Lindsey Buckingham – a soothing balm for troubled times: Album Review

Lindsey Buckingham is his first solo album in ten years, a defining statement of the artist and his journey through the turning point of the idyllic Sixties, and on through to his legendary work as a Fleetwood Mac. It stops there but it is intoxicating enough.

Born in October 1949, which makes his teen years run smack through the heart of Sixties. From the Kennedy assassination to the start of world domination Beatlemania. He was playing in teen bands at Menlo-Atherton High School in California. Girlfriend Stevie Nicks was there along with Bob Weir who ended up with the Grateful Dead.

He was largely self-taught. His distinctive guitar style comes from being a folkie and playing banjo initially. A finger-pick guitarist who doesn’t use metal picks.

Synchronicity and spirit alchemy was in the air when Mick Fleetwood overheard him in an adjacent studio and checked out his album with Nicks. A magnificent Pop group took flight.

Scream starts with some tribal drumming and a re-working of the chords of classic Mac song Monday Morning. Given a little more sparkle at the sacrifice of some of the rhythmic drive of the original song. Ground Zero/ Looking for a hero/ Red red rover/ ‘Til the sun starts setting in the West. And then comes Oh I love you when you scream. There are beautiful Pop melodies all through this album, but they are cut through with ominous disturbing lyrical allusions.

A Brett Easton Ellis soundtrack to a yet to be written completion of the trilogy which currently stands at Less Than Zero and Imperial Bedroom. Some people would say America in excelsis.

I Don’t Mind is stark and minimal with a bass guitar lead and a metronomic beat. The singing is beatific with lines like I don’t mind/ Weeping willow/ On my pillow/ Broken arrow/Straight and narrow. There is a breathy female counter-refrain. But it could be Buckingham’s own treated vocals as no other musicians are listed.

On the Wrong Side sounds like a Bubble-Gum classic. It has the rhythmic drive of racing Sunshine Pop like the Ohio Express or 1910 Fruitgum Company. Then a great guitar solo is overlaid. High, piercing and as sharp as a scalpel rather than an axe.

Swan Song has an interesting backbeat like electronic or syn-tablas. The vocals are more for texture. But then he adds some lightning-fast guitar picking flash. A lot is packed into a few minutes.

Blind Love. Begins with a Marc Bolan and T Rex vocal sound. You feel love but you never give it to me/ You steal love when you look right through me. From there is segues seamlesly into dreamy Late Sixties Pop of the likes of the Association or the Lefte Bank. There is a deep R’n’B backbeat in there.

Blue Light is superior melodic Power Pop with complex vocal melodies like the best of the Turtles. Typically, on the chorus. Sometimes our hearts may break/ Then we might lose our stride/ When candle lights burning with original sin/ Never, never, never give in to the house of Blue Lights. A great rhythm machine kicks this along.

Time is the only song written by another, Michael Merchant. Soft, delicately arranged breathy vocals. It’s as if we are transported back to the times of 1968 in America. Brian Wilson’s time when the Beach Boys were coming out with delicate melodic albums like Wild Honey and Friends.

Lindsey BuckinghamThe retreat of Wilson’s idol and fetish-figure Phil Spector seemed to trigger a collapse for the head Beach Boy. When the Stones and Beatles got harder and regathered after psychedelic 1967 with music like Beggars Banquet and the Beatles (White) Album, their American rivals sought some spiritual peace. This was the time of incredible upheaval and turmoil which took in the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Black America boiled over. The Democratic convention was surrounded by protest and police brutality. The Tet Offensive was a peak of bloodshed in Vietnam. The year ended with the election of Richard Nixon.

Santa Rosa is uplifting and just a splendid little gem of a song. A little Latino Rock’n’Roll swing or maybe a dash of Tex-Mex. Lightly touches the shoulders of Dylan’s Just Like Tom Thumb Blues.

Dancing would be easy to overlook at the end of the album. The voice is very delicate and fragile. The ethereal atmosphere is an attempt at the tone of Slim Slow Slider mixed with Ballerina from Van Morrison’s classic Astral Weeks. The guitar and piano drop down and almost disappear like smoke. Then you hear, emptiness goes where supply meets demand/ Business and murder they go hand in hand/ Dancer, Dancer. And it’s gone in a puff of smoke.

Lindsey Buckingham the album is drawing upon soothing balm for a year of unprecedented upheaval and frankly, madness. There is some bite and disturbing reflections in those lyrics though, behind that mask of melodic beauty. You can embrace it and dance inside its spirit too.

Rev Orange Peel