Sunday, April 21, 2019

Second Chapter - Danny Kirwan

Second Chapter
Danny Kirwan
DJM Records  DJLPA-1

I was sad to read that Danny Kirwan died last June after many years of mental illness.  He was my third favorite member of Fleetwood Mac after Peter Green and Christine McVie and his tenure in the band from 1968 to 1972 is my favorite period of the band's discography.  I have his three solo albums from the latter half of the 1970s and although none of them are essential, I like all three.  This is my favorite, it was his solo debut.  It opens with "Ram Jam City" which is a country-flavored seduction song.  It is a catchy tune with a charming vocal from Kirwan.  "Odds and Ends" is a slight love song that has a music hall flavor to it.  Kirwan's exuberant vocal puts the song over for me.  The record slows down for the romantic "Hot Summers Day" which reminds me of Paul McCartney.  I could do without the sappy strings but otherwise I find the song appealing.  The record changes direction again for the reggae style "Mary Jane."  Kirwan delivers a fine guitar solo and the song has a strong pop feeling that verges on bubble gum.  The music hall returns for "Skip A Dee Doo."  Kirwan always had an affinity for this style of music and he does it convincingly while still maintaining a rock sound courtesy of his guitar work.  It is yet another love song with rather inane lyrics.  I don't think that lyric writing was one of Kirwan's strengths.  Side one concludes with "Love Can Always Bring You Happiness" which is a McCartneyesque love song.  The string arrangement gives the song a rich pop sound.  Side two opens with the laid-back "Second Chapter."  I always assumed that the title of the album referred to the second stage of Kirwan's career following his work with Fleetwood Mac, but the song with the same title is an obscure love song.  I dig the sax embellishments but the string arrangement is heavy-handed.  "Lovely Days" is a very pretty song with sensitive impressionistic lyrics.  It is one of my favorite tracks.  "Falling in Love With You" is an idyllic country-style song.  The lyrics are trite but Kirwan's warm vocal makes them sound sincere.  "Silver Streams" is an entrancing song that invites the listener into Kirwan's vision of blissful romance.  Gerry Shury's arrangement is very successful and uses strings and brass to add vigor to the gentle melody.  "Cascades" is very similar.  It is another winsome evocation of romance with a sweet melody and pleasing arrangement.  It gives the album a tender and endearing conclusion.  This record shows the strength of the album format.  None of the songs are particularly strong on their own, but programmed together they contribute to an overall feeling of harmony and enchantment.  This album always makes me feel good when I play it and fills me with affection towards the artist.  The lyrics are generally mundane, but they are effective and Kirwan sings them extremely well.  My only complaint about the album is that Kirwan's guitar work is so subdued.  He generally takes a back seat to the keyboards and orchestrations.  Nevertheless the album is very satisfying and fans of low-key romantic 1970s pop ought to give it a spin.  I think Kirwan was one of the more under-appreciated figures in rock music and I equate his mental decline with that of Syd Barrett as one of the more tragic stories in rock history.  Recommended to fans of Paul McCartney's silly love songs.