Review: Mick Fleetwood and Friends Pay Homage to a Greener Side of the Blues

Mick Fleetwood & Friends/Celebrate the Music of Peter Green and the Early Years of Fleetwood Mac/BMG
Five out of Five Stars

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Given the number of personnel changes Fleetwood Mac’s undergone in the course of a career that spans nearly six decades, it’s of little wonder that their sound and style has changed accordingly. It’s also not surprising that many people know them only as the mega-selling superstars of the ‘70s, who, after the recruitment of Lindsey Buckingham and Steve Nicks, scaled the top of the charts and ruled radio and record store shelves for several decades after. Those folks will likely be cheered by the recent release of an expanded version of Fleetwood Mac Live, originally a double disc set that effectively summed up the group’s trajectory in the wake of Fleetwood Mac (the album), Rumors, Tusk, and the ongoing attention reaped by each. With an extra disc of unreleased offerings, it ought to satisfy those whose devotion to the band was realized when they were at the peak of their prime.

There are others who still cherish the original outfit, as spearheaded by the group’s namesakes, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, and their seminal guitarist Peter Green. A blues band in the strictest sense, they were responsible for such classics as “Man of the World,” “Rattlesnake Shake,” “Love That Burns,” “Albatross,” “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown),” “Shake Your Money Maker,” “Oh Well,” and, of course, the song that was indelibly inscribed in the annals of modern music when Santana did the remake, “Black Magic Woman.” 

Naturally, early on, Mac bore a sound that was decidedly different from the soft pop, Top 40-friendly approach they procured later on. Nevertheless, it made the group one of the prime movers of the initial British blues boom, forever etching a lasting legacy that remains intact even in spite of the myriad of changes that would transpire in the decades following. 

Green departed the band in 1970 following his introduction to LSD and the consequences of erratic behavior, although he carried on with a solo career that kept his efforts in the public eye. Prior to his death last July, his former colleague and longtime friend Mick Fleetwood organized an all-star live tribute that gathered together an impressive list of big-name luminaries from both sides of the Atlantic. Among them, Mac expatriates, Jeremy Spencer and Rick Vito, current keyboardist and vocalist Christine McVie, and any number of admirers and fellow travelers—John Mayall (from whose band, Bluesbreakers, the original Fleetwood Mac was spawned), Peter Townshend, David Gilmour, Noel Gallagher, Steven Tyler, Neil Finn, Billy Gibbons, Jonny Lang, Bill Wyman, Kirk Hammett and various others as well. The resulting release, Mick Fleetwood & Friends Celebrate the Music of Peter Green and the Early Years of Fleetwood Mac, captures the energy and emotion of that February evening in London just prior to the pandemic.

For those who are unfamiliar with that early incarnation of the Mac, the album— available as two CDs and a Blu-ray or as a four LP set with or without the Blu-Ray— neatly encapsulates that earlier era. To their credit, the majority of the musicians don’t attempt to overshadow the songs with their own singular stamp, although Tyler offers his usual over-the-top antics on “Rattlesnake Shake” and Townshend’s take on “Like Crying” adds a bluster and bravado that exceeds the original. Notably though, the rest of the artists refrain from any indulgence, paying heed to the music and reverence to the subject of the show himself. And while Mayall might have been forgiven if he attempted to take center stage (Fleetwood introduces him as their “mentor”), his version of “All Your Love” is respectably restrained as to give homage to the original. So too, Neil Finn’s take on “Man of the World” provides the proceedings with one of its mellower moments.

That said, the emotion hit a peak with the surprise appearance of another Mac original, Jeremy Spencer, who appeared alongside Bill Wyman for a rendition of “The Sky is Crying” for a well-tempered blend of nuance and nostalgia. 

In a sense, the entire event provides a catharsis of sorts, a remembrance that’s now all the more memorable and meaningful in the wake of Green’s passing. Notably too, the event allowed for a reunion of many aging music veterans of the ‘60s and ‘70s, an occurrence that finds a resonance all of its own.

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