Apropos of nothing, I’ve found myself recently listening repeatedly to Peter Green’s imperial run of three classic Fleetwood Mac singles from ’68 to ’69: Albatross, Man of the World and Oh Well (pts 1 and 2).
I’m not really a fan of all the wailing blues stuff Peter Green seems to be known for. I can take electric blues to an extent but I tire of it quickly. With these three songs though, Mr Green delves into a talent for poignancy which is much more my bag.
Albatross is perhaps overplayed, but try if you can to listen with fresh ears. It’s a symphony masquerading as easy listening. In both this and Man of the World it sounds to me like he’s trying to rewrite Santo and Johnny’s untouchable Sleepwalk – and making a pretty good fist of it.
Man of the World is my favourite of the three. The opening lines are the hook, and sound as fresh and melancholic as the openings to Here Comes The Sun or Homeward Bound. You get immediately drawn in and the song can’t put a foot wrong after that.
Well, it kind of does put a foot wrong with the almost uncomfortably misogynistic ‘I just need a good woman’ bridge, undercutting the brave sensitivity otherwise on display. But I can forgive that. I suppose he is admitting his own shallowness and accepting that is part of the problem and why he is feeling down.
Overall, he touches real genius here. I feel it’s like a precursor (In a good way ) to the kind of sensitive male singer songwriter stuff that was just around the corner. James Taylor, David Gates, all that stuff.
Oh Well is a masterful piece of subterfuge. The pitch perfect bluesy opening (which Jimmy Page clearly borrowed for Black Dog) sounds like it is getting cut short by a weird Ennio Morricone type thing with spanish guitar. To prog-attuned ears, you expect this to be some kind of extended instrumental central bit before it returns to the main riff. But no… It goes on for about four or five minutes and he just leaves you hanging in some melancholic spaghetti western art house vibe. A brave choice.
I’m relatively unfamiliar with Green’s stuff. Did he do much else that matches the kind of mood you get on these three tunes? As I say, I’m not sold on all the electric blues bluster, and when I dip my toe into his wider catalogue that’s all I seem to hear. It reminds me of Cream, where I prefer Badge and Anyone For Tennis to Politician and Sitting On Top of the World.