By the release of 1973's Mystery to Me
, it was understood that the driving force between much of Fleetwood Mac's material produced in the early 70s was more or less a direct cause of Christine McVie and Bob Welch, notwithstanding the mark left by Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, and to a lesser extent, Jeremy Spencer, as they all left the band one album after the other. But this was all in the past, given that by now, as evident on the band's strong and confident eighth album, songwriting was arguably at its most memorable and consistent.
If one were to forget the somewhat lackluster nature of previous album Penguin
, which admittedly began to show signs of a band losing their edge, then Mystery to Me
would automatically appear more relevant and vital to the band's resurgence into mainstream territory. This is probably because, not forgetting the input of Bob Weston, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, the songwriting talents of Christine McVie and Bob Welch were fully realized in songs with more accessibility and memorability than ever before. Whilst the album's first two songs are obviously among the weaker half, songs like the quirky, excellent "Keep on Going" and quite beautiful closer "Why" both proved how far McVie and Welch could stretch their adventurous ideas. Regarding vocal delivery, McVie and Welch both bring a smooth, elegant touch to each of their own respective songs, something which already eclipses the tedium of Penguin
and injects more eccentricity into the mix. "Just Crazy Love" and "Hypnotized" for example, are heartfelt and supported by elegant lyrical imagery which brings out the best of the band's cohesive songwriting efforts, consistently accompanying the smooth yet upbeat instrumental performances. Then there's the songs which lean towards poppier territory, such as "Keep on Going" with its quirky musicianship and the harmonic "Forever", a romantic song which would bring to mind some of the band's latter material in the process.
The main problem with Mystery to Me
however is, like in Penguin
, the low level of input by Bob Weston, who went on to leave the band shortly after this album's release. Whilst his instrumental input was undeniably vital to the album's progress, he was only eventually credited with one song, being "Forever". "Forever" is a very good song indeed, put together with harmonic vocal delivery and grand musical vigour, but essentially it would remind the listener just why he didn't have more of an influence on the songwriting process in general. There are also less memorable songs to be found here too. The album's first two tracks, "Emerald Eyes" and "Believe Me", not forgetting how confident the vocal delivery comes across, end up being a little bland because of the fact they were seemingly overshadowed by the rest of the album. This isn't a particularly bad thing, but if anything, Fleetwood Mac were known for giving a strong first impression with every album and letting the rest of the songs continue the work.
That said, it's certainly one of the stronger albums between 1969's Then Play On
and the mainstream-hitting self-titled in 1975, because of the songwriting alone. Whilst Christine McVie was yet to truly spread her wings into poppier territory, some of the songs here already hinted at that evolution in songwriting, and her more confident vocal delivery only proves this furthermore. The same, essentially, can be said for Bob Welch. A shame that this turned out to be the last album to feature Bob Weston then, but one could only imagine if he would have had more songwriting input had he stayed with the band for years to come.