It seems fitting in a way that a big reason for the existence of this “Expanded Edition” of Rumours is also a big reason why the original album had such magical appeal. That is, the always-dynamic, often turbulent relationship between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
In 2012, Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac’s namesake rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie held sessions to record tracks for a new album. Nicks, meanwhile, was on an extended solo tour in support of her latest solo album. According to Buckingham, when Nicks returned she was none too interested in contributing to a new Fleetwood Mac album. She was, however, keen on reviving Buckingham Nicks, the name under which the two singer-songwriters had recorded before fate brought them to Fleetwood Mac. Nicks claimed she had a “long lost” song she wanted to do for a long-awaited CD issue of Buckingham Nicks (1973). Buckingham claimed it was a Fleetwood Mac song all along.
Oh, these rock ‘n’ roll kids …
Thing was, Fleetwood Mac were set to do a tour in 2013. In lieu of a new album to promote, Warner Brothers decided on a “35th Anniversary” re-issue of Rumours. Rumours was originally released in February 1977. You do the math.
Oh, these rock ‘n’ roll record companies …
The story of Rumours has been told many, many times. It has been told, through its songs, to anyone who has listened to the album. As far as the album itself, well, if you cannot recognize Rumours as one of the most complete, satisfying, musically-accomplished, memorable, hummable, which is to say, best, albums of the rock’n’roll era, you need to figure out what it is that is holding you back. If you are one of those people who believe it’s “too soft,” “too clean,” “too SoCal” … you need to get over yourself. Because, musically, what you have here is one of the most powerful rhythm sections in all of rock, meshing with a prodigiously-talented guitarist and arranger, in service of some impeccable songwriting and some unwieldy sex appeal.
Oh, Rumours …
If there is any “new” perspective to be gleaned, maybe it’s a bit of old perspective. As with all such massive cultural achievements, it’s nearly impossible now to imagine Rumours in its original context. The juggernaut that Fleetwood Mac became after its release now seems inevitable, so much so that you imagine Fleetwood Mac the juggernaut creating the album in the first place. But, of course, that was not the case. Rumours was, basically, a “difficult second album”. The band had had unexpectedly huge success with their first Buckingham-Nicks-assisted album, Fleetwood Mac (1975), but that success had come gradually, eventually reaching a peak at the top of the charts. Who knew if the band could sustain it? Not Warner Brothers, who were putting the pressure on for a follow-up. Not the band themselves, who were, well, you know the story …
Really, then, you might want to go back and marvel at the supreme level of confidence these songs project. It’s there in every drum crash on “Dreams”, every three-part vocal on “The Chain”, every twinkle of Buckingham’s guitar on “Never Going Back Again”. Yes, the band consisted of all experienced professionals. But they were also at a crucial career point, in complete personal and emotional turmoil, and having cocaine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Go back and stand in amazement at how Rumours reaps all the possible benefits of that scenario without suffering any of the potential pitfalls. Every song is an open-and-shut case, a tightly-sealed, end-of-story work of pop-rock perfection.
Which means items like discs of live material and outtakes are superfluous at best. Then there is this matter. Rumours was in 2004 reissued in remastered form and with a disc of outtakes. This package should have satisfied those fans who were curious about the band’s creative process and wanted to hear some works-in-progress. There is really no justification for this 2013-model, three-disc “Expanded Edition”, other than a financial one. Buckingham has said that, while the band had to approve the tracklist, he could have done without the release.
It’s easy to agree, and that is why this package does not get the perfect score the original album deserves. Disc One reprises the 2004 remastering, the audio quality of which is always a subjective issue. To these ears, though, it sounds fine. Disc Two tosses in some live performances from the Rumours tour. They show that, despite the multiple overdubbing and laboring over the studio versions, the band could replicate them and play them well. “Dreams” and “Rhiannon” are too fast. The cocaine, maybe? A perfectly enjoyable but hardly essential listen.
Disc Three has a bunch of outtakes that were not used for the 2004 release. That means they are outtakes that were not deemed fit for an outtakes album. They are mostly rough, and reveal little except that the coda from “The Chain” came from an unused Christine McVie song. A couple tracks are worth hearing more than once, due to the inherent appeal and strength of Nicks’ voice. An early “Dreams” take is minimal and almost ghostly. An early “The Chain” has nothing more than a few lyrics in common with the album version. An acoustic Nicks ballad, it finds her emoting more than on the finished product, in the process revealing why hardly a warm-blooded male in the Western Hemisphere could have resisted her.
The three-disc package is priced reasonably, surely targeting old fans who will, psychologically at least, get a kick out of buying “new Fleetwood Mac” product. Meanwhile, many other Fleetwood Mac albums languish in the CD dark ages, and a new Fleetwood Mac album sits in the studio, in need of some female vocals.
Oh, Fleetwood Mac …
John Bergstrom / PopMatters / Friday, February 8, 2013
John Bergstrom has been writing various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2004. He has been a music fanatic at least since he and a couple friends put together The Rock Group Dictionary in third grade (although he now admits that giving Pat Benatar the title of “first good female rocker” was probably a mistake). He has done freelance writing for Trouser Pressonline, Milwaukee’s Shepherd Express, and the late Milk magazine and website. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids, both of whom are very good dancers.