Lindsey Buckingham, you will recall, joined Fleetwood Mac with his then professional and personal partner, Stevie Nicks, in 1975. Their first collaborative album made the band one of the biggest in the world. Buckingham kept pushing, and with a little help from some nice songs from Nicks and Christine McVie and a riot of romantic conflicts within the group created the band's weird, obsessive, and unapologetically rocking masterpieces, Rumours and Tusk. But their moment waned, the personal problems took over, and it took Buckingham nearly a decade to extricate himself from the Mac morass. His third solo album, Out of the Cradle, is merely the latest insular studio project in which he continues to display himself as a master of studio- and popcraft on a par with Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson. Yet the record, which brings him back with coproducer and pal Richard Dashut, fails to connect. He seems to suffer from an affliction shared by others who exhibit innate pop instincts on this scale (McCartney comes to mind), namely a tendency to fall back to an overly soft, VH-1-ish sound that draws lines between the artist and rock 'n' roll and even pop. There are pop songs on the record to be sure, "Countdown" and "You Do or You Don't" primary among them. But these delectable moments can't stop the music on the album from making a mockery of its title: the name comes from a Whitman quote that continues, " . . . endlessly rocking." It's doubly strange when you consider that Buckingham is a fabulous live performer, currently fronting an enormous and powerful ten-piece band. The cataclysmic "I'm So Afraid" is fairly close to the Mac live staple, but I've never seen the incendiary "Go Your Own Way" played like this, and when they play "Tusk" you don't even miss the USC marching band. Buckingham stands revealed as a singer-guitarist-songwriter-producer-arranger-bandleader of the first order. When's the last time you saw one of those in a place the size of Park West? Susan James opens. thursday, 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 929-5959.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ron Slenzok.