Lest anyone forget where Fleetwood Mac’s roots lie, the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band has a not-so-subtle reminder for anyone willing to listen.
Live at the Belly Up finds Fleetwood’s side project doing what it does best – namely breathing life into a genre that has never gotten the love it deserves.
That must be why the blues is always so sad.
Led by former Fleetwood Mac guitarist/vocalist Rick Vito (1987-1991), the Blues Band pays homage to the band originally known Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac while also covering artists like Willie Dixon(“You Can’t Judge a Book by Looking at the Cover”), Elmore James (“Shake Your Money Maker”) and Sonny Boy Williamson (“Eyesight to the Blind”).
But the two-hour, 17-track album is dominated – as it should be – by Green-era Fleetwood Mac blues-rock numbers like “Black Magic Woman,” “Rattlesnake Shake,” “Oh Well” and “Albatross.” A mashup of Green’s “Rollin’ Man” and Vito’s “Voodoo Woman” also works incredibly well as it bounces seamlessly from blues to reggae and back without missing a beat.
Bassist Larry Castellanos has the unenviable job of stepping into John McVie’s shoes and shines in the role, while keyboardist and occasional lead vocalist Mark Johnstone is similarly stellar.
The quartet is the real deal and does justice to the heavyweights on whose shoulders they stand. That said, Live at the Belly Up sports a few weaknesses. For instance, a 16-minute version of the Lindsey Buckingham-Christine McVie joint “World Turning” feels a bit gratuitous.
Nonetheless, this is a stellar album that will baffle fans of the contemporary Fleetwood Mac and bedazzle fans of the original incarnation.