Following 1992’s ‘Out of The Cradle’, Lindsey Buckingham continued to write new material, but largely stayed out of the spotlight. In the early 00’s he had almost completed a solo album, provisionally entitled ‘Gift Of Screws’, when destiny called and he rejoined Fleetwood Mac. A few songs scheduled for ‘Gift of Screws’ were reworked with Fleetwood Mac and eventually surfaced on their 2003 release ‘Say You Will’.

After touring for that record, Buckingham resumed his solo career and released the intimate acoustic record ‘Under The Skin’ in 2006, followed by a finished, partially different ‘Gift of Screws’ in 2008. As 2011’s ‘Seeds We Sow’ is Buckingham’s third solo release in five years, it marks his most prolific period in some time. It’s a very home-spun recording, with a lot of programmed mechanical elements, but that’s certainly not to say it sounds hurried or remotely slapdash compared to works on which he spent three times longer.

Despite the drum loops, ‘Gone Too Far’ has a pop purity, which with a little tweak would be worthy of inclusion on a Fleetwood Mac disc, with pleading lead vocals and a plethora of backing voices. Musically, it’s much simpler than some of Buckingham’s works, but it stands up well. The vocals alone would carry most of the number, but a few plays in, the unobtrusive guitar solo stands out as being particularly noteworthy, capturing a very clean and distinctive sound. ‘In Our Time’ is a superb off-kilter pop number which Buckingham very much makes his own. Not just with a plethora of finger plucked moments, but the addition of staccato keyboard strings for emphasis hints at the anger of a couple of his ‘Tusk’ performances. Almost a complete opposite ‘When She Comes Down’ is rich with harmony vocals. The music is relatively simple, but Buckingham is acutely aware that a strong hook and stronger vocal will win out. It’s enough to make you wonder how this would have sounded with the embellishment of Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie… [‘Seeds We Sow’ may be rather mechanical on the whole, but even after a few plays, it’s so obvious that most of these songs are vastly superior to those which filled Mac’s ‘Say You Will’, which was let down in part by Christine McVie’s absence].

‘That’s The Way That Love Goes’ is credited as featuring other musicians (everything else is arranged and recorded by Buckingham alone), but even so, it doesn’t sound much more natural than the other cuts. The drums come with a clipped march, the bass only slightly warmer than on other numbers and the keyboards add little interest overall. As expected with a Lindsey Buckingham recording, however, this track is still very much “The Lindsey Buckingham Show” – and frankly, his contributions are almost beyond criticism. His vocal retains exactly the same presence as it has always had -as if barely any time has passed since those drug-fuelled ‘Tusk’ sessions and days of excess – while the music contains a few slightly more angular moments. ‘One Take’ is the album’s most urgent cut, both musically and lyrically. The bass notes rumble as Buckingham settles for a far less showy guitar style. Clanging rhythm chords provide most of the focus, but the two instrumental breaks are where it’s at; each one brimming with fury – a sharp reminder of the man who played the screaming solo at the end of ‘The Chain’. Combined with Lindsey spitting lyrics like “I have no reputation and I’m not on any list / That’s because I got a publicist who covers up the avarice and where I put my fist”, it’s certainly the closest ‘Seeds We Sow’ comes to presenting anything resembling an angry rocker. Placed alongside some of the more refined numbers – particularly those with a strong bias towards finger-picked guitar – stylistically, this feels a little shoe-horned in. On the other hand, it comes loaded with a chorus that’ll stay with you after three or four plays, so it’s still a really great track.

It’s with the solo number ‘Rock Away Blind’ ‘Seeds We Sow’ unleashes what is unquestionably it’s most amazing piece. Buckingham’s voice has a pop musician’s purity, and as such is extremely admirable, but looking beyond that, his guitar work is just astounding. His voice compliments a furiously plucked acoustic guitar which is subjected to an appropriate studio shine (and possibly some kind of delay). The blanket of notes is mesmerizing – this is every reason Buckingham is revered as a musician as well as song writer. With this track, he captures the essence and brilliance of that performance of Fleetwood’s ‘Big Love’ (the one featured on ‘The Dance’) on a studio recording. It’s a track which can be played on a loop and never lose any of its sparkle. Similarly, the cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘She Smiled Sweetly’ – which wraps things up – proves a fantastic showcase for Buckingham’s sounds of wood and strings pitched against breathy vocals. A track so subtle, yet brimming with professional brilliance, this provides a most appropriate ending.

Although this album stretches Buckingham’s work into a couple of new places stylistically and isn’t always as polished as some of his previous outings, his voice retains a heart-warming familiarity which will keep most listeners coming back time and again. And while some musicians would sound cheap surrounded by drum machines and programmed elements, throughout ‘Seeds We Sow’, Buckingham’s song writing runs rings around most and that – combined with his superb voice – is enough to make ‘Seeds We Sow’ a fantastic listening experience.

September 2011

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