Fleetwood Mac, purveyors of pure and unfiltered pop gold, aren’t just a ridiculously successful hit factory, they also made a ton of ace albums. Just look at 40 million selling R&B behemoth ‘Rumours’ for god sake. Here’s a look back at the albums recorded by the band’s current touring line-up, ranked in order of greatness.
7. ‘The Dance’
OK, so it’s a live album, but 1997’s ‘The Dance’ feels worthy of inclusion because it reunited the classic Rumours era lineup – Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie and Stevie Nicks – for the first time in a decade. Though each of the band’s songwriting triad contributes a perfectly respectable new tune, Fleetwood Mac essentially deliver an awesome Greatest Hits set here, culminating in a rousing rendition of ‘Don’t Stop’, which by this point had been reinvented as Bill Clinton’s political campaign trail anthem. ‘The Dance’ was originally recorded at a studio in California for an MTV special before being released as an album and brilliantly intimate VHS/DVD – yes, that really is Courtney Love fan-girling in the audience; and yes, Stevie Nicks does look like she’s placing a curse on Lindsey Buckingham when she sings ‘Silver Springs’.
6. ‘Say You Will’
Released in 2003, ‘Say You Will’ is Fleetwood Mac’s last studio album to date – and the first since 1970 not to feature any songs written by Christine McVie, who appears on a couple of tracks, ‘Steal Your Heart Away’ and ‘Bleed To Love Her’, but otherwise sits this one out. Consequently, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks split songwriting duties between them, supplying nine songs each to make an epic 18-track album. That’s at least six too many, and McVie, the band’s sweetest and most reliably melodic songwriter, is definitely missed – ‘Say You Will’ can sometimes feel like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the jelly. But that’s not to say there aren’t gems here. Nicks’ ‘Thrown Down’ and ‘Say You Will’ feel more focused than most of her recent solo material, while Buckingham’s anti-media tirade ‘Murrow Turning Over In His Grave’ is bracingly intense. It’s also fun, as always, trying to work out which of their songs are written about the other. “Maybe now he could prove to her / That he could be good for her / And they should be together,” Nicks sings intriguingly on ‘Thrown Down’. That’s gotta be about Lindsey, right?
Arriving three years after the thrillingly ambitious ‘Tusk’, 1982’s ‘Mirage’ felt a bit safe and straightforward: it’s a glossy pop album lacking any of its predecessor’s jagged edges. Both Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham had released solo albums the previous year, and it’s tough not to wonder if they saved some of their best songs for their own records, though Nicks’ semi-autobiographical ‘Gypsy’ is an enchanting classic and Buckingham supplies the infectious retro confection ‘Oh Diane’. But it’s Christine McVie who provides the album’s highlights with perfect pop songs like ‘Love In Store’ and ‘Hold Me’, proving once again that as well as being Fleetwood Mac’s most unassuming band member, she’s also its most underrated.
4. ‘Fleetwood Mac’
After Bob Welch departed in 1974, Fleetwood Mac needed a new guitarist and songwriter, and impressed by Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar solo on a track called ‘Frozen Love’ from 1973’s ‘Buckingham Nicks’ album, Mick Fleetwood asked him to join the band. Buckingham said yes – as long as Nicks, then his romantic and musical partner, could join too. The band’s classic “Rumours-era” lineup was now complete. Interestingly, the band’s self-titled 1975 album wasn’t an instant success, instead taking over a year to climb to the top of the US charts. By this point, three of its singles had become big hits – Nicks’ witchy ‘Rhiannon’ and McVie’s typically catchy ‘Say You Love Me’ and ‘Over My Head’ – but ‘Fleetwood Mac’ is packed with terrific album tracks too. Buckingham shows off his rock chops on ‘I’m So Afraid’ and pop smarts on ‘Monday Morning’, while Nicks’ ‘Landslide’, on which she movingly confronts her own mortality, only gets more devastating with time.
3. ‘Tango In The Night’
Arriving five years after 1982’s underwhelming ‘Mirage’, ‘Tango In The Night’ was designed to give Fleetwood Mac a proper comeback and it delivered, selling over 15m copies worldwide – the band’s best sales figures since 1977’s ‘Rumours’. Two of Christine McVie’s tunes, ‘Little Lies’ and ‘Everywhere’, became huge hits, but Buckingham’s offerings ‘Family Man’, ‘Caroline’ and ‘Big Love’ are just as infectious. Stevie Nicks was battling drug addiction while the album was being recorded, so it’s understandable that her star doesn’t shine its brightest, but ‘Seven Wonders’ is surely one of her most underrated songs. Though ‘Tango In The Night’ is sometimes marred by some clunky-sounding ’80s production, the mostly stellar songcraft more than compensates.
Following the phenomenal success of ‘Rumours’, Fleetwood Mac could have tried to churn out a radio-friendly replica LP. Instead, they made this audaciously strange, extravagantly sprawling double album, which cost over $1 million to record, making it the most expensive rock record ever when it was released in 1979. Lindsey Buckingham spearheaded the band’s new experimental streak, later describing his ethos during the album’s creation as: “Let’s subvert the norm. Let’s slow the tape machine down, or speed it up, or put the mike on the bathroom floor and sing and beat on, uh, a Kleenex box! My mind was racing.” Consequently ‘Tusk’ is filled with sounds that proved kind of shocking to fans who’d been seduced by the polished soft rock of ‘Rumours’ – ‘Not That Funny’ has jagged new wave guitar riffs; ‘That’s All For Everyone’ is coated in reverb and the title track features backing from an actual marching band. It’s an exhilarating mess, basically, but one packed with fantastic Fleetwood Mac deep cuts like Stevie Nicks’ affecting ‘Angel’ and properly spooky ‘Sisters Of The Moon’.
Was our Number One ever in doubt? Released in 1977, ‘Rumours’ is Fleetwood Mac’s undisputed masterpiece – a Grammy-winning, 40 million-selling pop culture phenomenon that turned the band into an institution that still fills arenas nearly 40 years later. The songs, obviously, are brilliant, but iconic hits like ‘Dreams’, ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘Go Your Own Way’ hit so hard because they’re filled with genuine emotional turmoil – ‘Rumours’ was recorded in the wake of Christine and John McVie’s divorce and a particularly turbulent patch in Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s on-off relationship. Though it’s ostensibly a “soft rock” album, there’s nothing “soft” about ‘Rumours’ really – Buckingham’s ‘Second Hand News’ and ‘Never Going Back Again’ pair pretty melodies with scathing lyrics; ‘The Chain’ has a thrilling mid-song tempo change that even the BBC’s Formula One coverage couldn’t ruin, and Nicks’ ‘Gold Dust Woman’ is such a great song about self-destruction and drug abuse, Courtney Love covered it with Hole two decades later.