Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (35th anniv ed) (review)

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours – 35th anniversary Deluxe Edition (Warner Bros) review

A closer look inside one of the biggest-selling albums of all-time.

We love conflict.  It’s why reality TV shows are everywhere now.  Sure, the music on the original Rumours album is great – but what struck a nerve with the public in 1977, and continues today, was the story behind the music – that the two couples within the band were breaking up, yet the band stayed together.  The three songwriters were putting down on paper what was actually happening between them.  These aren’t just songs, they’re windows into their crumbling relationships.

So, in that sense, Rumours plays out as real human drama – so much more than the scripted stuff we watch on TV.  The reason why these songs continue to endure is that they contain real emotion – there’s still heat in them 35 years later.  A new, 3-CD anniversary edition of the album gives listeners a chance to go behind the scenes, to the creation of this fantastic album.

The real reason to pick up this set is disc three, so we’ll start there – an entire disc of demos and alternate takes of most of the songs on the album.  It’s a real treat to hear these classic songs in their earliest of form.  On “Second Hand News,“ Lindsey Buckingham doesn’t even have all the words worked out, while Stevie Nicks’ “Dreams” is much more haunting, revealing more of the true emotion behind the song.  Some tracks, like “Never Going Back Again,” actually have more accompaniment (drums, background vocals) than the more-stripped down released version.  Christine McVie’s “Songbird” sounds unsure in this early take, while Buckingham actually sings the guitar solo as he teaches the band “I Don’t Want To Know.”

We also get to see how “The Chain” was (pardon the pun) fused together.  We hear the acoustic guitar demo from Stevie Nicks, which has completely different words – the only thing that was saved was the chorus.  Then we hear Christine McVie’s “Keep Me There,” which features the famous instrumental ending, featuring ex-husband John with his signature bass line.  There are also a few songs that didn’t make the cut of the final album – Nicks’ “Planets of the Universe” and Buckingham’s “Doesn’t Anything Last” provide two sides of their fractured relationship.  These tracks are less songs, and more like painful love letters to each other.

Disc one contains the original, classic record, which still sounds fresh today.  We’re not going to cover this part here (read our classic album review for our thoughts).

Disc two contains live material recorded during the ensuing Rumours tour.  It’s one thing to write songs while the relationships are breaking up, it’s something else entirely to have to perform those songs, night after night – while, there onstage, is the person who that song is about!  You can hear Lindsey Buckingham screaming during Nick’s slam “Dreams” – as if, non-verbally offering his side of the story.  Because Rumours was carefully crafted over months in the studio, the live versions seem more real – giving off more of the actual emotions behind these songs.  These aren’t perfect performances, but that fact adds a more human element here.

There was an earlier, two CD deluxe edition of Rumours that came out in 2004.  Unbelievably, none of the bonus material has been repeated – the 2004 set contains more-completed versions, while these tend to be rough demos. If you’re a real fan of this record, you really should own both.  Also, there’s one slight different between the sets worth noting  – both contain the Stevie Nicks’ b-side “Silver Springs.”  The 2004 collection placed it in the middle of the record, after “Songbird” and before “The Chain” (presumably where it would’ve been inserted, had there been enough time on the original LP).  But, honestly, the album is a perfect flow of emotions, and having that slow, sad song in the middle dragged the mood down.  It fits much more appropriately at the end of the album as a bonus track on this new collection.

This 3-CD set gives a much more honest look at the creation of one of the most-loved albums in all of rock.  Highly recommended.  –Tony Peters