It turns out there’s reason enough why the new album by Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie is not credited to Fleetwood Mac. It very well could have been. Both Mick Fleetwood and John McVie contribute. During Buckingham’s “producing mad scientist” years, around Tusk or thereabouts, it’s hard to believe these two founders didn’t find their drums and bass augmented, shall we say? Shiftier moves have been made than considering this a Mac album.
So why isn’t this a proper Mac release? First, that initially was the intention until Stevie Nicks was caught being Stevie Nicks. The momentum to continue recording as a full-blown reunion may have sputtered, but the momentum of the titular artists did not. That’s a good thing.
Good, but not great, is the best description for the record as a whole. Nothing on the album is going to survive nearly as well or as long as the stuff that emerged from Fleetwood Mac to Mirage, but while this disc is on, it is a reminder of how good (there’s that word again) Lindsey and Christine are together.
The source of the emotional confusion lies in the tribute-like nature of the songs herein. “Red Sun” demonstrates the same feel as found on “Think About Me,” and pointedly namedrops the earlier song to cement the connection. “In My World” brings back the computerized sex moans hook of “Big Love.” “Feel About You” wears the DNA of “Hold Me” on its sleeve, and “Carnival Begin” cops the loping rhythm of “I’m So Afraid.” Weirdly, the record’s primary focus seems to find the performers honoring themselves in backhanded fashion.
Yet I defy anyone to feel anything but joy at hearing McVie sing with such devotion through the piano ballad “Game of Pretend,” carrying lyrics — which, on paper, could read as utterly sappy and cringe-inducing — into a sense of purity that smothers any hint of jadedness. Buckingham’s choirs of intricate madness permeate the collection, and his severely underrated guitar chops often have the space to shine.
The secret weapon, as it has always been, is McVie. Back in those magical days, as that stalwart blues-rock staple was transforming into a textbook study of pop perfection, she had the hardest task of all: being the soft anchor that held down two of rock’s most eccentric personalities. Now, as then, she grounds Lindsey, even as he’s lifting her up. It’s a terrific balance that they have duplicated here.
But this is a duplication, an approximation that, even though it sounds terrific, doesn’t quite get the job done. These two individuals had to top their earlier selves, and maybe that’s an impossible task. Equally impossible would have been for the listener to lower their expectations. Taken for what it is, however, Buckingham McVie neatly strolls you down memory lane without actually trodding the same ground. I wasn’t blown away, but I was not necessarily disappointed. It’s not Fleetwood Mac, but it can be close enough.