When most people think of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Jeremy Spencer is not an artist who usually comes to mind. In fact, many modern music fans will not associate him with the band for which he was inducted, Fleetwood Mac. Today, the band is known for its smooth brand of pop rock and the tens of millions of albums it has sold during the past 30 years.
If you were a fan of the early Fleetwood Mac or an aficionado of the blues, then you are probably very familiar with Jeremy Spencer as one of the premier guitarists of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He and Peter Green were Mac’s original guitarists and they managed to produce some of the best guitar-based fusion of rock and blues of their era. Spencer was a member of the band, 1967-71, until he walked away in the middle of a tour to join a religious cult. He now returns with a brilliant new album.
Bend In the Road was originally released as a two-disc vinyl album on National Record Day, April 21, 2012. It now returns as a CD and there are differences. The LP contained 17 tracks, four of which were exclusive to the format. The CD repeats the other 13 tracks plus adds one more new song for a total of 14.
When Spencer is in the mood he is one of the better guitarists alive today and on this album, he is definitely in the mood. The material finds its foundation in the blues but there are excursions into country and rock.
The album’s lead track, “Homesick,” was originally recorded by James Williamson during 1952. It is a traditional blues song and is made for the virtuosity of Spencer’s slide guitar style. His voice may have aged a bit but the patina has made it perfect for interpreting the blues. “Cry for Me Baby” is an old Elmore James tune and on it he plays off second guitarist Brett Lucas. The clarity of each individual note is the result of talent and years of practice.
“Whispering Fields” goes in a different direction. It is a breezy instrumental that just flows along. “Walked a Mile” or “I Walked a Mile with Sorrow” is a sermon-type song that has an autobiographical feel to it, even though it was inspired by Robert Browning.
“Earthquake” finds him is rock mode. While the liner notes state it was inspired by Eddie Cochran, I find it has an Elvis feel to it. Whichever may be true, it is an ode to old style rock and roll. The title track ends the album and has poignant lyrics concerning the ebb and flow of life, which is perfect for a musician with many miles under his bent. Through it all it retains a positive attitude and hope.
Bend In the Road is now in the running for one of my top 10 albums of the year. It’s good to see this old Fleetwood Mac alumnus live and well, still producing superior music.