

 

Blue Letter

 

Rhiannon

 

I’m So Afraid


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –

 

Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 151 onward.

#151.  The Shaggs – Philosophy of the World

#152.  The Animals – The Animals

#153. Omah Khorshid & His Group  – Live In Australia 1981

#154. Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe

#155. Billy Thorpe – Tangier

#156. Aretha Franklin – The Best Of

#157. Big Bill Broonzy – Big Bill’s Blues

#158. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go 

#159. The Band – Stage Fright

#160. Ray Brown and the Whispers – Hits and More 1965 – 1968

#161. Guitar Junior – The Crawl

#162. Jimi Hendrix – Radio One

#163. Memphis Minnie – Queen of the Blues

#164. Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy)

#165. The Loved Ones – Magic Box

#166. Various Artists – On The Road Again [ An Anthology of Chicago Blues 1947 – 1954]

#167. Janis Joplin – Greatest Hits 

#168. David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust [The Motion Picture]

#169. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication

#170.  Chain – Two Of A Kind

#171. Bob Marley – Legend

#172. Koko Taylor – What It Takes

#173. Stevie Wonder – Original Musiquarium

#174. Various Artists – The Unissued 1963 Blues Festival

#175. Noeleen Batley – Little Treasure

#176. B.B. King – The Best Of

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