When is Fleetwood Mac not Fleetwood Mac?
When the rest of the band decides not to risk pissing off the devoted fans of Stevie Nicks and billing an album recorded without her as a “Fleetwood Mac” album.
Thus, the fine new disc Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie. When Christine rejoined the Mac after a lengthy hiatus, fans hoped that might lead to new music from the classic Rumours era line-up. And that appeared to be the plan. Until Stevie decided she’d had enough of the recording aspect of the music industry. With veteran acts seeing diminishing returns for their new songs, Nicks decided the risk/reward proposition didn’t favor holing up in the studio and went off on a solo tour instead.
But Lindsey and Christine had already worked up a bunch of songs, both individually and as collaborators. So rather than waste them, Fleetwood Mac Minus Stevie (the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie is on board) headed into the studio to do some recording.
The result is a fine album that would fit comfortably in Mac’s ’80s vintage output, snugly between Mirage and Tango in the Night. Nicks maintains an enduring popularity and is often viewed as the face of the band, but Lindsey and Christine soldier on just fine in her absence. And she didn’t quit, she just decided to focus on solo concerts and skip the recording process. The whole band is playing a couple shows together this summer and, ahem, rumours of a full tour keep percolating.
The dramatic interplay of Lindsey and Stevie always provided the band with a big chunk of the soap opera drama that’s a significant part of their appeal. But that dynamic tended to overshadow what effective partners Lindsey and Christine can be and this project gives that bond a chance to shine. Each is a good influence on the other: Christine is a positive, grounding influence on the often mercurial Lindsey, while Lindsey’s experimental bent prods Christine out of her comfort zone. That’s apparent on Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie. With Mick and John providing solid support, Lindsey and Christine assay an appealing song cycle, coming in at a lean ten cuts. If this collection doesn’t exactly scream “2017 Top 40,” there’s also no filler here. Both leads get a chance to do what each does best: Christine provides a couple of sunny pop gems and one undeniably gorgeous piano ballad that cuts into the complexities of relationships with an admirable directness. Lindsey crafts some next gen soundscapes that provide a backdrop for his wrestling a variety of ghosts and demons. But then he also gets to rip off some first rate guitar solos that show he hasn’t lost any of his rocker mojo. The back-up singers even turn in a solid simulation of Stevie’s trademark breathy harmonies, which will allow the wayward frontwoman to slip into these new songs without missing a beat when the band finally mounts a proper tour.
Is Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie commercial in 2017? Hard to say. Devoted fans will surely want to check this out. With radio exposure unlikely to be extensive (Adult Alternative and Soft Rock have spun “In My World” a bit, but no other formats seem eager for it), massive sales aren’t likely.
But sometimes, it’s worth crafting a fine collection for its own sake.