zondag 16 februari 2014

Boston. Fleetwood Mac

For people my age, THE Fleetwood Mac line is the one that broke with 'Go your own way' in 1977, that classic rock staple song that will be played till the end of time. There were several line ups before that (and since), but the only one that matters in the post is the one that scored hits between 1968 and 1970, the classic line up of Peter Green, Danny Kierwan and Jeremy Spencer on guitar and John McVie and Mick Fleetwood in the rhythm section as they are right up to this day. The line up with the three guitarists, who all went AWOL one way or another, within a few years apart, did not last long. An immensely talented trio that never lived up to its full potential. Leaving a void that years later was filled by Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie.

A few of the hits of FM mach 1 I remember quite well from the time. 'Oh well, part 1' was one of the weirdest songs I'd ever heard late 1969 and 'The green manalishi' one of the most exiting. A few year later 'Need your love so bad' was one of the few songs that always came by when we were slow dances at high school parties'. Black magic woman' was a well known song by Santana from 1970 onwards. But no, Fleetwood Mac in 1970 was not one of the bands I knew more about nor heard other songs from. Nor for anyone in my environment. No one I knew had the band's records, nor did I see any need to change this. It was something of the past and remained that way for me. A pleasant but very distant memory. When Boston came to my attention a few weeks back, I was quite curious -what did Fleetwood Mac sound like live in 1970?- but not overly exited. Nor did I have high expectations. I was in for a surprise.

Fleetwood Mac in the late sixties was a blues band. It played a lot of covers. On Boston we even find Little Richard's 'Tutti frutti', but mainly blues covers. It also had a great songwriter in its midst: Peter Green. Unfortunately a songwriter who was losing his hold on life fast due to mental instability in combination with dropping acid. That Peter Green knew how to write a hit record was proven in 1969 and 1970. 'Oh well' went to number one in The Netherlands within weeks from its release. The dark, brooding song with its long silences and stop start moments is not exactly a standard number 1 hit. It is a very special song that is fairly unique where hit records are concerned. With songs like 'Black magic woman', made famous by Santana, the instrumental hit 'Albatross' and 'The green manalishi', Peter Green obviously could have grown much further, but never did, leaving Fleetwood Mac soon after playing in Boston and disappearing from music altogether for years on end.

This triple album captures Fleetwood Mac three nights in a row in Boston. The band plays very different songs. Originals, blues covers and some rock and roll. Especially the last cd gives a hotchpotch of styles. It gets me to doubt whether Fleetwood Mac at the core was one band or a selection of people that all wanted to do their thing. Some songs are spun out in long jams, most quite exciting, in which everybody gets to join in. These jams are not the main attraction of Boston. These are the potent versions of songs that made the band famous. 'Oh well' is played loud and tight. 'The green manalishi' gets the spooky treatment the song deserves. The second time 'Rattlesnake shake' features on Boston it incorporates a great jam. 'World in harmony' is a beautiful instrumental that may have been the start of a nice new song. Picturing myself in Boston that night, it may well be that I would have liked everything that night. From full out dancing to listening closely to what would happen next.

Listening to Boston it becomes clear that Fleetwood Mac mach 1 was a great (blues) band. In no way comparable to the later incarnations. That this Fleetwood Mac was this good was something I was totally unaware of. Not surprising considering my age (at the time), but also because the band was absent at a famous show like 'Woodstock'. Listening closer, it is possible to hear the influence they must have had on bands like The Allman Brothers Band or Motorpsycho, who love to jam hard and long, but also the way Fleetwood Mac's members were raised by John Mayall and through him the great electric blues artists, like Muddy Waters. Nothing is at good as Ten Years After's rock jam 'I'm going home', but then Ten Years After was on fire that time and never played it as well again either.

So that leaves the speculation where this Fleetwood Mac incarnation could have gone. We'll never know. (Would we ever have heard 'Go your own way' if it had?) The way Fleetwood Mac plays here would not have sustained a career. Blues was on the way out for a few years in 1970 already. The transition to something else, the else Peter Green may have been able to deliver, in combination with blues(rock) could have made the band great, not unlike Led Zeppelin. It is a loss that we'll never know, but got great things in return. We won by having five (in the U.S.) to seven years (in NL) of patience (or pure ignorance as in my case of course). It is the years in between that remain a total mystery to me. There's not much that invites me to listen so far. What do you think, is it worth it?

So I can only conclude that anyone who likes blues, is attracted to the famous oldest hits of Fleetwood Mac and likes to hear some good old sixties jamming can't go no wrong with Boston. This set holds it all and yes I was pleasantly surprised indeed.

At the same time I found out that this Fleetwood Mac's last album, 'Then play on', was released also in 2013 with the two famous singles as bonus tracks. Also very much worthwhile.


You can listen to 'Black magic woman' here.

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