Friday, August 23, 2013

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: FLEETWOOD MAC - THEN PLAY ON

If you think the Fleetwood Mac show of the Rumours-era band was a soap opera, heck that was nothing.  That was just a lot of coke and couples busting up, normal rock star stuff.  The Mac of 1969, now that was nuts.  You had two guys going on about making records about God, one battling schizophrenia, the other who quit to join a cult.  Then there was a third guitarist so wild he had to be fired from the band.  Too crazy for Fleetwood Mac?  That's pretty amazing, for a band that specialized in having guitar players quit.  It says a lot that Mick Fleetwood was the most normal, together guy in the band at this time.

Then Play On was the band's third album, and they were already stars in England, plus making inroads in the U.S.  They were a blues group, but like others of the day, starting to move in new directions.  Known for their two strong guitarists, ex-Mayall man Peter Green, and the wacky Elmore James freak Jeremy Spencer, they'd also just added a third axe, young Danny Kirwan, and this was to be his first LP with the group.  The triple-guitar thing was a gas onstage, but Spencer was totally linked to Elmore covers and old rock 'n' roll, and didn't get where Green was going.  So, amazingly, he doesn't even play on this album.  It's a four-piece, with Green and Kirwan writing and singing all the tunes.

It's a gem too, but not a total blues album at all.  While there are blues workouts to be sure, including the raw and fun Rattleshake Snake, both Green and Kirwan had modern and mellow rock concerns, ballad numbers, folk touches, and no strict adherence to the 12-bar form.  There are jams and larks too, instrumental pieces that see the four-piece group thunder out.  It's every bit as broad as Blind Faith or Jethro Tull, with British Blues having grown by leaps and bounds into new sounds in just a couple of years, Fleetwood Mac at the forefront.

This new version of the LP is long overdue, as it cleans up a bunch of problems long-associated with the release.  First off, it's been remastered, yahoo for the best-ever sound.  The track list has been restored to the proper original U.K. running order, all the tunes left off North American versions (there were a couple) restored in the right order.  And it features the two famous singles of that time, Oh Well, parts 1 and 2, and The Green Manalishi, plus its lovely instrumental b-side World In Harmony.  Oh Well and Manalishi are certainly two of the great Green tracks, with the first now considered a blues classic for good reason, while the second is a mysterious, heavy number that was his swan song from the band.  Green was at his peak, Kirwan proved an excellent second writer, singer and guitarist, Spencer was still killing it on live dates, but it was not to last.  Too bad, as this, with its bonus cuts, is one of the great late 60's albums.

1 comment:

  1. Has this been re-issued?

    Gotta get it

    ReplyDelete