Michael John Kells Fleetwood, better known as Mick, has been a mainstay of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame band that bears his name since its inception in 1968.
Fleetwood left home at the age of fifteen to pursue a career as a drummer. After playing in a number of local bands, including Shotgun Express with Peter Green and Rod Stewart, he followed Green into John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1967. A year later he and John McVie followed Green into Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, which was later shortened to just Fleetwood Mac, and there he has remained through thick and thin and gained massive popularity.
During 1981 he became the third member of Fleetwood Mac to release a solo album, following Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. The problem, of course, was that while Nicks and Buckingham were songwriters and accomplished vocalists, Fleetwood was neither.
Fleetwood journeyed to Accra, Ghana, West Africa, during January and February 1981, and recorded an album’s worth of songs at the Ghana Film Industries Studio. The tracks were released as The Visitor later that year. The album was a moderate commercial success reaching number 43 on The United States album charts.
The release was a mixture of African rhythms and British electric rock and blues. He uses a number of native musicians, including percussionist Lord Tiki, vocalist Ebaali Gbiko, vocals and more percussion by the Adjo Group, and additional vocals/percussion by The Ghana Folklore Group. Also on hand were guitarists Todd Sharp and bassist George Hawkins. It was his guest artists, however, that provided the connection to his British roots.
How he convinced Peter Green to re-record his classic “Rattlesnake Shake” in Africa is beyond me, but he does as he provides the lead guitar and vocals for the song that originally appeared on Fleetwood Mac’s Then Play On. His other guest import was George Harrison who provided slide and 12 string guitar, plus backing vocals for a reworking of the Lindsey Buckingham composition, “Walk A Thin Line.” I also like the fairly straightforward cover of the old Crickets tune, “Not Fade Away.”
Most of the rest of the album features a variety of African rhythms and percussion, which while inventive and creative are an acquired taste. The title track, “O’ Niamali,” and “Amelle (Come On Show Me Your Heart)” are the best of the African oriented tracks.
The Visitor was a concept album that worked. Mick Fleetwood was able to put together a piece of work that reflected the two sides of his music personality. It remains a credible, if somewhat obscure, part of the solo Fleetwood Mac catalogue.