Warning! I feel one of my hyperfocused super-obsessions coming on! And, to be quite honest, an hour ago, I had absolutely nothing. I was more focused on simply finding the strength to stand up straight and make it back to my music room to simply read the sports section of the newspaper. But, you never know how inspiration works, but I was in the type of pain where mellow music is the sound du jour. There are days where the pain can only be counteracted by aggressive, obnoxious music (Think: Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, anything by Metallica or, even worse, that nearly unlistenable collaboration of the two called Lulu. I really don’t want to report on those days, but it might make for some good reading.). Today, I pulled out a CD from last year that I absolutely loved, yet for some reason the public really did not show it much love in return. I am talking about Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie’s eponymous duet album.
Let’s begin by stating the obvious: If you are around my age (mid-Fifties), then Fleetwood Mac was arguably one of the biggest bands in the world as we came of age in the mid-Seventies through the mid-Eighties. I distinctly remember getting a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s “White Album” toward the end of 1975 from my mom because she thought the songs she had heard might be “timeless.” Who knew that my Barry Manilow-loving mom could actually discern contemporary music. Okay, so let’s just say her batting average was still only a paltry one-fifty, but even those hitters connect on the random home run every so-often. And, giving credit where credit was due, Mom sure connected on that one, as I played the hell out of Fleetwood Mac.
After a year or so, in 1977, the “Big Mac” dropped their masterpiece about band standing resolute in the name of artistry as we bore witness to the couples within the band whose relationships were disintegrating on this album called Rumours. Over the past four decades, this album has taken on a life of its own. While I loved the album, it remained for years a difficult listen for me as my own parents’ marriage was blowing apart when this album debuted. Unfortunately, how could a teenager NOT project what he was witnessing in his life onto these very personal songs. As the songs from the album continued to receive airplay, the further I pushed the album back in my collection, becoming more and more difficult to play. But, today, as an adult, I love the album once again, able to hear the way each member cared for the other, regardless whether that person is a former lover. It’s as if the five understand that the art they make together far outweighs the acrimony left in the aftermath of this emotional wrestling match. Today, Rumours continues to sell well, as it remains in the Top 20 Albums in Sales Numbers of All-Time.
Then, as the punk rock began to kick the so-called dinosaurs or rock music, like Fleetwood Mac, to the sidelines, the creative visionary in the band, Lindsey Buckingham, became inspired by the production work of these newer artists hitting the scene. So, he helped push the Mac Attack into the present on their double-album oeuvre Tusk. Maligned upon its release in late 1979 for eschewing the Rumours sound, Tusk has become something of any overlooked classic album. And, as the Eighties progressed, Fleetwood Mac maintained a low profile by only releasing two albums, while most of the members did their own things, most famously Stevie Nicks.
For the better part of the Nineties and Aughts, Fleetwood Mac’s line-up was in constant turmoil. Buckingham was out, then back in. Singer/keyboardist Christine McVie was in and out. The classic line-up from their 1975 “White Album” to 1987’s Tango in the Night reformed for President Clinton’s first inauguration back in 1993 and released a disc from their MTV Reunion special called The Dance. Then, Buckingham left again. Finally, in recent years, that classic line-up reformed for a tour, this time with Christine McVie in tow. Unfortunately, word came out of the Mac camp saying that Buckingham had been fired and replaced by former Heartbreaker guitar slinger Mike Campbell AND Crowded House singer/guitarist/songwriter Neil Finn for the upcoming 2018 tour. With Campbell, the band gets a better guitarist, a terrific songwriter and record producer and was Tom Petty’s right-hand man since the beginning of time. Then, in Neil Finn, the band gets one of rock’s biggest secrets in songwriting excellence, who, like Buckingham before him, has a penchant for pop eccentricities. Overall, it appears to be a great trade for the longevity of the band, and this change is far more convincing and exciting to me than previous attempts, including the rumored addition of Sheryl Crow to the band to replace Christine McVie, which never happened.
Which brings me back to this duet album between Lindsey and Christine. I must admit that I was NOT excited at all by the prospects of this album. Then, I listened to it and liked what I heard. Then, I put it away for a day or so. When I pulled it out again, I liked the album even more. It sounded as if Buckingham and McVie had much more chemistry between them that at what had ever been hinted on Fleetwood Mac’s albums. Plus, in reality, this album almost IS a Fleetwood Mac album, as the band’s rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie join the pair on the album. Still, the duo fought to keep the project theirs instead of inviting Nicks to the party. The outcome is surprisingly inspired.
Sure, the whole album sounds like a Mac album, but its missing Nicks. And, instead of a whole album of duets, the album trades lead singers for each song. The album begins with a Buckingham song and is followed by a McVie ditty, continuing the pattern throughout. And, as always, the production work Buckingham did is impeccable, yet it does not sound like a throwback album. Actually, it sounds as if Fleetwood Mac had been learning from HAIM’s and/or The Aces’ production work on their albums, took notes and applied the new lessons admirably to this album.
Unfortunately, Buckingham/McVie’s music will never get picked up by today’s Hit Radio stations, which would rather reward songs that sound the same when played next to each other with singers whose ranges are similar as well. Today, radio only gives up the stems of the flowers but removes the colorful petals from the different sounding bands and artists who are out there making fine music. Even if said music were recorded by two artists pushing seventy.
So, lovers of the classic era of Fleetwood Mac and not the blues-based jam band from the late-Sixties and early-Seventies who were bigger in England than here, Buckingham/McVie will be a surprising delight. And, young people out there: if you want to hear a couple of masters who are still performing at the top of their games, then Buckingham/McVie is the album for you. It’s sure been a great album for me.