From the back cover:
By the turn of the seventies Fleetwood Mac were on a roll, having established themselves as headliners in the United States via repeated touring. In Feb '70 they taped three consecutive nights at the Boston Tea Party with the view to rush-releasing a live album: the band played out of their skins and the LP would doubtless have been a killer. But within just weeks the mercurial Peter Green - their founder, leader & frontman - had sensationally announced his decision to quit, and the project was shelved. Some of the material eventually crept out on a couple of mid-80's albums, Jumping At Shadows and a double-LP Roots - The Original Fleetwood Mac Live in Concert. However, these were poorly-compiled affairs, with patchy sound quality, a problem which worsened steadily with subsequent reissue packages. Following the recent discovery of the original 8-track master tapes they have all now been remixed & remastered. A further nine previously unissued performances were also found, and the material has been extensively re-compiled to take into consideration the original set sequencings. As you'll hear, these were breathtaking gigs: this is the first Volume in a 3-CD set which will bring these devastating performances to life.
From inside the CD booklet:
By the turn of the seventies Fleetwood Mac were very much on a roll, having established themselves as headliners in the United States via a punishing touring schedule. A band emphatically on top of their game, they'd largely moved away from their Chicago-styled Blues of yore, and were experimenting freely with the acid-charged jams so popular with US and UK audiences at that time.
In Feb '70, in mid-US tour, they taped three consecutive nights at the prestigious Boston Tea Party, with the view to rush-releasing a live album in the US to capitalise on their newfound Rock Icons' status. They played out of their skins, their leader - the mercurial Peter Green - at a creative peak, probably the most devastating guitarist in the world at that time. But within just weeks Peter had sensationally announced his decision to quit, and the tapes ended up left on the shelf, forgotten for more then a decade. When the material did eventually emerge, in the 80's, it sounded somehow disappointing ... something of an anti-climax. Sure, you could tell that the boys were playing well enough, but the LP's rather lacked punch. This reissue programme sets out to put the record straight: having been allowed access to the original eight-track masters, the material has been extensively remixed & remastered, further expanded with the addition of several previously-unissued performances, and recompiled to take into account original set sequencings. Thus restored, the results are breathtaking ... a testament to a band playing at the absolute peak of its powers.
Mac had first visited the United States in the Spring of '68, shortly after their debut album made the UK Top 10. Still in a mainstream Blues bag at that stage, this was of course their early classic four-piece line-up with Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer out front on guitars and vocals, alternating Peter's eulogies to his idols like BB King and Freddy King with Jeremy's devastatingly accurate Elmore James riffs, backed by Mac's perennial rhythm section of John McVie (bass) and Mick Fleetwood (drums). They made their US debut at the Shrine in LA, opening for the Who, PG&E and Arthur Brown, before being dispatched off on a short tour supporting Savoy Brown. But there can be no real doubt that the most influential element of this first US visit was their hanging out with the Grateful Dead, from whom they eagerly learned the twin pleasures of tripping and jamming, two things which would irrevocably affect Peter Green's life.
By the time of their second US visit later that Fall, Mac had evolved into a mainstream Rock band, having expanded to a quintet with the arrival of guitarist/singer/teenage prodigy Danny Kirwan, whom Peter had plucked from the obscurity of Boilerhouse, a band of no-hopers who'd supported Mac several times that Summer. Kirwan would prove to be the crucial catalyst in Fleetwood Mac's elevation to Rock Gods - as Mick Fleetwood later confirmed in his fine autobiography Fleetwood (William Morrow & Co Inc, 1990): "Peter used to love jamming with him. They could play long melody lines together ... in many ways it was a near perfect match of sensibilities. Playing live, Danny was a madman, Peter's harmonic foil, full of ideas that helped move Fleetwood Mac out of the Blues and into the Rock mainstream. He was an exceptional guitar player, who in turn inspired Peter Green into writing the most moving and powerful songs of his life."
Mick's comments touch on the dichotomy which Fleetwood Mac were facing at that time - for even before Kirwan's arrival, they were already effectively two different bands, their studio and stage personas being poles apart. If you listen to their first two Blue Horizon albums, you'll hear a band faithfully, carefully, and sombrely recreating the Blues licks which had inspired them. Sure, they were considerably more than heads-down copyists - Peter's vocals and gUitar playing alone would have guaranteed that. But their early records were so goddamn respectful of their roots - whereas live (and given that three of their four members were notoriously fond of the occasional cold drink), Fleetwood Mac were something else again.
Despite his well-publicised diffidence, Peter Green noticeably cranked up a gear when playing to a responsive audience, whilst the diminutive Jeremy Spencer's split personality wholly manifested itself in his live performance. Offstage, he was quiet, shy, and religious: onstage, a raging maniac - as Mick Fleetwood confirms: "Jeremy was very sensitive, as if to compensate for the ferocious energy he displayed onstage. He was a compulsive perodist, a gifted mimic, a kind of ultimate imitator ... and then he began to get vulgar onstage, raving, cursing, making filthy suggestions to the audience. He'd fill condoms with beer, hang them from the pegs of his gUitar, and swing them out over appalled audiences of Blues purists. We loved it, such a refreshing antidote to the seriousness of the Mayall approach to music..." In addition to assorted condoms, Jeremy had also introduced a sixteen-inch pink rubber dildo called "Harold" to their set, which was alternately either stuck, quivering, onto the front of Fleetwood's bass drum, or occasionally, dangled from Jeremy's open fly. Po-faced British and European Blues audiences were invariably aghast at such behaviour - whereas US audiences loved it!
Jeremy had introduced another unique facet to Mac's live performance - Mick Fleetwood, again: "He was a great Rock & Roll connoisseur, and he'd seriously studied the early greats. His abilities as a talented mimic and parodist meant he could replicate their styles equally as well as he could Elmore James's, and eventually our show would divide into half Blues jams and half Jeremy's 50's R&R parodies." But for all his talent Jeremy was limited, and he'd already become something of an anachronism within Mac's group dynamic. In truth, he only really did two things, Elmore James licks and cod-R&R both of which had now effectively evolved into pastiche. And perhaps more pertinently, Jeremy appeared interested only in these two things, which was beginning to marginalise him from the remainder of the band - notably Peter, who was finding Fleetwood Mac's creative mantle weighing heavy on his shoulders. Which ultimately, is why Danny Kirwan was drafted in.
Peter Green, meanwhile, had by now thoroughly tired of his (largely unwanted) role as New White Blues Messiah, having had his Rock appetite well and truly whetted by Jerry Garcia & co on Mac's earlier US trip. He knew precisely which direction he wanted to push the band in, so, with Peter and Danny trading licks out front, Fleetwood Mac returned to the United States and got stuck into their new role with relish. They opened for the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore East, folloWing which they played to more than 100,000 people at the Miami Pop Festival, before going back out on the road with the Dead, Their repeated exposure to messrs Garcia & co served to shape and sharpen Green and Kirwan's chops, and they soon began to carve out an awesome reputation - as Mick Fleetwood confirms: "Peter was at the top of his form that Fall. His stature and authority as one of England's greatest guitarists was at its peak. He was so respected, even by the usually-churlish music press, for his simplicity and integrity..."
Thus primed, 1969 was the year Fleetwood Mac really cracked it. They crossed over commercially and spectacularly here in the UK, topping the singles charts with Albatross, all but repeating the trick with Man Of The World and Oh Well (both of which reached #2), and scoring heavily with two albums, The Pious Bird Of Good Omen and Then Play On. But more pertinently they also established a firmer foothold in the States, shifting records in measurable quantities there for the first time when English Rose - a compilation unique to the US market - and then Then Play On made the lower reaches of the album charts.
They visited the United States three times during '69, by the end of which they were touring as bill-toppers. Over and above their core popularity on the West Coast they'd established a particularly strong base in Boston and the North-East, notably at the Boston Tea Party - a gig where, according to Mick Fleetwood: "...we played so often in '69 it felt like a residency. Our show diVided into two sets, the first usually consisting of Jeremy's slide replications like 'Madison Blues', interspersed with Danny's new material, Jeremy would then retire and Peter & Danny would launch into long, acidic jams which would weave in and out of various styles, including Peter's proto-Metal ode to masturbation, 'Rattlesnake Shake'. This usually drove a thoroughly stoned audience bananas, and we'd take a break, coming back onstage a half-hour later, having had the one or two beverages in the interval. Then it was time for Jeremy's oldies' set. He'd come out in his gold lame suit with his hair slicked back, we'd be introduced as 'Earl Vince & the Valiants', and off we'd go. This parody set usually went on as long as there were still people in the audience, and as long as we could stay on our feet. It was vaudeville, and the audiences loved it..." Such was Fleetwood Mac's popularity in the North-East at this time that one night they even outsold the Rolling Stones, who were playing a rival gig in Boston.
Here in the UK, of course, we'd never heard of the venue - in fact, few Brits really even knew where Boston was! But it was a musically vibrant city, evincing a particular penchant for psychedelia in the late 60's, and in the early 70's would provide the launching pad for the likes of Boston, the J.Geils Band, Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers, and Aerosmith. The Tea Party itself was one of three principal venues in the city, the Catacombs (much frequented by an angry young post-Them Van Morrison) and the Psychedelic Supermarket being the others. The building had originally been a synagogue hence its roomy acoustics - and was actually the first major Rock gig on the East Coast, having opened as a music venue in January 1967. The Velvet Underground had played the Tea Party regularly (John Cale played his farewell gig there in September '68), as had the MC5 and Led Zeppelin.
With Mac on the verge of a major US breakthrough, it was decided that a Live album would drive their hard work home. With its roomy ambience, high ceilings, and solid floor, the Boston Tea Party was a favourite venue of touring UK bands and renown for its sound quality: that, coupled with Mac's phenomenal local popularity, made it the ideal venue.
A mobile recording unit was duly installed, The James Gang - with Joe Walsh on guitar - booked as support (NB: Walsh was recorded jamming with Mac one night: check out Volume Two in this 3 CD set, SMMCD 556), and three nights were recorded, February 5th, 6th & 7th, 1970. Their sets differed only slightly from those described by Mick Fleetwood earlier in that their second set was generally less chaotic (although a couple of the encores were certainly pretty ragged), with much of Jeremy's input - i.e, both his Elmore James routines and the R&R send-ups - featuring in the second house. The gigs were wildly successful affairs, with Green and Kirwan in blistering form throughout, and the recordings - teething problems notwithstanding (by the third night the sound balance was about right, whereas performance-wise, the band had perhaps peaked the previous night) - very nearly equally so.
But meanwhile, Fleetwood Mac's very success was beginning to weigh as heavily on Peter Green as had the responsibility for the band a year or so earlier. He'd become increasingly introverted and guilt-ridden, and was repeatedly talking about giving his earnings away, to charity, urging his colleagues to do likewise. His songs reflected his spiralling inner turmoil, the reflective lyricism of Man Of The World having earlier given way to the resigned cynicism of Oh Well, whilst his latest song The Green Manalishi - which he'd introduce onstage "this one's about the Devil" (it was actually about money - by now the same thing, as far as Peter was concerned) - was so intense that it often came across as a personal descent into hell. Peter had even turned his back on his Jewish faith and become a messianic Christian, appearing onstage in white robes and kaftans, a huge crucifix hung around his neck, wearing his hair and beard in a long, wild, seamless, flowing halo. His interviews with the press were becoming increasingly eccentric, and whenever he was misquoted on his religious and ideological beliefs - which was virtually every time - he was distraught.
Mac returned to the UK at the end of February and immediately set out on a European tour, starting in West Germany - and as is well-documented elsewhere, it all finally fell apart in Munich after Peter had taken some particufarly bad acid, He immediately announced his intention to quit the band, saw out his commitments, duly left, and continued his descent into the private hell from which he re-emerged only relatively recently,
Fleetwood Mac, meanwhlle, were desperately trying to soldier on as a quartet, and the proposed Live album was quietly shelved and forgotten. The material would not appear for fifteen years, when it eventually crept out in the form of two LP's, Live In Boston in February 1985 (titled Jumping At Shadows in the US), and a double-LP Cerulean (US title Roots - The Original Fleetwood Mac Live In Boston) six months later, in August '85, both appearing on the Shanghai label. Both albums are now quite collectable, the first having originally appeared in a couple of different sleeves, each being-variations or a 'woodcut' illustration of the original Boston Tea Party, with folks clad in traditional Red Indian garb tipping tea chests into the harbour, However (and with the best will in the world) these came across as poorly-compiled affairs, with patchy sound quality - a problem which worsened steadily with subsequent reissue packages, which recompiled their 21 tracks with increasingly less coherence.
The Live In Boston set was further-flawed in that it's spoken intro had been rather clumsily edited onto the 'wrong' opening track (a tight, powerful version of Oh Well which now appears on Volume Two in this 3 CD series - check out SMMCD 556): however, upon playing the original multi-tracks it was evident that this intro actually belonged with Black Magic Woman, and so the recompiling/re-sequencing began. Black Magic Woman was in turn discovered to have been followed by Peter Green's chilling reading of Duster Bennett's 'Jumping At Shadows (an absolutely phenomenal performance from Peter, building in tension throughout - and yet he seems genuinely surprised that the punters liked it), and a pair of Danny Kirwan's numbers, Like It This Way (a great 'duelling guitars' feature, and a crowd favourite) and Only You. All four tracks had appeared on the original Live In Boston set, albeit sequenced differently (NB: it's interesting to note that these four opening tracks all feature a Jeremy-less Fleetwood Mac).
Next up comes a simply brain-numbing version of Peter's tour-de-force Rattlesnake Shake: twenty-five minutes of sheer genius, it shows few signs of the "first night nerves" with which Peter rather diffidently introduces it. This (previously-unreleased) performance differs slightly from the epic version which dominates Volume Two (SMMCD 556) in that Danny Kirwan is rather more in evidence - which perhaps suggests that Peter's confidence was not at its strongest that first night (had it been it his own "first-night nerves" to which he'd alluded?).
At this point Jeremy Spencer finally joins the action, weighing in with a pair of Elmore James numbers, I Can't Hold Out (erroneously titled Can't Hold On on Live In Boston the first time around) and a previously-unreleased version of Got To Move. The set closes with a simply devastating version of The Green Manalishi, which is so powerful and poignant as to virtually defy description. Judging by his performance here, Peter Green's brain must have been frying. Predating the shorter, single-length version which Mac would record in April (and which would in turn be Peter's swansong with the band), it's thirteen minutes of tortured guitar-playing, which also features Green playing a six-string 'Jet Harris'-style bass. True to form it ends in a somewhat downbeat, anti-climatic model with Peter's abrupt "Thank you, that's the end of our first set."
At his best, Peter Green was the best ... and I very much doubt he played many better gigs than these. It has been our very great privilege to help restore Fleetwood Mac's stunning performances back to their original magnificence.
Acknowledgements: special thanks to Nick Watson, Neil Slaven, Lorne Murdoch, Martin Celmins, Bob Brunning, Mick Fleetwood & Stephen Davis, Melody Maker, GUitar Mag."
Original Masters, A Snapper Music Label
This release (P) (C) 1999 Snapper Records
Issued under special license from Hot Wax Productions
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