‘We ... blew our own minds’

Lindsey Buck­ing­ham and Chris­tine McVie ex­plain how they wound up as a duet.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - MIKAEL WOOD POP MU­SIC CRITIC

It was an only-in-Hol­ly­wood mo­ment: Lindsey Buck­ing­ham and Chris­tine McVie, two mem­bers of per­haps the most fa­mously frac­tious rock band of all time, re­hears­ing in­side a Sony Pic­tures sound­stage where “The Gold­bergs,” ABC’s sit­com about a dys­func­tional fam­ily, is filmed.

But this wasn’t Fleet­wood Mac run­ning through its twisted cat­a­log on a re­cent af­ter­noon.

In­stead, Buck­ing­ham and McVie were us­ing the stage, equipped with the type of lights and sound sys­tem they’ve long fa­vored, to get ready for a tour behind their new self-ti­tled duets al­bum. The record marks the first full-length col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the two singer­song­writ­ers since Buck­ing­ham and his then-girl­friend, Ste­vie Nicks, joined Fleet­wood Mac in 1974.

Ac­com­pa­nied by sev­eral back­ing mu­si­cians (and fac­ing what ap­peared to be the Gold­bergs’ liv­ing room), Buck­ing­ham, 67, and McVie, 73, started the re­hearsal with “In My World,” a thrum­ming pop-rock tune whose pol­ish be­lied Buck­ing­ham’s claim that they hadn’t yet fig­ured out how to play the mu­sic live.

“OK — time for a break?” he joked when they fin­ished the opener, and the room broke out in know­ing laugh­ter.

The easy­go­ing vibe was in keep­ing with the sunny qual­ity of the duo’s al­bum, which sets thoughts of love and de­vo­tion against bouncy grooves that re­call mid-’80s hits like “Hold Me,” “Lit­tle Lies” and “Ev­ery­where.” In the years af­ter Fleet­wood Mac’s hey­day, that stuff wasn’t re­mem­bered quite as fondly as the thornier sound and the gothic-hip­pie iconog­ra­phy of the band’s 1977 smash, “Ru­mours.”

But it’s those dreamy love songs, all writ­ten by McVie, that have come back into vogue lately among stylish young ad­mir­ers such as Haim and Phoenix. And that’s what makes “Lindsey Buck­ing­ham/Chris­tine McVie,” with its crisp beats and care­fully sculpted synth tex­tures, feel sur­pris­ingly cur­rent, even as the two prepare — some­what be­grudg­ingly — to in­dulge Mac fans’ nos­tal­gia at next month’s Clas­sic West and Clas­sic East shows.

“I think our dy­namic mak­ing this record was ac­tu­ally more ef­fec­tive than it had ever been,” Buck­ing­ham said, ges­tur­ing to McVie as the two sat on a sofa dur­ing a break from prac­tice. “We kind of blew our own minds.”

The al­bum be­gan tak­ing shape when McVie, who’d left Fleet­wood Mac in 1998 (due in part to a fear of fly­ing she’s since de­feated), came back to the band in 2014. Be­fore the launch of a lengthy reunion tour, she and Buck­ing­ham got to­gether at the Vil­lage Stu­dios in West Los Angeles, each with songs they’d been work­ing on in­di­vid­u­ally.

“We were just lay­ing a foun­da­tion of fa­mil­iar­ity,” Buck­ing­ham said, “ex­plor­ing the land­scape of what we used to be about.”

The record­ing stu­dio was where Fleet­wood Mac made “Tusk” in 1979. And the two singers got the band’s trusty rhythm sec­tion — drum­mer Mick Fleet­wood and bassist John McVie (also Chris­tine’s ex-hus­band) — to flesh out the mu­sic. But if the tunes were once des­tined for Fleet­wood Mac, which last put out an al­bum in 2003, that quickly changed, ac­cord­ing to Buck­ing­ham.

“Could this have been a Fleet­wood Mac al­bum? Pos­si­bly,” he said. “There was no agenda for it to be any one thing.” (Nicks, for her part, was busy mak­ing a solo record at the time.) “But within the first week, we started to be­come pro­tec­tive about what it should be. We started say­ing to each other, ‘This feels like a duets al­bum.’ ”

“Why hadn’t we done it be­fore?” McVie added.

Although Buck­ing­ham and Nicks’ re­la­tion­ship tends to dom­i­nate the Fleet­wood Mac mythol­ogy, McVie said she and the guitarist formed an “in­tense” bond as soon as he joined the group.

“We were the only peo­ple in the band that ac­tu­ally played more than just a sin­gle note,” the key­boardist said with a dry chuckle. “He and I play chords,” which re­sulted in a “shared har­monic un­der­stand­ing,” as Buck­ing­ham de­scribed it.

That mu­si­cal con­nec­tion reached a high point on “Tango in the Night,” Fleet­wood Mac’s 1987 al­bum that was its last fea­tur­ing both McVie and Buck­ing­ham, the lat­ter of whom quit later that year be­fore re­turn­ing in the ’90s.

Glossier and more elec­tronic than the band’s ear­lier records, it’s a so­phis­ti­cated soft-rock pro­duc­tion in which Buck­ing­ham’s in­ven­tive ar­range­ments draw out the wist­ful ro­mance in McVie’s melodies.

That hap­pens again on the duo’s al­bum, in songs like the funky, per­cus­sive “Too Far Gone” and “Feel About You,” in which McVie com­pares a lover to “the sky at night” over an elab­o­rate pat­tern of word­less back­ing vo­cals.

Buck­ing­ham said the record has a lot of heart; McVie said it was soul. Ei­ther way, they’re happy enough with their work that they plan to play eight of its 10 songs on their tour, which stops for a sole Cal­i­for­nia date at the Iron­stone Am­phithe­atre near Stock­ton on July 21.

That’s more new ma­te­rial than many veteran acts do on the road, but Buck­ing­ham said his solo gigs have shown him that his au­di­ence is ea­ger to fol­low him wher­ever he goes.

“You ever get peo­ple scream­ing out for Fleet­wood Mac songs?” McVie asked.

“No, never,” he replied. “The peo­ple that come to see me — all 12 of them — they ap­pre­ci­ate not only what I’m do­ing but why I’m do­ing it.”

Still, the re­quests for “Land­slide” and “Don’t Stop” are sure to come when Buck­ing­ham and McVie team with their old band­mates for the Clas­sic West and Clas­sic East fes­ti­vals: a pair of two-day con­certs — July 15 and 16 at Dodger Sta­dium and July 29 and 30 at New York’s Citi Field — with Fleet­wood Mac, the Ea­gles, Steely Dan, Jour­ney, the Doo­bie Brothers and Earth Wind & Fire. (Think of the event as mu­sic-in­dus­try veteran Irv­ing Azoff ’s re­sponse to last year’s super-suc­cess­ful Desert Trip fes­ti­val in In­dio.)

Asked how he felt about play­ing a show ex­plic­itly geared to evoke mem­o­ries of the old days, Buck­ing­ham cringed.

“It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily speak of the as­pi­ra­tion to present any­thing in the way that Fleet­wood Mac would want to present it on its own terms,” he said. “But we’re all very close to Irv­ing, so it was just sort of a ‘Why not?’ ”

Pretty diplo­matic for a rock star.

“I was go­ing to put it less diplo­mat­i­cally, but I stopped my­self,” he said.

“Do the undiplo­matic ver­sion,” McVie chimed in. “What were you go­ing to say?”

“I was go­ing to say, ‘Just close your eyes and take the money,’ ” Buck­ing­ham an­swered, and the sound­stage rip­pled with laugh­ter again.

Pho­to­graphs by Luis Sinco Los Angeles Times

CHRIS­TINE McVIE and Lindsey Buck­ing­ham re­hearse in Cul­ver City. The Fleet­wood Mac alum re­cently started a con­cert tour in sup­port of their new duets al­bum, ti­tled “Lindsey Buck­ing­ham/Chris­tine McVie.”

“WE WERE the only peo­ple in the band that ac­tu­ally played more than just a sin­gle note,” McVie said.

“OUR DY­NAMIC mak­ing this record was .... more ef­fec­tive than it had ever been,” Buck­ing­ham said.

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