Fleetwood Mac: Mystery To Me - Album Of The Week Club review

Mystery To Me is the oddest and most eclectic album of Fleetwood Mac’s entire career, mixing mellow rock with funk, reggae and even disco

Mystery To Me album cover
(Image: © Reprise)

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Fleetwood Mac - Mystery To Me

Mystery To Me album cover

(Image credit: Reprise)

Emerald Eyes
Believe Me
Just Crazy Love
Keep On Going
The City
Miles Away
The Way I Feel
For Your Love

After Peter Green’s departure, Fleetwood Mac lacked clear direction and drifted into relative obscurity. The six studio albums they released between 1970 and 1974 are largely forgotten. Only one, Kiln House, charted in the UK, and none broke into the US Top 30. 

Mystery To Me is the best of them. It’s also the oddest and most eclectic album of the band’s entire career, mixing mellow rock with funk, reggae and even disco. American guitarist Bob Welch was at the heart of it all, writing seven of the 12 tracks, including The City, a badass white funk number worthy of Little Feat, and Hypnotized, the best Fleetwood Mac song that hardly anyone has ever heard. 

It's also the album where Fleetwood Mac's pop sensibility began to be polished, as reflected in tracks like the dreamy opener Emerald Eyes, on which Welch’s way with a spaced out vocal and faintly cosmic lyric reflect his unfairly neglected role in the Mac story. 

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Other albums released in October 1973

  • For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night - Caravan
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John
  • These Foolish Things - Bryan Ferry
  • Cyan - Three Dog Night
  • Selling England by the Pound - Genesis
  • Moondog Matinee - The Band
  • Suzi Quatro - Suzi Quatro
  • Time Fades Away - Neil Young
  • Wake of the Flood - Grateful Dead
  • Live in Europe - Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Montrose - Montrose
  • Hat Trick - America
  • Pin Ups - David Bowie
  • Quadrophenia - The Who
  • Frampton's Camel - Peter Frampton
  • All American Boy - Rick Derringer
  • Ashes Are Burnin - Renaissance
  • At the Rainbow - Focus
  • Full Sail - Loggins and Messina
  • Gone Crazy - Grin
  • Inside Out - John Martyn
  • The Joker - Steve Miller Band
  • Laid Back - Gregg Allman
  • Marjory Razorblade - Kevin Coyne
  • Nine - Fairport Convention
  • On the Road - Traffic
  • Please Don't Ever Change - Brinsley Schwarz
  • Sweet Revenge - John Prine
  • Takin' My Time - Bonnie Raitt


What they said...

"Whilst Christine McVie was yet to truly spread her wings into poppier territory, some of the songs here already hinted at that evolution in songwriting, and her more confident vocal delivery only proves this furthermore. The same, essentially, can be said for Bob Welch. A shame that this turned out to be the last album to feature Bob Weston then, but one could only imagine if he would have had more songwriting input had he stayed with the band for years to come." (Sputnik Music)

"With the majority of the blues and psychedelic behind them, Mystery to Me finds Fleetwood Mac in a more ruminative vein. American guitarist Bob Welch established that path. Despite the all-encompassing ethos, Welch's songwriting skills made him walk a fine line between the mystical and the silly. But luckily most everything works here." (AllMusic)

"Though performed with great proficiency and occasionally enlightening subtlety, the first side of Mystery To Me turned out to be so abysmally dismal that I gave serious consideration to just stopping it right there and chucking the damn thing out the window at a passing bird. All the songs were the same faceless blend of tired, low-key English rock. Things proceeded at a funeral pace, and whenever Christine McVie assumed the vocal chores she could be counted on for the same old bland-as-sand mood mouthings." (Rolling Stone)


What you said...

Pete Mineau: I always believed that had the band been able to tour behind this album, you would have heard more buzz about Fleetwood Mac earlier than when they released the self-titled "white" album. The dual guitar approach of the two Bob's filled out the sound and gave it that "rock edge" that separated them from other MOR bands of the era. Witness The City and Miles Away.

Alas, that tour was cut short to only two weeks, thanks to Bob Weston and Jenny Fleetwood's extramarital affair. (Oh, those Boyd girls and their fascination with guitar players!)

Christine McVie's songs on Mystery To Me are a continuance in growth from previous albums like Future Games and Bare Trees. Believe Me and Why are highlights of hers on this album with greater songs on the horizon.

Fleetwood Mac never shied away from cover tunes, what with (I'm A) Road Runner on their previous album, Penguin and the many "oldies" that were covered when guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Spencer was in the band. That being said, their reworking of The Yardbirds' For Your Love has always been a favorite of mine. It features some stellar guitar solos over the solid drumming and percussion of Mick Fleetwood, not to mention some great bass runs from John McVie.

The firing of Bob Weston and the cancellation of the tour led to a whole can of worms being opened for the band besides the loss of promotion for this album. A "fake" Fleetwood Mac was sent out by their manager to fulfil contracts that were already signed. This then led to lawsuits being filed and the putting of the "real" group in a state of limbo.

Deciding to push on, the band moved to California, made the decision to manage themselves and released Heroes Are Hard To Find in 1974. Although not as interesting to me as the previous Mystery To Me, it did well on the charts with the single guitar approach of Bob Welch.

After the end of the Heroes Are Hard To Find tour, Mick Fleetwood went looking for a second guitarist. We all know where this led. The thing is, Bob Welch bowed out of the group once Buckingham and Nicks joined. The parting was amicable, but one can only wonder how Fleetwood Mac would have sounded with two brilliant guitarists and four strong songwriters.

Overall, I would score Mystery To Me a strong 8.5 out of 10. One of my favorites in the underrated "bridge period" of Fleetwood Mac.

Michael Piwowarski: Mystery To Me is a fine textbook example of Fleetwood Mac's rebuilding years. They'd moved on from their earlier blues sound established by Peter Green and were now gravitating toward something different. It was a bumpy ride, with Danny Kirwan's promising tenure ending after his dramatic firing, and the confused Penguin album sticking out like a sore thumb (possibly in large thanks to Dave Walker).

Mystery to Me is a cohesive effort, with Bob Welch and Christine McVie excelling as Fleetwood Mac's primary songwriters. They established a solid pop-rock foundation, with songs like Hypnotized and In the City showing brilliant musical diversity. In retrospect, you can tell that Fleetwood Mac were setting the stage for something much bigger to come.

Alex Hayes: To be honest, Christine McVie's passing is still a little raw. I've yet to get to grips with the fact that this fabulously gifted lady is no longer with us. I've seen Fleetwood Mac live just the once, in late 2003, with McVie absent through retirement. That bugs me, and I'll never get the chance to rectify that now. Nobody else will ever get the chance either, sadly. God bless you Christine McVie, you'll never be forgotten.

With 1973's Mystery To Me, we are transported back into Fleetwood Mac's 'lost' period. Sandwiched between the early Peter Green blues rock era of the late 1960s and the global superstardom of the transatlantic, Rumours-era Mac, were several years of transition for the group. They flew under the radar for many people during this time (certainly here in the UK), and the early 1970s are characterised by constant line-up changes, a shift in musical priorities and a succession of little regarded and largely forgotten albums.

My favourite Mac album from this period is 1972's Bare Trees, a wonderful testimony to the talents of the troubled, but uniquely skilled, Danny Kirwan. I find Mystery To Me to be a little pedestrian by comparison, although it's still a fine listen. Alongside the ever dependable rhythm section of Fleetwood and Mac, the group is fleshed out on this occasion by Bob Welch (vocals/guitar), Bob Weston (guitar) and, of course, Christine McVie.

McVie is predictably great here, but she's not fully developed as a songwriter or performer yet. In a few short years, Lindsay Buckingham will manage to get his hands on McVie's early song drafts, and help to shape and arrange them into perfection. That hasn't happened yet on Mystery To Me, and so nothing here compares to the emotive brilliance of, say, Over And Over from Tusk. Saying that, McVie does get reasonably close to that level on Mystery To Me's wonderfully thought through and atmospheric closer, Why, the best song here for my money.

The only track here that managed to pick up any kind of traction on FM radio is Hypnotized, the brainchild of Bob Welch. If there is one single musician from this under-celebrated, 'bridge' era of the Mac that deserves more recognition, then it's Welch. He gave the band four years and five albums of sterling service, only for them to then explode in popularity after his departure. There are some great videos that can be found on YouTube featuring Welch live at The Roxy in 1981, that highlight just how good he actually was. Ebony Eyes is particularly worth checking out. It features no less than Stevie Nicks on backing vocals.

Mystery To Me treads the same kind of radio friendly, soft rock territory that the Mac would later strike commercial gold on, with albums like Fleetwood Mac (1975), Rumours and Tango In The Night. Let's not kid ourselves though, it doesn't scale those heights. It's a pleasant listen, no more. A sad footnote to this album is the fact that Mick Fleetwood and John McVie are the only surviving members of this particular line-up. Both Welch and Weston died in 2012, and McVie left us just last year. Mystery To Me doesn't rank as one of Fleetwood Mac's finest albums, but these terrific musicians will forever live on within it's grooves.

Evan Sanders: Thanks to the group for making this the Album of the Week, as I got to listen to a Fleetwood Mac period that had been unknown to me, between the bluesy Oh Well in the early days, before Buckingham-Nicks superstardom. I like the Christine McVie songs, although they aren't up to the level she would perform a few years later. Hypnotized is a good hit single. The other songs feel like B-sides, including what I thought was a weak cover of For Your Love. I'll give it 5 or 6 out of ten, not a bad album, but not one I would play at a party.

Phillip James Sainty: Great record. The fans of the post Buckingham/Nicks era could get a lot from this. Christine in fine form.

Adam McCann: Always thought this was a strange album, although not as strange as the album cover. McVie seems to hold the whole thing together, her bluesy/soul keeps the whole thing from imploding.

Matthew Snyder: Simply incredible album.

John Davidson: This was a new one to me. Like most people I know the Peter Green years and the Buckingham/Nicks period well but had never explored the bands output between these peaks.

The highlights are definitely the Christine McVie led songs though the 'single' Hypnotized is also very good. It kind of suffers from being neither one thing nor the other. Its not bluesy enough to satisfy the purists and not slick enough to tick the more commercial pop/rock boxes.

Chris Elliott: Another bargain bin disappointment. It's just a bit dull

Bob Shook: The City, Hypnotized and maybe my favorite McVie song Why are worth getting the album for. The rest of it is pretty forgettable.

Paul Santovena: This album is OK. Hypnotized and Emerald Eyes are solid tunes. Much if the rest sounds like 70s yacht rock.

Luc Van Goethem: Very good album.

Greg Schwepe: Easy review for me this week as this is my “next favorite” Fleetwood Mac album after the Holy Pillars of Fleetwood Mac (their “White Album”) and Rumours (their HUGE album).

My initial exposure to this album was through Hypnotized. Somehow it was the one Fleetwood Mac song from the Bob Welch era that got played a lot on the three FM stations I listened to in my formative music years. And I always got pulled in by that cool driving Mick Fleetwood drumbeat on the intro, then the dreamy octave chords on the guitar. This was my gateway to the older Fleetwood Mac. And a good song to test your non-music geek friends if you heard it somewhere; “Guess who this is? it’s Fleetwood Mac.” “What…wait…you’re making this up, that’s not Lindsey Buckingham singing, you don’t know what you’re talking about…”

Mystery to Me opens with Emerald Eyes and the plaintive piano of the late Christine McVie. Believe Me and Just Crazy Love follow with two McVie vocals, and there you have it, the “secret weapon” in Fleetwood Mac’s success, that distinctive beautiful voice and keyboard style.

Keep on Going has a disco beat with a string background, and another smooth vocal by Christine McVie. The City is a funky Welch sung song where either his wah pedal or talkbox get quite the workout (or guitarist Bob Weston?). Miles Away follows with more guitar grooves. Plenty of moods across this album. We also get a cover of The Yardbird’s For Your Love.

The harmonies of Christine McVie and Bob Welch are also what draw me to this album and others of this era. Had read several interviews with her and she mentioned her harmonising with Bob on these albums was something she was quite proud of and something that was often missed by fans that weren’t familiar with this era. I totally agree. The album closer Why sums up the entire album; classic vocals, keyboard, and guitar.

9 out of 10 for me on this one. First FM album I gravitate to when I want to listen to something other than the “classic lineup.” You will be missed Christine (and you are too Bob).

Richard Cardenas: Nice choice. Too many people are unaware of this band’s deep history.

Mike Canoe: In the pre-internet '80s of the north Texas suburbs, there was little to no knowledge of Fleetwood Mac prior to Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.

As Hypnotized started to play I realized I did indeed know it. I just had no idea it was a Fleetwood Mac song. I had a similar experience with Bob Welch's Sentimental Lady off of the Fleetwood Mac album, Bare Trees.

Unsurprising then that I gravitate towards the songs written and sung by Welch. I am also reminded this week that I used to get Bob Welch mixed up with the Grateful Dead's similarly named Bob Weir. I tell you, kids, life before the internet was tough. A few of Welch's songs actually remind me of Bob Weir's mid-'80's style, especially Miles Away and Somebody. Of the Christine McVie songs, I prefer the up-tempo Believe Me and Just Crazy Love to the ballads.

Taken as a whole, Mystery to Me is pleasant but anonymous adult contemporary pop. McVie still had better songs ahead of her with Fleetwood Mac as well as on her own. From what I've read, Welch had a successful solo career in the late '70s. Given my track record with him, I probably would recognize more than I realize.

Philip Qvist: I need to thank Classic Rock here - I have been meaning to visit those Fleetwood Mac years between the Peter Green era and the Rumours era, but I have only ever listened to the odd song - until now.

This is a bit of a strange one; it has hints of the British Blues that made them popular in the first place, but there is also a move towards radio friendly songs - and a hint of what was to hit the world two years later in 1975.

What is significant is that this would be the last album recorded in England, and, this being Fleetwood Mac, it wouldn't be produced without its fair share of drama; as guitarist Bob Weston was having an affair with Jenny Fleetwood. Some things never change.

Bob Welch and Christine McVie certainly did most of the heavy lifting here, and my best songs on Mystery To Me would be Hypnotized, Emerald Eyes, Just Crazy Love and Why - while their cover of For Your Love also deserves a mention.

This is definitely not a Rumours or Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac but it isn't a bad album either. A solid 7 from me,


Final score: 7.16 (64 votes cast, total score 458)

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