BY A.D. AMOROSI
If you’re looking at old school white boy blues while looking away (for the moment) from Eric Clapton, the late-‘60s/early-‘70s catalog of Britain’s Fleetwood Mac is a great place to start. Fleetwood Mac: 1969-1972 is Rhino’s 140-gram vinyl 4-LP album boxed set (with a 7-inch of “Oh Well – Pt. 1” b/w “Pt. 2”) dedicated to the Mac’s transition from dusted, gritty, blackened blues ensemble to something slightly whiter and lighter.
We meet this Mac in 1969 with blues buster Peter Green at the height of his prowess despite his epic ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs. His physicalization of what psychedelia had to offer certainly cobalt-colored the blues of that year’s crafty Then Play On. After maintaining its rhythmic roots in Mick Fleetwood and John McVie (both of whom, with Green, were part of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers) and recording the classics in Chicago with Otis Spann and Willie Dixon, Then Play On found its most recent additions—guitarist Danny Kirwan, slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer and un-credited keyboardist/vocalist Christine Perfect—abetting Green through rugged-yet-fussy blues jolts such as “Rattlesnake Shake” and “Fighting for Madge.”
Their next album, the underrated dirty blues of Kiln House of 1970 (hear it here for yourself in a sparkling mix), highlighted the druggy slide stylings of Spencer and Kirwan’s fascination with American rock-n-boogie; by this point a fragile-of-mind Green had left the band. Then the next two recordings—Future Games of 1971 and Bare Trees from 1972—found Perfect (now McVie) and new guitarist/vocalist Bob Welch, mining the folksier, soulful side of rural blues (check out her shimmering “Spare Me a Little of Your Love”) and pickled, light pop courtesy Welch’s wifty “Sentimental Lady.” This march through the Mac, to most, sounded like a move away from the blues. Yet, listen to the sad solace of “Bare Trees” and its mellow, moody song craft. The rhythm section may have chilled and Welch, Kirwan and McVie may have played it softly, but tunes such as “Thoughts on a Grey Day” and “The Ghost” aren’t so very far from their bluesy roots. There was—at that point—just less bluster to go with the Mac’s mournful tones.
Ain’t that some kind of blues?
DOWNLOAD: “Oh Well,” “Bare Trees,” “Station Man”