Forgotten tracks worth digging for
Maybe I’m late to the party, but I’m going through a bit of a Fleetwood Mac phase right now. They’ve dominated my iPod for the past couple of months – everything from their early blues material to their slightly corny ’80s output – so I’m as excited as anyone that they’re playing the Spokane Arena this weekend.
The band has been on tour since late April and has yet to deviate from the same set list, so expect to hear all of the biggest Lindsey Buckingham-Stevie Nicks hits. (And don’t hold out for any of Christine McVie’s compositions – she hasn’t played with the band since the late ’90s.)
But the Fleetwood Mac catalog is stuffed with great songs that have fallen between the cracks, so I’ve put together a compilation – a mix tape, if you will – of 10 worthy tracks you won’t be hearing live Saturday night: deep cuts, forgotten singles, and a few unfairly overlooked solo tracks.
• “Oh Well, Part 1” / Album: “Then Play On” (1969)
Back when Fleetwood Mac was a British blues outfit led by guitarist Peter Green, they had a big UK hit with an abridged version of their 9-minute epic “Oh Well.” It features one of the best guitar riffs Led Zeppelin never wrote, and it’s even rumored to have inspired Jimmy Page to write “Black Dog.”
• “Crying in the Night” / Album: “Buckingham Nicks” (1973)
This one’s a bit of a cheat: Recorded when Buckingham and Nicks were just a no-name California rock duo, “Crying in the Night” is a fine example of the pristine pop sound they’d later bring to Fleetwood Mac. Their sole album has never been officially released on CD, but it’s available on YouTube in its entirety and is worth a listen.
• “Heroes Are Hard to Find” / Album: “Heroes Are Hard to Find” (1974)
Soon after Green left Fleetwood Mac, the band – and especially keyboardist McVie – adopted the soft rock inflections that would later propel them to superstardom. It’s one of the last songs to feature guitarist Bob Welch, and you can start to hear the group’s final transition from blues to pop.
• “Blue Letter” / Album: “Fleetwood Mac” (1975)
Now armed with Buckingham’s nervy guitar and Nicks’ earthy eccentricity, Fleetwood Mac quickly conquered the mid-’70s rock scene. One of Buckingham’s earliest contributions is this driving cover of a rockabilly tune by Rick and Michael Curtis, a propulsive burst of energy that shaped his later work.
• “I Don’t Want to Know” / Album: “Rumours” (1977)
“Rumours” is, without question, Fleetwood Mac’s most famous album, and the band’s current set list features seven of its 11 classic tracks. One that isn’t represented, however, is “I Don’t Want to Know.” Nicks’ most spiteful song on “Rumours,” her acidic breakup lyrics are deliberately offset by Buckingham’s bright, bouncy guitar melody.
• “Think About Me” / Album: “Tusk” (1979)
In all of Fleetwood Mac’s discography, the one record that deserves serious reappraisal is the sprawling, unpredictable and frequently brilliant “Tusk.” McVie sticks mostly to ballads on the album, but her best song is this infectious slice of pop, a modest radio hit that really should have been a smash.
• “That’s All for Everyone” / Album: “Tusk” (1979)
Buckingham takes the experimental route on “Tusk,” which likely contributed to its initial chart failure. Of his nine wildly diverse tracks on the album, “That’s All for Everyone” is off in its own world: Dreamy, ethereal, and buried in the middle of the album, it’s one of the best things he’s ever written.
• “Trouble” / Album: “Law and Order” (1981)
After a lengthy tour with “Tusk,” Buckingham and Nicks went off to record respective solo albums. Buckingham’s “Law and Order” didn’t sell as well as Nicks’ multiplatinum “Bella Donna,” but its lead single “Trouble” is a gem of densely produced mid-tempo pop. Nicks might be the more popular solo artist, but Buckingham has always been the more interesting.
• “Hold Me” / Album: “Mirage” (1983)
You can hear the band’s magic waning a bit on “Mirage,” which barely holds a candle to the three great albums that preceded it. But it does have a few inspired numbers on it, including the Top 10 hit “Hold Me,” which boasts some of the best Buckingham-McVie dual vocals this side of “Rumours.”
• “Little Lies” / Album: “Tango in the Night” (1987)
The final album to feature Fleetwood Mac’s most famous lineup, “Tango in the Night” is mostly a victim of late-’80s overproduction (cheesy synthesizer alert!). But the McVie-penned single “Little Lies” holds up remarkably well, and it’s arguably the last great song from the group’s most iconic lineup.