Fleetwood Mac by Fleetwood Mac (1975)
Favorite Tracks: "Monday Morning" and "Blue Letter" and "Rhiannon" and "Crystal" and "Say You Love Me" and "Landslide" and "World Turning" and "I'm So Afraid"
Thoughts: OOOHHH MYYYY GAWWWWD THEY'RE HERE. We made it to Fleetwood Mac. I would say 'finally' but they deserve to be as close to #1 as possible.
This is, in my mind, Fleetwood Mac's debut album. It's the first album with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, but the band had made 9 albums previously without them. One of them is Bare Trees which I owned until I realized there was no Buckingham Nicks involved. I'm sure the truest of the true Fleetwood Mac fans will say they like the band's pre-Buckingham Nicks era, but to me that's like saying you're not really a Star Wars fan unless you also love the prequels.
Now, I remember the day I bought this album. Not the date, but the day. I was at our local shopping mall in the...Sam Goody. I know, I know--that store overcharged and was hardly a music lover's paradise. Sam Goody's is to record stores what Claire's is to jewelry stores. I would like to maintain that even as a teenager, my preference was always for Tower Records. We just didn't have very many nearby. Also they didn't sell a whole lot of NSYNC paraphernalia, which was a factor in my purchasing patterns at the time...
Considering where I bought the album, I'd say this puts me in late junior high, early high school. I may not be able to place the age I was, but I still remember going to the Pop/Rock section and looking in the F's. I don't think I knew that I wanted this particular album, I just knew I wanted one particular Fleetwood Mac song. Can you possibly even attempt to guess?
Yep. "Landslide." What adolescent doesn't hear this song on their local soft rock station late at night and become bound to it's melancholic reminder of her mortality? I needed it for my library. Fortunately at that time, that meant I got the rest of the album too! Nowadays I would have just downloaded the one song. Though I do appreciate that option when it comes to artists who have a harder time filling out a whole album with keepers.
Thus, my Fleetwood Mac love was born. Isn't "Landslide" everyone's Fleetwood Mac gateway drug? I like to think so. While we're here, I'm going to unload all my favorite Fleetwood Mac useless knowledge (of everything up until this album's release, that is) so if you're not at all interested, let me just say: buy, rent, steal, or borrow this album. Do it.
Where were we? It's a warm afternoon at Menlo-Atherton High School near Cupertino. The year: 1966. A few students gather around a piano. The tune "California Dreaming" by the Mama and the Papas is played, and two voices harmonize together for the first time: junior Stevie Nicks' and senior Lindsey Buckingham's. Not only their voices blended that day, but their souls and DESTINIES.
Two years after that fateful day, Lindsey invited Stevie to sing in his band Fritz. They went to college together, dropped out together. Then they began writing material together and in 1973 released a 10 track LP under the name Buckingham Nicks. This is the album cover:
Dirty hippies! Dirty, beautiful, talented hippies. My hands-down favorite track? "Long Distance Winner." Sunflowers and your face fascinate me. Brilliant. After the departure of Bob Welch (a former member) Mick Fleetwood was on the lookout for a replacement. He found Lindsey, who would only join the band if his girlfriend could join too. Thank God Mick complied! So. 1975.
I love the opening song, "Monday Morning." It's fun to dance and sing to, and has Lindsey as lead vocalist. It s lyrics also visit one of the major themes of The Mac: putting up with a duplicitous lover. Next up is "Warm Ways." Did I skip past this song most of the time on my discman? Yes. As you might have guessed, I really go in for the Nicks/Buckingham numbers. I like their style, their edge, their mood. Christine McVie and I never really connected. First of all, she writes songs with names like "Warm Ways." Ick. Some of the later albums will have songs of hers that I like (like the obviously great "Songbird.") But in general I prefer my McVie Mac to play in the background at restaurants instead of in my ear-buds while I write in a journal, or in the car when I'm rocking out. Will there come a day when her songs break me open? Maybe. But I doubt it.
So, "Warm Ways" is meh for me. While not written by Stevie or Lindsey, I love the energy and fun of "Blue Letter." A solid 70s folk-rock romp, expertly produced. Next up is the essential "Rhiannon." Our first Fleetwood Mac song by Stevie does not pussy-foot around: she is mystical, theatrical, haunting, and has talent cascading out of her tiny body. Am I afraid? Am I aroused? Both. Welcome to the power of Stevie Nicks.
I know South Park makes fun of Stevie for sounding like a goat, but the quality of her voice is so unique and thrilling. Her power and fearlessness in this version guts me. Also, can we talk about Lindsey's solo in that video? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The whole band is on FIRE.
So then we go on to..."Over My Head." It's nice! It's sweet! It's high-quality elevator music to my ears. Maybe I'd like Christine's songs better if someone else sang them? Her voice makes me sleepy, but she writes perfectly decent pop songs. Ah, well.
The last song of Side A: "Crystal." It appeared on the Buckingham Nicks LP, Stevie wrote it and Lindsey sings it. Over 20 years later Stevie recorded it herself for the soundtrack of one of my favorite films: Practical Magic. I like both, but listen to the Stevie version much more often, partly because I prefer its musical production and the added emphasis she gives the lyrics. I always like to imagine this part was about Lindsey:
How the faces of love change, turning the pages
And I have changed, oh but you, you remain ageless
Plus the bits about being driven through the mountains to the sea--very Pacific Northwest. Let's all stop for a moment and indulge ourselves. (Yes, that is Sheryl Crow singing back-up.)
Side B! It starts with "Say You Love Me" which is one of Christine's peppier numbers. I enjoy tapping my foot to it, but it doesn't need to live inside my soul. Unlike the next song, the aforementioned "Landslide." People will maintain that The Dixie Chicks' cover of this song supersedes the original, and on that I call "bull" and "shit." I love the Dixie Chicks and in general I appreciate their covers. Their versions of "Rainbow Connection" and "Strong Enough" make me plenty happy. But I will TURN OFF the radio if their version of "Landslide" comes on. I am so committed and connected to the original that I want to guard it. I wouldn't need to if the Dixie Chicks' hadn't released it as a single. But they did. Harrumph.
The original studio recording will always be the greatest, but I happily accept and listen to the live version from The Dance when Stevie dedicates it to her father. In fact, having both versions is important as they sort of bookend each other. In 1975 she was 27! Quarter-life crisis. In 1997 she's 49. The song still rings true, but with deeper knowledge of life and aging. Plus, the power of watching Stevie and Lindsey together on that song after being separated for so long and all they went through together...chilling and moving. Shall we?
Come ON. Lindsey's face at 3:31? Holiest of holy moments.
In fact, I'm totally unfamiliar with the last three songs on the album because I could never play past "Landslide." It's a show-stopper. Regardless, they're great songs, especially "World Turning" and "I'm So Afraid." Oh man, I'm so excited for more Mac to show up on this list.
Is This Better Than Bad?:
In fact, I dub it the new qualifier.