Welcome back to Fleetwood Mac Attack! — your favorite exploration of the studio discography of every incarnation of Fleetwood Mac. We left off with the Legendary Christine Perfect/McVie and her beautiful solo career outside of the Mac. Today, we’re going back to the main show to talk about Kiln House (1970), Future Games (1971), and Bare Trees (1972).
Kiln House, the last album with Jeremy Spencer as a member and the last album before Christine McVie became a full member, is a short album (only 34 minutes!) that packs a powerful punch. Though the sound of Kiln House is still very much rooted in blues rock (“This Is The Rock”) thanks to Spencer, their music is already expanding thanks to the pushing sounds of Danny Kirwan on guitar. This album contains three covers (including “Buddy’s Song,” allegedly written by Buddy Holly’s mother), but the original material keeps getting better and better. I mean, compare Kiln House with Mr. Wonderful and you’ll see what I mean. Spencer’s “Blood on the Floor” is kind of boring, and it would fit in better on an earlier album (personal opinion). Overall, Kiln House is enjoyable, but it’s definitely a stepping-stone album as the band gets another step further from Peter Green’s original sound.
Future Games is fantastic! From the first few seconds of Danny Kirwan’s “Woman of 1000 Years,” you can tell that the Mac is finally becoming its own thing. With only eight tracks on the album, this is the first Fleetwood Mac project to feature entirely original songs (yay!) and the first album to feature Christine McVie as a full member of the band (including two tracks written by the young keyboardist). After Jeremy Spencer left the band, Fleetwood Mac brought American guitarist Bob Welch on board (the first American member of the band). The Mac’s tone shifts from the 1950s blues sound that Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer had so heavily pushed for the first four studio albums and begins trending into the melodic pop rock sound that will eventually be perfected and epitomized on Rumours (1977). Christine McVie is wonderful in “Mornin’ Rain,” and the title track is an eight-minute-long behemoth of brilliance contributed by new guitarist Bob Welch. The song is smoky and eery, and you should click here to listen to it. All in all, Future Games is a beautiful album that (in my opinion) should be listened to by Fleetwood Mac fans who have never ventured earlier than 1975. For me, this is the beginning of Fleetwood Mac sounding like Fleetwood Mac — hence my original moniker of Fleetwood Mac C. This is Christine’s first album as a full member, after all. Future Games is also much stronger than its predecessors because it is entirely original songs. When Fleetwood Mac stops doing covers, they finally begin to find their voice as a band.
Bare Trees is fun, and I think the best word for it might be quirky. Bubbly and upbeat for the vast majority of the time, Bare Trees features a balance of songs by Danny Kirwan, Bob Welch and Christine McVie. This is the last album with Danny Kirwan as a member of the band (he was fired during the album’s promotional tour). Kirwan, if you don’t remember, first appeared on Then Play On in 1969, and his musical voice started to push Fleetwood Mac toward greater heights. As a last contribution to the Mac, Kirwan’s songs on Bare Trees are both fun and thoughtful (“Bare Trees,” “Child of Mine,” and “Sunny Side of Heaven” are all wonderful). Bob Welch’s songs are also fun, and Christine McVie’s two contributions show her continued growth as a songwriter. “Spare Me a Little of Your Love” became a performance staple through 1977. Though there are a few songs on the album that are slower than others, the pace of Bare Trees is generally fast, which I think contributes to its quirkiness. But the quirkiest thing about Bare Trees is the last track, “Thoughts On a Grey Day.” The track is a poem read by an elderly woman named Mrs. Scarrott who lived near the band’s home in southern England. Unless there is something awesome and experimental on the next three albums (which I have not listened to yet), I can’t think of anything quite so quirky as this poem to make it onto a Fleetwood Mac album until “Tusk” on Tusk (which is quirky in a totally different way). All in all, I like Bare Trees a lot; it is fun to listen to and happy-sounding. However, if I had to pick out of the three albums in this post, Bare Trees would come in second. Future Games was my favorite this time.
Next up on the Fleetwood Mac Attack! : Penguin, Mystery to Me, and Heroes Are Hard to Find.