Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album ‘Rumours’ is not only one of the best selling albums of all time at 40 million copies sold, it’s also highly regarded for its high production quality and songwriting.
What is to say about an album that so much has already been said of?
Warner Bros. Records; 1977
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First of all, the production quality: it’s inherently obvious from the first second of this recording that the sound is near-perfect. Every strum of the acoustic guitar, beat of a drum, or vibration of the harmonic vocals is not only perfectly executed but reaches a certain quality of sound that, even on the cheapest of audio equipment, puts the listener in the middle of.
It’s hard to miss the massive influence that ‘Rumours’ lends, either. It’s on every radio station, on television, in movies. Even if you’ve never taken the time to listen to this record from start to finish, you’ve probably heard every song before, and it’s easy to see why: ‘Rumours’ is the epitome of Folk and Pop blended together with precision; enough rock and roll mixed in to influence emerging artists for decades to come.
What makes this album so incredible, apart from the production? Where most highly influential albums had maybe one or two massive hits that caught fire and influenced forthcoming artists, ‘Rumour’s stands apart by literally being, from end to end, one single after another that each in their own way influenced future musicians. It’s a cascade of music that never misses a beat, never feels poorly timed and the instrumentation is always exactly where it should be.
Even if this seminal album had the world’s worst production, and was not one of the best-sounding of its time, it’s easy to argue that the impact it would have on the music industry would be very similar, if not the same. Despite the now-infamous conflicts between band members during its recording, the musicians manage perfect vocal harmony and instruments blend together skillfully.
Yet, the production is a valuable piece of what makes ‘Rumours’ stand the test of time. Nearly forty years after its initial release, with the work of a re-release and remastering, it sounds better than most new releases available today. Had it been released today, rather than in the 1970’s, it would have a similar, profound effect. There is a significant reason why, when demonstrating audio products, many brands and stores will choose to use Fleetwood Mac as an efficient demonstration tool.
(Note: as a former employee of a notable audio brand, ‘The Chain’ was a common song to use for demonstration purposes for the exact reason that it produces a lot of detail, a complex soundscape, and makes a speaker sound very robust. This is compared to a common theme with most modern ‘pop’ tracks that sacrifice these factors for a lounder, less detailed sound that would be difficult to rate against a cheaper speaker. See: The Loudness Wars)
‘The Chain’ is a significant highlight for not only the entirety of ‘Rumours’, but of most of Fleetwood Mac’s career, as well: memorable guitar riffs synchronize with percussion while vocalists harmonize with accuracy that takes many professionals years to master. The introduction is an important fixture, as the opening guitar hook, with its notable ‘twang’, properly demonstrates not only an important effect on the sound, but also establishes the sound direction of the entire record and showcases the quality of the production, giving subtle hints and details that wouldn’t otherwise be noticeable.
Suffice to say that a much longer, detailed review could be written track-by-track if it were possible, but in the end it would fall upon redundancy: the conclusion is that there is not a single song, lyric or factor in ‘Rumours’ that this humble reviewer could possibly pick apart or gouge into. Chalk it up to inexperience, or lack of technical musical understanding, if you wish, but ‘Rumours’ is wholly deserving of it’s commercial success and critical acclaim.
Summary - 10/10
Fleetwood Mac’s seminal folk-pop/soft rock ‘Rumours’ stands the test of time: after close to 40 years, it holds true with its harmonic accuracy, agonizingly unforgettable hooks, and mindblowing production value. From end-to-end, nearly every track is a single that influenced decades of musicians and continues to make its mark on the music industry. This reviewer could not find anything misplaced, a detail that could be better, or a lyric that stands out. It’s a perfect album.