Posts Tagged ‘Danny Kirwan’

Buy Online Fleetwood Mac - Then Play On, Deluxe Book Pack Double Vinyl + Deluxe Mediabook CD Album

“Then Play On” is the third studio album by British blues rock band Fleetwood Mac, released on 19 September 1969. It was the first of their original albums to feature Danny Kirwan and the last with Peter Green. The album, appearing after the group’s sudden success in the pop charts, offered a broader stylistic range than the classic blues of the group’s first two albums. The album went on to reach No6 in the UK, subsequently becoming the band’s fourth Top 20 hit in a row, as well as their third album to reach the Top 10. The title is taken from the opening line of William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night — “If music be the food of love, play on”.

The Peter Green-led edition of the Mac isn’t just an important transition between their initial blues-based incarnation and the mega-pop band they were to become, it’s also their most vital, exciting version. The addition of Danny Kirwan as a second guitarist and songwriter foreshadows not only the soft-rock terrain of “Bare Trees” and “Kiln House” with Christine Perfect-McVie but also predicts the future sound of Rumours. That only pertains to roughly half of the also excellent material here, though; the rest is quintessential Green,

The immortal “Oh Well,” with its hard-edged, thickly layered guitars and chamber-like sections, is perhaps the band’s most enduring progressive composition. “Rattlesnake Shake” is another familiar number, a down-and-dirty, even-paced funk, with clean, wall-of-sound guitars. Choogling drums and Green’s fiery improvisations power “Searching for Madge,” perhaps Mac’s most inspired work save “Green Manalishi,” and leads into an unlikely symphonic interlude and the similar, lighter boogie “Fighting for Madge.” A hot Afro-Cuban rhythm with beautiful guitars from Kirwan and Green on “Coming Your Way” not only defines the Mac’s sound, but the rock aesthetic of the day. Of the songs with Kirwan‘s stamp on them, “Closing My Eyes” is a mysterious waltz love song; haunting guitars approach surf music on the instrumental “My Dream”; while “Although the Sun Is Shining” is the ultimate pre-Rumours number someone should revisit. Blues roots still crop up on the spatial, loose, Hendrix Green’s influence was on Mac’s originality and individual stance beyond his involvement. Still highly recommended and a must-buy.

Expanded edition featuring original UK track list plus four bonus tracks.

New sleeve notes by Anthony Bozza, which include a personal foreword by Mick Fleetwood.

Produced by the band members themselves and engineered by the legendary Martin Rushent, “Future Games” was recorded at London’s Advision Studios between June and August 1971, and the fact that it was released on September 3rd of the same year shows just how quick the turnaround was. In addition to Kirwan, the album also stands out as being the first Fleetwood Mac album to include Christine McVie as a full member as well as the first to feature Bob Welch, but it’s also notable for being the band’s first album without Jeremy Spencer.

When Fleetwood Mac turned in Future Games, Reprise Records said that they wouldn’t release it with only seven songs, so the band popped back into the studio and laid down “What a Shame,” doing so as a jam, hence the song writing credits including every member of the band. The album’s lone single, “Sands of Time,” failed to chart in either the U.S. or the U.K., but one tune has managed to find a tremendous audience over the years: the title track, penned by Welch, which is by far the most streamed song on the album.

Future Games was poorly received by the critics of the time. Future Games is a thoroughly unsatisfactory album. It is thin and anemic-sounding and I get the impression that no one involved really put very much into it. If Fleetwood Mac have tried to make the transition from an energetic rocking British blues band to a softer more “contemporary” rock group, they have failed. If they have simply lost interest.

Critic Robert Christgau’s commentary shows how much the man admires what he perceives as his superior ability with wordplay as well as the usual pomposity and factual errors:
These white blues (and hippie rockabilly) veterans shouldn’t have to depend on new recruit Bob Welch’s deftly metallized r&b extrapolation for rock and roll, but unless you count the studio jam, they do. And if the best song on the album isn’t the slowest, that’s only because Welch also has mystagogic tendencies. It’s the simplest in any case: Christine Perfect’s ‘Show Me a Smile.’
Christine was no longer calling herself Perfect but was still good enough to qualify as McVie. Bob Welch actually contributed relatively little to Future Games: he wrote two of the songs (including the title track) and “played mostly rhythm guitar.” And to apply the term “mystagogic” to Bob Welch is completely absurd, for “A mystagogue is a person who initiates others into mystic beliefs, and an educator or person who has knowledge of the sacred mysteries of a belief system.” Neither of Welch’s songs come close to qualifying as a trip into the mystic (though Danny Kirwan’s do).

The expansion of the band’s range is established immediately in the pair of sus2 acoustic guitar chords that form the intro to Kirwan’s “Woman of 1000 Years.” Patterns of sustained and major seventh chords have an elusive, indefinite feel, calling up adjectives like “ethereal,” “dreamy” and “melancholy.” Most songwriters fail to develop chord structures to support them, leading to a vague, uncertain musical statement that lacks a sense of forward movement—songwriter and song remain suspended in a musical vacuum.

Danny Kirwan was not one of those songwriters. “Woman of 1000 Years” has one of the most beautiful and satisfying chord structures I’ve ever heard. When I reproduced the chords on my acoustic guitar, I felt myself moving into a still, reflective space where I was at one with the sheer beauty of the musical progression. I switched to piano and the progression had the same entrancing effect. The sense of movement and wonder is enhanced by subtle changes and additions along the way that keep things challenging and intensely interesting—but not once does a chord feel out-of-place. Chord charts on the Internet are often hit-or-miss (half the contributors couldn’t tell a minor chord from a major to save their lives), but I found one on Ultimate Guitar that gets it right. If you are a musician, I encourage you to head over there and explore the pattern—the improvisational opportunities are limitless.

Back to our story, the “resolution” chord is Asus2, which effectively means there is no resolution at all—the woman of a thousand years remains an indefinable mystery. Although not specifically identified as such in the lyrics, the woman is certainly a manifestation of the muse, but Kirwan doesn’t limit her role to sparking creativity in the artist. Danny Kirwan’s vocal is beautifully restrained and blends marvelously with Christine McVie’s harmonies. The first guitar solo is a gorgeous display of simplicity, completely consistent with the nature of the composition as it seems to end a bar before its time, avoiding definitive resolution; the complementary guitar fade supplies an appropriately gentle exit. While “Woman of 1000 Years” is hardly your typical album opener, it is a compelling experience nonetheless, establishing a mood for the album that asks the listener to shift gears, slow down and take some time to enjoy the magic of music.

Let us correct the record. Future Games balances the impressive song writing talents of Kirwan, Welch and Christine McVie. Each of those artists put a great deal of effort into crafting those songs, a glaring truth that is obvious to anyone who actually takes the time to listen to the record. Danny Kirwan is clearly the dominant presence, contributing the three songs most crucial to establishing the reflective mood of the album. If anything, Future Games increased Fleetwood Mac’s “promise” by extending their playing field beyond straight blues-based rock ‘n’ roll.

Future Games may not have been a gargantuan hit in America, but it did kick off a trend for a few albums where each album did better than one that preceded it, with 1972’s Bare Trees hitting and Penguin so it still furthered Fleetwood Mac’s fanbase in the States.

Even nice albums need some kick, and Future Games certainly delivers on that score. Christine McVie’s “Morning Rain” gives her a chance to warm up her piano fingers in a percussive role dedicated to reinforcing the solid rhythm established by the ever-grounded pair of Fleetwood and McVie. I love the way this song opens, lulling the listener into believing the root chord is F# before making a move to establish F# as the tension chord demanding resolution to B major. The sweet bluesy guitar licks that highlight that transition make me smile at the cleverness of the ruse as they settle into the solid groove. For a rock song, Christine’s vocal in the verses (supported by harmony) is comparatively subdued, but soon we learn that she’s been saving her vocal chords for the more enthusiastic performance in the bridge . The contrast between the two vocal styles adds to the appeal of the song, and even more excitement awaits us in the instrumental passages where the guitarists let loose. I also love the way the piece ends, with Christine and the boys reminding us of the song’s essential melodic nature with a nice round of wordless singing. “Morning Rain” is a tasty little piece promising that Future Games will cover a lot of musical ground.

“What a Shame” was added at the last minute because the album submitted by the band contained only seven tracks and the record company wanted eight. The band responded with a single key jam with heavy bass featuring Christine’s brother John on saxophone. I’m glad John picked up a few bucks in the process, but other than executing the piece with due professionalism, the band doesn’t sound particularly interested. If they had to include it on the album, it might have been better to move it back into the fourth slot to serve as a brief intermission between “Future Games” and “Sands of Time.” It’s sufficiently low-key so as not to disturb the nice album vibes.

(18/9/71) ADVERT 16X12" FLEETWOOD MAC : FUTURE GAMES

Moving onto Bob Welch’s Fleetwood Mac début, “Future Games” makes use of the sustained and major seventh chords we heard in “Woman of a 1000 Years,” in this case producing a slight drone effect with the unifying B-note (Em, Cmaj7, Asus2, B7). However, Welch’s piece features clearer resolution to E minor in the verses and G major in the chorus, hinting at a more definitive theme in the lyrics. Despite the unknowable nature of the future, Welch pulls it off by universalizing the message: playing out future possibilities is something everyone does, whether it’s speculating on the afterlife, the possibility of a relationship with this person or that person, or worrying about disasters that may come our way. “I know I’m not the only one to ever spend my life sitting playing “Future Games”.  Musically, “Future Games” complements Kirwan’s contributions to the album with its pensive mood and restraint. The band passes up the opportunity to go big in the instrumental passage featuring the guitar solo, using that passage to reinforce the melody before easing into the third verse. Though I think they could have shortened the fade a bit, “Future Games” works on multiple levels, and demonstrates Bob Welch’s gift for melody that would later result in “Sentimental Lady.”

The flow of Danny Kirwan’s “Sands of Time” is as gentle and mesmerizing as the flow of a mountain stream. The music here alternates between G major and its E minor complement, spiced with a delightful variety of guitar fills, cascading arpeggios and some nifty cymbal work from Mick Fleetwood. The lyrics involve the interplay of darkness and light, as expressed in the verse that opens and closes the song.

In a stunning turn of events, Danny seems to go full country in the introduction to “Sometimes,” with Christine McVie’s down-home piano and sweetly picked guitar leading the way. Danny inserts a minor chord into the mix and John McVie fills the empty spaces with deep, penetrating bass. Danny then steps into the role of jilted lover, remembering the good times while throwing his aching back into his work to help push the emotional pain to the sidelines. The song straddles the line between classic sad song and defiance of sadness, expressed both in the lyrics and in the surprisingly muscular guitar fills. Although not as deep or complex as his other two contributions, don’t let its subtlety fool you: “Sometimes” is first-rate song writing by a very talented songwriter.

The one contribution on the album I could have done without is Bob Welch’s “Lay It All Down,” a rather pedestrian attempt at blues-influenced gospel with the usual “just like the good book said” crapola. Thematically it’s a weak fit; I suppose one could argue that it maintains the connection with the earlier model of Fleetwood Mac, but that was then, this was now, and this song flat-out sucks.

Fortunately, Future Games ends on a high note with Christine McVie’s “Show Me a Smile.” Songs written by parents for their children generally don’t grab me because of the latent sentimentality, but there’s one verse that lifts this song out of the maudlin and into the reality that a child’s future is likely to result in disappointment. Christine captured that dynamic beautifully, carefully balancing her vocal so that she never goes too soft or over the top. The music is equally supportive of that balance, with luscious arpeggiated guitar, lead guitar fills and splashes of piano guiding us gently through the verses, and John McVie delivering serious punch with his bass during the louder passages. “Show Me a Smile” ends Future Games by underscoring the album’s essential beauty.

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    • The only constant members are drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. That’s where the band’s name comes from, and they won a lawsuit to prove it.
    • Fleetwood Mac began life as a blues band during the peak years of the British blues movement. Their first album is officially titled Fleetwood Mac, but nearly everyone refers to it as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, referring to the band’s lead guitarist and singer. This début album was a smashing success, and remains one of the most enjoyable blues records of the era. Jeremy Spencer contributed slide guitar and some vocals. As was true for so many British musicians of the era,  Peter Green developed his chops in John Mayall’s band.
    • Peter Green stayed with the band  through the third studio album, Then Play Onthe first album with Danny Kirwan. Kirwan would emerge as sort of co-leader with Jeremy Spencer on the fourth album Kiln House. Spencer left the band shortly thereafter. Christine Perfect, aka Christine McVie, who had appeared occasionally on earlier albums, became a full-time member after Kiln House, the name change reflecting her marriage to John McVie.
    • Prior to Future Games, an American musician by the name of Bob Welch joined the band, sharing guitar duties with Kirwan. This relationship ended after the follow-up album Bare Trees when Kirwan’s drinking and temper led to some serious altercations with Welch, which in turn led to Kirwan’s dismissal. Welch contributed to five studio albums, and the period from Future Games to Heroes Are Hard to Find are colloquially referred to as the Bob Welch Era or similar designation.
    • In 1975, Christine McVie pushed hard for a more radio-friendly music to pad her bank account. Welch thought he’d be better off going solo and left the band. Fleetwood Mac replaced him with Americans Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

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Fleetwood Mac’s legendary three night performance at the Boston Tea Party, all in one vinyl box set.

Madfish Records presents Fleetwood Mac’s legendary Boston concert recordings from an earlier era of the band’s colourful history, featuring the classic blues line-up of Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, John McVie and Jeremy Spencer.

Originally recorded at the Boston Tea Party venue over three nights in February 1970, for a planned release later the same year, these recordings were left in the can, unissued, following leader Peter Green’s sudden decision to leave the band a few weeks after the dates.  Tracks from the shows were eventually released in various forms in the mid-80s but these releases were blighted by poor sound sources. The discovery of the original 8-track tapes and a number of previously unreleased tracks in the late 90s allowed the material to be re-mixed, re-mastered, and substantially overhauled for release on 3 separate CD volumes.

In 2013 the current incarnation of Fleetwood Mac embarked on a massive world tour. Dates in North America were followed by gigs around Europe, with Australia and New Zealand planned shortly. The dates so far saw the band playing sold-out shows to huge arena crowds and created another surge of interest in this much-loved band. Boston is a 3CD set which collects live recordings from an earlier era of the band’s colourful history. The set features the classic blues line-up of Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, John McVie and Jeremy Spencer. The discovery of the original 8-track tapes and a number of previously unreleased tracks in the late 90s allowed the material to be re-mixed, re-mastered, and substantially overhauled for release on 3 separate CD volumes. This new set brings together all of these re-mastered recordings a 3CD set to present a complete document of these historic shows. The set is packaged in a clam box with a 24 page book. The booklet contains new sleeve notes and reworked artwork.

This new set brings together all of these re-mastered recordings for the first time as a 4LP box set, and a 3CD box set, presenting a complete document of these historic shows.

Danny Kirwan, the former guitarist of Fleetwood Mac who was with the band for several albums in the late ’60s and early ’70s, has passed away at the age of 68 during last week. The news was confirmed by Mick Fleetwood and the band via a post on their social media.

“Today was greeted by the sad news of the passing of Danny Kirwan in London, England,” the note reads. “Danny was a huge force in our early years. His love for the Blues led him to being asked to join Fleetwood Mac in 1968, where he made his musical home for many years.”

Kirwan was still a teenager when he was asked to join Fleetwood Mac, and the guitarist stayed with the band until 1972. His work can be heard on the albums Then Play On, Blues Jam at Chess, Kiln House, Future Games and Bare Trees, along with a number of live an compilation releases. Kirwan was an influence on the group’s earlier blues days with co-founding guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer and contributed to their first UK #1 hit “Albatross.”

Fleetwood Mac’s , Danny Kirwan, who was once the perfect foil for the band’s founding guitarist Peter Green, has sadly passed away at the age of 68.

Danny was with the band from 1968 to 1972. Danny was still in the band for a while after Christine joined.  He wasn’t an original member of the band; Jeremy Spencer was Peter Green’s original guitaring partner, and he remained for a while after Danny joined, but Danny very clearly helped take the band into new terrains. His work in tandem with Green was brilliant, and produced some of the early band’s finest moments. After Green left in 1970, Danny remained, helping to make overlooked Fleetwood Mac albums Kiln House, Future GamesandBare Trees the undiscovered treasures they still remain.

After being fired from Fleetwood Mac for alcoholism in 1972, Kirwan released a number of unsuccessful solo albums, but sadly by the end of the decade his mental health was deteriorating. He endured long periods of homelessness in the 80s and 90s. Mick Fleetwood asked Missing Persons to find him in 1993.

Danny was a huge force in our early years,” Fleetwood has said on Facebook. “Danny’s true legacy, in my mind, will forever live on in the music he wrote and played so beautifully as a part of the foundation of Fleetwood  Mac, that has now endured for over 50 years. Thank you Danny Kirwan. You shall forever be missed.”

At their most guitar-centric Fleetwood Mac, featured not two but three players on the guitar. In 1969, the group hired 18-year-old Danny Kirwan to add a new hue to the palate created by the original line-up featuring guitarist Jeremy Spencer and star player Peter Green. To Spencer’s rockabilly flair and Green’s hard blues power, Kirwan brought more melodicism and nuance. Their three-way frisson came to fruition on the band’s third album, ‘Then Play On’, especially in songs like “Oh Well” which presented a blues riff so tight, Mac kept it in their set through multiple personal changes for decades to come. Another song from that album, “Searching for Madge,” let Green and Kirwan spar in a ten-minute free jam. A particularly hot version of another song from that era “Rattlesnake Shake” , appeared on the band’s “Live In Boston” the guitars slashed and burned with a violence the band rarely achieved in the studio. On the other end of the spectrum, Kirwan and Green made their instruments sweetly entwine in “Coming Your Way” , a song the former wrote which opens ‘Then Play On’.

The whole set is more like a seamless `suite` of songs, with two instrumentals dedicated to a devoted Mac fan named Madge punctuating them. I bought the original LP and played it a lot. It sounded unlike anything else at the time, and it still has a unique feel to it. What is such a relief is to find how wonderful it still sounds, after so long.

The interplay between Spencer and Kirwan came to the fore on the 1970 studio next release “Kiln House”, cut after Green left. One year later, Kirwan found a new sparring partner in the American-born Bob Welch.

 

Bare Trees

“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.

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.”

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.

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

Everyone knows of the trials and tribulations of Fleetwood Mac, they are the mega-selling incarnation fronted by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. And any rock aficionados know the original, blues-rooted version of the band starring Peter Green. But there’s a bridge between those two starry incarnations led by a key figure lost to rock history guitarist vocalist and brilliant songwriter Danny Kirwan. Fleetwood Mac’s two records, Kiln House and Future Games, have between them provided me with perhaps a hundred hours of enjoyment. And that’s the ultimate test of a record’s worth. 

Danny was a quantum leap ahead of us creatively,” Mick Fleetwood said of Kirwan’s early influence on the group. “He was a hugely important part of the band.”

Hired by Fleetwood Mac at the age of just 18, Kirwan utterly transformed the group’s sound, adding both an unusually sweet guitar vibrato and a dreamy songwriting style. His pensive approach dramatically countered the driving blues structures that dominated ’60s British rock. And the contrast paid off: Three years into his tenure, he became Fleetwood Mac’s de facto frontman, buttressed by fellow singer-songwriters Christine McVie and Bob Welch on such under-appreciated, early ’70s albums as “Future Games”  and “Bare Trees” . In the process, he provided the lifeline between the barrelhouse British sound of early Fleetwood Mac and the warm California-pop style that would eventually make the band huge names.

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Unfortunately, Danny Kirwan’s story involves as much tragedy as triumph and both aspects seemed baked into his story.

The outsized talents of this Brixton-born guitarist revealed themselves early. When he was 17, Kirwan’s blues-based trio, Boiler House, secured gigs in London, where he would come to check out his idol: Peter Green. “He used to come hang at the Nags Head in Battersea, which is where we played a lot,” Fleetwood said. “He would always be sitting in the front row, staring.”

The ambitious Kirwan talked up his band to Fleetwood and, while the drummer found his guitar playing “amazing,” he told the young hopeful, “if you want to get anywhere, you need to unload your band.”

Kirwan wasn’t pleased about the advice but, eventually, he took it, inspiring Fleetwood and Green to try to find new sidemen for his protege. As it happened, none proved worthy. Around the same time, Fleetwood Mac’s  second guitarist Jeremy Spencer began diverging from Green’s interests, moving into a more rockabilly sound. The idea arose to hire Kirwan in order to give the band’s top star a more appropriate foil. In the process, Mac earned a rare configuration, boasting three axemen at the front. “Danny filled a hole that allowed Peter to move forward creatively,” Fleetwood said.

Future Games

He also brought new influences to the band, from sources as broad as ragtime and jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. Kirwan played with an almost scary intensity, according to Mac’s early producer, Mike Vernon. In a vintage interview, Vernon said that Kirwan was so into the music “he cried as he played.”

By the time Kirwan joined The Mac, they already had two albums out, Kirwan’s contribution showed on very his first recording with the band: , The track “Albatross” an instrumental penned by Green in late ’68. The song anchored on two, languid guitar lines, with Kirwan offering a ghostly answer to Green’s lead. The cadence of the melody took influence from the swaying Hawaiian guitars of Santo and Johnny’s hit Sleep Walk.

Years later, Green said he never would have written the song without his protege’s influences. Still, the fluidity, and introspection, of “Albatross” alarmed the band’s early fans. According to Fleetwood, they considered it “schmaltz.” Regardless, it became a No. 1 smash in the U.K. The B-side featured a Kirwan original, Jigsaw Puzzle Blues , which showed his debt to the work of Django Reinhardt, a rare influence in the British blues scene of the day.

Kirwan’s impact extended exponentially on his first full album with Fleetwood Mac, ‘Then Play On’, released in September of ’69. “Peter gave Danny half the album, which was unbelievably generous,”

Fleetwood said. Not only did Kirwan write seven songs for the album, he penned the kick-off track, “Coming Your Way”, fired by a glistening guitar line which teased Mick Fleetwood’s wild tribal drums. Other Kirwan originals included the wan “Although the Sun is Shining,” the blues-hued “Without You”, the weighty psychedelic “One Sunny Day” , and the airy acoustic ballad “When You Say.” Kirwan’s songs balanced tranquility with yearning, suggesting a rich interiority of feeling. Fleetwood said a key inspirer of those compositions was the work of Harry Nilsson.

Kirwan sang his songs in a voice of boyish hurt. His physicality suited the sound. With his fine blonde hair and choir-boy features, Kirwan looked like a fallen angel. As a character, however, he was brooding, and the music reflected it. His instrumental, “My Dream,” showcased the shivering vibrato of his tone, a sound that suggested both preciousness and peril.

“His vibrato was perfect,” Fleetwood said. “Danny had pure, resonant note comprehension. Many guitarists make the vibrato sound like a dying cow or a mosquito in heat. Danny had an unbelievable touch.”

Still, several of his songs were left off the original U.S. version of ‘Then Play On’ to make way for a Green piece that would became a Mac classic: “Oh Well”. A true guitarist’s showcase, the song has became so associated with the band, they performed it right through the Lindsey/Stevie era. In “Part 1”—the better known section—Kirwan took the main solo, displaying a capacity for aural savagery equal to his bent for beauty. Both the U.S and U.K. versions of ‘Then Play On’ featured the only song Kirwan ever wrote with Green, “World In Harmony”, a staple of the band’s live show.

A particularly telling Kirwan original from the era, “Something Inside Of Me”, turned up on Shrine 69, a live album not released until years later. Though his song ostensibly addressed a lost love, it seemed to channel something deeper: a lost soul, with lyrics that spoke of an inner torment the narrator couldn’t shake. At the time, Kirwan suffered from increasing self-consciousness, both socially and as a figure of public focus. “He felt less than perfect in ways you and I can’t even imagine,” Fleetwood commented.

Danny Kirwan wasn’t the only troubled member of the band. After a bad acid trip, Green became mentally unstable and, combined with his already conflicted feelings about fame, he decided to quit the band in May of 1970. Shorn of their star, the band felt adrift. Yet, just four months later, they rallied to record the album “Kiln House”. Fleetwood calls it “a funny little album by a vaguely lost band. But I love it for that reason. It’s pure and sweet.”

An unusual affair, ‘Kiln House’ ping-ponged between Jeremy Spencer’s Buddy Holly/rockabilly salutes and Kirwan’s originals which, this time, took a harder turn. For the album, Kirwan penned one of the hottest guitar tracks in Mac history, “Tell Me All the Things You Do”. The song proved he could idealize a frenzied style as well a ruminative one. Kirwan epitomized the latter mood with his mournful instrumental “Earl Grey.” Another stand out track penned by Kirwan, “Station Man”, attracted the attention of Pete Townshend of The Who told Fleetwood it was one of his favorite songs. “I remember Danny saying, ‘wow, I would have thought he would have fucking hated it,’ the drummer recalled.

To beef up the band in that shaky period, they added a “guest” keyboardist on ‘Kiln House’—Christine Perfect, who had just become Mrs. McVie. Under her maiden name, Mcvie had performed in the blues band Chicken Shack and released a solo album which featured playing, and composing, by Kirwan. Still, she found the young guitarist strange. In a later quote, McVie called him “really, really neurotic and difficult to work with. He was one of those people who would never look you in the eye. To be around him was a very nerve-wracking thing. So he and I never wrote together.”

On his own, however, Danny Kirwan remained prolific. Two songs he wrote for ‘Kiln House’, which didn’t appear on the album, became part of their live show and favorites of arch fans, including the billowing “Dragonfly” and the psychedelic rocker “Purple Dancer”.

Kiln House

As eccentric as Kirwan could be, Spencer upstaged him in the strange department in early 1971. Smack in the middle of a U.S. tour, he bolted the band, announcing he was joining a religious cult known as The Children of God. For those keeping score at home, that makes two guitarists gone off the rails in less than two years. If nothing else, Spencer’s defection precipitated a major shift in both the band’s sound and in their home base which, together, led to a new prominence for Kirwan.

When Spencer left, the band had to re-orient itself somewhat: Kirwan has become the sole focal figure, and this central role has forced him to deal in the visceral as well as the moody areas. But Kirwan had already shown on Kiln House that he was well equipped to handle both. His “Jewel Eyed Judy,” “Tell Me All the Things You Do,” and “Station Man” are among the best examples of the soft-hard rock song, with their lovely, silky vocals and smoking guitars. If Kiln House holds up somewhat better than the gentler Future Games, Kirwan’s dynamic songs are at least as responsible as Spencer’s presence on the former album.

Shaken after losing Spencer, the band decided to anchor themselves in the U.S., soaking up the style, mood and lifestyle of L.A. at its mellow peak. To aid in the transition, they hired their first American member, singer-songwriter Bob Welch. His contemplative sound fit perfectly with Kirwan’s approach. Better, McVie had began to write, together shifting the band’s focus from a triple guitar act to a three-way singer-songwriter collective. The first songs McVie penned leaned towards Kirwan’s mix of the ethereal and the romantic. At the same time, Kirwan forged more adventurous harmonic structures than ever, evident in his hypnotic tracks off the band’s first U.S.-based album, ‘Future Games’. His “Woman Of A Thousand Years” sounded as unusual as a David Crosby song of the era, or like some precursor to the grey and braided sound later minted by Elliot Smith.

Bob Welch, who contributed key songs to the album, greatly admired Kirwan, saying in a later interview that “at twenty four, he played with a surprising maturity and soulfulness.” But he also called him “one of the strangest people I’ve ever met. He didn’t seem to ever be able to distance himself from his work. Danny was the definition of ‘deadly serious.'”

Bare Trees

Despite Kirwan’s growing inner turmoil, he perfected his art the next year. The ‘Bare Trees’ album, released in March of 1972, was a note-perfect work, with five of its nine tracks penned by Kirwan, including the chugging opener “Child Of Mine”, a song which addressed his absent father.

“Bare Trees” falls somewhere between the last two Fleetwood Macs; that is, it hits harder than Future Games, but its concerns are much more introspective than those of Kiln House. Kirwan has written two melancholic, really elegiac songs based on the bittersweet poem of an elderly woman, “Thoughts on a Grey Day,” that closes the album. The first song, “Bare Trees,” its title suggested by a line from old Mrs. Scarrot’s poem, moves along exhilaratingly, even though its lyric is a metaphor of age and approaching death; perhaps it’s the acceptance of the cycle that gives the music a hopeful, almost happy feeling. The second, “Dust,” is a great deal more somber, but it retains Kirwan’s deft melodic touch, manifesting itself in both the sighing vocal and in the guitar lines that sweep softly alongside it. “Dust” sets the stage for the poem, which is similar in effect to the “Voices of Old People” track on Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends. The group has thoughtfully preceded the poem with about 15 seconds of silence, sufficient time to pick up the tone arm if you’re not in the mood.

The rest of Bare Trees isn’t nearly so melancholy, nor is it structured to conform to the theme Kirwan has developed. Christine McVie’s two songs, “Homeward Bound” and “Spare Me a Little of Your Love” make it clear that she’s become a fine songwriter and a persuasive vocalist–she’s somewhere between Sandy Denny and Dusty Springfield, and there’s no doubt that she could make it on her own.

Though Welch wrote the album’s FM hit, “Sentimental Lady” and though McVie greatly upped her writerly chops—Kirwan’s sound defined the album on songs like the title track  or the wah-wah guitar work-out on “Danny’s Chant”.

As before, it’s Danny Kirwan who made the difference. Maybe there’s nothing on Bare Trees to equal “Station Man” and “Jewel Eyed Judy,” but, aside from “Dust,” Kirwan’s songs here rock much more than his Future Games material did. He really lets loose on “Danny’s Chant,” which features tough-guy electric guitar sounds purely for their own sake. His “Child of Mine” is a lyrically disjointed but musically forthright rock ‘n’ roll song. And Kirwan’s instrumental, “Sunny Side of Heaven,” shows off his unique electric guitar style to good advantage. Like most outstanding guitarists, Kirwan gets a sound that is more plainly human than mechanical. His guitar tone is piercing but tremulous–powerful but at the same time plaintive, especially in the upper ranges.

With his multiple skills, Kirwan could’nt help being the focal point. It is his presence that makes Fleetwood Mac something more than another competent rock group. He gives them a distinctiveness, a sting. He makes you want to hear these songs again.

Bare Trees’ also set a template for the band. While they released three albums between that 1972 work and their breakthrough self titled “Fleetwood Mac” disc in ’75 (the one which debuted the Nicks/Buckingham team) there’s a crucial connection between the former, and latter, works. According to Fleetwood, it has to do with cohesion. Both albums found the band sustaining a beguiling mood from start to finish. “Bare Trees’ is the beginning of the band showing a body of work with all the proper connections made,” he said. “It’s a well-rounded album. Like Lindsey, Danny had the chops with layering techniques, and the ability to know what’s right and wrong in the studio.”

‘Bare Trees’ also got the band to focus on harmony, an aspect which would later define the most successful version of the band. 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.”

“Looking back, Danny was not suited to this business,” Fleetwood said. “It was too much pressure. He and Peter were both highly sensitive people, not suited to take the blows.”

Kirwan went on to release a few solo albums for DJM Records. They contained some sweet moments but more pale ones. His mental deterioration led to periods of homelessness in the ’80s and ’90s. In 1998, Kirwan had a potential lift: He was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame along with the other key members from Fleetwood Mac’s strange and convoluted history. But he didn’t show up to accept the honor.

In the decades since Kirwan left the band, Fleetwood has had little contact with him, though he remains in touch with his ex-wife Claire. She told him the guitarist “lives a very simple life and is pretty much disconnected from what you, or I, would call any form of reality.”

Despite the sustained pain surrounding the guitarist’s tale, Fleetwood remains committed to stressing his unique talent and his pivotal role in the band. “I cared for Danny a lot and I care for his legacy a lot,” he said. “Lindsey Buckingham also has a huge regard for Danny. He is the lost component. In many ways, Danny is a forgotten hero.”