ALBUM REVIEW: Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie – Buckingham/McVie
***1/2 (3 and a half stars out of 5)
If you’ve ever wondered what a golden era Fleetwood Mac album might sound like without Stevie Nicks, here’s your answer. From 1975’s self-titled effort to ‘87s Tango in the Night, the Mac’s transatlantic reinvention and huge global success was built on the potent creative relationship between the British trio of Mick Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie and American pair Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Boasting a unique combination of interpersonal friction and natural musical understanding, the quintet crafted some of the finest, most emotionally raw pop-rock songs ever made.
In particular, Buckingham and McVie struck up an immediate rapport, elevating each other’s songwriting as his idiosyncratic musicianship melded perfectly with her penchant for penning melodic, romantic gems. That was most apparent on Tango in the Night, a record that, with Nicks largely absent, was largely shaped by the duo and went on to shift 15 million copies.
Fast forward three decades and the circumstances surrounding the genesis of this release are somewhat reminiscent of that period. After McVie re-joined the band in 2014, she and Buckingham swiftly realised their collaborative spark still burned bright.
A new Fleetwood Mac album might have been in the works, but Nicks was again on solo duty. So, instead we have Buckingham/McVie.
Stylistically speaking, this is a simple sounding record full of immaculately produced, easy listening vignettes that are incredibly bright and breezy. McVie’s musical aesthetic forms the blueprint, with her gifted co-creator reining in his experimental tendencies to complement her easy going pop sensibilities.
“Feel About You” is a bubbly ‘60s bijou with instrumental nods to “Everywhere” and the exquisitely tuneful “Red Sun” offers a relaxed gospel-style chorus that has the air of a soothing nursery rhyme. “Lay Down For Free” finds the pair’s vocal interplay as enchantingly timeless as ever, while “Too Far Gone” echoes “You Make Loving Fun.” Its electronically swaggering groove, brilliantly clipped chorus and tribal drum bursts are an absolute blast.
With Mick Fleetwood and John McVie also playing on the LP, strands of Fleetwood Mac’s DNA are, understandably, woven into the fabric of these songs. “Love Is Here To Stay” recalls a slower, more optimistic “Never Going Back Again” and the sparse piano and guitar strains on “Game of Pretend” immediately bring to mind “Songbird.” “Carnival Begin” is a hazy dream-like number that could have featured on Tusk, with Buckingham’s closing solo his most intense contribution.
Where the simmering undercurrent of love and hate betwixt Buckingham and Nicks always gave their music a certain spikiness, the collaborative vibe here is noticeably more relaxed, enjoyable and carefree. The only downside to such harmony is that these songs are very middle of the road and some will find them far too bland and beige. If you’re looking for a little edginess in your life, feeding ducks at the local park or eating a non-organic apple with the skin on will offer more than this record.
It won’t wipe away the frustration with Nicks for potentially depriving us of a final album from Fleetwood Mac’s classic line-up, but without her presence the dynamics at play on this classy, mature and well sculpted offering do present another fascinating portal into the inner workings of music’s longest running soap opera.
Simon Ramsay / Stereoboard (UK) / Monday, June 26, 2017