The melody’s nice here but it’s more the overall smooth, mournful mood that sets Albatross free. But, of course, the early Fleetwood Mac being a blues band, it’s not really that kind of Albatross, is it? It’s the kind that you carry as a curse, hung around your neck, weighing you down, reminding you and all the world that you blew it, you killed a beautiful thing for no damned reason. Which is sort of what happened to Peter Green, the man who wrote it, his career pretty much over within the year, psychedelic drugs and mental illness finding each other in yet another implosion of tortured genius.
Some have called 1971’s Endless Boogie a failed experiment, but they’re wrong. Even if main man John Lee Hooker was just hanging around for much of it, letting the mostly white boys do the work (Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Steve Miller, Gino Scaggs among others), it matters big time that he was there, bearing witness, leaning in every now and then to mumble something perhaps relevant to the temperature of the groove in question. Or maybe he really was just looking at the stove, pots full of weird potions bubbling over, setting the atmosphere itself alight.
The Fleetwood Mac story is long and confusing if nothing else. We all know the stuff that made them mega-rich and cocaine famous, but there’s an entire decade that precedes all that, and deep it goes, often with completely different singers and players working entirely different worlds and angles. Except the rhythm section, Mr. Fleetwood and Mr. Mac. You might even say the original line-up isn’t just the best Mac, they’re one of the best damned bands EVER, with guitarist Peter Green spearheading things, taking the old school blues, amplifying and psychedelicizing them, giving us stuff that barreled along neck and neck with what guys like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page were doing at the time. 1969’s Then Play On is the key album, capturing not just the breadth Mr. Green’s genius, but also hints of the psychosis that would soon tear him apart. Beautiful and gone, lost to ozone whilst Searching for Madge.
“I don’t know why I even put this record on in the first place. I guess I was bored. A friend’s album, plucked more or less randomly from a pile in the mid-1980s sometime. A song title like Good Time Boogie, an album title like Jazz Blues Fusion, John Mayall in general – I was not remotely into this kind of stuff. I guess I could plead alcohol, but I didn’t drink much in those days. It just had to happen, I guess. And it was good. Music that was both grounded in tradition and set loose to explore. And what a groove! Exactly what my soul needed.” (Philip Random)
“I probably heard Roy Harper at the time, Highway Blues jangling away on one of the cool FM radio stations that I was just starting to really explore in 1973. So much of that sort of long haired cosmic truth telling at the time. But it would be the 1980s before I really discovered Lifemask, going through my mid-decade retro-phase (that’s never really ended, it’s true). It was Mr. Harper’s voice that hooked me, the loose, confident freedom of it. Whatever he was on about, you were glad he was getting it out, making sense at least to himself out on that lonely highway.” (Philip Random)
“Presence is the good Led Zeppelin heroin album (as my friend Mark once put it), the mostly sh** one being In Through The Out Door (Jimmy Page being too f***ed up to care). Either way, the Zeppelin’s days of full-on world dominance and glory were slipping past them by 1976, which didn’t exactly stop them from laying down some of the evilest blues mankind has ever known. Even if, in this case, it was a song about taking personal responsibility for the mess you’re in, which, when you think about it, is very mature behavior.” (Philip Random)
In which Savoy Brown emerge from the depths of their trad-blues commitments to deliver a uniquely laid back but strong 1969 truth – a time when, if you were properly cool, you had very long hair, smoked a lot of dope, and didn’t mince words when it came to your opinion on the f***ed up state of the world, man.
“The band is called Python Lee Jackson, but yes that is Rod Stewart singing lead. Who knows what the story is? I’m guessing it was a session Mr. Stewart did back before he was uber-famous. And it just sat on a shelf until he was suddenly too big to ignore, and cool. That’s the hard part. To realize that Rod Stewart was once genuinely cool, hard drinking, hard rocking, always smiling, incapable of contributing to the cause of bad music. But then something horrible happened.” (Philip Random)
By 1970 (and probably all along), the Mothers of Invention were whatever and whoever Frank Zappa said they were. In the case of Directly From My Heart To You, that meant that Sugarcane Harris‘s straight ahead blues and violin take on a Little Richard original belonged on 1970’s Weasels Ripped My Flesh, which was that kind of album anyway – odds and sods and outtakes from various live gigs and studio sessions all jammed together and, strangely (or perhaps not) making for a very much essential Mothers excursion, the only limits being Mr. Zappa’s abilities (staggering) and taste (expansive to say the least). And then there’s that album cover, which Philip Random admits is the reason he bought it in the first place.