Fleetwood Mac – Mystery to Me (1973)

FleetwoodMac_MysteryToMe3.5 out of 5 Stars!

Prior to achieving worldwide superstardom, Fleetwood Mac had churned out music for years and years, first creating some fine albums in the (originally) Blues Rock genre with spectacular guitarist Peter Green at the helm, then (during its second phase) releasing a handful of additional albums that contained a more commercial, laid-back sound with only a hint of Blues Rock. This often-forgotten second phase of the group saw guitarist/vocalist Bob Welch and the ultra-talented keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie (gosh, I adore this woman!) joining up for the ride.

But despite the two new members bringing with them their advanced songwriting skills, and the group’s relatively stable line-up during this period, Fleetwood Mac still couldn’t quite generate mega-stardom status. That wouldn’t happen until Welch left the group and the Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks team came aboard for the band’s third “heavily soap-opera drama” phase.

Regardless, I always enjoyed Fleetwood Mac’s second phase, and still listen to those five 1971-1974 albums on a semi-regular basis, especially this particular platter. On Mystery to Me, the band included more than a handful of its finest, most memorable songs from this era, including Welch’s “Somebody,” “Emerald Eyes,” “The City,” and “Hypnotized,” and a decent cover version of the classic Yardbirds’ track “For Your Love.” But for me, McVie’s songs are typically the special ones, and in this case, her compositions such as “Just Crazy Love,” “Why,” “The Way I Feel,” and “Believe Me,” though perhaps not as brilliant as her future endeavors, still sounded as if they could have easily appeared on any of the classic albums during the Buckingham/Nicks years.

Meanwhile, Bob Welch and Christine McVie’s instrumental and vocal skills are in tip-top shape, while John McVie and Mick Fleetwood prove once again to be a “wonderfully tight though nothing-too-fancy” rhythm team. And Bob Weston, his contributions to the band often underappreciated or dismissed, plays some surprisingly tasty lead guitar throughout, especially his subtle riffing on the bluesier “Somebody,” the slide guitar intro on “Why,” or on the harder-rocking “The City” and “Miles Away.” Additionally, with the now-legendary Martin Birch (Deep Purple/Wishbone Ash/Jeff Beck/Faces/etc.) now handling production duties instead of just engineering like he did on the band’s previous three albums, the sound here is rich and full, probably one of Fleetwood Mac’s best and most consistent during this period.

By the way, I continually roll my eyes in amazement and chuckle when I hear or read comments by supposed music-lovers who still seemingly have no clue that Fleetwood Mac even existed before the appearance of Stevie Nicks. What a shame for them, since Fleetwood Mac delivered a stream of enjoyable and catchy, diverse and often-imaginative music prior to 1975, especially on Mystery to Me.

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Christine McVie – Christine McVie (1984)

ChristineMcVie_15 out of 5 Stars!

While everyone else seemed to fall at the feet of Stevie Nicks or Lindsey Buckingham during Fleetwood Mac’s most successful stretch, praising their supposed magnificence, I worshiped before the altar of Christine McVie, who was essentially the glue that firmly held the band together, despite Lindsey’s dominating presence or Stevie’s charisma. Always a gifted songwriter with a smooth voice and laid-back attitude, this classy dame penned some of the catchiest and most enduring hits of the band’s career. You could always count on Christine’s songs to feature her rich, mellow voice, some soulful lyrics (her classic “Songbird” is a perfect example), and a melody that could stand the test of time. Normally, I would skip over some of the Stevie songs, most of the Lindsey songs (what was he thinking on Tusk???) and shoot right for Christine’s gems.

This solo album proves just how valuable Christine’s contributions were to Fleetwood Mac. Indeed, listening to this album reminds me of Fleetwood Mac at their best. (How many people heard “Got A Hold On Me,” the hit single from this album, and at first thought Fleetwood Mac had finally gotten back on track?) The songs and production are high quality, and Ms. McVie finally has a chance to dominate the proceedings without being overshadowed by the egos of her band-mates. If you’re a “Christine fan” as opposed to a “Buckingham/Nicks fan,” then this album is essential for your collection!

“The Challenge,” “Who’s Dreaming This Dream,” “Love Will Show Us How,” and the other seven tracks each have something special–that same “Christine magic” she brought to Fleetwood Mac. Just about every track on offer here deserved to be a hit. It’s like listening to a “best of” Fleetwood Mac album, but without the weaker songwriters butting in to botch things up.

The woman with the birth name of Christine Perfect gets a perfect score from me with this release!

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