Fleetwood Mac: Then Play On

then play onFleetwood Mac
Then Play On
(Reprise Records)

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B.B. King once praised Peter Green by saying he was the only guitarist who ever gave him the “cold sweats.” Then Play On is Green’s masterpiece, his last album with Fleetwood Mac, the band he founded in 1967. It’s the soundtrack to a man succumbing to fame, fortune, self-doubt, and too many acid trips.

By Then Play On, Fleetwood Mac had evolved from playing basic blues to stretching the boundaries of introspective songwriting. Green’s nine-minute “Oh Well (Pts. 1 & 2)” spans a plethora of musical styles. “Pt. 1” is rapid-fire blues driven by Green’s cutting acoustic runs, Danny Kirwan’s manic guitar solos and more cowbell from Mick Fleetwood. “Pt. 2” is a stunning flamenco-flavored instrumental with a lonesome recorder solo that brings to mind the theme of a spaghetti western.

Green poured his sorrows into “Closing My Eyes,” making use of his keening guitar and somber silences. The bleakness of “Before the Beginning” is punctuated by Fleetwood’s dramatic drums and Green/Kirwan’s ghostly twin guitars. But Green wasn’t completely humorless – his “Rattlesnake Shake” is a sarcastic ode to masturbation.

Green challenged 17-year-old wunderkind Kirwan with the task of writing half the album. (The group’s third guitarist, Jeremy Spencer, barely contributed.) Kirwan didn’t disappoint, penning, among others, the percussive “Coming Your Way,” the thundering “Without You,” and the bouncy “Like Crying,” a duet with Green. Green’s take on greed, “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown),” and Kirwan’s “World in Harmony” are now included on the deluxe edition.

Green lost the ’70s to schizophrenia, resurfacing in the ’80s with five albums mostly composed by his brother Mike, but his genius was now a fragile facsimile. With Then Play On, fans can hear the Green God at the apex of his legendary career.

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