(All Album Reviews by Hippy Pants)
Fleetwood Mac have been around in some incarnation for decades, and although this isn't pure prog, let me point out a few reasons for its inclusion. I'll admit, it doesn't fit into the mold of pure prog a la King Crimson's In The Court Of.., and others. But I think it is a seminal album that helped lead to the gateway of progression, the way the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album and others, did.
Fleetwood Mac had grown out of the blues roots of the John Mayall band, and early on sort of stayed within the parameters of being a blues band. But when Then Play On was released in 1969 things seemed to change. It seemed there was more experimentation going within the rock world. Psychedelia was in full bloom and all kinds of genres were being ingested and reinvented. Granted the Mac still held close to their guitar, blues-based roots, but indeed also something else was aborning.
Then Play On opens with "Coming Your Way" which has a sort of Mideastern, ethnic feel to it probably due to the side guitar. "My Dream" and "Underway" are two instrumentals that sound almost like they were surf music inspired, and wonderful little transitory pieces. These two numbers lead into the infamous nine minute opus "Oh Well." If you have not heard this song, you're in for a rock treat. It issues forth like a wild beast, but changes into something midway through, and includes many other instruments--sounding orchestral. And here is where we see some aspects of early progression: rock integrated with piano and flute, and some melodic orchestral elements that all combined into one unified song.
"Although The Sun Is Shining" is a nice, subtle English ballad, followed by the fierce guitar oriented, "Rattlesnake Shake." "Searching For Madge" and "Fighting For Madge" again enter into shades of progression again. Starting out with a rousing guitar jam, and then stops cold as a spoken voice calls out, "Madge? Madge?" only to start up again, even more furious than before, very reminiscent of Cream musically in some aspects. Then they throw in another left hook, more beautiful orchestration, and again they play on.
"Before The Beginning" ends the album on a high somber note--bluesy and almost melancholy. Then Play On was a landmark album for Fleetwood Mac, innovative and highly original in its concept. Whether or not one would classify it as prog or perhaps a predecessor of the genre, I guess is a mute point, but the fact that it's a high watermark is indisputable.