Fleetwood Mac: Bare Trees (1972)
Rare, though, are fans of the era between those two, when the band was led mainly by American singer-guitarist Bob Welch. And, sure, those albums didn't draw the critical praise of Green's work or the mass commercial attention of the Buckingham-Nicks years. And, yeah, this run of music is characterized by a comforting blandness, songs that largely fail to distinguish themselves, and a somewhat mushy, listless sound to the records (particularly compared to the painstaking production of the Buckingham-Nicks years). But there is something I find pleasantly enjoyable about a lot of the music from their forgotten years, low-key and understated and just plain old nice.
While most of Welch's best songs can be found on other albums, like the lysergic semi-prog of Future Games' title track and the mellow, jazzy groove of Mystery to Me's wonderful "Hypnotized," Bare Trees is one I keep returning to. It's the last album to feature guitarist Danny Kirwan, with Kirwan, Welch, and Christine McVie contributing to the mix (much like the divergent trio of Buckingham/Nicks/McVie later on).
Indeed, relative to other albums from this era, Welch plays a largely secondary role, helming only 2 tunes. One of those is the perfect little pop tune "Sentimental Lady" (which Welch would re-record as a solo track after leaving the band, with some commercial success) -- while the other, "The Ghost," is more characteristic of Welch's work with the band, mid-tempo and understated, but catchy and inviting. McVie, the source of continuity across band eras, has a couple tunes as well, and while I generally find her contributions rather faceless, "Spare Me A Little Of Your Life" is as strong as any of her better-known tunes from the band's commercial juggernaut years; and "Homeward Bound" is atypically perky.
But it's really Kirwan's album. And while some of his old-school classic rock, like the opener "Child of Mine," is sadly pedestrian, "Sunny Side of Heaven" is a strikingly gorgeous instrumental (with a lovely riff later repurposed by modern-day psychedelic pioneers The Amazing for their haunting ode to the guitarist, "The Kirwan Song"); while the title track is an engaging little romp. Meanwhile, "Danny's Chant," after a blast of opening guitar noise, offers a bit of lively, psychedelic stomping around.
I wouldn't go so far as to call it a very good record; as noted, this entire era is haunted by a bit of blandness (and I've found it's best enjoyed by culling the best mid-period Mac into a single-disc compilation, something which the band foolishly never bothered to do); but it certainly deserves more than the obscurity where most of the work between Green & Buckingham/Nicks tends to wallow.
Here's a performance of "Sentimental Lady" (from a Welch solo concert, joined by McVie, as well as Fleetwood on drums):