Fleetwood Mac Albums, Ranked Worst To Best
Fleetwood Mac Albums, Ranked Worst to Best
by Nick DeRiso
When considering a list of Fleetwood Mac albums, it’s easy to focus on Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. After all, the band’s biggest successes arrived thanks to the alchemy the pair provided to a lineup already featuring a stellar singer-songwriter in Christine McVie. Together, they sold millions of albums. Scratch that: tens of millions.
Still, the stalwart rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie has led Fleetwood Mac (with a quite varied group of collaborators) to a hit album in every decade from the ’70s through the ’00s. This is the rare group that has enough hardness (in the blues-smarts of co-founder Peter Green and in the spindly creativity of Buckingham) to attract the average rock music fan; enough magical mystery (think Bob Welch’s dreamy sides, or the gauzier stuff by Nicks) to attract the fanciful; and a dollop of old-fashioned pop (Christine McVie) to lure in the rest.
In many ways, they were the perfect concoction for FM radio. Throw in the juicy melodrama of their lives (from Green and Jeremy Spencer’s legendary flame-outs to those Rumours-era dalliances), and it’s still somewhat surprising that any of it turned into great music. As you’ll see in our photo gallery of Fleetwood Mac Albums, Ranked Worst to Best, however, it very often did.
17: 'Time' (1995)
A Fleetwood Mac album arrived with neither Stevie Nicks nor Lindsey Buckingham for the first time since 1974’s 'Heroes Are Hard to Find.' And boy, were they ever: Replacements Dave Mason and Bekka Bramlett would be gone within a year, following Christine McVie, who contributed five songs to the project but left before the tour started. 'Time' failed to chart in the U.S., something that hadn’t happened since 1968’s 'Mr. Wonderful.'
16: 'Future Games' (1971)
Taking a more central role, Danny Kirwan set about crafting a kind of soft-rock prog, a la Wishbone Ash, on an album that saw Bob Welch take over for Jeremy Spencer — who in turn took with him the last vestiges of Fleetwood Mac’s early preoccupation with the blues. In its place, unfortunately, came a penchant for lengthy, and sometimes unfocused, instrumental passages.
15: 'Kiln House' (1970)
A transitional album in every sense of the word, 'Kiln House' is an unfocused project best remembered for what it meant rather than how it sounded. This album bid Peter Green farewell, even as it heralded the arrival of Christine McVie – signalling the definitive shift in the group’s early focus from the blues toward a brand of smooth California pop that would sell millions in the coming decade.
14: 'Behind the Mask' (1990)
Lindsey Buckingham vanished before the tour in support of 'Tango in the Night' got underway. As expected, that dealt Fleetwood Mac's next studio effort a mortal blow. They added not one but two guitarists (in Billy Burnette and Rick Vito), and there was still something missing. Stevie Nicks, who provided a rare highpoint with "Save Me," would depart next.
13: 'Penguin' (1973)
An album from a band utterly in flux, 'Penguin' reflects these changes. With Danny Kirwan gone, Fleetwood Mac added both Bob Weston and Dave Walker – the latter of whom wouldn't last past this album. The intoxicating blend of soft-rock romanticism coming from Bob Welch and Christine McVie needs something grittier to work against. And it's just not here.
12: 'Mr. Wonderful' (1968)
The good news: Jeremy Spencer digs deep into early blues hero Elmore James’ ageless “Dust My Broom.” The bad news? Just two albums in, everyone seems to be out of ideas. Spencer recycles the same James riff on three other songs, and Peter Green's stuff isn't much more original. The results were only passable, a huge disappointment after a stellar debut.
11: 'Bare Trees' (1972)
This would be the final Fleetwood Mac project for Danny Kirwan, who wasn't getting along with the others. 'Bare Trees' eventually went platinum anyway, but that was on the strength of songs from elsewhere: Bob Welch’s original version of “Sentimental Lady,” later a solo hit, and Christine McVie’s “Spare Me a Little of Your Love” — which became a concert staple in the mid-'70s.
10: 'Say You Will' (2009)
Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were apparently at work on a side project when their songs suddenly morphed into the newest Fleetwood Mac album – leading to an unbalanced project that unfolds like a too-long conversation between only two people. A little editing and the presence of Christine McVie would have done a world of good.
9: 'Then Play On' (1968)
Looser, and far more approachable, than their sophomore effort, 'Then Play On' finds Danny Kirwan coming aboard to great effect. Together with a rejuvenated Peter Green, they mix prog, soft rock and exotic rhythms into the band's basic blues-based approach. That left Jeremy Spencer with only a series of throwaway items, and he soon vanished.
8: 'Mystery to Me' (1973)
This album's best song is also its calling card: Bob Welch's "Hypnotized." Delivered with a whispering detachment, it unfurled amid an insistent conversation on the hi-hat and this thrilling series of jazz-inflected guitar fourths -- just as they would in their platinum years. “Hypnotized” illustrates how far Fleetwood Mac had come toward their smash singer-songwriter style long before Buckingham or Nicks joined.
7: 'Mirage' (1982)
After indulging in the sprawling, wildly expensive, weirdly effective double-album experiment 'Tusk,' Fleetwood Mac back slid into a comfy retro vibe for 'Mirage.' The hits ("Hold Me," "Love in Store" and "Gypsy") were fine examples of the old Fleetwood Mac magic, but they were just about the only ones here.
6: 'Heroes Are Hard to Find' (1974)
Bob Welch leaves behind perhaps his best set of songs, pointing directly to his own solo successes – while simultaneously setting a new standard that surely led Mick Fleetwood to Buckingham and Nicks. At the same time, Christine McVie comes into her own with lost classics like "Come a Little Bit Closer." The stage is set for something big.
5: 'Tango in the Night' (1987)
Like more than one post-'Rumours' record, this album grew out of a trampled solo project by Lindsey Buckingham. But his songs were needed to scuff up a session that might have collapsed under the high-gloss pop sheen of hit tunes by Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie. By and large, they found the perfect balance again.
4: 'Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac' (1968)
A subsequent struggle with mental illness, to say nothing of his old band's mainstream success without him, doomed Peter Green to an obscurity that this album argues mightily against. Green blends toughness and tender grace, country blues (with key assists from Jeremy Spencer) and a cool new Latin fusion. Maybe the best album from the British blues boom.
3: 'Fleetwood Mac' (1975)
The album that introduced Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham into what had become an ever-shifting, sometimes badly unfocused amalgam. The duo brought a California-infused singer-songwriter sensibility to Fleetwood Mac, and fans flocked to a string of mid-'70s Top 20 hits including “Say You Love Me,” “Rhiannon” and “Over My Head.” Thing is, they were just getting started.
2: 'Tusk' (1979)
The double-album format allowed them to experiment with everything from punk to New Wave sounds, leading directly to Buckingham's utterly unquantifiable title track. Still, even with underrated hits by both Nicks (“Sara”) and McVie ("Think About Me"), that outsized ambition ultimately keeps 'Tusk' out of the No. 1 spot. It's bracing, often weird, but just a touch too over-long.
1: 'Rumours' (1977)
Memorably cinematic, and propelled by the real-life scandals within the band, 'Rumours' chronicled with a lush directness (quite literally, it turned out) the way that relationships coalesce then dissolve. There aren't many perfect albums out there, but this one – gorgeous and then flinty, bright and then impossibly dark – is certainly one of them.
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So many factual errors -- "Save Me" a Stevie song? Say You Will a 2009 release? -- that it's hard to know where to start.
Future Games would be much higher on my list. In the top 5 for sure. Tusk would be my #1.
I think there are always going to be problems putting together a list that includes all incarnations of the band. Peter Green era just cant be compared with the later music. However, overall I think this is a fair attempt.
Though I love them both I'd be tempted to swap over Heroes and Mystery To Me.
Yeah there are several imprecisions, primarily because I noticed the author didn't write all the material by himself but used the material written for a previous article that mentioned Fleetwood Mac albums.
I noticed that the Mac catalogue, being so long and varied because, like Fuzzy Plum already stated, it has been made by very different incarnations of the band, it's not known deeply by music journalists; they tend to only listen to the albums of their favourite band formation/s.
I was positively struck by the love for Tusk and the 1975 Fleetwood Mac album.
If I were to rank the album's based on my feelings about their effectiveness' I'd order it this way:
1. Rumours (though I prefer Fleetwood Mac instead).
2. Fleetwood Mac White Album
3. Kiln House
5. Then Play On
6. Bare Trees (Kirwan's stuff is incredible here)
7. Future Games (Welch's stuff is incredible here--and the overall sound of the recording is pleasing...)
9. Mystery to Me (would be higher on the list but the recording sound is too homespun and awkward).
11. Say You Will
12.5. Fleetwood Mac in Chicago
13. Mr. Wonderful
14. Fleetwood Mac (1968)
15. Heroes (would be much higher if the songs sounded as good as they do on the FM soundboards...)
15.5. Live (1980)
17. Behind the Mask
This is an impossible task. I commend those who have tried to accomplish this task.
The hard part for me is that some of my all time favorite Mac songs are on the albums I don't like. For example, Nights In Estoril is one of my all time favorite Christine Mac songs. But its on an album that I don't care for. I would probably put Mystery to Me pretty high because of Why, Just Crazy Love, and Hypnotized. Heroes are Hard To Find would also be pretty high. Chris is just ready to explode with her hits and she writes some amazing stuff like Come A Little Bit Closer, Bad Loser, and Prove your Love. Bare Trees is a great album too.
I am biased because while I like the early Mac stuff, I just think Christine added so much to the band.
Rumours of course is amazing and probably on everyone's top list but it would battle Tusk IMHO for the top notch. I also LOVE Mirage. Yes its safe and more pop rock but its so classic Fleetwood Mac that I love it. The Fleetwood Mac album is also amazing . Tango sold extremely well and had lots of hits but other than the hits and Isn't It Midnight, the album is too 80's synth for me. Thank goodness they did a Live album to capture the magic during their peak. So that album has a special place too. Say You Will is a very solid effort and is a great album. If Chris was on that album it would be near the top.
Sorry I chickened out on this assignment but its impossible for me. Some of my favorite tracks are on albums I am not crazy about. And some of the better albums don't have my all time favorite songs. Hope that makes sense :eek:
As my professor said during my psychology favourite lesson, "the whole is more than the sum of its parts" and some of the albums that I love wouldn't be the same without any of their songs, even the worst one. One of the things that I love about this band is that their albums tell a story; they think the album is a form of art.
1. Say You Will
4. the other albums including Stevie
5. the rest
Mystery to Me in top 5 for me.
The Top Fleetwood Mac Albums, Ranked
In 2018, Fleetwood Mac will be taking the stage yet again with its most popular lineup. At 70 and still sprightly, drummer Mick Fleetwood says the band has to call it quits sometime, so it is expected to be a worldwide last hurrah. Stevie Nicks thinks it’s unlikely that the band will record a record to go with the tour. After more than 50 studio, live and compilation albums, there’s enough music to last you for several lifetimes. Here are our top 10 Fleetwood Mac albums.
10. Live (1980)
The first live album for Fleetwood Mac came in 1980, compiling the best takes from several concerts including Wichita, Cleveland, Santa Monica, Paris, Oklahoma and Kansas City. The Live album also included three new songs – One More Night by Christine McVie, Fireflies by Stevie Nicks, and a group cover of the Beach Boys song The Farmer’s Daughter.
Highlights: Go Your Own Way and Fireflies
9. Mirage (1982)
Mirage is a polished, easy-to-listen to album that felt like a let down after Rumours and Tusk. Both Buckingham and Nicks had been off doing solo projects, with Nicks emerging as a powerhouse all on her own. The album lacks a certain undercurrent of edginess that pervades their best records.
Highlights: Gypsy and Hold Me
8. Fleetwood Mac (1968)
Fleetwood Mac debuted in 1968 with this rollicking blues record featuring the guitar god antics of Peter Green. The album holds up even more than 40 years later. Green’s energy is infectious and he was quickly recognized as one of the greatest guitar players in the world. Jeremy Spencer was on vocals, but Green named the band after the bass and drum duo of John McVie and Mick Fleetwood – a generous and exceedingly rare tribute to a rhythm section.
Highlights: Hellhound on My Trail and Cold Black Night.
7. Say You Will (2003)
It may be hard to believe that an album from this century makes the top 10 list, but if you haven’t listened to Fleetwood Mac’s first studio album since 1995, you are in for a revelation. Although it suffers from unevenness (Christine McVie had quit the band), the album features songs originally conceived for a Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks project. The music wound up as the new Fleetwood Mac album instead. Had McVie been onboard, she might have prevailed to reduce the tracks from 18 songs to a more reasonable 10.
Highlights: Say You Will and Bleed to Love Her.
The Dance (1997)
This 1997 live album is a triumph and reunion. Recorded after the group had been on a ten-year hiatus, The Dance became the fifth-best selling live album of all time in America. The performance featured new arrangements and the return of the USC Marching Band, which was also enlisted for the recording of Tusk in 1981. The presence of a few new songs made it more than just a live greatest hits album.
Highlights: Silver Spring and Landslide
Then Play On (1969)
The high point of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Then Play On made the band European superstars. Green was widely acknowledged as the greatest blues guitarist from the U.K., influencing a generation of guitarists like Joe Perry and Eric Clapton. On this record, the band effectively mixed other styles into their bluesy sound.
Highlights: Black Magic Woman and Oh Well.
Tango in the Night (1987)
Fleetwood Mac had been written off by critics as a band past their 1970s heydey, but Tango in the Night proved the band was not past their prime. Tango in the Night started as a Buckingham solo effort, and it shows, with melodies that are inventive yet still singable. Only Rumours sold more copies than Tango in the Night. The album was recorded under strange circumstances, with Nicks spending just two weeks in the studio while promoting her third solo effort, and Buckingham quitting the band before the tour.
Highlights: Big Love and Everywhere
3. Fleetwood Mac (1975)
Also known as The White Album, the 1975 album heralded the rebirth of Fleetwood Mac after the departure of Peter Green and the addition of singer-songwriting duo Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. The pair effortlessly blended in with the steady rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, transforming the band into a California pop rock powerhouse. Unlike other bands of the 70’s, Fleetwood Mac avoided getting bogged down in soft pop destined to be elevator music, thanks to the Buckingham’s relentlessness, which gave the music urgency to go along with those great melodies. The group became international superstars with hits like Rhiannon, Say You Love Me, Over My Head and Landslide.
Highlights: Monday Morning and Landslide.
1B. Tusk (1979)
The thing I knocked Say You Will for – being too long – was also a major issue for critics and fans with Tusk, only moreso, since the double album was wildly different in form and structure than their mega-hit, Rumors. Tusk, however, has only grown in prestige since its polarizing release. The album blending classic songwriting with new influences that were on the scene at the time, namely punk and new wave. The record only sold 4 million albums and was considered a flop by the label. It influenced generations of musicians and managed to take huge artistic risks, something that today’s artists studiously avoid.
Highlights: Tusk, Sara, Sisters of the Moon
It’s my list, so I can declare a tie if I want to: Tusk is every bit as good as Rumours.
1A. Rumours (1977)
What can you say about Rumours that hasn’t already been said? Although the real-life breakups and recoupling has been written about extensively as fuel for the music, rock bands are almost constantly filled with drama, but none of them have produced an album that is this good. The entire album flows with emotion and melody, shifting tones from bright, to dark, to beautiful and back again. Rumours produced a slew of hits, but Rumours is that rare beast – a cohesive album that is best listened to as a whole.
Highlights: Second Hand News and The Chain.
Although its not entirely as I'd rank them...aside from the criminal omission of Mystery To Me Id say this is a perfectly reasonable list.
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