Here’s a guy I’ve never figured out. I’m listening to his new CD and for the most part sounds like every other set of songs for 45 years. Yet there are a fresh song or two. Thankfully.
What he and Stevie Nicks brought to Fleetwood Mac has been told many times. When he and Nicks left the band, it became an entirely different band. The years he was out of he band two guitar players replaced him, as is the case now. I’d love to be replaced by Mike Campbell. My point is, Buckingham is such a strong musical and vocal presence that the band craters. But it also did to some extent when Nicks was gone, and the years without Christine McVie were felt.
Fleetwood Mac could replace members in the early days and rock on. The version of the band from 1975 onward, that is a very different story.
I started collecting Buckingham music with his first couple of singles, “Trouble” and “Go Insane.” He was into experimental, although after Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, experimental was his norm. Buckingham has never really a rocker, he is more of a pop craftsman, much in the same vein as Brian Wilson, building songs on layers of sound and his vocals. His guitar style has never been power chords or riffs, rather he’s a finger-picker like Mark Knopfler, Pete Townshend (sometimes), Willie Nelson and Leo Kottke. Buckingham has his own unique style and guitars, which would like a cross between an acoustic and electric guitar.
My favorite Buckingham solo album is 1992’s Out of the Cradle. Outside of the bass and percussion, Buckingham played everything himself. Richard Dashut, a Fleetwood Mac co-producer, co-wrote a number of songs and co-produced with Buckingham.
The album feels quite intimate, the guitars are shimmering and beautiful, the melodies heartfelt and mature. None of the four singles charted on the Hot 100, but some adult contemporary action.
Buckingham continued to work solo until he rejoined Fleetwood Mac in 1997. I never found his solo albums as inviting as Out of the Cradle. Buckingham is quite talented and I doubt that he ran out of ideas, but for some reason he didn’t enjoy anything like the success of Fleetwood Mac. The band might have felt confining, though Buckingham’s songs had more commercial polish.
I saw Buckingham in concert a few years ago. Honestly, I did not know what to expect. He changes the arrangements of songs and includes a few in his set list that I could decipher, but the musicianship and effort is impressive. Buckingham really isn’t there to please the fans, he plays what he plays and you need to understand that going in.
Skip ahead and he made an album with Christine McVie (a one-off project, which also featured Mick Fleetwood and John McVie), got kicked out of Fleetwood Mac, had a heart attack, nearly lost his voice, and is trying to save his 21 year marriage. And his war with Stevie Nicks continues, blaming her for his ouster and insinuating that she is still in love with him. Ouch.
So, back to his new CD, Lindsey Buckingham. These are poppy, shimmering songs, constructed by himself in his own studio. The songs are very meticulous, with lush vocal layering, ringing guitars and smooth beats. “I Don’t Mind” is the first single and it is a quite nice with melodic hooks. Buckingham would have been comfortable in the late 1950s and early 1960s, his songs are short and bouncy love songs, perfect for airplay, a sort of ear candy. “On the Wrong Side” is the second single, it sound like Fleetwood Mac but without Fleetwood Mac. Another upbeat, layered vocal song, polished production. His songs are sweet and very efficient, rarely four minutes in length, in face the entire ten songs are just over 36 minutes. There is not a bad song on the collection, in fact you will probably want to listen again when the needle finished on side two (just kidding). My only beef with Buckingham, is his songs are so polished they lack real heart. They are pretty and expertly created, but there is no real feeling or warmth in these tracks. They feel emotionally synthetic. I like the CD, I enjoy his talent and his voice is so electronically textured that is sounds dreamy, but unreal. Some of these songs could be tunes in a music box, they have that sort of feeling. The last song on the CD, “Dancing”, is a soft ballad with just a guitar, ambient synthesizer and Buckingham’s breathy vocal. It would have been nice if his other songs have been more of this approach.