Fleetwood Mac‘s Rumours hasn’t become a dated Seventies artifact, mostly because it sounded odd even then. Its brainy guitar solos were rather more frequent than those of other Southern California sunny soft-rock outfits; and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham pushed the production into a magnificent combination of intricate and spare, an alloy comfortable to drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, who thought they had formed a blues band back in 1967.
The group’s second album with its most famous lineup – Fleetwood, Buckingham and his then-girlfriend, singer Stevie Nicks, and McVie and his ex-wife, singer and keyboardist Christine McVie – Rumours tracks the twin couples as they split. It’s not a classic breakup record; it wasn’t built as a soundtrack to whatever heartbreak you’re trying to sing along to. But it’s their breakup record, and in its idiosyncratic way it mirrors all the lost loves of the world. The two couples confess, blame, sigh and ride a deep, chugging groove toward some kind of resolution.
You can see the outlines of the couples’ relationships – both musical and romantic – in the rubble. Here is the cool tenderness with which Nicks inserts her harmony on the words “been tossed around enough” during Buckingham’s “Second Hand News”; here is Christine McVie coming out all generous like the sun on her smiley-face ballads “Songbird” and “Oh Daddy” and the mellow boogie “You Make Loving Fun.” When Nicks isn’t being tough on hits such as “Dreams” and, particularly, “Gold Dust Woman” – as nasty a bit of business as her cute, torn voice ever got into – she’s inviting the whole group in for the countryish “I Don’t Want to Know.” Nothing explodes when it promises to: not the chorus of “Go Your Own Way,” no matter what Fleetwood does to his drum kit; not the full-band invocation of coming darkness and cramped emotional interdependence on “The Chain.” Instead, Rumours is splendid and pleasant and somehow too dense, like being trapped in an open meadow.
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This story is from the May 23rd, 2002 issue of Rolling Stone.