Jeremy Spencer – Jeremy Spencer (Real Gone/Rhino/Warner) review
Fleetwood Mac’s slide guitarist’s debut finally gets a US release
There is no other band with more surprises hidden in their catalog than Fleetwood Mac. Once you realize that Rumours was actually the band’s eleventh studio album, you begin to understand that there was a lot more to this band than just Buckingham and Nicks. Real Gone Records has just issued Jeremy Spencer, the debut album from Fleetwood Mac’s original slide guitarist.
Spencer joined drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and leader/guitarist Peter Green in their original, blues-based lineup. He was brought in because he could mimic Elmore James’ licks like nobody’s business. But, he also provided much-needed comic relief during their live shows, often doing imitations of early rock n’ rollers. As the band progressed beyond the blues into psychedelia, Spencer seemed left behind; contributing very little to their early high-mark Then Play On (read our review here).
To placate him, the band proposed an EP comprised of earlier blues material – but the idea was eventually scrapped. Instead, Spencer was allowed to do his own solo record.
This album is essentially a Fleetwood Mac album led by Spencer. But, those looking for searing blues slide guitar will be disappointed. Instead, he delves deep into his early rock influences, with his tongue planted firmly in cheek. “Linda” is a rewrite of “Peggy Sue” and Tommy Roe’s “Sheila,” while “Here Comes Charlie” sounds like a Bo Diddley outtake. Both “String a Long” and “Jenny Lee” are obvious parodies, but they’re played with such conviction, you wonder if Spencer is serious or not. “Mean Blues” pokes fun at the blues purists who were following the band at the time (although it does contain some fine playing).
The album veers wildly between serious blues rockers and early rock parodies. Standouts include “Take a Look Around Mrs. Brown,” which begins with the sound of vomiting, before giving way to an acoustic hand clapper; and “Surfin’ Girl,” an homage to Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys. One of the more entertaining tracks is “If I Could Swim the Mountain,” which pokes fun at how Elvis tended to slur his words during his ballads. Tacked on the end is “Teenage Darling,” originally only available as a b-side.
Anyone with a bent musical sense is encouraged to check this curiosity out. This long out of print album makes an interesting addition to the already colorful Fleetwood Mac legacy. —Tony Peters