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Sep 06

FLEETWOOD MAC – “Albatross”

FT + Popular75 comments • 7,862 views

#264, 1st February 1969

 

The appearance of not one, but two instrumentals in the late 60s lists shouldn’t be taken as any great sign of a revival: the first months of the year are generally the time when minority tastes can break through. This represents a hiccup in their long decline, but the days of pop instrumentals regularly reaching the top had long gone. Those older hits were light, frisky, dance-ready; “The Good, The Bad…” and “Albatross” are both thicker concentrates of pure mood.

In the case of “Albatross” there’s not even a film to prompt you, so its associations need to be even more compelling. Of all the instrumentals to reach number one, “Albatross” is closest to the ‘exotica’ and lounge music that enjoyed 50s and 60s popularity: a collection of ruthlessly pared-down sound-ideas. The tidal throb of the bass and drums, the seaspray brushes and cymbals – this is soundscaping the Martin Denny way, with a one word title setting the tone like a cherry in the cocktail glass.

It teeters close to kitsch (and is no worse for that) but the glory of the record is the marriage of this briney confection with Peter Green’s wistful, wandering guitar line – an element of subdued individuality that is quite foreign to exotica. Green’s appearance in the track is like a single figure on a postcard seascape – it lends the vista scale and makes it feel more wild and mysterious and lonesome, not more human.

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Comments

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  1. 61
    Jimmy the Swede on 8 Jun 2012 #

    Oh dear God, this is dreadful. Fuckity fuck indeed.

  2. 62
    lonepilgrim on 18 Aug 2012 #

    Albatross covered by Lee Ranaldo and J. Mascis here http://soundcloud.com/concordmusicgroup/albatross/s-CD79r

  3. 63
    Ed on 20 Aug 2012 #

    That is very cool. I’d always thought another descendant of ‘Albatross’ was that ambient noise stuff like Sunn 0))), and now here are two people from – sort of – the same territory, making that connection.

    Blimey, though: when I do the maths, it turns out that ‘Daydream Nation’ and ‘Freak Scene’ are a lot closer, chronologically, to ‘Albatross’ than they are to ‘Call Me Maybe’. Makes me feel very old.

  4. 64
    wichita lineman on 20 Aug 2012 #

    There’s an excellent connection between this and Elvis on Marcello’s current blog entry. I can’t believe I never spotted it before.

  5. 65
    Jimmy the Swede on 20 Aug 2012 #

    #64 – I may be a bloomin’ thickie but I need you to prod me here, Lino!

  6. 66
    Mark G on 20 Aug 2012 #

    The last two guitar notes of “Heartbreak Hotel”, basically. Now, go read again, slowly…

  7. 67
    Jimmy the Swede on 20 Aug 2012 #

    Aha! Yes, thanks. It was staring at me in the face. And yes, what a good call!

  8. 68
    Tommy Mack on 21 Aug 2012 #

    Lord sukrat @ 58 – was going to respond sooner, but seemed glib in light of Bob Welch’s passing: I don’t think even in John Robb’s sloganeering he was suggesting that bad taste alone is a formula for great art: more railing against the ‘good taste’ of, well, for example, Chris Blackwell diluting Bob Marley’s music to sell it to Led Zepplin fans or Liam Gallagher sneering at Scissor Sisters ‘flashing lights and bright colours’ – good taste as the reining in of excess or otherness.

    If I’m honest though, for a few years in my teens, I did fall into the ‘good taste = bad, bad taste = good’ mentality even though, as a prissy little nerd, I could never through myself wholeheartedly into it; it was always something to which I paid lip-service rather than a religiously observed listening policy.

    The magic ingredient is talent, I guess: most music in ‘good taste’ is boring, most music in ‘bad taste’ is still boring just louder and messier: making something worth listening to is a matter of more than taste. Even after I divested myself of my teenage-binary adoption, I’d always felt that ‘good taste’ tended to mute and shackle whatever talent was there. Getting older, I start to see a better type of good taste: the attention to detail and nuance of a master craftsman like Green.

  9. 69
    hectorthebat on 16 May 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 431
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Zig Zag (UK) – Gillett & Frith’s Hot 100 Singles (1975)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  10. 70
    enitharmon on 26 Oct 2014 #

    So it’s farewell Jack Bruce, former Bluesbreaker along with Peter Green, and has there been a finer rock/pop/blues musician not to feature at all in these pages?

  11. 71
    Cumbrian on 26 Oct 2014 #

    Yes, as he is featured in these pages. Played on Pretty Flamingo, so managed to get to #1 in 1966.

  12. 72
    lonepilgrim on 3 Jan 2017 #

    I can’t remember if I was fully aware of this in 1969 or during it’s rerelease in the 1970s. I do recall seeing a clip of seabirds accompanying the tune on TOTP.
    It avoids becoming muzak, I think, due to the ominous undertones of the bass and drums and the keening notes of the guitar. That high end/low end combo would help the tune to cut through on radio but there’s also enough going on sonically to appeal to those beginning to invest in hi-fi.

  13. 73
    lonepilgrim on 19 Mar 2017 #

    Danny Baker tweeted a link to ‘Deep Feeling’ a Chuck Berry track that seems like a plausible precedent for ‘Albatross’. Listen for yourself at:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=23&v=RAAT9UfI0rw

  14. 74
    enitharmon on 11 Jun 2018 #

    And it’s farewell Danny Kirwan, foil to Peter Green on this and other gems of the One, the True Mac (accept no substitutes). Such a sad life, though, for this tormented man.

  15. 75
    Mark M on 11 Jun 2018 #

    Re74: Just a couple of months ago, (for unlikely work purposes) I was trying to ascertain the whereabouts of the members of the One True Mac, and remarked to a couple of people on the possibly surprising fact that despite the well-documented traumas of the three guitarists, the whole line-up was still alive. No more, alas.

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