Blues Bytes


May 2023

Peter Green
The Best of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac
Warner Brothers

Peter Green

Like many blues fans my age, I came across the blues listening to artists like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, etc. Iin other words, the guitarists that we had access to recordings from in the early/mid ’80s, since there weren’t a lot of blues records in your local record store. These guys usually cited their sources, which led me, and others, to seek out the original sources as best we could.

During this process, a couple of people a little further into the music asked me if I’d ever heard of Peter Green. I had not, so they told me that he was an original member of Fleetwood Mac, which I thought was nuts because my history with that group began in the mid ’70s, around the time of Rumours. I had no idea that a decade before their big album, Fleetwood Mac got their start as a tough, somewhat psychedelic blues rock band, consisting of Green and Jeremy Spencer on guitars, bassist John McVie, and drummer Mick Fleetwood.

McVie was a charter member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1963. Green joined up in 1966 and Fleetwood followed a year later. The trio never “officially” recorded with Mayall, but two superb live releases (Live in 1967, Volumes 1 and 2) were issued a couple of years ago just before the trio left Mayall.

Fleetwood Mac recorded several albums during that time which were very successful in the U.K., but the band was pretty much ignored in the states in the beginning. Over time, they began to move from their blues roots, but Green left the band in 1970, rarely performing afterward for many years.

After listening to the two live Bluesbreakers sets, I was really impressed with Green’s guitar work and beating my head against the wall because I had not tried to check him out earlier. Late last year, I reviewed Rick Berthod’s Tribute to Peter Green, and while I was writing it up I decided to compare the tribute album with the early edition of Fleetwood Mac.

Even more impressed, I decided to dig deeper into the original band, tracking down a copy of Warner Brothers’ The Best of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. This 20-song set was released in conjunction with the six-disc box set The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions, and captures many of the band’s finest moments.

The beautiful instrumental “Albatross” opens the disc, a song you could listen to forever that features Green’s exquisite fretwork. Next is “Black Magic Woman,” which subsequently became a huge hit for Santana. Fleetwood Mac’s version is more understated, but to these ears, it’s just as good.

There’s also a terrific cover of Little Willie John’s “Need Your Love So Bad,” and a torrid Elmore James-inspired original from Spencer, “My Heart Beat Like A Hammer,” with Spencer on vocals and slide guitar.

The entire set is standout, with now-familiar tunes like “The Green Manalishi,” which was covered by Judas Priest, “Rattlesnake Shake” (covered by Aerosmith), “Oh Well (Parts 1 & 2),” “Something Inside Of Me,” written by later addition, guitarist Danny Kirwin, and originals penned by Green, Kirwin, and Spencer that sound for all the world like long-ago blues standards. There are also covers of B.B. King (“Worried Dream”) and Elmore James (“Shake Your Moneymaker”) tunes that hold up well to the originals.

In addtion, there are a couple of tracks that close out the album, a tune from Chicken Shack featuring pianist Christine Perfect, who guested on two of Fleetwood Mac’s later sessions. Her cover of “I’d Rather Go Blind” was Chicken Shack’s biggest hit and she subsequently joined Fleetwood Mac after Green, Spencer, and Kirwin departed, married (and later divorced) John McVie, and was a driving force in the band’s rise to success. The final song is an updated version of “Albatross,” recorded by Chris Coco and featuring Green on guitar.

Green battled mental issues and drug use for many years, occasionally contributing to Fleetwood Mac songs and appearing on other artists’ recordings, and making a few albums of his own. He returned to the scene in 1997, forming the Peter Green Splinter Group, which released nine albums between the late ’90s and mid 2000s. He passed away in July of 2020 at the age of 73. Kirwin died in 2018, but Spencer still continues to perform and record. Mick Fleetwood and John McVie continue to hold down the rhythm section for the current version of Fleetwood Mac.

Sometimes, Fleetwood Mac gets lost in the shuffle in the discussion of the great British blues-rock bands of the late ’60s, probably due to the band’s later success dwarfing the impact that the Green-led edition made in it’s short tenure. If you’ve not experienced their impressive brand of blues, it’s well worth your time to give The Best of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac a spin or two.

--- Graham Clarke


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