Stevie Nicks’ new single, written back in 1976…
This review of LB’s recent album comes from Nic Oliver from the musicOMH website (Sept. 15th)…
Lindsey Buckingham is that increasingly rare beast in the pop world; an ageing rocker who still counts. For a man who has made indescribably large amounts of money with Fleetwood Mac, and who is the author of some of the finest soft rock songs of all time, it is refreshing to find him nearing his sixties and still releasing solo albums that stand up against his late ’70s peak.
The follow-up to 2006’s largely acoustic Under the Skin, a fine album in its own right, Gift of Screws takes its title (an Emily Dickinson reference) and several tracks from an abortive late ’90s session. Other tracks from those sessions cropped up on the Fleetwood Mac reunion album Say You Will, a 2003 release that indicated that Buckingham had relocated the songwriting genie that went temporarily absent during the previous decade.
Gift of Screws is a thrilling album from the very first track. “Great Day” positively bursts out of the speakers with its aggressive acoustic guitar and daring vocal lines. “Time Precious Time” is even better, with rippling guitar arpeggios and a heavy echo treatment on the vocal (a common Buckingham production trick). This is challenging, thought-provoking music that you would expect from a younger artist.
Then again, this is the reclusive studio genius that unleashed the decidedly odd Tusk on the world at the height of Fleetwood Mac’s fame. Buckingham is a devil for injecting quirky elements into his glossy soft rock confections, but in such a subtle way that his efforts are routinely overlooked (he opened his previous album with the line “Reading the paper saw a review/Said I was a visionary, but nobody knew”).
Buckingham’s regular band serves him well throughout the album, although Fleetwood Mac bandmates Mick Fleetwood and John McVie also pop up on several tracks. The duo lends a healthy commercial swagger to “Love Runs Deeper” and “The Right Place to Fade.” The latter track is terrific, the stacked harmonies and killer riff sounding like they could have been lifted straight from a Rumours session.
The dependable rhythm section also guest on the title track, a crazed rocker that features Buckingham yelping like a man possessed. It sounds like a companion piece to some of the more outré moments from Tusk, notably “Not That Funny” and “That’s Enough for Me.”
Although this album is marketed as a return to a more direct rock sound Buckingham is far too smart an operator to sacrifice substance for style. “Did You Miss Me” is a whip-smart pop single good enough to already have landed on the US charts, and boasts one of the album’s most direct lyrical pleas for connection and understanding. The contemplative lyrics of “Bel Air Rain” and “Treason,” meanwhile, are given added weight by strong melodies and delicately layered arrangements.
Written and recorded over a lengthy period, Gift of Screws could have been a mess. Instead, it is a glorious statement of intent from one of pop’s most misunderstood characters.
My favorite FM song, written by Christine McVie…
Stephen Holden’s Dec. 13, 1979 review of Tusk from Rolling Stone. A fascinating critique, although he doesn’t appear to be blown away by the Mac’s most ambitious album…
At a cost of two years and well over a million dollars, Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk represents both the last word in lavish California studio pop and a brave but tentative lurch forward by the one Seventies group that can claim a musical chemistry as mysteriously right—though not as potent — as the Beatles’. In its fits and starts and restless changes of pace, Tusk inevitably recalls the Beatles’ “White Album” (1968), the quirky rock jigsaw puzzle that showed the Fab Four at their artiest and most indecisive.
Like “The White Album,” Tusk is less a collection of finished songs than a mosaic of pop-rock fragments by individual performers. Tusk‘s twenty tunes—nine by Lindsey Buckingham, six by Christine McVie, five by Stevie Nicks — constitute a two-record “trip” that covers a lot of ground, from rock & roll basics to a shivery psychedelia reminiscent of the band’s earlier Bare Trees and Future Games to the opulent extremes of folk-rock arcana given the full Hollywood treatment. “The White Album” was also a trip, but one that reflected the furious social banging around at the end of the Sixties. Tusk is much vaguer. Semiprogrammatic and nonliterary, it ushers out the Seventies with a long, melancholy sigh.
On a song-by-song basis, Tusk‘s material lacks the structural concision of the finest cuts on Fleetwood Mac and Rumours. Though there are no compositions with the streamlined homogeneity of “Dreams,” “You Make Loving Fun” or “Go Your Own Way,” there are many fragments as striking as the best moments in any of these numbers.
If Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks were the most memorable voices on Fleetwood Mac and Rumours, Lindsey Buckingham is Tusk‘s artistic linchpin. The special thanks to him on the back of the LP indicates that he was more involved with Tusk‘s production than any other group member. Buckingham’s audacious addition of a gleeful and allusive slapstick rock & roll style—practically the antithesis of Fleetwood Mac’s Top Forty image — holds this mosaic together, because it provides the crucial changes of pace without which Tusk would sound bland.
“Not That Funny,” “What Makes You Think You’re the One,” “That’s Enough for Me” and “The Ledge” affect a rock & roll simplicity and directness that are strongly indebted to Buddy Holly, an obvious idol of Buckingham’s. These songs have the sound and spontaneity of beautifully engineered basement tapes. A bit more sophisticated yet still relatively spare, “Save Me a Place” boasts closely harmonized, un-gimmicky ensemble voices and acoustic textures that underline the tune’s British folk flavor. But Buckingham’s most intriguing contribution is Tusk‘s title track, an aural collage that pits African tribal drums, the USC Trojan Marching Band and some incantatory group vocals against a backdrop of what sounds like thousands of wild dogs barking. “Tusk” is Fleetwood Mac’s “Revolution 9.”
The calculated crudeness of Buckingham’s rock & roll forays both undercuts and improves Tusk‘s elaborately produced segments. And several of these segments demonstrate that the limits of the California studio sound, developed in the Sixties by Lou Adler and Brian Wilson for the Mamas and the Papas and the Beach Boys, have at last been reached. Fleetwood Mac has arrived at the point where technologically inspired filigree begins to break down rather than enhance music, where expensive playback equipment is not only desirable for appreciation but necessary for comprehension. In McVie’s “Over & Over” and Nicks’ “Storms,” the production goes too far, and the tracks quiver with an eerie electronic vibrato.
The basic style of Tusk‘s “produced” cuts is a luxuriant choral folk-rock — as spacious as it is subtle — whose misty swirls are organized around incredibly precise yet delicate rhythm tracks. Instead of using the standard pop embellishments (strings, synthesizers, horns, etc.), the bulk of the sweetening consists of hovering instrumentation and background vocals massively layered to approximate strings. This gorgeous, hushed, ethereal sound was introduced to pop with 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love,” and Fleetwood Mac first used it in Rumours’ “You Make Loving Fun.” On Tusk, it’s the band’s signature. Buckingham’s most commercial efforts — the chiming folk ballads, “That’s All for Everyone” and “Walk a Thin Line” — deploy a choir in great dreamy waves. In McVie’s “Brown Eyes,” the blending of voices, guitars and keyboards into a plaintive “sha-la-la” bridge builds a mere scrap of a song into a magnificent castle in the air. “Brown Eyes” sounds as it if were invented for the production, rather than nice versa.
About the only quality that Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie share is a die-hard romanticism. On Tusk, Nicks sounds more than ever like a West Coast Patti Smith. Her singing is noticeably hoarser than on Rumours, though she makes up some of what she’s lost in control with a newfound histrionic urgency: “Angel” is an especially risky flirtation with hard rock. Nicks’ finest compositions here are two lovely ballads, “Beautiful Child” and “Storms.” Her other contributions, “Sara” and “Sisters of the Moon,” weave personal symbolism and offbeat mythology into a near-impenetrable murk. There’s a fine line between the exotic and the bizarre, and this would-be hippie sorceress skirts it perilously.
McVie is as dour and terse as Nicks is excitable and verbose. Her two best songs — “Never Forget,” a folk-style march, and “Never Make Me Cry,” a mournful lullaby—are lovely little gems of romantic ambiance. With a pure, dusky alto that’s reminiscent of Sandy Denny, this woeful woman-child who’s in perpetual pursuit of “daddy” evokes a timeless sadness.
The wonder of Fleetwood Mac’s chemistry is that the casting of these two less-than-major talents in pop music’s answer to Gone with the Wind elevates them to the stature of stormy rock & roll heroines—one compelled to reach for the stars, the other condemned to wander the earth. Within the context of the group, we not only accept these women’s excesses and limitations, we cherish them as indispensable ingredients of their characters.
The aura of romance is finally the real substance of Fleetwood Mac’s music. If the band has an image, it’s one of wealthy, talented, bohemian cosmopolites futilely toying with shopworn romantic notions in the face of the void. Such an elegant gossamer lilt is also synonymous with the champagne buzz of late-Seventies amour. But perhaps, as Tusk‘s ominous title cut and other songs suggest, in today’s climate of material depletion and lurking disorder, the center of things—including Fleetwood Mac themselves — cannot hold. Plagued by internal conflicts and challenged by New Wave rock, this psychedelically tinted folk-rock tribe might well be the last and most refined of a breed of giddy celebrants who, from the early Sixties on, prospered on the far shore of the promised land as they toasted the pure splendor of a beautiful and possibly frivolous pop dream.
Can this dream survive the economic chill of the Eighties? How far can Lindsey Buckingham’s rock & roll primitivism carry Fleetwood Mac when folk music, not rock, is really the basis of their style, and when erotic fluctuation remains their central preoccupation?
Tusk finds Fleetwood Mac slightly tipsy from jet lag and fine wine, teetering about in the late-afternoon sun and making exquisite small talk. Surely, they must all be aware of the evanescence of the golden moment that this album has captured so majestically.
Christopher Connelly’s review of Go Insane from the Aug. 30, 1984 issue of Rolling Stone…
Lindsey Buckingham’s Tuneful Triumph
Fleetwood Mac’s Guitarist Sounds Like an Eighties Version of Brian Wilson
Buckingham’s strongest influence has always been Brian Wilson, the out-there but studio-savvy Beach Boy with an impeccable pop ear. Yet while Wilson’s music speaks with an airy, wouldn’t-it-be-nice optimism, Buckingham’s work reveals a slightly warped obsessiveness. He uses music the way Talking Heads’ David Byrne uses words: taking simple, even clichéd, constructions and tossing them together in unexpected combinations.
That potent, brainy mixture is further invigorated on Go Insane by a dollop of seething sexual passion. “I guess I had to prove I was someone hard to lose,” Buckingham chants before kicking into the dazzling, “I Want You,” perhaps his most nakedly emotional song to date. A gleeful keyboard hook explodes into an aural torrent: synthesizers, guitars and drums rage, as Buckingham furiously cries out his heart’s dichotomy: “I’m a bundle of joy, a pocketful of tears/Got enough of both to last all the years.”
Lyrically, Go Insane limns a painful breakup: “Hey little girl, leave the little drug alone,” he pleads in “I Must Go,” and similar strains of dark-etched longing appear throughout the record. But Buckingham’s words – although they are intriguingly unsettling – take a back seat to the parade of toe-tapping sound here. Even though he plays almost every instrument on the album, Buckingham avoids the cluttered, too-perfect sheen often associated with West Coast music. The rough edges are still there, and the overall sound has lightness that enhances the record’s emotional impact.
On that score, “Bang the Drum” is Go Insane’s finest achievement. Its ticktock, ethereally intoned verse drifts off into a gloriously cascading chorus and a bridge that’s thick with ear-pleasing harmonies, with a stinging guitar solo to boot. More of Buckingham’s axe work is on display in the uptempo “Loving Cup,” which fuses the snaky lines of “Gold Dust Woman” with the spare, threatening whomp of Tusk’s undiscovered treasure, “Not That Funny.”
Even the more commercially minded songs are infused with Buckingham’s newfound boldness. While his first solo album, Law and Order, featured the mild-mannered “Trouble,” Go Insane offers the Mark Lindsay-ish title song, all hard edges and pungent longing (“I call your name/She’s a lot like you”). Similarly, a whipcrack backbeat kicks “Slow Dancing” out of the living room and onto the dance floor where it belongs. Admittedly, the found-sound antics of the two-part “Play in the Rain” (glasses of water being poured, heels clip-clopping across a sidewalk) pale after a couple of listenings, though Buckingham’s sitarlike fretboard runs add some excitement. But then there’s “D.W. Suite,” a three-part valediction to the late Dennis Wilson in which Buckingham really pulls out the stops: Laurie Anderson-style vocal effects, a harp interlude, a synthesized Ed Sullivan introduction, a Beach Boys-type chorus and a Scottish flute march. “D.W. Suite” may be pop’s most elaborate farewell, but its flashy eclecticism is reined in throughout by Buckingham’s keen rock & roll sense.
Artistically, Go Insane is a breakthrough album not just for the thirty-six-year-old Buckingham, but conceivably for rock & roll as well, representing as it does the most successful combination yet of hummable Seventies slick rock and Eighties avant-edge. If Lindsey Buckingham really is following in the footsteps of his idol, then Go Insane is his Pet Sounds: possibly his least commercial work, but also his most daring and savory.
This is from the original Gift of Screws album from 2001, that was never released. It is not to be on the upcoming album of the same name.
Written Aug. 16, 2008…
After Lindsey Buckingham left Fleetwood Mac (at the time, what seemed like for good), he started recording his third solo album. Five long years later he finally emerged from his private domain and released Out of the Cradle. It was a return to simpler arrangements and tighter song structures (somewhat in the manner of Rumours), after the insular, paranoid brilliance of Tusk and Go Insane and the skewed pop of Tango in the Night. This was probably his best all-round album ever, in terms of actual songs and should have been a big seller for him. Unfortunately, it didn’t set the charts on fire Read the rest of this entry »
Written Aug. 15, 2008…
Same as “Say Goodbye” below….originally to be on the first version of Gift of Screws, later recorded for Fleetwood Mac’s Say You Will.
This is from the original version of Gift of Screws from 2001, that was never released. It was later fleshed out by Fleetwood Mac (including Stevie Nicks’ backing vocals) and released on their 2003 reunion album Say You Will.