Missing Mac

When Danny Kirwan, Christine McVie and Bob Welch Reigned

Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

Future GamesYes Virginia, there really was a Fleetwood Mac before the squirrelly musings of Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’ nanny goat vocals. If you back track through the group’s catalogue you might discover, as I did, that there were many other editions of the group that were much more creative and more worthy of praise than the money-making Buckingham-Nicks aggregate. Blues man Peter Green (composer of “Black Magic Woman” and “Oh Well”) formed the group in 1967, although he selflessly named it after drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. Critics of the day anointed Eric Clapton as the Dali Llama of Brit blues, and his fanatics were scribbling “Clapton is God” on the walls, but it was Slowhand himself who said Peter Green was as good, if not better than he was. B.B. King agreed wholeheartedly, and has been quoted as saying Green was the only guitarist who ever gave him “The cold sweats.” Green, who claimed he got his distinct mournful vocal style from listening to the cantors in Jewish synagogues, did indeed sound far more genuine in his sorrow than Clapton. In 1970, unhinged by too many pharmaceuticals, Green melted under the harsh spotlight of fame, leaving Elmore James acolyte/50s fan Jeremy Spencer and 16 year-old prodigy Danny Kirwan in charge of the group. After collaborating with Kirwan on the anemic “Kiln House” (2 out of 5 stars), Spencer wigged out as well, joining The Children of God cult, leaving Fleetwood Mac’s fate in the hands of Kirwan and two new recruits, keyboard player/vocalist Christine McVie and American guitarist Bob Welch. The group members took stock of England’s dissolving blues scene, and instead of folding, reinvented themselves as folk/rock band, releasing their strongest effort to date, 1971’s “Future Games.”

Future Games (4 stars out of 5)

Danny Kirwan initially took on the role of lead everything with enthusiasm, penning two of the albums strongest tracks, the quixotic “Woman Of A 1,000 Years” and the melancholy “Sometimes,” while his third offering, “Sands of Time,” smoothly shifted through a myriad of emotions. Kirwan’s “Woman Of A 1,000 Years” is as placid and peaceful as a still lake, a traditional English folk piece that’s as delicate as Kirwan’s tender psyche, and is elevated by his shy vocal and melodic tunings.

Given an opportunity to showcase her songwriting talent, Christine McVie’s romantic style proved to be simpatico with Kirwan’s and she delivered the album’s highlight, “Show Me Smile.” Although Christine McVie had been making appearances on Mac albums as far back as the Peter Green era (she was after all, married to the group’s bass player), her first official appearance is “Morning Rain,” an uncharacteristic bouncy rocker that still takes advantage of McVie’s strong sense of harmony. Kirwan’s solo is about as rough as he ever got, which means it’s quietly melodic.

Welch offers his own take on the band’s new California soft rock style with the episodic title track. “Future Games” is an adult nursery rhyme with Kirwan and Welch strumming their guitars like harps as the trio of singers engage in heavenly harmonies. Welch’s unusually reflective vocal is quiet, tentative, like that of a frightened child hiding under the bed from the boogeyman. In this case, the boogeyman is the passage of time and the uncertainty of what lies ahead: “I did a thing last night, you know those future games…I turned off all the lights, and oh, the future came. You were by my side, will you explain, real rhyme or reason for those future games.” Despite Welch’s line, “You invent the future that you want to face,” the song projects a gloomy, forlorn theme that our lives are predetermined and our struggles in the pursuit of happiness are all in vain. Kirwan, the band member closest to teetering over the edge of sanity, applies a harmonic solo that momentarily lifts the weight of the song’s paranoia. Despite being a downer, “Future Games” is a one of Welch’s more meaningful and essential compositions (check out “Emerald Eyes” on “Mystery To Me,” and “Sentimental Lady” on “Bare Trees” as well).

If the title track to “Future Games” is a trip down the river Acheron with Welch playing Charon, the ferryman of the dead, then “Show Me A Smile,” the album’s closer, is its polar opposite, an optimistic lullaby with Christine McVie playing the role of earth mother. McVie’s liquid vocal is simultaneously soothing, sensual and innocent. I remember the first time I heard this song on the radio some 30 years ago while riding uncomfortably in the back of a Jeep, with my knees practically in my nostrils. I’d just heard Spooky Tooth’s version of “I Am The Walrus” for the first time only moments before and commented that the lead singer, Mike Harrison, sounded like the devil. “Show Me A Smile” came on soon after, ushered in by waves of cymbals, gently stroked acoustic guitars and twinkly electric piano. McVie’s soothing voice wafted through the speakers as if on a cloud – pure, loving and sincere… It was the complete opposite of Harrison – the voice of a seraph…“Take everything easy, show me a smile…It doesn’t take much to please me, my little child.” McVie would go on to pen more memorable tunes than any other member of the group (check out “Over and Over,” on “Tusk” “Prove Your Love” on “Heroes Are Hard to Find” and “Did You Ever Love Me” on “Penguin” for starters), but “Show Me A Smile” remains the one song of hers you have to hear. McVie’s voice is a dreamy sigh so perfect you’ll stop whatever you’re doing, sit back -- and smile. It’s one of those rare tunes that’ll make you believe that love really can solve the world’s problems.

By the time “Future Games” was released in 1971, Danny Kirwan’s own future was heading toward an end game. He was wallowing in a long list of personal issues – chief among them having a leadership role thrust upon him at the tender age of 20.He also had to live up to the band’s sterling reputation established by Green, and had developed a serious drinking problem that was alienating him from his band mates. According to Bob Welch, who loved Kirwan’s superstar talent but abhorred his dark personality, Kirwan was “So deadly serious about his work he was completely unable to enjoy himself.” Christine McVie later recalled that working with Kirwan was nerve-wracking because he never looked anyone in the eye and always seemed to be in a state of emotional overload. Chrissy was, in effect, creeped out by Kirwan, and we’re talking about a tough bird who withstood the fists of husband John and the daredevil drunkenness of Beach Boy boyfriend Dennis Wilson. Kirwan’s hangman behavior is surprising, given the brevity of much of his work. The upbeat la-de-dah strumming of Kirwan and Welch in “Sometimes” belies its underlying sense of despair: “Sometimes I get to thinking, about the times we used to have. But now you’ve gone away and left me, so alone.” No doubt a comment on Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer’s departures, which Kirwan took to heart the way an orphan would feel about losing his parents. There was always a swath of melancholy and regret in nearly everything he wrote; and like Christine McVie, Kirwan found a thousand different ways to say I love you or I’m hurt by creating upbeat tempos to make his tunes radio worthy. “Sometimes” is the epitome of Kirwan’s style – boyish, cute, and innocent – with a breathless vocal and bell-like solos. A pure delight from a very troubled man.

Welch’s “Lay it Down” is an abrasive rocker that’s completely out of place and would have been best served on the cutting room floor. It’s mean spirited, jumpy and doesn’t end soon enough. With the exception of the unnecessary sax instrumental “What A Shame” (featuring Christine McVie’s brother, John), and the downright shameful “Lay it Down,” “Future Games” is a superb album which captures a band in transition and headed in the right direction.

Bare Trees (4 out of 5 stars)

Bare Trees“Bare Trees” was Kirwan’s last foray with the band before the rigors responsibility became too much to bear (no pun intended). It’s a soft rock carry over from “Future Games” and another high water mark for the band, particularly for Kirwan and Christine McVie, whose thought-evoking compositions fit the band’s now perfected MOR style. Not to be completely left hanging out on a limb (sorry), Bob Welch contributes “Sentimental Lady,” his best and most touching moment with the band. Aided by Kirwan’s matchless playing, transported Yank Welch spins a tune that brings to mind the baroque and very English sentiments found in the Beatles “In My Life”: “Now you are here today, but easily you might just go away. ‘Cause we live in a time, when paintings have no color, words don’t rhyme. That’s why I’ve traveled far, ‘cause I come so together where you are.” When Kirwan, Welch and Christine McVie’s vocals entwine during the chorus, there’s so much synergy between them it’s hard to pick out who’s singing what. Welch knew a good thing when he had it too – he re-recorded “Sentimental Lady” as the leadoff track for his break through solo album “French Kiss” in 1977, and wisely asked Christine McVie to sing a very noticeable back up.

Kirwan may have been crumbling mentally, but he appears well up to the task of carrying the album. The war-drum dominated instrumental “Danny’s Chant” is filler, but Kirwan’s schoolboy vocals and ringing guitar are spectacular everywhere else. “Child of Mine” is edgier than most of his songs, with Kirwan scatting to his own fuzzy guitar accompaniment and Fleetwood pumping away on drums and congas, matching Christine McVie’s aerobic work out on piano. The title track is emblematic of Kirwan’s style of writing, with compact, familiar, yet original riffs, firm harmonies and plenty of “la-la’s” and “do-do’s” tacked on to the seemingly simplistic lyrics: “Bare trees, grey light, oh yeah, it was a cold night. Bare trees grey light. I was alone in the cold of a winter’s day. You were alone and so snug in your bed.”

It’s telling though, that the two songs in which Kirwan’s star shines most brilliantly are essentially incomplete. “Sunny Side of Heaven,” an instrumental, puts Kirwan’s crystalline playing style on display. With a set of lyrics and Kirwan’s soothing pipes, this could have been one of his signature tunes. As is, it’s still heavenly.

“Dust” is Kirwan’s most lyrically dense and telling song – and it stands to reason that a quiet, stressed out man who communicated through his guitar would borrow the words of poet Rupert Brooke to express himself: “When the white flame within us is gone, and we that lost the world’s delight, stiffen in darkness. Left alone, to crumble in our separate light, when your swift hair is quiet in death, and through your lips corruption thrust to still the labor of my breath. When we are dust, when we are dust…” Cocooned by Kirwan’s tender guitar work and Christine McVie’s misty vocal, this was as much a cry for help as “Closing My Eyes” was for Peter Green – and like Green, Kirwan’s plea for a mental life preserver went unanswered.

Christine McVie does her usual yeoman’s job with the clonkity English folk/country of “Homeward Bound” and the graceful “Spare Me A Little of Your Love,” which features intense guitar work from Kirwan alongside McVie’s one-of-a-kind sensual whisper.

The only rotten limb on “Bare Trees” is the last entry, “Thoughts On A Grey Day,” a bizarre poetry reading by one Mrs. Scarrott, a rickety neighbor of the band’s who sounds old enough to have known Shakespeare personally.

There’s something about wearing the yoke of leadership in Fleetwood Mac that makes guitarists go ga ga. After 1972’s brilliant “Bare Trees,” the increasingly sensitive Kirwan became a rock n’ roll version of TV’s “Monk,” obsessing about tunings to the point where Mick Fleetwood found him in the men’s room bashing his skull against a concrete wall because he couldn’t get his guitar to behave. A loner and a burgeoning alcoholic, Kirwan had never ingratiated himself with the others. When he didn’t show up for a gig, then was discovered off-stage watching the band as McVie and Welch carried on, and then critiqued the performance, the Mac’s remaining patience with Kirwan evaporated. Mick Fleetwood, the only band member still speaking with Kirwan, was given the unpleasant task of firing him. Fleetwood would later comment that Kirwan looked as if he felt both relieved and betrayed.

Kirwan would make three solo albums in the late 70s, including the brilliant “Midnight in San Juan” (see my review which follows). He recorded his last album, “Hello Big Boy” virtually in absentia, never uttering a word to the session musicians, and it wasn’t long before his love of the grape punched his ticket to rock and roll oblivion.

After Kirwan was given the sack, Fleetwood Mac enlisted Bob Weston, who became the featured guitarist on the next two albums, “Penguin” and “Mystery To Me.” Weston ruined the choice gig by sleeping with Mick Fleetwood’s wife Jenny. Jenny was Patti Boyd Harrison’s sister -- and ya’ll know who George Harrison’s wife ended up trading spit with...Patti recently released her autobiography which covers her marriage to Harrison and subsequent affair with his best friend, not-so Slowhand Clapton. Jenny should complete the family circle with her tale of burning up the sheets with Weston as well as being the inspiration for Donovan’s song “Jennifer Juniper.” She also married and divorced Mick Fleetwood twice. Gotta love those Boyd sisters…

After Weston became the second member fired from the band, instead of folding, the group pared itself down to a quartet with Welch (guitar, vocals), Christine McVie (vocals, keyboards) Mick Fleetwood (drums) and John McVie (bass), producing one of it’s finest albums to date...

Heroes Are Hard To Find (4 out of 5 stars)

Bob Welch’s Swan Song

Heroes are Hard to Find“Heroes Are Hard To Find” is unique in that it’s the last album to feature Bob Welch, who like the many of Fleetwood Mac guitarists past was worn out from touring. It’s also the first Fleetwood Mac album recorded in the United States and was, coincidently, the group’s best selling album to date, setting the stage for the best selling “Fleetwood Mac” and “Rumors” albums.

A blast of brass and a percussive crash introduces the lead tune, Christine McVie’s title track. The real surprise here is the horn section’s energy and the upfront role they play in the mix. McVie made her rep singing elegant ballads (several more of which appear on this album), but “Heroes” ventures into sonic territory occupied by brass-dominated bands such as Chicago and The Keef Hartley Band. Beneath the trumpeting, McVie’s gentle voice twists yet another cautionary tale for the lovelorn: “So when he tells you, you’ve got diamonds in your eyes. Don’t get carried away, ‘cause you know he’s telling you lies. So when you got the feeling, the man you’ve got is no good…Well just remember a hero is so hard to find.”

After McVie’s brilliant lead off tune, Welch offers up a trio of tunes that go from bad to great. Welch’s obsession with UFO’s floats to center stage with the idiosyncratic “Coming Home,” a mostly instrumental, foggy, unnecessary piece with a Rod Serling-like spoken intro. With Welch moaning like a swamped manatee, it comes off as an impromptu jam. The usually invisible John McVie dials in on “Angel,” rumbling with a bold assurance. Welch’s third and best offering to this point is “Bermuda Triangle,” a bizarre, paranormal tale about the hundreds of lost ships, planes, and people swallowed up in the tropical abyss.

With Welch’s weirdness satiated, the album finds its feet again with Christine McVie’s soaring “Come A Little Bit Closer.” It’s given a hint of country by a few swipes on pedal steel by the late Sneaky Pete Kleinow. Fortunately, his instrumental passages are few and recessed in the background, making his cur of an instrument sound effectively somber. McVie’s voice is sweeter than a sugar plantation, and when she whispers, you’ll want to cuddle up to the nearest warm body and follow her instructions: “Come a little bit closer, ‘cause I remember the time when you held me in your arms and you wanted to be mine. Everything good, everything gold, and now all that’s left is a sweet harmony.” I tell ya, the divorce rate in this country would nose dive if everybody got a daily dose of this woman’s gossamer voice.

Welch returns with “She’s Changing Me,” his own stab at country/rock that’s breezy and head swayingly harmless. The quartet of songs that follow (two each from Welch and McVie), form the album’s core.

Mick Fleetwood’s blitz of tom-toms drives Christine McVie’s “Bad Loser,” a stab at the scab of her floundering marriage to husband John, who plays the bass with wall shaking conviction: “Well you thought you had a hold on me, but its different now. Everything you’ve done before, has fell upon you now. You’re just a bad loser, but you’ll never let it go. Yes, You’ll go down, but you’ll never let it go.”

Welch’s “Silver Heels” is a lighthearted love letter to a fashionable stranger by a composer often preoccupied with searching the skies for E.T. It’s refreshing to discover Welch viewed himself as a clumsy four-eyed geek: “She took me out of the blackboard jungle, put me straight in a hurricane, she hypnotized my eyes with her silver heeled ways. If I could sing like Paul McCartney, or get funky like Etta James, I’d never change, I’d never change, I’d never change my silver heeled ways.” Welch’s usually otherworldly picking is piercing and direct, aided by John McVie’s rubber band rockabilly bass. It also helps to have Christine McVie in the background chirping away merrily.

The jewel of the album, and one of McVie’s most unforgettable songs, is “Prove Your Love,” an ARP drenched lament. McVie’s wraithlike moan is simultaneously heartbreaking and horny, a sigh that delivers the musical orgasm Pink Floyd’s electro shock shriek-a-thon “The Great Gig In the Sky” failed to deliver: “So if you can’t see me right where you are, then why don’t you send for me baby, by the nearest star? No it won’t be easy, knowing you’ve got to prove, you’ve go to prove your love to me.”

The final hero in a quartet of mythic musings is Welch’s nightclub-tinged “Born Enchanter.” For the first few lines, Welch manages to channel his inner sensual Chrissy McVie, trilling as breathlessly as the golden-haired chanteuse, who supplies much of the shadowy atmosphere with her rolling piano riffs. It took me a few lines to realize it was Welch and not McVie who was singing, which either says one of three things: 1) Welch is a very effective singer, 2) I still had Christine McVie’s “Prove You Love” burrowing its way through my loins, or 3) the CD needs to be remastered. I’ll go for a combo of 1 and 3, and keep my carnal Chrissy thoughts locked up next to my Catherine Deneuve posters.

The coda, “Safe Harbor” drifts dreamily, a mostly instrumental doppelganger to Welch’s “Coming Home.” Its Welch’s version of Peter Green’s superb instrumental “Albatross” (which Green admitted was a tribute to Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk.”), an ebbing, eddying trip adrift a calm tide with colorful rainbow ahead.

This “Hero” is without a doubt super, shouldn’t be hard to find, and is well worth worshipping.

Kirwan’s Solo Shots

Danny Kirwan might not have had a solo career at all if it wasn’t for the demons that drove him headlong into the bottom of a bottle and out of Fleetwood Mac. Free to make his own music at his own pace, Kirwan initially stumbled out of the blocks. His first solo effort, Second Chapter,” (2 ½ out of 5 stars) came out in 1975, three years after his ouster from the big Mac. The mostly country/folk compositions were lighthearted, but so much so they bordered on being the work of a daydreaming boy, rather than a man in his early twenties who’d sweated the blues alongside Peter Green. “Odds and Ends” bopped along cheerily like a vaudevillian comedy routine, and the opener, “Ram Jam City” was optimistic. But the majority of the record is a step backward, as easy to dismiss as the moronic title of one of the songs -- “Skip A Dee Doo” -- suggests. Skip-a-dee-don’t buy this one, but invest heavily in Kirwan’s second solo project.

Midnight in San JuanKirwan’s romantic poet style resurfaced and flourished with Midnight In San Juan(4 ½ out of 5 stars), produced in 1976. (It was released in the U.S. as “Danny Kirwan.”). The songs were clipped pop masterpieces, particularly the reggae-influenced “I Can’t let You Go,” the synth-drenched “Castaway,” in which Kirwan revisited his all-alone in the world state of mind, and two introspective, folky pieces “Misty River,” and “I Can Tell.” Only Kirwan’s ill-advised resuscitation of The Beatles “Let It Be” as a reggae tune shocks and disappoints – but even in failure, Kirwan had the sense to leave out one of the verses, shortening the embarrassment.

Released in 1979, Hello Big Boy (3 ½ out of 5 stars) was Kirwan’s last record. According to former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Weston, who played on the album, Kirwan was in an alcoholic daze throughout the making of the record, and may not have played any guitar on it at all. At one point, Kirwan recorded his vocal facing a wall so no one could look at him. The kitchen sink approach of folk, rock and near-disco, a revolving door of nearly 80 participants, and Kirwan writing only five out of the nine tunes further underscores his declining mental health. And when he laid an egg this time it stunk like Passaic on hundred degree day. “Summer Days and Summer Nights,” a duet with D list singer Dana Gillespie is as insipid as the John Revolta/Olivia Fig Newton’s John torture earwig “You’re the One That I Want” from “Grease.”

The album’s best performances were hatched from old material or covers. “Only You” was a fast-paced rocker Kirwan performed live with Green in Fleetwood Mac, and “You” was written Broadway/movie sound track writer Randy Edelman. “You” features one of Kirwan’s more touching vocals. He sounds desperate for love and a shoulder to lean on (and probably was). The string-laden “Caroline” is another noteworthy ballad supposedly written about Kirwan’s ex-wife, who happened to be named Claire. Like Kirwan’s other albums, “Hello Big Boy” didn’t break any sales records, mainly because Kirwan refused to tour in support of his releases.

What’s missing from Kirwan’s solo efforts is a balance. He needed Christine McVie to reinforce his Sir Galahad ballads with her own romantic missives, and could have benefited from Peter Green’s bluesy grit or even Bob Welch’s navel gazing. Instead, Kirwan’s compositions come off as the beautiful, melancholy work of boy in a man’s body.

Mystery Mac

Other Notable Mac Albums From The Bob Welch era

PenguinReleased in 1973 following Kirwan’s abrupt departure, Penguin (3 out of 5 stars) copped its title from John McVie’s nickname. To compensate for Kirwan’s absence, the group enlisted talented strummer Bob Weston. With Weston and Welch toting guitars and Christine McVie planted behind the keyboards, the Mac brain trust thought they needed someone who could banter with the crowd and bound around the stage, so they needlessly drafted former Savoy Brown shouter Dave Walker. Walker was willing to serve as a catalyst, but the band had no idea how to use him – Christine McVie and Welch would still be writing and performing the vast majority of the tunes. The idea of a front man may not have worked in practice, but on record it had its moments. “Penguin” succeeds as a vehicle for the two guitar playing Bob’s (Weston and Welch), and gives Christine McVie the opportunity to prove she was more than a ballad singer. She rocks out to the crafty wordplay of “Dissatisfied,” (“You make me feel…dissatisfied.”), and the mid-tempo opener “Remember Me,” features Weston wielding a Kiwan-esque slide. Every Fleetwood Mac album has at least one Christine McVie classic. “Penguin” registered “Did You Ever Love Me,” a calypso based, sunny romp, (with effective work on the steel drum by guest Steve Nye), which also offered a rare opportunity to her Bob Weston singing faintly in the background. McVie often couched her marital problems in peppy arrangements and “Did You ever Love Me” percolates with such an abundance of island charm that you nearly forget she’s questioning her love life, not reaffirming it: “Oh, you’re a dream, hide your head in the sand. You’re far away when I want you around, and you leave me lonely when I’m feeling down. Do you ever wonder, or worry about me? Did I ever love you, did you ever love me?”

Welch’s “Revelation” and “Night Watch” (which features an uncredited Peter Green), are dreamy lysergic efforts that meander, yet satisfy, and Weston’s airy instrumental “Caught In The Rain” swells with sonic innocence, an irony given that Weston was caught in the sack with the drummer’s wife. Walker puts some heft behind a cover of “I’m A Roadrunner,” puffing into his harp like Paul Butterfield having heart palpitations, but he sounds burnt out in his self-penned “The Derelict,” a Huckleberry Finn stinker with banjos that’s as squeaky as 40-year old paddle steamer. “Penguin” is worth waddling to the nearest shop to pick up for “Did You Ever Love Me” and McVie’s continued ability to spin interesting tales about the pitfalls of being in love.

Mystery to MeWith the Walker-as-front man experiment an abject failure, Mystery To Me (4 out of 5 stars) also released in 1973, put the focus back on main writers Christine McVie and Bob Welch. Welch continued his naval gazing about the existence of UFOs, while McVie occupied her plate with – what else? Love. A couple of Welch’s tunes, “The City” and “Miles Away” move, but lack distinction, although “The City” warrants a listen thanks to Mick Fleetwood’s well placed squashing of his high hat and creative hammering on the rest of his kit. Christine McVie’s back up vocals add punch to Welch’s swaggering “Somebody” and John McVie’s adept bass provides the necessary friction. The soon to be unemployed Bob Weston gets a co-writing credit with John McVie and Welch for the reggae throwaway “Forever,” and the band plows through a pedestrian version of “For Your Love” sounding rushed. (The song replaced another Welch composition “Good Things (Come To Those Who Wait)” at the last minute. How last minute was it? The lyric sheet that came with my album still had the words to “Good Things” instead of “For Your Love.”) The album also contains a rarity: Christine McVie taking a lead vocal on “Keep On Growing,” one of Welch’s songs. Welch felt Chris could sing it better and he’s right; abetted by John McVie’s walloping bass, a nimble acoustic solo by Weston and menacing strings supplied by Richard Hewson, “Keep on Going” is a strong candidate for best song on the album. Welch also delivers two of the best songs he’d ever write (either for the group of solo), “Emerald Eyes,” which features explosive drumming from Fleetwood (trust me, his drumming sound like 16” inch shells hitting the side of a mountain), and the creepy “Hypnotized,” with Fleetwood once again distinguishing himself on percussion, introducing the song with a flurry of high hat and cymbals.

As usual, it’s Christine McVie who elevates the album to a must have level. Her first two songs, “Believe Me” and “Crazy Love” are surprisingly unspectacular by her standards. “Believe Me” has an out of control slide solo by Weston to recommend it, and the countrified “Crazy Love” offers buttery harmonizing from the overdubbed McVie, but both songs are more like the sweet but less compelling Top 40 hits Chris would later pen when nanny goat Nicks and buck crazy Lindsay joined the band. Her other two other compositions, the sparse “Way I Feel,” with its elegant acoustic opening and the spacious “Why” are as unforgettable as her best songs. McVie’s “Why” captures her heartache (and as a result, yours and mine as well) with a teary, murmuring vocal, and finds yet another imaginative way to say “It’s over.” The album falters a bit when three of Welch’s less impressive sings get stitched together (“The City,” “Miles Away,” and “Somebody”), but the quality of McVie’s tunes is no mystery, elevating the album to classic status.

Like the fading wail on “You”…Danny Kirwan disappeared from music altogether after “Hello Big Boy” went goodbye on the charts. He stayed in the shadows, going from homeless to helpless, living in stasis in a hostel, a classic victim of too much too soon. Whenever rumors of a reunion of the original members crops up, the addled but heavily medicated Peter Green declines and Jeremy Spencer bows to the east, dusts off his guitar, and waits patiently. And Danny Kirwan, too far gone to remember the chords to his own songs, is never even asked.



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