Fleetwood Mac: Then Play On - The Celebration Edition

Doug Collette By

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Fleetwood Mac: Then Play On - The Celebration Edition
Announced for release roughly five weeks prior to the passing of guitarist extraordinaire Peter Green, The Celebration Edition of Fleetwood Mac's Then Play On was originally conceived as a prelude to the Mick Fleetwood And Friends Celebrate The Music Of Peter Green concert film. As fate would have it (fortunately or unfortunately), the ornate CD package appears just one day shy of the fifty-first anniversary of the record's original release date and, as such, serves as yet another fitting memorial to the late British musician and co-founder of this longstanding band.

Taking its title from the opening line of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night—'If music be the food of love, play on'—-the album offered a significant departure from the classic blues of the group's first two albums. Then Play On has appropriately featured varying track lists in its half-century-plus history and this one holds to the 2013 version issued by Rhino (clearly designated as such along with reference to its remaster by Chris Bellman of that time). As is, the "official" fourteen cuts, combined with the four "bonus" tracks, effectively reiterate Peter Green's titular creative oversight of the group as it moved from the near-purist approach of its prior two records.

In fact, the additional tracks present a virtual microcosm of the album as a whole. On "Oh Well -Pt. 1," delicate acoustic guitar picking alternates rougher electric riffing, suitably foreshadowing the contemplative, very English folk strains of "Pt. 2," especially as the echoes of recorder waft in and out of the understated yet dramatic flourishes. "The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)" unfolds with all the ominous air of the era's British blues, while "World In Harmony" features Green's fluid guitar work creating a further study in contrasts between tranquility and agitation.

Due credit to Sandra Elsdon for her airy contribution on the first number's latter half is unfortunately missing (as is notation of the piano contributions of the future Christine McVie, nee Perfect). But it's an omission largely mitigated through Anthony Bozza's enlightening essay inside this hard-bound cover: he elucidates the transitions in motion as this album was recorded, with Jeremy Spencer beginning his exit, while Green generously encouraged guitar partner Danny Kirwan to contribute his own originals. As a result of this changing dynamic, the respective songwriting efforts comprises a veritable mirror image of each other, their complementary nature magnified through the arrangements thereof.

In fact, "One Sunny Day" and "Although The Sun Is Shining" suggest even larger concepts in play. Coexisting with the early burgeoning of prog-rock—King Crimson issued its first this same year, while the The Moody Blues debuted two years prior—Then Play On was nevertheless conspicuously bereft of pretensions that eventually (?) came to plague that genre. Still, it's sharp relief indeed between tracks like the gentle "Closing My Eyes" and the more aggressive likes of companion pieces, "Fighting For Madge" and "Searching For Madge," authored by the two namesakes of the group, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie respectively: the rhythm section is as unrelenting as the guitar interplay between Green and Kirwan, kindred spirits all in the moment.

In this configuration, Fleetwood Mac preferred to almost imperceptibly interweave the pastoral tones of "When You Say" in and out of the much tougher numbers like "Show-Biz Blues." And the unit's versatility even allowed for an articulate and atmospheric instrumental titled "Under Way:" this diversity of sound illustrates exactly how wide a territory an inspired Peter Green staked out for this group in conjunction with Kirwan, who, at the titular leader's behest, authored fully half the material here including "Coming Your Way" and "My Dream."

But it's that very broad stylistic span within Then Play On -The Celebration Edition by which so fertile an expanse opened up ripe for future exploration by the ever-changing subsequent Mac lineups (Green departed following this LP). The aforementioned essayist/biographer intimates as much, but it's a crucial observation given suitably explicit voice by Fleetwood himself, thereby topping off the wealth of insight and information condensed herein alongside affecting songs and musicianship.

Track Listing

Coming Your Way; Closing My Eyes; Fighting For Madge; When You Say; Show-Biz Blues; Under Way; One Sunny Day; Although The Sun Is Shining; Rattlesnake Shake; Without You; Searching For Madge; My Dream; Like Crying; Before The Beginning; Oh Well - Pt. 1; Oh Well - Pt. 2; The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown); World In Harmony.


Fleetwood Mac: band/orchestra; Peter Green: guitar, electric; Danny Kirwan: guitar; John McVie: bass; Mick Fleetwood: drums; Jeremy Spencer: piano; Jane Elsdon: recorder; Christine Perfect: piano.

Additional Instrumentation

Peter Green: vocals, dobro,classical guitar, bass, cello, timpani, clash cymbals; Mick Fleetwood: cowbell, congas, maracas, claves.

Album information

Title: Then Play On - The Celebration Edition | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: BMG

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