Fleetwood Mac – Shrine '69 (released 1999)
An album that for me, paints a picture of a peaceful and long hot summers’ afternoon. Live slow blues is essential part of any blues collection and Shrine ’69 is a gem of an example. Recorded on 25th January 1969 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles at the end of the groups’ second tour of the USA, this recording was finally released 30 years later. Shrine ’69 demonstrates the brilliance of each member of the band and is self-explanatory for its success when put into the context of when the gig was recorded.
‘Shrine ‘69’ entails tracks from both their first two studio albums; ‘Fleetwood Mac’ (1968) and ‘Mr. Wonderful’ (1968), as well as singles that feature on the ‘English Rose’ (1969) and ‘Pious Bird Of Good Omen’ (1969) compilation albums. Unusually, they do not perform ‘Black Magic Woman’ but instead play ‘Before the Beginning’ a track yet to be released on the famous ‘Then Play On’ (1969) album.
This album showcases the Mac at their peak, particularly with slow blues. With all the delicate touches, thumping rhythm, stops, starts wailing guitars and beautiful vocals all coming naturally, this album ticks boxes.
Sound quality is very good having been recorded on the soundboard by Dinky Dawson, the Mac soundman.
Track by track:
1.) Tune Up:
Bluntly put, there’s nothing doing here. All band members twiddle about a little and the band is announced. Jeremy Spencer sound-checks the piano and Peter Green calls the first song and the key it’s in. Away we go…
2.) If You Be My Baby:
Straight in from Peter Green he doesn’t mess around here. A slow blues starter, he sets the tone for the entire album with his opening and signature licks. I’m a big fan of Green’s vocals which have an element of swagger about them. If you’re out to listen to more of Green’s tone, this is a good place to be. The rest of the band play a solid blues backing and leave Green to it.
3.) Something Inside Of Me:
Green hands over to Danny Kirwan for his minor blues masterpiece, riddled with haunt and emotional intent. The extreme vibrato on the guitar solo wrenches out every ounce that the song is worth to the point when my chest tightens up. Kirwans’ vocals are more melodic than Green’s (or Spencer’s for that matter) which add a superb contrast to the band. Arguably a better recording than the studio version, but one better would be the live version at the London Trade College 19th April 1969, if you can get hold of a copy (average recording quality but exceptional playing).
4.) My Baby’s Sweet:
A Homesick James Williamson cover, featuring my favourite intro for a slide guitar song. Such a basic series of riff and note played on two guitars before the slide and rhythm kick in. Jeremy Spencer is the main feature here, this time playing a straight cover rather than his infamous raucous parody style. The relaxation factor is huge on this minimal and laid-back number.
I’m pretty sure everyone knows this track. Not a hit in America, but a number one in the UK this is one the more famous Fleetwood Mac tracks, an instrumental that involves most band members; Fleetwood pounding with his orchestral drumsticks, McVie and Kirwan on rhythm and Green bouncing the solo together. Spencer plays no part. A difficult one to get right live and Green makes the odd error, but who cares its Albert Ross!!
6.) Before The Beginning:
Slow blues again, but by no means in a standard format. This is an area Green needs to be paid more of his due as this piece is a very well-written original. ‘Before the Beginning’ was played regularly on tour until Peter left the band a year later. The intricate solo introduction opens out to a minor blues over a rolling drum-beat with Green preaching his worries. This is the first track where you can evidently find Peter’s troubles. Comparing the tone of his singing to the opening track, a haunting presence of demise seems to have appeared. A very good but very sad song.
7.) Rollin’ Man:
My least favourite track on the album, I’m not a fan of the studio recording either, but like a switch Green changes his vocal and guitar tone to a much brighter and uplifting ‘rolling’ blues. Doubled in length, it breaks into a much faster pace after four minutes into an instrumental mash of what seems to be ‘Stop Messin’ Around’ and ends in a less than tight manner.
8.) Lemon Squeezer:
I only recently got hold of the Jimmy Rogers original, which is great but this will blow you away. The sheer joy infused is emphatic. Green rips up a few harmonica solos (a rare treat) and Spencer hits the right notes on the piano in the background and all without a guitar solo in sight this reminds me of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. The tongue-in-cheek lyrics are executed as well as the harmonica in this well balanced, tight and wonderfully understated (slow blues) track. My highlight of the album.
9.) Need Your Love So Bad:
A Little Willie John cover, made into a hit by Green is another slow blues. It really doesn’t disappoint with Green playing this to his best and the rest of the band making it seem easy also, this is the first point on the album that the crowd seem to perk up to a reasonable extent. Green exerts a nervous/embarrassed laugh afterwards, he knows it went well. If, like me, you don’t enjoy the sound of the violins on the studio single version, get this.
10.) Great Balls Of Fire:
Written by Jack Hammer and Otis Blackwell, but Jerry Lee Lewis put this song on the map. Jeremy Spencer is the antagonist in playing this, contrasting the pace of the performance entirely. I can imagine Spencer parodying Lee Lewis, kicking his seat over, hair flicking etc. One of the weaker tracks on the album, and Peter doesn’t get involved in it except to announce the end of the show by thanking the crowd. A sign that Peter was growing tired of Spencer’s limiting musical vocabulary.
Fleetwood Mac then set off back to England to record ‘Then Play On’ (released in September), which barely featured Spencer and signalled the beginning of the end for Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.
Peter Green – Guitar / Vocals / Harmonica
Danny Kirwan – Guitar / Vocals
Jeremy Spencer – Guitar / Vocals / Piano
John McVie – Bass
Mick Fleetwood - Drums
Very much the last hurrah of the greatest blues band (in my opinion, of course)