If you were to ask most of the fans that paid a bundle to see Fleetwood Mac this year who Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan were, then you might just get a lot blank stares in return — even today, the pre-Stevie Nicks incarnations of the venerable British-born institution remain largely unknown to way too many.
But for others, those were the most exciting years, and the triple-guitar lineup that came together to cut the band’s third album, Then Play On, in 1969, was quite possibly the most daring and diverse Mac configuration.
Kirwan’s first full album and Green’s last with the band, Then Play On featured a near-even mix of compositions by the two co- side (the tough-as-hide “Rattlesnake Shake”), Kirwan’s undeniably blues-rooted while flirting with a more mainstream rock/pop direction that would be honed over the course of the ‘70s.
Drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie each contributed a single tune but this one’s really about the guitars — and the guitarists, although Spencer didn’t offer new material this time around and only played sporadically.
Of Kirwan’s songs, the spare, tender “When You Say” and the instrumental showcase “My Dream” are highlights, but there really isn’t a song on the album that doesn’t make one ponder what might have been if this particular quintet didn’t fall apart right after.
The expanded edition appends the original record with two period singles: the Green favorites “Oh Well” (both parts) and “The Green Manalishi (with the Two Pronged Crown),” along with the latter’s B-side, another Kirwan guitar feast, “World in Harmony.”
Jeff Tamarkin / Relix / October-November 2013