Fleetwood Mac – Albatross (1969)

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“Albatross” is a guitar-based instrumental by Fleetwood Mac, released as a single in 1969, later featuring on the compilation albums The Pious Bird of Good Omen (UK) and English Rose (USA). The piece was composed by Peter Green. The composition and its arrangement suggest a relaxing sea setting, with cymbals imitating the sound of waves (Mick Fleetwood played his drum kit using timpani mallets to give a muted sound) and a dreamy solo from Green’s guitar. It contains only two chords, Emaj7 and F#m, and could be seen as an early ambient work. It is often assumed that Green used his Les Paul but he said it was his Fender Stratocaster, as there is subtle use of the vibrato bar. The Les Paul that Green used in Fleetwood Mac has a nasal tone like that achieved in the in-between positions of a Stratocaster, and heard in the tune. Green had been working on the piece for some time before the addition to the band of 18-year-old guitarist Danny Kirwan. Slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer was not generally inclined to work with Green, who had felt unable to realise the overall effect that he wanted. With Kirwan’s input, Green completed the piece and it was recorded just two months after Kirwan joined, without Spencer present. Kirwan’s instrumental “Jigsaw Puzzle Blues” was chosen for the B-side in most territories. “Albatross” has been re-released many times as a single in various countries, with many different B-sides. It has been suggested that the piece is associated with the metaphorical use of the word albatross to mean a wearisome burden. The use of the word “Albatross” to mean an encumbrance around somebody’s neck is an allusion to Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798). It is unclear whether Fleetwood Mac intended the title to invoke this meaning or if it refers to the bird; but the title of the UK compilation album it appears on, The Pious Bird of Good Omen, alludes to and quotes from the Coleridge poem. This composition is one of only a few tracks by the original lineup of Fleetwood Mac that is included on their later “greatest hits” and “best of” compilations. Many of their compilations only focus on hits from the 1970s and 1980s. However, other compositions from that period have gone on to become classic recordings in the hands of other performers – “Black Magic Woman” as recorded by Santana for example. Another example, “Oh, Well” has gone on to become a classic rock standard. “Albatross” is the only Fleetwood Mac composition with the distinction of having inspired a Beatles song, “Sun King” from 1969’s Abbey Road. One of the earliest uses of the tune was on the soundtrack for the Rainer Werner Fassbinder sci-fi virtual reality film Welt am Draht (usually translated as World on a Wire). It was featured (along with “Jigsaw Puzzle Blues”) in 1979’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”.









albatross

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