Buckingham/McVie Is Fleetwood Mac Sans Stevie Nicks

New album sticks to Fleetwood Mac’s tried and true pop rock formula

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Initially, it was supposed to become the first new studio album of the classic Fleetwood Mac lineup since 1987’s Tango In the Night, after Stevie Nicks had announced plans to work with the band on new music in 2015. Then in Sep 2016, Nicks unexpectedly revealed she was going on the road with the Pretenders in support of her last solo album 24 Karat Gold – Songs From the Vault. So Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie, who had started to work together on new material in 2014, decided to forge ahead as a duo, sort of – they did have a little help from their band mates Mick Fleetwood and John McVie.

“I just woke up one morning and said I have two years off before Fleetwood Mac comes knocking on my door [for another tour],” Nicks told The New York Times in Sep 2016, as she was gearing up for her tour with the Pretenders. “Why would I want to sit around and do nothing?” More recently, she voiced doubts there would be another (full) Fleetwood Mac record during an interview with Rolling Stone. “I don’t think there’s any reason to spend a year and an amazing amount of money on a record that, even if it has great things, isn’t going to sell. What we do is go on the road, do a ton of shows and make lots of money. We have a lot of fun. Making a record isn’t all that much fun.” Apparently, her Mac compatriots begged to differ. And the result?

Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie in studio

Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie, which was released on June 9, pretty much sounds like a Fleetwood Mac album without Stevie Nicks. Given what a terrific songwriter she is, not to speak of her distinct voice, I was a bit skeptical what to expect. When listening to the album for the first time, I thought it sounded okay, but none of the ten tracks really stood out to me. After having listened to the record a few more times, I feel it’s solid pop rock. It doesn’t get close to Rumours, my favorite Mac album and one of the best records I know. But perhaps that’s an unfair comparison.

Buckingham/McVie saw the two artists work together on new material for the first time since 1987 – the year Fleetwood Mac released Tango In the Night. Buckingham left in Aug that year and Nicks followed him three years later. In 1997, McVie essentially retired from music after the band’s successful reunion tour with Buckingham and Nicks, which is captured on the fantastic live album The Dance. McVie rejoined Fleetwood Mac in 2014. At that time, Buckingham and Nicks had returned as well, so the band’s classic lineup was finally back together.

Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie in studio 2

In a just-published Rolling Stone story, Buckingham said he noticed “within the first hour” that “it was like, ‘Holy shit, whatever we used to have” was still working. “We’ve always connected musically in Fleetwood Mac,” added McVie, referring to their respective roles as the band’s guitarist and keyboard player. “We’re the only people who play more than one note. I’m not the best pianist, but I know how to interlace around what Lindsey’s playing.”

Explaining their approach to record the new album as a duo as opposed to making an official Fleetwood Mac record, Buckingham noted, “In the context of the band, there might have been more politics.” As the Rolling Stone story pointed out, Buckingham and McVie didn’t have a previous romantic relationship, unlike Buckingham and Nicks, Fleetwood and Nicks and of course McVie’s marriage to John McVie. “We are free of baggage,” McVie added. With the band’s complicated relationship entanglements out of the way, let’s finally turn to the music!

The album kicks off with Sleeping Around the Corner, a tune Buckingham initially had included as a bonus track on his 2011 solo album Seeds We Sow. The tune starts off in a somewhat grim manner: She called to me, “Meet me at the border”/Oh, wake me up, oh, when my papers are in order. It then launches into a cheerful sounding chorus: “Lord, I don’t wanna bring you down/No, I never meant to give you a frown/I’m just sleepin’ around the corner.” The apparent disconnect between the music and the lyrics isn’t new for Fleetwood Mac. A Rolling Stone review of the album cleverly called it “California sunshine on the surface, but with a heart of darkness.” Okay, I’m not going to over-analyze it!

Next up is Feel About You, one of album’s three Buckingham/McVie co-writes. Here’s a clip from a recent performance on CBS This Morning Saturday.

In My World, the third track, is the album’s lead single. Written by Buckingham, the catchy tune sounds like hit material. Buckingham’s and McVie’ alternating “oh”, “aah”, “oh” are reminiscent of Big Love, one of the many hits from Tango In the Night. Here’s a nice clip from a recent performance on Jimmy Fallon.

The last song I’d like to highlight is the album’s closer Carnival Begin, one of the two songs solely credited to McVie.

Buckingham/McView was recorded at Studio D at the Village Recorder in Los Angeles, the same studio Fleetwood Mac used for the 1979 album Tusk. “There was some worry about whether it was a good idea to come back here,” Fleetwood told the Los Angeles Times in early May. “Maybe it would be better to go someplace new, someplace we hadn’t worked before. But since we started working here, it couldn’t be more fantastic.” As noted at the outset, Fleetwood and John McVie were actively involved in the recording of the album, “the greatest rhythm section there is,” as Buckingham put it.

Speaking of great musicianship, I think Buckingham is an outstanding musician and one of the most underrated guitarists, both electric and acoustic. Like on many Fleetwood Mac albums, sadly, his talent on this record oftentimes gets a bit lost in the production. Perhaps the best way to experience Buckingham’s craftsmanship is to witness it live. In 2014, I saw a Fleetwood Mac show, just a few months prior to McVie rejoining the band. His performance was truly amazing. One of the highlights I still recall was his solo performance of Big Love on acoustic guitar. It was much better than the studio version on Tango In the Night and needed nothing else – no additional instruments, no additional vocals. Check out this clip!

Buckingham/McVie was produced by Buckingham, Mitchell Froom and Mark Needham. Froom has produced more than 60 albums and worked with numerous other top-notch artists, such as Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Paul McCartney, Randy Newman and Bonnie Raitt, to name a few. He also contributed keyboards on the album. Needham’s impressive credits include Fleetwood Mac (mixing of Say You Will [2003] and Live in Boston [2004]), John Hiatt, Elton John and Stevie Nicks, among others.

Buckingham and McVie will go on the road to promote the new album. The tour, which includes 14 dates, will kick off in Atlanta on June 21 and wrap up in Denver on July 27. On July 15 & 16 and July 29 & 30, they will join their Fleetwood Mac mates for performances at the Classic West and Classic East festivals. For additional thoughts on these events, read here.  Fleetwood Mac is also planning a big tour in 2018. “We’re going to start rehearsing in March, next year,” Christine McVie told NME. “The tour is around June. It will be global.” Separately, she characterized it as a “farewell tour” during an interview with Uncut, but then appeared to caveat it: “But you take farewell tours one at a time. Somehow we always come together, this unit. We can feel it ourselves.”

Finally, here’s a nice clip about the making of Buckingham/McVie.

 

Sources: Wikipedia, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, YouTube, Los Angeles Times, Lindsey Buckingham web site, NME, Uncut

9 thoughts on “Buckingham/McVie Is Fleetwood Mac Sans Stevie Nicks”

  1. Great post. I like how you pulled all that stuff together. I knew this one was coming as I’d mentioned it briefly on my blog but never went any further with it. I like everything I heard but I don’t know that I’d run out and buy it. I’ll definitely give the whole album a spin if it’s on Spotify. As to Lindsey Buckingham, he’s a monster player. “Big Love” is awesome. I used to be able to play my own rather lame version of it. He is one the hand underrated, on the other, he’s made the Rolling Stone 100 guitarists list.

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    1. Thanks, I’ll take it from a Top 100 music blogger!:-)

      On a more serious note, I don’t think I’d want to buy this album either. While it’s certainly not bad, I don’t find it outstanding, especially compared to earlier Fleetwood Mac stuff. I really love “Rumours” and also “The Dance,” which pretty much is their greatest hits performed live. As for Buckingham/McVie, I think I’ll be happy with streaming.

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      1. As an “insider,” I’ll put in a good word for you for next year. 😂 Never saw any version of Mac. Came thisclose a few years back. Now with the ticket prices, forget it.

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  2. Great review. Very glad that they decided to make this album. I love Stevie Nicks but her comments about not wanting to do a new Fleetwood Mac album because it doesn’t make money anymore (probably true but still …) really disappointed me.

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    1. Thanks! And funny you picked up on Stevie’s comments about making money, which rubbed me the wrong way, too. I completely get music artists want to and should be rewarded for their work, which is a tough proposition with the way the music business has changed. On the other hand, I feel like, gee, ‘maybe you should also keep in mind your fans who have been loyal to you for all these years and, I think is safe to assume, made you pretty wealthy in the process!’ Plus, what kind of message are you sending to young artists – you’re basically telling them they’re screwed!

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      1. Actually, if I may chime in, another perspective. I saw a documentary on Mac a few years back on cable TV. As I recall, part of it was in regards to the making of a new album. They were discussing making it a double album. Stevie came across on the show as being the most level-headed of the group, light years from her stage persona. She basically said, “Why make a double album? We’re not the big act we used to be. Nobody’s going to buy a single album, much less a double album.” Add to that all the grief of who gets how many songs on each album, their personal relationships, etc. So I think her idea was that they have material to just go out and play. Not only is the money good (admittedly) but unlike the recording process, it’s relatively hassle-free.

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      2. Fair point about the politics, Jim, especially in a band like Fleetwood Mac with so many different romantic entanglements! In fact, Lindsey admitted as much when he pointed out that was the reason why this album officially is not a Fleetwood Mac album but a duet record instead. I suppose this made figuring out the contributions and official writing credits easier. They probably also didn’t want to tick off Stevie, given all five of them are scheduled to perform together at the upcoming Classic West and East festivals – not to mention their planned international tour next year. Still, the way Stevie said it or was quoted came across a bit blunt.

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      3. Yeah I hear you and I’m certainly not an apologist for Nicks. But as far as being loyal to the fans? Check out the ticket prices at these shows and tell me that that ship hasn’t already, sadly, sailed.

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