Gimme Five: Recommended Fleetwood Mac, but not from Rumours

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News that Fleetwood Mac could reunite this year — after Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham complete their current solo commitments, that is — had me scurrying back to the old records for a refresher. But not to Rumours

All hail Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 paean to Love, American-style — or California-style, anyway. Memorably cinematic, it chronicled with a lush directness (quite literally, it turned out) the way that relationships coalesce then dissolve. More than three decades later, one estimate put total sales at 30 million copies, even as lovers’ quarrels blossomed and died between each of the group’s members.

So, enough of all that. Rumours — actually, the 13th recording issued by Fleetwood Mac, which had notable earlier success as a blues-based English band fronted by Peter Green in the 1960s — has had its day.

Here are five recommended Mac tunes found elsewhere that I fell in love with all over again …

“TANGO IN THE NIGHT,” (TANGO IN THE NIGHT, 1987): Like a number of Fleetwood Mac recordings subsequent to Rumours, this one grew out of a solo project by writer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham — and the title track bears the most striking resemblance to his quirky individual efforts.

They were always welcome asides, but perhaps no where more so than on this late-1980s release. The title track scuffed up a session that might have collapsed under the high-gloss pop sheen of hit tunes like Stevie Nicks’ “Seven Wonders” and Christine McVie’s “Little Lies.”

Of course, those two smash tunes (along with Lindsey’s “Big Love” and Christine’s “Everywhere”) helped make Tango in the Night the band’s second-biggest selling studio album ever — after, of course, Rumours. That didn’t stop Buckingham from walking out shortly before Fleetwood Mac’s scheduled tour in support of the project; Rick Vito and Billy Burnette were drafted to replace him for the subsequent Tango Tour through 1988. Buckingham wouldn’t return again for 10 years.

“SILVER SPRINGS” (THE DANCE, 1997): Originally recorded by Nicks during the sessions for Rumours, but hidden as the B-side to “Go Your Own Way,” “Silver Springs” had only previously appeared 1992’s four-disc retrospective 25 Years-The Chain before Fleetwood Mac resurrected it for a live reunion show.

This heart-rending recollection by Nicks of a passion denied (different in that she often hid behind a witchy-woman persona both as a solo artist and in this band) wrestles with a new-found desire to present some steely resolve and move on. Nicks sings that “the sound of my voice will haunt you” … before crying out: “Was I just a fool?”

That dichotomy later seemed to play out on stage between Nicks and her former beau Buckingham — they appeared to stalk each other, at times — as a reformulated 1970s-era Mac mounted a celebrated reunion tour on the 20th anniversary of Rumours.

To show that it goes both ways, The Dance also included a terrific Buckingham composition called “Bleed To Love Her,” part of another aborted solo release that preceded these sessions. The reunion album sold 5 million units, becoming the first Fleetwood Mac CD to top the U.S. charts since 1982’s uneven Mirage.

“BLACK MAGIC WOMAN,” (ENGLISH ROSE, 1969): Peter Green recorded his song two years before the band Santana covered it and — just as Jimi Hendrix had before with Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” — forever made the tune their own.

The infrastructure of this soaring plea for an elusive love is already here, though Green’s contemplative solo leads to surprisingly insistent call for reconciliation. Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood once described the original version as “three minutes of sustain/reverb guitar with two exquisite solos from Peter.”

Green, who had met Fleetwood and bassist John McVie as members of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, later descended into mental illness. His departure led to a more mainstream turn for the band. Still, tunes like this illustrate why the group — even without Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham — charted five times in the UK between 1968-73.

“HYPNOTIZE,” (MYSTERY TO ME, 1973): An album-rock radio staple, this record helped make the final argument for Fleetwood Mac’s move into pop music.

“Hypnotize,” with its dreamy AM-era sexuality and garrulous, riffy guitar soloing, is only just getting the hang of the success that would follow — but it’s the most complete portion of the bridge between Fleetwood Mac’s first and second hit-making periods.

Lead singer Bob Welch had his own subsequent solo hit with “Sentimental Lady,” which was originally featured on Fleetwood Mac’s Bare Trees in 1972. Mystery to Me would be the final album to feature Bob Weston as guitarist and songwriter; Welch would be gone by 1974, opening the door for Buckingham and Nicks. Weston, who later worked with Murray Head and Steve Marriott’s All-Stars Band, died earlier this month.

“SARA,” (TUSK, 1979): Tucked into an expanded double-album format that allowed Buckingham to experiment with the punk and New Wave sounds of the day, “Sara” is the second-best Mac composition from Stevie Nicks, even if it only peaked at No. 7 in the U.S. in 1980.

At first, as Nicks sings of a friend “drowning in the sea of love, where everyone would love to drown,” “Sara” is reflective and smooth on its surface. Soon, however, she reveals lingering regrets — even as Fleetwood and John McVie play at a jarringly different pace behind an at-first perfect piano facade played by Christine McVie.

The song, which works almost as a response to “Dreams,” her career-making hit from Rumours, keeps building toward a nakedly emotional moment of sadness over innocence lost: “All I ever wanted, was to know that you were dreaming,” Nicks sings.

On “Sara,” she talks, as she had on “Silver Springs,” about lost love with a revealing lack of artifice. That frank simplicity is all the more powerful on a bracing, often-weird release like Tusk — which had, as its bizarre lead single, this paranoid excursion of a title track that includes the USC marching band.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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