Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums from the Lost and Found (Part 2): Law and Order

by Jeff Fiedler

Albums from the Lost & Found is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Jeff Fiedler reviews and helps us rediscover great pop albums that seem to have been lost to time.

Lindsey Buckingham’s first solo outing, the 1981 album Law and Order (released on Asylum Records), is a different kind of beast altogether from McVie’s accessible self-titled outing. Much like his then-most-recent album with Fleetwood Mac, Tusk, it’s a very strange and self-indulgent disc. [Buckingham even goes so far as to play nearly every last instrument himself, although Christine shows up to sing backup on “Shadow of the West” and Hawkins and Fleetwood provide bass and drums, respectively, on “Trouble.”]

Yet while this isn’t nearly as obviously commercial a disc as McVie’s self-titled effort, there are still enough hooks in these songs to get many of them lodged in your brain for hours or days on end (especially the simplistic-but-effective old-fashioned melody of “Love from Here, Love from There”), and even the weirdest songs on here (like the frantic “That’s How We Do It in L.A.” or the haunting “Johnny Stew”) are strangely addictive. [Even the choice of covers is fairly off-kilter and unpredictable, Buckingham surprisingly offering up covers of the Kurt Weill standard “September Song,” Porter Wagoner’s “A Satisfied Mind” and the oft-forgotten ‘50s song “It Was I” by Skip & Flip.] 

It’s the album’s two opening cuts that are the biggest knockouts, though, beginning with “Bwana,” an insistently pounding slice of typically avant-garde Buckingham pop infused with a hint of world music. (Imagine his National Lampoon’s Vacation soundtrack contribution “Holiday Road” crossed with Paul Simon’s Graceland, and you’ll have a general idea of what to expect.) The album’s foremost masterpiece is the Top Ten hit “Trouble,” which easily outshines anything Buckingham did with Fleetwood Mac in the early half of the ‘80s, the choruses built around what might be the most deliriously catchy lead guitar lick Lindsey’s ever come up with, while the vaguely Flamenco-flavored guitar solo is simply enchanting.

It could be argued that much of the original material here feels less like fully realized songs – if only because the lyrics tend to be rather minimalist, but then, Buckingham always seemed much more interested as a songwriter in music and atmosphere than lyrics, even on Fleetwood Mac classics like “Tusk” and “Big Love” – and more like a series of guitar riffs and soundscapes that were fleshed out by necessity into something a bit more radio-friendly. But the music is so fascinating and hook-loaded both that you don’t even notice at first just how little Buckingham actually has to say, and the minimalist bent actually goes a long way into giving this album its artistic character and making the sonic experiments of the album much more noticeable.

Like McVie’s self-titled outing, the album sold reasonably well, if not spectacularly (peaking at #32), and he’d even appear as musical guest on Saturday Night Live to promote the album. (Strangely, Fleetwood Mac itself has never appeared on the show, though Nicks and, interestingly enough, Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo have made separate appearances as musical guests, the latter with Buckingham in tow as a special guest.) Yet it’s just as compelling as Lindsey’s work with the band during this time, and why “Trouble” in particular has not been resurrected and given as much radio play as the far less obviously commercial “Tusk” receives is a bit of a mystery. Despite long gaps between solo outings, Buckingham has continued to make albums outside of Fleetwood Mac, and they’re all quite good (Out of the Cradle and Under the Skin in particular are worth checking out, while “Go Insane,” the title cut to his 1984 album of the same name, would become his second Top 40 hit as a solo artist, making it to #23 and receiving numerous MTV Music Video Award nominations), but he’s struggled to find anything but an enthusiastic cult audience for his work outside the band and sales of his solo discs remain modest at best.