The End of the Game, influential blues guitarist and Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green’s 1970 proper debut album, should have marked a beginning rather than the promised end. But Green’s title was prescient; he didn’t return with another album for almost a decade even as his old band skyrocketed to superstardom. Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings imprint has just returned The End of the Game to CD in a single-disc, expanded edition.
Green entered the studio for The End of the Game under duress; he was contractually obliged to Warner Bros.’ Reprise label to deliver the LP. He had only departed Fleetwood Mac a month before beginning recording; none of his former bandmates were able to join him. Green arrived at the London recording facility with no music written. Instead, he called upon a handpicked band – Zoot Money (piano), Nick Buck (organ), Alex Dmochowski (bass), and Godfrey McLean (drums) – to improvise the entire album. In Malcolm Dome’s fine liner notes, Money recreates the session which began with engineer Martin Birch at 10:00 p.m. and lasted until around 3 in the morning. The six-track album was then created entirely from their lengthy jam session (yes, they did take breaks, says the pianist) by Green, who edited the recordings down without the musicians’ participation. Green ended up being credited as author of every track despite the fact that they were all collectively created by the band. Money harbors no ill will; he confirms that the session was a one-off and Green had no intention of forming a new, permanent group at that time.
The experimental, all-instrumental album was released in December 1970, and while Green’s virtuosic blues chops were in evidence – his tone even recalls Hendrix’s searing sound at points throughout the LP – it wasn’t well-received for its seemingly unfocused material. While one’s mileage will vary, it’s a vivid and visceral curio: a snapshot of a moment in time with five musicians at the top of their game, sans expected production values or even anything resembling structured musical compositions.
Esoteric’s edition adds the A- and B-sides of Green’s two subsequent Reprise singles. 1971’s “Heavy Heart” and “No Way Out” feature Green supported by Nigel Watson on congas and Clifford Chewaluza on percussion. The A-side is a slow, rhythmic mood piece; the B-side is more urgent with heavy emphasis on the percussive elements and some vocalizations, low in the mix. (Surprisingly, Green performed “Heavy Heart” on Top of the Pops at the time of the single’s release.) In 1972, Green reteamed with Nigel Watson for “Beasts of Burden” b/w “Uganda Woman.” Like the prior single, both sides are far-removed from the blues on which Fleetwood Mac made its name. “Beasts of Burden” is a dark, psychedelic vocal track with a primal rumble while the flipside is a more mellow reflection on the titular lady.
The disc is housed in a digipak which includes a 12-page booklet featuring Dome’s notes. Paschal Byrne has remastered from the original Reprise master tapes. Today, Peter’s old friend Mick Fleetwood is staging a tribute concert to Green which will take place in London tonight, February 25. Steven Tyler, David Gilmour, John Mayall (in whose group Green rose to prominence), and Christine McVie are all promised to attend. Fleetwood told Rolling Stone that he last saw Green about a year and a half ago; despite the enormous toll that mental health issues have taken on him, he’s still playing guitar, painting, and fishing. Green is expected to attend the London tribute.
The expanded edition of The End of the Game is available now in the U.K. and February 28 in North America from Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings arm.
- Bottoms Up
- Timeless Time
- Descending Scale
- Burnt Foot
- Hidden Depth
- The End of the Game
- Heavy Heart
- No Way Out
- Beasts of Burden
- Uganda Woman
Tracks 7-8 from Reprise single RS 27012, 1971
Tracks 9-10 from Reprise single K 14141, 1972