It’s difficult to blame Lindsey Buckingham for having a chip on his shoulder. He’s the studio mastermind, the live spark, and the restless creator behind the imperious pop era of Fleetwood Mac. But Buckingham is little known by the general public, for whom Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood are the most recognisable faces in the band. Whenever he makes a solo album, it sells a fraction of a Fleetwood Mac or solo Stevie Nicks record. But his solo career has been very satisfying – if you’re a fan of his work in Fleetwood Mac, it’s worth spending time with his solo albums.
Buckingham’s solo work is more mainstream than you might expect based on his experimental songs on Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. While Law and Order employs the garage rock of his contributions to Fleetwood Mac albums like Tusk and Mirage, 1984’s Go Insane is surprisingly heavy on synth-pop and 1992’s Out of the Cradle is lush like a Fleetwood Mac record. In the 21st century, his records have been more reliant on his acoustic guitar skills.
Lindsey Buckingham will be most remembered for the trio of pop albums he made in the 1970s with Fleetwood Mac – the band reboot on the 1975 self-titled record, the blockbuster Rumours from 1977, and 1979’s decidedly weirder Tusk. But his solo career is an excellent companion piece for his Fleetwood Mac work – here are his solo albums ranked from worst to best:
#7 Law And Order
Buckingham’s first solo album feels like a reaction to the months of painstaking studio time that went into shaping Rumours and Tusk – it’s a fun, garage-rock album that throws in a handful of covers from his father’s collection of 45s. Law and Order is often retro, with Buckingham’s originals like ‘Mary Lee Jones’ fitting beside covers like ‘A Satisfied Mind’ and ‘September Song’. Law and Order is often slight, but it features Buckingham’s best-known solo song, the dreamy, neurotic new wave of ‘Trouble’.
#6 Lindsay Buckingham
Buckingham’s seventh solo album precipitated his firing from Fleetwood Mac, after he requested delaying a band tour to promote it. It’s more adventurous than any solo album he’s made since the 1980s – it’s fun to hear his guitar against a breakbeat in ‘Swan Song’. But Buckingham’s voice has lost its suppleness with age and his vocal melodies aren’t exciting – his guitar work is the main drawcard at this point of his career.
#5 Under The Skin
Buckingham spent much of the 1990s working on a solo album that was eventually split into three different records – at his record company’s insistence, it was cherry-picked for songs for Fleetwood Mac’s 2003 album Say You Will, while the other songs turned up on here and 2008’s Gift Of Screws. Emerging fourteen years after Out of the Cradle, Under The Skin is often hushed and acoustic, hinging on Buckingham’s gorgeous fingerpicking. Despite gorgeous covers of The Rolling Stones’ ‘I Am Waiting’ and Donovan’s ‘Try For The Sun’, Under The Skin is sometimes too low key – when Mick Fleetwood and John McVie play on the jaunty ‘Down On Rodeo’, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
#4 Seeds We Sow
Buckingham was in his sixties when he recorded his sixth solo album. It’s in the vein of his previous two records – the acoustic fare of Under The Skin and the popcraft of Gift of Screws. While it’s the first Buckingham album that feels like a retread, it’s still accomplished and vital. The pretty ‘When She Comes Down’ is reminiscent of the traditional staple ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, while the warm, harmonised ‘End of Time’ would have made a good Fleetwood Mac song.
#3 Go Insane
In 1984, Buckingham embraced synthesisers and drum machines for his second solo record, like he’s been listening to Prince. It’s a product of its time, but the pop hooks are there on songs like ‘I Must Go’ and ‘I Want You’. There’s more esoteric fare, like the ‘D.W. Suite’, a tribute to Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, who’d dated Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie, while ‘Loving Cup’ is lusty and direct.
#2 Gift of Screws
Gift of Screws has some of the hushed acoustic guitar-based songs of Under the Skin, but the lasting impression is from the jangly pop songs in the centre of the record like ‘Love Runs Deeper’ and ‘Did You Miss Me’. The record’s a family affair; Buckingham’s wife penned the lyrics to several songs, while his son wrote the melody to opener ‘Great Day’. My favourite is the intense, bluesy riff of ‘Wait For You’, with Fleetwood and McVie as the rhythm section.
#1 Out of the Cradle
Buckingham’s most polished, Fleetwood Mac-like album was recorded while he was on hiatus from the band. It’s mostly warm, pretty, mid-tempo pop-rock songs like ‘Countdown’ and ‘Surrender The Rain’, although the prickly ‘Wrong’ addresses over-embellished rumours in Mick Fleetwood’s recent autobiography. It was dedicated to Buckingham’s recently deceased older brother Gregory, a silver medallist in swimming in the 1968 Olympics.
Are you a fan of Buckingham’s solo work? Do you have a favourite?
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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person.
Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate both Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Based in Fleet Street (New Zealand), he's been writing this blog since around 2000. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.
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