CD Review of Under the Skin by Lindsey Buckingham

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Under the Skin
starstarstarno starno star Label: Reprise
Released: 2006
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Lindsey Buckingham is the only guitarist who has ever made me wish that I could play guitar. This may not seem like much of a compliment in the grand scheme of things, and it certainly won’t make anyone suddenly go, “Well, that’s all I needed to finally jump on the Lindsey Buckingham bandwagon!” From my perspective, however, it’s one of the greater bits of praise that I can offer; I mean, I’ve been writing music reviews for almost two decades, I’ve got thousands of CDs, tapes, and albums to show for it, and I can’t even begin to count how many concerts I’ve seen…and yet it’s only been Lindsey who’s offered a performance – specifically, the one he gave at the late, great Bayou in Georgetown to support 1992’s Out of the Cradle – that made me want to run out and start taking guitar lessons.

Alas, after Out of the Cradle, Buckingham went silent as a solo artist. There were semi-regular rumblings about a follow-up, but when hatchets were buried in the Fleetwood Mac camp, many of the songs mentioned as having been completed for a Buckingham solo album suddenly became tracks for the Macs. Finally, however, after a 14-year wait, Buckingham has finally gotten around to issuing the belated follow-up to Cradle, and, unfortunately, the most rousing recommendation we can offer is…it’s not bad. Okay, admittedly, the biggest problem is that when you take a really good album and follow it with a really long wait ‘til the next one, the expectations continue to rise while you’re waiting. As a result, any follow-up is going to suffer from comparisons to its predecessor, and Under the Skin is definitely not Out of the Cradle, Pt. 2.

“Not Too Late,” which opens the album, definitely provides a glimpse of Lindsey Buckingham, Guitar Hero, where his playing recalls his solo acoustic performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Big Love” on the band’s live album, The Dance; even without seeing him play, you can imagine that his fingers were but a blur while he was recording this track. It leads into “Show You How,” an upbeat pop-rocker that starts off promisingly, making it seem as though this album might actually be worth the wait; unfortunately, the song feels like it’s stuck in a low gear, with Buckingham hesitant to take it to the next level and actually rock out. The same thing happens with the title cut, and it’s then that we begin to realize what’s going on: we’re looking at an older, wiser, and more introspective Lindsey Buckingham on this album. Unfortunately, this incarnation of Buckingham has produced a record which, for the most part, is so pastoral that it barely registers on one’s consciousness.

Surprisingly, Under the Skin contains two covers – the Rolling Stones’ “I Am Waiting,” and Donovan’s “To Try for the Sun” – but both have been completely Buckingham-ized; the lyrics of the songs clearly spoken to Lindsey, particularly the latter, where he sings, “I dare a man to say I'm too young / For I'm going to try for the sun.” Both are enjoyable highlights, as is “Down on Rodeo,” which – possibly because of the guest appearances from Mick Fleetwood and John McVie – sounds the most like a Fleetwood Mac song; closing song “Juniper” is also nice, reminiscent of the best moments from Out of the Cradle.

Again, it’s not that Under the Skin is a bad album. It’s no doubt a perfect encapsulation of where Lindsey Buckingham is in 2006, and he’s no doubt very happy with it; indeed, further listening may well result in more of its charms revealing themselves…but as it stands now, it’s underwhelming.

~Will Harris