Album: Fleetwood Mac
Artist: Fleetwood Mac
Released: July 11th, 1975
Highlights: Rhiannon, Over My Head, Crystal, Landslide
The tenth effort by Fleetwood Mac is not their first ever record to be self-titled, as the band’s name had already been used as the moniker of their debut. Nevertheless, the re-utilization of the title feels appropriate for two reasons. Firstly and most obviously, because the album, by all means, qualifies as a brand new start, for the arrival of two singer-songwriters – vocalist Stevie Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham – significantly altered the group’s configuration. Secondly, because in spite of that considerable change, “Fleetwood Mac” sounds like a culmination of what the band had been producing ever since the beginning of the decade. Following the departure of founder and initial bandleader Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac had – through a myriad of lineups – slowly abandoned the blues of their first records in favor of a soft and accessible brand of pop rock, and after a series of ups and downs, the 1975 release comes off as the conclusion of that cycle; a point where the quintet, with its two added pieces, put together a work of incredible consistency.
As far as writing goes, “Fleetwood Mac” features nearly no collaborations whatsoever between the three creative minds of the band, newcomers Nicks and Buckingham plus veteran Christine McVie, who was responsible for a big slice of the group’s output after the Peter Green days. The only joint composition, crafted by the last two, is “World Turning”, the moment when the album comes the closest to rocking out. Yet, despite such isolation in creation, it is stunning how pieces that emerge from different sources gel so finely. Part of the credit for that achievement, of course, falls on the shoulders of the production. Done by members of the band themselves and Keith Olsen, who had already worked with Nicks and Buckingham on their debut as a duo, it generates a clean and palatable sound that winds up directing the spotlight towards both the tunes’ melodies, which are uniformly remarkable, and the tasteful instrumentation, which is particularly notable in Christine’s keyboards and Buckingham’s guitar playing, and the two come together to form soft and energetic arrangements that bring the best out of all tracks.
In fact, “Fleetwood Mac” sounds so spotless its cleanliness may leave cold those who like their pop rock to have some roughness to it; and the framework it set up in instrumentation, melodic lines, and production was so successful that its insistent repetition throughout the years by inferior imitators may cause some modern ears to perceive it as tame or safe. However, even if the feeling of over-calculation is valid to a certain point, the album shines. Stevie Nicks, in particular, turns in awe-inspiring gems: hers are “Rhiannon”, whose music is as sexy and dark as the female character it talks about, as well as the introspective pair of “Crystal” and “Landslide”, and the three – though strong enough on their own – are beautifully augmented by the band, with the first gaining some passionate sensual guitar solos by Buckingham, the second shining in the way he and Stevie harmonize while standing on Christine’s keyboards, and the third starring some impeccable acoustic picking. Buckingham, meanwhile, delivers the record’s most unique – for the band’s standards – songs, the unusually energetic “Monday Morning” and the atmospheric closer “I’m So Afraid”; as Christine perfects the line of danceable pop rock she had been exploring for some time in “Over My Head”, “Say You Love Me”, and “Sugar Daddy”.
Although its successor, the rightfully revered “Rumours”, is overall better and qualifies as the perfect record of pop rock in the 70s, “Fleetwood Mac” is no slouch. The former could not have possibly happened without the latter, as much of its strength comes out of the confidence gained from the fact “Fleetwood Mac” showed the added parts not only fused with the existing group quite finely, but also perfectly balanced the new elements they brought to the table with what was already established. It is a work with no weak links, and that is enjoyable in its entirety. Furthermore, it marked the point when the band went from being a group that could have easily been drowned by the sands of time and the excellent musical quality of the period, to a juggernaut that is still being discovered and listened to many decades after its peak period. It is the emergence of a new Fleetwood Mac, and it is thanks to this formation that the name would go down in musical history and be celebrated as a synonym for flawless pop rock.