PETER GREEN - The Anthology (2008)
Some Peter Green fans might be put off by this four-CD collection, owing to the fact that they are likely to already own a significant chunk of what's here (especially the Fleetwood Mac material). (And in fairness, there apparently isn't a lot of or any unreleased material to draw on from Green's classic period with the band). But this reviewer had to spring for this four-and-a-half hour showcase of his work, and for one major reason vitality. Green's virtuosity is a given, and his taste and his insights into blues and what can be done with it while still leaving it as blues are well known to anyone who's heard his work. But what the makers have done here is to truly assemble his finest, most energetic and inspired work across over 35 years and well over four hours' listening time, into a collection that's greater than the sum of its parts in that regard, this set rivals the Eric Clapton Crossroads retrospective, except that doing this set took a bit more courage, as Green hasn't gotten nearly the publicity for his musicianship that Clapton has for his across the last four decades. The first two discs and the first half of the third contain a track list that, distilled slightly more, could be a strong contender for a "best of Fleetwood Mac" in their pre-pop incarnation, 23 tracks that, thanks to some ambitious cross-licensing, combine the group's Blue Horizon and Reprise catalog material into a comprehensive whole, and the makers have even included one cut off of Green's post-Mac End of the Game solo album. Green's earlier work with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers is represented, if not quite so thoroughly, and his two distinct periods working with Pete Bardens, under his own name and earlier as part of Peter B's Looners, is offered, along with material done with Duster Bennett and Otis Spann. The quality of the playing (and singing) speaks for itself, but the producers have also assembled the material in not quite strict chronological order "Soul Dressing" with Peter B's Looners is right in the middle of a disc that includes work with Mayall, Duster Bennett, Otis Spann, and early Fleetwood Mac so that there's a lot of variety in the listening. The sounds range from Mississippi Delta and electric Chicago blues to prog rock-ish and psychedelic pieces, and into R&B-based material, acoustic tracks placed just right in the middle of electric sides, and all manner of variation. The fourth disc covers the highlights of Green's solo career, and while the tendency of some would be to dismiss it or, at least, regard it as more of an appendix to his classic years, it turns out to be as vital as the rest of the set whatever personal demons Green had to overcome to get to the point represented here, it will be plain to anyone that he brought as much energy and finely tuned musical insights to his post-1971 career as he did to his work with his early bands. In other words, for anyone who truly loves the blues, Green's solo work with the Splinter Group (and some other contexts), represented on Disc Four, is every bit as worthwhile as his early stuff. And that and the killer sound, and the excellent annotation more than makes up for any repetition that might be entailed in buying this set. For longtime fans it's still essential, and for anyone who's ever wondered what the big deal was about Peter Green, or the "other" Fleetwood Mac, or even British blues, it's a great place to start, and might just be a revelation.
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