The Capitol Times, June 25, 1992


by Eric Rasmussen

While it was Stevie Nicks who garnered most of the attention in Fleetwood Mac, it was Lindsey Buckingham's music that was responsible for the group's late 1970s heyday.

And though the group itself goes back to the late 1960s, when it was Peter Green's vehicle for British white boy blues, Fleetwood Mac is known more for Nicks' pseudo-gypsy scarf waving than for even its namesakes, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie.

But it's really Buckingham who has had to live in both the group's and his former wife Nicks' shadow. While his music was the most consistently compelling of any of the groups members' and he had released two stellar solo albums in the 1980s, Buckingham has never gotten his due as one of the finest pop songsmiths of the last two decades.

Buckingham's latest release, "Out of the Cradle" (Reprise), while not capturing the heights of his 1984 release "Go Insane," is his most solid recording to date. Maybe it will be the one that finally catapults him out of Brian Wilson syndrome.

If the Beach Boys are best known for anything, it's Chuck Berry ripoffs about cars and surfing. But Wilson broke new sonic ground with 1966's "Pet Sounds," a pop masterpiece that Paul McCartney admits was the prime inspiration for the Beatles' experimentation on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

With 1968's "Smiley Smile," the remnants of a larger project that Wilson aborted in a state of severe psychological deterioration (heck, the cat was hanging out with Charles Manson at the time), Wilson's experimentation grew even more extreme.

But he never lost his sense of pop songcraft; for every "Vegetable" there was a "Sloop John B." or "God Only Knows."

Still, despite critical acclaim, Wilson's best work never received the public attention of his lesser Beach Boys material.

Likewise, "Tusk," Fleetwood Mac's twisted follow- up to 1977's "Rumours," one of the best selling records ever released, was greeted with bemusement. And the brilliant "Go Insane" didn't sell half as many copies as Mac's lukewarm mid-80s output, "Mirage" or "Tango in the Night."

On "Out of the Cradle," which takes its name from a Walt Whitman poem, Buckingham more successfully integrates his knack for knocking out a pop hook with his penchant for idiosyncratic experimentation. "Don't Look Down" and "Countdown" are instantly hummable, but are filled with enough quirky touches to make them much more than this month's pop flavor.

Buckingham's records have always been lavishly produced, instrumentally complex creations. But the flip side of his Beach Boys obsession has always been his connection to California folk rock like the Byrds and, later, Jackson Browne.

So while tunes like "Wrong" (a scathing attack on Mick Fleetwood and his tell-all autobiography) and "Doing What I Can" are obviously the results of hundreds of studio hours and overdubs, they sound warmly organic. Even at his most technically complex, Buckingham's sound is user-friendly.

Buckingham is also more introspective on "Out of the Cradle" than previous outings, delving unabashadly into melancholy on "Street of Dreams" and the doo-wop tinged "Say We'll Meet Again."

"This is the Time" may be the record's standout, however, showcasing not only Buckingham's lyrical economy but also his guitar playing, which assumes greater prominence here than on anything he's done since "Rumors."

The tune begins, almost brooding, with a cry for sanity and honesty, but the mood is quickly broken with distorted power chords and stinging single-string runs from Buckingham. The cut's simple, two-chord pattern is insidiously catchy at each emotional extreme.

Sonic exploration aside, what really ties Buckingham to Wilson is their shared sense of romantic idealism. "Don't Look Down" and "Countdown" succeed not only because of their melodicism, but also because that sound conveys the lyrics' wide-eyed optimism.

As is the case with "Pet Sounds," cynics should probably stay away from "Out of the Cradle." Which is too bad, of course, since Buckingham and Wilson could teach the curmudgeons of the world a thing or two.

Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.