Saturday, September 01, 2007

Then Play On

Posting about wayward actor Peter Greene the other day naturally led me to think about wayward guitarist Peter Green, founding member of Fleetwood Mac. That's the Fleetwood Mac of the late-'60's that helped pioneer and advance heavy blues-rock as a popular musical format. What a crazy time that was! Rod f*cking Stewart was essentially Robert Plant before Robert Plant, as lead vocalist of The Jeff Beck Group, which was essentially Led Zeppelin before Led Zeppelin (or, at least early Led Zeppelin before Led Zeppelin). And, equally as astounding, there was a pre-"Don't Stop" Fleetwood Mac that actually kicked ass!!! (The song could've been called "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow, because if you think about the past you'll realize what a bloody joke we've become!!!")

Peter Green was the guitarist that replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall's Blues Breakers, where he played with bassist John McVie, and ultimately was able to bring drummer Mick Fleetwood aboard. Fleetwood Mac was born from there. By the time of their third LP, Then Play On, second guitarist Danny Kirwan had been added more or less in replacement of the slide guitar of Jeremy Spencer. In fact, this was the line-up for Then Play On:

Fleetwood Mac
Peter Green - vocals, guitar, harmonica
Danny Kirwan - vocals, guitar
John McVie - bass
Mick Fleetwood - drums
Jeremy Spencer - piano on "Oh Well" {Pt 2}
Additional Personnel
Christine Perfect - piano (uncredited)
Big Walter Horton - harmonica (uncredited)

[Note: Christine Perfect subsequently became Christine McVie.]

As with many releases by British bands in the '60's, the track list and running order varied in the U.S. compared to the UK. I didn't even dig out my old vinyl, opting instead for the convenience of the CD (yes, I have "replaced" many of my LP's with CD's--I just haven't been able to part with the now redundant vinyl, but that's an issue for my therapist, if I ever get one).

1. "Coming Your Way" (Kirwan) – 3:47
2. "Closing My Eyes" (Green) – 4:50
3. "Showbiz Blues" (Green) – 3:50
4. '"My Dream" (Kirwan) – 3:30
5. "Underway" (Green) – 2:51
6. "Oh Well" (Green) – 8:56
7. "Although the Sun Is Shining" (Kirwan) – 2:31
8. "Rattlesnake Shake" (Green) – 3:32
9. "Searching for Madge" (McVie) – 6:56
10. "Fighting for Madge" (Fleetwood) – 2:45 ("Like Crying" giggle still left here)
11. '"When You Say" (Kirwan) – 4:22
12. "Like Crying" (Kirwan) – 2:21
13. "Before the Beginning" (Green) – 3:28

The liner notes from my CD begin thusly: Flexing the lean blues muscle that earned them a solid reputation among musical purists, Fleetwood Mac, on their landmark 1969 release Then Play On, also demonstrated a songwriting and performing skill that would eventually catapult the band into world class status. The LP spotlights several indispensable Fleetwood Mac classics, including Peter Green’s nearly nine-minute opus “Oh Well,” one of the most innovative, and oft-imitated blues/rock workouts in modern music. Other standouts include the Hendrix-influenced “Underway,” the fierce “Rattlesnake Shake” and the subtly shaded “Although The Sun Is Shining.”

Not bad. Another favorite of mine not mentioned above is "Show-Biz Blues." But, heck, this sucker is stacked from start to finish. Let's check in with the AllMusic review by Michael G. Nastos: This Peter Green-led edition of the Mac isn't just an important transition between their initial blues-based incarnation and the mega-pop band they became, it's also their most vital, exciting version. The addition of Danny Kirwan as second guitarist and songwriter foreshadows not only the soft-rock terrain of "Bare Trees" and "Kiln House" with Christine Perfect-McVie, but also predicts Rumours. That only pertains to roughly half of the also excellent material here, though; the rest is quintessential Green. The immortal "Oh Well," with its hard-edged, thickly layered guitars and chamber-like sections, is perhaps the band's most enduring progressive composition. "Rattlesnake Shake" is another familiar number, a down-and-dirty, even-paced funk, with clean, wall-of-sound guitars. Choogling drums and Green's fiery improvisations power "Searching for Madge," perhaps Mac's most inspired work save "Green Manalishi," and leads into an unlikely symphonic interlude and the similar, lighter boogie "Fighting for Madge." A hot Afro-Cuban rhythm with beautiful guitars from Kirwan and Green on "Coming Your Way" not only defines the Mac's sound, but the rock aesthetic of the day. Of the songs with Kirwan's stamp on them, "Closing My Eyes" is a mysterious waltz love song; haunting guitars approach surf music on the instrumental "My Dream"; while "Although the Sun Is Shining" is the ultimate pre-Rumours number someone should revisit. Blues roots still crop up on the spatial, loose, Hendrix-tinged "Underway," the folky blues tale of a lesbian affair on "Like Crying," and the final outcry of the ever-poignant "Show Biz Blues," with Green moaning "do you really give a damn for me?" Then Play On is a reminder of how pervasive and powerful Green's influence was on Mac's originality and individual stance beyond his involvement. Still highly recommended and a must-buy after all these years, it remains their magnum opus.

I don't necessarily agree with the "predicting Rumours" stuff. All I know is it's pretty damned good!


Blogger Keith Kennedy said...

I love this album and it is often overlooked in the maze of mass marketing that became Fleetwood Mac.

Good call.

11:29 AM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Beth said...

I'm bouncing in my desk chair, squealing over the brilliance that is Then Played On. "Oh Well" is one of the greatest overlooked songs ... ever. I have an MP3 of Joe Jackson performing a darn good cover (and I've heard him play it live, too).

Excellent post, Haahnster.

3:21 PM, September 04, 2007  

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