On Danny Kirwan – ‘Although the Sun is Shining’ Part II
A month after Kirwan had recorded his “demo” for this song, he was back in the studio to lay down the number once more. According to Christopher Hjort, who apparently had access to the session logs, there were two false starts and two full takes caught on tape during the rerecording of this song, with the final take becoming the released master.
As with the “demo”, Kirwan multi-tracks his vocals and guitar.
Danny Kirwan: guitars & vocal
Recorded May 15, 1969 De Lane Lea Studios,
released September 19, 1969 (U.K.) October 1969 (U.S.)
Available on: Then Play On (Reprise 1969)
Although the Sun Is Shining (D. Kirwan) (2:21)
It is Kirwan’s guitar playing that brings me back to this recording again and again; the way in which he interweaves the three separate lines. The warm, steady buzz of the rhythm guitar, accented now by the trill of stroked strings and the lead “Spanish” guitar picking out a gentle melody, evokes a bright summer day. His wordless harmonizing behind the lead vocal a cooling breeze.
Kirwan also changes up the guitar accompaniment during the chorus, weaving additional texture into the piece.
The biggest change brought to bear on the number is Kirwan’s vocal.
While I miss the piercing emotion of the vocal on the “demo” I understand that it may have been considered too raw for public consumption.
They place a touch of reverb on Kirwan’s backing vocals, attempting to duplicate what worked so effectively on ‘Man of the World’.
The complexity of the guitars and vocal serve to sheath the naked knife’s edge of sadness that glinted on the demo.
It seems obvious that they were going for a more “commercial” sound here; Kirwan had expressed admiration for the work of Burt Bacharach and Hal David and this number has a sense of the romantic suffering found in the numbers that they penned for Dionne Warwick.
The fit though is an awkward one. The type of song sung by the Walker Brothers, Cilla Black or Lulu relied on a heightened emotionality, lyrically, musically and vocally, that illustrated the ideas of the song rather than make the listener feel them. These were songs of hurt meant to be shouted from rooftops.
Danny’s were confessions to be shared with only with those who could truly understand.
As with many of Kirwan’s songs, the lyrics consist of a single verse and a chorus. The lyrical ideas needed to be broadened to fill out the new, more expansive sound.
The almost abrupt end of the earlier version felt like a mercy; now it adds to the feeling that the song is somehow incomplete.
This is where the drawback in Kirwan and Green’s inability to truly collaborate in a studio setting, especially the writing and arrangement of a number (whether by choice or by nature) is most apparent.
Six months later, when they performed the number for BBC Radio One, Kirwan was joined by Green, McVie and Fleetwood.
Danny Kirwan: guitar & vocal /
Peter Green: guitar /
John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums
BBC session, Radio One – DLT (Dave Lee Travis’s show)
Recorded October 06, 1969 – Aeolian Hall Studio 2 –
broadcast October 12, 1969
Available on: Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac – Live at the BBC (Castle 1995)
Although the Sun Is Shining (D. Kirwan) (2:32)
Once again, I find that I am ambivalent about the results. Kirwan’s voice takes on an affecting softness heard on the first recording, the sadness of the words seeping through and weighing heavy in his vocal, but this is offset by the playing and production.
With this version, for every plus there is a minus. The beautiful complexity of Kirwan’s overdubbed lines on the studio release have been replaced by the simpler progressions heard on the demo. McVie’s bass is a welcome touch but this is offset by the plodding accents of Fleetwood’s high-hat.
They seem to have come closer to the “commercial” sound that they were aiming for with the studio version, but the same issues continued to undermine their approach.
The liner notes to the 2013 reissue of “Then Play On” quotes Fleetwood as saying of Kirwan, “He was not writing his version of the blues, thinking and feeling what you’re supposed to…Danny was a confused, young man. It was his blues.”
It is the highly personal and idiosyncratic nature of Kirwan’s songs that, to my mind make them perfect vessels for another’s interpretation. It is not that I feel that the song’s need someone else to “improve” them; they stand proudly on their own.
Their uniqueness would allow them to withstand even the most radical reinterpretation without losing the essence of what made them special to begin with. But a well-conceived cover would be akin to chipping another facet in a precious stone, refracting our understanding of the songs.
I know of only a few covers of Kirwan originals and we will look at these in a future post.