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The Ledge (02/12/1998), (Exclusive essay by John B.) < Lindsey Buckingham < Main Page

The Ledge (02/12/1998), (Exclusive essay by John B.)

This essay was posted by "John B." on Ledge 2 on February 12, 1998.

If "Out of the Cradle" drives you out
of your mind, click here and rejoice with me

There are some things that strike you so deeply that you cannot rest until you write them down and get them out of your head. Writing them down gives some kind of structure and closure to the random fragments of sentences running madly around your brain, bumping against your cranium screaming "Let me out! Let me out!"

My feelings about Out of the Cradle are of this unsettled variety.

I finally got my copy of Out of the Cradle last week. I made this my first Lindsey-solo purchase due to the ringing endorsements it's received on The Ledge, most notably from my fellow Beatle fanatic Ann. Something about her enthusiasm a while back led me to believe that I might actually enjoy this album.

Musical tastes being what they are--like fingerprints, they're unique to each of us--I took the good reviews as a sign that Out of the Cradle would be a pretty good record, with the usual (for most albums) one or two standouts and two or three take-'em-or-leave-'ems. After all, we've all had the weird ongoing experience of reading somebody's harsh criticism about some song that we love, or reading unstinting praise for some song that we actually despise. I figured Out of the Cradle would be a happy medium.

Of course, I was secretly optimistic, since I couldn't think honestly of a song of Lindsey's that I didn't like, including his awesome offerings on The Dance, and Goodbye Angel, one of his contributions to The Chain box set.

So it arrived from BMG, and after a week of playing the damn thing, over and over and over, I don't mind saying that it is not only one of the best albums I have ever heard--EVER; to my ears, it's a freakin' AMAZING album--but one of the most gut-wrenching collections of songs I've heard. Probably THE most wrenching. For dramatic content and a window into someone's soul, this album is extraordinary; the songs on have so much depth and beauty and meaning that I find them much more emotionally powerful than just about anything that comes to mind. Even Rumours.

There are two reasons for that, I think: The first is the obvious, common-sense idea that Lindsey had about 15 years between the two albums to hone his songwriting, musicianship and studio abilities. If anybody in the world uses time to improve himself, it's Lindsey.

The second reason is primarily why this album makes my eyes water every time I listen to it, and is what gives this album its extra measure of incredible power. It is also what makes Out of the Cradle profoundly different from Rumours: Whereas a damaged (or healthy) relationship between two people can make compelling music (Rumours) or even video-opera (The Dance), there is emotional relief when the two separate. They might never be friends again, but likely they'll move on to other people, and they may never have to see each other again.

The troubled relationship evinced in Out of the Cradle is the MUCH more insidious, MUCH less hopeful kind that is so painful to watch and to listen to, and it is the one kind of relationship we ALL have throughout our lives: Our relationship with ourselves.

If there was ever an opus written on the theme that fame and money cannot buy happiness, this is it. I don't expect anybody to shed tears for Lindsey The Famous Guy, the one who rakes in millions from his records and tours and lives in a gorgeous house nestled in the hills of the oh-so-exclusive Bel-Air, the one whose bad-boy temperament gets him into trouble from time to time, the one who dates the models and has women jumping in the aisles to get his attention.

Sure, we'd all like a piece of that lifestyle in one form or another.

But Lindsey the human being is the tortured soul who comes across loud and clear in this album, and his voice and music tell me THIS is the genuine article. I think it sheds much light on why, even after all these years and all the bitterness and all his bad behavior toward her, Stevie still obviously loves him so much, and takes every opportunity to publicly embrace him, whether verbally ("Lindsey and I have to be in a band together for 100 years") or physically (on stage, during interviews, even in one of the Dance photos that's in the same motif as the cover). I think she sees that sadness and feels protective of him, regardless of what they might sometimes say about one another in public.

Undoubtedly, this puppy-dog quality enhances his attractiveness to women (I know, ladies: the eyes and the smile don't hurt, either...), but I think it merely reflects an agonized spirit--an agony deepened by failed relationships, creative frustrations, death of family members. I'm not a psychologist (as I've said a hundred times, usually right before I make some psychological assessment of somebody), but he does seem like a deeply introspective person--perhaps one prone to depression. I wrote a few months ago about his crazy side ("The Legend and Lunacy of Lindsey Buckingham," or something like that). I mentioned that I've observed that the kind of mind that gives rise to the most creative impulses--i.e., the mind that belongs to the most creative persons--is also one that gives rise to instability or depression, and I think a lot of people agreed. He's not a candidate for an institution, but you cannot listen to this album and then tell me he's not tortured. I can see why Rolling Stone referred to him as "Rock's Angriest Dog," because he is angry. And he's a lot of other things, too, but "Rock's Most Frustrated Dog" or "Rock's Saddest Dog" just don't cut it. Even the uplifting songs have a melancholic edge. If the guy was Mr. Bubbly Optimistic, the songs would reflect the empty qualities of most of the other debris polluting the airwaves.

This dimension, of course, is one of the things that puts this album on a different level. There's a lot of great music out there, but a song like, say (warning: Baby Boomer unable to acknowledge anything contemporary straight ahead) Back in the U.S.S.R. is a great song...about NOTHING. Out of the Cradle is several chapters ripped right from this guy's heart.

I won't even bother going into the fact that Lindsey wrote the songs and played almost every instrument; when I listen to some of the new (barf) songs on the radio by artists I won't bother to mention, and I know that they pretty much show up, sing songs that have been written for them, will be produced for them, etc., and then get 100 times the acclaim of Lindsey, and have people fawning all over their artistic brilliance, all I can do is shake my head, go home, and listen to this guy. He's the real deal in every way. What a talent. Bring on the next album.

I won't write about every song in the detail with which I'd like, since I don't have the time, but some highlights that stand out in my mind right now beg to be mentioned. First and foremost, I think Lindsey's singing, playing and arrangements on this album are phenomenal. I think the instrumentals on the album are fantastic; his guitar intro solos aren't just well played, they're interesting pieces. They sound like Lindsey is singing some hyper-fast song, but instead of using his lips, he's using his fingers. It's also worth noting that this album employs an impressive number of different musical influences and vocal stylings; each song wonderfully sets up the next. Great, great stuff.

After that first swirling, frenzied intro in which he keeps fooling you into thinking he's lost control, he breaks into the lush vocal of Don't Look Down with the magical first line "Diamonds in the sunset, now your time has come"; as soon as I heard the way he delivered that line, I knew the album was going to be special, because just that first line shows you how much care he put into the album. This song's primal scream ("Don't look down!" "Do NOT look down!"), followed immediately by the gentle backing vocals, is a brilliant touch. And the lyric "take the diamonds from the sun" is just beautiful; the imagery and arrangement in this song SOAR.

Then we're treated to the funky intro of Wrong, in which Lindsey acts as acid-tongued narrator and taunting chorus-oppressor. The dialogues are terrific; I find myself taking his side instantly, because the way he lacerates his targets with his oh-so-sarcastic annunciations ("Puttin' on the hits," "Another piece of glitz").

Countdown must have one of the catchiest intros I've ever heard. My kids' heads start bobbing involuntarily every time it comes on; it just gets your body going. Lindsey's vocal epitomizes cool in this song; that little laughing stutter as he says "OH I been waiting on the countdown" and his jolting "THINGS about to turn around"--great touches. Sadly, the lyrics are hopeful, yet this album didn't catch fire. A truly phenomenal song that I play over and over.

All My Sorrows, his GORGEOUS take on an old song, takes a page from the Beach Boys songbook. The harmony is a masterpiece, and the shift when he sings "But it's too late" is a masterstroke. It gives me chills. This song also marks a melancholic shift in the record that lasts, as far as I'm concerned, until the end.

Soul Drifter. There are not enough words to describe this song. It is one of the most perfect songs I've ever heard: arresting melody, gripping lyrics, and one of the most beautifully written and performed musical breaks on record; that lush guitar work is INTOXICATING.

It's sad enough the way he sings "My heart was broken"--even the way he sings "You see." By the time he sings "That's me" for the first time--just before the break--if you're not moved, if you don't feel the pain, the sad, alienated defiance of what "That's me" implies, you ain't been listenin'. This tale of alienation is so well-crafted, so convincing and so utterly heartbreaking that I frankly find it difficult to keep my composure during that UNBELIEVABLE last part of the song, right after he sadly points to himself and says "That's me" for the last time.

Again, I must state that what makes him and his music so appealing is that he's writing from this honest core that is his essence; he's no phony, as he's proven time and again with his musical direction and his comments throughout the years. This album has shifted my feelings about Lindsey slightly, because he's connected with me on a much deeper level. When an artist makes this kind of connection with his audience, he (or she) is truly exceptional. Just as Bleed to Love Her struck a weird chord in my heart, so does this entire album.

The guy is a musical genius. I say that with unfettered delight and confidence. He is BRILLIANT. If you didn't think so before, listen to this album--many times. Don't let the first listen influence you. It's like Tusk: You cannot judge based on the first listen. Out of the Cradle succeeds on too many levels for anyone to judge it based on the first go 'round.

His next blazing instrumental intro (some critic called these parts of the album "self-indulgent"; what the hell does that mean? The whole thing HAS to be self-indulgent; who's he doing it for?) sets the stage for This is the Time, with its wicked guitar work, cool variations in the way he delivers the lyrics, and many hints at the integrity that he feels is missing everywhere around him--again, alienation.

You Do or You Don't--an amazing song that echoes the feelings of being different than the crowd. I always get a kick out of the "Somebody's got to see this through" part, because after hearing Bleed to Love Her, it sounds on YDOYD like he was practicing--almost like it's thrown in, and he didn't know quite how to deliver it most effectively. He certainly got it right on Bleed.

Is there any song sadder than Street of Dreams? I can think of none more beautiful, and none that are more haunting. Lindsey does more with a single note in the intro than most people do with a whole song, punctuating every pause with the perfect thick note.

This song speaks to exactly what I was talking about in my concert review, when I got to the end and got a bit schmaltzy (for some): the loss of a parent (in this case his father/my father) and the way you're instantly transformed into a child again. He sounds like such a sad little boy, hiding in a corner, when he meekly, sadly, quietly says "Fear is showin'." The way he enunciates "on" as in "On this lonely street of dreams" drives home his point that he IS a little boy. Then he talks about his "daddy's stone"--not his father's, or Dad's, but "MY daddy's." Soooo sad. And when he begins shouting, his annunciation becomes less clear; I think he just let himself go, and became the boy when he sang it. How can you not cry when the daddy's voice softly responds "Never never"? Then the CRUSHING blow comes in the next line, when he utters the wrenching, revealing, delicate "I was praying/you'd be staying." The image of him as an abandoned person is brutal.

That final mandolin or guitar or whatever he's playing punctuates the song perfectly. It brings together every element of the song, including the falling rain, together in one magnificent orchestra. What a genius.

Time to pause, again, and tip my hat. How many people ever come up with a concept and pull it off like Lindsey has on this album? The whole "Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking" theme is carried through with unparalleled brilliance.

If I sound like I'm heaving, I am. I don't see how an album can get better than this.

After his spoken intro, which he somehow manages to pull off, he breaks into that amazing opening to Surrender the Rain, another song that would ABSOLUTELY be the highlight of most careers. And the ending: "The rain, the rain..." Beautiful. Gorgeous.

Doing What I Can continues his efforts to kick himself in the ass, pick himself up from the mat, and continue on. It leads to Turn It On, another song that would be simply great if you didn't know the story; once you do, it adds that extra dimension, and goes back to the point I cannot stop repeating: These songs come from his heart and soul, and that puts them head and shoulders above songs that exist just for their own sake. These songs exist because Lindsey has many complex thoughts and feelings and an UNBELIEVABLE drive to put them all together in the most stunning, delicate tapestry--his wonderfully, methodically constructed music.

This Nearly Was Mine is too brief, but the title says enough. It leads into Say We'll Meet Again, which is reminiscent of Theme From a Summer Place and continues the feel of Surrender the Rain. The lyrics sound hopeful on the surface, but, again, the music and his voice are not hopeful. It's a parting, but as far as I'm concerned, it's sad and permanent. Lindsey's vocal in this song is so lush and beautiful; I love it when he hits those low notes talking about "weather" and that nothing lasts "forever."

You really want to put your arm on the guy's shoulder and tell him it's okay.

I'll stop here. I haven't really examined the music with the depth that it deserves, but I've gotten it off my chest. Finally.

I said earlier that I don't see how an album can get any better. That's not entirely accurate, because (and here's where I really sound like a fruitcake, but I mean every word) I consider this less an album than a work of art. From the concept (which he delivers FLAWLESSLY and with which so many of us can identify) to the music (EVERY SONG EVERY SONG EVERY SONG IS AT LEAST GREAT; MOST ARE FANTASTIC) to the lyrics (they absolutely kill me; I feel 'em in MY heart and soul; beautiful, telling, honest) to the singing (delivered with such a delicate touch, confirming the honesty and emotion behind the lyrics, adding the different voices when necessary, showing an INCREDIBLE range with a voice that's technically not up there with the greats, but showing that it doesn't matter as long as the singer knows what he's doing) to the playing (he does everything; do you think he cares about his product?) to the writing and producing to even the pictures on the jacket.

I fully realize that this all sounds more like fawning, but the truth is that people--when they're excited by art, whether it's a painting or a drawing or a movie--can get worked up into a frenzy when the artist has connected on every level with his audience.

Lindsey Buckingham has done that with me. I was pretty much there before, but this album put me over the top. Music is heard; good music is listened to; great music is felt; and then there's this album, which permanently invades the soul and becomes a part of you.

There's a lot of ugliness and unpleasantness in the world, which perhaps explains why art and music have existed since the beginning of humankind: people have always needed an escape, a place to express themselves, or to admire and enjoy something created by someone else that expresses a feeling or state of mind for them. It can cause emotions to creep and swell as you feel the seeming contradictions of release and connectedness.

Great art gives your mind a place to wander, to play, to feel nothing but pure joy or sadness or wherever your mind wants to go.

Thank you, Lindsey.

Date: 1998-02-12         Number of views: 2070

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