LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM is finally a free man. “It feels great,” he enthuses, savoring the fact that the release of his third solo album, Out Of The Cradle [Reprise], actually marks the official start of his solo career.
There will be no more filling in the gaps on other artists’ songs and no more cutting corners to finish his own albums in time to head back out on the road with his band; in short, no more Fleetwood Mac. Lindsey left the band for good five years ago following a harsh falling out after he declined to tour behind the Tango In The Night LP.
Out of the cradle, into the fire: “This project was such a cathartic experience,” Buckingham says. “After I parted ways with Fleetwood Mac, I took an entire year to let the emotional dust settle. But once I started Out Of The Cradle, I got back some of the instincts that I’d put on the back burner during my Fleetwood Mac days.”
Those long-dormant instincts include a fingerpicking style rooted in equal parts Segovia, country, and folk. They are impulses easier traced to the sweet instrumental wash of ‘Stephanie’ (from the 1973 gem Buckingham Nicks) than to Buckingham’s five studio Mac albums or his previous two solo efforts, 1981’s Law And Order and 1984’s Go Insane.
Cradle‘s crib bristles with crisp, seamlessly smooth production, courtesy of Buckingham and his longtime knob-turning crony Richard Dashut. The tracks not only resound with authority (like the fuzzy Strat fury of ‘This Is The Time’ or the piercing Tele intensity of ‘Wrong’), they also exhibit a tremendous amount of class, as in the touching cover of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific standard ‘This Nearly Was Mine’. If that’s not enough to jolt the Mac faithful, maybe the classically tinged instrumental intros to ‘Don’t Look Down’ and ‘This Is The Time’ will. The former comes from a Takamine acoustic-electric recorded direct and doubled on both channels. The latter was born on a fretless Steinberger, and both are intended to challenge listeners.
Cradle, whose title was borrowed from Walt Whitman’s poem, ‘Out Of The Cradle, Endlessly Rocking’, developed during two years of painstaking labor at Buckingham’s southern California home studio, and it was cut strictly in mono. “There’s a certain denseness apparent in the way we recorded things, and mono was the best way to get that across,” he explains. “I wanted to create an aural soundstage where a listener could isolate certain sounds at certain points in each song, as opposed to ingesting a standard-issue stereo spread. That’s why I recorded almost all of my solos direct with no speakers involved. In fact, only once did I use the lone amp in the studio, a MESA/Boogie with one 15″ speaker. If I had done numerous guitar overlays – you know, Tom Scholz-style, with 50 Pignoses surrounding me – it would have become one big mess.”
It’s been a long road to studio freedom. Buckingham, who joined Mac in early 1975 along with his then-lover Stevie Nicks, is acknowledged as the sonic architect/studio whiz who tempered many of his own impulses in order to lead the formerly blues-intensive band to megabuck superstardom. “Playing with that band was like making a movie,” he says. “You had to go through a lot of steps with other people – verbally, consciously, and politically – to get things done. So I tended to approach the material the way Chet Atkins or the Everly Brothers would approach theirs – in a way you’d hardly notice, so that the song was a star, not me.”
To further refine his perceived band role, Buckingham put aside his beloved Telecaster (whose clean, biting tone was a tad thin for Mac’s piano-bass-drums song structures) for a meatier Les Paul. But the Les gave him fits because it wasn’t as “orchestral” as he desired. Then, in 1979, he was handed the versatile, slim-bodied Turner Model 1, one of three Rick Turner handmades that boast trapeze tailpieces.
The Turner was a big hit with Buckingham and influenced the quirky, minimalist Tusk, an album which, as Buckingham notes, many people – including himself – consider his first solo effort. The Turner again turns up in Buckingham’s hands on Cradle‘s sleeve and on the album’s first single, ‘Wrong’, in the form of a fat, high-pitched squawk. “I did that direct into my distortion preamp, and it came off sounding like elephants mating,” Buckingham laughs. (Tusk, tusk…) The most raucous track on the album, ‘This Is The Time’, features Buckingham’s foray into Far Eastern sounds. “The verse section has a run done on my 1963 hybrid Strat’s B and high-E strings,” Lindsey describes, “creating an Oriental-style coda.”
In addition to exploring musical possibilities, Lindsey is juggling the prospect of the first Buckingham solo tour. The ever-youthful 42-year-old intends to spice his solo set with Fleetwood Mac concert favorites, but plans on playing them according to his pre-Mac instincts.
To paraphrase Whitman, now is indeed the ideal time for Buckingham to confront the waves of the full-fledged solo career before him and to leap over them into the unknown. There’s probably no other place that Lindsey Buckingham, pleased to be on his own, would rather be.
Mike Mettler / Guitar Player / October 1992