Fleetwood Mac has the distinction of celebrating a series of anniversaries this year: the group is turning 50 years old, Rumours is 40, Tango in the Night is 30, and The Dance is 20. Though their greatest hits, like “The Chain,” “Rhiannon,” “Landslide” are ubiquitous, there are so many more by Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and company that are, for one reason or another, overshadowed. Here are 10 Fleetwood Mac “deep tracks” and one album, just for good measure.
1) “Oh Well, Part 2” (1969)
A Fleetwood Mac discography cannot be complete unless it includes something from founder Peter Green. The more famous “Oh Well, Part 1” has been a concert favorite for many years. It was even included in the 1987 tour to support Tango In the Night with Billy Burnette on leads Then, Bekka Bramlett offered a refreshing take when she took over during the tours in the mid-1990s.
Where “Part 1” is a short, spunky, sing-in-your-face blues track, “Part 2” segues into an almost six-minute opus filled with not much more than haunting guitar licks accompanied by a lonely flute. There’s something very intriguing about the juxtaposition of the two parts, and the latter is surprisingly engaging. It’s almost as if after Green shouts, “Don’t ask me what I think of you / I might not give the answer that you want me to,” he’s confronted with a dark, desolate response.
2) “Dragonfly” (1971)
Danny Kirwan has a knack for balancing lush lyrics with richly textured guitar work. This song takes its inspiration from a poem by W.H. Davies and features Kirwan’s signature soothing vocals. It’s also the first song to feature Christine McVie as a full-time member of the band.
Recorded after the release of 1970’s Kiln House, the song surprisingly failed to chart. However, Peter Green defends the song by saying it should have been a hit and that it’s the best thing Kirwan has ever written.
3) “Caught in the Rain,” Penguin (1973)
Guitarist Bob Weston was part of the Fleetwood Mac history for only two albums — Penguin and Mystery To Me — but his instrumental “Caught in the Rain” is a highlight of the former. His intricate guitar work, coupled with Christine McVie’s keyboards, creates an image of someone sitting by a window watching the rain fall. The ethereal vocal harmonies make it feel as though being caught in the rain isn’t so bad after all. Weston’s final guitar riff suggests a final burst of rain before the clouds part.
This is one example of how strong Fleetwood Mac’s instrumental songs are, especially in their earlier days. (Perhaps it’s time for a compilation CD of their instrumental work? Just sayin’.)
4) “Hypnotized,” Mystery to Me (1973)
It might be Mick Fleetwood’s seductive drumming that lures us in, but it’s Bob Welch’s surreal guitar work and lyrics that keep us entranced. His whispery vocals enhance the listener’s mental image of two friends having coffee, when suddenly, “something flies by their window.”
Welch was inspired to write this song when he was living in Benifold Mansion, which he considered “spooky.” He shares his love of unusual imagery here, not unlike in “Future Games,” the title track of Fleetwood Mac’s 1971 album. Even if the listener isn’t quite sure what Welch is singing about, his soothing tenor somehow reassures them that it doesn’t quite matter and that everything will be alright.
Some critics and devoted fans might consider this the strongest track off the album. But it was released as the B-side to “For Your Love,” a rare Fleetwood Mac cover of the Yardbirds’ 1965 hit. The Pointer Sisters cover “Hypnotized” beautifully on their album Energy, thanks to their own vocal interpretations.
5) “Cool Water” (1982)
A cover by Fleetwood Mac is rare, but that makes this one all the more special. Originally written in 1936 by Bob Nolan, the Mac used this track to focus on their rich vocal harmonies and strong guitar playing. It was recorded during the Mirage sessions in 1982 but doesn’t appear on the album; instead, it was the B-side to their hit, “Gypsy.” And if you thought this song couldn’t get any more unique, it includes vocals by bassist John McVie, a rare occurrence in the band’s catalog.
6) “You & I, Part 1” (1987)
Tango in the Night came with five singles, four of which have B-sides not appearing on the album. The first release was “Big Love,” backed with this tune co-written by Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie. It’s another unearthly gem, blending gentle guitar licks and soft vocals singing of “strange falling skies” and “secrets no one knows.” Lindsey was experiencing a burst of creative energy around this time — so much so, in fact, that he temporarily left the band after the LP’s release, only to create his solo masterpiece Out Of The Cradle in 1992.
Its complement, “You & I, Part 2,” closes Tango. But it’s an odd mix of calypso and disco music, making one wonder if they should have stopped after the elegance of “Part 1.”
7) “When the Sun Goes Down,” Behind the Mask (1990)
Lindsey Buckingham’s sudden departure from the band after 1987’s Tango in the Night was a shock to everyone. He was replaced by guitarists Billy Burnette, with his rockabilly background, and Rick Vito, who contributed a harder edge to the group’s sound. Now a sextet, Fleetwood Mac hints at an identity crisis — but the album does present some highlights.
“When the Sun Goes Down” was co-written by Burnette and Vito, who also share lead vocals on it. It’s a fun, upbeat answer to someone’s broken heart. The strength of this hidden gem is its Zydeco-influenced flavor; while playing this tune, listeners can picture themselves dancing in the streets of New Orleans.
8) “Heart of Stone,” The Chain (1992)
To celebrate 25 years of the Mac, the group released a four-CD box set that included some new songs, including two songs by Christine McVie. McVie had found a solid writing partner in Eddy Quintela (“Little Lies”).
McVie has been known to write songs with darker lyrics and upbeat tempos — and this one track is no different. She and Quintela also know how to find a musical hook instantly. It is clear that after 25 years of being a member of the band, she is not showing any signs of slowing down.
9) “These Strange Times,” Time (1995)
What begins as Mick Fleetwood’s thoughtful, soulful tribute to his friend transitions into an epic journey of self-discovery and a test of his faith. The friend he references is a “man of the world.” It’s believed that he’s singing about founding member Peter Green, as that phrase is a title of one of Green’s songs. The origins of “Man of the World” date back to 1969, not long after the group originally formed and just before Green started to experience some personal issues.
Mick also warns “to walk a thin line is like dying alone.” This could be a dire message to Lindsey Buckingham, who had composed “Walk a Thin Line” for 1979’s Tusk. Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had both retired from the group by the mid-1990s, and Mick’s pain and regret are all too evident here as the future of Fleetwood Mac was shaky at best.
Adding another layer of emotion to the mix is Mick’s daughter Lucy, who contributes whispered words of encouragement throughout the song. All of these emotive elements together make this quite an experience for the listener. Plus, it’s rare to have Mick Fleetwood write or co-write a song let alone sing it, so it’s a joy to hear him — especially since he’s not afraid to get real.
10) “Thrown Down,” Say You Will (2003)
At this point in Fleetwood Mac’s history, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had returned to the band. But Christine McVie had retired — at least for the time being — and the results are less than fortunate. McVie’s piano and grounding force are missed, but a few tracks from 2003’s Say You Will are worth a listen.
The opening guitar riff is both hauntingly lonely and distant. Reminiscent of the guitar sound in Fleetwood Mac songs of yore, it complements the lyrics penned by Nicks. “Thrown down…like a barricade / maybe now he could prove to her that he could be good for her,” Nicks sings. Sounds like she’s ruminating on the not-so-smooth relationship between her and Buckingham.
At this point, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had left Fleetwood Mac (albeit only to return several years later). Having said that, Time is neither as bad as one thinks it will be, nor is it as bad as one might secretly want it to be.
Remember that the core of the group still existed: Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and Christine McVie. They were joined by Billy Burnette, who had been on board since their Greatest Hits package was released in 1988. Burnette had never intended to be a frontman. Instead, he wanted what he did best: light pop/rock music with a country flavor, like “Talkin’ to My Heart” and “I Got It in for You.”
The name Bekka Bramlett might sound familiar, as she is the daughter of popular music duo Delaney & Bonnie and a member of Mick Fleetwood’s other rock band, the Zoo. When touring with this “new” Fleetwood Mac lineup, Bramlett showcased her powerful voice during “The Chain,” and FM’s early hit “Oh Well.” But she plays it down on this album, like on the ballads “Winds of Change,” “Nothing Without You,” and “Dreamin’ the Dream,” which she wrote with Burnette.
Dave Mason, a former member of Traffic, is famous for his solo hit “We Just Disagree.” He brought the rock vibe to Fleetwood Mac with his contributions “I Wonder Why” and “Blow by Blow,” a favorite for their concerts at the time.
But it’s Christine McVie who provides the anchor on most of Time‘s selections, including the single “I Do” and the dreamy, reflective “Hollywood (Some Other Kind of Town).” Another gem, “All Over Again,” is a painful wake-up call, in which she sings about the troubled state of the band.
Mick Fleetwood’s powerful opus “These Strange Times” brings the album to a close. It covers a lot of ground, as he recalls days (and band members) of yore and goes on a journey of self-discovery. Time is certainly worth discovering.