01 January, 2010

Mystery To Me

1975. California. A drummer by the name of Fleetwood and a bass guitarist by the name of Mac recruit musical duet Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks into their band, and record an album titled Fleetwood Mac. The followup album, Rumours - which would become one of the top-selling albums of all time - cements the band's status as pop rock icons of the seventies.

1967. London. Genius songwriter/guitarist Peter Green recruits a drummer by the name of Fleetwood and a bass guitarist by the name of Mac to form a blues band, and they record an album titled Fleetwood Mac. Their blues roots and jamming chops make them stars of the British blues revival and emerging psychedelic movement of the late sixties.

Same Fleetwood. Same Mac. Same Fleetwood Mac? That's for you to decide:

1975 - World Turning

1968 - The World Keep On Turning

So what happened in between?

Well, after founder and bandleader Peter Green quit the band in 1970 to pursue his own personal demons, followed shortly by the band's other two talented guitarists - Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan - the band entered a transitional phase. Around this time, hanger-on Christine Perfect, the bassist's girlfriend, and a talented musician in her own right, married into the band.

I'd love to tell you all the details of Fleetwood Mac's transitional period, but the truth is, it is still very much a mystery to me. Everyone knows about the pop period featuring Buckingham/Nicks, and I have delved deep into the early period featuring Peter Green on personal interest, but I have yet to explore very thoroughly the transitional period.

One of the prominent names that came and went during this period was that of Bob Welch, yet another songwriter/guitarist to lend his talent to the band. Previously, my only exposure to Bob Welch-era Fleetwood Mac had been the song Hypnotized, the only Bob Welch-era song I've heard on the radio (and even then, only rarely, and only billed as a "deep cut"). But it's an amazing song. So when I decided to pick out a Bob Welch-era album to investigate (and it's only a matter of time before I investigate them all), I was drawn to the one featuring that song that I knew and loved.

And that album's title is "Mystery To Me". Of course, there's also the fact that the album contains a Yardbirds cover (For Your Love) - the discovery of which, as a huge Yardbirds fan myself, was at least as exciting as stumbling upon an Easter egg. Plus, there's something about that title, that phrase, that strikes me. I find myself using it in everyday situations on occasion.

But how is the music?

If you hang around Fleetwood Mac fans, you'll find different ones that are loyal diehards for this or that member. And this covers all the eras. I, personally, am a Peter Green diehard. But I've come across Bob Welch diehards. I like Bob Welch. I like him a lot. His songs have a distinctive style (think: Hypnotized), which I can dig. But to place things in perspective, I see no threat of Welch-era Mac conquering Green-era Mac in my personal hierarchy.

There are also Christine McVie diehards. I don't have a problem with Christine McVie, but she's not my favorite member of the band. In all truth, the Christine songs on Mystery To Me sound most similar to the Buckingham/Nicks-era Mac. And consider that, on this album, that doesn't include what Buckingham and Nicks brought to the band (and believe me, as much as I slag the pop era of the band in favor of their roots, I do respect both Buckingham and Nicks as musicians, and in fact do like them within their context).

So that's how things stand. The songs on Mystery To Me that I feel ambivalent about are made up for by the songs on the album that I particularly like. One of which is the opening track, Emerald Eyes, the lyrics for which provide the album's compelling titular phrase.

So, I can say that my initial foray into the transitional period of Fleetwood Mac has gone pretty much as I expected. I'm not blown away by what I'm hearing, like I was when I discovered Peter Green, but on the other hand, I do like what I'm hearing, and I'm excited to continue exploring this period in the future.

The real important question is, is Welch-era Mac better than Buckingham/Nicks-era Mac?

A good question, indeed. And until I listen to the former some more, it shall remain...a mystery to me.

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