Saturday, March 23, 2013

PETER GREEN & FLEETWOOD MAC "Jumping At The Shadows" The Blues Years

PETER GREEN & FLEETWOOD MAC "Jumping At The Shadows" The Blues Years: This British two-disc collection offers a rather unique look at the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac rather than just focusing on the band's output from 1967, immediately after leaving John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, to 1970 when Green left. The set is chock-full of fine studio material that documents the evolution of the band from a power trio to its Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan incarnations. And while it's true that other collections have documented the band from this period very well, none of them has dug quite as deep into the live archives or revealed the subsequent Peter Green side projects of the time. Here are 36 tracks that offer stunning live renditions of Green's "Black Magic Woman," "Oh Well," the second part of the "Madge Sessions," and Spencer's "Stranger Blues," as well as an absolutely searing version of Kirwan's "Comin' Your Way." Given the budget price of this completely remastered set, these alone would have been worth the price, but in a sense it's only the beginning. There are numerous tracks of Green with musical running-mate Duster Bennett from the pre-Fleetwood Mac years, including a truly haunted version of the title track. Add to this four tracks of Green's work with Bob Brunning's Sunflower Blues Band, and you have an evocative and intense portrait of a band struggling to come to grips with a reluctant genius as a frontman, and the era. What is most revealing is Green's focus on execution and mood. The music has a way of getting past him, not technically, but emotionally, on the live material -- the title cut, "Rattlesnake Shake," "Lazy Poker Blues" -- as well as on the instrumentals. Check the versions of Kirwan's "World in Harmony," and the extremities in this version of "Green Manalishi," for evidence. Neil Slaven assembled this comp. He also wrote its confounding and labyrinthine liner notes, which are full of information but light on continuity or style. Slaven's method of creating a musical portrait, however, is virtually unassailable. The tracks wind in and out of one another, back and forth across time and partnerships as if telling a secret that can only be fully understood when the last sentence has been whispered. There is no secret in the fact that Green was a reluctant superstar, and that madness overwhelmed him at his playing peak. What isn't known, however, is the great vulnerability and tenderness he put into every performance. That side of Peter Green is well documented here, the terminally shy skinny kid who could rain down fire from the heavens and draw water from the wells of hell on a guitar. (Thom Jurek, Allmusic)Peter Green is the founder of the original Fleetwood Mac (1967), which consisted besides Green (vocals, guitar, harp) of Mick Fleetwood (drums), John McVie (bass), and Jeremy Spencer (vocals, slide guitar, piano). In 1968 Danny Kirwan (vocals, guitar) was added to the band, producing a unique sound and much touted three-guitar front line (however, this three-guitar front was rarely recorded in action in the studio). While most of their recordings were made for the Blue Horizon label (collected on The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967-1969 box set), their final recordings were on the Warner Bros label which yielded their last and arguably best album Then Play On (1970) [will the CD of this album ever be remastered?].
The 2-CD set Jumping at Shadows collects material from two, more extensive 2-CD sets covering the 1968-1970 period when their Horizon contract had expired, The Vaudeville Years (1998) and Show-Biz Blues (2002) on the Receiver and Castle subsidiaries of the Sanctuary label. Except for live performances, recorded at the Boston Tea Party and "in London" in 1970, all the material on these 2-CD sets are outtakes or jam sessions. Jumping at Shadows does an excellent job at picking highlights of these 2-CD sets, focusing primarily on songs and performances led by Peter Green. As these are works in progress we get an intimate view of the way Green constructed and sang his blues. This is further emphasized by excellent renditions of three highlights of Green's recorded work, the title song (from the Boston live recordings), Showbiz Blues in two versions (one recorded in New York when it was still called Do You Give a Damn for Me and a second recorded in London, resembling the version on Then Play On), and Love That Burns. These songs show blues at unusually personal and intimate levels, which you might call a trademark of Green at his best and most vulnerable.
The list goes on: Man of the World (two versions, an alternate and the issued single version), Rattlesnake Shake (live), Black Magic Woman (live), Oh Well (part 1, live), The Green Manalishi (alternate version), etc. There are relatively few Kirwan or Spencer led performances; what's there is excellent but this set really focuses on Green. Anyone familiar with the "Vaudeville" and "Showbiz Blues" sets or the Boston live recordings will appreciate this distinction, because especially Spencer's contributions from that time do not hold up as well. Material not included on "Vaudeville" and "Showbiz Blues" include home recordings of Peter Green with Duster Bennett and contributions to albums recorded by the original bass player of Fleetwood Mac (for the first two months), Bob Brunning. While these side activities do not always measure up to the full Fleetwood Mac band performances, they are certainly enjoyable and interesting in that they show an additional side of Green.
In all, the two CDs of Jumping at Shadows make for good listening and can easily be played front to back without creating an urge to skip songs. The sequencing is excellent. The sound quality is generally good and belies for the most part the age and circumstances of the recordings. Good job on the remastering. For anyone interested in the original Fleetwood Mac, Jumping at Shadows forms a welcome complement to "The Best of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac" (Sony, 2002). It fills the gap between the earlier Horizon recordings and Then Play On. While there are still interesting performances on the "Vaudeville" and "Showbiz Blues" extended CD sets worth exploring, these sets are more spotty and may require active listener participation (as in: forwarding to next track, or programming). Jumping at Shadows avoids that and it didn't take long for this to become one of my alltime favorite Fleetwood Mac/Peter Green CDs. Strongly recommended. (Amazon)

trax CD 1:
01 Black Magic Woman [Live] 02 Jumpin' At Shadows [Live] 03 Oh Well [Live] 04 Ride With Your Daddy Tonight 05 Do You Give A Damn For Me? 06 Love That Burns 07 World In Harmony 08 Long Grey Mare 09 Talk To Me Baby 10 Fast Talking Woman Blues 11 Man Of The World (Early Version) [Fleetwood Mac] 12 If You Let Me Love You 13 My Baby's Sweeter 14 Like It This Way 15 The Madge Sessions No.2 16 Lazy Poker Blues 17 I Have To Laugh 18 The Green Manalishi
trax CD 2:
01 Man Of The World [Single Version] 02 Showbiz Blues 03 Buzz Me Baby 04 Blues In B Flat Minor 05 It Takes Time 06 Leaving Town Blues 07 The Sun Is Shining 08 Uranus 09 Mind Of My Own 10 How Blue Can You Get? 11 Trying So Hard To Forget 12 Two Harps 13 Thinking About A Woman 14 Kind Hearted Woman 15 Coming, I'm Coming [Instrumental] 16 Stranger Blues [Live] 17 Coming Your Way [Live] 18 Rattlesnake Shake [Live]
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