#2: Lindsey Buckingham – Law and Order (1981)

law and order

After the relative commercial failure of Tusk in 1979, and the large world tour that followed, Lindsey Buckingham recorded the stop-gap solo outing Law and Order which saw the Fleetwood Mac guitarist taking his first tentative steps towards finding his solo voice since the pre-fame failed-duo days with his then-girlfriend Stevie Nicks. Law and Order with its rough sketches, abstract noodling and studio trickery, clearly fits in this same category as the Buckingham-directed Tusk, although the lo-fi/new-wave charms here are far greater.

The Buckingham/Fleetwood Mac tale is well documented. Mick Fleetwood, upon hearing the Buckingham Nicks (1973) album at Sound City recording studios in LA, recruited the duo. Essentially stepping in after the departure of guitarist Bob Welch, Buckingham would become the next Fleetwood Mac guitarist in a long line for the band which included greats such as Peter Green (1968-1970) and Danny Kirwan (1970-1973); recording great British blues albums such as Then Play On (1969) and Bare Trees (1973), to name but two. The band would reinvent themselves and release the now canonical Fleetwood Mac (1975) and Rumours (1977), increasingly under the musical leadership of Buckingham – the latter being among the highest selling albums of all time.

These albums received their fair dues from the critical community, and they deserved every elaborate word that’s was dedicated to their brilliance and resultant record sales (Tusk, perhaps less-so). Law and Order on the other hand has been either entirely ignored or totally ripped apart, perhaps without giving much attention to the context of the album, or its minor importance in relation to what Fleetwood Mac did immediately afterwards: Mirage (1982) and Tango in the Night (1987), leading up to Buckingham’s departure, and grubby replacement(s).

Something of an extension of Tusk, Law and Order finds Buckingham wandering, admittedly aimlessly, through some very strange terrain, all the while embalmed in the beautiful Californian gloss production techniques of the time. Apart from the drums of Mick Fleetwood on ‘Trouble’, and some distinctly Macc-ian airy backing vox by Christine McVie on breathy ‘Shadows of the West’, the album was recorded entirely as a one-man band – only co-production duties handled by Richard Dashut (Rumours, Tusk). The guitarist’s effortless talents are on display in every homemade, eccentric arrangement.

Take album opener ‘Bwana’, a tale of bandmate Mick Fleetwood’s trip to Ghana to record with drummers; it’s a homage to all things Beach Boys and is essentially pop music at its most hooky – electronic kazoo solo and all. That is until, hit single, ‘Trouble’ follows. Quite rightly reaching #9 on the US charts, here Buckingham and his many voices remind us he’s a pro, and capable of tossing off an effortless paperback classic worth the price of admission alone. His plucky Spanish-fused acoustic guitar solo tickles the pop pleasure centres mid-track. His choices of covers are eclectic: the slightly disturbing obscure 50s pastiche ‘It Was I’, Kurt Weil’s ‘September Song’ and the country strum of the old-timey ‘Satisfied Mind’, are all smiley vocal chorales and intricate harmonizing. Elsewhere he shines on guitar as expected, delivering fuzzed-out blues licks on ‘Mary Lee Jones’, wicked slapstick on ‘That’s How We Do It in LA’, and acoustic picking on the sweet accessible innocence of ‘I’ll Tell You Now’, which finds Lindsey, oddly enough, sobbing melodramatically in the outro. On the downside ‘Johnny Stew’ sounds less than half written despite a strong head riff, and ‘Love From Here, Love From There’ outstays its welcome right away.

The possibilities were endless when Lindsey Buckingham recorded Law and Order in 1981. It could have proceeded in literally any direction, and it did. He unsurprisingly produced his most scattershot work. This is an album where his quirky tendencies and eclectic interests are not suppressed in a band format; for better or for worse, he lets everything hang out, finished or not, and once you get past the affectations of it all, it is a melodically bracing, if slight, listening experience.

  1. Bwana   ∗∗∗∗
  2. Trouble   ∗∗∗∗∗
  3. Mary Lee Jones   ∗∗∗∗
  4. I’ll Tell You Now   ∗∗∗
  5. It Was I   ∗∗∗
  6. September Song   ∗∗∗
  7. Shadow of the West   ∗∗∗
  8. That’s How We Do It in L.A   ∗∗∗∗
  9. Johnny Stew   ∗∗
  10. Love from Here, Love from There   ∗
  11. A Satisfied Mind   ∗∗∗∗
This entry was posted in The 25 Greatest "Worst" Albums of All Time. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to #2: Lindsey Buckingham – Law and Order (1981)

  1. Pingback: #4: Fleetwood Mac – Tusk (1979) | Pierce's Press

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