Sunday, 16 July 2017

Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie's 'Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie' - Album Review

Since the much-loved singer/songwriter Christine McVie rejoined British rock pioneers Fleetwood Mac in 2014, fans have been crying out for a new album. Her addition to the band completed the band's classic Rumours-era line-up which was active between 1974 and 1987 and recorded five studio albums that sold a staggering amount of copies. While a hugely successful world tour followed, and reports of recording sessions reported in the press, the alleged new material never surfaced. Both McVie and Lindsey Buckingham spoke fairly regularly about their desire to write and record together once again, but it seemed that Stevie Nicks was against the idea and would not commit to writing songs for the project or setting time aside for work in the studio. Fleetwood Mac have not really been a recording act for a while now, with their last full length studio album, the lengthy and patchy Say You Will, being released in 2003 (not including 2013's digital EP Extended Play). With Nicks once again ensconced in her solo career following the conclusion of Fleetwood Mac's latest tour, Buckingham and McVie decided to expand on some of their early demos and create their own album of new songs. This album was finally released last month under the simple moniker Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie and saw the duo return to the sound that gave them so much success in the 1970s and 1980s. While this album was advertised as an album of duets, that is not strictly true as Buckingham and McVie take turns at singing lead throughout and each front five of the album's ten songs. The Rumours-era line-up of Fleetwood Mac was always the product of three solo artists, with each songwriter having an instantly recognisable style that complimented each other perfectly. Buckingham's edgy, rawer pop-rock provided some bite to the band; Nicks' romantic, bohemian fairy tales provided the magic; and McVie's smooth pop compositions were the calming element with a more straight-ahead and melodic approach. Of course Nicks' elements are missing from this new album, but Buckingham and McVie compensate for that and pick up where they left off on 1987's Tango in the Night - the last Fleetwood Mac album they both expressly worked on together. For help with this new album Buckingham and McVie called in the help of the Fleetwood Mac rhythm section of bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood. With Buckingham also credited as having performed bass and drums on the album their exact contributions are unclear, but their inclusion here is another sign that many of these songs were originally meant to be Fleetwood Mac numbers. Both Buckingham and McVie handle the album's keyboards, along with Mitchell Froom who co-produced the album along with Buckingham and Mark Needham. Everything is wrapped up by Buckingham's unique and instantly recognisable guitar playing, and his off-kilter styles are all over this album.

The album opens with the Buckingham-led track Sleeping Around the Corner, which started life as an iTunes-exclusive bonus track on his 2011 solo album Seeds We Sow. This is a new version of the song with McVie's contributions, but it has all the hallmarks of a classic Buckingham pop/rock number. Jangly guitar chords and percussion open the song up, before Buckingham's breathy vocals join the fray in his classic style. The song does not take long to get going, and it soon explodes into a fiery chorus with frantic drumming and strong vocal melodies which sees Buckingham and McVie harmonising well together. Buckingham certainly has an idiosyncratic songwriting style, and this song fits perfectly in his usual mould with catchy melodies and a slightly off-kilter edge. Feel About You is McVie's first contribution and it is clear from the outset that her vocal ability has certainly diminished during her years away from Fleetwood Mac. Her once crystal clear voice has fogged up somewhat, but this is something that happens with age and you soon get used to her new smokier tones. The glockenspiel-led intro soon leads into a upbeat poppy number with another strong chorus, with some catchy wordless vocal sections, and driving drum beat that definitely sounds like one of Fleetwood's contributions with his staccato and leaden style. McVie's keyboards sparkle throughout the song as they did throughout many of her best Fleetwood Mac contributions, and it is great to see her back writing new material. In My World is one of the best songs on the album and is a real gem from Buckingham that definitely could have appeared on Tango in the Night thirty years ago. The slightly floaty feel that many of the classic Fleetwood Mac songs had is back here with McVie's keyboard presence and a driving bassline helps to add weight. Buckingham has not suffered from the same vocal deterioration as McVie sadly seems to have, and he sounds great here - especially during the melodic chorus which is packed full of poppy sensibilities which clash with the somewhat abrasive guitar playing throughout. There are even breathy wordless sections which recall the classic single Big Love. Red Sun makes good use of McVie's deeper voice with a slightly dark vibe throughout, despite the song's poppy overall feel. Buckingham really cuts loose with his guitar here too with lots of subtle little leads during the verses that are something out of the ordinary for him. There is also a traditional guitar solo from him, which again is not something that he makes use of too often in his songwriting. Like many of the songs here there is a strong chorus and McVie's keyboards really dominate with uplifting feel-good vibe that is contrast to the murkier verses. Love is Here to Stay opens with one of Buckingham's busy guitar melodies, which is something that has really characterised his playing over the years. I have always thought that he is one of the most underrated guitarists out there, and his ear for melody and strange rhythms are what make him so great. This song is a little more atmospheric and uses his guitar to create a hypnotic melody before a percussive chorus comes in with layers of keyboards and ethereal backing vocals.

McVie's contributions to the Fleetwood Mac canon were often gentle ballads, but Too Far Gone is a funky upbeat rocker with another strong guitar riff and driving drum pattern which is probably one of Fleetwood's contributions. There is a somewhat tribal-esque drum instrumental section too which really feels like his playing, and that really makes this song feel like a lost Fleetwood Mac classic. McVie's somewhat gravelly voice helps to give his song a real bite, and the funky chorus is one of the album's catchiest moments with a dancey bassline and a spiky guitar riff. Lay Down for Free seems like another lost Fleetwood Mac classic and some of the backing vocals during the chorus really sound like something Nicks would have done if she had actually committed to recording with the band. The pop sheen of this number really recalls the band's classic Rumours sound with shimmering keyboards and understated guitar rhythms that drive the song with a slightly bouncy feel without ever really dominating the mix. Buckingham is still a great singer and this is one of his best performances vocally on the album with a good mix of whimsical emotion and power - something which always characterised his songwriting. In many ways, McVie's Game of Pretend is the song on this album which is closest to her signature style from the past. The piano-led ballad makes the most of her knack for mournful but surprisingly catchy melodies and packs a surprising emotional punch. While subtle percussion and acoustic guitars do join the mix as the song moves along, it is always her piano that is the dominant instrumental throughout. Buckingham's effects-heavy backing vocals during the chorus really helps to add some quirkiness, but overall this is a very traditional piano ballad which adds some variety during this fairly upbeat pop/rock album. On with the Show, which was the name of Fleetwood Mac's big reunion tour during 2014 and 2015 (which is more evidence that many of these songs were written to be Fleetwood Mac songs), returns to the pop/rock feel of the rest of the album with big acoustic guitar chords and a slightly funky bassline. While not particularly an upbeat number, the song contains many of those classic Buckingham hallmarks and probably contains his best vocal performance of the album. He has a way of conveying subtle emotions in his vocal performances effortlessly and this is made obvious here with a understated and enveloping vocal display. The album's last song is one of McVie's and Carnival Begin is a slightly bluesy number that moves along at quite a slow pace with very deliberate guitar picking and a murky bassline. The chorus picks up on the melody front however with chiming keyboard lines that mix in well with the guitars for a shiny feel that really sounds great. The bluesy feel is cemented with a soaring Buckingham guitar solo that really helps to close the album out on a high as the aching runs of notes continue during the song's fade out. Overall, Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie is an album that shows the two Fleetwood Mac members can still write strong material. While nothing here will ever be as good as their all-time classic songs from the past, there is still a lot to enjoy here and is a worthy addition to their respective canons.

The album was released on 9th June 2017 via East West Records. Below is the duo's promotional sound clip of In My World.

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