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Bare Trees
By Lawrence David Lanberg
May 19, 2004
Rating: 7.5

The energetic, highly ambitious, widely diverse (some say disjointed), and in places slightly artsy sounds on this transitional Fleetwood Mac album effectively veiled the shaky insecurity that was beginning to disintegrate the harried band. Bare Trees wound up being a rather uncharacteristic F. Mac album, serving up tracks that one could confidently classify as Good, Rocking Music. As with any solid music album, though, it was interspersed with occasional bland filler songs…yet this writer strongly recommends Bare Trees for any walk of Rock music fan, especially those who had found themselves unimpressed by other Mac albums.

It was 1972 and Fleetwood Mac was still working at a frenzied pace, desperately trying to land a reliable (and profitable) fan base in the States. The band’s unofficial front man by default was a mentally troubled, chaotic guitarist named Danny Kirwan, who frequently fought with the band’s newest member - a then unknown American folk-guitarist Bob Welch. Welch personified the ‘laid-back’ California hippie style and had been hired just a year prior, largely to fill a void and be a background player for these nomadic British travelers. Meanwhile Christine McVie, wife of bassist John, had been hired two years prior to provide augmentary piano sounds. By the time Bare Trees was recorded, Christine was beginning to assert her own material – sterile, concise and affable tunes.

The album opens with a surprising dark rocker, “Child of Mine”, giving a rousing feel of a garage band playing their frustrations out. But for listeners that are more versed in frills and complexities, the initial grab of this number may be lost by the time of its second minute. Three tracks down is the hallmark of this album…the bouncy and eclectic rocker “Bare Trees”. Kirwan and Welch actually sound as though they are enjoying playing together on this one, with Danny doing some distinguished pseudo-Nashville-style picking on his lead. The confident and catchy guitar sounds on “Bare Trees” title track juts from a bold, Biker Boogie bass foundation by John McVie…with Mick also sounding in unusual form on his drum kit, a crisp yet prominent flow adding its own touch to the track. This is one of those rare tunes that you’d wish would go on for ten minutes or longer.

“Homeward Bound” is a really enjoyable rocker also, but is very weird in that it is actually a Christine McVie song. What possessed her, here, is unknown but the listener will not at all question the irony. That one opens with a loud, driving guitar solo and also closes with one (!) – it sounds as though it is Bob Welch doing the deed on this one while trying to test his abilities on lead electric.  “Sunny Side of Heaven”, a short and picturesque instrumental and Welch’s more characteristic “The Ghost” are also memorable parts of the Bare Trees album…these last two mentioned place the listener into a more ethereal mode.

An uncomfortable time for Fleetwood Mac, a period the surviving members would just as soon forget about, but this album that resulted is the perfect rock album for one to reach for, when looking for a pleasurable diversion from their routine listening.

To listen to some sound clips from  Bare Trees, or to buy it click on: Bare Trees

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