Mystery To Me

Fleetwood Mac

Reprise Records, 1973

http://www.fleetwoodmac.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/06/1999

One could be forgiven for making the incorrect assumption that Fleetwood Mac was formed in 1975. After all, that's when the fruits of almost a decade's worth of work finally began to come to fruition, and the band was launched into superstar status.

But there are some of you, like Ian Macintyre of Canada, who are aware that Fleetwood Mac existed long before their 1975 self-titled album. In his entry to one of our contests, Ian suggested we check out their 1973 release Mystery To Me; in his e-mail, Ian wrote, "This gem from the Bob Welch era is just a masterpiece."

First, a caveat. It's been a long time since I listened to the early works of Fleetwood Mac, so I'm not in any position to compare this album to, say, Penguin or Heroes Are Hard To Find, much less Then Play On. In fact, prior to Ian's suggestion, Then Play On was scheduled to be reviewed next, simply so I could give myself a re-education in this band.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Having said all this, I'm not sure I'd use the term "masterpiece" to describe this outing - but it's not terribly far from the mark. Featuring some songs that I know I've heard at some point in my life, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and company mark their progress toward pop music superstardom - and their move away from the blues scene that first launched this band - with some solid efforts that beg for your attention.

Guitarist Welch, the first American member of Fleetwood Mac until his departure following 1974's Heroes Are Hard To Find, was one of the keypins to Fleetwood Mac at this point in their career. His style of light pop, as heard on "Hypnotized," seems to bring Fleetwood Mac into a serious groove, and is a mode that I could have easily gotten used to. Likewise, "Forever" - a song co-written by Welch, guitarist Bob Weston and bassist John McVie - has all the right things happening for it: a catchy beat, infectious chorus, and a well-written song behind it all.

The other keypin was (and would remain for a long time) keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie. Her songwriting contributions to Mystery To Me are not to be overlooked at all; tracks like "Believe Me" and "Just Crazy Love" offer windows to the sound that would become the hallmark of this band. Likewise, the moody "Why" is a precursor to the emotional outlets that Fleetwood Mac songs would become, and is one of the most beautiful songs this group has done.

There are a few minor potholes on Mystery To Me. For starters, I question why a band with so many strong songwriters would need to rely on a cover - in this case, The Yardbirds's "For Your Love". And while it does take a listen or two to get used to this particular flavor of Fleetwood Mac's music, I found it took longer for me to warm up to the second half of the album. It was still very much worth listening to, but the vibes songs like "The City," "Somebody" and "Miles Away" put out weren't immediately obvious.

What is obvious about Mystery To Me is that this album could well be one of the "hidden treasures" we often talk about. This is an album that has gotten buried by works like Rumours, even though some of the songs on this disc - in my opinion - smoke the more famous ones. If you're interested in hearing the band behind the hype, then Mystery To Me is probably a great place for you to start discovering who Fleetwood Mac were before they became rock gods.

Rating: B

User Rating: A-


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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise Records, and is used for informational purposes only.