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.”