Judge Dave Ryan wonders if the Small Machine knows Tin Machine, or Florence and the Machine.
Our review of Lindsey Buckingham: Songs from the Small Machine (Blu-ray), published November 16th, 2011, is also available.
In 1974, 25-year-old Lindsey Buckingham was half of a little-known California-based rock duo with one barely-released failure of an album and no recording contract. By 1977, he was the main musical force behind one of the biggest bands in the world, a band that had what is now the 11th-best selling album in US music history under its belt. Internal and external pressures combined to slowly tear Fleetwood Mac apart at the seams, with Buckingham deciding to leave the group after 1987's Tango In The Night. In the quarter-century since then, he has been resoundingly non-prolific, producing only four solo albums sandwiched around a brief Fleetwood Mac reunion.
What Buckingham has lacked in quantity, he's made up for in quality. While his first two solo albums, made during lulls in Fleetwood Mac's early '80s recording/touring schedule, are best described as noble but failed sonic experiments, his post-Mac albums are striking pieces of meticulous songcraft. Buckingham—also, it should be noted, one of the more underrated lead guitarists in rock—doesn't create songs so much as he creates musical moods that happen to have appropriate words attached. If there's anything to nitpick with respect to Buckingham, it's that he approaches his music with an almost frightening intensity (especially for a guy who's now 62 years old). His darker songs are dark, and often vaguely creepy. (See, e.g., "Tusk" from the Fleetwood Mac album of the same name.)
To mark the recent release of Seeds We Sow, his sixth solo album, Buckingham recorded a one-off show at the Saban Theater (formerly known as the Wilshire Theater) in Los Angeles. This resulting DVD contains what appears to be the full 19-song set from the concert without any significant edits. Buckingham starts out alone on stage, with only his acoustic guitar as accompaniment, and stays that way for the first five songs. He leads with "Shut Us Down," from 2006's Under The Skin album, then gives modified solo performances of four of his better-known compositions: his solo hits "Go Insane" and "Trouble," plus the Fleetwood Mac songs "Never Going Back Again" and "Big Love." (A note to fans—"Big Love" and "Go Insane" use essentially the same arrangement as Buckingham's performances on the Fleetwood Mac DVD The Dance.) The rest of the band joins him (again, all on acoustic guitar) for "All My Sorrows" (a Kingston Trio cover that originally appeared on Buckingham's 1992 album Out of the Cradle), then the ensemble kicks into full band mode for two songs from Seeds We Sow, "In Our Own Time" and "Illumination." By this point, the show's energy has taken over, making Buckingham's romp through the classic Rumours leadoff tune "Second Hand News" sound fresh and lively. An appropriately creepy version of "Tusk" follows , then Buckingham and band settle down a bit for a trio of tunes from the new album, "Stars Are Crazy," "End of Time," and "That's the Way That Love Goes." Seesawing back into intensity mode, Buckingham then blasts out "I'm So Afraid," the dark blues jam that closes the Fleetwood Mac album that became a standout live track for the Mac, before reaching a crescendo with a knockdown show-closing performance of "Go Your Own Way." Two lower-key encores follow—a with-the-band encore featuring "Turn It On" from Out of the Cradle and "Treason" from 2008's Gift of Screws, and a solo acoustic final encore of the title track from Seeds We Sow.
With Songs From the Small Machine, Eagle Rock has done its usual fantastic job capturing live music on DVD; so far they've never let me down on quality issues. The picture is crisp and vivid, capturing the deep blacks and rich reds of the simple stage and lighting setup used. I happened to see this concert on cable in HD prior to reviewing this disc; this DVD looks just as good as that HD broadcast did on my TV. Three audio tracks are provided for your aural pleasure—a simple but effective stereo mix, and two surround mixes. Of the two, the DTS 5.1 track is clearly superior, with better clarity and dynamic range and more overall "oomph" to the music, but the Dolby Digital 4.0 track (yes, 4.0…) is not a poor effort, and shouldn't scare away anyone lacking a DTS decoder. Subtitles are provided only for the sole extra on the disc, a half-hour interview with Buckingham.
That interview is pretty interesting for fans of Buckingham who, due to his sparse output over the past couple of decades, hasn't really been interviewed all that much. He talks about more than just the new album, touching on how he first became interested in music, how he came to be in Fleetwood Mac, and what happened to set him on the solo path. He's quite adept at tiptoeing gently around the personal drama that surrounded everyone in Fleetwood Mac, providing general answers (e.g. "we weren't together anymore") but few specific details. Unfortunately, the interview was shot with a single camera, so the view never changes. This, combined with Buckingham's gentle speaking voice (which is vaguely reminiscent of the voice of Mr. van Driessen from Beavis and Butt-Head), makes the interview almost hypnotic. And I don't mean that in a good way.
Although his solo work has never achieved the heights reached by his ex-girlfriend's solo stuff, this disc certainly shows that Lindsey Buckingham is far from spent creatively. Give him a guitar, and he'll do something interesting with it. Fans should be pleased by this set, and newcomers may find enough to warrant further investigations. Either way, it's another quality concert disc from Eagle Rock Entertainment.
Mr. Buckingham is free to go his own way. He may even call it another day, should he so choose. Just don't say that you love him. Just tell him that you…(drum freakout).
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