9/18/70: Fleetwood Mac – Kiln House
The winds of change were blowing in 1970. From a purely musical standpoint, this date 50 years ago stands out, especially in the realm of blues rock. Most significantly and sadly, Jimi Hendrix passed away in the early morning hours. And when Fleetwood Mac’s fourth studio album went on sale that day, it was the band’s first without blues guitar master Peter Green. There are still some heavy moments on Kiln House with guitarists Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer, the latter making his final appearance with Fleetwood Mac, but we also hear a group trying to find a new direction with elements of blues, folk, 50’s retro, and soft rock mixed together. The album also marks the first appearance of Christine McVie, though she was not yet an official member of the group. She also designed the album cover.
Kiln House – named for a hops drying building that the band and their families lived in communally at the time – lacks cohesiveness yet contains some very good music. Danny Kirwan’s Station Man is my favorite track. It’s a grungy goulash in the vein of early-70’s Stones, Delaney & Bonnie, and Little Feat. Jeremy Spencer’s take on Big Joe Turner’s Hi Ho Silver is a rocker, as is the mostly instrumental Jewel Eyed Judy. Kirwan’s instrumental Earl Gray is a nice interlude after the kitschy Buddy Holly tribute, and the guitar work on Tell Me All the Things You Do suggests the drop off with Green leaving was nowhere near fatal. As for the subjective negatives, I could do without Spencer’s 50’s tributes such as This Is the Rock and Buddy’s Song.
That sense of searching for a sound seems to have plagued the group for a six album stretch starting with this one and lasting through 1974’s Heroes Are Hard to Find, yet that may be due in large part to the high standard set during the Peter Green blues years as well as those of the most widely known Fleetwood Mac era of Buckingham and Nicks which followed Bob Welch’s departure. In other words, there’s some really good music on the 1970-74 albums that deserves much wider reappraisal, and Kiln House is but the first of them.
- This is the Rock
- Station Man
- Blood on the Floor
- Hi Ho Silver
- Jewel-Eyed Judy
- Buddy’s Song
- Earl Gray
- One Together
- Tell Me All the Things You Do
- Mission Bell