Then Play On (Expanded Edition) [2013 Remaster]
Mick Fleetwood says that when people ask about his favorite Fleetwood Mac album, he always mentions two: 1979’s Tusk and 1969’s Then Play On. It’s an unusual pair, but a poetic one: Not only did both come after commercial breakthroughs (Tusk after Rumours; Then Play On after the two albums that made up their 1968 debut), but they marked crucibles in the band’s creative development—or, as Fleetwood puts it in his memoir, moments when the band played with their back against the wall. With Then Play On, the pressure was strongest from Peter Green, a lead singer so averse to fame and the stagnancy he feared came with it that he started giving his royalty money to charity. Listen to the album alongside not only Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath but the Beatles’ White Album, and you hear a band facing, gracefully, in two directions: On the one hand, toward the homey conservatism of English blues (“Fighting For Madge,” “Show-Biz Blues”), but also toward hybrids of folk and psychedelia that capture the beginning of art and progressive rock (“Coming Your Way,” “When You Say”). To Fleetwood’s point, Then Play On tells you as much about the ’70s as Tusk tells you about the vacuum-sealed pop of the ’80s. But if you want a song that nobody had written before and nobody has quite written since, listen to “Oh Well,” which both Fleetwood and Christine McVie thought was so sad that they bet Green it wouldn’t even chart. It made it to No. 2. Green left the band six months later.