From the goofy, Animal House silliness that weaves in and out of the pop perfection of “Feel About You”, to the way that the opening number, “Sleeping Around the Corner” makes you smile when the band suddenly kicks in after a tortured vocal on the intro, Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie is almost everything that you could possibly want from a Fleetwood Mac album.

Which of course, it really isn’t. For a variety of reasons and speculation that you can find everywhere, Stevie Nicks sat this one out. Thankfully, in an odd parallel to her own beginnings, we get to stand back and discover her bandmates, Buckingham and McVie as a duo.

With Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass, it is inevitable that the album draws as close Tusk, Mirage and Tango as it does. But in a way that could only make sense in the Fleetwood Mac Universe, this is a near-perfect collaboration between two friends who happen to know the bass player and drummer from Fleetwood Mac. On paper this may look like solo albums joined at the hip, but it isn’t.

Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie plays out across 39 minutes with a clarity, a sense of openness, joy and exploration that the Mac’s last two releases 2013 Extended Play and 2003’s Say You Will never really were able to reach.

Freed of the weight and responsibility of the big machine (as Lindsey likes to describe Fleetwood Mac when he is doing his solo work), the album sounds like the people who made this were having fun. And lots of it.

It’s not perfect. As a recording led by two writers that the world loves to hear sing, it could use a bit more of the duo’s harmonies on a few of the tracks. But like the Rolling Stones recent success with Blue and Lonesome, the album is a surprisingly full work by a veteran artist that makes you want to come back.

Each of those two albums reminds you why you loved the bands in the first place. The albums are not only reaffirmation of why Lindsey and Christine or Mick and Keith, started making records so long ago, it is a demonstration of how far they have grown over the years. Each release is proof of just how good they have all become.

Like Blue and Lonesome, Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie entertains the hell out of you, but it challenges you as well. The chorus to “In My World” may be catchy as all get out, but the song features a dream of wistfulness and understanding that the man in his twenties who joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975 would have never thought of.

Red Sun lives in the same neighborhood as “Hold Me” does. But it lacks the shimmer and shine that wrapped the classic from Mirage in radio-perfect sunshine and warm sand dunes. And it is all the better for it. The song, a co-write between Buckingham and McVie, slips along on the strength of what was left out of its production.

Which is one of the unspoken strengths of this release, what was left out of each song. Go back and grab Say You Will. Listen to “Murrow’s Turning Over in His Grave”, “Illuminati” or any number of cuts from that release. Those were some packed, packed songs. The songs on Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie are filled with air, unburdened by excessive production. Each writer seems fueled by the absence of pressures created by operating under the banner of The Big Machine.

Still, while the front line of Fleetwood Mac may occasionally shift focus, but essence of Fleetwood Mac is always in the snap of Mick Fleetwood’s wrist on a snare and John McVie’s quiet ability to lay back and never force a single note. Their incredible consistency anchors the songwriting, despite the varied origins of each tune. Lindsey and Christine share credit on three songs while Buckingham has five as a solo write and McVie has two herself. The album is a cohesive whole that plays through from start to finish as well as their first collaboration back in 1975 ever did.

Oddly enough, the absence of Stevie has unintentionally summoned a ghost that has long walked the hallways of a Fleetwood Mac graveyard. Bob Welch held the center spot between Peter Green/Blues Mac and the arrival of the cast who created The Big Machine.

It may be hearing Christine’s voice without the expectations of Stevie popping in. Or it may be the way that Buckingham and co-producers Mitchell Froom and Mark Needham have left out any kitchen sink they thought of adding to this excursion. There is something inexplicable about this album brings it closer in spirit to what might have followed Heroes Are Hard to Find than it really does Rumours.

“Game of Pretend” is not that away far from the quiet of Bare Trees. The paranoia that opens “Carnival Begin” isn’t that far away from a UFO sighting or being hypnotized. Especially when mixed with a slow build that recalls “I’m So Afraid”.

The sequencing on this album is near perfect. Any other duo (group), would have ended with “On With the Show” by capitalizing on the song’s declaration of independence and maturity with an explosion of Buckingham guitar strangulations on a seven minute fade.
As with so much of this album, in the end, taste and restraint rule. Instead of histrionics at the end of “On With the Show”, there is a hint of the little skipping guitar line that Lindsey plays at the end of “Gypsy” overtop of a fade that leaves you smiling. Hell, the guitar line might even be an in joke, a little tweek. With the mythology of Fleetwood Mac, you never know.

You want the quick version?

Every album ever made by Fleetwood Mac went to a restaurant and started to get drunk while waiting for dinner to be served.
Eventually The Blues Albums huddled in a corner and argued over how John Mayall will be viewed in the history of the world. The Bob Welch-era Albums cornered a Warner Brothers executive and badgered them all night to remaster that era’s albums. And more than anything, to permanently destroy the cover art to Mystery To Me.

While everyone else was talking the albums Tusk and Mirage left together quietly in the same Uber pick-up! Boy were their spouses uncomfortable! The rest of us are just fine with the results.

–Mark Squirek