Jeremy Spencer

Precious Little

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It's been nearly 33 years since Jeremy Spencer, the slide guitarist and vocalist in the original Fleetwood Mac, walked into silence, obscurity, and cult mystery -- not unlike his bandmate Peter Green, who returned to active recording before Spencer had. Precious Little was licensed to Blind Pig from the Bluestown Records label in Norway. This isn't some stodgy codger trying for one last blast of fame before he goes out into the long good night. In fact, Precious Little is an effortless, relaxed presentation of the blues through the fantastic voice and stellar guitar playing of a bona fide British bluesman. One might complain that this set is perhaps a bit too laid-back, but that complaint is small when taking in the communication that's happening between Spencer and his Norwegian blues band in a studio that has the old mixing board from Stax! The material is a mixture of originals and covers that Spencer plays either on his National Steel with a humbucking pickup or one of his fine electric guitars. The warmth in his voice and the ease of his playing is that of a master musician. Opening with "Bitter Lemon," Spencer and band stroll through the laid-back shuffle that immediately introduced his slide playing backed by a second electric guitarist, Espen Liland. Slippery, hushed, yet firm, his approach is deft. His humor is authentic and gratifying. The electric slide comes out on "Psychic Waste," and the firm conviction in the grain of his voice is anything but novel; it's an exhortation to responsibility. The cover of Elmore James' "It Hurts Me Too" is one of the most laid-back, jazzy versions ever recorded. The quiet authority that Spencer displays in his vocal delivery is startling.

"Please Don't Stop" is a smoking rockabilly tune written by Gordon Gaibraith for Fabian. This is followed by a remake of "Corrina Corrina," with different lyrics and entitled "Sere Serena." The blues stroll -- complete with horns -- in "Dr. J" brings the uptempo strut back into the music. Spencer can wail and moan with the best. He displays it on another James tune, "Bleeding Heart," with incredible verve on the slide and without playing an extra note. This is true economy of scale and only a master would attempt it. The country blues of "Many Sparrows" is yet another side of Spencer's blues vocabulary. His long snaking and high lonesome moan as he plays is actually chilling. "Maria de Santiago" is the strongest cut here. It's executed with a wealth of slide and baritone saxophone in honk mode. When he sings his devotion to the saint, the entire world opens and Spencer's cosmic spiritual universe is revealed; the entire thing breaks open and the disillusionment and fear expressed in the tune become enmeshed in the band's presentation. His cover of the Slim Rhodes tune "Take and Give" is the most obscure thing here, but Spencer makes it a keeper with its laid-back rockabilly shuffle; it could have been covered by Fleetwood Mac. The title track is one Mark Knopfler would kill to have written. Its beautifully fluid and languid guitar lines play counterpoint to one another and carry his lyrics home. All listeners can hope for now is that Spencer will take his time but stay on the scene, playing and recording again. Precious Little was worth the wait.

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