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Apr 09, 2008 at 06:33 PM

1976

It Sure Feels Nice

The Fleetwood Mac album continued in its rise-fall-rise-fall-rise course in 1976. By the last week of December 1975, the album had sunk to 44. Three months later it was at a new high: number 3. Then back down to #12 before having another go at the top 10--where it stayed all summer--finally making it to the coveted Number One slot on September 4, 1976, well over a year after its release! The album had gone gold, then platinum, and it would continue this uninterrupted run in the Billboard charts until early 1978.

All of this success was due largely to the strength of the singles that came off the album, the non-stop touring, and also the support the record company gave the band. The second of these singles Stevie's darkly beautiful "Rhiannon", was released in January and it rapidly shot ahead of "Over My Head"'s ranking, making it to number 11. And in September its successor, Christine's "Say You Love Me" did likewise.

And finally Britain, then in the throes of Punk, took notice. Although late in coming, the Fleetwood Mac album finally hit the UK charts in the Fall of 1976, peaking as high as #23. "Say You Love Me" became the first Fleetwood Mac single to chart there since the 1973 reissue of "Albatross" and the first new Fleetwood Mac single since "Green Manalishi" six and a half years before.

Bob Welch, to show he hadn't been idle since his departure from the band, also had a busy year. In addition to guesting on Rolling Stone Bill Wyman's solo album (appropriately titled Stone Alone ), Welch formed a band with ex-Jethro Tull bassist Glen Cornick (who was married to Mac cohort Judy Wong) and ex-Nazz drummer Thom Mooney. This group, Paris, released their first, eponymously-titled album in January. In contrast to Welch's (who wrote most of the songs) more melodic efforts in Fleetwood Mac, Paris is a very heavy affair. The power trio churns along to such numbers as "Black Book", which successfully marries Welch's lyrical interest in the occult with a throbbing instrumental backdrop. It did fairly well for a debut album, getting as high as #103. In August, the followup Big Towne, 2061 was released, with Thom Mooney replaced by drummer Hunt Sales. The strong acid-rock of its predecessor is toned down somewhat, and the Bob Welch of Mystery To Me returns with such tracks as "Blue Robin", "Heart Of Stone" and the title cut. This time out, however, sales were less than impressive (it stayed only two weeks on the Billboard Top-200 album charts), and later when Hunt Sales fell ill, Welch decided to end Paris.

Danny Kirwan was also busy. In January, manager Clifford Davis tested the American waters by releasing Fleetwood Mac's "Man Of The World" as a single (just like he did in the UK a few months before) backed with the song that was left off of the US release of Second Chapter, "Best Girl In The World". This strategy didn't work in America, either. In September, Kirwan's second album was released in Britain. Unfortunately only marginally better than Second Chapter , the new album, Midnight In San Juan , still suffered from the sugary over-sentimentality that cursed his first release. Like its predecessor, its US release came later--this time much later. By the time this album crossed the Atlantic, ten months after the fact, it was retitled to simply Danny Kirwan . The sleeve lost the rather imaginative illustration (of a pretty senorita) for a simple photo of the artist and a big blue circle that bore the legend "The new album by Fleetwood Mac guitarist and songwriter". Some better song ideas were pursued, like the instrumental "Castaway", but these were still marred by an extremely muddy mix and lackluster performances. And his embarrassing reggae version of the Beatles' "Let It Be" is best left forgotten.

Sire's series of Fleetwood Mac-related reissues continued in August. Six years after its initial release in the UK, the old Christine Perfect album was finally released stateside under the auspicious title, The Legendary Christine Perfect Album , a rather obvious pun on her maiden name. Not a perfect album, of course, but certainly worth a listen. CBS in Britain released another album of old tracks, this time marrying 1971's The Original Fleetwood Mac and the 1969 US album English Rose as a two-disc set.

Now that Fleetwood Mac were a name-act once again, another long-forgotten dimension of their careers began to reopen--that of being ace session players. And their newfound commercial appeal could--and did--lend a little gloss to various friends' recordings. An old friend of Lindsey in the Hollywood music scene released his self-titled debut album in May. Warren Zevon was a good beginning for the quirky but always entertaining Zevon, with Buckingham contributing vocals and guitar on several tracks (including "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", which would later become a hit for Linda Ronstadt) and Stevie adding backing vocals on "Mohammed's Radio". In May, John McVie rejoined his old employer, John Mayall, on his album A Banquet In Blues , playing bass on "Sunshine" along with Rick Vito on guitar.

Despite all these side-projects, the band spent considerable time in the studio in 1976 trying to complete the followup to the Fleetwood Mac album. However, there was a whirlwind of problems--both technical and personal--that hounded them at every turn. By the end of December, the first output from these sessions, a new single, was released. But since it and its B-side are inexorably tied to the album that followed six weeks later, discussion of it will wait until the next chapter.

 
 
   
 
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