British blues guitar icon Peter Green was wise to name his fledgling ensemble for drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John Graham McVie – jointly acknowledged as being among the most identifiable and flexible rhythm sections in the history of pop, rock, and blues.
To my ears, McVie’s tenure in John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, including the historic Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton album, evokes reference to how the great Willie Dixon would have sounded had he played electric bass – as both John and Willie are masters of outlining the changes and adding color with harmonic variation aplenty.
The penguin loving photographer (John’s images grace the cover art of Bare Trees) has utilized a wide array of instruments over the years, however his most signature tools of the trade are his Fender Jazz and Precision, and for a brief time, Alembic – including a fretless version of the latter on Fleetwood Mac Live (1980).
Note that McVie inconspicuously reworks his tone to enhance the musical situation at hand –from a piercing plectrum attack to a warm finger-picking technique wherein he often phrases akin to an upright.
Regardless of the Mac’s commercial fortunes given their rotating cast of lead singers and songwriters, John McVie always shines in and out of the pocket as evidenced on such recorded gems as “Rattlesnake Shake” (Then Play On 1969); “Station Man” (Kiln House 1970); “Sands of Time” (Future Games 1971); “Child of Mine” (Bare Trees 1972); “Revelation” (Penguin 1973); “Miles Away” and “Hypnotized” (Mystery to Me 1973); “Bermuda Triangle” (Heroes are Hard to Find 1974); “Rhiannon” (Fleetwood Mac 1975), and “The Chain” (Rumours 1977) to cite a very few.