|Richard J. Orlando has contributed 9 reviews to The Penguin: Everything That is Fleetwood Mac:|
Blues With A Feeling
Secret history of Green era Fleetwood Mac
Review written by Richard J. Orlando from Mount Laurel, NJ, August 8th, 2005
Fleetwood Mac can best be described as a Russian matryoshka doll. Open it and you'll find another, smaller doll nested within it. Open that one and you'll find yet a third and so on. The BBC recordings of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac represent the band hidden within the public image presented by their Blue Horizon recordings. There is a reckless energy to these recordings that they rarely captured in the studio; as the songs were all cut live, the rough spots can not be smoothed out, nor the excitement of hearing the music being created as you listen; you find yourself focusing on the various players, marveling at the interplay, better appreciating the well placed fill or the instinctive feel for when to allow for a pocket of silence. Of the fifteen songs on this collection, ten are available on the "Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac Live At the BBC" double disc from Castle Communications. Those interested in a more complete picture of the band at this stage will want this for the five unreleased tracks alone, but side by side comparisons with the "official" versions offer their own enlightenment. The disc begins with a previously unreleased version of Peter Green's sublime "Albatross", recorded about six months after the one on "Live at the BBC". While neither surpasses the studio original, the first version was a virtual duplicate - here, Danny sneaks in a note or two and Peter throws in a fill near the end and instead of letting the number reverberate to silence on Mick's cymbal roll, he tags on a little coda.
The First Five Years
A fascinating look at Mayall's finishing school
Review written by Richard J. Orlando from Mount Laurel, New Jersey, July 27th, 2005
Listening to this collection of BBC recordings, studio sessions and live performances is a little like finding stacks of unmarked boxes of contact sheets in a photographer's studio - you can attempt to put them back into chronological order and identify all the people, but in the end, it's just guess work. The disc starts off on a high note with blistering renditions of "Crawling Up a Hill", "Crocodile Walk" and Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bye Bye Bird". Each with a running time of well under three minutes, these tracks display the instinctive interplay that Mayall and his rhythm section, John McVie on bass and Hughie Flint, drums, had forged during countless gigs in English pubs. According to the accepted histories of the time, Clapton recorded these sessions just days after joining and one can feel the tension as Clapton listens to the band hurl through the opening number, poised and ready for his solo. Released, he tears through his turn and then steps back, spent. "Crocodile Walk" is similar in arrangement but taken at an easy going stroll, highlighting the lyrics playful imagery. "Bye Bye Bird" is wonderful harmonica romp, with McVie and Flint in unobtrusive support. Here is the seed of what would become "Room to Move". Next up is a track called "Nowhere to Run" - never officially released in any form, it's another strong harp workout for Mayall with McVie carrying the weight of the rhythm, and Mayall's organ playing substituting for a strong lead guitar. This is where things get confused. The disc lists the four songs as being one session - most
Thru The Years
Good Mayall, a must for Peter Green Fans
Review written by Richard J. Orlando from Mount Laurel, New Jersey, June 2nd, 2005
Trying to piece together a comprehesive overview of Peter Green's pre-Mac days can be a daunting and frustrating task. His work with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers consists of one full album, an EP and assorted singles scattered across multiple anthologies. This 1971 release complied unreleased tracks from Green's tenure with Mayall and B-sides not before on LP. The center piece for Green fans will be the little known "Out of Reach" - the B-side of a 1967 U.K. only single, released prior to the Hard Road LP. This devastating track finds Green staring out into the abyss and faithfully recording all he sees - the haunting solo is certainly one of the finest he's ever commited to tape. This is the seed from which, "The Supernatural", "Albatross", "Man of the World", "Before the Beginning" and "Closing My Eyes" would flower. That he was able to wrestle this demon to a draw, and resist it's siren call for even a few years more, is a testament to his inner strength. Unreleased from the Hard Road sessions are two J. B. Lenoir songs, one of which, "Alabama Blues", Green tackles solo - though the playing is fine, he never seems quite comfortable with the song's Civil Rights era protest message. Three tracks find Peter fronting a power trio with John McVie and Aynsley Dunbar - shades of things to come! Two are instrumentals, with the smooth "Greeny" finding it's namesake indulging his penchant for B.B. King inspired single string playing while you would have to go to "The Green Manalishi" for a track as heavy as "Curly". "Missing You" is an harmonica showcase for Green built on a "Messin' With The Kid" riff that is finally too short to fully develop. Peter Green's work with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers is a Rosetta Stone for insights into his later work and all these tracks offer insight and great listening pleasure. Although the purchase of this collection and it's companion piece, John Mayall London Blues 1964-1969 will cover almost all the studio tracks from this key era, you'll still be missing a few stray tracks. Jigsaw Puzzle Blues indeed!
In The Skies
First Rays of a New Day
Review written by Richard J. Orlando, February 24th, 2005
In the Bible, Jacob wrestled the Angel. The Angel was overcome, but Jacob would, ever after, walk with a limp. By the late seventies, Peter Green had temporarily overcome his personal demons long enough to record this collection, the first, and arguably, best, album of his first "comeback" period. Green too, was marked by his struggle. The precise Blue Flame of his acetylene style that defined his playing in his early years, has now flared and cooled to a warm orange glow. Having not played in nearly five years before beginning these recordings, Green was surrounded by familiar players; Peter Bardens on keyboards and Snowy White on guitar, and a sympathetic rhythm section, Kuma Harada on bass and Reg Isidore on drums, who would create an undulating flow rather than "rock" solid foundation, that Green could then wade into. He could float above it, let it carry him or submerge himself completely. Lennox Langton's percussion dapples it all like sunlight on water.
Peter Green plays these songs to perfection
Review written by Richard J. Orlando, February 20th, 2005
The music on this collection puts to rest the idea that the blues is dreary and depressing...these songs are infused with a sense of joy...Green seems to be discovering these songs for the first time, his playing is stronger and his singing more relaxed than on any other Splinter Group release. This is music for a laid back Sunday afternoon, it's pleasures lie in the complex interplay between the musicians...Otis Rush (a huge influence on Green) plays with rare subtletly on I'm A Steady Rolling Man and Little Queen of Spades. Buddy Guy helps to transform the over recorded Cross Road Blues bringing a more modern guitar sound while Green's vocals and arrangement bring it closer to it's roots - a highlight. Although PGSG has already twice recorded Traveling Riverside Blues, they bring in slide master Joe Louis Walker and one of Robert Johnson's running buddies, Honey Boy Edwards to help out: Nigel takes the vocal, and Peter fills in some wonderful harmonica - This is also the best sounding record the PGSG has released: the squeak of calloused fingertips on steel and nylon strings, the deep tone of the upright bass, steel brushes on drum heads, all cleanly captured, The relaxation of the playing allows Green to deliver his vocals in an equally easy manner, resulting in his best vocals on a PGSG album. Again, this is not music to clean the house to, this is music you drink deeply of and allow to refresh your spirit and soul.
Green & Guitar: The Best Of Peter Green 1977-81
Smart selections make this true "best of"
Review written by Richard J. Orlando, January 31st, 2005
This particular period of Green's career, his first "comeback", before the formation of Peter Green's Splinter Group, has been ransacked and rummaged through for what seem an endless supply of compilations. Those who are interested in a representative sampling from this era are well served by the song selections and generous seventy-nine minute running time of this collection. If you only know Green through his work with Fleetwood Mac, you may at first be disappointed by what you find here. Fans of Splinter Group recordings like "Destiny Road" and "Reaching the Cold 100" will find themselves slipping into the mellow tone and and laid back style flowing from the speakers as if into a warm bath. The majority of tracks and almost all of the highlights here, are pulled from Green's first two solo albums; with four each from both "In the Skies" (1978) and "Little Dreamer" (1981) arguably his strongest from this time. "In the Skies" marked Green's return to studio recording after a harrowing six-years "lost" in a personal wilderness. It is of little surprise then to find him reaching back to his earlier years for inspiration. "A Fool No More", originally recorded in 1967 for the first Fleetwood Mac album, but unreleased till years later, is completely transformed here. The fire that fueled this blistering Otis Rush / Buddy Guy inspired tale of torment has all but consumed itself. The singer's rage has been reduced to resignation; the stinging accusations of the original's guitar solo have been turned into unflinching introspection. Although buried near the end of CD, this is the bleeding heart of the collection. Also from that first album are two beautiful instrumentals: "Slabo Day" finds Green trading guitar licks with Snowy White as he once had with Danny Kirwan, while the band lays down a solid foundation for the two to build upon. "Apostle" finds Green further developing the Spanish guitar section of "Oh Well - Part Two" but still not finding closure. It just seems to end. An unfinished prayer; as if he knows it won't be answered. This flows nicely into the title track from 1980's "Little Dreamer". Opening with waves of soft cymbal strikes, a gentle heartbeat of a bass line and tinkling chimes, this is another mediation. Green's half spoken lyrics can not be understood but it does not matter - as the song continues the guitar lines slowly build in intensity and the cymbals begin to compete with drum rolls hinting at the storm clouds gathering. "Baby When the Sun Goes Down" most vividly illustrates the Splinter Group connection; deep groove, heartfelt but not impassioned playing - the track is marred only by the drums being to far up in the mix and the unnecessary inclusion of female back up singers. The singers work better on "Loser Two Times" and are thankfully absent from it's companion "Cryin' Won't Bring You Back", two uncharacteristically funk tinged numbers. Other highlights include the title track from 1981's "White Sky", the hardest rocking number here, on which Peter's brother Mike takes the lead vocal. It should be noted that Mike Green wrote or co-wrote seven of these fourteen tunes. Also from "White Sky" and Mike Green's pen, is this collection's weakest number, "The Clown". At least six of the songs on this collection will be found on almost every other compilation of this era currently on the shelves. The best way to experience these songs is in the context of the albums they were written for, but as of this writing these discs are all only available as imports, at import prices - for those on a budget or with only a passing interest in this material - this is the collection to go with.
Eddie Boyd And His Blues Band Featuring Peter Green
Interesting session, with the Brits taking a back seat
Review written by Richard J. Orlando, January 30th, 2005
In 1967, producer Mike Vernon put Chicago pianist Eddie Boyd into the studio with John Mayall and the then current version of The Bluesbreakers: Peter Green on guitar, John McVie on bass and Aynsely Dunbar on drums - there were also horn players for one track and T.S. McPhee taking over for Green on two others. In three days they cut a whopping eighteen songs, sixteen of which make up this album. Boyd preferred a slower paced style of playing, with even his faster numbers having a more swinging feel rather than really rocking. Dunbar was probably not the best choice for a player like Boyd and it's here that John McVie really earns his reputation. Compare "Steakhouse Rock" with "Rack 'Em Back". Both of these are swinging instrumentals - the former just piano and drums. Dunbar starts off way too busy and one can only imagine the look on Boyd's face that got him to finally ease up before the number mercifully ends. The second has McVie beautifully controlling and containing Dunbar's excesses through an even faster number and the resulting tension as the players race to the finish make this a highlight. Peter Green shines in his too few moments. His still strong Clapton influence is clearly heard in the opening track "Too Bad - Part One" as he darts between the heavy piano chords with perfect, stinging fills and in his too brief solo. There is a second version of this song, titled "Too Bad - Part Two" which is really more like an alternate take, but Green's playing and slightly more expansive solo shows the style of playing he would soon begin developing further with his own band. Boyd's heavy hand and preference for short arrangements don't leave Green much room, but he offers strong support on the numbers he plays on and gets to stretch a bit in the closer "Night Time is the Right Time". Special word should be granted to T.S. McPhee for his slide playing on "Save Her Doctor" and "Dust My Broom". He runs some nice variations on the all too familiar riff of the latter, making it one of the album' s stronger numbers.
Mayall's early work as a sideman on sessions such as these is a sadly overlooked aspect of his career. On his three numbers here, each a piano / harmonica duet, he truly shines; his playing perfectly capturing the feel and tonality of his idols like the second Sonny Boy Williamson. These tracks all rate as highlights.
Over all, this is a very enjoyable set, not as strong as Fleetwood Mac's recording with Otis Spann a few years later, "The Biggest Thing Since Colossus" but recommended for fans of traditional blues with a spot of British flavor.
Fine playing elevates bland lyrics
Review written by Richard J. Orlando, December 24th, 2004
One of the highlights of this collection is a beautiful instrumental titled "Hiding In Shadows", and it could be thought of as an apt description of this project. The legendary brilliance of Green's early years still shines bright across the ensuing decades but Green seems to find the light exposing rather than illuminating - he holds back - and the band seems unwilling to push back into the spotlight. There is plenty of fine guitar work here, but most of it is provided by Nigel Watson, with Peter Green adding texture and counterpoint. Watson is a strong player with a prononuced Mark Knopfler influence - most apparent in "I Can't Help Myself" a haunting "soul's midnight" ballad. Producer Pete Brown (Cream, Jack Bruce) provides a bright, clean soundscape - each instrument being given plenty of space to be heard - listen to the break in "Turn Your Love Away" : Roger Cotton's Hammond organ washes swirl and blend with the guitars and harmonica creating an rolling ebb and flow. Another instrumental, a re-recording of Green's "Tribal Dance" brings this style to full fruition as the band locks into a smooth groove, with Larry Tolfree's congas and percussion bubbling beneath light splashes of guitar, conjuring images of a lazy tropical river. The strengths and weaknesses of this album are encapsulated in one it's highlights: a startlingly fresh arrangement of Elmore James' "Madison Blues". Those familiar with the original, or Jeremy Spencer's covers from Green's Fleetwood Mac days, would well expect the band to finally break out here - but even with the addition of a horn section, they maintain a low boil. The song never really rocks - it swings, but it doesn't rock. The low-key style is well suited to Green's now leathery whisper of a voice. This song, and a cover of Freddie King's "You'll Be Sorry Some Day" are his two best vocals here. A pleasant surprise from Green is the strength of his harp playing. Scant attention was payed to this side of his skills in his early years, and even here, the songs are not built around the harp; it's used like much of his guitar playing, to add textures and highlights to the mix and Green's playing shows real subtly and control. In the end, the strong playing and production lifts even the weaker material, "Big Change Is Gonna Come", "Heart of Stone", "Say That You Will" to above average, with only "Burglar", "Indians" and a misguided attempt at Steve Winwood's "There's a River" with Watson on lead vocals being unsalvageable. Hiding at the end of the Winwood cover, unlisted among the song titles, is an instrumental rendition of Green's classic "Man of the World". The song's beauty and power are apparent even without it's lyrics and it serves as a fitting coda to a late night collection best experienced with only the faint glow of the stereo offering illumination.
The Biggest Thing Since Colossus
Little known gem - for
Review written by Richard J. Orlando from Mount Laurel, New Jersey, December 18th, 2004
Otis Spann was the King of Chicago Blues piano, anchoring most of Muddy Waters' classic Chess recordings from 1953 to 1969. First working with Fleetwood Mac during the Blues Jam in Chicago sessions, and producing some of that sets true highlights, they reconvened in a New York studio five days later for a one day session. Cut straight to two track stereo, without overdubs, Green, Kirwan and McVie support Spann seamlessly. And it is Spann's show, that's the reason that I gave it a four rather than five star rating - some may not care for the vocals - For Green fans, his playing on My Love Depends On You, Temperature Rising (100.2' F) and Ain't Nobody's Business, make this disc a must have. Danny can best be heard on She Needs Some Loving and I Need Some Air. My only complaint is that they did not include the two other tracks recorded at these sessions, an alternate of Temperature is Rising (98.8' F) and Blues For Hippies - these are not available elsewhere to the best of my knowledge and it would have been nice to have the complete session - that quibble aside I highly recommend this little know gem.