Fleetwood Mac’s history is filled with all sorts of wild characters and unique personalities, none more interesting than founder Peter Green. A young guitar whiz, his path seemed certain with the growing grassroots success of his band. Unfortunately, like a handful of promising young talents of the era, Green soon succumbed to a drug and alcohol hell, exasperated by mental health issues. Soon, he found himself without a band, He also found himself in financial need as well as contractually obligated. Thus was born his solo debut album, The End Of The Game.
But calling it a solo album is somewhat misleading, as The End Of The Game is a most unique record. Unlike the compelling blues and rock hybrid he concocted with Fleetwood Mac—he did, after all, write one of the best rock songs of the era, “Black Magic Woman”—this album is confusing, at best. Not bad, mind you, but confusing. It contains six very long acid rock instrumentals that sound like they were cut from the exact same cloth.
That’s because they were.
The End Of The Game is taken from one single recording. Green gathered up four of his friends for an evening’s jam session and hit record. Those at the session had no inkling he was recording, nor did he make any issue of working together on any of the material at a later date. He simply took the recordings to a friend’s studio after the jam, edited down the songs into bite-sized chunks, handed the tapes to his label, and moved on with life.
The relative thoughtlessness given to The End of The Game might lead one to think that the record couldn’t possibly be any good. It’s certainly understandable why the album shocked and disappointed devoted fans. If you’re not in the mood, the album can be ponderous. Yet in the right frame of mine, songs like “Descending Scale” and “Bottoms Up” transcend. “Hidden Depth” possesses a mellower tempo courtesy of pianist Zoot Money. The title track offers flailing heavy metal guitar solos over band improvisation. Your results may vary as to whether said songs are “good” or “bad.”
Some consider The End Of The Game a mere contractual obligation. Perhaps Green thought of it that way. It’s not a bad record, if that was his intent. Listening to it a half a century later, it’s hard not imagine psych-rock bands such as Sleep and Acid Mothers Temple using it as a foundation for their own sound, especially the latter. It would be interesting to hear the more complete jam session that resulted in the final product, as doing so might reveal a sound way more ahead of its time than anyone realized. But let’s not be too presumptuous about it; The End Of The Game wasn’t intended as a thought-provoking piece. Nor was it a screw you to the label. It’s not Metal Machine Music. It’s not Here, My Dear. Green concocted it with very little afterthought, so attributing it greatness is giving it too much credit.
This new edition contains four bonus tracks, drawn from post-album singles. “Heavy Heart,” from 1971, feels like a rewrite of Fleetwood Mac hit “Albatross,” and while it’s nice enough, it’s merely okay. The b-side, “No Way Out,” is a schizophrenic freak-out; one wonders if the song is Green commenting on his mental state. The second single, from 1972, found him collaborating with friend Nigel Watson. “Beasts of Burden” is a rocker with African percussion, while flipside “Uganda Woman” is an acoustic ballad.
Both The End Of The Game and the singles that followed were interesting excursions, but sadly they were just that. Green would delve deeper into despair and drug/mental illness hell. He wouldn’t release a new album for nearly a decade. Ironically, the overwhelming international success of his former band revitalized him. His career’s been somewhat steady, if not occasionally rocky, but considering its peculiar start, perhaps that’s not really surprising.
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