Albatross (3:04)

Cover of The Definitive 60's (sixties)

From The Definitive 60's (sixties) and 238 other releases

“Albatross” is a guitar-based instrumental by Fleetwood Mac, released as a single in 1969. The piece was composed by Peter Green.

The composition suggests a relaxing sea setting, with cymbals imitating the sound of waves 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 song.

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 reference this meaning or if it refers to the bird; but the title of the album it appears on, The Pious Bird of Good Omen, alludes to and quotes from the Coleridge poem.

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