The Vinyl of the Day is ‘Rumours’ by Fleetwood Mac, 1977. I completely missed that February 4 was the 40th anniversary of the album’s release, so here’s a one day belated recognition!
Fleetwood Mac had been a fairly successful band for years with their original lineup, but after Bob Welch left for a solo career it was the addition of Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham that really created a creative spark that lifted the band to a whole new level. The first record with the new lineup was ‘Fleetwood Mac’, and it was a huge hit on it’s own - but then ‘Rumours’ became a worldwide sensation and turned them into a megagroup, becoming one of the greatest hit records of all-time. The recording and history of the album makes a long story on it’s own, with the band having enormous personal problems at the time on a Beatles-esque scale - the McVies had just gone through a horribly messy divorce, Nicks and Buckingham were in a tempestuous on/off relationship, and even Mick Fleetwood had just found out his wife had an affair with his best friend. But even the band members eventually felt that all this drama and angst brought out their best music, and helped inspire this once-in-a-lifetime collection of masterpieces. The Mac went on to record many other albums, and Stevie Nicks has had a giant solo career, but ‘Rumours’ is their pinnacle of work, and what they’ll all be remembered for.
The band wanted to expand on the commercial success of the 1975 album Fleetwood Mac, but struggled with relationship breakups before recording started. The Rumours studio sessions were marked by hedonistic behaviour and interpersonal strife among Fleetwood Mac members; these experiences shaped the album’s lyrics. Influenced by pop music, the record’s tracks were recorded using a combination of acoustic and electric instruments. The mixing process delayed the completion of Rumours, but was finished by the end of 1976. Following the album’s release in 1977, Fleetwood Mac undertook worldwide promotional tours.
Rumours garnered widespread critical acclaim. Praise centred on its production quality and harmonies, which frequently relied on the interplay among three vocalists. The record has inspired the work of musical acts in different genres. Often considered Fleetwood Mac’s best release, it has featured in several publications’ lists of the best albums of the 1970s and the best albums of all time.
Rumours has been acclaimed by music critics since its release. Robert Christgau, reviewing in The Village Voice, gave the album an “A” and described it as “more consistent and more eccentric” than its predecessor. He added that it “jumps right out of the speakers at you”. Rolling Stone magazine’s John Swenson believed the interplay among the three vocalists was one of the album’s most pleasing elements; he stated, “Despite the interminable delay in finishing the record, Rumours proves that the success of Fleetwood Mac was no fluke.”
In a retrospective review, AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave Rumours five stars and noted that, regardless of the voyeuristic element, the record was “an unparalleled blockbuster” because of the music’s quality; he concluded, “Each tune, each phrase regains its raw, immediate emotional power—which is why Rumours touched a nerve upon its 1977 release, and has since transcended its era to be one of the greatest, most compelling pop albums of all time.” According to Slant Magazine’s Barry Walsh, Fleetwood Mac drew on romantic dysfunction and personal turmoil to create a timeless, five-star record, while Andy Gill of The Independent claimed it “represents, along with The Eagles Greatest Hits, the high-water mark of America’s Seventies rock-culture expansion, the quintessence of a counter-cultural mindset lured into coke-fuelled hedonism”. In 2007, BBC’s Daryl Easlea labelled the sonic results as “near perfect”, “like a thousand angels kissing you sweetly on the forehead”, while Patrick McKay of Stylus Magazine wrote, “What distinguishes Rumours—what makes it art—is the contradiction between its cheerful surface and its anguished heart. Here is a radio-friendly record about anger, recrimination, and loss.”
The Vinyl of the Day is ‘Rebel Yell’ by Billy Idol, 1983. Billy’s second full solo studio album after his debut ‘Billy Idol’ (and his EP ‘Don’t Stop’, his first release after leaving Generation X), it
reunited the hit-making team of Billy, Steve Stevens and Keith Forsey, and it became a monster success with some of his biggest hits, including ‘Eyes Without A Face’, ‘Flesh For Fantasy’, ‘Catch My Fall’, and of course the title hit ‘Rebel Yell’ which became THE song you would slip the club DJ $20 to play. This is the album that turned Billy Idol into one of the most popular solo artists of all-time, and one of the founding pillars and most important figures that defined the ‘80s sound, fashion, and new wave/post punk culture.
Billy’s perma-sneer and his perfect matinee-idol blond hair made punk rock acceptable for MTV and the masses, by watering down punk’s aggressive attack with dance grooves and stretches of keyboards where no self-respecting punk would’ve dared. Essentially, he made pop music with a spare razor blade tossed in for fun. ‘Rebel Yell’ actually shows a wide range of styles, more so than most people today associate with Billy Idol; yes you’ve got the high-energy explosion of ‘Rebel Yell’, but Billy showed a willingness to experiment with different musical styles and the latest advances in recording technology with the new-wave sound of “Daytime Drama,” the unsettling noir-minimalism of “The Dead Next Door” and the quite uniquely, sensual robo-funk of “Flesh for Fantasy.” Rounding things out, the saxophone-powered “Catch My Fall” had hit single written all over it, and Idol achieved precisely that with the distinctly unconventional, rather artsy ballad, “Eyes Without a Face” – a smash hit driven home by a highly stylized music video that became another MTV staple.Virtually everything about Idol’s ambitious vision worked to perfection on ‘Rebel Yell’, and it’s still top-notch pop-punk and as fun to listen to today as it was ALMOST 35 YEARS AGO!!
Rolling Stone original review from 1984
By Parke Puterbaugh
Equal parts hard rocker, glam rocker and punk rocker, Billy Idol has managed an estimable synthesis of the music of three decades on Rebel Yell, his second solo album. From the Sixties, he’s brought a fair measure of pop economy and a kaleidoscopic palette of sound effects. From the Seventies, he’s taken the larger-than-life sound of big guitars, thunderous drumming and industrial-strength singing. And from the Eighties, he’s adapted the sonic Bauhaus architecture of new music, with its straight, streamlined edges. In short, Rebel Yell is a ferocious record, sharp as a saber, hard as diamond, as beautiful and seductive as the darker side of life with which it flirts.
Idol must share some of the credit with guitarist Steve Stevens, with whom he’s established a partnership whose chemistry is not unlike that between Iggy Pop and James Williamson. Idol’s lyrics partake of our deepest subconscious, sexual and nocturnal drives; his saturnalian cravings find musical expression in the wide array of sounds Stevens is able to coax from his instrument, be it the unnerving metallic march of “Daytime Drama,” the lurching, out-of-focus psychedelia of “Flesh for Fantasy” or the skittering, arpeggiated runs that frame “(Do Not) Stand in the Shadows.”
Rebel Yell occasionally toys with decadence, taking fleeting glimpses behind doors that are better left unopened. But this is part and parcel of Idol’s lust for life, which seems almost indiscriminate in its thrill seeking yet full of boundless pleasure with each new world that rolls over the horizon — and this isn’t decadent at all. At a time when too much of what comes over the airwaves is all sweetness and light, or mere undifferentiated head-banging, Rebel Yell is an intelligent assault upon the senses, and a rallying cry to the reckless enthusiasm of youth. Worth a good, lusty holler for sure.