Lindsey Buckingham – In From the Cult I Washington City Paper, Oct 2006 City Paper
October 6, 2006
By Mark Jenkins

The unrepentant folk-rocker ripples an acoustic guitar and contemplates his place in the pop universe: “Read in the paper/Saw a review/Said I was a visionary/But nobody knew/Now that’s been a problem/Feeling unseen/Just like I’m living/Somebody’s dream.”

That could be Robyn Hitchcock, reflecting on 30 years as a cult artist. But it doesn’t sound like him, does it? The former Soft Boy rarely expresses himself so directly; when he sings “I,” he’s usually assuming the persona of someone or something he couldn’t possibly be. Besides, all indications are that Hitchcock likes being a cult artist. He’s worked hard to stay semisubmerged, despite spending more than a decade (mostly in the ’90s) contracted to one of two indulgent major labels. Whenever mainstream acceptance beckoned, Hitchcock bolted—usually to make an album of stripped-down sorta-folkie songs that relied on acoustic guitar and a few friends.

Eventually, though, his pop-rock instincts would recuperate and he would record an unexpectedly accessible set. For example, the shimmering new Olé! Tarantula, his most outgoing release since 1991’s Perspex Island.

So it’s not Hitchcock who’s gazing into the mirror, considering his obscurity. In fact, the self-styled visionary who’s all alone with his guitar and voice is a man whose cult-artist status is arguable: Lindsey Buckingham. The guy’s actually had a few Top 20 solo singles, and if his albums are occasional at best, that’s because he keeps canceling them and ceding his new songs to his other project, Fleetwood Mac, which just happens to be one of the most commercially successful rock bands ever. If Buckingham’s feeling unseen, it must be because Stevie Nicks’ scarves keep fluttering in front of his face in the 20,000-seat arenas.

“Not Too Late,” which contains the career analysis quoted above, opens Under the Skin, which is Buckingham’s fourth solo album, and his first since 1992’s Out of the Cradle. The tune, which is nothing but voice and finger-picked guitar, is typical of the album’s style. Although some of the songs are lushly stratified, notably with layer upon of layer of vocals, the overall vibe is intimate. Reverb is one of Buckingham’s favorite studio embellishments, and Under the Skin is a sort of echo chamber in which the singer-songwriter can achieve a private grandeur. Fleetwood and Mac (drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie) play on two of these 11 tracks, and there’s a horn section on one, but the rest is all Buckingham—glossy, melodic, and a little too airtight.

Hitchcock once released a version of the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High” in which he recalled where he was the year the song was released. That was 1966, apparently also a crucial moment for Buckingham. Under the Skin includes two covers, both from that year: the Rolling Stones’ “I Am Waiting” and Donovan’s “Try for the Sun.” Both are showcases for Buckingham’s production skills, and touchstones for his vision, which melds British-invasion rock with California studio-pop perfectionism. Yet neither qualifies as an interpretation, let alone a personal one. They’re just well-constructed and plushly textured.

Sometimes, that’s enough. Such Under the Skin numbers as “It Was You” and especially “Show You How” transform elementary rhythmic hooks and complex vocal arrangements into the stuff of rapture. In that sense, Buckingham has recaptured the spirit of ’66: His songs sound fresh, vital, and enchanted with the possibilities of multitracked, amplified timbres. What they don’t do is reveal or—their sonic invention aside—surprise. Buckingham is a master of the gleaming surface, but he never quite goes where his album title promises.

Lindsey Buckingham – Three Under The Skin Reviews

“Under the Skin”
Friday, October 6, 2006
Washington Post

“WHEN THE STAGE IS DEAD and empty,” Lindsey Buckingham asks on his new album, “. . . what’s it all about, sitting there on your own?” For the man who led Fleetwood Mac to some of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest commercial and artistic triumphs, the stage has been empty for a long time.

Before this year, he had released just one solo album, one Mac-reunion live album and one Mac-reunion studio album. What was he doing on his own all those years? Well, for one thing, he was making the homemade demos that became the weird, often flawed, often exhilarating solo album “Under the Skin.”

It resembles neither the classic Fleetwood Mac albums nor anything on the radio today. It is a stripped-down production in which Buckingham plays one or two guitars against maybe a rhythm loop and his own whispery high tenor. The lyrics, which often suggest bad high school poetry, are no more than hints about the real drama that lies in the music. But that music is often magnificent, even in the claustrophobic confines of this one-man band. Like his hero Brian Wilson, Buckingham has a knack for composing captivating melodies that he can then harmonize to suggest expansive hopes or crushing frustration.

When he asks, “What’s it all about?” on the song “Show You How,” his wife answers by telling him to slow down, but she does so in a syncopated, ricocheting melody that is more dizzying than calming. The title track is an intoxicating tug-of-war between the swooning vocals and the layered strumming guitars. He similarly stretches the harmonies on two obscurities from the ’60s: the Rolling Stones’ “I Am Waiting” and Donovan’s “Try for the Sun.”

Buckingham handles every instrument and vocal himself except on two tracks, when he is joined by his old bandmates Mick Fleetwood and/or John McVie. On one of those tracks, “Down on Rodeo,” he seems to muse on his old band: “We never took quite enough chances / We never had quite enough time.” On this album, Buckingham has taken some chances and has certainly taken his time.

— Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Monday at the State Theatre.

– –

“Under the Skin”
By George Lang
The Oklahoman
Oct 6th, 2006

Whenever I talk or write about Lindsey Buckingham, it always requires too much explanation that borders on apology. Fleetwood Mac’ s retroactive cool quotient took an upswing thanks to Midlake’s recent musical homage, “The Trials of Van Occupanther,” but Fleetwood Mac’s hipness factor generally hovers at the level of khakis and sedans. Consequently, Buckingham’s reputation as one of popular music’s most peculiar and fascinating talents suffered when in fact he belongs on rock ‘n’ roll’s Mount Olympus.

“Reading the paper, saw a review / Said I was a visionary, but nobody knew. Now, that’s been a problem,” Buckingham sings on “Not Too Late,” the first track on his first solo disc in 14 years, “Under the Skin.” This kind of self-referential ego exploration might seem distasteful coming from other quarters, but Buckingham earned the right to wonder about this long ago. Part of the problem is the specter of his former band.

Under Buckingham’s leadership, Fleetwood Mac made complicated music that went down easy. When he joined the group in 1975, the former blues band that had been trying to find a new direction started enjoying giant commercial hits such as “Rhiannon,” “Dreams” and “Go Your Own Way,” but this was not typical soft rock. Listen intently to any of Mac’s hits from 1975-87, and chord progressions, counter-melodies, bass lines and production touches leap out that barely make sense. “Go Your Own Way” is especially squirrelly for such a huge hit: The rhythm and melody seem to be fighting with each other, and given the context of the song and 1977’s “Rumours” album as a whole, that might have been the point.

As chief arranger for the group, Buckingham took fairly conventional song structures and wove counter-intuitive modalities into them. Stevie Nicks’ “Sara,” from 1979’s “Tusk,” has a pretty basic doo-wop melody for its chorus, but then Buckingham would snake some chords around it that were beautiful but off-the-charts eccentric. Buckingham seems to hear music differently than most of his peers, and that’s obvious on “Under the Skin.”

Since his last solo disc, 1992’s “Out of the Cradle,” Buckingham has supercharged the finger-picking style he employed on earlier songs such as “Never Going Back Again” — he plays unfiltered acoustic with flamenco-like speed, intricacy and fluidity on “Shut Us Down,” “Not Too Late” and his brilliant reinterpretation of Donovan’s “To Try for the Sun.” Those suspecting Buckingham of overdubbing should check YouTube for the rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” he played after George Harrison’s death. Purists might not like it, but his full capability is on display.

But what was so frustrating for Buckingham fans was the popular perception that he was simply Fleetwood Mac’s weirdest member not wearing lace shawls or bugging out his eyes behind a drum kit. When he left the band in 1987, the band had to hire two fairly great session musicians to do his job. But proficiency is not the same as invention, and Fleetwood Mac quickly fell apart. Nicks fans always thought their favorite witch was the indispensable one, but arguably, the band needed all three of its principals to sound like Fleetwood Mac: the semi-reunion, 2003’s “Say You Will,” sounded tense and shrill without the warmth of Christine McVie’s vocals to balance out the sharpness of Buckingham and Nicks.

Now that Fleetwood Mac seems to be history, it appears Buckingham has finally settled into a solo career where credit is clear and the full extent of his creativity can flourish without concerns about paying someone’s mortgage. But “Under the Skin” isn’t simply Buckingham’s attempt to recalibrate his standing in rock history — he can still make music that sounds like sunshine. On the awe-inspiring closer, “Flying Down Juniper,” he creates a piece of guileless California pop that rivals any of his most recognizable past confections.

The paper was right: Buckingham is a visionary. Perhaps now, everyone will finally know.

– –
“Under the Skin”

Never one to rush his work, Lindsey Buckingham made sure Under the Skin was worth the wait.

October 6, 2006
St. Petersburg Times

In between albums, fights, sex, drug binges and more fights with his bandmates in Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey Buckingham has released just four solo albums in 25 years.

It’d be fun to blame former flame Stevie Nicks and her witchy spells for his stretches of solo silence. But the truth is that Buckingham is an intense studio perfectionist.

With the Mac, he’s meticulous behind the soundboard. On his own, however, the 57-year-old L.A. fixture is a freak, a beyond-ambitious artist who sweats over every acoustic pluck and dramatically layered vocal.

Parallels to Beach Boy Brian Wilson? You betcha. There’s always been a dark lining to Buckingham’s complex Golden State sunsets, especially on the new Under the Skin, an album that manages to sound both very familiar (the lush, sunset harmonies of Down on Rodeo) and extremely odd (the frantic-pluck paranoia of baroque opener Not Too Late). It’s not always easy listening, but it’s never boring.

Buckingham created most of the disc using nothing more than his voice and his guitar, one man layering and layering himself until he sounds like a chorus of world-weary thousands all trapped in a lonely, echoey room.

You won’t find catchy, quirky hits a la Go Insane, Trouble or Holiday Road on this 11-track rumination about love and aging in La-La Land. And if you’re waiting for the guitar man to shred out a searing solo, there’s no air guitar opportunities here, either.

But Under the Skin has much to like and plenty to wow at. On first single Show You How, Buckingham’s backing vocals on the chorus dart like dive-bombing birds. Playing what sounds like a lute, he turns the Rolling Stones’ I Am Waiting into a creepy-cool medieval meditation perfect for halftime at a joust.

And on album closer Flying Down Juniper, this father of three young tykes sets aside his neuroses and soundtracks his children playing silly games. The result is contentment rather than sap, a big-brained rock star trying to process, and enjoy, life as just a regular guy.

* * *

Lindsey Buckingham
Under the Skin

– –