Lindsey Buckingham – Under The Skin

Lindsey Buckingham - Under The SkinPicking up work on a late ’90s solo album where he left off – originally, the album was called A Gift Of Screws and would’ve been a follow-up released only a few years after Out Of The Cradle – Lindsey Buckingham goes into territory that quite a few of his loyal fans will find unfamiliar: the music is stripped down to its bare essentials, sometimes almost all-acoustic, without the trademark elaborate studio production which became the trademark of his early work and his heyday with Fleetwood Mac. But there’s something just as elaborate about Under The Skin, though instead of studio trickery, what’s elaborate here is Buckingham’s sheer staggering musicianship.

The instrumentation is sparse, often consisting of layers of guitar (usually acoustic, though some electric work does sneak in here and there), simple percussion, and half-whispered, half-sung vocals. Vocals are often layered in and overdubbed, but the overall effect is deceptive – you think it’s a bit quieter than the fall-on rock songs Buckingham has given us in the past, but instead he’s almost forcing you to concentrate on the songs.

The songs are great this time around. When Out Of The Cradle was first released, I complained that Buckingham had charged us full “new album” price for an album that contained an awful lot of material that seemed like reheated Fleetwood Mac. This time around, he’s lived up to the songwriting chops that brought us rock classics like “Trouble” and “Go Your Own Way,” though where some of his past work sounded like songs that didn’t make it onto a Mac album, here they’re presented in a context where it’s hard to imagine a full-band sound on them. (Ironically, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood do actually play on “Down On Rodeo,” the Fleetwoodiest song of the bunch here; some of the Gift Of Screws songs were lifted from that project and handed over to Fleetwood Mac’s Say You Will, in some cases with minimal contributions from the other band members, and the tracks in question here may have been contenders for that album.)

The highlights include the Rolling Stones cover “I Am Waiting,” and the Buckingham originals “It Was You,” “Under The Skin” and “Cast Away Dreams” (let’s back up a little bit – for a renowned songwriter like Lindsey Buckingham, it really is unusual to hear a cover of someome else’s material). There’s another cover, Donovan’s “To Try For The Sun,” but it just doesn’t grab me despite being a nice enough song.

For those who aren’t grabbed by any of this material, and for some it may represent one stylistic Rating: 4 out of 4shift too far away from Buckingham’s full-blast rock sound, an album leaning more in that direction is promised for sometime in 2007 – that is, unless one remembers that every other solo project that Buckingham announces winds up becoming a Fleetwood Mac album. Only time, and the apparently irresistible lure of Stevie Nicks, will tell.

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  1. Not Too Late (4:42)
  2. Show You How (4:22)
  3. Under The Skin (3:57)
  4. I Am Waiting (3:34)
  5. It Was You (2:49)
  6. To Try For The Sun (3:14)
  7. Cast Away Dreams (4:28)
  8. Shut Us Down (3:57)
  9. Down On Rodeo (4:27)
  10. Something’s Gotta Change Your Mind (4:48)
  11. Flying Down Juniper (4:43)

Released by: Reprise
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 45:01

Lindsey Buckingham – Law & Order

Lindsey Buckingham - Law & OrderThe first solo effort by Fleetwood Mac’s best-known frontman proves that he had a musical voice that was being held back in the structure of the world-famous band. Buckingham’s efforts on the Mac’s Tusk double LP seemed to meet with either indifference or non-comprehension on the part of the listening public, and his contributions to 1981’s Fleetwood Mac album Mirage were, while still experimental, a little bit subdued in places. Law & Order is a demonstration of how brilliant Buckingham can be when set free: the songs retain an experimental feel, but they’re never anything less than commercial.

Some of Buckingham’s fellow Macsters make cameo appearances, with Christine McVie harmonizing on the dreamy “Shadow Of The West” and Mick Fleetwood lending a very recognizable hand at the drum kit for the now slightly-obscure hit Rating: 4 out of 4single “Trouble”. But Buckingham is perfectly capable of shining on his own. The quirky “Bwana”, one of the best things he’s ever done, begs one to put the CD player on “repeat 1.” His cover of the standard “September Song” is a vocal showcase for him, and it’s an interesting contrast to the somewhat more low-key cover of the same song on Jeff Lynne’s Armchair Theatre.

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  1. Bwana (3:06)
  2. Trouble (3:53)
  3. Mary Lee Jones (3:12)
  4. I’ll Tell You Now (4:18)
  5. It Was I (2:39)
  6. September Song (3:13)
  7. Shadow Of The West (3:57)
  8. That’s How We Do It In L.A. (2:52)
  9. Johnny Stew (3:06)
  10. Love From Here, Love From There (2:47)
  11. A Satisfied Mind (2:47)

Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 1981
Total running time: 36:25

Lindsey Buckingham – Go Insane

Lindsey Buckingham - Go InsaneLindsey Buckingham’s second solo effort has evidently never hit me in the right place or at the right time. There are songs on here that I dearly love – “Go Insane” and “I Want You” – but there are also songs that I cannot stand (the far-too-long “Play In The Rain” being a prime example). One would think that the greater abundance of electronic instruments and tools available to Buckingham in 1984 would’ve given him a broad new palette to use well…but it quickly becomes painfully obvious that this man would do well to stick with guitar rock. Samplers and drum machines do not a good song make without some inkling of how to distribute them throughout the arrangement.

There are some moments of brilliance here, to be sure. “Go Insane” and “Bang The Drum” demonstrate some of Buckingham’s best production licks, including rapid-fire vocals which alternate stereo channels so every other word is in your left ear, but every other word is in your right ear – Buckingham’s music is always best as headphone listening. “I Must Go” is another must-listen…and one wonders, from the lyrics, if it might not be a song about a certain Ms. Nicks’ habits. (Not that every member of the Mac didn’t have their vices by this point…)

I can’t tell you how much I don’t like “Play In The Rain”. With its minimal lyrics, annoying barrage of samples and sounds, and the fact that it’s spread out over two parts (for no readily apparent reason), I have plenty of reasons to skip both tracks anytime I listen to Go Insane. I understand that he was probably experimenting with new and exciting sounds…but this is Rating: 2 out of 4one experiment that really doesn’t hold up.

I give Go Insane a cautious recommendation. You’d better be an ardent fan of Mr. Buckingham’s to sit through this entire album.

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  1. I Want You (3:19)
  2. Go Insane (3:05)
  3. Slow Dancing (4:06)
  4. I Must Go (4:51)
  5. Play In The Rain (3:21)
  6. Play In The Rain – continued (4:15)
  7. Loving Cup (5:02)
  8. Bang The Drum (3:31)
  9. D.W. Suite (6:50)

Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 1984
Total running time: 38:22

Lindsey Buckingham – Out Of The Cradle

Lindsey Buckingham - Out Of The CradleThis album was rather quietly released with the support of the single “Countdown” which was a rather tame iteration of many staples of Buckingham’s Fleetwood Mac style. But despite that, it was one of the better songs on the album. For all the hoopla surrounding his departure from Fleetwood Mac in 1987 and all the immense talent he brought to both the Mac’s 70s/80s sound and his own previous solo work, this album, about five years in the making, was a bit disappointing. That said, Out Of The Cradle isn’t a total loss either. The opening track “Don’t Look Down” is much more exemplary of what I’m looking for if I listen to Lindsey Buckingham, and “All My Sorrows” and “Street of Dreams” come in close behind. One of the really neat things about this CD is that some of the songs have extended intros which are separate tracks. This may not seem like a big deal, but since I was working in radio when this album was released, I thought it was just incredibly handy (but it’s a real bugger if you’ve got a random or shuffle button on your CD player!). The final two tracks, a beautiful acoustic guitar instrumental cover of a Rodgers & Hammerstein number called “This Nearly Was Mine” (I honestly can’t say where the song comes from, though) followed by Buckingham’s own sentimental “Say We’ll Meet Again”, make me wish that he’d done more of the album in this style than trying to rekindle Fleetwood Mac vibes. One of my biggest gripes with the album is a song which sounds like a rough keyboard demo of “Big Love” from Buckingham’s last album with Fleetwood Mac. It’s a blatant attempt to make it sound like you don’t need Fleetwood Mac for the Fleetwood Mac sound (and I liked the Mac’s post-Buckingham Rating: 1 out of 4Behind The Mask quite well, thank you). There are commercial considerations, of course – one must have reasonable sales from one album in order to make the next – but there are some artists who forego commercialism in order to be interesting and experimental. Lindsey Buckingham used to be one of those, but you’d hardly know it from listening to Out Of The Cradle.

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  1. instrumental introduction to Don’t Look Down (0:25)
  2. Don’t Look Down (2:47)
  3. Wrong (4:19)
  4. Countdown (3:21)
  5. All My Sorrows (4:01)
  6. Soul Drifter (3:27)
  7. instrumental introduction to This is the Time (0:41)
  8. This is the Time (4:49)
  9. You Do Or You Don’t (3:37)
  10. Street of Dreams (4:28)
  11. spoken introduction to Surrender the Rain (3:39)
  12. Surrender the Rain (3:39)
  13. Doing What I Can (4:05)
  14. Turn It On (3:50)
  15. This Nearly Was Mine (1:38)
  16. Say We’ll Meet Again (2:28)

Released by: Reprise
Release date: 1992
Total running time: 51:14