Mick Fleetwood & Friends Celebrate The Music of Peter Green and the Early Years of Fleetwood Mac

Doug Collette By

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Mick Fleetwood & Friends
Celebrate The Music of Peter Green and the Early Years of Fleetwood Mac

Enclosed in a hardbound book format similar to Then Play On -The Celebration Edition (BMG, 2020), this homage to the late Peter Green, British guitarist and co-founder of Fleetwood Mac group, is a formal affair no less deeply felt for the equitable sharing of the spotlight for its duration. Whereas sit-ins have become increasingly common to the point of utter predictability in recent years, the string of 'guests' here belies that appellation and for the very same reason the comings and goings of singers and players adds to, rather than detracts from, the continuity of the performance: the level of passion each individual manifests in their often just brief moments on stage is equal to that which preceded it and succeeds it. Witness, for instance, early FM member Jeremy Spencer on the pure blues of "The Sky Is Crying" and "I Can't Hold Out."

Ergo, it is almost exactly the same depth of engagement from Jonny Lang in the 'house band' to Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, who's as ideally suited to play on the foreboding "Oh Well Pt. 2" as is Metallica's Kirk Hammett on "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)." In their moments before the audience in the London Palladium, each respective artist becomes immersed in the moment without calling attention to himself or herself (Christine McVie is actually the only female in attendance, at her specific request, according to the main organizer drummer Mick Fleetwood). And the music itself, taken from the earliest Fleetwood Mac is also cut from so whole a cloth it provides continuity as well; even the acoustic segment including "No Place to Go," wisely situated in the center of the two-plus hours near the end of set one, retains an intensity all its own, comparable to ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons' rowdy take on "Doctor Brown."

And just as the original British group's progression was the result of Peter Green's encouragement of contributions from other band members, this homage maintains that premise as its fundamental logic. Honoring that artistic ethos, in fact, Celebrate the Music actually manages to transcend the event and its participators. As Fleetwood mentions more than once, he (and by his extension the invitees) was aspiring to the sentiment William Shakespeare expressed in the lines from which the third Mac record takes its title: "If music be the food of love, then play on." Ultimately, this presentation, in the moment and on record, constitutes an honor that could not define the words more truthfully.

Consequently, the two-hour plus concert never descends into the cult of personality even during the segments featuring so flamboyant a character as Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. Likewise, the stage production, understated as it is, never detracts from the spotlights literally and figuratively homing in on the inherent drama of these musicians interacting, all of whom, remarkably, refuse to turn self-indulgent in rounds of improvisation. Even the rousing finale, "Shake Your Money Maker," is more brief at 5:25 than Peter Townshend's animated six and a half-minute reading of "Station Man" (on which The Who's chief songwriter and guitarist flaunts—but humbly so— this song's similarity to his iconic band's "Won't Get Fooled Again")

With no alternative package containing a DVD or any standalone release of that configuration, the Blu-ray-only availability of package is a most unfortunate (arbitrary?) limitation of its audience potential. Yet it is definitely worth having for the music on the two CDs alone, combined with Fleetwood's own essays on each performer, insightful, personal and good humored as they are. Like the concert itself, the reverence, respect and affection the organizer and his collaborators display on stage in late February 2020, just before the pandemic hit, is not altogether dissimilar from the same combination of sentiments radiated from the stage of the Royal Albert Hall back in 2002 during The Concert For George (Harrison) (Craft Recordings, 2018)

If The Music of Peter Green and the Early Years of Fleetwood Mac proves anything beyond its earnest and forthright testament to this music, it is that its prime motivator deserves recognition comparable to other practitioners in the contemporary blues genre. And that includes a willing participant here, John Mayall (in whose early Bluesbreakers Peter Green once played) as well as the man who is so conspicuous by his absence in these proceedings, Eric Clapton (whose vacated position Green once assumed in the group headed by the aforementioned 'Godfather of British Blues'). From a broad historical perspective, Peter Green is not quite so revered as those men, i.e., one of the influential figures of his era, but at least for the duration of this memorable evening, he was indeed elevated to that rarefied position.

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