Top 17 Fleetwood Mac Albums Ranked Worst to Best
While there’s little debating that Fleetwood Mac is one of the top rock bands of all time, there is certainly room for challenges and disagreements when it comes to ranking their albums. So as I provide you with my list of Fleetwood Mac albums ranked from worst to best, I willingly accept your judgment and critique. After all, these are just my personal opinions and rankings (and if you disagree, feel free to sound off in the comments section below).
Fleetwood Mac Albums Ranked (Worst to Best)
17. Time (1995)
Christine McVie was the all-time greatest songwriter of Fleetwood Mac, with a foundational sound in her work that instrumentally developed the band from blues to soft-rock/pop over decades of slow progression.
However, the replacements for songwriters Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, following the band’s most successful era, turn in work on Time that is nothing short of Fleetwood Mac’s most derivative and unoriginal material.
The three pale copycats who filled out the longstanding group composed of Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie doomed their album from minute one, relying only on trying to emulate Buckingham and Nicks rather than bring new flavors to the table.
Most of Fleetwood Mac’s discography sees small changes brought on by lineup shifting, but the worst albums show the members bringing nothing at all. Time is the pinnacle of that tiny problem with Fleetwood Mac.
Favorite Song on Time: “I Do” is the closest to McVie’s classic songwriting mode on Time, but her entire output here is pleasant at best and slight at worst. The rest of the album, however, is just wrong.
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16. Behind the Mask (1990)
Though Behind the Mask still had Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks writing songs, I could almost have placed it last in the ranking because of how creatively inert most of the tracks are on this album.
Lindsey Buckingham, the iconic singer/guitarist of Fleetwood Mac since 1975, was replaced by two new members. Both co-wrote seven of thirteen songs on an almost hour-long album, and not one track is worth revisiting.
By this time, Fleetwood Mac seemed out of touch with where pop music was heading, and even Nicks and McVie were writing far below their usual standards on Behind the Mask. One or two notable McVie tracks and one Nicks song, “Freedom,” stood out above the surrounding uninspired cliches, which range from yawn-inducing to unfathomably embarrassing.
Favorite Song on Behind the Mask: “Save Me” is the only track here that resonates with the persona of Christine McVie, the modern pop songwriter. Along with the album, this song was a minor hit, perhaps the one artistic success of Fleetwood Mac’s 1990s output.
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15. Mr. Wonderful (1968)
The most dangerous move a successful new band can make is to phone it in on the sophomore release, but that is just what happened with Mr. Wonderful. Early U.S. listeners might recognize the better half of these songs from English Rose, the compilation that also contained the excellent Peter Green singles “Black Magic Woman” and “Albatross.”
This superior U.S. deconstruction of Mr. Wonderful nixed most of Jeremy Spencer’s final co-bandleader moments, which showed from both angles how involved he was at this point in Fleetwood Mac.
Essential future songwriter Christine McVie shows up for the first time in a background role, but even she and the addition of horns could not cover up this creatively bankrupt effort. Had Mr. Wonderful not followed such a captivating debut, audiences might have been more forgiving.
Favorite Song on Mr. Wonderful: “Stop Messin’ Round” opens Mr. Wonderful and English Rose with nothing more or less than peak-form blues traditions, with Peter Green’s voice and guitar as central as the new horns and keyboards.
14. Penguin (1973)
If modern listeners connected the dots between the must-hear 1972 record Bare Trees and Fleetwood Mac’s definitive pop breakout of 1975, they would likely not see the need for any transitional statements from the band, let alone three.
Penguin, in my opinion, is just barely the worst of these albums, but all of them are nearly equal in their averageness and inconsistency. With two new members in the band who did not properly balance out the record, Penguin comes across as more of the same, quickly losing steam after three solid songs at the onset.
Especially after the three stylistically suitable opening tracks, the confusing follow-up songs led by new vocalist Dave Walker are the first instant must-skips in quite a while from Fleetwood Mac. Guitarist Bob Weston doesn’t fare much better on his writing and singing (harmony) attempt, with steel drums backing a meandering later track entitled “Did You Ever Love Me.”
Favorite Song on Penguin: “Remember Me” has the edge that counterpoints McVie’s singing and piano, but even this track leaves your mind once Penguin peters out.
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13. Heroes Are Hard to Find (1974)
While still low on the list, Heroes Are Hard to Find is, for me, the most underrated record on this list. Despite most of the songs here residing in the mid-tier category, Heroes… is a remarkably cohesive effort that feels less like disparate parts than any other Fleetwood Mac record. Sadly, the individual tracks underwhelm more often than not.
Bob Welch’s mood balance on Heroes… is steadfast on his tracks, though not what the rest of Fleetwood Mac was looking for as the band’s future. Instead, it forms the basis for his solo career, in which he better tailored his songwriting for the radio. The rest of Fleetwood Mac did the same with the addition of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie right after Heroes… came out.
Favorite Song on Heroes Are Hard to Find: “Coming Home” goes full-on space rock, giving one more worthy shoutout to Welch before his departure.
12. Kiln House (1970)
In a shocking turn of events, official early Fleetwood Mac bandleader Peter Green exited the group, and Jeremy Spencer moved back into his role as co-frontman with recently added member Danny Kirwan.
The results are average at best, more in line with a softer version of the Rolling Stones than the soon-to-be-soft-rock Fleetwood Mac of the 1970s. Spencer would also leave the band shortly after this album’s release.
Though Spencer brings the covers back and sings mostly in his typical mode of Elmore James impersonator on Kiln House, Kirwan surprised listeners by amping up his performance, fitting better with Spencer’s intensity.
Most fans agree that Kirwan’s tracks elevate the album, even if it’s still a lesser effort from Fleetwood Mac. In short, Kiln House is just too scattershot to reach higher than the sum of its somewhat underwhelming parts.
Favorite Song on Kiln House: “Jewel Eyed Judy” is the dynamic track from this record that Fleetwood Mac fans need to revisit; Kirwan alternately croons and full-on rocks going from each verse to chorus.
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11. Mystery to Me (1973)
Some rankings put Mystery to Me in the top ten Fleetwood Mac records, likely relying on the strength of the Bob Welch-penned track “Hypnotized.” And while I am not as convinced, no one can deny that this record is better than the band’s surrounding efforts.
With songs stretching slightly too long and once again adding a cover to the tracklist (a surefire sign of stepping back for this group), Mystery to Me remains deservedly in the back half of Fleetwood Mac’s discography.
Welch and McVie turn in a decent number of good songs on Mystery to Me, marginally progressing toward pop stardom. Welch, in particular, continues developing Fleetwood Mac’s sound while McVie stays firmly in the future Fleetwood Mac style. Bob Welch’s dynamic tinkering and increased input make up for the fact that Christine McVie is still the superior songwriter of the band.
Favorite Song on Mystery to Me: “Emerald Eyes,” the Bob Welch opening track, might not be as good as the McVie highlights like “Believe Me,” but it gets a shoutout because it shows that the two songwriters can now gel effortlessly.
10. Say You Will (2003)
To say Say You Will was a breath of fresh air after Fleetwood Mac’s 1990s output is a massive understatement. As such, the significance of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’ return overshadows that Say You Will is not an incredible album, but it’s certainly not bad, either. While sounding mostly like two solo albums put together, there are plenty of enjoyable tracks here once you let that fact go.
Most refreshing is that Lindsey Buckingham is never content sticking with one idea, always going outside the bounds of the more cohesive Stevie Nicks songs.
Buckingham’s opening two tracks couldn’t be more different, and “Miranda” and “Peacekeeper” also show his changing aesthetics. Suffice it to say audiences were generous to Say You Will, but critics knew from the get-go what issues would arise here.
Favorite Song on Say You Will: “Say You Will” is one of only a handful of songs that shows songwriting interaction between Buckingham and Nicks, even if the credits go to the latter. Buckingham’s voice is nearly equal in the choruses, and his quirkiness pops up subtly throughout.
9. Future Games (1971)
If anyone wants to listen to the earliest Fleetwood Mac album resembling any form of the late 70s group, the record Future Games is the obvious choice to play. As soon as one reaches the second track, Christine McVie’s lead vocals, piano, and songwriting smack the listener with the first entry in the Buckingham-Nicks-McVie canon that people associate with Fleetwood Mac. Critics reappraised this less-than-successful but mostly cohesive album as a significant marker in the band’s road to pop stardom.
In addition to the two excellent first showings of Christine McVie as a leader for Fleetwood Mac, the new jazz/R&B-influenced guitarist/vocalist Bob Welch turned in the title track on Future Games, which ended up as the most well-known song from the record. Danny Kirwan’s input, though serviceable, seems weak in comparison, preceding his dismal fate in the band.
Favorite Song on Future Games: “Morning Rain” is the first instance of Christine McVie fronting Fleetwood Mac, and it’s not a song that’s easily forgotten (until you hear the better, more iconic works of her career)!
8. Mirage (1982)
Mirage is the one Fleetwood Mac album I am willing to call overrated. The conventional soft-rock proceedings seemed like a letdown after their previous massive commercial and artistic successes with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, but audiences ate it up. Still, Mirage sits comfortably in the top half of their discography because of its easy appeal and stellar pop sound.
Of the five singles spawned from Mirage, the McVie and Nicks-penned are the only ones that scream “instant classics.” The other two, however, are very interesting: Buckingham’s “Can’t Go Back” and “Oh Diane” go hand in hand with his solo career, where he would constantly stay on top of pop trends rather than get too stuck with one sound. While it drags down Mirage on the lesser tracks, this fascinating trait continued to the present decade in Buckingham’s music.
Favorite Song on Mirage: “Hold Me” is not THE enduring classic from Mirage, but McVie and Buckingham’s musical chemistry is so palpable that it’s hard to pass on for a favorite.
7. Bare Trees (1972)
Following Future Games down the same pathway, Bare Trees edged closer than ever to the sound of the Buckingham/Nicks/McVie era, with the three-pronged trio of Kirwan, Welch, and McVie coming across nearly as balanced.
The returning Fleetwood Mac formation here is still rocking somewhat, but in an AM sort of way. Every instrument demonstrates intricate textures even when pounding out chords or solo lines, with the best production yet on a Fleetwood Mac record (though Bare Trees was as self-produced as their last three albums).
For the first time on a Fleetwood Mac album, the songwriting trio brought forth some of the best songs of their career, including Danny Kirwan, who showed on his fourth effort as a frontman that he had plenty of layers yet to peel in the new sound the band was developing. Even so, he was fired shortly after due to an explosive fight with the rest of Fleetwood Mac.
Favorite Song on Bare Trees: “Spare Me a Little of Your Love” is another early Christine McVie song that proved just how essential of a bandleader she was; this song turned into a fan favorite soon after the album’s release.
6. Fleetwood Mac (1968)
Fleetwood Mac’s well-received premiere full-length showcased Peter Green’s and Jeremy Spencer’s songwriting across two-thirds of the record, a rare feat for most British blues albums hitting the charts at this time.
Fleetwood Mac is no tame soft-rock affair; the two bandleaders, backed by the staple rhythm section members, really rock this one. Despite not yet having classic Fleetwood Mac songwriters aboard, this debut is an essential experience for blues lovers and those who want no trace of the Fleetwood Mac of today.
Most of the success here is owed to the group’s roots in British blues, as the members had played with Eric Claption and John Mayall in their iconic taste making collective, the Bluesbreakers. Fleetwood Mac was nearly as good, but the new songs uniquely impressed audiences far more than the well-chosen covers.
Favorite Song on Fleetwood Mac’s Debut: “I Loved Another Woman” is far more Latin than blues, and one of the softer songs on the album, making it perfect for typical Fleetwood Mac listeners as an entry point.
5. Tango in the Night (1987)
Tango in the Night showed Fleetwood Mac continuing to use the new decade’s pop trends that had solidified by 1987, but in a way that only Lindsey Buckingham could bring to the group. Even with 1980s-style synthesizers sprinkled on each track, he somehow influenced the album’s production to bring out the edginess of everyone’s performance.
The liveliness on Tango in the Night was missing from the previous record Mirage, and the more crackling performances perfectly matched a better quotient of good songwriting.
Even when Buckingham was not writing and singing lead, he brought out the best of his collaborators on Tango in the Night. McVie’s tracks take flight in an entirely new way, and Nicks’ “Seven Wonders” made another intoxicating case for her as a favorite band member to the most recent fans.
It’s a shame that Buckingham left after Tango in the Night, as the other members would never brew another perfect storm with any new collaborators.
Favorite Song on Tango in the Night: “Little Lies” sparkles with a dream-pop glimmer contrasted by an insistent beat, getting an A+ in band chemistry as well.
4. Then Play On (1969)
Thanks to Jeremy Spencer’s backseat role and new vocalist/guitarist Danny Kirwan coming in to pick up the slack, Fleetwood Mac was able to turn in their first post-blues record: Then Play On. Opener “Coming Your Way” pairs Kirwan’s mellow singing with percussive drumming and two intoxicating guitar lines; like with the rest of the album, this was a deviation no Fleetwood Mac listener had heard.
Then Play On is still only one stepping stone away from the original incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, with rocking tracks like “Rattlesnake Shake,” Mick Fleetwood and John McVie’s “Madge” instrumentals, and the two legendarily epic singles by Green, “Oh Well (Parts 1&2)” and “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown).”
Though the band was still years from transforming into their most popular form, Then Play On ranks with the best Fleetwood Mac albums as a dynamic songwriting showcase with the first inkling of their future iconic sound.
Favorite Song on Then Play On: “Closing My Eyes” was Peter Green’s major attempt at softness on this record, a quality which only popped up briefly on the first two Fleetwood Mac albums. It’s still not like the later era of Fleetwood Mac, but an impressive dynamic display nonetheless.
3. Tusk (1979)
People turned me away from this Fleetwood Mac record thanks to its marching-band-backed lead single “Tusk,” and now, years later, I am still shocked with every listen by how much I missed out on here. Sure, Tusk is an album of disparate elements jarringly juxtaposed for four sides straight, but no one could argue that that was unintentional.
More so than any other Fleetwood Mac album, Tusk sounds like three solo albums wrapped into one release. Buckingham was diving into more experimental sounds, Nicks was going down a different rabbit hole, and McVie remained as constant as ever. Backing it all was a drummer and bassist who stuck with it all from the beginning, always rooting the group firmly in their groove. When you put it all together, you get a challenging but fun listen unlike any other.
Favorite Song on Tusk: “Think About Me” shows excellent vocal harmonies and musical interplay between McVie and Buckingham. By the time this album rolled around, they had developed into a better musical team than Buckingham had originally made with Nicks.
2. Fleetwood Mac (1975)
The casual listener of modern times might not even recognize that Fleetwood Mac was not just Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, and Christine McVie – which tells us just how captivating the trio was at the time.
Right off the bat, “Monday Morning” showcases what Fleetwood Mac was missing: a literate and assured songwriter like Lindsey Buckingham to match Christine McVie’s style who understood how to innovate within the pop genre. No wonder they christened this incarnation with another self-titled album!
Even though the band had yet to fit together perfectly, with some of the Buckingham and Nicks songs written outside of forming this new arrangement, the whole record hits the band’s newly-cemented soft-rock/pop ethos perfectly. Stevie Nicks props up the ethereal side of the group, combining effortless harmonies with Buckingham with gorgeous, nearly unparalleled songwriting.
Favorite Song on Fleetwood Mac: “Say You Love Me” shows the whole band meshing expertly and proves that McVie is still the (debatably) best songwriter here.
1. Rumours (1977)
There was never a doubt that Rumours would not be Number One on a Fleetwood Mac album ranking. This is Fleetwood Mac’s best selling album, and it contains at least six irrefutably fantastic songs. Every crucial Fleetwood Mac trait, from dreaminess to passion to sophistication, is so finely honed here that you would never guess that two members had joined only the year before recording.
Rumours is pop music unequaled thanks to its emotional power. Nearly every vocal line, even in the relatively simplistic opener, soars with the whole self of all three singers.
Favorite Song on Rumours: “Gold Dust Woman” is the epitome of Stevie Nicks’ songwriting and singing abilities, displaying a unique addition to Fleetwood Mac. For die-hard fans, this is certainly one of the best Fleetwood Mac songs ever produced.
This article was written by Cory and edited by Michael.
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