A greatest hits without “Oh Well”? “Man Of The World”? “The Green Manalishi”? A Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits without, for goodness’ sake, “Albatross”?!? Apart from record company wrangles over F. Mac’s early back catalogue, there is a good argument for saying that the Fleetwood Mac most of us know and love only started in January 1975 with the recruitment of a pair of hippy refugees whose musical career had started in a group called Fritz back in the same year that the very first Mac line-up trod the boards, 1967.
Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks transformed the British blues-rockers from an unstable outfit upon their ninth line-up and fast hitting the skids to a solid corporation who sold wispy Californian dreamin’ to the world.
Upon Buckingham-Nicks joining the Fleetwood Mac core of Mick Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie, the group announced their fresh start to the world with an album simply titled Fleetwood Mac; from it, the single “Rhiannon” was an overnight sensation, airbrushing the siren harmonies of Grace Slick’s Jefferson Airplane for AM radio consumption and introducing an intriguing whiff of chiffoned Celtic mysticism to the charts (a dippiness which has remained with Nicks ever since, for better or worse).
What “Rhiannon” also did was define the thrilling contrast which the band’s new alchemy had produced; a crescendo of emotion, nay, hysteria, reined back by a discreetly controlled rhythmic pulse. The only exception to this formula lies in the 1982 hit “Oh Diane,” a falsetto tribute to the early ‘60s likes of Neil Sedaka. It belongs to the iffy phase which succeeded the global success of the 1977 album Rumours and lasting through to the brilliant come-back of Tango in the Night last year. The addled double-album Tusk, various self-indulgent solo projects and a great deal of personal misbehaviour characterize this era. Yet, apart from the resignation of Lindsey Buckingham, the tenth and most successful line-up of Fleetwood Mac survives to this day, and these 17 tracks (less four on the vinyl format) is a delightful resumé.
© Mat Snow / Q / January 1989