I’m not the first to say it, and I certainly won’t be the last, but the new Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie album is essentially Fleetwood Mac without Stevie Nicks.
Just as 2003’s Say You Will was Fleetwood Mac sans McVie, it’s curious that this new record doesn’t bear the band name — I suspect they may be attempting to keep Nicks sweet for the intended world tour next year. Whatever the reason, this so-called duo record is a pretty fantastic compromise.
Given that 2017 is the band’s 50th anniversary, it would have been nice to finally have the first Fleetwood Mac record in 14 years. But, in fact, this did start as a Mac album, with McVie keen to go back in the studio with her old band after reuniting with them on tour in 2014.
But after recording a number of tracks together, the band got tired of waiting for Nicks and decided to release it without her. Nicks gave many reasons why she declined to join them this time around, but her decision, although sad for fans, was advantageous for Buckingham and McVie, allowing them to work as a songwriting team, co-writing three tracks here. It’s quite lovely to hear those two voices together again.
In many ways, Buckingham/McVie is the follow-up to Tango in the Night we’ve been waiting 30 years for. That record was very much a collaboration between the pair, too, something they had been exploring since their first Mac album together (1975’s White Album) on the song “World Turning.”
There’s a track on the new album that’s very reminiscent of that first co-write called “Too Far Gone,” featuring a raw, bluesy riff courtesy of Buckingham and some fantastic tribal drum fills from Mick Fleetwood. It’s great to hear McVie, who is queen of both pop songs and ballads, go back to her roots with such a rocking tune.
The rest of the album, though, seems to pick up where Tango left off. I wouldn’t say that Buckingham is McVie’s greatest collaborator (some of her finest songs were written before him and after he left the group), but there’s definitely some kind of magic going on when they work together.
The Tango feel is most apparent on the poppy McVie-sung “Feel About You” complete with chirpy keyboards and Buckingham’s ’50s-style background harmonies, while “In My World” is classic Buckingham. It includes some nicely sampled grunts that seem to be a homage to one of his biggest Mac hits, “Big Love.” Best of all, “Red Sun” is, as its name suggests, a perfect summer song, recalling the band’s ’70s and ’80s heyday when McVie’s voice was all over the radio.
Elsewhere, Buckingham takes “Sleeping Around the Corner,” a bonus track from his last solo album Seeds We Sow, and turns it into the bouncy album opener it deserved to be — complete with John McVie’s trademark bass riffs on the chorus.
Another highlight is “Lay Down For Free.” With its bright guitar and shuffling beat, it sounds like Mirage-era Mac at its best. Conversely, the acoustic “Love is Here to Stay,” featuring Buckingham’s masterful finger-picking, sounds more like his solo work than anything else here.
“Game of Pretend” is the most beautiful track on the record, relying less on Buckingham’s production skills and emphasizing McVie’s voice and a piano that recalls both Joni Mitchell’s Blue in its more poignant moments and one of McVie’s most beloved songs, “Songbird.” The best Christine McVie song, “Carnival Begin,” is kept until the very end of the album, with a dark swirling feel that ends with one of Buckingham’s trademark killer guitar solos: You just know this is going to go down a storm live.
It’s a shame the album wasn’t named after the stellar track “On with the Show,” but since that was the name of the last Fleetwood Mac tour, it was probably too confusing a choice. Not only does it feel like classic Mac, ending in a gorgeous cascade of strings, but the sentiment, “As long as I stand / I will take your hand / I will stand with the band / stand with the band,” is pure Mac, given the dramas and difficulties they’ve been through over the band’s 50-year history.
It would have been nice to hear Nicks’ vocals in the mix here (and, of course, a few of her own tracks), but without her, it does make the combined talents of Buckingham and McVie even more potent, showcasing the contrast between Buckingham’s dark, experimental songwriting and McVie’s lighter, poppier, more romantic side.
Although their new album is far from the best thing either of them has ever done, this offering from Buckingham/McVie will more than sate the appetite of any fan hungry for that Mac sound. If nothing else, it certainly proves it’s been far too long since we’ve heard from McVie and that, if another Mac record isn’t to be, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie’s new album more than makes up for it.
Get your copy of Buckingham/McVie from Amazon.