Penguin (1973)

1. Remember Me 2. Bright Fire 3. Dissatisfied 4. (I'm a) Roadrunner 5. The Derelict 6. Revelation 7. Did You Ever Love Me 8. Night Watch 9. Caught in the Rain


After the well received Bare Trees came out in 1972, fate mocked this band once more. Danny Kirwan, who was creatively at his peak, became the third member of this group to have some sort of strange breakdown. At some point, he ended up smashing his head through a bathroom mirror and ended up homeless, wondering around the streets of London. No stranger to this sort of thing by now, Fleetwood Mac simply carried on - adding guitarist Bob Weston and vocalist Dave Walker to fill the void.

Since I'm not a musician, I can't really comment on Weston's guitar playing versus the departed Kirwan's. Besides, it seems as though Bob Welch and Christine McVie were emerging as the creative leaders of the band, and they managed to fill Danny Kirwan's void quite well. They both take turns on the first three songs and manage to craft some very likable pop songs. Christine opens up the album in a nice fashion with Remember Me and then Welch warms us up with Bright Fire. By the time Christine returns to the lead on the third track, Dissatisfied, we feel we're well on our journey to a very fine listening experience. By the time we get to the fourth song, the band takes us on a strange detour, however.

As mentioned earlier, singer Dave Walker, formerly of Savoy Brown is now in the band, and he steps into his role as new singer on the next two tracks (I'm a) Road Runner and The Derelict. This is a strange experiment indeed, because neither one of these songs seem to belong here. They just don't "fit" with the rest of the album. It almost reminds you of watching a concert where a "support act" comes on stage in the middle of the "lead" band's set. It may have worked a little better had these two tunes been spread out throughout the mix. Instead, it's just a very weird diversion. Remember, though, that this band was never any stranger to trying "anything new". So, considering we never heard from Dave Walker again (on any album, that is), we can assume that maybe they realized it was a bad experiment. Not to mention these songs sound completely different from one and other (one a "rocker" and the other a more "folksy" country song with banjo and harmonica), which probably only added to the confusion.

Just how "confusing" were things at this point? Well, consider that some former manager of the band was promoting a touring band that called themselves "Fleetwood Mac" with none of the current nor former members. Now, how is it even possible to pull something like that off?? Fortunately, lawyers quickly put an end to the shenanigans, but the fact that this was even attempted shows us just how disjointed this band was in terms of finding its identity.

Fortunately, after the Dave Walker fiasco in the middle, Welch and McVie pick up where they left off, managing to fill the record with more memorable, well-crafted pop songs. My personal favorite is the Caribbean drum filled Did You Ever Love Me. Was Christine already having problems with her bass playing husband? It's safe to say that without the Dave Walker songs smack dab in the middle of this release, that this could have rivaled Bare Trees as the best "Welch era" Fleetwood Mac album. Still, it has a lot of great tunes.

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