Sunday , May 26 2024

Music Reviews: Fleetwood Mac’s ‘1969 to 1974,’ Plus Steve Forbert’s ‘Rodgers Revisited’

Like the Bee Gees and a handful of other bands, Fleetwood Mac were lucky enough to have enjoyed more than one life. In their first incarnation, with guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, they were a British blues-rock outfit. (For the best of this period, don’t miss the superlative six-disc The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967–1969.) By the early 1970s, with Green and Spencer gone and players like Christine McVie, Danny Kirwan, and Bob Welch on the team, they were evolving from blues rockers into more of a West Coast U.S.–influenced pop/rock group. Then, at the end of 1974, Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined up, which triggered Fleetwood Mac’s third act and helped turn them into the international superstars responsible for “Go Your Own Way,” “Rhiannon,” and a long list of other megahits.

It’s the transitional second period that’s the focus of the recently issued 1969 to 1974, an eight-CD, clamshell-boxed collection. The bargain-priced set (about five bucks per disc) includes remasters of all seven of the studio albums that the group issued during this period: Then Play On (1969), their last album with Green; Kiln House (1970), on which they begin to sound more affected by American rock and roll; Future Games (1971), their first LP with Christine McVie and Welch as official members and their last with Kirwan; Bare Trees (1972), which predominantly features Kirwan material despite his departure but also includes compositions from Welch and Christine; and Penguin (1973), Mystery to Me (1973), and Heroes Are Hard to Find (1974), pop rock entries that prominently feature Welch and Christine. 

Bonus material augments all of these albums except Penguin. Most of those add-ons—such as previously released single versions of LP tracks—are nothing to write home about. But the box also offers some non-LP singles, a few interesting obscurities, and one previously unavailable studio recording, Welch’s “Good Things (Come to Those Who Wait).” Plus, the package devotes an entire disc to a previously unreleased December 1974 concert from the Record Plant in Sausalito, California, that was originally simulcast on the radio in San Francisco. 

The studio albums are uneven but loaded with highlights. Kiln House, for example, has Spencer’s “Buddy’s Song,” an amiable Buddy Holly tribute, and a beautiful cover of “Mission Bell,” Donnie Brooks’s 1960 pop hit, while Christine McVie’s lilting “Spare Me a Little of Your Love” and “Come a Little Bit Closer” enliven Bare Trees and Heroes Are Hard to Find, respectively.  And then there are the many hook-laden contributions of the late Bob Welch, such as Bare Trees’ “Sentimental Lady,” Mystery to Me’s “Emerald Eyes” and “Hypnotized,” and Heroes Are Hard to Find’s “Angel” and “She’s Changing Me,” all of which underscore just how much he added to this chapter of the group’s history.

Some of the earlier material in the box hearkens back to the group’s blues roots, but elsewhere they sound a lot like the latter-day Fleetwood Mac. That’s not surprising, given that many of the numbers feature vocals by Christine as well as drummer Mick Fleetwood and Christine’s then husband, bass guitarist John McVie, all of whom would still be on board for the band’s superstar era.

The box set’s 73-minute concert incorporates versions of some of the best material from throughout the years covered by the anthology, including “Spare Me a Little of Your Love,” “Sentimental Lady,” “Black Magic Woman,” and a nearly 11-minute reading of Welch’s “Bermuda Triangle.” It offers a cogent summary of the strengths of the band during this period—a period that ended only weeks after this performance, when Fleetwood Mac’s newly reconfigured lineup entered Southern California’s Sound City Studios to begin work on the eponymous album that would turn them into household names.

Steve Forbert Tips His Hat to Jimmie Rodgers

If you’re familiar with both Steve Forbert and Jimmie Rodgers, you’ve probably figured out that the contemporary folksinger has more in common with the so-called Father of Country Music than the fact that both were born in the vicinity of Meridian, Mississippi. It’s not a huge leap from, say, Rodgers’s “My Carolina Sunshine Girl” to such Forbert tunes as “Song for Katrina.” And if Rodgers were alive today, he might be writing numbers like Forbert’s “What Kinda Guy” or “Strange Names” instead of the equally lighthearted “Everybody Does It in Hawaii.”

Be that as it may, Forbert is a major fan of the singing brakeman and has featured his songs in concerts over the years; and in 2002, he released an entire album of material associated with Rodgers, the Grammy-nominated Any Old Time. On his latest digital-only archival release—which follows closely on the heels of a new live recording of his 40-year-old Jackrabbit Slim—Forbert again tips his hat to the legendary country artist, this time with a collection called Rodgers Revisited

The album includes 14 songs recorded in concert at locations around the U.S., including Meridian. The oldest of these performances dates from 1980; the newest are from earlier this year, shortly before the pandemic put a halt to live concerts. Two of the tracks—“Years Ago” (see audio clip below) and the aforementioned ”Everybody Does It in Hawaii”—also show up on 1987’s Here’s Your Pizza, but much of this material appears to be previously unreleased.

Supplementing the live material are seven studio demos that Forbert recorded prior to making Any Old Time. These feature the album’s coproducer, the E Street Band’s Garry W. Tallent, on electric guitar, banjo, and upright bass.

Mixing such well-known Rodgers numbers as “Waiting for a Train” and “In the Jailhouse Now” with relative obscurities, Forbert offers affectionate covers that pay tribute to the originals while adding a contemporary flavor and a large dose of his own personality. If you’re a fan of either Rodgers or Forbert, you’re bound to love it. If you’re a fan of both, you’ll love it even more. 

About Jeff Burger

Jeff Burger’s website,, contains half a century's worth of music reviews and commentary. His books include Dylan on Dylan: Interviews and Encounters, Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon, Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters, and Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters.

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