Eric Clapton is considered by many in both in the U.S. and the U.K. to be the greatest British blues guitarist to ever ply his trade in the public eye. Others disagree with Clapton's lofty "guitar god" status, offering alternative candidates like Gary Moore, Mick Taylor, or Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown (blooze-rock great Rory Gallagher is disqualified from this contest 'cause he was Irish, not British).
One name that is inevitably linked to Clapton's, tarnishing his accomplishments, is that of Peter Green, the great guitarist and Clapton's artistic shadow. Both Green and Clapton made their bones at roughly the same time, Green replacing old "Slowhand" in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers when the popular guitarist left to form Cream. Green found greater fame and fortune after founding Fleetwood Mac in 1967 with John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. The earliest incarnation of that band was a blues powerhouse that opened the door for later blooze-rock punters like Savoy Brown, Ten Years After, and Foghat to achieve varying levels of success.
The Dangers of Touring
By 1970, psychedelic drugs and constant touring had ravaged Green's mind, the guitarist quitting Fleetwood Mac to pursue religion, poverty, and anonymity. Clapton's own struggle with heroin would result in one recorded masterpiece – the classic Layla album – before the "clean and sober" legend would run out of steam. Green lived like a hermit for much of the 1970s and '80s, later emerging with guitar in hand during the mid-90s to jumpstart a career derailed by drugs and mental illness.
We’ll never know what might have happened if Peter Green had remained a distinctive creative force during the 1970s and onward. By mid-decade, blues music had fallen out of favor with fans in the face of the punk onslaught, only to be rediscovered with the popularity of artists like the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan in the '80s.
Maybe Green would have released feeble pop albums like his better-known contemporary, but after listening to Time Traders, I have my doubts. Greenie is a bluesman at heart, and on this sixth album of his extended comeback, capably assisted by his friends Splinter Group, Green makes a strong case for his own place in the rock & roll history books.
Peter Green Splinter Group's Time Traders
Green's Time Traders offers up a healthy dose of Chicago blues-by-way-of-London. Heavily influenced by bluesmen like Otis Rush and Muddy Waters, and guitarists like B.B. King and Freddie King, Green brings a unique perspective to the legacy of these artists, throwing in elements of British jazz and big band dance sounds to the guitar-driven blues practiced by his idols. A lot of the credit for Green's recreation can be given to Splinter Group guitarist Nigel Watson and keyboardist Roger Cotton, both of whom write the songs and coax wonderful six-string performances out of the reticent six-string wizard Green.
Time Traders is a wonderfully eclectic collection, carefully blending traditionally-oriented blues material like the mournful "Feeling Good" and "Time Keeps Slipping Away" with R&B-tinged material like the soulful "Real World" and the funky "Until The Well Runs Dry." African rhythms permeate the upbeat "Wild Dogs" while a heavy, throbbing bass line underlines the somber, hypnotic "Uganda Woman." Former Green acolyte Snowy White pitches in on a revisiting of Fleetwood Mac’s instrumental "Underway."
The Reverend's Bottom Line
Green's vocals across the album are appropriately world-weary, but his instrumental contributions ring clear as a bell, melding tone and texture to create breathtaking guitar passages that are refreshingly original. Watson's six-string rhythms are rock steady, his vocals more expressive than Green's but oddly similar in sound and intonation. Splinter Group's rhythm section is tight in a way that only chemistry can explain, the group building a magnificent wall of sound upon with vocals and guitar are embroidered.
Time Traders is an inspiring collection of songs, a powerful showcase for Green's talents and a hint of what might have been had Green pursued music during those "lost" years. He may not enjoy the name recognition or commercial endorsements of his colleague Clapton, but a strong argument can be made for Green's inclusion among the giants of blues guitar. (Blue Storm Music)