Monday, September 15, 2008

Lindsey Buckingham's latest is a 'Gift' indeed

By Mark Brown
Rocky Mountain News
Monday, September 15, 2008

Gift of Screws has taken years and various U-turns to finally make it into stores today. The album became a bit of a legend among Lindsey Buckingham fans when bits of it were played live with Fleetwood Mac in 1997. Bits of it slipped out around 2000, five years after he'd started it.

But the album got derailed twice, first when songs were cannibalized for much of the Fleetwood Mac album Say You Will and again when a few more tracks turned up on Buckingham's solo album Under the Skin.

So, what fans hear now may be far from how this album was conceived all those years ago, but despite coming in dribs and drabs, the finished album is worth the wait.

Out of the Cradle, his third solo album, from 1992, hit the high mark for many Buckingham fans. It kept his quirky nature but mixed in more lush, traditional songwriting in gorgeous tracks like Don't Look Down and You Do or You Don't. His past couple of solo albums have been sparser and more experimental, with Buckingham at times exploring what his fingers could do on the fret board (and how fast they could do it) rather than putting melody first.

That can be fascinating on tracks like the opening Great Day, but the finger-picking style that Buckingham has become partial to over the years can be a bit excessive at times, impressive as it is.

But Gift of Screws comes closer to that Out of the Cradle sound than anything else he's done since. Love Runs Deeper could have found a spot on any Buckingham solo album (and would have sounded great on Say You Will), filled with classic acoustic guitar as well as warm harmonies and sweet, melodic electric leads. Underground could have fit on Rumours or Tusk, a sweet melody with simple voice and guitar.

Gift of Screws gives an explicit idea of where Buckingham's mind is these days. "In my younger days / I was mistaken for a whore / I guess you could say / I lived in chains," Buckingham sings in Bel Air Rain, a slap at the record industry that once championed him but of late has stymied his creativity.

He takes a look at the bigger picture in the title cut, classic off-kilter Buckingham, a rock song pierced with the occasional maniacal laugh and lyrics like "Authority makes us bleed, bleed, bleed ... Authority keeps us down, down, down," and in the equally political closing cut, Treason.

With 10 tight songs and a more focused viewpoint, Gift of Screws ends up being his second-best solo album - very good company to be in.

Lindsey Buckingham
Gift of Screws
Reprise Records
Grade: B

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