Monday, 3 June 2019

Fleetwood Mac






--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The albums covered here are:-

Fleetwood Mac (1968)
The Pious Bird Of Good Omen (1969)
Blues Jam In Chicago (1969)
Crazy About The Blues  (1970)
Rumours (1970)
and Don't Stop - 50 Years Compilation

Scroll down to read the reviews.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

FLEETWOOD MAC (1968)

1. My Heart Beat Like A Hammer
2. Merry-Go-Round
3. Long Grey Mare
4. Hellhound On My Trail
5. Shake Your Moneymaker
6. Looking For Somebody
7. No Place To Go
8. My Baby's Good To Me
9. I Loved Another Woman
10. Cold Black Night
11. The World Keep On Turning
12. Got To Move         

Fleetwood Mac's debut, blues-soaked album, featuring the now legendary talents of guitarist Peter Green, the album followed, quite belatedly, in the bluesy footsteps of The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, John Mayall's Blues Breakers, The Kinks, Chris Farlowe, Them and The Animals to name just a few who caught the blues bug in the mid sixties.
                                
The first track, My Heart Beat Like A Hammer is a strident, lively blues rocker, as is the blues guitar-driven magnificence of Merry-Go-RoundLong Grey Mare sounds like an old blues cover, but it is, in fact, a Peter Green song. The stark, piano-driven Hellhound On My Trail is the real thing, a Robert Johnson song, but it is less blues rock than the others, funnily enough. Elmore James's Shake Your Moneymaker is in direct contrast, though, as searing a slice of blues guitar you will have trouble finding. It rocks at a hundred miles an hour from beginning to end.

  

Looking For Somebody is another authentic-sounding Green song, featuring some intoxicating harmonica from him. Chester Burnett'No Place To Go is a slow burning, grinding blues, with a thumping, typical metronomic beat and more superb harmonica. As I said in another of my reviews of early Fleetwood Mac, it is incredible just how different the two incarnations of the band were. Basically, they are two different bands, despite the name. My Baby's Good To Me has an excellent, convincing vocal and more wonderful slide guitar from Jeremy Spencer. "She got a fine pair of legsmy baby's a sight to see..." They don't write 'em like that anymore!

I Loved Another Woman is an atmospheric. Deep, bassy blues chugger with shades of Black Magic Woman. I just love the full, rich sound on this one. Cold Black Night ploughs the same fertile furrow and is another great track. It ends abruptly, however. These songs sound so authentic too, yet they are self-penned. The World Keeps Turning is a stark, acoustic blues guitar and vocal track that sounds so "Delta", it's untrue. Got To Move is a cover and is energetic in its delivery, with an impassioned vocal, with some more stonking slide guitar. Overall, an impressive and totally uncommercial debut album.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

THE PIOUS BIRD OF GOOD OMEN (1969)

1. Need Your Love So Bad
2. Coming Home
3. Rambling Pony
4. The Big Boat
5. I Believe My Time Ain't Long
6. The Sun Is Shining
7. Albatross
8. Black Magic Woman
9. Just The Blues
10. Jigsaw Puzzle Blues
11. Looking For Somebody
12. Stop Messin' Around                   

Yet another UK blues rock band from the mid to late sixties showing just how they could play the blues is they were straight from the Southern USA and were ageing black musicians. They were not, they were young lads from the UK and the music they came up with was incredibly authentic. John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Cream, Free, The Kinks (at times), The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Duster Bennett, Jellybread, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Alexis Korner, Chicken Shack, Top Topham… the list is endless. Fleetwood Mac, in  this incarnation, were not, of course, the stadium gigging “AOL” superband of the mid seventies. They played the blues and they played them straight. A bit scratchy and raw at times, but isn’t that part of the appeal?

This album, with its marvellously pretentious title, was released in 1969. It is basically a compilation of the band's first four singles and their "b' sides. Need Your Love So Bad is the slow, stately blues that many people know. Coming Home is a cutting, grinding, industrial slab of pure blues rock. Rambling Pony is even more authentic, blues-wise. The Big Boat is straight from the Mississippi Delta. Indeed, pretty much all the material is copper-bottomed plus rock of the highest quality, featuring excellent guitar throughout from the prodigiously talented Peter Green. The two exceptions are the popular hit singles, the huge number one brooding, mournful instrumental Albatross and the catchy Black Magic Woman. While the latter is definitely bluesy, it has an addictive refrain that renders it more accessible than some of the other tracks. It is, however, a great blues single. It was later covered, successfully and convincingly, by Santana.

 

The guitar on Just The Blues is razor sharp. One of the best moments on the album. This is a track that features blues artist Eddie Boyd, with Fleetwood Mac on backing. The other is The Big Boat. In fact, Just The Blues is probably my favourite cut from the album. Jigsaw Puzzle Blues is a jaunty instrumental, referencing the track from The Rolling Stones’ Beggars’ Banquet.

This is a great album of its time and genre. Blues rock was just so strong in the UK at this time. By the time the seventies came around, its light was fading, which was a shame.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

BLUES JAM IN CHICAGO (1969)

 

Recorded on 4th of January 1969

Fleetwood Mac are one of those groups who had two totally different incarnations. This is very much part of the early Chicago blues-based Peter Green version. Green, John McVieDanny KirwanMick Fleetwood and Jeremy Spencer meet up in Chicago with legendary bluesers Willie DixonOtis SpannBuddy Guy and David “Honeyboy” Edwards among others to produce a virtually ad hoc album of genuine, axle-grease soaked blues.

It was all done in a day, and yes, it is rough and ready, to an extent, with some between song chatter before they get into their groove, and a few false starts here and there. Once they hit it, though, oh Lordy. This is the essential Fleetwood Mac, for me, a million miles away from Rumours and drenched in the blues. Peter Green’s guitar is superb throughout, as indeed is all the instrumentation. It must have been heaven for the Chicago blues fans of Fleetwood Mac to play at their spiritual home like this. You can just tell they loved it.

There are two volumes that were released and on both the sound quality is stunningly good, especially considering their age and spontaneous nature. The albums don’t really lend themselves to track by track analysis, just put either of them on,  put your feet up and let the blues wash all over you.

Volume One

1. Watch Out
2. Ooh Baby
3. South Indiana
4. Last Night
5. Red Hot Jam
6. I’m Worried
7. I Held My Baby Last Night
8. Madison Blues
9. I Can’t Hold Out
10. I Need Your Love
11. I Got The Blues                                      


Volume Two


1. World’s In A Tangle
2. Talk With You
3. Like It This Way
4. Some Day Soon
5. Hungry Country Girl
6. Black Jack Blues
7. Everyday I Have The Blues
8. Rockin’ Boogie
9. My Baby’s Gone
10. Sugar Mama
11. Homework
12. Honey Boy Blues
13. I Need Your Love
14. Horton’s Boogie Woogie
15. Have A Good Time
16. That’s Wrong
17. Rock Me Baby


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
CRAZY ABOUT THE BLUES (1970)

1. Hey Baby
2. It's You I Miss
3. Gone Into The Sun
4. Tell Me You Need Me
5. Crazy About You (Can't Hold Out Much Longer)
6. Down At The Crown
7. Tell Me All The Things You Do
8. Station Man
9. Purple Dancer
10. Station Man
11. Crazy About You (Can't Hold Out Much Longer)
12. One Together
13. I Can't Stop Loving Her
14. Lonely Without You
15. Tell Me All The Things You Do
16. Jewel-Eyed Judy            

This is a compilation of early Fleetwood Mac material from 1969-1970, including both studio and live material - which feature the line-up featuring Jeremy Spencer and the recently-deceased Danny Kirwan (June 2018). Peter Green had left by now. The first four tracks are from Christine Perfect's pre-Fleetwood Mac "Christine Perfect Band".
                                  
The Christine Perfect tracks are all excellent, both in delivery and sound quality. The bluesy Hey Baby and It's You I Miss are followed by two more folky, ethereal tracks, which see Christine sounding almost Fairport Convention-esque, particularly on Gone Into The Sun.

Tell Me That You Need Me ends up quite rocky. Christine continues on vocals on the upbeat, lively Crazy About You (Can't Hold Out Much Longer). This song really reminds me of something else in places, but I am not sure what, something by Paul Weller, I think. Broken Stones, possibly, but faster. The guitar on this is seriously good. It is amazing just how different early Fleetwood Mac were from their stadium rock eventual incarnation. Down At The Crown is sort of beardy pubby folk meets blues rock. Not the best cut, but still in possession of some powerful guitar. The first take of Tell Me All The Things You Do is nowhere near as good as the second (live) one that is included, either in sound quality or performance.

  

Station Man is a more convincing blues rocker, with a nice, melodious bass hook. Purple Dancer is a bit hippy-ish, with hints of folky psychedelia. It is better in its live format, however. You do feel, though, that without Green, the band had lost some of its innate bluesiness.

The final seven tracks are all live, which, although retaining a little bit of hiss to the sound, have a raw "upstairs at a London pub" sort of live appeal. The second, extended cut of Tell Me All The Things You Do is a great slab of searing, guitar-driven blues rock and is a suitable epitaph for the guitar talents of Danny Kirwan. Indeed, Christine McVie named the track exactly thus, speaking after his death.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

RUMOURS (1977)

1. Second Hand News
2. Dreams
3. Never Going Back Again
4. Don't Stop
5. Go Your Own Way
6. Songbird
7. Silver Springs
8. The Chain
9. You Make Loving Fun
10. I Don't Want To Know
11. Oh Daddy
12. Gold Dust Woman   

What is there to say about Rumours that hasn't already been said? The living soap opera of an album played out against a background of inter-band relationships, affairs, splits and divorces - John & Christine McVie - acrimonious divorce; Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks - relationship split; Nicks and Mick Fleetwood - affair. At least ABBA managed to stay relatively dignified during similar implosions. This was all played out pretty publicly. God knows how this album ever got produced and the fact it became the best selling pop album of all time is remarkable. Of course, a lot of these salacious revelations have come out years after the album was released and at the time many people had no idea what was going on. Those balls hanging down on the cover, though. Strange.

It is also surprising that the album was so successful, released, as it was at the height of punk, when "old AOR music" such as this was supposed to be despised and sacrificed on the altar of The Pistols, The Clash and The Ramones. The funny thing is, and was, that Rumours rode happily on despite all this, accepted by everyone as a good album, transcending trends and continuing to do so all these years later. It is almost immune from criticism, for some reason. It is a timeless album that appealed then, appealed in the eighties, and nineties and into the new millennium.

  

For me, although I do not dislike it, I have never absolutely loved it, although there are so many tracks on there that are pretty much impossible to dislike. It is certainly not essential listening in my world, although I own it. I didn't get it in 1977, though. I didn't need to. It was all over the radio. I knew loads of tracks from it before I even bought it, many years later. In 1977, nice, well-brought up girls bought it, punks certainly did not, neither did blokes in general. It was probably different in the US, where it was phenomenally successful.

For those who don't know the album, (I can't believe there are many who don't), it is a masterpiece of so-called "adult oriented rock", very West Coast, a mixture of hook-laden harmonious rock, country rock with a bit of folk thrown in. Electric guitars, acoustic guitars, solid drums, infectious keyboards and perfect female vocals all merge beautifully together with some of the highest quality sound you will experience. It is one of those albums that gets played in hi-fi shops to demonstrate the quality of their equipment.
                       
The highlights are many. Mine are the hauntingly beautiful Stevie Nicks song, Dreams and Christine McVie's stunningly appealing Songbird. The mainstream radio driving hits are thoroughly irresistible, one has to admit - Don't Stop, You Make Loving Fun and Go Your Own Way. There are also lesser-mentioned gems like the folky Never Going Back Again and the two distinct parts of the beguiling rock of The Chain, familiar for years as BBC's motor racing theme. Nicks' ethereal slow country-ish vibe of Silver Springs is entrancing too, particularly as Nicks changes character from winsome to aggressive as the song develops. Then there is the bluesy Gold Dust Woman with Nicks sounding like Patti Smith. Another rarely mentioned good one.

So there you go, an album out of its time, never in any era. It just exists. It will no doubt be shifting copies in hundreds of years' time.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DON'T STOP - 50 YEARS

 

I am exactly the sort of Fleetwood Mac fan that this excellent compilation is aimed at. Yes, I have all the early blues albums from the Peter Green period, Rumours and Tango In The Night but that's as far as it goes for me with the Mac. So, this one suits me fine. I am not sure whether the remasters on here are new ones done specifically for this collection or whether they are taken from the recent "deluxe edition" remasters of their classic albums. Either way, I have to say that the sound quality is simply superb. (Just trying to ascertain it, I think the remasters date from 2015). Check out Seven Wonders or Don't Stop as they pound out of your speakers and you realise that, as clich├ęd a band as they were in the seventies, rather like The Eagles, for what they did, there were not many better. The musicianship is peerless and the vocals of either Stevie Nicks or Christine McVie (or both of them in their perfect harmony) are sumptuous. Both melodious and strong when necessary.

You can't move for 50th anniversary collections at the moment and this, of course, in this case, (as with all of them) emphasises that Fleetwood Mac have been around for one hell of a long time. They are one of those bands that had two incarnations - the early, raw bluesy one featuring the talents of guitarist Peter Green is completely different to the West Coast, easy rock of the one most people will be buying this collection for. No group had two so utterly different styles under the same group name and some of the same members. Yes, that smooth, easy on the ear, warm sound of tracks like Think About Me or Love Shines, the slick disco of Family Man, the radio-friendly pop of Oh Diane and the huge hits from Rumours is pretty irresistible at times, but, for me, you can't beat that stonking early blues sound. So, I urge people not to dismiss that part of their career and try not to listen to the seventies/eighties material only. Highlights are Black Magic WomanShake Your MoneymakerNeed Your Love So BadMan Of The World and Station Man. These are all energetic, muscular blues cuts of the highest quality, dating from the British Blues Explosion of the mid-late sixties. Fleetwood Mac came in at the end of that, but they were good, of that there is no doubt. Check out the psychedelic, dreamy rock of Hypnotized too.

So, as a "casual" Fleetwood Mac kind of guy I can heartily recommend this to anyone of a similar outlook. It is a really enjoyable listen from a quality band(s).

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------