“Because the highest Led Zeppelin track on this list would have to be from Physical Graffiti, the best of their least overexposed albums. I mean, I never even heard In My Time Of Dying until I finally bought Physical Graffiti, summertime 1989, almost fifteen years after the fact – that fateful day I went to the record store intending to spend a hundred bucks on maybe seven CDs and instead walked out with better part of thirty used albums, plus a pile of 7-inches. Because everybody was suddenly doing what I’d thought I was doing: switching to CDs. Which meant they were dumping all their vinyl. Which meant here was pretty much every album I’d always wanted but couldn’t really afford, now being pretty much given away. And when I got home, Physical Graffiti was the first thing I played, with In My Time Of Dying EVERYTHING that had ever made Led Zeppelin legendary. The blues, the ROCK, the epic and dynamic darkness that said as much about the hard times of the Mississippi Delta circa 1932 as the concert trails of 1974. Or the imminent end of the world circa 1989, for that matter — one’s time of dying never more than a heartbeat or a split atom away.” (Philip Random)
“For all the suburban whiteness of my so-called tweens, at least the DJs at the local FM rock station were still allowed to be halfway cool. So you can bet they were digging deep into Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, which truly is one of the great albums, every note, every texture all flowing together like one vastly complex song. So I’m sure I heard Inner City Blues when it was still pretty new, even if I wasn’t aware of it. Just part of the ongoing flow that was filling me in and filling me up with what was really going on out there in that part of the world that wasn’t organized into easy suburban shapes.” (Philip Random)
“True fact. For most of the 1980s, the Beatles pretty much always lost those Beatles vs Stones arguments (unless you were hanging out with idiots). Not that the ’80s Stones were up to anything new that was particularly necessary, just that their older stuff had the sort of teeth the times required. Though Yer Blues from the so-called White Album, also excelled in that regard — a blues as voracious as anything the Stones ever put to vinyl, or any other pale skinned band for that matter. As much a send-up of the whole idea of white guys churning out authentic black music as it was a genuine howl from the soul of a guy who really was so lonely he wanted to die, it still conjures chills and wins arguments. Because it’s true, the Stones may have been a better blues outfit but Beatles had the best actual song.” (Philip Random)
Wherein Peter Green, main guitar man for the early Fleetwood Mac, lays down a blueprint for a blues rock that aims to move so far beyond the bounds of either blues or rock that a new name will probably be required – something that contains the fierce grit of the Mississippi Delta circa 1930, waters rising, levees about to overflow, but also the majestic sweep of a Ennio Morricone Spaghetti western soundtrack, that scene where the cold eyed killer looks into the mirror and sees something monstrous looking back. Which sadly, is what happened to Peter Green, sort of. He got swallowed by the monster – the Green Manalishi he called it in another song. Some say it was just money, greed. Others that it was the devil himself. Either way, Mr. Green disappeared down his own nasty psychedelic wormhole, went mad for a while, got lost. As for Fleetwood Mac, they did what any proper blues outfit would do. They played on.
“I hear a Them track and I honestly can’t hear much difference from what the Rolling Stones were up to at the same time. Mid-60s, putting serious electricity to the blues, kicking great and necessary holes in the reality barrier. The weird part is that it’s Van Morrison doing the howling, offering nothing short of everything, which is clearly not enough. Some things never change.” (Philip Random)
“Derek and the Dominoes‘ only studio album was a 1970 release, but it didn’t cross my teeny bop consciousness until summer 1972 when they finally got around to releasing Layla as a radio single. Which led to my friend Malcolm getting the album, which mostly went way over our heads – all that loose jamming (and the drugging behind it) being more for the older kids. But I’d eventually come back around to it maybe twenty-five years later, particularly stuff like Key To The Highway where misters Eric Clapton (already well into a heroin addiction), Greg Allman (due for a fatal motorcycle accident), Jim Gordon (fated to go mad and murder his mother) and essential others sort of lay back and go long, delivering the news of what is to be genuinely free (you’ve got the key, you’ve got a vehicle, you’ve got an open road – what more could want?) for almost ten minutes anyway.” (Philip Random)
The melody’s nice here but it’s more the overall 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, hanging 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 Albatross, his career pretty much over within the year, psychedelic drugs and mental illness finding each other in yet another brutal 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 at least 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.