Great Britain's Recall label reaches toward Eagle Rock Entertainment for a pair of Peter Green Splinter Group records from earlier in the decade -- Time Traders from 2001 and Reaching the Cold 100 from 2003 -- and pops them out in this two-disc edition with jive liner notes that don't offer any real credits other than those due the songwriters. These are both very different albums than previous Splinter Group offerings. The bands are bigger, a bit rowdier, and Green's singing and playing are stronger than ever. That said, even with Nigel Watson, Peter Stroud, Roger Cotton (who wrote the new material here; Green's own writing contributions are recycled Fleetwood Mac jams), the first of these is very slick, and follows too closely in the current Chicago blues vernacular to be indisputably essential Green listening. There are moments on each of these records, however, of real interest. First there's Cotton's killer "Real World," on Time Traders; it's written in a minor key in the ghostly Green lineage with the writer's gorgeous B-3 flitting about in the background intertwining the guitar players; Green's spare snaky lead lines are here in abundance. Watson's old-school "Shadow on My Door" was written for Green to shine, and he does; so does the band. Stroud's "Time Keeps Slipping Away" is a blues-ish tune Chris Rea wishes he could have penned complete with female backing chorus. Green's instrumental "Underway" is a rare treat. It's beautiful, adrift with guitars playing call and response in the ether, with Green using Snowy White as a foil.
Reaching the Cold 100 is tantamount to a double album, clocking in at 78 minutes. It is the final Splinter Group recording, and perhaps was never meant to be an album, as Green left shortly after its completion. Too bad it didn't get more play because it's a stronger album all around. Green's playing two years on from Time Traders was fluid and confident; his singing even more so. Reaching the Cold 100 is the final Peter Green Splinter Group recording. It is polished, warm-toned British blues-rock in a mode that literally puts anything Eric Clapton's done in the last 20 years to shame. Peter Stroud, Nigel Watson and Roger Cotton composed most of the material here separately; yet they have figured out a way to sound like a single songwriter reflecting Green's voice and musical persona. This record has a ton of spiritual themes attached to it, many of them spooky, and not in that clichéd way people have been imitating Robert Johnson in, either. Whether they are mid-tempo, minor-key rockers like "Needs Must the Devil Drives," the slower, Chicago-styled "Spiritual Thief" that walks the line between blues and soul, or the downright hunted "Dangerous Man" that spiritual, haunted theme underlies much of what's here. Other standouts on this set are the snarling, funky "Cool Down," the smoldering "Look Out for Yourself," the soul blues of "When Somebody Cares," and the minimal blues-funk in "Smile." As a bonus, there are new acoustic renditions of Green's "Black Magic Woman," "It Takes Time," "Green Manalishi," and "Albatross." Certainly these versions don't replace the originals, but they are nonetheless captivating moments, especially "Black Magic Woman," which has been redefined in light of the Santana version, combining the best elements of both. "It Takes Time" is a natural for this band, but the vocal suffers a bit, like it's really a demo vocal attached to the finished track. "Green Manalishi" feels and sounds like a demo jam, but it's a good listen, and "Albatross" is, simply put, one of the most gorgeous guitar instrumentals ever, and Green playing acoustic on it is simply stunning. This is it, the end of this short-lived band's recorded history, and they go out on a high note. Who knows what Green will do next? Let's just hope it's something. These discs can be had now for a completely reasonable price for a double, and they sound great. The first of these albums is three stars, the second one is 3.5, but together, there is more than enough material here to keep everyone happy.