If you turn your nose up at “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie” because you think it’s a cosy, safe album made by rich, elderly rock stars towards the end of their careers, then shame on you
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To call someone “underrated” when they’ve sold upwards of 100 million albums may seem a little unusual, but just hold on a moment… Let’s start with Lindsey Buckingham. In spite of being responsible for some of the most memorable guitar playing of the last century, his name is conspicuously absent from those “Great Axe Heroes” lists which crop up in music publications on slow news days. He just about makes it into Rolling Stones “100 greatest guitarists” poll at #100, just behind Lou Reed. Likewise, Christine McVie. Check the “Greatest Songwriters” polls. Not there, is she? That’s the Christine McVie who wrote “Songbird” and “Don’t Stop” and a bazillion other glorious Pop-Rock tunes. See what I mean? Underrated. Trapped behind their instruments, they could only scowl quietly while Stevie Nicks – a vision in Victorian shawls and stack heels -monopolised the live reviews and Mick Fleetwood’s imposing presence and BBC newsreader voice made him the go to guy for interviews and photographs. I’d love to think that McVie and Buckingham have been plotting their revenge for years…
Well, in 2014 Lindsey and Christine decided to make an album. Interestingly, they chose Village Recorders in LA where Fleetwood Mac recorded everyone’s favourite “we thought it was terrible at the time, but now we all realise it’s a bit of a masterpiece” album, “Tusk”. That’s not so say this album shares “Tusk”s cocaine fuelled mania. Far from it. “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie” has a very relaxed, measured feel. They made this album because they wanted to, not because they had to.
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Ms McVie and Mr Buckingham seem to be holding up very well in their old age. Vocally, they sound a little older, but not much and if the album cover is to be believed, they seem to be in rude health. Oh for that macrobiotic Californian lifestyle eh? Their musical contributions are as good as ever and both of them turn in performances which serve the songs beautifully.
Does it sound like Fleetwood Mac? Yep. Because it is Fleetwood Mac. Only Ms Nicks is absent from the party as Mick Fleetwood and John McVie (to labour a point, a hugely underrated rhythm section) are both present and correct. They make their presence felt on tracks like the standout “In My World”, where their minimal, muscular pulse lets Buckingham’s simple, understated composition absolutely sparkle. This would have been a standout track on any Mac album. Yep, even that one. Producer Mitchell Froom has given the whole album a radio friendly sheen without sucking all the fun out of it. He’s also experienced and prudent enough to realise that you don’t fool too much with The Formula – “Sleeping Around the Corner” and “Feel About You” have a “Tango In The Night” feel – all pop smarts and breathy backing vocals. The prize for the most Fleetwood Mac-y tune of the collection, however, goes to “Carnival Begins”. Buckingham whips out a short and tasty guitar solo while McVie revisits the brooding mid-tempo groove of “Oh Daddy”. It’s a nice way to finish an album.
If you turn your nose up at “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie” because you think it’s a cosy, safe album made by rich, elderly rock stars towards the end of their careers, then shame on you. This is the product of two people doing what they do very well. Very well indeed. If you want challenging, spikey, atonal, difficult listening, then look elsewhere. If you expected Buckingham and McVie to have embraced Djent or gone Lo-Fi or tried to appeal To the Ariana Swift-Cyrus market, you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re looking for 40 minutes of beautifully produced, A list Pop Rock, then “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie” is for you. But spare a thought for the absentee… somewhere in Los Angeles, Stevie Nicks is sitting in her dimly lit living room, surrounded by chiffon scarves, listening to this album. And she’s crying.
“Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie” is out now via Atlantic. The track listing is as follows
Sleeping Around the Corner
Feel About You
In My World
Love Is Here to Stay
Too Far Gone
Lay Down for Free
Game of Pretend
On with the Show