The ‘Fleetwood Mac’ box set is a 5-star reissue

Fleetwood Mac
Reprise (LP/3-CD/DVD Box Set)
5 stars

By Bruce Sylvester

After lineup changes galore, Fleetwood Mac revealed a knockout new team in 1975 with its self-titled Fleetwood Mac (not to be confused with its 1968 debut of the same name). Earlier singles never cracked the top 40. One LP, ’74’s “Heroes Are Hard To Find,” had hit No. 34. With three Top 20 singles, Fleetwood Mac was ’75’s second-highest-selling album.

Its latest reissue comes in three formats: single CD, 2-CD set with extra studio and live tracks and (for serious Big Mac lovers) a deluxe box with the original album on both CD (with bonuses) and LP, separate CDs of live tracks and demos, a charming booklet and a DVD of the original album in 5.1 surround sound. (See above for a visual glimpse of the deluxe set) The vinyl version preserves the poise of side one’s graceful finale, “Crystal,” without immediately leaping to side two’s charging opener, “Say You Love Me.” For a subtle surprise, hold the box’s CDs’ black-back slip cases up to light. You’ll find the band’s mascot, a top-hatted penguin (thanks to bassist John McVie), in various poses.

Like Jefferson Airplane, Big Mac’s new lineup benefited from a sweeping range of individual members’ diverse talents, from British blues revival to California rock. Swampy blues (“World Turning”) followed newcomer Lindsay Buckingham’s filigree acoustic guitar notes on “Landslide.” A master of writing catchy hooks (“Say You Love Me”), Christine McVie delivered soothing, down-to-earth songs that balanced Stevie Nicks’ ethereal vibe. Buckingham and Nicks’s entry pushed the band to whole new levels of three-part harmonizing.

In some ways, Fleetwood Mac set the stage for mega-selling Rumours and its songs inspired by all the members going through romantic breakups – two within the quintet. Buckingham’s opener, “Monday Morning,” sounds like his later “Second Hand News” (which similarly began Rumours), and its lyrics may foreshadow the hurt and anger of “News.”

The tour CD shows the troupe making little effort to repeat the LP’s arrangements. Eight of its 14 songs aren’t on the album. Nicks uses a huskier voice on “Rhiannon” than on the album’s otherworldly rendition. A country guitar break ends “Spare Me A Little,” while “Hypnotized” combines hillbilly vocal with juke joint blues guitar.

The deluxe package’s 12×12-inch, 16-page booklet is a pure delight with off-beat photos from the cover shoot, Nicks’s handwritten “Landslide” and an essay including band members’ reminiscences. Buckingham was only willing to join if Nicks (a stranger to the others) could too. Mick Fleetwood recalls Christine getting the right to be the sole decision maker after she said, “There’s nothing worse than two women who don’t get on. And I’ll know right away.” Nicks charmed her way into the band without ever even auditioning. The rest is history.

About Bruce Sylvester

Bruce Sylvester is a regular contributor to Goldmine magazine.

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