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Old 09-18-2015, 08:55 AM
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Default 45 Years Ago, Fleetwood Mac Look to Rock’s Roots on ‘Kiln House’

45 Years Ago, Fleetwood Mac Look to Rock’s Roots on ‘Kiln House’
By Dave Swanson September 18, 2015 8:38 AM

In 1970, Fleetwood Mac were battered and bruised after the departure of guiding light, guitarist Peter Green. Following the release of Then Play On and a couple of ground breaking singles (“The Green Manalishi” and “Oh Well”), Green left the band amid a haze of drugs, religion and confusion. His departure left the Mac without a leader and focal point.

Not that the band was a one-trick pony. Then Play On saw them transcended the purist blues sound of their first two albums to deliver a whirlwind of psychedelia, gritty blues and gentle acoustic numbers. But they still had a new challenge to face. They would deal with it not by replacing Green, but rather by settling in as a four-piece and looking to the roots of rock and roll’s early days.

Released on Sept. 18, 1970, Kiln House is a mixed bag of songs that call upon folk, country, blues and pop to make up the recipe. Guitarist Jeremy Spencer takes the wheel for a good chunk of the album’s material, recasting the band in the light of ’50s rock and roll, with nods to the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent.

The LP kicks off with the full on retro vibe of “This Is the Rock.” Written by Spencer, it’s Gene Vincent’s slapback shuffle brought back from the dead as a genuine homage to those early sounds. “Station Man,” co-written by Spencer with guitarist Danny Kirwan and bassist John McVie, swims back into a more contemporary style perfectly suited for the laid-back groove many aspired to in 1970. “Blood on the Floor,” however, does teeter between sincerity and parody as the band attempt to take on true-blue American country music. The end result is still up for debate.

It’s still not clear why “Honey Hush” was retitled “Hi Ho Silver.” Regardless, it’s a no-frills rocker originally recorded by Big Joe Turner in 1953. “Jewel-Eyed Judy” is a gritty, stomping rocker that has more in common with the likes of Badfinger than it does with much of the ’50s motif found throughout the LP.

They dive backwards again with “Buddy’s Song,” which starts side two. Though written by Spencer, the song is credited to Ella Holly, Buddy’s mother, and is essentially a pastiche of/tribute to Buddy Holly with its references a handful of Holly classics. “Earl Gray” is a somewhat haunting Danny Kirwan instrumental that is neither filler nor killer, but simply a nice side-step.

“One Together” finds Spencer on a bit of an Everlys path, while Kirwan’s “Tell Me All the Things You Do” is more modern-sounding. The album ends with a cover of “Mission Bell,” originally recorded by U.K. pop vocalist Ronnie Hilton a decade prior. Mac spin the straight pop fare into a more Buddy Holly-ish ballad to sutiably end the LP.

Kiln House did little to bolster the band’s status or reputation as it peaked at No. 91. Future Mac star Christine McVie makes her presence known for the first time, not only on keyboard (though uncredited at the time), but also with her painting that graces the LP’s cover.

Jeremy Spencer himself would follow Peter Green’s example and split from the band following the album’s release. Like Green before him, Spencer would leave under somewhat odd circumstances also involving religion. His replacement, Bob Welch, would take the band on yet another musical path.

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