Posts Tagged ‘Fleetwood Mac’

Now Maurice White, founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, is dead. How can we mourn so many pop legends in so short a time?!

Maurice White is one of only three drummers I can think of who founded a band that actually counts for something:

Maurice White, Earth, Wind & Fire
Mick Fleetwood, Fleetwood Mac*
Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters

* I mostly don’t like Fleetwood Mac, but I can’t pretend they don’t exist.

In the second half of the 1970s, Bruce Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac got the press, but EWF sold the records. I was going to include a list here of my five favorite EWF songs but I stopped when I hit 15. They were that infectious.

Maurice White and his band could play rock, jazz, funk, R&B, and (their downfall) disco. White started out as a session musician. Today in his memory I listened to one of his early gigs, the jazz disc Soul in the Night (1966). White might not have been a great drummer, but he was plenty good enough to play beside two all-star sax players, Sonny Stitt and Bunky Green.

(Bunky Green – now that’s a name. The man was destined to play the saxophone for Chess Records or third base for the Cubs.)

Soul in the Night is not the easiest record to listen to, but the artistry and competence it represents is reassuring in a world that offers us Donald Trump and the armed takeover of a bird sanctuary.

Rest easy, Maurice White.

Shining star come in to view
Shine its watchful light on you

Postscript: If you listen to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Magic Mind” on All ’N All from 1977 you’ll hear Talking Heads’ future.

 

 

Prince
Prince
1979

I believe I missed Prince’s second album when it was released, as I was occupied with punk and the theory that it would be easier to initiate sexual relations with punk girls compared with disco girls. (No.) Too bad, because this is a fine disco disc. The one lasting number on it is “Sexy Dancer,” but it should last awhile, and the other songs would be popular if played as a unit at a party…if you could go back and host that party in 1979.

The album’s closer, “It’s Gonna Be Lonely,” shows some emotional depth in its story of a break-up. One verse hints at something much deeper:

I betcha thatcha never knew
That in my dreams you are the star
The only bummer is that you always want to leave
Who do you think you are?

Prince was 21 when he released this record, his second, and you can hear him struggling with the disco/smooth-R&B straitjacket – just as you can hear the 24-year-old Bruce Springsteen struggling to break out of folk-music prison on his second album, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1974).

On Prince, you can’t tell if Prince wants to be Lionel Ritchie, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, or some kind of disco conglomeration. They’ve even photographed him on the album cover to look like Ritchie. But on his third album all hell will break loose, just as it did with Springsteen.

What I was doing at 21: Living in Boston, writing bad science fiction. This is already getting old.

Rolling Stones’ best albums of 1979: The Rolling Stone critics got lazy that year. They gave Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps album-of-the-year honors and cited no runners-up.

It’s not as if they had a small pool of candidates: How about Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The B-52s’ The B-52s, The Clash’s The Clash, Graham Parker’s Squeezing Out Sparks, Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, The Police’s Reggatta de Blanc (the Coldplay of their day), Donna Summer’s Bad Girls, The Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady, or even Sister Sledge’s We Are Family? And look at all the crap, led by Foghat, Foreigner, and The Captain & Tenille?

They called Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” the single of the year. What where they smoking, and can I have some?

Those critics better shape up for 1980.

Random Pick of the Day (but it was close)
Various artists, Day Tripper: Jazz Greats Meet The Beatles Volume 1 (2009)
Two standouts, both on piano: Ramsey Lewis’ “Day Tripper” and McCoy Tyner’s “She’s Leaving Home.” Guitarist Wes Montgomery gives “A Day in the Life” the atmosphere of listening to records at midnight with the lights off. Unfortunately, at the 4-minute mark of this 6-minute song he gets up to get a drink and trips over The Moody Blues.

The rest of this disk explains why there was no Volume 2.

Random Pan of the Day
Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1962)
Recorded in 1959 for the French film, but not released in the USA until 1962. “No Problem” is a terrific tune. Unfortunately, you get four versions of it on this disc, as well as two versions each of two lesser songs, “Prelude in Blue” and “Valmontana.” There are only 10 tracks on Les Liaisons Dangereuses and eight of them are variations of each other. The repetition wore me down.

 

The Fleetwood Mac Military-Industrial Complex cannot be confined to a single blog post.

Around 1968, Peter Green wrote a song called “Black Magic Woman.” When I was a teenager we referred to this song as “Black Magic Marker.” You can find it on Fleetwood Mac’s English Rose album (1969). It’s good; it sounds like a tango in Jamaica.

It’s so good that two years later Carlos Santana decided to cover it. Rather than stop where Green stopped, Santana upped the ante by appending the instrumental “Gypsy Queen” by the Hungarian jazz guitarist Gàbor Szabó. I’ve heard Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” a million times, and it still knocks me down with its sinuous organ, furious guitar, and its roots in blues, jazz, and the folk music of two continents.

“Gypsy Queen” appears on Szabó’s 1966 album Spellbinder. Szabó was a pretty fair guitarist. Unfortunately, his interpretations of the pop standards of the day are uninteresting. When he tries to sing, as he does on Sonny Bono’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” things get worse.

But three of his original compositions on this disc more than make up for this problem: “Gypsy Queen,” “Cheetah,” and the title track. They’re sufficiently awesome to overwhelm “It Was a Very Good Year,” “My Foolish Heart,” and the bang bang song. I rate it a Buy.

OK, that’s it for Fleetwood Mac. I’m not going to deal with Stevie Nicks and her scarves. Tomorrow, Chicago for sure. Spoiler alert: “25 or 6 to 4” is the singer’s estimate of how many minutes remain before 4 o’clock, 25 or 26. The song appeared in 1970 and the digital wristwatch was patented in 1970. The composer, Robert Lamm, just got in under the wire on this one.

Who wears cheetah?
Many thanks to Loyal Reader Orin who sends word of the 2014 updating of Frank Zappa’s “Valley Girl.” Here then are The Chainsmokers with their haunting, heart-breaking “#SELFIE.” They definitely bought all their Instagram followers.

Random Pick of the Day
Fruit Bats, Mouthfuls (2003)
This band starts where the quieter tracks on The White Album end. The album is often too quiet for me, though never Cowboy Junkies quiet. The closer, “When U Love Somebody,” is a jewel.

Random Pan of the Day
Iggy Pop, Party (1981)
Party is so bad you have to get EPA approval before you can play it. Iggy, trying to cash in on the New Wave, crashes into a guard rail. His covers are inept (“Time Won’t Let Me” is gruesome) and his originals are unlistenable. Except for “Bang Bang” – now that’s good. Perhaps it escaped from another album. Sadly, this record was a footnote while it was being recorded.

 

Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac
Various artists
2014

Mick Fleetwood and John McVie were hard-working members of John Mayall’s Blues Breakers. When they decided to form their own band (everyone who worked for John Mayall in the 1960s formed his own band), they discovered that their true skills were not playing the drums and the bass, respectively. The one thing they did better than anything was finding talent.

They started off by recruiting guitarist Peter Green. Peter Green is one of our unsung Jewish guitar heroes, the guy who was hired to replace Eric Clapton when Clapton left the Blues Breakers to form Cream. (What a résumé entry: “Replaced Eric Clapton while maintaining band productivity.”)

Green took Fleetwood Mac in a blues-rock direction, naturally, but Fleetwood and McVie were looking for something more lucrative. They got rid of Green and hired two singer-songwriters, Robert Welch and Christine Perfect, who began the band’s transition from blues to pop. (Perfect later married McVie.)

Fleetwood and McVie eventually ditched Welch and brought in two more singer-songwriters, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. That, as Ruk the android declared on a memorable episode of classic Star Trek, was the equation. In the mid-’70s there was no band bigger than Fleetwood Mac. Everywhere I went, everyone seemed to have Fleetwood Mac (1975) and Rumours (1977) in the plastic crates that held their records. I owned Fleetwood Mac and Rumours. Yes, it’s true. I spent money on Fleetwood Mac records, I didn’t change stations when Fleetwood Mac songs came on the radio, and I put coins in jukeboxes so I could hear really dumb stuff like “Monday Morning” and “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” You can understand why I’m a snob today. I have much to atone for.

(In 1992, the Clintons used “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” as their campaign theme song. Fleetwood Mac immediately reformed and went on tour. I will never forgive the Clintons for this.)

By the early 1980s I’d shaken off Fleetwood Mac the way a dog shakes off water after a swim. I came to believe that the final word on Fleetwood Mac was sung by The Rotters in their insightful single, “Sit on My Face, Stevie Nicks.” But then I encountered this tribute CD. Once again, I’ve been proven wrong. You’d think I’d be used to it by now.

Just Tell Me That You Want Me (this terrific title is a line from one of their worst songs, “Tusk”) is a collection of talent so deep that Beck isn’t even mentioned on the cover. He’s buried in the credits. Most of the interpretations are sincere, some are quite imaginative, and only a few are duds. Just Tell Me That You Want Me scores far higher than I expected.

What’s good
You can tell who the muscle was out there because 10 of these 17 songs were written by Stevie Nicks. For my money, the finest performance is turned in by Marianne Faithfull on Nicks’ “Angel.” Ms. Faithfull can turn any fluffy pop song into the King James Bible and as usual she doesn’t disappoint. Bill Frisell, another huge talent not noted in the advertising, plays guitar. He spends the last minute and a half of the song ascending into heaven. I rate this disc a Buy for “Angel” alone.

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top provides the vocals on Peter Green’s “Oh Well.” You can hear the ghost of John Lee Hooker in his growls. The New Pornographers turn Christine McVie’s “Think About Me” into a fun Beatles romp. The Crystal Ark, a band I’ve never heard of, convert Lindsey Buckingham’s unlistenable “Tusk” into something I almost like. Two names I’m learning about, Matt Sweeney and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, create a beautiful cover of Nicks’ “Storms.” St. Vincent, a name you can’t avoid hearing these days, turns “Sisters of the Moon” (Nicks again) into a hard, almost dirty rocker. I never thought I’d connect adjectives such as “hard” and “dirty” with Fleetwood Mac.

Another band I don’t know, Best Coast, was assigned Nicks’ “Rhiannon,” Fleetwood Mac’s signature song. Though Best Coast stays close to the original, I’m highlighting this track because their singer, Bethany Cosentino, sings like a female Johnny Cash.

Of course, you can’t discuss Fleetwood Mac without complaining about something. For one thing, the cheap paper CD holder was designed to spill the CD out of its sleeve and onto the floor of your car just as you’re changing lanes. But I have something bigger in mind.

Robert Welch: Fleetwood footnote
Robert Welch was not an unappreciated genius and I’m not launching a crusade on his behalf. In 1994 he re-recorded his Greatest Hits and managed to de-improve all of them. But he wrote the only two original Fleetwood Mac songs I still like: “Future Games” and “Bermuda Triangle,” so I feel I should say something in his defense.

“Bermuda Triangle” is the closest this band ever came to a dance number. It would’ve been a perfect song for The B-52s, who would’ve injected 10ccs of humor. (Welch believed he was warning the public about a hazard to navigation.) This song is not covered on Just Tell Me That You Want Me.

“Future Games” is. I know that not all who wander are lost, but the boys in the band were lost in the dreamy, meandering “Future Games.” Still, this 8-minute song pre-dates Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon by a year and Pink Floyd acknowledges it as an influence. With better editing (or fewer recreational drugs?), “Future Games” could’ve been one of the decade’s classics. It’s good, OK?

In their cover, MGMT sings the lyrics through a vocoder to produce a computer-like voice. An old computer. Like Matthew Broderick/Ally Sheedy WarGames old computer. Neil Young tried this in 1982 with Trans and got nowhere, and he’s a god. Even Gary Numan, who is a computer, never tried to sing like one. MGMT made a huge mistake and I’m glad this record’s producers stuck this thing at the end so it’s easy to skip.

Don’t stop thinking about Fleetwood Mac
A tribute CD should show you an old band in a new light. Just Tell Me That You Want Me, like Various Artists for the Masses, the Depeche Mode tribute, accomplishes this mission. Despite “Future Games” and a couple of other miscues (“Silver Springs” sounds as if it was recorded in the bathroom of a bus station), let me just tell you: You want this CD.

Tomorrow night, Sins of the ’70s Week continues with: Chicago. Colour my world, dudes!