Monday, May 16, 2011
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac
Epic BN 26402
This is the debut album by Fleetwood Mac. It is generally known as just "Fleetwood Mac" but I've opted for the title that is on the spine of the album sleeve to distinguish it from the 1975 "Fleetwood Mac" that was a very different group's commercial breakthrough. It is basically the same cover as the English original except that someone at Epic Records decided to add a pink border to the cover picture for reasons that escape me. The track listing is the same. As you probably already know, Fleetwood Mac started life as a blues band, part of the British blues boom of the late 1960s. With the addition of Danny Kirwan, this line-up of the group would evolve into a remarkably powerful and creative rock band, their "Live In Boston" box set is one of my most cherished CDs, I wouldn't trade it for everything Cream ever recorded. At this stage though they were basically a straight blues band, talented but derivative. I'm not a big blues fan, rhythm and blues is much more my thing. On the rare occasion when I feel like hearing the blues I'm going to be reaching for Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf or B. B. King, not John Mayall, Dave Kelly, the Groundhogs or any other English group imitating them. Nonetheless I do play this record sometimes for a couple of reasons. One is that Peter Green was a truly gifted guitar player. His beautiful, fluid solos send me every time I hear them. The second reason is that I find Jeremy Spencer to be very entertaining. His shtick at this time was basically to imitate Elmore James, but he does it so well that I play his records more than James himself. His passionate singing and exuberant slide guitar playing really bring these songs to life. The manic cover of James' "Shake Your Moneymaker" on this album is easily my favorite cut. It is impossible for me to hear it without bopping around, it is pure kinetic energy - rock and roll at its finest. Spencer also tackles James' "Got To Move" and his own compositions, "My Heart Beat Like A Hammer," "My Baby's Good To Me" and "Cold Black Night" are obviously derived from James' songs, particularly "Dust My Broom" and "The Sun is Shining." I like all of them, especially "My Heart Beat Like A Hammer" which really rocks. The one exception from Spencer's Elmore James fixation is his solo performance of Robert Johnson's "Hellhound On My Trail" which features some rather moving singing and piano playing from Spencer although it is even more derivative than his other cuts. Peter Green's compositions are not much more original than Spencer's but at least they are more eclectic. My favorite is the slinky "Looking for Somebody" which boasts some really nice harmonica work as does the raunchy "Long Grey Mare." "I Loved Another Woman" is another slow smoldering blues that features some of Green's best guitar work on the record. I admire the guitar solo on "Merry Go Round" as well. Green's solo acoustic performance on "The World Keep On Turning" much like Spencer's "Hellhound On My Trail" just serves to reveal how imitative this record is - minus the distracting power of the full band all I hear are English guys copying their idols. This is also the case with "No Place To Go" which can't hold a candle to the urgency and desperation of Howlin' Wolf's ferocious original despite Green's passionate vocal. Regardless of the lack of originality in this music, I still appreciate this record, it was obviously made with a lot of love and enthusiasm and more than a little talent. Recommended for John Mayall fans who wish he had a better sense of humor.