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Music Review: Fleetwood Mac – Penguin

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During the tour for Fleetwood Mac’s 1972 release, Bare Trees, guitarist Danny Kirwan stopped showing up for performances, for which he was summarily fired from the group. Guitarist Bob Welch, keyboardist Christine McVie, bassist John McVie, and drummer Mick Fleetwood recruited two musicians to fill his shoes.

Guitarist Bob Weston and vocalist/harpist Dave Walker were added to the band as they entered the studio to record their next album. Penguin would emerge as an inconsistent release, as the new parts of Fleetwood Mac did not mesh with the old ones very well. Walker’s gritty vocals were far removed from the pop sound the group was moving toward, and as such he was an odd choice. He would be asked to leave shortly after the album’s release.

Weston would clash with Bob Welch, but his undoing was his affair with Mick Fleetwood’s wife, Jenny Boyd. who’s sister Patti married and divorced George Harrison and Eric Clapton. The affair would end with Weston being fired and their U.S. tour coming to a halt. Fleetwood would divorce, remarry, and redivorce Boyd.

It is Welch who provided the center for the album. Plus, his keeping the group alive during this troubled period in its history should have ended with his entrance into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame when eight members of Fleetwood Mac were inducted.

“Bright Fire” is both odd and soothing and has a Pink Floyd feel. “Revelation” is a nice rocker with Christine McVie’s vocals overdubbed to provide the background. “Night Watch,” at over six minutes, is the best track and dominates the album. Welch’s vocal is excellent and some nice harmonies are in place. Peter Green adds some uncredited lead guitar.

Christine McVie’s contributions are fine but not outstanding. “Remember Me” has a light and bluesy feeling. “Dissatisfied” moves in a soul direction, highlighted by Fleetwood’s drumming. She and Welch wrote “Did You Ever Leave Me,” but the song would have been better served by having Welch duet with her rather than Weston.

Dave Walker’s “The Derelict” remains one of the worst songs in the Fleetwood Mac catalogue, as it is basically a country tune complete with a banjo and a vocal which does not fit. Likewise, his vocal on the Holland, B./Dozier/Holland, E. tune “(I’m A) Road Runner” is out of place. “Caught In The Rain” is a Weston instrumental creation which ends the album on a depressing note.

Kirwan’s subtle guitar playing and songwriting were greatly missed. Bob Welch did what he could but even with all his efforts, the album only approached average. Penguin is a Fleetwood Mac album only for fans who want everything in the band’s catalogue.

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