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The Guitar Magazine, November 1998

The Vaudeville Years, 1968 to 1970
by Michael Leonard

This collection of 31 previously unissued takes and demos is no doubt intended to be seen as Fleetwood Mac's own Anthology, documenting just how the one-time blues outfit grew to outsell the Beatles, and hinting at where Mac might have headed had the three-pronged guitar team of Kirwan/Spencer/Green not discovered booze/God/whatever and buggered off.

To the Receiver label's credit, the bulk of cuts here are previously unreleased and the 2CD's vaudevillian tag is an apt one: more than anything, the set highlights the gulf between Peter Green's shimmering blues/rock voodoo and the frothier concoctions of Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan.

Spencer's sub-Elmore James hollerin' and whimsical pastiches (the self-explanatory Jeremy's Contribution To Doo Wop, the boorish Someone's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight) prove little more than genius dates better than japes, and that the drugs definitely did work. Kirwan, meanwhile, confirms a rare contradiction of cloying sentimentality (his own writings) and genuinely fiery inspiration (most of his lead playing).

True to form, Green trounces both with ease. The previously unpublished takes of Man Of The World, Oh Well and The Green Manalishi don't reveal hidden secrets, but all are fastidious and thoroughly enjoyable. And when Green and Kirwan's duelling guitars stab and wail through Underway, the excellent Do You Give A Damn For Me and embryonic sketches like The Madge Sessions and October Jam, it's clear why '68-'70 Mac were considered peerless.

Certainly not for newcomers, then, but a valid addition to the every-growing Macback catalogue. Decent booklet, too ... though spelling 'Kirwan' right might help. Tsk!

Thanks to Julie Kedward for posting it to the Ledge.