Saturday, July 31, 2010

Law and Order (1981)

The only way Lindsey Buckingham's first solo album and self-produced one-man-band studio overdub extravaganza surprised anyone, or anyway me, was in how good it was. And it's awfully good, at least when it is. Sounding for all the world like approximately one-third of every Fleetwood Mac album since 1975, it also isolates a few key facts that might have been taken too much for granted previously: Buckingham is a careful, melodic songwriter who gets his emotional points across with surprising arrangement, economy, and effectiveness and a disarming penchant for letting the big swooning gambit just rip (cf., the stark, plaintive, and insanely endearing chorus, "I think I'm in trouble"). He will get his head around some crazy idea or other and go off all quirky (see also Tusk, which even so has plenty of pleasures to call its own, and we'll be getting to them soon enough). But that keeps things interesting. There's usually something memorable to take away humming. His stuff works—nor does he have to prove it to anyone, though I must say, given his track record these past decades, it's nice enough when he does. Everything I've heard of his solo albums is pretty much all the way there consistently, and of course that's not even to mention the Fleetwood Mac oeuvre. He's a pretty good guitar player too, though there's less of that on display here. Sure, yeah, you have to forgive the occasional excesses, often notably misplaced—here it's the opening track, "Bwana" (see also "Tusk," which someone thought would make a good single) (and in a way it was). He does a lovely job with the cover of the Kurt Weill standard, "September Song." He's a sheer delight on the aforementioned "Trouble," "I'll Tell You Now," "It Was I," and "Johnny Stew." He's even willing to make fun of hot tub culture in "That's How We Do it in L.A."—although, honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to find out he'd written it in one. In L.A., no less. But I guess just because you have perspective doesn't mean you can't take your share of the pleasure.

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