FLEETWOOD MAC – ” Bare Trees ” Classic Albums Released March 1972

Posted: January 14, 2018 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , , ,

Bare Trees: Exposing Fleetwood Mac’s Alternative Roots

“Bare Trees” is the sixth studio album by British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac, released in March 1972. This is their last album to feature guitarist Danny Kirwan, who was fired during the album’s supporting tour.

One of the most intriguing is: what if Danny Kirwan had stayed with them after the release of 1972’s “Bare Trees?” The group’s sixth album saw the guitarist – just 21 years old at the time of its release – cementing his position as the central creative force behind Fleetwood Mac, writing five of the album’s nine songs (not counting the final, spoken-word track) and putting his musical stamp on the rest of the group’s contributions.

And yet Kirwan was fired during the August 1972 US tour the group undertook to promote the record. His increasingly difficult behaviour had come to a head when an argument with fellow guitarist Bob Welch about tunings led to violence and a dressing-room demolition. Still, Bare Trees is an underappreciated gem in the early Fleetwood Mac catalogue, emphasising what a talent Kirwan was as well as giving listeners notice of the emerging songwriting prowess of Welch and Christine McVie.

To showcase “Bare Trees”, Fleetwood Mac went on tour with Savoy Brown and Long John Baldry during the Spring and Summer of ’72. The tour, billed as “The British are Coming” turned out to be a traumatic affair. On the road, Kirwan “just got more and more intense,” Fleetwood said. “He wouldn’t talk to anyone. He was going inside himself which we put down to an emotional problem that we had no idea about. We thought he was just being awkward. I had no idea he was struggling to that level.”

At one pivotal gig, Kirwan and Welch fought over tuning, to the point where the troubled guitarist refused to go on-stage. “That’s the cardinal thing you just don’t do,” Fleetwood said. “In essence, he had a breakdown.” Kirwan smashed his guitar, then let the band struggle through their performance without him. Afterwards, he launched into a critique of their playing. “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Fleetwood. “That particular pain and story needed to stop.” the guitarist’s volatile temperament meant that, despite their musical chemistry, he began to clash with Green, as he told Guitar magazine in 1997: “We just didn’t get on too well basically… We played some good stuff together, we played well together, but we didn’t get on.” Green left Fleetwood Mac in May 1970, leaving Kirwan and guitarist Jeremy Spencer stepping in to fill his formidable shoes on Kiln House. But they looked to be on the verge of collapse until keyboard player Christine McVie joined them on tour, providing the musical glue that would hold them together.

In the years before Fleetwood Mac became a household name, the British/American band spotlighted a succession of blues-inspired guitar aces, and on “Bare Trees”, that slot is held down by Danny Kirwan. “It’s a well-rounded album,” noted drummer Mick Fleetwood of the 1972 Reprise set. “Like Lindsey [Buckingham], Danny had the chops with layering techniques, and the ability to know what’s right and wrong in the studio.” Kirwan also penned half of the 10 songs here, including the terrific “Dust,” His “Sunny Side of Heaven” was an instrumental, which, at the time, was mixed in with some radio station sign-offs. “Danny’s Chant” features the use of wah-wah guitars, while the lyrics for Kirwan’s composition “Dust” were taken from a poem by Rupert Brooke.”Trinity”, another Kirwan song, was an outtake from the album that was subsequently released in 1992 on the 25 Years – The Chain box set.

It’s astonishing that Bare Trees – recorded in just a few days at De Lane Lea Studios in Soho, London, in March 1972 – not only holds up so well, but suggests an unrealised future in which Kirwan became Fleetwood Mac’s long-term leader. The cover art of spindly trees cloaked in fog might have prepared the listener for an austere, wintry listen, but any such ideas are quickly rebuked by the good-time boogie rock of the opener, Kirwan’s Child Of Mine, given extra heft by some winningly gritty guitar work.

The two Welch-penned songs, the slow-burning, jazzy groove of The Ghost and the schmaltz-heavy Sentimental Lady, suggest a leap forward in the guitarist’s songwriting prowess (though the latter comes on strong, it works well in the context of the album). Meanwhile, McVie’s two numbers, the road-weary blues-rocker Homeward Bound (“I want to sit at home in my rocking chair/I don’t want to travel the world”) and the soft-rock bliss of Spare Me A Little Of Your Love, give notice of the writer she’d become.

Bare Trees is the sound of a band coming together, growing in confidence and establishing an identity. It’s also worth celebrating on its own merits.

Christine McVie and fellow guitarist Bob Welch also contribute winners in “Spare Me a Little of Your Love” and “Sentimental Lady,” respectively. If you have any interest in exploring the music of the Mac before the Buckingham-Nicks era, make Bare Trees your first stop.

Fleetwood Mac

  • Danny Kirwan – guitar, vocals
  • Bob Welch – guitar, vocals
  • Christine McVie – keyboards, vocals
  • John McVie – bass guitar
  • Mick Fleetwood – drums, percussion

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