When Fleetwood Mac released its second self-titled album in 1975, the group launched an exceptional, three-LP run that lasted through 1979’s Tusk and erased virtually all vestiges of the pre-Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks version of the then-8-year-old band.
While the Mac – anchored as always by the steady, namesake rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie – had developed a new, in-studio persona, its live shows still leaned heavily on Peter Green-, Jeremy Spencer- and Bob Welch-era tracks.
Now that Fleetwood Mac has received the deluxe treatment, with a sprawling, 46-cut expanded edition that runs 3.5 hours, the picture of Fleetwood Mac straddling its blues and pop eras is complete.
Consisting of a remastered version of the original album, nearly complete early takes of its 11 songs, some single edits and jams, the real magic of the three-CD set lies in the 18 live performances captured in 1975 and ‘76. And while the sound quality is less than perfect and some of these recordings have circulated among bootleggers for years, they’re the stuff that’ll make Fleetwood Mac fans salivate.
Of all of these gems, only Kiln House’s “Station Man” sounds close to its original incarnation as Christine McVie, who was a guest on that 1970 album, seizes the reins. Meanwhile, Buckingham’s take on Welch’s “Hypnotized” sounds funny to ears used to the version that still gets classic-rock radio play.
And it’s moments such as this that make the live recordings so essential.
Nicks adds spooky moans to Buckingham’s rendition of Green’s “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Pronged Crown)” and make the song their own; the twosome shine on their Buckingham Nicks chestnut “Don’t Let Me Down Again;” and Buckingham proves his bluesman’s bonafides on “Oh Well.”
And when Buckingham and Nicks take over the vocal coda of McVie’s gorgeous 1973 composition “Why,” the result is an eerie forerunner to the songs that would come spilling out as the group’s two couples fractured during the Rumours sessions:
“You don’t have to give up/why is it all wrong?/why don’t love me?/why don’t you just be strong?,” they sing, blissfully unaware of McVie’s prescience.