Monday, February 3, 2014

Fleetwood Mac - Snapshot - A Majestic 'Mirage'

Having been somewhat of a chameleonic band during their first decade together, in 1975 Fleetwood Mac struck upon a more settled line-up comprising, Mick Fleetwood (drums), John McVie (bass), Christine McVie (vocals, keyboards), Lindsey Buckingham (vocals, guitar), and Stevie Nicks (vocals).  The revamped line-up also marked a stylistic change, and generated a significant boost in commercial fortunes.  The band’s ‘75 vintage eponymous album (US#1/ OZ#3/UK#23) - yielding hits ‘Rhiannon’ (US#11/ OZ#13/UK#46)  and ‘Say You Love Me’ (US#11/ OZ#38/UK#40) - topped charts the world over and sold in the millions, but it was merely a forerunner to the behemoth of an album in 1977 - namely, ‘Rumours’ (US#1/ OZ#1/UK#1).  The ‘Rumour’s album set a commercial (and arguably critical) benchmark that was unlikely to ever be repeated by Fleetwood Mac (or most other artists for that matter).  Every one of the album’s 11 tracks was a winner, and the album was exponentially greater than the some of its parts.  With the likes of ‘Dreams’ (US#1/OZ#19/UK#24), ‘Go Your Own Way’ (US#10/ OZ#20/UK#38), and ‘Don’t Stop’ (US#3/ OZ#30/UK#32) leading the way, it landed on virtually every available turntable at the time. It was a case of ‘beat that if you can’.

With nearly two years of production work and millions of dollars invested in its production, the 1979 double album, ‘Tusk’ (US#4/ OZ#2/UK#1), was always destined to be branded a ‘commercial flop’ by comparison to ‘Rumours’, irrespective of the fact that it sold in very respectable numbers and spawned the hypnotic ‘Tusk’ (US#8/ OZ#3/UK#6), and the sensual Stevie Nicks track ‘Sara’ (US#7/ OZ#11/UK#37) as top ten singles.  Fleetwood Mac followed up the ‘Tusk’ album with a lengthy world tour resulting in their first ‘live’ double album set. ‘Fleetwood Mac Live’ (US#14/ OZ#20/UK#31) captured the artistry and kinetic energy of the quintet brilliantly.

Following their world tour Fleetwood Mac went on hiatus during 1981 to pursue solo interests.  Lindsey Buckingham released the album ‘Law and Order’ (US#32/ OZ#10) which yielded the huge hit ‘Trouble’ (OZ#1/ US#9 /UK#31) - see previous post.  Whilst, Stevie Nicks released the smash debut album ‘Bella Donna’ (US#1/ OZ#1/UK#11), which featured the hit singles ‘Edge Of Seventeen’ (US#11), ‘Leather And Lace’ (with Don Henley - US#6/OZ#68), and ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’ (with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - US#3/ OZ#10/UK#50). 

By 1982, the five Macs reconvened en masse in the studio to work on their fourth studio album together as a unit.  The result of their collective toils was the majestic ‘Mirage’ album, released in June of ’82 (US#1/ OZ#2/UK#5) - and my personal choice as favourite Fleetwood Mac album.  Co-produced by Ken Caillat and Lindsey Buckingham, the album comprised  twelve tracks in all, with writing and vocal duties shared equally between Buckingham, McVie, and Nicks.

The crystalline ‘Love In Store’ (US#22/ OZ#96) opens proceedings, featuring Christine McVie’s angelic vocals.  Lindsey Buckingham’s ‘Can’t Go Back’ provides a dose of rock and roll nostalgia next up.  Stevie Nicks goes down home country on ‘That’s Alright’.  Swirling vocal harmonies sweep up the listener on Buckingham’s ‘Book Of Love’.  and then comes the Stevie Nicks masterpiece ‘Gypsy’, softly lilting yet compelling at the same time.  ‘Gypsy’ (US#12/ OZ#17/UK#46) was released as the second single from the ‘Mirage’ album and was backed by a cinematic scale promotional video (they knew how to make them in those days).  McVie’s seductive ‘Only Over You’ ends proceedings on side one (yes back in the day albums featured a side one and a side two).

Lindsey Buckingham kicks off the second half of ‘Mirage’ with his dreamy, quirky dedication to the ‘Big Apple’, New York City, on ‘Empire State’ (close to my personal choice of tracks on the album).  The stylish ‘Straight Back’ from Stevie Nicks entrances listeners next.  To follow comes one of my favourite Fleetwood Mac tracks of all time.  Written by Christine McVie and Robbie Patton (scored US#26 hit in 1981 with ‘Don’t Give It Up’ - co-produced by McVie), ‘Hold Me’ (US#4/OZ#12) is a lush affair, defined by pristine vocal harmonies throughout, and was backed by a visually captivating promotional video.  Lindsey Buckingham then touches on a slice of rock-a-billy for ‘Oh Diane’ (UK#9), before ears turn to his ‘Eyes Of The World’.  The album is rounded out by Christine McVie’s lamenting ballad ‘Wish You Were Here’.

This incarnation of Fleetwood Mac had one more commercially big album in them, realised as 1987’s ‘Tango In The Night’ (US#7/ OZ#5/UK#1), featuring the hits ‘Big Love’ (US#5 /OZ#16/UK#9), ‘Seven Wonders’ (US#19/ OZ#23/UK#56), and ‘Little Lies’ (US#4/ OZ#16/UK#5), before Lindsey Buckingham upped microphone and went his own way.  The Mac recruited some handy replacements for Buckingham and released ‘Behind The Mask’ (US#18/ OZ#10/UK#1) backed by a world tour (which I was privileged to witness first hand in Sydney).  Five years passed before a Nicks-less Fleetwood Mac released 1995’s ‘Time’.  But within two years the ‘classic’ five reunited for the 1997 live set ‘The Dance’ (US#1/UK#15), which featured a collection of their big hits interspersed with a handful of new tracks.  Six years later Fleetwood Mac the quartet (now without Christine McVie) released a studio album of all new material on ‘Say You Will’ (US#3) which careered into the U.S. top ten, confirming that the Fleetwood Mac brand was still strong.  Over the ensuing decade the quartet of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood have continued to tour sporadically, in between further solo projects.  It’s this authors aim to see Fleetwood Mac at least once more before they hang up their instruments.

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