Thursday, 21 February 2013

Rumours-Fleetwood Mac

This month celebrates the 35th anniversary of the release of the landmark Fleetwood Mac album Rumours. It was an album borne out of emotional turmoil and tension between members, that turmoil was brilliantly reflected in the songs. Yet it belied a mellow sound with a crisp pop sensibility. It was an album that swam against the tide of punk rock and new wave, it was classic indispensable pop at a time when pundits were regaling from it’s bright glare. In it's own way it also represented something new, it sounded fresh even though the album is full of personal turmoil it's set against the backdrop of the bands amazing pop sensibilities.

It was an album that deeply resonated with Australian audiences I remember hearing it a lot when I was younger, Dad had the album and played it regularly, he liked the fact that musically it wasn't formulaic every song was different and stood on it’s own. It wasn’t until later on that I learnt of the personal dramas that were occurring before and during the recording sessions that make it seem remarkable that even one song was recorded let alone a classic of modern music.

After recording their self titled 10th album with new members Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks the band had endured a period of non stop touring for six months. At the end of this period Christine McVie and husband John had separated and would soon divorce, the personal relationship between Nicks and Buckingham was also beginning to strain. Drummer Mick Fleetwood was also having marital difficulties and there was a growing escalation in the bands’ drinking and drug use.

The band first hit the studio in Florida in early 1976 to begin crafting some new material, after deciding not to work with their producer Keith Olsen the band relocated to the Record Plant studios in Sausalito California. The group were assisted in the recording process by engineers Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut. The sessions were anything but smooth with the band often not starting to record until the early hours of the morning after partying for several hours!

The album opens with what I think is the best song off the album, Second Hand News which is strident and indignant with a built up acoustic sound. Dreams has that beautiful thunderous opening with a crashing cymbal from Fleetwood, it's a warning from Nicks that the grass isn't necessarily greener on other side,

Now hear you go again,
You say you want your freedom
Well who am I to keep you down,
It's only right that you should
Play the way you feel it 

But listen carefully to the sound
Of your loneliness
Like a heartbeat drives you mad,
In the stillness of remembering,
What you had, what you lost.

Don't Stop written by Christine McVie was an acknowledgement of the end of her marriage to bass player John McVie, it also poignant in it's theme of hope for the future, it's a rallying cry that yesterday's gone and to  think of the future ahead. McVie was a brilliant songwriter she captured a song not in a raw emotional way but with a canny realism and a no bullshit attitude. Buckingham's Go Your Own Way is another tale of frustration, a partner questioning his commitment and asking when did things change, it's driven by an ominous percussive workout from Mick Fleetwood and some dynamic guitar work from Buckingham.

Lovin you,
Is it the right thing to do
How can I ever change things
That I feel

If I could,
Maybe I would give you my world
How can I
When you won't take it from me.

The Chain which kicks of side two is a more complex song, utilising the prominent bass of John McVie and some nice vocal interplay between the three vocalists. In the final third the song has a pounding bass riff as Mick Fleetwood slowly builds the tension with his snare drum, then Lindsay Buckingham releases the tension with some wailing guitar. You Make Loving Fun was a more optimistic song written by Christine McVie, it's a celebration of finding love, in Christine's case it was about her relationship with the band's lighting director Curry Grant. I Don't Wanna Know has the great harmonies that Nicks and Buckingham bought to Fleetwood Mac, it's another song about the complicated relationship between the two singers.

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