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Rolling Stone Review of Out of the Cradle 1992 < Lindsey Buckingham < Main Page

Rolling Stone Review of Out of the Cradle 1992

J.D. Considine

Lindsey Buckingham lives in a wonderful world of sound, an aural playground where guitars shimmer and shriek, voices chirp and flutter and almost anything is possible for those who understand the magic of the recording studio. In this world, any ear-catching sound is its own justification, and every melody lives for the moment, framed within an exquisite arrangement and unconcerned with what might follow.

That Buckingham would subscribe to such an aesthetic should hardly seem surprising. Sure, he made his mark as a pop tunesmith, providing Fleetwood Mac with some of its most effervescent singles, but on his own, his output has tended to put the emphasis less on his melodic instincts than on his mastery of the multitrack. Indeed, both his previous solo albums - "Law and Order" (1981) and "Go Insane" (1984) - offered eloquent testimony to the number of neat sounds he could whip up in the studio, an achievement made all the more astonishing by the fact that he plays nearly all the instruments himself. And while that made for some fascinating snippets, it kept Buckingham's albums from achieving the sort of song-based cohesion that made Fleetwood Mac's output so consistent and enduring.

To that extent, "Out of the Cradle" - his first album in eight years - may be where Buckingham's solo career grows up. On this album, the nifty guitar instrumentals scattered through the album aren't virtuoso dead ends but witty introductions, with one fleet-fingered guitar tune segueing neatly into the main riff of "Don't Look Down," while a melancholy, meditative reading of "This Nearly Was Mine" (from South Pacific) dovetails musically and thematically with the album-closing "Say We'll Meet Again," cleverly transforming the unspoken regret of the former into the romantic hope of the latter. And Buckingham has no trouble extending that sense of flow to the rest of the album, ensuring that the minor-key urgency of "Doing What I Can" seems the perfect progression from the dreamy lilt of "Surrender the Rain."

But it would be a mistake to see Out of the Cradle simply in terms of thematic unity, as if that were just another technical trick Buckingham had decided to show off. The album's real achievement lies in presenting the full range of Buckingham's talents, not just the bits he couldn't apply more profitably to Fleetwood Mac. In other words, it backs his sound sense with the sort of hook-heavy songwriting that gave us "Go Your Own Way" and "Tusk," a combination that makes this album irresistible.

"Don't Look Down" is a perfect example. On a melodic level, the song effortlessly captures the balance between languor and lift found in many Fleetwood Mac singles, flowing easily from the measured cadences of the verse to the manic climax of the chorus. Buckingham doesn't stop there, though; he fills the track with all sorts of ear candy, from Mexicali string-band flourishes to sampled voices that bounce the tune along like pinball bumpers. Yet his arrangements never go overboard; outlandish as they may seem, Buckingham's exotic aural touches invariably enhance the melodies they're attached to, making them hooks in the purest sense of the term.

Purity means a lot to Buckingham, apparently. Read between the lines and "Don't Look Down" could easily describe the goals of his post-Fleetwood Mac career, with its insistence on rising above the ruins of the past ("Do not look down") and pursuing a singular artistic vision ("Follow the sound"), and Buckingham spins variations on the theme throughout the album. Even though the only song explicitly addressing the music business is "Wrong," which chronicles the industry's inability to understand "young Mr. Rockcock" ("Where do you belong?" continues the chorus), it doesn't take much effort to hear Buckingham's determination to go his own way stylistically echoing through the lyrics of "Soul Drifter" and "Countdown."

That's not to say Out of the Cradle is a total divorce from the past; after all, it doesn't take much imagination to hear what the guitar solo at the end of "Countdown" owes to "Go Your Own Way." But it's hardly as if he fashioned this album into a one-man approximation of his old band, since songs like "All My Sorrows" or "Surrender the Rain" draw more from Brian Wilson's Beach Boys days than anything Buckingham did with Fleetwood Mac.

Besides, the important thing isn't where Buckingham's ideas come from but where they lead. And in the case of "Out of the Cradle", it's a path to exquisite listening pleasure.

Date: 1992-07-09         Number of views: 2417

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