Superb collection of previously unheard Mac at the height of their pre-AOR powers
Where would any serious music lover be without the BBC, whose archives over the years have been lovingly preserved and made available to the public. From Bowie, Hendrix and Cream, to Led Zeppelin and even Syd Barrett, the BBC has acted as a sort modern day Library of Alexandria when it comes to capturing live performance. Therefore it should come as no surprise that sooner or later the original lineup of Fleetwood Mac’s own sessions would eventually see the light of day.
Fleetwood Mac Live At The BBC is comprised of recordings made at various locations between 1967 and 1971, which means that despite the title, Peter Green does not appear on every performance. In fact, 6 of the 36 tracks presented here do not feature Green at all, as the guitarist had departed from the group in May 1970, having decided that being one of England’s most celebrated guitarists just wasn’t for him.
“Rattlesnake Shake,” which opens the first side, is the longest track, lasting for over 7 minutes, and a fine example of how potent Fleetwood Mac was as a blues-rock outfit by 1970. “Sandy Mary” and “Only You,” from the same Radio 1 session, capture Mac at their rawest, while “I Believe My Time Ain’t Long” reveals guitarist Jeremy Spencer’s gift for imitating Elmore James, a talent for mickery that was a trademark on the bands early albums.
There is a spirited, albeit brief “Oh Well,” one of Green’s finest compositions (“Black Magic Woman” is another, although doesn’t appear in this collection), along with soulful renditions of “Jumping At Shadows,” “Preachin’ Blues” and “Need Your Love So Bad.” And while Green’s penchant for the blues is on full display, Jeremy Spencer’s love of ‘50s rock does seem a little out of place, especially numbers like the Elvis inspired “You’ll Never Know What You’re Missing,” “Jenny Lee,” “Heavenly,” and a cover of Phil Everly’s “When Will I Be Loved.”
The second disc contains a couple of Green’s most well known tunes, namely “Albatross” and “Man Of The World,” the former a meditative instrumental on which one can almost smell the sea sir, while the former a melancholic insight into Green’s state of mind. Green, Spencer and third guitarist Danny Kirwan combine forces on a stirring “Sweet Home Chicago,” before Green resurrects his days with John Mayhall’s Bluesbreakers with a fine rendition of “Long Grey Mare.” Spencer lets it rip on Elmore James’ “Baby Please Set A Date” and “Can’t Hold Out,” before a gritty cover of Little Walter’s “Blues With A Feeling.” “Early Morning Come,” a solo acoustic performance by Danny Kirwan is an unexpected surprise, as is Peter’s “A Fool No More,” a slow blues from 1967, that contains some intense guitar playing.
Fleetwood Mac were at the vanguard of the British blues movement in the 1960s, whose no nonsense approach to their craft was often in contrast to many of their peers at the time, such as Cream, The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck etc, who tended to adopt a far more progressive direction compared to Green’s ‘less is more’ style of playing, a style more in tune with B.B. King than Jimmy Page.
Live At The BBC offers a priceless insight into the bands early years, before they relocated to LA in the mid ‘70s and began to increase the national GDP of Columbia. Fans of 1977’s Rumours and Tango In The Night (from 1987) will probably be perplexed as to what all the fuss is about, but no question, Peter Green was and remains one of the finest exemplars of blues guitar, despite his many protestations to the contrary.