While my esteemed colleagues at Blogcritics Music have already trotted out their "Best of 2006" lists, I'm still going through many of these releases for the first time. One of last year's servings that I finally gave a listen to was a rare one by a key member of one of rock's all time major acts: Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame.
Admittedly, I'm no Buckingham buff; before his new one Under the Skin, my exposure to his solo work was limited to his moderately successful radio hits. But anyone who is familiar with these songs and his contributions to the Mac can recognize his endearingly slightly off-kilter brand of California folk-pop, not to mention his unique, accomplished finger picking style of guitar playing.
I seem to remember how his prior solo records would get critical acclaim and good word of mouth and yet failed to make much of a commercial impact. You'd think that those things going for him combined with his well-known contributions to a band which enjoys a huge following would garner him at least half of the success that his longtime musical partner Stevie Nicks has enjoyed.
Instead, his first release in 14 years — much like his prior releases — went largely unnoticed by nearly all but his small but devoted fan base. It's a damned shame, as Buckingham strips down the sound nearly to the unplugged level and he seems to lay out his emotions in a lot of places; like some kinder, gentler Plastic Ono Band. Many of these tracks sound like demo versions of intricately constructed pop songs where the soul of these tunes are bared, and that's where the real charm of this release comes from.
Evidently, Buckingham is perplexed by the lack of popular recognition, too; the song that kicks off Under the Skin is about exactly that. Accompanied with just an acoustic guitar beautifully spilling forth rapidly executed series of notes played apparently with a plectrum, he directly states what is giving him the blues:
Reading the paper saw a review
Said I was a visionary, but nobody knew
Now that's been a problem
Just like I'm living somebody's dream
What am I doing anyway
Telling myself it's not too late
His double-tracked voice barely rarely rises above a whisper, except for the refrain, to match a mood that turns from reflection to frustration and back again.
It's probably too much to expect for him get notice after such a long hiatus (Fleetwood Mac's 2003 release Say You Will notwithstanding) and he seems to be bracing himself for that fate with this song.
You might think he comes off as being arrogant to expect wider recognition when he's had a career that 99% of musicians out there would kill for. Buckingham, however, is not at all like 99% of musicians, or even 99.9%. Listen to "Not Too Late" and the ten tracks that follow it on Under The Skin and you're bound to understand his lament.
"One Track Mind" is a weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.