Updated: Dec 13, 2019
Last week, we mixed up the formula. Instead of doing a 10/10 album that was perfect in practically every way, we reviewed an album that was frought with challenges and a band in disarray.
This week's album was a blend of the two. From the fiery tensions of Fleetwood Mac in the late 1970s came Rumours, an album which is full of classics, track after track. It's remarkable that such an album can come from a band who were, for much of the process, often at each other's throats. Stevie Nicks has suggested that Mac's best work came when the band were in the worst shape, and she's not wrong. It's funny what high emotional tension (and a few drugs) can do for creativity.
It's almost not worth reviewing the songs. Whether it's 'Don't Stop', 'Go Your Own Way', 'Dreams', 'Songbird', this album is almost overflowing with outstanding songs. The band and the producers all wanted to make a pop album album with "no filler", on which every song could possibly be released as a single. They didn't quite succeed with the pop part; there's too much rock in there. However, the quality is so high throughout it that yes, almost any of these songs could have been singles.
It's a perfect example of how to draw art from pain, tension and dissonance. Using those feelings and situations as influence for the music is likely what saved the band, in much the same way as it would for Metallica just over thirty years later. The difference here, though, is that the album itself became legendary for its quality, with timeless songs that are still as joyful to listen to now as they were then. It's also worth nothing that despite the negative atmosphere that surrounded the recording process, songs such as 'Don't Stop' and 'Dreams' show definite signs of optimism, with the former being a particularly "happy" song.
There is one song that particular attention should be drawn to: The Chain. It is the only song on the album that is credited to every member of the band, and in my eyes, it is the greatest song of all time. The lyrics were penned at a time when apparently everyone in the band was going through a break-up - mostly with each other, aside from Mick Fleetwood. It's incredible how natural it sounds, how live it sounds, when it was in fact spliced together from a multitude of old song ideas and recordings done at separate times. Whomever chose the latter section to be the Formula One theme in the United Kingdom needs an immediate knighthood. On the other hand, whomever decided that one of those "featuring songs such as..." stickers on a re-release of Rumours shouldn't include The Chain should be sacked immediately.
Like The Chain, much of the album was spliced together (a razor blade often being used to cut the tape) and some of the tape was so overused it got damaged. A special shoutout, then, must go to the producers and the specialist who saved the damaged tape recordings. The album, sonically, sounds fantastic. It's crisp, it's clear, it's full of life and flow.
Is it the best album of its decade? Once again, it's up there, but let's not forget how strong the 1970s were, with competitors such as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon threatening Rumours' place at the top. Certainly, it's the best album ever made by a band with such a mountain of issues at the time of recording. Rumours is sublime, and very few artists can claim to have made an album that went on to make such an impact with everyone - including the band themselves, as Mick Fleetwood said this album is the most important one they ever recorded because it saved the band. An essential album for anyone's collection.