Jeremy Spencer, Guitars and Vocals; John McVie, Bass; Mick Fleetwood, Drums – Silverline 284508-2 – DualDisc (two disc set), 109 min. **: The Fleetwood Mac lineup presented here in these BBC studio recordings from 1967-1971 represents to many die-hard fans the only truly worthwhile version of the band, and bears little resemblance to the pop superstars the group would evolve into during the height of the
Buckingham-Nicks era a decade later. Their live shows under leader
Peter Green were the stuff of legend and influenced countless legions
of future blues-rockers. Having never heard these recordings, I was
pretty excited to see how the DVD-Audio medium (via DualDisc) would
serve these archival performances – unfortunately, it’s a pretty mixed
bag of results.
You can sense Peter Green’s legendary stage presence throughout these
performances – his incendiary guitar style ignites originals like
Rattlesnake Shake and Green’s signature tune, Oh Well. Hard-edged
covers also abound, from the likes of blues legends Elmore James,
Robert Johnson and Little Willie John. Green’s guitar playing
throughout is truly remarkable, and his rough-hewn vocals add
significantly to Fleetwood Mac’s blues credentials. Too many acid trips
contributed to his tragically rapid descent into madness, and robbed
the music world of a towering talent and true guitar genius.
On the downside, for every two really great blues numbers or Green
original, there’s a fifties-bopper, sock hop oriented cover or original
from second guitarist Jeremy Spencer. Not that these tunes are so very
bad, but they’re just not in keeping with the bluesy spirit of the rest
of the performances, and serve as a great distraction. How he stayed
with the band for five years, I’ll never know.
Sound quality is also quite variable, ranging anywhere from reasonably
acceptable to pretty raw. Switching between the CD layers and DVD-Audio or Dolby Digital surround mixes only yielded slightly perceptible
differences – the original tapes must be in pretty poor condition.
While there’s no video present on these discs, at least they do offer a
DVD-Audio layer (no hi-res stereo, though), which is more than many
DualDiscs can boast. And once again, the mix is listed as 5.1, but
there’s no sub material present, which is a real shame, because it
would have anchored the sometimes shaky sound significantly. Although
the packaging lists Artist Photos among the bonus materials, I couldn’t
get any DVD player in my house or my computer to display them. Although there’s much excellent material here to capture the attention of blues and Mac fans alike, the limited extras and highly variable sound
quality definitely make this one a try-before-you-buy.
TrackList: Rattlesnake Shake; Sandy Mary; Believe My Time Ain’t Long; Although The Sun Is Shining; Only You; You Never Know What You’re Missing; Oh Well; Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave; Jenny Lee; Heavenly; When Will I Be Loved; When I See My Baby; Buddy’s Song; Honey Hush; Preachin’; Jumping At Shadows; Preachin’ Blues; Need Your Love So Bad; 18 others.
— Tom Gibbs