Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Released February, 1977

This week’s guest review is brought to you by our friend Ash from Dure and Kaufmann. Ash is an honourary afyccimer these days and we always love hearing what she has to say about the albums in her reviews. 

For me “Rumours” is Fleetwood Mac. This band was a huge influence in my life growing up. My Mum used to put this album on every weekend along we a few others and it would just play on heavy rotation. You don’t have to stretch your imagination far to see why this album has sold over 45 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time and peaked at the top of both the United States billboard chart and the United Kingdom Album Charts. It is absolutely an essential and if you deny that fact you are kidding yourself. The album received critical acclaim particularity focusing on the production quality and hamonies. This influence is still strong today with bands like Haim without a doubt giving a tip of their ever so cool hats to Fleetwood Mac.

As the writing and recording process took place for this album so did a huge breakdown in relationships between the band. According to Buckingham, the tensions between band members informed the recording process and led to “the whole being more than the sum of the parts” I completely agree with this, and everything that I have ever heard or felt about Rumours really amounts to that statement. I have always had a vague idea of a turbulent recording process, and have found since doing this review that more of the album was recorded when the band was extremely strung out on cocaine and other drugs. Fleetwood Mac made the best music in the worst shape. I note this in both an emotional and physical capacity. Ask any creative and they will always have a thing or two to say about whether the tortured soul in life does in fact draw out the best in their art. I believe each to their own but in the case of Rumours I am glad it was produced under pressure, heat and strain; much as a diamond. All these factors produced a truly stunning album.

This is absolutely a start to finish album for me and by that I mean there is no skipping, there is no hoping the next track will be over sooner rather than later, and any music lover will know these albums are few and far between. The instrumental collaboration in Fleetwood Mac has always been something I’ve connected with. Each member crying out through their talent but somehow they all come together and though they are playing their hearts out, not one shines above the other. Maybe this is a true sign of harmony; these four artists have found a true match in each other. Lindsey Buckingham has always been one of those guitarists that I believe a lot of listeners forget about but once you pay attention you generally never forget what he can do with that instrument. Nicks is an absolute eccentric powerhouse who I have so much musical respect for. Lyrically and vocally she is a strength and unpredictability that makes Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood Mac.

Speaking on the songs the standouts for me, personally they would have to be ‘Dreams’ and ‘The Chain’. These songs are both testament to Fleetwood Mac’s aim to create a real pop release with this album. ‘Dreams’ is a real reflection of a somewhat subdued Nicks and I absolutely idolise the lyric “Thunder only happens when it’s raining, players only love you when they are playing”. This song is a signature for Nicks and the band. When I think of Fleetwood Mac ‘The Chain’ is where my thoughts go and it’s the song that rings in my ears. Without prior knowledge of the Fleetwood splits it was evident this group had a commonality when it came to its breakdowns and on closer inspection you completely understand the inception.

I wouldn’t be writing a review about “Rumours” if I didn’t mention ‘Go Your Own Way’. It has been covered and played and replayed a lot but this song will stand the test of time. The arrangements’ and raw guitar highlight the pain Buckingham penned and in turn is ripping out with his voice. I vaguely remember the first time I heard this song, and it was unlike anything I had ever heard, and not because Fleetwood Mac was overly groundbreaking, and not because they we’re a Michael Jackson phenomenon but because they did what they did and they did it so god damn well.

Fleetwood Mac’s style was absolutely groundbreaking, and I believe they were and are a huge influence in the music world to this day. This album in particular is a culmination of heartache, heartbreak, hard work, and a one of a kind blend of individual artists, a supergroup before they were famous, legends before they were great. I clearly have nothing but praise for this album, but it truly deserves it. I am now rendered speechless, long live the Mac.

I am constantly amazed that this album was recorded with such turmoil within the group. Not only were Christine and John McVie in the middle of a divorce, but Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were also breaking up. Many of the songs on this album deal with relationship breakdowns on a fairly personal level; for instance, Buckingham’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ all but names him and Nicks in the lyrics. Despite the awkwardness that must come with singing on a break-up song written by your ex-boyfriend, Nicks’ backing vocals are fantastic. In fact, the whole band’s performance is excellent; the song hits several highs and lows before ending with Buckingham’s sublime guitar solo outro. It’s one of their biggest hits, and is my favourite track on the album. Coming a close second is the slow-burning ‘The Chain’, which features a wonderful bass moment from John McVie as the song nears its conclusion. It’s the only track on the album credited to all five band members as composers; possibly born out of a jam session, perhaps? Considering “Rumours” is only the second effort from this line-up of Fleetwood Mac, it’s a very strong collection of tunes. I feel that the last two or three tracks are a little average, but the rest of the album makes up for it. The production hasn’t dated the record, yet it still sounds like a product of the seventies, possibly due to the fabulous West Coast sound-esque harmonies of the three lead singers. Christine McVie’s ‘Songbird’ is a gorgeous ballad, Nicks’ ‘Dreams’ is sublime and the shuffle of Buckingham’s ‘Second Hand News’ opens the album on a high note. Although I don’t need to hear ‘Don’t Stop’ ever again, this week I only just noticed that Buckingham and McVie share the lead vocal work on that track. Hailed by many as Fleetwood Mac’s best work, it’s easy to see why.

I’m not sure what it is but I have a thing for sad songs that are put to happy music. There is something about that juxtaposition that is so sweet to me. The way a song sucks you in and has you enjoying every beat and then you realise what the lyrics you are singing along to are actually saying and it absolutely slays you. This was definitely my experience with “Rumours”. At first I fell in love with the impeccable musicianship within, but once I start started paying attention to the lyrics and started to learn what was happening between the band during the recording of the album, it just resonated with me on a whole other level. As a human I am no stranger to lost love. The most bittersweet type of love lost is one in which there is still a lot of love between the people involved, you just know that it’s no longer right and it’s time to move on. Fleetwood Mac were incredibly brave to lay out there emotions in such a confessional way on “Rumours”. There is also a good chance that the excessive drug use helped on that front, but it was brave nevertheless. The thing I love most about it however is that whilst being totally eclectic and apparent that there are many different people writing the songs and pulling the strings, it never once feels fragmented or unstructured. Every note and lyric comes together to create something bigger than its parts. Maybe that’s why the members of Fleetwood Mac were so compelled to work together at such a trying time… by cutting open the wounds and letting everything spill out they were together able to create something bigger than all of them.  I for one will be forever indebted that they did. A true masterpiece in every sense of the word.

I once, many years ago, was friends with a girl who liked indie music. She made me a mix cd as was the style at the time. The first track was a song is never heard before called ‘Second Hand News’. I really liked it, which surprised me, because I rarely enjoy new music. Only recently did I find out that song was not new, let alone 36 years old. Needless to say I was shocked. An old song that sounds as fresh as if it was released yesterday. Since starting my listening to “Rumours”, ‘Second Hand News’ has been stuck in my head like super glue, and I didn’t even hate it. I couldn’t help but sing and dance around every time I listed to it. The same goes for the majority of this album. Fleetwood Mac nailed it with “Rumours”. Songs like ‘Don’t Stop’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘Go Your Own Way’ are still on high circulation on decent radio stations. I have but one bone to pick with you though, Fleetwood Mac. ‘Never Going Back Again’ has (probably) inspired every hipster/indie/modern folk song ever. It goes against every fibre of my being, but I really love this song. The delicate guitar, the vocal harmonies, everything. But I’d hate it if it was done now. Weird huh? Time for an unpopular opinion. “Rumours” would lose nothing if it lost Stevie Nicks. I just don’t get her appeal. Her gravelly, nasal voice does nothing for me. Why not leave the singing duties to Christine McVie? She’s got a beautiful voice (see ‘Songbird’). “Rumours” is a masterpiece. Fleetwood Mac as a band are almost perfect, and very understated. I’m really glad we listened to this album, for the tracks I know and love, and for the ones I don’t know and love.

It’s always hard to comment on albums that are so highly regarded and revered, for example, explaining what makes ‘Dreams’ so great just seems ridiculous, since it is pretty much embedded in music history as a timeless classic. Why is it so good? Well it just is! Seriously though, “Rumours” has so much going for it and has all the essential ingredients of a legendary album. The strongest point of the album for me is the crystal clear 3 part harmonies to rival Crosby, Stills and Nash. The band were lucky enough to have 3 singers capable of singing the lead part, so there’s plenty of tonal variety. Most of the songs are rife with personal insight into the emotional turmoil going on behind the scenes (divorce, love triangles and more) so they are both believable and relatable. Besides that, pretty much every track on the album has a catchy vocal hook. As much as I love the more famous tracks ‘Dreams’, ‘You Make Loving Fun’ and ‘Go Your Own Way’, this time around I found greater enjoyment in the lesser-known numbers, in particular ‘Never Going Back Again’ for it’s pretty guitar melodies, and the up-tempo  ‘I Don’t Want to Know’. Listening to “Rumours” was, as always, an absolute pleasure, and I easily got about 8 listens in during the week leading to this review. I listened to it so many times without really critiquing it, I just enjoyed it so much and before I knew it, the album was over!

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