You just can’t write better songs than Love That Burns or Black Magic Woman, both of which can be found here. And Albatross, the mellow instrumental that closes out side four, was a Number One hit in the UK in 1969, can you believe it? It was backed on some releases by Need Your Love So Bad, another one of our all time favorite Fleetwood Mac covers. The band was on fire back when Peter Green was at the helm. These two LPs are proof enough.
The material found on this American-only compilation is tough to come by on vinyl; their early albums barely charted in the states and are anything but plentiful. The Peter-Green-led blues band that performed this music was huge in England however, and for me, personally, I would take Fleetwood Mac as a blues band over any other blues band from the period.
Keep in mind that some of these recordings are engineered to sound like old blues songs from the thirties and forties. Don’t expect audiophile sound on those tracks because it’s just not on the master tapes that way.
But it’s easy enough to tell when the material sounds right, and that’s all we are after here — the right sound.
What the amazing sides offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. The CDs can give you clean and clear. Only vintage vinyl gives you the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
- Rich, full-bodied bass, with plenty of weight down low for the big toms Mick Fleetwood is so fond of
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with the vocals, guitars and drums sounding right
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
- Et cetera, et cetera
UK Vs. Domestic
Don’t assume the UK pressings containing this material have better sound. Most of them are dull and opaque, clearly mastered from dub tapes. You have to work very hard to find these songs with good sound, and early pressings such as this one do not come cheap in the stores in this kind of condition.
One and Done?
Not quite. Some of the early Mac’s songs from the British Greatest Hits compilation we have offered in the past are not to be found on Black Magic Woman. Oh Well Parts One and Two spring immediately to mind. That said, with this album and the Brit Greatest Hits you’re in better shape than you would be with any other three LPs I can think of. Two and done? For all practical purposes, yes.
My Heart Beat Like a Hammer
Merry Go Round
Long Grey Mare
Hellhound on My Trail
Shake Your Moneymaker
Looking for Somebody
No Place to Go
My Baby’s Good to Me
If I Loved Another Woman
Cold Black Night
The World Keep On Turning
Got to Move
Stop Messin’ Round
Jigsaw Puzzle Blues
Something Inside of Me
Love That Burns
Black Magic Woman
I’ve Lost My Baby
One Sunny Day
Easily one of the centerpieces of the early Fleetwood Mac canon, “Black Magic Woman” is obviously more well-known as the huge hit single for Santana in 1970. However, this version on its own is indeed striking and far more than just a blueprint. Crossing blues, rock and Caribbean/calypso music, Peter Green created a unique musical synthesis, and the effect is intoxicating.
Fleetwood Mac’s debut LP was a highlight of the late-’60s British blues boom. Green’s always inspired playing, the capable (if erratic) songwriting, and the general panache of the band as a whole placed them leagues above the overcrowded field… The album was an unexpected smash in the U.K., reaching number four on the British charts.
For reasons that no one seems to recall in detail — but for which we can be grateful — when it was time to release a second Fleetwood Mac LP in America, producer Mike Vernon and the band didn’t just send the existing Mr. Wonderful album across the Atlantic — a little fine-tuning and retooling was in order.
The band had just expanded by one member, to a quintet — with the addition of guitarist Danny Kirwan — by the end of 1968, whereas Mr. Wonderful represented them as a four-piece outfit. Additionally, the group had just toured the U.S. for the first time, as a quintet, playing to very enthusiastic audiences, and so there was some point to sending U.S. licensee Epic Records something extra, representing who they were at the start of 1969.
And that became the English Rose album, offering three Kirwan-authored instrumentals, plus the hit U.K. single “Albatross,” and also their previous single, “Black Magic Woman,” which had been a British Top 40 hit (though it was unknown in the U.S., and preceded Santana’s hit recording of it by almost two years).
Half of Mr. Wonderful was still there, including the opener, “Stop Messin’ Round” and “I’ve Lost My Baby,” representing the stronger tracks from that record. Between the paring down of Mr. Wonderful and the addition of the single tracks, English Rose ended up being a stronger album than its predecessor, though without a hit single in America to drive sales and get it exposure, it barely brushed the Top 200 LP listings in the U.S. Strangely enough, despite the overlap with Mr. Wonderful, English Rose was released in England about six months later, probably to help make up for the loss of the group’s contract (due to an oversight) by Blue Horizon.