Lindsey Buckingham – In From the Cult I Washington City Paper, Oct 2006

574.x231.mr.buckinghamWashington 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 – The rock star hits midlife (LA Times Oct 2006)

The rock star hits midlife

Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham offers an intimate self-portrait on
his first solo album in 14 years.

lindsey_latimes

By Ann Powers
Times Staff Writer

October 3, 2006

Lindsey Buckingham, the sonic architect of Fleetwood Mac, has been through a lot: megastardom during the decadent 1970s; a split with bandmate and girlfriend Stevie Nicks that defined the rock ‘n’ roll breakup; 20 years of balancing pop stardom with an irrepressible avant-garde urge; the only band reunion by presidential request (for Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration); first-time parenthood at 48. But he never expected to live in Brentwood.

“I was living in this Neutra-style house way up in the hills in Bel-Air,” Buckingham said, chatting in his comfortable den just west of the San Diego Freeway. “I’d had that property for 30 years — it was my bachelor pad. Fleetwood Mac cut ‘Tango in the Night’ there in 1987, and Mick [Fleetwood] lived in a Winnebago in the front yard.

“When my wife and I started having children, I decided to knock it down,” continued the 57-year-old father of three. “We built a Spanish. But it’s not a great area for kids, you can’t really go outside the gates or you’ll fall down the hill. So we decided to get into a more ‘Father Knows Best’ environment.”

Soon the Buckingham clan will inhabit a freshly built fairy tale home — complete with turret — a few blocks away from this rental. The children will have space to run circles around their dad. But Daddy will certainly also claim a room with a locking door, where he can protect his other progeny: his well-nurtured songs.

Today, Buckingham releases “Under the Skin,” his first solo album in 14 years. Recorded mostly in hotel rooms during Fleetwood Mac’s reunion tour in 2003, using little more than a guitar delay pedal and an acoustic guitar, it includes material dating 10 years or more. Two songs were recorded in the studio with Mac drummer Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, and one features Memphis-style horns arranged by Beck’s father, David Campbell. Otherwise, it’s all Buckingham, chasing that part of himself that life’s responsibilities often steal away.

“I spent a long time focusing on something very narrow, probably in reaction to being part of such a large machine,” he said of these songs. “With Fleetwood Mac, I walled up a lot of things. Part of the process is taking down those walls to see if there’s anything left inside.”

“Under the Skin” is a locket portrait of the pop star at midlife, trying to honor but also escape a weighty reputation. “Cast Away Dreams” and “Not Too Late” confront the conflict between domesticity and the artist’s way. “Hearts will break with the choices we must make,” Buckingham sings, sadly noting the rift that often arises in a family (including that other kind of family, the band) and the individualism that inspires enduring art.

On this quiet, intense album, Buckingham’s guitar lines form delicate knots around incantatory melodies, and the echo of heavy delay helps his quavering tenor capture the full-court press of time. Buckingham finds the cadence of one of life’s most difficult passages — the journey into unequivocal adulthood.

Artists have a particularly hard time with that transition; Buckingham’s personality, friends say, is quintessentially artistic. That may be why his music so vividly captures the tension between imagination and real life. “His driven sensibility — it’s almost childlike,” Fleetwood said in a separate interview. “Lindsey protects his own innocence. You think he realizes something, and then you see he really doesn’t. He’s in his studio, focused, and that’s that.”

Having children blew open Buckingham’s well-guarded self-absorption. “As a parent, there is a push-pull,” he said. “When I was trying to finish, and one of my kids would say, ‘Dad, you wanna … ?’ I had to make a choice, and not a very good one. I was either shaming myself as a father, or shaming the idea of following through on something that’s been in motion for many years.”

Buckingham has been tormented by conflicting loyalties before. After the record-breaking success of Mac’s 1977 album “Rumours,” he felt coerced into generating hits. “Tusk,” the double album that came next, was Buckingham’s act of resistance. It’s a benchmark of experimental rock.

” ‘Tusk’ was an impulse,” he said. “Over time, everyone in the band got drawn in. And then, because it didn’t sell 16 million albums — it sold four or five — there was a backlash. There was a meeting. The band said, ‘Lindsey, we’re not going to do that anymore.’ That’s the only reason I started making solo records.”

Buckingham made three fantastically odd solo albums. He also stayed in Fleetwood Mac for one more decade, then left the band, returned and repeated the cycle. It was a Fleetwood Mac song, “Big Love,” that set the template for “Under the Skin.” It became his spotlight number during Mac shows, a whorl of guitar picking and swooning vocals.

He began exploring other artists’ songbooks in search of similarly powerful guitar vehicles; two, the Rolling Stones’ “I Am Waiting” and Donovan’s “Try for the Sun,” appear on the new disc. His own material began to coalesce. But the machine asserted itself again, when Buckingham found himself at odds with his label, Warner Bros., over the album’s focused sound.

“They didn’t want me to put it out,” he said, quickly adding that he’s on good terms with the company now. “They wished me to put some rock material on, to make a hybrid, normal album. It might have been easier for them to market. But for 14 years I’d been trying to get something out from my heart, and I’m sorry, this is it.”

The final version of “Under the Skin” is an innocent thing, more in sync with the experiments of younger artists such as Sufjan Stevens and Joseph Arthur than with typical rock-legend side projects. He hopes new fans will find him on tour. “I don’t know who my audience is,” he admits.

He does know where to find the old machine, and the fans who keep it well-oiled. Fleetwood Mac will tour again, and Buckingham is planning an electric record, maybe with a producer, probably with input from Fleetwood and McVie. The world may not have to wait a teenager’s lifetime for his next release.

“After Christmas, we’ll start, in theory,” he said, not letting this project peep too far out of the cocoon yet. “I think it’s going to rock. I don’t know what it’s doing yet.”