Thursday, April 16, 2015

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS (Pt. IV) - Fleetwood Mac "Time"

(Pt. IV)
Fleetwood Mac
(Warner Bros)

Even the biggest, most
iconic names in rock
can detonate a "bomb."
However, some of these
sleepers and sinkers are
actually the gemstones
of the artist's otherwise
platinum-selling catalog.

I bumped into a guy early one morning last week while standing in line at the creamer counter of my neighborhood Starbucks. I recognized the fella immediately as a local blues aficionado and musician (i.e., "muso" / myo͞oz-ō— which, I guess, makes him a "bluso" (blo͞oz-ō). Anyway, since attending the recent Orlando Fleetwood Mac concert, I've had the band "on the brain" — keeping my 10-hour FM iTunes library in almost constant "re-play" mode. Hence, at that moment, I felt compelled to offer "Mr. Bluso" an early bird ice-breaker.

"So, what are your feelings on Fleetwood Mac?" I inquired — as if I couldn't possibly have guessed his certain response. Instantly, "Mr. B" rocked back on his heals, and with an undeniable display of utter indignation, he fired back  "I have ZERO use for Fleetwood Mac in any form, other than the original Peter Green version — I don't care how many records they've sold!" Hmm, noted.

Conversely, on the night of the recent concert, I couldn't help but notice (and overhear) the bevy of nubile babes bouncing about the Amway Center, all absolutely giddy over their golden opportunity to finally see Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham — and their "back-up band." 

Yes, the iconic Fleetwood Mac brand seemingly means all things to all people. And while I have tremendous personal appreciation for all of its various incarnations over the last (nearly) 50 years, I'm particularly fond of the band's early 70s, Bob Welch era, as their 1973 Mystery to Me album remains one of my all-time favorites. But despite the overwhelming majority world opinion, as a result of this infamous revolving door policy, Fleetwood Mac IS founding drummer, Mick Fleetwood and bassist, John McVie. In fact, if the band was a fancy confection, displayed prominently in a bakery case, Fleetwood and McVie would be a delicious red velvet cupcake, and perennial keyboardist, Christine McVie would be the irresistibly sweet icing. Tasty and TOTALLY satisfying. Any additions to that core line-up are (welcomed) colorful sprinkles.

Me and Mick - Orlando, FL
The "Alice & the Tool-Fish" era of the '90s was a difficult period for many chart-busters of the '70s and '80s — but it was a particularly tough time for the once "Mighty Mac." After much well-publicized intra-band turmoil, Fleetwood and McVie faced forging ahead on the road during the early and mid '90s without three of the band's longtime, marquee power-players (Buckingham, Nicks and Ms. McVie). And the drastically unfamiliar-looking new version of Fleetwood Mac was relegated to the nostalgia circuit, sandwiched between REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar. However, the short-lived line-up featuring vocalist Bekka Bramlett, legendary singer / songwriter / guitarist Dave Mason and FM guitar vet Billy Burnette, made for a splendid rock band. And it was this configuration, plus the studio participation of Ms. McVie, that created one gem of an authentic, roots-style record.

Produced by Richard DashutJohn Jones and the late Ray Kennedy, Fleetwood Mac's 16th studio album, Time, arrived in October 1995. It tanked — immediately and completely. In fact, it didn't even chart. And with worldwide sales of less than 100,000 copies, it ranks as the band's all-time worst-selling effort.

The sad thing is, Time is actually a good record — a really good record. Heck, the "cupcake" was in full effect. Mick Fleetwood — check. John McVie — check. Christine McVie — check. Even the "colorful sprinkles" were incredible. Billy Burnette wasn't new  he'd already been in the band for seven years. Bekka Bramlett is a powerhouse and Dave Mason, well, he's DAVE FREAKING MASON! So, c'mon man, what gives?

Fleetwood, Mason, Burnette, Bramlett and McVie - circa '95
The songs (for the most part) were superb. The opening track, Burnette's "Talkin' to My Heart," delivered an organic warmth that the band hadn't captured in a very long time. Christine McVie's delightful and infectious "Hollywood (Some Other Kind of Town)" and "I Do" both possessed Mirage / Tango in the Night-caliber charm. Fueled by Mason's blues-inspired guitar work, "Blow By Blow" was snappy little nut-buster. And the beautiful vocal marriage between Burnette and Bramlett on the high-energy "I Got It In for You" made for a fantastic highlight. There were a couple of missteps, however — the most glaring of which was Mick Fleetwood's seven-minute, spoken word-meets-new age oddity, "These Strange Times." But overall, Time was as solid as any other title in the impressive Fleetwood Mac catalog.

Okay, so how could a record with this much "mo" fail so famously? Well, like everything else related to arts and culture, it's all about timing. And in the topsy-turvy world of rock and roll, 1995 just wasn't the time for the release of a quality, song-based record created by an establish group of skilled musicians who wore clean, form-fitting jeans. Furthermore, too often, the public listens to music with their hearts. Time could have included Christine McVie's secret unlisted phone number, handwritten on each inner sleeve, and it wouldn't have much mattered. Unfortunately, unless a Fleetwood Mac album features the "Fab Five," its commercial fate is sealed.

In sum, Time is an engaging record, filled with well-crafted, heartfelt songs — and I endorse it personally, 100%. It ain't Rumours — but (thank goodness) it ain't Say You Will either.

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)


Check out the entire
Golden Rock Bombs series:

Peter Criss
Out of Control
Cheap Trick 
The Doctor

REO Speedwagon
Building a Bridge

Fleetwood Mac


The latest from author Christopher Long
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