CD Review: Lindsey Buckingham - 'One Man Show'

This all-acoustic live album serves as a master class in performing and songwriting.
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"I'm not a young man, but I'm a child in my soul," Lindsey Buckingham sings in "Not Too Late."  Indeed, this lyric Lindsey Buckinghamperfectly summarizes his multifaceted career, one that has experienced fascinating twists and turns.  His guitar playing skills, highly personal songwriting, sometimes eccentric arrangements, and his emotional voice have added up to a sound that is uniquely Lindsey Buckingham, both with and without Fleetwood Mac.  Time has found him downscaling production, letting his words and voice convey his complex themes.  At the same time, his playing and singing have never sounded stronger, evoking the same rage and passion as in his younger days.  His first solo acoustic live album, One Man Show, showcases his past successes and excitement for more musical experimentation in the future.

Unlike live albums that bear heavy editing, One Man Show encompasses an entire September 1, 2012 show from Des Moines, Iowa.  According to Buckingham,  the mix is "taken right off the console mix, with a couple of room mikes added in. It's live and raw, with no post-production."  The result is a very intimate listening experience, sounding as if he is performing right in your living room.  During the show, Buckingham draws from his group and solo years, re-imagining familiar hits and unearthing little-known album tracks.  The entire album provides a rare peek into his creative process, his ability to lay his emotions bare in songs and even his often pounding guitar work.

Highlights include the aforementioned "Not Too Late," a wistful track off his 2003 solo album Under the Skin.  His lyrics embody characteristics of insecurity about aging and his legacy: "Reading the paper, saw a review/ Said I was a visionary, but nobody knew/ Now that's been a problem/ Feeling unseen," he wails plaintively.  His hit single "Trouble" benefits from a much slower tempo and stripped-down arrangement, with Buckingham pitching down his voice to make the line "I think I'm in trouble" sound more ominous.  Unlike the upbeat original, here he hestiates at diving headfirst into love's troubled waters.  "It's been so long since I held ya/ I've forgotten what love is for," he sings, letting his voice tremble with desperation.

One track that undergoes a radical transformation is "Big Love," the 1987 Fleetwood Mac hit from Tango in the Night.  The original suffered from over-bloated production; to rectify this wrong, Buckingham turns it into a virtual exorcism.  His throbbing guitar lines propel the song (often sounding as if two or more guitarists are plucking along), his voice soars and dips, growling and screaming, adding new meaning to the lines "I wake up alone/ With it all/ I wake up/ But only to fall."  Anyone who doubts Buckingham's talent as a guitarist need only listen to the track to be convinced.

To satisfy the crowd, Buckingham includes the iconic Fleetwood Mac song "Go Your Own Way"; though he has undoubtedly performed this track several times, he still conjures up images of love gone sour by snarling words like "shacking up's all you want to do."  At the same time, he demonstrates his ability to write tender, delicate songs as well, such as the underrated Rumours song "Never Going Back Again" or the lovely instrumental "Stephanie." 

In sum, One Man Show serves as a master class in songwriting, musicianship, and singing.  Buckingham has always been in a class of his own, forging his own unique creative path.  This thoroughly enjoyable concert celebrates these qualities, and also demonstrates that he still has much music left in him.