Most helpful critical review
A good yet slightly overrated pop album.
on January 19, 2004
My inner indie snob cringes when I think of this record. Rumours is a huge chart topper (I think at one point the best seller of all time, only to be ousted by Michael Jackson's Thriller). Everybody from that kid down the block to your grandmother owns a copy. Most of this album is a classic and lite radio mainstay. The production is slick and overengineered. The lyrics, on the surface, seem to be the same ol' cliches spouted out about love and loss. All in all, Rumours should be a target of derision on the same level as '70s crap like Kansas, Journey, The Eagles, Steve Miller Band, and other AOR rawk.
But it isn't. I, like most of the reviewers here, have a really hard time trying to pan this record. Rumours is far from being my favorite Fleetwood Mac album--I tend to gravitate more toward the bluesier Peter Green incarnation myself (though that's almost a COMPLETELY different band), and among the Buckingham/Nicks/McVie albums the self-titled album and the double LP Tusk slightly outrank it. Still, Rumours ranks among the better pop albums of the '70s, and it's aged a lot better than most of their contemporaries thanks to strong songwriting.
All incarnations of Fleetwood Mac benefitted from considerable talent--this time applied in a poppier, less guitar-driven direction. Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie are two of the finest female vocalists in music, and Lindsey Buckingham's guitar playing and vocal contributions are seriously underrated. These songs would be lacking in a big way without him; listen to that wrenching solo he lays down on The Chain, for instance. The beautiful vocal harmonies and shimmering pop guitars of this lineup are in full force. The only musical annoyance is the prescence of some cheesy keyboards (on Don't Stop and You Make Loving Fun, in particular) but that's a fairly minor complaint.
Lyrically, most of the songs seem to be nothing special...until you realize what was going on within the band. You could hear the strains of the behind-the-scenes soap opera within the lyrics ("damn your love, and damn your lies"). There's also some wonderfully poetic moments on Gold Dust Woman and Dreams.
My favorites on the album are Go Your Own Way, the beautiful piano lament Songbird, Gold Dust Woman (which features the best vocal performance of Nicks' entire career IMO), and The Chain, written by the entire band and clearly the album's centerpiece. Overall, Rumours is a great pop album, but it's not quite a classic, and it's not Fleetwood Mac's best work--merely their most commercially successful.