Following the 1971 breakup of the San Francisco based band Fritz, vocalist/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks (the liner notes spelled it "Stevi") elected to continue their collaboration as a duo. After two years of low-keyed touring, in 1972 the duo was signed by Polydor.
Produced by Keith Olsen, the cleverly-titled "Buckingham-Nicks" featured a first rate collection of early 1970s folk-rock originals. It was folk-rock, but the emphasis was on rock so anyone expecting a set of James Taylor-styled sensitive singer/songwriter navel gazing was likely to be disappointed by the album. Powered by Nicks' ethereal voice (to say nothing of her stunning good looks), and Buckingham's unique, largely acoustic guitar ('Stephanie') the pair brought a surprisingly mature and self-confident set of talents to the table. Among those musical gifts were a knack for crafting material with a distinctive commercial edge; songs such as 'Don't Let Me Down Again', the sweet ballad 'Long Distance Winner' and 'Crystal' were catchy and deserved widespread airplay. Adding to the mix were the pair's impeccable harmonies (something they repeatedly exploited with Fleetwood Mac), and their willingness to take experiment and take an occasional musical chance (check out Buckingham's goofy rocker 'Lola (My Love)').
- If you grew up in the mid-1970s, Fleetwood Mac were a big part of your musical life and from the opening guitar riff, 'Don't Let Me Down Again' sounded like a prototype Fleetwood Mac single. All the ingredients that were to propel Fleetwood Mac to the commercial stratosphere were on display here - a great melody, the pair's intertwined vocals, and that instantly recognizable guitar ... rating: **** stars
- A pretty instrumental meant to showcase Buckingham's acoustic guitar prowess, the only complaint about 'Django' were the ill-fitting backing strings and the short running time. rating: ** stars
- In later years critics would slam Nicks for not having much of a voice. While I can't argue with them, on the mid-tempo ballad 'Races Are Run' she sounded fantastic. Her dark, slightly muddy delivery seldom sounded as sexy as on this dark and haunting number. rating: ***** stars
- To my ears Buckingham's quirkiness has always been simultaneously charming and disconcerting. On this set the characteristic was clearly on the charming side with 'Lola (My Love)' standing as a weird stab at crafting a blues-rocker. The funny thing is that it worked and worked well with the song quickly generating quite a bit of steam. rating: **** stars
- 'Frozen Love' was another prototype 'Fleetwood Mac' ballad that served to underscore how much the pair would influence the latter. The only writing collaboration between the pair, the result was one of their prettiest compositions, again showcasing their wonderful harmonies and Buckingham's instantly recognizable guitar (this one ended with a blazing electric guitar solo). Ironically this was apparently the song that convinced Mick Fleetwood to recruit the pair for Fleetwood Mac. If you believe the story, Fleetwood happened to be in Sound City Studios when the song was being mixed by Keith Olsen. With Danny Kirwan having recently left Fleetwood Mac, the band was looking for a new guitarist and Fleetwood decided Buckingham would be a good fit. He quickly learned that Buckingham wouldn't consider the offer unless Nicks came along. I guess you know the rest of the story ... rating: ***** stars
- Spotlighting Nicks' throaty delivery, 'Crying In the Night' was one of the album's most commercial tracks, which is why Polydor tapped it as the album's second and instantly dead on arrival single. rating: *** stars
- Buckingham's talents as a guitarist have always been overlooked. Yeah, his picking style is weirder than weird, but the man can make those strings sing and anyone who doubts his talents needs only check out the stunning instrumental 'Stephanie'. rating: **** stars
- It's easy to see why a song like 'Without a Leg To Stand On' attracted the ear of Mick Fleetwood. Kicked along by Buckingham's instantly recognizable guitar, the song was a great country-rock vehicle that aptly displayed the pair's wonderful harmony vocals. rating: **** stars
- To my ears 'Crystal' was one of the album's highlight. A stunning ballad, it's still one of the prettiest songs Nicks has ever written (Buckingham handled the lead vocals) and goes a long way to explaining why Fleetwood Mac decided to re-record the track for 1975's "Fleetwood Mac". For what it's worth, the Fleetwood Mac version didn't improve on the original. Anyone who has ever wondered whether Fleetwood Mac influenced Buckingham and Nick, or Buckingham and Nicks influenced Fleetwood Mac need only listen to this one. rating: ***** stars
The album ended with another Fleetwood Mac-ish performance in the form of 'Long Distance Winner'. Nice slice of FM rock which would have sounded good on top-40 radio. rating: ***** stars
Polydor tapped the album for a pair of singles in the form of:
- 1973's 'Don't Let Me Down Again' b/w 'Don't Without a Leg To Stand On' (Polydor catalog number PD-14209)
- 1973's 'Crying In the Night' b/w 'Stephanie' (Polydor catalog number PD-14428)
Unfortunately, without much support from Polydor, the album quickly vanished without a trace. To this day I'm amazed the album wasn't a major hit, though Polydor reissued it in the mid-1970s (the reissue didn't include the original gatefold sleeve). One of my all time favorite releases ...
"Buckingham-Nicks" track listing:
1.) Don't Let Me Down Again (Lindsey Buckingham) - 3:52
2.) Django (instrumental) (Lindsey Buckingham) - 1:02
3.) Races Are Run (Stevi Nicks) - 4:14
4.) Lola (My Love) (Lindsey Buckingham) - 3:44
5.) Frozen Love (Lindsey Buckingham - Stevi Nicks) - 7:15
1.) Crying In the Night (Stevi Nicks) - 2:58
2.) Stephanie (instrumental) (Lindsey Buckingham) - 2:12
3.) Without a Leg To Stand On (Lindsey Buckingham) - 2:09
4.) Crystal (Stevi Nicks) - 3:41
5.) Long Distance Winner (Stevi Nicks) - 4:50
In the wake of the album's commercial failure, Buckingham returned to sessions work, playing with Don Everly's touring band while Nicks took a day job as a waitress. Under Olsen's patronage the pair also began recording material for a planned sophomore album. The setback proved momentary as within a year the two were members of Fleetwood Mac. Funny, but after hearing the album you're left to wonder whether Fleetwood Mac had the bigger impact on these guys, or vice versa ... my money's clearly on Buckingham and Nicks having influenced the former.
A couple of additional comments on the album ... it's one of those rarities in that it's never been officially reissued on CD. The demand is certainly there and every couple of years you'll here talk that it may be reissued. Hasn't happened. Depending on who you listen to, part of the reason for the set being missing in action may have to do with Buckingham and Nicks having reportedly re-acquiring rights to the master tapes.