Lindsey Buckingham (Reprise)
Verdict: Catchy Californian pop
Verdict: Dazzling start
Verdict: Futuristic electronics
The road to Lindsey Buckingham's first solo album in ten years has been bumpy. The former Fleetwood Mac singer and guitarist planned to deliver the record three years ago, but it was put on hold as he underwent heart surgery. Its release was further delayed by the pandemic.
In June, the musician and his wife, Kristen Messner, separated after 21 years of marriage, and there's also been another almighty row with his erstwhile bandmates: in 2018, he was ousted from Fleetwood Mac on the eve of the group's 50th anniversary tour, and the ramifications of that split rumble on.
Rather than feeling sorry for himself, though, Lindsey sounds remarkably upbeat. There's some rueful reflection, but his infectious melodies are hard to resist, and there's even a touch of the arty invention that was a feature of Fleetwood Mac's 1979 album Tusk. Of the ten tracks here, only two are ballads.
Buckingham, 71, made the album at home in Los Angeles, playing most of the instruments himself and providing his own backing vocals.
The road to Lindsey Buckingham's first solo album in 10 years has been a bumpy one but it finds the 71-year-old rocker sounding remarkably upbeat
As the songwriter behind hits such as Go Your Own Way and Big Love, it's no surprise to find echoes of Fleetwood Mac's golden era on Buckingham's new record
He was the songwriter behind hits such as Go Your Own Way and Big Love, so it's no surprise to find echoes of his old band's golden era. Indeed, there are moments when it's impossible not to wonder (longingly) what his former girlfriend Stevie Nicks or keyboardist Christine McVie might have brought to these songs in terms of additional harmonies.
His legacy is most pronounced on the galloping rockers that open the album. Scream is energetic and rockabilly-tinged. I Don't Mind features lyrics about the challenges facing couples in long-term relationships. On The Wrong Side, decorated by free-flowing guitar, is simultaneously about ageing and life on the road.
The pace slows a little on Blind Love — an elegant song in the style of soul singer Sam Cooke — and the album's sole cover, Time.
The latter was a Stateside hit for 1960s folk-pop group the Pozo-Seco Singers, and Buckingham's version, sticking faithfully to the original, is a nod to the American pop music he heard in his youth.
There's more introspection on Santa Rosa, as he lays bare his regret at a failing relationship, but the overriding sentiment is one of banishing bad feelings and staying resilient, a mood summed up by the sing-song lilt of Blue Light.
In line with Fleetwood Mac's reputation as rock's longest-running soap opera, the album's arrival has been overshadowed by group politics.
Lindsey says he was ejected from the group because Stevie Nicks 'wanted to shape the band in her own image'. She has hit back by claiming she didn't demand his firing, while founding member Mick Fleetwood now just wants him back in the fold.
All of which makes this a bittersweet addition to an ongoing saga. Fans of classic Mac albums, such as Rumours and Mirage, will be hoping for another reconciliation. In the meantime, Buckingham's knack of composing perfect pop ear-worms remains undiminished.
When producer Mark Ronson — who has worked with Amy Winehouse, Adele and Lady Gaga — describes a vocalist as 'one of the best I've ever had the luxury of being on the other side of the glass for', it's time to take notice.
That's certainly the case with Yebba, a preacher's daughter from West Memphis in Arkansas. The singer, whose real name is Abbey Smith, isn't a completely fresh face. I tipped her on this page two years ago, and she's guested on songs by Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Mumford & Sons and Drake.
Her debut album, Dawn, has been four years in the making, but its lengthy gestation has simply sharpened her extraordinary talent. With Ronson assembling an outstanding band, including bassist Pino Palladino and Roots drummer Questlove, it's not an easy record to pin down.
When producer Mark Ronson — who has worked with Amy Winehouse, Adele and Lady Gaga — describes a vocalist as 'one of the best I've ever had the luxury of being on the other side of the glass for', it's time to take notice. Pictured: Singer Yebba, whose debut album is produced by Ronson
If Winehouse's roots were in soul and jazz, Yebba's are in gospel and blues. But the 26-year-old (whose stage name is Abbey spelt backwards) is as adept at singing folk music and piano ballads.
The unifying factor is her agile voice. She learned to sing in church and her multi-octave range means she can switch effortlessly from a throaty tone to a Mariah Carey-style soprano. Single syllable words are regularly stretched into longer expressions, but Yebba also knows how to avoid showboating.
Her songs pack an emotional punch, too. Several tracks, including the opening How Many Years, address the death by suicide of her mother in 2016.
October Sky is built around powerful childhood memories: Yebba's mum, Dawn, was a science teacher who brought skyrockets home from school. The album title, while also signifying a fresh start, is a tribute to her.
Elsewhere, Boomerang is a revenge fantasy inspired by a friend's toxic relationship, while Distance is a rare love song, albeit one about an unsuitable suitor.
With Palladino and Questlove adding jazzy touches — and Yebba hitting some impressive high-pitched notes — it rounds off a debut heralding the arrival of a dazzling new voice.
It looks as if albums with a sci-fi bent will be big this autumn, with Coldplay's Music Of The Spheres mentioning the planet Neptune and the Voyager space probe.
But Chris Martin's band have been pipped to the cosmic post by newly-formed duo H3000, whose self-titled debut examines themes of love and loss in a futuristic setting.
Singer Luke Steele (of Australian dance duo Empire Of The Sun) and producer Jarrad Rogers met in Luke's adopted hometown of LA, but their slow-burning, synth-driven sketches as H3000 are a world away from Californian sun and surf
Singer Luke Steele (of Australian dance duo Empire Of The Sun) and producer Jarrad Rogers met in Luke's adopted hometown of LA, but their slow-burning, synth-driven sketches are a world away from Californian sun and surf.
The mood is soulful and euphoric, with enough warmth in Steele's delivery to reiterate that electronic music isn't always cool and detached.
This week's singles
Chaka Khan is set to reclaim her crown as the queen of funk with soulful new single When The Time Comes.
Punctuated by a flute solo and punchy brass, the song — from the film adaptation of West End musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie — sees the Chicago legend, right, replicating the flavour of 1980s hits such as Ain’t Nobody.
Fellow soul star Alicia Keys is also back in the groove. She has teamed up with Swae Lee, a rapper with a tuneful touch, on Lala. The pair’s sultry duet nods to the Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye ballads of the 1970s.
Chaka Khan is set to reclaim her crown as the queen of funk with soulful new single When The Time Comes
Two seasoned rockers are also returning. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder gears up for his new solo album, Earthling, with heartland rock number Long Way, while Billy Idol releases his first new music for seven years in the four-track Roadside EP. The former Generation X singer is still a hard-line rock’n’roller, but there’s an introspective hue to the track Bitter Taste.
And the prolific Sufjan Stevens continues to drip-feed new songs from his forthcoming Hollywood-themed duets album with fellow singer-songwriter Angelo De Augustine: acoustic ballad Cimmerian Shade takes its cue from Silence Of The Lambs; the moodier You Give Death A Bad Name is inspired by the 1968 horror classic Night Of The Living Dead. The album, A Beginner’s Mind, is out next Friday.