There are a couple of points that need to be cleared up, right off the bat, before going any further with this review of the much anticipated Buckingham/McVie album.

First off, this is not a duets album. When one thinks “duets”, one thinks of Frank and Nancy Sinatra singing “Something Stupid” or Paul and Michael, singing “Say, Say, Say” or even Miss Piggy trading lines with Ozzy Osbourne doing “Born to be Wild”. This Buckingham McVie album plays more like a Fleetwood Mac album where each song is led by its respective writer  and the other member provides (or does not provide, on most songs) harmonies.

Second, I am a huge fan of both Fleetwood Mac (all eras) and particularly of guitar man, Lindsey Buckingham. His past three solo albums, released between 2006 and 2011, are all absolute masterpieces. Fleetwood Mac’s “Extended Play”, released in 2013, with Lindsey and Stevie Nicks sharing vocals was also an absolute gem. Christine McVie’s return to the band in 2014 was an absolute shocker that none of us expected and we were reminded of how she creates a perfect balance between the heavy drama of Nicks’ songs and the tense and tormented songs of Buckingham.

fleetwood mac 80s

It was long rumored, no pun intended, that all three songwriters would participate in a full-on Fleetwood Mac album. Sadly, Nicks opted out in order to concentrate on touring and promoting her most recent, critically-acclaimed album, “24 Karat Gold”. She says “no one buys music anymore” and this music lover couldn’t be more discouraged at her defeatist attitude in this regard. But, perhaps it’s the never-ending tension between her and ex-lover and visionary Buckingham that made her walk away. That’s neither here nor there. The full band will be performing together this summer and all is apparently well.

So back to this Buckingham/McVie album that in stores June 9.

It’s a joy hearing these two songwriters still following their muse, it’s also a joy that they have their band’s John McVie (Christine McVie’s ex-husband) and Mick Fleetwood on bass and drums, respectively. It is, by all accounts, every bit as much a Fleetwood Mac album as 2003’s “Say You Will” was. That one was missing Christine McVie, this one’s missing Stevie Nicks… and the band’s moniker.

 

As brilliant as Buckingham has been,  and continues to be, many of the choices he makes here are confounding and leave fans such as myself completely mystified, pun intended. (Buckingham and McVie co-wrote 1987’s Tango in the Night favorite ‘Mystified’). For instance, the album opens with “Sleeping around the Corner”.  It features a classic Buckingham earworm of a chorus and is a fine song but: he released this song as an iTunes bonus track to his 2011 album, “Seeds We Sow” and Christine McVie is not in any way, shape, or form featured.  If she is playing keyboards or harmonizing – she is barely audible.  Why would you open a so-called duets album with a song that only features one of the two participants? It feels like a highly unsatisfactory opener considering the circumstances.

We then get the required Christine McVie’s classic, feel-good, McCartney-lite bopper, “Feel About You”.  It features lines such as “Your honey in my tea, the kind of taste that’s sweetest to me”.  This is about as profound as her TUSK ditty “Honey Hi”.  And that’s okay.  We’ve never turned to McVie for anything too deep and heavy.  Her biggest Fleetwood Mac hits “Say You Love Me”, “Don’t Stop”, “Hold Me” and “Everywhere”, to name but a few, were all light and summery odes to love and heartbreak.  However, “Feel About You” feels a tad too sugary sweet. Buckingham’s sparse arrangement leaves us wishing there was a bit more to the track than what is actually there.

 

“In My World” is next and it was also the first single released. This, for me, stands proudly alongside some of Buckingham’s finest ever song writing and producing moments.  Again, it’s as sparse as can be; McVie sounds like she was nowhere near the studio when it was recorded (save for some Rhodes/organ parts in the bridge, perhaps) and Buckingham seems to once again be addressing his ex, Stevie Nicks. “In my world, everybody stays. Nobody wishes for words they couldn’t say”, he sings poignantly on the chorus. Is he, indeed, addressing La Nicks? Does he wish things were simpler?  Does he wish everybody just stayed onboard and kept fighting the good fight? This writer thinks so. When this single came out a couple of months ago, I actually spent an entire evening without ever going to bed and just listening to the track on repeat. It had the arranger/producer in me dissecting every shaker, every guitar pluck and John McVie’s nimble bassline as well as Mick Fleetwood’s signature drum fills. Love it or hate it, social media has been split in its verdict of the song. Some people find it too light and airy, saying it’s under-produced or overproduced (I’ve heard both), others hear it for the absolute gem that it is. A little hint of 2003’s “Peacekeeper” and some vocal breathing references to their classic 80s album, “Tango in the Night”, it’s a joy for the ears.

We’re back in 1975-era Fleetwood Mac territory with the following Christine McVie-penned, “Red Sun”.  Hopelessly romantic, McVie harmonizes with herself (again, are you guys sure you want to promote this as a duets album?) and sounds wonderfully warm and heartfelt. The lyrics are, once again, a little simple but a good, hooky chorus helps this standout  – plus – Buckingham’s subtle solo is so him, even a novice would spot it. “… when the red sun kisses the sea”.

 

Another confounding Buckingham moment comes next. One of the album’s gems, “Love is here to stay” is classic Buckingham fingerpicking with a very Fleetwood Mac-flavored chorus reminiscent of “Save Me a Place” and “Steal Your Heart Away”. The issue here, if it even is an issue, the music is exactly one of his 2012 contributions to the “This is 40” soundtrack, “She Acts Like You”. Why would one of the world’s most creative guitarist/composers re-use an old song and simply write new lyrics for it? It seems rather lazy. He’s referenced his previous works in songs before, recycling lines, images,  and riffs but it’s always done rather discreetly and you never question its artistic purity. In this instance, it’s all too obvious and something anybody would spot immediately. He probably figured that not that many people were familiar with “She Acts Like You” so nobody would notice but – I invite you all to compare both songs.  If you’re anything like me, you might start feeling a tad uncomfortable. A shame because it’s a lovely lyric and, of course, guitar part.  Oh, once again, not too sure McVie’s singing on those hooky choruses. Sounds like Buckingham double, triple, quadruple-tracked to me.

Some have called the next song a blatant recall of 1979’s masterpiece title track, “TUSK”. That’s a little silly. The song not only features percussion that reminds one a bit of “TUSK” but it also has an obvious nod to the duo’s first collaboration, 1975’s “World Turning”. McVie sings leads with what sounds like Buckingham backing her tightly.  When the chorus kicks in, it’s classic Fleetwood Mac. You sort of wish Nicks was there harmonizing and hitting her tambourine. When Fleetwood treats us to his multi-tracked drum folly next, it’s pure heaven to this Fleetwood Mac lover’s ears. What a beauty! Other than the obvious references to the past, I’d be hard-pressed to criticize anything about this fun rocker other than a few arguably lazy lyrics. And what’s wrong with referencing the past when you have one of the richest, most wonderful bodies of work?

“The rain came and washed away my fear, I heard you whisper in my ear: I won’t lay down for free” is the hook-line of Buckingham’s “Lay Down For Free”.  Again, it’s nearly impossible not to think of this as a clear message to Stevie. They have continually, mutually continued to inspire songs for one another and this has to be one of those. This song would’ve sounded right in its place on Buckingham’s 1992 gem, “Out of the Cradle” and features some of his warmest vocals ever. McVie seems to be present singing harmonies on the choruses and one just gets a warm and fuzzy feeling from this song.

Christine McVie sits down at the grand piano for the next song, “Game of Pretend”.  I remember reading the title to this song when the track list was first published and thinking this would be one of her “Little Lies”/”Heart of Stone”/”Liar” moments where she’d be the woman scorned, out for a melodic revenge.  It’s actually a “Songbird” moment where her golden voice blends beautifully with the piano and Buckingham’s acoustic guitar. The song is by no means spectacular or revolutionary but, again, it doesn’t need to be. It’s a heartwarming, genuine and quiet moment that fits perfectly into this collection of songs.

The most Fleetwood Mac moment is, arguably, “On With The Show”.  It was the name of the 2014/2015 tour that marked the return of Christine McVie into the fold.  It was also a line on his “Extended Play” song, “Miss Fantasy”.  Here, there’s a great balance between acoustic piano and guitar and Fleetwood/McVie are in their classic Mac groove.  “I will stand with my band!” proclaims Buckingham.  His vocal here is gorgeous.  We always talk about Buckingham’s guitar skills but, what a great vocalist. Here, he uses none of the vocal effects he’s arguably too fond of.  It’s a very natural vocal. The song’s essentially a band anthem and the repetition of “let’s get on” feels like a mantra of sorts.  Let’s get on with the show, yes, but let’s also get on with our lives, our goals and our dreams.  It’s a surprisingly affecting song and one that sounds entirely heartfelt.  Hate to say it but, it sure would have been sweet to have those classic three-part harmonies here of Buckingham, McVie AND Nicks.  The song also featured a signature Buckingham riff that recalls both his work on 1982’s “Mirage” and 1992’s “Out of the Cradle”. I just came back from a run listening to the album in its entirety and, trust me, this chorus will play in your brain, in a loop, non-stop.

 

The album ends with another highlight, McVie’s “Carnival Begin”.  Buckingham’s production and arrangement approach is all over this track. It recalls his classic “I’m So Afraid” and John McVie and Mick Fleetwood provide the perfect rhythm section bed for the song to lay on.  Probably Christine McVie’s most beautiful and heartfelt vocal of the album.  “I want it all…” she sings on the chorus and we believe her.  Buckingham’s guitar is there to reply to her vocals here and there and then he goes into full guitar god solo mode for the fade out.  It’s a classic, typical way to end a Fleetwood Mac album.

Oh wait, this is NOT a Fleetwood Mac album. Except it is in everything but name.  Is it as good as “Rumours” or “Tusk”?  Sadly, it isn’t.  Is it better than “Mirage” and “Tango in the Night”, their two classic 80s albums?  I would say it’s at a par.  No matter how you feel about Stevie Nicks, her songs are missed here.  Oddly enough, this all feels a little too much like a love fest.  I’m missing the angst and conflict that Nicks brought and that Buckingham usually always brings. The last full-length, nearly-15-year-old Fleetwood Mac album, “Say You Will”, was such an absolute masterpiece, albeit a little long at 18 tracks, this feels a little too short, 10 tracks, and a little too light.

As with all of Buckingham’s work, it will be interesting to see/hear how the songs translate to the stage. The duo of Buckingham/McVie is  hitting the road for 20 or so shows this summer and my fingers are crossed for a live Cd/Dvd/BluRay.  The chemistry between these two great songwriters is obvious and has been on display so many times over the years, it’s great that they’re still at it.  Also, there’s still hope for a full-on Fleetwood Mac album including Stevie Nicks.  With this band, with these 5 people – nothing’s impossible.  Now, on with the show…

Buckingham McVie Album

BUCKINGHAM / McVIE
Buckingham / McVie
(Atlantic Records, 2017)

Buy the album on the band’s website
Go to the band’s YouTube channel to see more videos

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About The Author

Max Comeau
Blogueur - RREVERB

Intensely passionate about music, Max is in constant search for new sounds yet he never tires of his idols whom he calls his “Pillars”. A musician himself, he released, as singer-songwriter, an album with The Calm in 2007 and, this past June 2015, released his first solo album, “You”. Max has also written a few plays and adaptations which he staged with his theater troupe in the early 2000s. He is thrilled to be part of the RREVERB team to further explore the great classics, as well as the newer classics-to-be, whether ‘en français’ or in English.