By the time 1973's Penguin
was released, both fans and critics of Fleetwood Mac were probably used to unexpected line-up changes occurring around each consecutive album's release. However, the loss of Danny Kirwan was perhaps the first bit of proof that the band were verging on losing innovation and originality, and Penguin
shows this more than its predecessors. Whilst Kirwan would be replaced swiftly by Bob Weston, much of the album's songwriting came from McVie and Welch, both of which had a fair amount of input in the band's previous few records.
Unlike its predecessing albums, Penguin
is focused mostly on songs which McVie and Welch had written seemingly moments after Bob Weston's appearance. Whilst this replacement was credited with a mere one song (the closing song, which just so happens to be one of the album's distinctive highlights), it manages to eclipse every song before it simply due to sheer instrumental talent and a knack for pristine songwriting. The same could be said for newcomer Dave Walker, who had even less input into the album's production with vocals on two tracks and a well-rehearsed harmonica performance on one.
Unfortunately, the work of these two new members seems quite forgettable when you consider the greatness of previous albums. McVie's work this time round seemed to fuse with Welch's songwriting, and so results in a mostly unvaried sound which proves blander as the minutes progress. None of the songs here are particularly terrible, but simply average due to a half-hearted all-round performance. The harder, more rock-oriented songs such as "Remember Me" and "Dissatisfied" are evidently confident but lazy, focusing more on Welch and McVie's lackluster vocal delivery more than anything else. The softer likes of "Bright Fire" and "Did You ever Love Me" do add slight psychadelic flourishes here and there, but it's never quite enough to raise any interest.
The thing about Penguin
is how each song has its glorious moments, but which are too brief to even consider listening to again. That said, closer "Caught in the Rain" features a beautiful instrumental performance from newcomer Bob Weston, and if anything, proves that Fleetwood Mac's seventh album could have used more of his input. The same goes for Dave Walker, whose harmonica performance is so elegant and simplistic it actually diverts one's attention from the monotone vocals of Bob Welch, in contrast sounding like he's bored with himself. For these reasons alone, the album is better than the first three tracks hint at, but its unmistakeably bland moments all too often seem to eclipse the highlights.
certainly proved to be an above average album on its own, but anyone who hadn't been introduced to Fleetwood Mac via this album first would have been sorely disappointed. It wasn't entirely due to Danny Kirwan being fired during the tour of Bare Trees
, but it certainly justifies the lack of memorable or instinctive songwriting of previous albums. That said, the band tried their best with what they had, but should really in the end have included more of Weston and Walker into Penguin