The Class of 1971: Fleetwood Mac — ‘Future Games’
The Reprise era of Fleetwood Mac began as the band moved from Columbia Records. Then Play On (1969) marked the end of what we would refer to as FMac 1.0: Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, including original 1967 members Green on guitar and vocals, Jeremy Spencer on guitar and vocals, and (Mick) Fleetwood and (John McVie) Mac, plus Danny Kirwan guitar and vocals, who joined a year later.
Green left the band, who then recorded Kiln House in 1970, showing a marked change in the group’s musical direction. Kiln House marked the last recording for Spencer and the first (uncredited) performance for Christine (Perfect) McVie on vocals, piano, and Wurlitzer 200A (FMac 2.0).
The next album was Future Games, and it introduced us to guitarist and vocalist Bob Welch, whose influence would look large for the next four years (FMac 2.1).
After the band completed the album and turned it in, the record label said that it would not release an album with only seven songs, and demanded that they record an eighth. “What a Shame” was recorded hastily as a jam to fulfill this request.
Future Games, Reprise RS 6465, was recorded June through August and issued September 3, 1971. The album was produced by the band and engineered by Martin Rushent at Admission Studio. The sleeve design was by John Pasche, the cover photo by Sally Jesse, and group photos by Edmund Shea. The original album had a yellow border with red and pink lettering. Later editions had a green border with yellow, gray, and black lettering.
Future Games was part of the superb box set issued on RHINO Records titled Fleetwood Mac 1969-1974 in September of 2020.
Kirwan wrote three of the tracks, Christine McVie two, and Welch two. The added eighth track was credited to the band.
If Kiln House was a marked departure from the blues-oriented music of the original band, ”Woman of 1000 Years” [Kirwan] (5:28) makes it perfectly clear that this FMac 2.1 is making gorgeous music, the new direction of the group. Fleetwood’s percussion (no drums) gives the track real life in support of Kirwan’s magnificent voice. Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and bass all weave in and out of the song. Genius.
“Morning Rain” [C. McVie] (5:38) further indicates the direction, Christine’s electric piano and electric guitars creating a sound the band would continue for years. Her voice is joined so perfectly by Welch’s, and the guitars are great.
“What a Shame” [Welch, Kirwan, C. McVie, J. McVie, Fleetwood] (2:20) is a fun jam tune. Christine’s older brother, John Perfect, plays saxophone.
Now we get down to business with ”Future Games” [Welch] (8:18). Like the opening track, this is lush, luscious, and wonderful. For the first time, we are hearing Welch and his mellifluous voice. He fits the band perfectly. His guitar matches up equally well.
“Sands of Time” [Kirwan] (7:23) is one of the most beautiful songs I know, with the best transition I’ve ever heard (better than “So What”). It is another Kirwan masterpiece. Electric piano and guitars are front and center. That transition starts at 1:40, and when Fleetwood does that cymbal, I still get tears of joy (wiping them away as we speak). Kirwan’s guitar is… I’m running out of superlatives. Then the twin guitar lead…. Apparently, they attempted to hack this down to a short single; one listen and you understand that was impossible.
The mood lightens with “Sometimes” [Kirwan] (5:26), showing off another side of Kirwan, including more of his falsetto and the country music-tinged guitar. His later solo albums head in this direction, beginning with Second Chapter. Some of the harmonies are Kirwan & Kirwan, others group efforts. Christine plays acoustic piano here. Fleetwood and Mac are spot on every track of the album.
They return to a solid rocker with “Lay It All Down” [Welch] (4:30), Welch’s the second of what would be almost two dozen contributions to the band’s canon. His searing guitar solo would become signature.
The album closes with the beautiful ballad “Show Me a Smile” [C. McVie] (3:21) with Christine on electric piano on vocals with the guitars of Kirwan and Welch in support. Fleetwood uses mallets here to great effect.
Next up: Bare Trees in 1972