Mick Fleetwood - drums, percussion; Peter Green - vocals, guitar, six-string bass; Danny Kirwan - vocals, guitar; John McVie - bass; Jeremy Spencer - vocals, slide guitar, congas, percussion
After distinguishing himself and achieving a level of recognition in Europe, like Eric Clapton before him, Peter Green departed John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in 1967, freeing himself of employment and artistic restrictions. However, unlike most of the British guitar greats, Green was never concerned with flash or becoming a guitar superstar. This humble attitude and his approach to music made him one of the most compelling of all the British guitar players of the '60s. Green could play an incisive and clean style perfectly, but was equally adept at playing with tremendous power. His style was highly nuanced without ever relying on cliches. This made listening to anything Green had to say with his guitar a rewarding experience. Many of his originals have a timeless quality that still sounds fresh and intriguing today. Green was the chief architect of Fleetwood Mac's music, providing the bulk of their original and pure blues material. His playing could be wonderfully restrained one minute and powerfully explosive the next, marked by a distinctive vibrato and economy of style. Initially, Jeremy Spencer was the band's other faction. Spencer could authentically recreate Elmore James onstage and this novel ability, along with a ribald sense of humor (that the entire band shared), helped fuel the band's early stage shows.
In 1968, Green recruited Boilerhouse guitarist, Danny Kirwan into the band, expanding the lineup to a quintet. Kirwan too, had a guitar style that was utterly unique and his presence dramatically changed the sound of the band, increasing the dynamics and Green's creativity level soared as a result. Over the course of 1969 and 1970, their live performances would reach stratospheric heights as the group began exploring music outside the traditional blues format. Fleetwood Mac's live intensity level dramatically increased which captivated American audiences and enamored them to many of the San Francisco music elite. Green's innate apprehension toward the business side of the music industry and his obsessive nature regarding his music paralleled the musical vibe of many of the San Francisco bands. They soon became friends with the Grateful Dead and were exposed to the musical and cultural vibe surrounding the group. This, in conjunction with their first exposure to LSD, had a profound impact on Green. His songwriting became far more diverse, the group's live performances more open-ended, and Green and Kirwin began embracing heavy improvisation, taking their music in new directions. When they entered the studio in mid-1969 to record the groundbreaking Then Play On album, both Green and Kirwan were armed with an abundance of exciting new material that was far more progressive than anything the band had done before.
This previously unheard Fleetwood Mac recording captures the band during this final year of the classic lineup. This run of shows, featuring the Flock, Fleetwood Mac and their friends, the Grateful Dead, has been forever immortalized in the Dead's classic song "Truckin'," as this was the New Orleans' engagement where members of the Dead and crew were arrested on drug charges. Originally the run was scheduled for the previous two nights, but Fleetwood Mac agreed to hang out for another day and a last minute third show was added on the afternoon of February 1, 1970 to help defray the legal costs involved in the Dead's bust.
This Fleetwood Mac set is unique among shows from this era as it not only contains some of the incendiary jamming they had been developing over the course of the past year, but also features the group digging back into their catalogue, performing several older gems as well.
Like many of the sets during this era, the band warms up with Peter Green's "Sandy Mary," a straightforward Chuck Berry style rocker, followed by Dany Kirwin's "Like It This Way." The next two songs provide Jeremy Spencer a showcase for his celebrated Elmore James-style workouts. Here, the band provides solid support while Spencer sizzles on slide guitar on the relaxing grooves of "Got To Move" and "Madison Blues." Although Spencer's role in the band was diminishing by this point, he is particularly active on this set and these are both exciting performances that bring diversity to the band's repertoire. Following this, the band delivers a lovely version of this classic Green instrumental, "Albatross." This is a prime example of less is more, with Green playing wonderfully delicate lead over the song's infectious floating groove. His restraint, combined with Kirwan's perfect unison lead lines, make this performance thoroughly captivating. There is zero superfluous playing here and Green squeezes deep emotion out of every note. The group next ventures back into their catalogue, resurrecting two songs rarely performed during this era. First up is "Doctor Brown," a rhythmically driving Buster Brown/Wayman Glasco number from the band's Mr. Wonderful album , followed by the bluesy Danny Kirwan original "Talk With You."
The group really begins flexing their improvisational muscles with a frighteningly intense take on "Green Manalishi." After the initial vocal section, the band blazes into a ferocious jam, before everyone but Green and Fleetwood drop out, giving Green an opportunity to solo on six-string bass. Clocking in at 15 minutes, this isn't quite as expansive as the versions played later in the year, but it clearly shows the more freeform direction that Peter Green was heading for. The loose instrumental workout on Danny Kirwan's "Comin' Your Way" provides additional opportunities for improvisation as they expand it to nearly three times the length of the familiar studio recording that kicked off "Then Play On." This features intricate call and response between Green and Kirwin, and showcases wonderfully expressive guitar playing from both. With limited time, the group brings their set to a close with Spencer again fronting the band for a high energy romp through 1950's teen idol Fabian's "Tiger" and Peter Green then leading the group through a raw crunchy encore of "Twist And Shout." Although not as exploratory as their own headlining shows of this era, this recording nonetheless captures the classic Peter Green era of Fleetwood Mac at what was arguably the most creative time of their all too brief career. The telepathic communication between Kirwan and Green was elevating their music to astounding levels. As this performance clearly shows, Fleetwood Mac were now reaching well beyond their bluesy roots, and Peter Green had become one of the most original and compelling guitar players on the planet.
-Written by Alan Bershaw