It’s difficult to write about Peter Green without accidentally lapsing into past tense, as though the founder of the original Fleetwood Mac were no longer here. He is, of course, very much in the present tense, touring and recording with Peter Green’s Splinter Group after long periods of inactivity in the grips of mental illness. On good nights, he can step up to the plate and show glimpses of the Greenie of old; other nights, bandmate Nigel Watson shoulders the lion’s share of the guitar duties.
This two-CD, 36-track package compiles the best of Green’s tentative steps back into action, with 24 tracks from five solo albums recorded between 1979 and 1982 – In The Skies, Little Dreamer, Blue Guitar, Whatcha Gonna Do , and White Sky – along with 10 live tracks and studio outtakes from Fleetwood Mac’s peak.
When the solo albums were originally released, it was apparent that one of the great voices in blues and rock guitar had lost much of his fire. But, in retrospect, hearing selected tracks from that period, Green holds his own – on cuts like the minor blues “Fool No More,” the funky “Loser Two Times,” and the jungly instrumental “Tribal Dance.” There are rough spots, like “Touch My Spirit” and “Trying To Hit My Head Against The Wall,” where his singing wanders off-key and his once-dynamic solos stumble and ramble. But the Mac tracks (including four from the group’s legendary Boston Tea Party stint of 1970) show the expressiveness Green was capable of at his best – as both guitarist and singer. What set Green apart was his unhurried economy and taste, but he could also turn up the heat. As B.B. King once said of his English disciple, “He makes me sweat.”
The introspective title track and dark “Green Manalishi” dramatically reveal the demons that would soon put the guitarist out of commission, while two cameos with the Brunning Sunflower Blues Band (after leaving Fleetwood Mac) show him in a relaxed, playful mood.
The best introduction to the man who has had tribute CDs devoted to him is still the Fleetwood Mac albums, from the band’s self-titled debut to the envelope-pushing Then Play On. But Man Of The World sheds new light on a period that was largely overlooked and deserves re-examination.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.