Lindsey Buckingham is one of the very few pop musicians who give self-indulgence a good name. Buckingham, the singer-guitarist who left Fleetwood Mac five years ago, plays nearly every note on Out of the Cradle, his first solo effort in eight years. But Buckingham hasn’t created a musty or hermetic piece of work. Instead, Cradle glows with the passion of a lonely guy sitting in his room — in this case, a home recording studio — creating art he fervently hopes will connect with real people.
The result is a collection of fragile musings — delicate songs of heartbreak made strong by their supple melodies and Buckingham’s growly-bear voice. The light, dreamy ”Soul Drifter” finds our hero slinking ”out of this town…My heart was broken.” In the aching ”Surrender the Rain,” guitar notes tinkle like raindrops as he tries to put a bad romance out of his mind. ”Don’t Look Down” compares music making to a bird learning to fly. Its message: Just do it; don’t look down, or you’ll plummet.
The tight yet dense tunes on Cradle, coproduced with longtime collaborator Richard Dashut, remind us that Buckingham created Fleetwood Mac’s most adventurous music during the latter, more commercially successful half of that veteran group’s career. In retrospect, his greatest achievement isn’t 1977’s Rumours, but its follow-up, 1979’s Tusk, two records (remember records?) of odd rhythms and sustained eccentricity.
Like Tusk, Out of the Cradle favors melodies that are literally offbeat — skewed tunes like ”Street of Dreams,” a song about immobilizing paranoia set to a gravely beautiful melody. The title of Buckingham’s album is taken from Walt Whitman: ”Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking.” But while Buckingham does his share of rocking out on this collection, it’s easy to believe he really is thinking of a gently rocking cradle — that his goal was to create adult lullabies, without coyness or undue sentimentality. This may be the loveliest — and most haunting — pop album of the year. A