LOS ANGELES, CA: In 1973 Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks released their first solo album, Buckingham Nicks. Produced by Keith Olson and released on Polydor Records, it soon died a lonely death without much airplay or notice by the record label promotion department.
Then in late 1974, Olson was showing Mick Fleetwood the recording room at the now-famous Sound City Studios, where the album was recorded. Demonstrating the speakers in the control room, he put on “Frozen Love”, the last track on Buckingham Nicks.
The rest is Fleetwood Mac history.
(Listen to the album while you read)
A new era for Fleetwood Mac because of this album
Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were asked to join Fleetwood Mac on New Year’s Eve, Dec 31st, 1974. Keith Olson would go on to produce the earth-shattering Fleetwood Mac album that would sell tens of millions of copies and produce a series of hits.
Fleetwood Mac would go on to become one of the biggest touring bands of the ’70s.
But the Buckingham Nicks album was soon out of print at Polydor and has been out of circulation for decades. I remember playing it on my College Radio station, WCWM, in 1978 and 79. I have a well-played vinyl copy at home in my old vinyl record collection. It was never issued on CD.
The modern miracle of YouTube
Thanks to the miracle of YouTube and the Internet, however, the bounty of music from the past that has laid dormant is easy to access.
Buckingham Nicks is a brilliant album giving a raw glimpse at Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks at the peak of their talents. Stevie’s voice is phenomenal. Like a young female Robert Plant. No note is beyond her reach. The Joplinesque earthiness is palpable.
One song from the Buckingham Nicks album, Crystal, reemerged on the first Fleetwood Mac album. The full album should be re-released with the usual bells and whistles, but that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. That is why the digital age is so bountiful in its gifts. All hail YouTube.
Long-time stalwart LA guitarist Waddy Wachtel also plays throughout the album, beginning a long association with Stevie Nicks. The great Jim Keltner plays drums on all the tracks.
Side One: Crying in the Night
Buckingham Nicks starts with “Crying in the Night”, a saucy Stevie Nicks number. The vocals are unmistakable. The harmonies are mesmerizing. This is followed by a lilting Lyndsey acoustic piece “Stephanie”, and a soulful mid-tempo Lindsey song, “Without a Leg to Stand On”.
Then the original version of “Crystal” comes on. One of my favorite tracks on their debut Fleetwood Mac album, it is always great to hear an earlier incarnation. Which is virtually identical to the track that appeared on Fleetwood Mac. A great vocal by Lindsey with brilliant harmonies from Stevie Nicks.
Side one of the vinyl ends with a Stevie Nicks classic, “Long Distance Winner”. All the elements of their future tenure with Fleetwood Mac are here. Buckingham Nicks is very much like the lost Fleetwood Mac album from this defining era of Fleetwood Mac, and never expressed more so than here and on Frozen Love.
Shades of Fleetwood Mac songs to come
Stevie sings with Lyndsey’s guitar accents behind her lyrics of jealous love, sacrifice, and devotion. Its almost as if the template of the later turmoil that would produce Rumours is here in all its incipient glory. Then the song takes off into one of Lindsey’s best-recorded guitar solos. Fluent lines riding a melody to a climax.
Side two opens with a Lindsey rocker “Don’t you let me down again”, working off a riff reminiscent of a later Mac tune, “Second Hand News”. This slides into another acoustic piece “Django”, a brief meditation of Lyndsey’s that slides effortlessly into a great Stevie Nicks track, “Races are run”.
A slumbering reflection on relationships, its a companion piece to “Long Distance Winner”. The melodies are gorgeous as layer after layer of emotion is laid over a sad refrain. A pedal steel guitar sings somewhere in the background. An ethereal track, with a sweet haunting undertone.
This is followed by a romper stomper of a Lyndsey song, “Lola”, where he works out a mean slide guitar on the chorus, over a dobro introduction reminiscent of “The Chain”. Stevie comes in for sultry background vocals while Lindsey does his best Ry Cooder/Lowell George slide guitar fills.
From “Frozen Love” to Fleetwood Mac
The final track, “Frozen Love, is the song that got them the gig in Fleetwood Mac.
As Mick Fleetwood listened to the guitar solo from the song he immediately asked Keith Olson about the guitarist. Then he listened to the rest of the album. It was one of those genius moments that changed the lives of everyone and sent Fleetwood Mac to insane heights of stardom that lasts to this day.
Stevie and Lindsey trade vocal licks leading to a powerful chorus of the song title. Then in classic 70s’ fashion, a Lyndsey acoustic episode slides into an orchestral interlude and then the blaring guitar solo that inspired and created the modern era of Fleetwood Mac. It must have sounded great on the speakers in the control room. It still sounds good on my tinny laptop listening to YouTube.
Lindsey builds a pastiche of sound against a classic Keltner beat and then rides back into the song with a point-counterpoint vocal harmony sing-off with Stevie. Its a sensational back and forth under a guitar that sings like a violin. “Cry out to life…for frozen love” they sing.
Buckingham Nicks: A hidden gem worth finding
And then the album is over. Buckingham Nicks is like a grand memory of a time and place that once actually existed. Lost through the years, and never commercially resurrected, the internet age gives it new life. There is little more exciting than experiencing an artist in the prime of their career.
Especially great singers, who may have a period where they are more capable than others. This album captures Stevie Nicks the way Led Zeppelin I captures Robert Plant. It seizes the seminal zeitgeist of Lyndsey Buckingham’s guitar playing and songwriting. Most of all, it is just a great album to listen to. A genuine hidden gem, full of great songs.
Its the greatest Fleetwood Mac album you never heard.