In 1972, Fleetwood Mac released their sixth studio album Bare Trees, an LP which proved to be the last to feature guitarist Danny Kirwan and introduced a song that would later turn into a huge solo hit for the band’s other guitarist, Bob Welch.
Produced by the band themselves, Bare Trees emerged at a time in Fleetwood Mac’s career when they were closer to a cult band than they were to the platinum-selling phenomenon that they’d become in a few years. To wit, at the time of this album’s release, it was the second-highest charting album of their career in the U.S. at No. 70...and the highest-charting album had only reached one spot higher on the Billboard 200.
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Having joined the band for their previous album, Christine McVie was beginning to make her presence known in a more substantial way, offering up such tracks as “Homeward Bound” and “Spare Me a Little of Your Love.” Meanwhile, Bob Welch was beginning to better find his groove, too, delivering “The Ghost” on side one of the album and, on side two, the immortal “Sentimental Lady.” Ironically, McVie makes a much more profound impression on the version Welch recorded as a solo artist, but this is still a tremendous take on the track that many prefer over Welch’s solo version.
Kirwan contributed several songs as well, including “Child of Mine,” “Sunny Side of Heaven,” the title track, the appropriately-titled “Danny’s Chant,” and “Dust,” but his time with the band came to a conclusion while they were touring behind Bare Trees.
"Danny had been a nervous and sensitive lad from the start,” said Mick Fleetwood in his memoir. “He was never really suited to the rigors of the business. Touring is hard and the routine wears us all down ... Our manager kept us touring non-stop and we were being stretched to our limits...and the pressure was obviously taking its toll. He simply withdrew into his own world."
Later, Fleetwood clarified, “In essence, he had a breakdown. The rest of us were so hurt and insulted by what Danny had done we didn't know what to do. I was loath to fire him because he played so well...[Firing him] would mean pulling out of two weeks of gigs and cancelling the tour [but] there was no other option. Danny had to go."
Still, as last gasps with bands go, Kirwan’s contributions to Bare Trees were certainly solid.