Cover illustration from If - Worlds of Science Fiction magazine, April 1974
I think I don't cop to my actual level of ignorance often enough on this blog. The truth is that I'm ignorant of most everything, including the chronology and lineups of the great Fleetwood Mac. A while back, I was introduced to Tusk, their too-arty, too-ambitious double-album follow-up to their biggest record, 1977's Rumours. I thought it might be one of the most perfect albums I'd heard, with a great mix of songwriting and musicianship, with an unearthly weirdness about it that can only come from doing craploads of cocaine. For me, the record stood alone, and I didn't feel any need to educate myself on how it fit into the band's larger oeuvre (I love using that word). But now I've ruined it by buying the band's 1975 eponymous record, which does nothing BUT bring questions to mind about where it comes from and why it is the way it is, forcing me to do a little research.
So Fleetwood Mac is actually the band's second eponymous album - the band's first album in 1968 was also called Fleetwood Mac, the beginning of the band's first incarnation with frontman Peter Green. The band's second well-known lineup featured guitarist Bob Welch, but he dropped out of the band by 1975 - this is when Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the band, prompting a second self-titled record to emphasize that the band was "rebooting" itself. This is important context for this album because it does a lot to explain how the record sounds and why. The songwriting duties on the record are split between Buckingham, Nicks, and Christine McVie - the new implants were suddenly two-thirds of the band's creative input.
As a result, Fleetwood Mac is glossy but tentative-sounding. McVie's songs have an unadventurous, middle-of-the-road feel to them, even though "Over My Head" and "Say You Love Me" are undeniably poppy. Nicks' songs are arguably the most confident-sounding and less reliant on synergy with the rest of the band, particularly in the case of "Landslide" (a song I'd like a lot if the Smashing Pumpkins cover hadn't ruined it for me). The most disappointing thing about Fleetwood Mac for me is that Lindsey Buckingham's personality (such a big part of what I loved about Tusk) is nowhere to be found. His contributions to the album are fairly slight - "World Turning" is an unsuccessful attempt at tough-sounding rock, and the paranoid "I'm So Afraid" is an embryonic version of the weirdness that would come out of him later on. My favorite thing on the album is Buckingham's opening track, "Monday Morning", probably because it sounds the closest to a song that could have been on Tusk.
"Monday Morning" by Fleetwood Mac