Welcome back to the Fleetwood Mac Attack! It’s been a long, long ride, and we are closing in on the final run. But before we get there, I need to take some time to talk about the hidden awesomeness of Lindsey Buckingham’s solo career. Between 1981 and 2011, Buckingham has produced six studio albums in addition to all the time he’s been with/not with Fleetwood Mac, and listening to his music is like all of the awesome parts of Tusk on warp drive. Because his solo career is about as extensive as Stevie Nicks’, we’ll blast through the albums with brief reviews! Here we go!
Lindsey Buckingham’s debut solo album, Law and Order, was released in October 1981, just a few months after Stevie Nicks debuted alone with Bella Donna. I’ve heard that Nicks’s production team pushed her album up so that it wouldn’t be upstaged by Buckingham’s, and as a result she just totally upstaged him instead. Buckingham likes to be fun and experimental; remember that. My favorite track on this album is “Bwana,” because it’s just fun plain fun.
In 1984, Buckingham brought us Go Insane, which is pretty upbeat and fun. The album as a whole makes me think of a pretty solid alt rock party that might be hosted at Empire Records. There are some nice moments musically at the end of this album, where it kind of bleeds into a slightly celtic sound. The title track reached #4 on the charts, but the album itself capped out at #45. It’s a pretty solid follow-up to Law and Order, but I don’t think it’s quite as memorable.
Out of the Cradle, released in 1994, is Buckingham’s first solo album from when he was not also a member of Fleetwood Mac, and it starts out beautifully. Buckingham has this really great ability to always sound like Lindsey Buckingham, but to never sound the same. He’s always exploring new types of sound and the evolution of popular rock music, and his guitar skills are pretty unparalleled within contemporary pop rock. Warning: there is a weird spoken introduction to “Surrender the Rain.” This album didn’t do so well on the charts, which is possibly due to his departure from the Mac, or it could be due to the uniqueness of its sounds and to the strange introductions to certain tracks. But I liked it.
Buckingham’s next release, Under the Skin, came out in 2006, and it’s Buckingham’s first solo album released after he rejoined Fleetwood Mac (there was much rejoicing!). Under the Skin has some of the most impressive guitar work this side of Carlos Santana. Like, seriously, I don’t know how someone can play the guitar like this. It’s amazing. This album breaks from the harder edge that the first three established with its insanely beautiful acoustic guitar pluckity-plucking. The sound really hearkens back to Buckingham-Nicks‘s “Stephanie.” This sound is best demonstrated in “To Try For the Sun.” This might be my favorite of his solo albums.
I’m going to pause real quick to talk about the difference between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. What I saw with Stevie’s music was a growing Southern Rock/Pop Country vibe thematically rooted in magic and mythology. Her music is unlike its contemporaries because of her ability to pull themes and styles and tones from the past. Lindsey’s music is also completely unlike its contemporaries, for completely opposite reasons. He is never afraid to pursue a new angle or a new direction; everything he does (even when it is reminiscent of his earlier work) is experimental and avant-garde. I think this is why they work so well together, and why at times listening to their solo albums can start to feel a teeny bit hollow. They’re these grand complements to each other.
Back to Buckingham! Gift of Screws came out in 2008, and it begins on a series of staccato twangs in “Great Day” that carry through the album, lending it a level of cohesiveness. Throughout the album, Buckingham weaves a bit more of the pop/rock edge into his experimental style, making this album really easy to listen to. Interestingly, the project that became Gift of Screws started in 1995, and when that project was finished in 2001, Buckingham was asked to hold some of that material for Fleetwood Mac’s Say You Will (2003). Some of it went onto Under the Skin, and the rest became part of Gift of Screws. Buckingham likes to get shouty in his music, and there is definitely some of that in the title track. All in all, Gift of Screws is Lindsey Buckingham at his best. I can’t choose between this and Under the Skin as my favorite.
2011 brings us up to Lindsey Buckingham’s most recent solo album, Seeds We Sow. This album ranked 45 in the charts, making it Buckingham’s first “successful” album since Go Insane; Buckingham also self-produced this album. Seeds We Sow is at times forceful and loud, and at times mellow and lyrical, sometimes within the same song. Every so often, Buckingham would do something musically that completely surprised me, showing that he continues to be unafraid of experimentation. Overall, I’m pleased with this album, but I still prefer the previous two. Lindsey Buckingham is an amazing artist, and this album showcases his growing talent and changing styles very well.
Now that the band’s gotten back together, we can only wonder what our prolific solo artists will do both with the Mac and by themselves. Coming up sometime before the new year, my last and long-awaited installation of the Fleetwood Mac Attack!