'Buckingham/McVie' Reunion Offers Familiar Delights

Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie album cover.
Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie album cover.
No, “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie” is not quite a new Fleetwood Mac album. But it comes pretty close: Between them, the singer-songwriters whose names comprise the clunky title wrote the majority of the band’s peak-period pop rock (with Stevie Nicks rounding them out), and a few tracks feature the band’s trusty titular rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. Luckily for fans of that band, Buckingham and McVie recreate much of their old band’s appeal—instantly catchy hooks, shimmering production, and irresistible vocal harmonies. While a few fillerish tracks make Nicks’ absence felt, “Buckingham/McVie” (the album’s working title, which it should have kept) includes some real standouts that would fit right in on “Tusk” or “Mirage.” Any Fleetwood Mac fan would do well to give it a listen.

True to the structure of its title, “Buckingham/McVie” alternates between songs sung by Buckingham—the guitarist of heyday Mac—and by McVie, the keyboardist. Buckingham begins the album with a fakeout: He nearly croaks the first lines of the hook-filled romp “Sleeping Around the Corner,” leading at least your reviewer to wonder, horrified, if Buckingham, now 67, had recorded the album with his voice shot. But a couple lines later, Buckingham’s voice opens up just as the pop-rock arrangement blossoms. “Corner” and its immediate successor, the reggae-inflected “Feel About You,” impressively announce that their writers have retained their musical powers, though each track features lyrics nearly as awful as their melodies are engaging. Interpreted generously, “Feel About You” is not so bad: The chorus line “That’s how I feel about you” insists that McVie truly means the devotional figures of speech, however cliched. “Corner,” on the other hand, includes lyrics like “I never meant to give you a frown.” Lyrics, especially Buckingham’s, are not the album’s strong point. “In My World,” which boasts a charming guitar riff, might have better overcome its overslick production with subject matter less grandiose or better executed. Do nights really “unfurl”? Apparently, if one needs a rhyme with “world.” (Even worse, that rhyme is recycled from 1983’s “Eyes of the World.”) “Love Is Here to Stay,” an overlong acoustic piece with less going for it, also suffers from familiar and stuffy wordcraft.

But those lyrics are no match for Buckingham’s gift for melody. His best offering, “Lay Down for Free,” is nothing short of pop-rock perfection. Like most of the album, it shares with classic Fleetwood Mac a superabundance of instrument overdubs, a Buckingham technique that risks overproduction but immensely rewards repeated listens with undiscovered hooks and flourishes. McVie, who had retired from music for almost a decade, seems to have benefited from the time off. In “Red Sun,” the album’s other highlight, she again achieves her signature feat—combining mature emotional content with the sheer joy of her music. “My mind is filled with journeys echoed with your smile / No, you won’t take that away from me, even if you tried / Sometimes I wonder, do you ever think of me? / And it’s worse for me at night, you know, when the red sun kisses the sea,” she sings with equal parts defiance and longing heartbreak.

Like the Buckingham- and Nicks-led comeback album “Say You Will,” “Buckingham/McVie” largely sees its songwriters rewriting their glory-days hits rather than breaking new ground. “On with the Show,” a personal anthem for the still-touring Buckingham, uses the same ringing guitar line as “You and I, Part II” from “Tango in the Night”; the vocal interplay on “In My World” recalls the same album’s “Big Love”; McVie herself compared the piano ballad “Game of Pretend” to the old concert-closing favorite “Songbird” while introducing it at the end of the duo’s Boston performance in June. But even if the approach is familiar, it did dominate airwaves and sell tens of millions of records—and fans spinning the latest from the 67- and 74-year-olds rightly expected more of the same: conventional pop-rock, expertly crafted by veterans of the genre.

—Staff writer Trevor J. Levin can be reached at trevor.levin@thecrimson.com.

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