Fleetwood Mac (1968)
My Heart Beat Like A Hammer/Merry-Go-Round/Long Grey Mare/Hellhound On My Trail/Shake Your Moneymaker/Looking For Somebody/No Place To Go/My Baby's Good To Me/I Loved Another Woman/Cold Black Night/The World Keep On Turning/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-Round. Long 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's 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 legs, my 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.
Mr. Wonderful (1968)
Stop Messin' Round/I've Lost My Baby/Rollin' Man/Dust My Broom/Love That Burns/Doctor Brown/Need Your Love Tonight/If You Be My Baby/Evenin' Boogie/Lazy Poker Blues/Coming Home/Trying So Hard To Forget
This was Fleetwood Mac's second album of fine British blues rock. Released in August 1968, it added to the band of of the first album with a horn section and also Christine McVie, then of Chicken Shack, on keyboards. The horn section is never dominating, however, always gently underpinning the drums and guitar. Some have criticised the album for simply being more of the same, but I have no problem with it. It is quality blues rock and has outstanding sound reproduction too, and that is fine by me. As for the cover photo of an emaciated (and demented) looking Mick Fleetwood, though, I am not so positive there.
Stop Messin' Round is a live-sounding solid blues featuring a really clear, separated stereo sound, great drums and some fine, sharp guitar breaks. Indeed, the album was recorded "live" in the studio, so to speak, by microphones as opposed to directly from the sound board. Therein lies much of the album's grotty, earthy, authentic appeal. I've Lost My Baby has a delicious, deep bass sound and more searing blues guitar. Rollin' Man is an incredibly catchy, shuffling, upbeat blues groover. Elmore James' Dust My Broom had been covered by many artists, but Mac still do it justice. Check out that superb guitar.
Love That Burns is a sumptuous slow blues featuring some impressive subtle horn backing. Doctor Brown is a typical, rousing, driving piece of blues rock. Need Your Love Tonight is similarly rocking, using the same old riffs, for sure but if you like them, you like them. If You Be My Baby slows the pace down a bit, but the drums still power it along with more of that knife through butter guitar. Evenin' Boogie is a rollicking instrumental featuring some saxophone up front for the first time.
Lazy Poker Blues rocks, as does Coming Home, while Trying So Hard To Forget is classic slow Delta blues. There is not much more that can be said about the album, really, it is 24-carat blues and if you like blues rock, you will like it.
** The non-album track, the brooding, bassy I Held My Baby Last Night is a fine cut too. Mystery Boogie is a lively, enjoyable instrumental.
English Rose (1969)
Stop Messin' Round/Jigsaw Puzzle Blues/Doctor Brown/Something Inside Of Me/Evenin' Boogie/Love That Burns/Black Magic Woman/I've Lost My Baby/One Sunny Day/Without You/Coming Home/Albatross
This was 1968's second Fleetwood Mac album, tweaked a bit and released in different form in early 1969 for the US market. The band also increased from a four piece to a five-man outfit with the inclusion of guitarist Danny Kirwan. It also featured another pretty grotesque appearance by Mick Fleetwood on the cover, this time in drag.
These early Fleetwood Mac albums were a bit like early Beatles and Rolling Stones ones in that some were for the UK market and some for the US, and some crossing over of tracks between albums took place.
Six tracks were from Mr. Wonderful. The new tracks that were not on that album were - Jigsaw Puzzle Blues is a solidly bluesy instrumental, featuring some nice bass, that uses the Rolling Stones song in its title; the muscular, slow-burning Something Inside Of Me; the now iconic, infectious single Black Magic Woman, which was, of course, recorded two years later by Santana; One Sunny Day, which was a searing slice of psychedelic guitar-driven blues (check out that knife through butter guitar); the plaintive slow, bassy blues of Without You and the instrumental number one single, the brooding Albatross.
On reflection, I feel that this is the better of the two albums, in that the tracks that replaced those from the previous album are better than those they took the place of. It stands alone as a really good album.
The Pious Bird Of Good Omen (1969)
Need Your Love So Bad/Coming Home/Rambling Pony/The Big Boat/I Believe My Time Ain't Long/The Sun Is Shining/Albatross/Black Magic Woman/Just The Blues/Jigsaw Puzzle Blues/Looking For Somebody/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 McVie, Danny Kirwan, Mick Fleetwood and Jeremy Spencer meet up in Chicago with legendary bluesers Willie Dixon, Otis Spann, Buddy 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.
Then Play On (1969)
Coming Your Way/Closing My Eyes/Fighting For Madge/When You Say/Showbiz Blues/Underway/One Sunny Day/Although The Sun Is Shining/Rattlesnake Shake/Without You/Searching For Madge/My Dream/Like Crying/Before The Beginning
This album, from September 1969, the last to feature Peter Green and barely featuring Jeremy Spencer saw Fleetwood Mac shift direction away from searing, guitar-driven, gritty blues to a slightly more psychedelic, laid-back, hippy style. The blues is still there in a lot of the guitar sound, but there is definitely far more of a hippy dreaminess to the group's sound now. It is the beginning of the more gentle rock sound that featured on the series of albums that would take the band up to their huge sea change in 1975.
The sound on the album is ok, but it is not quite as good as on the previous albums. It could probably due with losing a couple of tracks as it is a bit sprawling, but that is nit-picking, really. The cover also gives a clue as to the future direction, as it has gone very proggy.
Two Danny Kirwan tracks from the English Rose album from earlier in the year appear again - One Sunny Day and Without You.
Coming Your Way is a rhythmic, percussion-driven serving of laid-back bluesy hippiness. Closing My Eyes is a sleepy, slightly proggy ballad. It features a nice Spanish guitar part in the middle. Fighting For Madge is a riffy, upbeat instrumental. When You Say is a bit of a dirge-like ballad with a clumsy "la-la-la" chorus. The blues are back on the lively slide guitar-driven stomp of Showbiz Blues. Underway, an instrumental, is a nice, understated, bassy sort of speeded-up Albatross and Although The Sun Is Shining is an ethereal, dreamy acoustic ballad, nothing like anything the group had done previously.
Rattlesnake Shake is the album's most authentic grinding blues rock number and it is no surprise that it was a Peter Green track, his last great bluesy contribution to the group. It is a fine slice of blues rock and is probably the album's best cut. Searching For Madge is a good one too - over six minutes of rocking blues jamming of the sort that appeared on the group's Live Blues Jam In Chicago albums. The band get into a live-sounding bass and drum groove and simply keep it up, despite a brief pause a couple of minutes in. Mick Fleetwood's drum solo, however "seventies" it may undoubtedly be, displays his innate rhythmic ability. It is very Ginger Baker-ish.
My Dream is a gentle, melodic, light guitar instrumental. Like Crying is a blues, but a folky one. The final track, Before The Beginning, perhaps appropriately, is a Peter Green one, and is a slow, brooding number with an Albatross-style backing. Overall, the album is a bit of a transitional one. I prefer the bluesy urgency of the earlier ones, and the improved sound and melody of those that were to come.
** Two excellent non-album tracks were the proggy two parts of Oh Well and the glorious hippy psychedelia of The Green Manalishi. The catchy, slow but tuneful instrumental World In Harmony is appealing too.
Crazy About The Blues (1970)
Hey Baby/It's You I Miss/Gone Into The Sun/Tell Me You Need Me/Crazy About You (Can't Hold Out Much Longer)/Down At The Crown/Tell Me All The Things You Do/Station Man/Purple Dancer/Station Man/Crazy About You (Can't Hold Out Much Longer)/One Together/I Can't Stop Loving Her/Lonely Without You/Tell Me All The Things You Do/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.
Kiln House (1970)
This Is The Rock/Station Man/Blood On The Floor/Hi Ho Silver/Jewel Eyed Judy/Buddy's Song/Earl Grey/One Together/Tell Me All The Things You Do/Mission Bell
Released in September 1970, this was the first Fleetwood Mac album without guitarist Peter Green, and Jeremy Spencer would be making his final appearance.
Keyboardist/singer/songwriter Christine McVie did join the band, unofficially, however. It marked the beginning of the end of the original band and start of a new period for them, but although the previous album, Then Play On, had been more acoustic/prog rock orientated, this one still had quite a bit of blues about it. I really like it. It is a blues rock record in places, but one made by a band having a little fun while they did it. I have seen it compared to The Rolling Stones' Between The Buttons, and I can hear why. It is certainly not as bluesily intense as the earlier Peter Green material, but it points the way for the next direction the group would take. The dreamy hippy-style cover was a pointer too.
This Is The Rock is an upbeat piece of Sun Records era Elvis-ish country rock with a bluesy edge, blues being used in other musical contexts, while Station Man is solid, bassy blues. Check out that great guitar. It is an excellent track. Mick Fleetwood's drums and John McVie's bassy merge together most impressively near the end of the track.
Blood On The Floor is a lachrymose country twanger that taped in to the country rock boom of the period. Hi Ho Silver (nothing to do with the Jeff Beck song) is a country/blues rock stomper with many nods to Big Joe Turner's Honey Hush. It rocks convincingly from beginning to end, driven along by some superb Danny Kirwan guitar. Kirwan also shines on the laid-back strains of Jewel Eyed Judy, this time on vocals as well. It is a fine example of early seventies rock.
Jeremy Spencer's Buddy's Song is a tribute to Buddy Holly, packed full of Peggy Sue-style rolling drums and suitably hiccuppy vocals. Spencer was always the most "rock 'n' roll" of the band. Earl Grey is an instrumental showcasing Danny Kirwan once more. It is like a slightly more tuneful and faster Albatross. One Together has a pleasing, gentle dream rhythm and melody. Again, it is a bit country rock in style with vocal harmonies, something the group didn't really do before. It is a bit Beach Boys-esque from the same era. Tell Me All The Things You Do is an addictive rocker, featuring some great wah-wah guitar. Along with Station Man, it is the best cut on the album.
Mission Bell sounds like something from Paul McCartney's McCartney album, with hints of Buddy Holly too, and it ends the album with a definite expression of how the group would sound over the next few years. This one definitely marked the end of Fleetwood Mac as a blues outfit for good.