Fleetwood Mac - Then Play On (1969)

Fleetwood Mac started out as a blues band, one of the British groups to start playing American R&B in the 60s. They managed to find success under the leadership of guitarist Peter Green, before his departure and a flurry of line-up changes, after which they transformed into an entirely different band in the 70s.

In their early years, Fleetwood Mac was very much a band divided between two frontmen, both playing their own styles of blues - Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer. However things changed in August 1968 when they brought in a third guitarist, 18 year old Danny Kirwan. His style was along the same lines as Peter Green’s, and so Spencer began to be sidelined somewhat. The new five man line-up released the Green-penned instrumental “Albatross” in January 1969, which became a massive hit, getting to #1 in the UK. It was followed by “Man Of The World”, which got to #2. Under Green’s leadership, and with Kirwan’s support, they had stumbled upon a commercially successful sound that was expanding outside their blues roots. When they came to record their third album, they got to explore this new formula extensively.
Then Play On was released in September 1969. It has come to be seen as the masterpiece of the Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac, showcasing his songwriting talent and delicate, refined guitar style perfectly. Kirwan also contributed some similarly fantastic songs, proving to be a fine singer, and his guitar work a match for Green’s in both ability and style. Much of the album had a dark, sorrowful quality to it, though it also featured some more energetic bluesy jams.
A third single was released around this time, Green’s “Oh Well”, which also got to #2. Its b-side (“Oh Well Pt 2”) was a long classically-influenced instrumental quite unlike anything else the band had recorded. When the song became a hit, a revised version of the album was put out in the US with both parts of “Oh Well” adding in as one long nine-minute track, and a couple of other songs were removed to make room for it.
But what was Jeremy Spencer up to at this point? He rarely contributed to Green’s work, and apparently doesn’t appear on the album at all (it featured none of his songs). In their live concerts, most of the set was performed just by Green, Kirwan, McVie and Fleetwood, doing the Then Play On material and associated singles. Spencer would join them on stage for the second half of the set where they backed him as he sang his own material and a host of Elmore James and Little Richard covers. Obviously he was becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the group (he released a solo album the next year).
Then Play On was a success, getting to #6 in the UK album charts. It represents the pinnacle of the Peter Green era of the band, a masterpiece of 60s blues-rock.

The version here is the CD reissue, which mostly sticks to the US tracklisting, with both parts of “Oh Well”, but with the deleted songs back in place as well.

Mr Wonderful (1968) <|> Kiln House (1970)
More from Fleetwood Mac

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

An amazing piece of musical artwork. Greeny 4 Life.

goinsidemyhead said...

this album is a psychedelic masterwork that I listened to many times floating in its swirling narcotic spell. How this amazingly creative band turned into what it became is a mystery only money can explain. The adventurous lives of Peter Green, Syd Barrett and Roky Ericson I guess tell another part of the amazing story of psychedelic rock's trajectory from ecstatic highs to tragic loss.
What an awesome blog!

drizzz said...

Thank you, an exceptional album!