Sound: When a man and his guitar are the only adornment on a record, you learn a lot very quickly about the talent of that individual. In Lindsay Buckingham's case, the former guitarist for Fleetwood Mac actually creates more texture and layers with his acoustic than some bands do with a full lineup. Under The Skin marks Buckingham's first appearance back on the music scene since 1992 and is generally a huge success in terms of songwriting, accentuating the best that the vocalist/guitarist has to offer.
Under The Skin's first track Not Too Late is one of the highlights of the CD, featuring Buckingham playing an amazing acoustic line with what sounds like his trademark finger-picking technique. The lightening-fast speed that Buckingham executes each line is impressive in itself, but the song is actually melodically just as satisfying. His vocals start off quietly and almost whispered, then suddenly they jump to a passionate cry during the choruses. As first tracks go, they don't get better than Not Too Late.
The majority of the tracks do only feature Buckingham's vocals and guitar work, and surprisingly this bare-bones approach never gets dull. This is due in part to the continuously changing tempos of the songs. A song like Show You How has almost a sing-along feel with it's positive, faster paced rhythm that almost feels like there is a percussion musician backing it up, while the Rolling Stones cover I Am Waiting is beautifully subdued.
For fans of Fleetwood Mac, there are definitely elements of the hit band sprinkled throughout. While Stevie Nicks does not appear on Under The Skin, bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood do help out on Down On Rodeo. Probably the biggest throwback to Fleetwood Mac is the harmonies present, which Buckingham tackles beautifully on his own. While the album may lack some of the energy that may come only with a full band and not every song is as moving as Not Too Late, Buckingham still succeeds at keeping Under The Skin fresh and interesting throughout. // 9
Lyrics: As awe-inspiring as Buckingham's picking ability is, his lyrics truly reach a level that is out of the league of most artists today. It might be his experience as a musician or just from living a full life, but he is able to write lyrics that are both personally touching and consistently descriptive on Under The Skin.
Probably the most up-close and personal view of Buckingham's inner feelings comes in the first track Not Too Late. For a man who lived much of his life somewhat in Stevie Nicks' shadow, this track's lyrics almost feels like he exorcising his demons. Reading the paper saw the review; Said I was a visionary, but nobody knew; Now that's been a problem; Feeling unseen. For anybody who has ever felt upstaged in life, Not Too Late hits on a lot of raw emotions.
In Show You How, you can almost imagine Buckingham's wife consoling him when times are tough. Each verse is laid out with images of discontent, but at the end there is resolve as a female eases the pain. For example, Buckingham sings, When the stage is dead and empty; And the band had all gone home; When the lights go out, what's it all about. Immediately after the troubles are described Buckingham says, She says slow down baby, slow down now; Come round get me, I'll show you how. With photos in the album showing Buckingham's wife and children, it seems apparent that his lyrics also reflect the strength he receives through his family. // 10
Overall Impression: Even if you don't enjoy the sound of Fleetwood Mac, the latest CD from Buckingham conveys the unique talent that Buckingham has as not only a songwriter, but as a musician as well. His guitar skills would be envied by a lot of rock guitarists today and he never allows his songs to be driven by your run-of-the-mill chords. There is a lot more than just strumming going on during Under The Skin, and the album is a testament to Buckingham's creativity.
Under The Skin is on the mellow side of the music spectrum, which may turn off a lot of rock addicts immediately. But the acoustic-driven album is leagues better than a lot of contemporary rockers' acoustic or unplugged recordings these days and is absolutely worthy of a listen. And because it has been 12 years since Buckingham's last solo effort, this latest effort might just earn him a whole new generation of fans. // 9