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The only arguable virtuoso in the band was guitarist Peter Green, andhe does have a distinctive sound - but it's hugely derivative ofhis blues heroes whose songs he's singing and whose licks he's valiantlycopping. If you've heard enough Muddy Waters and Elmore James in your lives,you won't need this record. Not to mention that even the production sucks:it sounds like the band were recording the album on their tape recorderin somebody's living room. The sound is flat and pedestrian; for comparison,take a listen to the far superior John Mayall's Bluesbreakers With EricClapton with its deep rumbling echoes and a guitar that sounds likeit's coming somewhere from the stratosphere rather than from somebody'sbellybutton.
Not that I have anything against an entire album of blues covers, mindyou. Nope. If you need a counterexample, I enjoy Eric Clapton's FromThe Cradle as good as anybody. But with this particular record thereare specific problems which make it significantly worse than even theirdebut one. First of all, this time the band really doesn't give a damnabout whether the tunes sound different from each other or not: most ofthem are taken at the same boring mid-tempo, with just a couple reallyslow ones and a couple faster ones, and most have exactly the same arrangements,plainly inherited from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers where most of theseguys came from: moody keyboards, saddened horns and thrashing drums. Andthe production hasn't improved even a single bit from their debut: theystill sound as if they completely ignore the possibilities of arecording studio. Some of the songs, like I've already said, are so similarthat you hardly notice the breaks. Second, like I also already said, noneof the band members are virtuosos: they do maintain a highly professionaland technically flawless blues sound, but there's absolutely nothing todistinguish them from either most of their contemporaries or most of theirpredecessors. Everything's as bland and insipid as possible. Yes, evenincluding Peter Green's guitar: the only thing he tries to do with it isto emulate his blues heroes as close as possible - and it eventually becomespainfully unbearable. Actually, it becomes unbearable from the very firsttrack ('Stop Messin' Round', an 'original' with, as usual, new lyrics setto well-known melodies) and doesn't stop being unbearable until the veryend.
If you're really interested in the band's Sixties' blues sound,you're well advised to stick to this album and screw the first two ones.This isn't exactly a compilation - it does recycle some numbers from boththe debut album ('Looking For Somebody') and Mr Wonderful ('StopMessin' Round', 'Coming Home'), but essentially it's a collection of singles,and that means that not only does it feature some material you won't findanywhere else, it also features good quality single material. As far asI know, they released another album like this called English Rose- maybe the British analog for this one (or vice versa); however, the tracklisting for it doesn't look more entertaining than on Pious Bird,mostly the same singles, so I don't know which buy's the better. Anyway,English Rose seems to be out of print, so forget about it and stickto this pseudo-compilation.
Funny enough, some of the blues material on here is also listenable- like the ridiculously orchestrated 'Need Your Love So Bad' that wonderfullymanages to combine straightforward blues with MGM-type string arrangements(strange that so few people have tried this, before or after), or the twocollaborations with bluesman Eddie Boyd ('The Big Boat' and 'Just The Blues'),where Eddie's voice and fluent piano playing is what makes the numbersreally shine through. Turns out that Green just wasn't out a good vocalist- Fleetwood Mac sound perfect as a backing band, much better than,say, the Stones when you hear them sometimes backing an old bues great.The selections from the earlier albums aren't the worst, either, and thefact that the tracks are interspersed also gives a feel of slight diversitythat was so missing on the previous records: when songs like 'Albatross'or 'Black Magic Woman' segue into, say, their debut single ('I BelieveMy Time Ain't Long', with some fabulous harmonica work), it's somewhatenlightening.
There's some filler, too, after all, it would be too much of a biasto say that it's hugely different from the debut album. For instance,I hate the band's reworking of Elmore James' 'The Sun Is Shining', sincethe vocals are shitty - Spencer playing his dirty tricks on the listeneragain I'm so used to the pretty Clapton version of the song that I can'timagine it as a stupid parody version. And, while all the generic bluesditties are slightyl better in quality then the generic blues ditties onMr Wonderful, they're still nothing but generic blues ditties.
All in all, I can easily say it's one of the best BBC collections I'veever heard so far. Heck, let's be brave: it's THE best BBC collection inmy collection. I mean, other BBC albums either lower our ideas of a certainartist (Beatles) or slightly improve it (Led Zeppelin) or just give usa good opportunity to enjoy a good live performance (Hendrix), but PeterGreen's Fleetwood Mac BBC collection does the impossible, for me, at least- which is, change the perception of a band from dismissive to very muchappreciative. So try to scoop it up if you were ever interested in thisincarnation of the band in the first place. And if you weren't, scoop itup if only for the paranoid look in Mick Fleetwood's eyes as he staresat you from the inlay photo.
Arguably the best album of the band in the pre-Buckingham/Nicks epoch.Unlike most of the others that took a really long time to digest, I'veacquired it only recently, but it managed to impress me on first listen.It's even more surprising considering the background against which therecord was released and toured to: constant bickerings among band members,Weston's affair with Jenny Fleetwood and his subsequent firing, and Welch'sheavy drinking (not that the others didn't enjoy a good sip now and then,too). This is Weston's second and last album, and he's not very prominenton it, apart from some fiery solos on the heavy numbers. Instead, thisis Welch on parade, and there's also Christine McVie's debut as a solid,full-fledged member of the band: she gets five of her compositions on here.But it's certainly not a rehashing of the old Bare Treesleg. The obvious aim was to make a diverse record, so the experimentativeatmosphere makes most of this really fresh and exciting, if not alwayssuccessful.
Why am I digressing so much Well, see, never is the contrast between'serious' and 'sweet' so strong as it is here. The album's title, HeroesAre Hard To Find, derives from Christine's title track, a pleasantlittle ditty about how it's hard to find a good lover. However, taken togetherwith the album's cover, the phrase quickly changes its meaning: the defectivegentlemen in underwear and tennis shoes on the front cover, with miserablelittle children clinging to their hands, probably symbolize the weaknessof this world and the fact that heroes are, indeed, hard to find (the word'hero' probably defining a person whose ribs don't show out). I don't knowwhether the idea of the cover belonged to Welch, and I'm also not surewhether I get it right, but the effect is certainly quite natural. Youget the album and think it must be their response to Dark Side Of TheMoon, and then you hear the title track and... oh... sheez...
The biggest blow, though, comes from Lindsey's decline into brainlesspop machinery as well. No, not overall. He contributes what is by far thebest song on the album, the dark, growlish title track that has nothingto do with tango (it's disco, actually) and is distinguished by a ferociousGilmourish guitar solo. But this is where the rub really lies. What I likedso much about Buckingham was his guitar playing - be it the twisty andtasty acoustic picking of 'Never Going Back Again' or the almost ridiculously'clumsy' and totally unique garage-rock strumming of 'The Ledge'. Thereis practically no audible guitar on the album, except for separate bitsand pieces, and when you do get to hear the guitar, it's mostly the modernizedtrite metallic chords and 'climactic' solos, like the ones that are playedon 'Isn't It Midnight'. Thus, Buckingham's distinctive sound is gone: theonly song where you can still suspect him of guitar-loving is the paranoidrhythm of 'Big Love' that opens the album. If not for the out-of-placecall-and-answer sighs and gasps from Lindsey and Nicks, this could havebeen a minor chef-d'oeuvre; as it is, these 'ah! - ah! - ah!' spoil itfor me. But, just so as he could successfully disclaim his past, Lindseyhits the dirtiest bottom with 'A Family Man', a complete waste of tapethat, besides exposing what I deem to be the worst Fleetwood Mac lyricsof all time ('I am what I am, a family man/Mother... Father... Brother...'),also has the ugliest 'inter-singing' I could ever hope to hear on a presumablygood record. The gentle guitar plucking in between the verses tries torectify the mistake and convince us of the hidden potential of the song,but don't let it fool you: this is just a mask. And 'Caroline' and 'YouAnd I Part II' are just meaningless filler for me: never before had Lindseytaken so little time and spent so little effort to work on any of his numbers.
Yup, but the album is seventy-nine minutes long, and these complaintsget lost in a sea of praise. What's much more important than anything elseis that, apart from being a great songwriting band, Fleetwood Mac werea superb live band - tasteful, diverse and energetic. The rhythm sectionis simply incredible, propelling every second song to a breathtaking, kickbuttgroove; and Lindsey is king just as he was in the band's glory days. Notonly does he demonstrate that his ample talents as a guitar player onlygrow stronger with time, he manages to breathe an entirely new life intoquite a few of his own and his colleagues' compositions. Thus, it wasn'tuntil I started listening to Dance that 'I'm So Afraid' which Ionce almost overlooked on the Fleetwood Mac album (and hadn't yetthe chance to hear on the Live album), suddenly jumped out at meas one of the greatest songs by the band - a dark, painful ode to fearand the sense of defenselessness before life and its dangers, immediatelyevoking memories of Lennon's 'Scared' to mind. Of course, Lindsey's lyricscan't even hope to beat John, but he compensates with his soulful, strainedsinging and such a gorgeous, throttle-guitar solo (funnily enough, looselybased on the more chaotic solo on Live) that you can't help butwonder why nobody ever mentions Buckingham in the number of best guitaristson Earth. The guy is indeed a wonder. Goes without saying that his guitarworkon 'Go Your Own Way' and 'Big Love' (here far superior to the original,without the stupid disco beats and almost without Buckingham's grunts onthe way, albeit a little bit less involving than the one on Live)is not less impressive. 153554b96e