Review Summary: Excessive melancholy donned a coat with pockets full of nose candy, and what emerged was something that sounded warm, yet it was also twisted right to the core.
'Baked' is the first word that springs to mind when I think about Rumours, in two ways. Partly due to the tales of a certain white powder that ran rampant within the band, but what I also think of is the general feeling of the album, like it was meant to played at a loud volume on a warm summer day. Emotions were going walkabout during recording, which I think helped some good, solid style-hopping emerge - the members were all ferociously getting out their demons. And the first time you hear the album, I mean REALLY hear it once you've played it once or twice and know how the group were dealing with things at the time, it is clear the sometimes chop-and-change feel of the songs is a reflection of the drug-influenced mindset of a band that barely spoke to each other by then. Apparently in their Californian studio they would gorge themselves with food for hours, gradually move on to the substances that mellowed them out and counteracted from their not sleeping, and then start jamming. There are tons of break-up albums of course, but pain has never sounded so oxymoronically "glass half-full" as frequently as this whilst highlighting all the little nuances of a broken heart. The crises, coke and climate practically bleed through the speakers. Even on the gentler songs, the excess is oddly evident in the raw singing. It could've sunk like a stone with all the bitterness and mind-wreckage plastered all over it, but the forty minutes of stark honesty ended up speaking to millions. Nearly 28 million, to be precise.
Truly great albums are ones that are diverse within the genre the artist is known for. Fleetwood Mac could be said to be rock, but it's clear just from a random listen they're not typical rock. And that is certainly true on this album, definitely spurred on by the members' thoughts. The frantic blues of 'Second Hand News', awkwardly lush pop of 'Dreams', Dear John letter hard-rock of 'Go Your Own Way' and appropriately hazy proto-acid jazz of 'Gold Dust Woman' are just glimpses into the musical rainbow that the band created on Rumours, and all the better I think, because it means there's something for everyone. Safe to say, a simple phrase of "no rules, no fear" may well have been in the group's minds, and it certainly shows. Guitar riffs that hit just where they need to, subtle yet crucial basslines, rich piano and keyboard melodies, texturable drums and brutally emotional vocals absolutely everywhere. For the sake of the music, the feelings were put into the music. Although, there is one song that will never quite get the same approval out of me that the others do, and that's 'Songbird'. It just feels like a bit of an oddball, especially after 'Go Your Own Way' - the former's mellow dreamy-eyed minimalism is total chalk-and-cheese by comparison, and it certainly threw me for a loop the first time. One opinion that will no doubt raise a few eyebrows is that in my personal opinion, the second half flows better than the first. The first six tracks have a nice order to them, but tracks 7 to 11 just work as a damned near-untouchable suite.
Rumours isn't worthy of a full 5-star rating, but it's a masterpiece within the atmosphere that it manages to create, and that has stuck. Given the musical evolution of what happened after it was released, the record isn't gooey enough to be pop, yet not steely enough to be rock. You could almost say it was a trail-blazer for the sound of eighties jangle pop. I think part of the reason it worked in all the ways that it did is because when it hit the shelves, it was finally acceptable to embrace hedonism in mainstream pop, and this is a message that has left its imprint. Love and loss had been told in stuff played on the radio but I don't think people's ears in the late seventies had quite heard tracks so achingly raw, so glaringly full of retribution with a invigorating mix of something that to be honest, hasn't been replicated since in the quite same way. Some people might be turned off by the sales numbers nowadays, but even with reluctance the nay-sayers can admit that Rumours was just one of those situations that happens in music where the artist truly caught lightning in a bottle, so to speak. One of those situations where nothing, not even another album by the same artist, could sound like the one that is being discussed. I'm sure I could name other artists and their one-off albums that could fit my point, but for Fleetwood Mac, it's this one. If something about the album and/or its atmosphere hasn't struck a chord somewhere, all you need to do is re-start it and simply play it again. Thunder only happens when it rains, in a good way.
Number of tracks: 11
Accumulative score: 46.5/55
Average score: 4.23/5