Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Buckingham-Nicks

Continuing our series of duets albums, ending next weekend: today we spin one of the most famous rock duet albums, Buckingham Nicks, the 1973 effort with superstars-to-be Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.

Buckingham and Nicks were bandmates in the band Fritz, which formed in 1968 and got to be pretty popular around the San Francisco Bay Area.  By the time the band broke up in 1972 Buckingham and Nicks were romantically involved, and they moved to Los Angeles to make it big in the music bidness.

Suits from Polydor heard the duo performing and they cobbled together Buckingham Nicks with a handful of studio tracks and cleaned up some demos to round it out.  The LP kicks off with Nicks’ “Crying In the Night,” anchored by Lindsey’s acoustic strumming and vocal harmonies.  “Without A Leg To Stand On,” a Buckingham composition, is a soft rocker with more chiming acoustic guitar; you can hear a strong Cat Stevens influence at work here, down to the idiosyncratic rhythmic stutter that Stevens used so well.

“Lola (My Love)” is a country-flavored stomp with some cool fingerpicking from Buckingham but it suppresses Nicks’ background vocals – it’s probably the weakest song on the album and winds up sounding like a Stephen Stills throwaway.  Better are the Nicks songs “Races Are Run” and “Long Distance Winner,” which showcase her awesome voice.  On “Winner,” as on the instrumental “Stephanie,” Buckingham unveils his intricate guitar picking style that would later highlight the music-box-like “Never Going Back Again.”

A few of the songs here, like the loping “Don’t Let Me Down Again” and Nicks’ gorgeous “Crystal,” would show up in the Fleetwood Mac repertoire.  “Don’t Let Me Down Again” would be played in concert by the Mac, and it turned up on the Live LP from 1980.  “Crystal,” which was written by Stevie but sung by Lindsey, would be re-recorded by Fleetwood Mac for the 1975 eponymous breakthrough.  The song would of course be a highlight in concert and wouldn’t be recorded with Nicks herself on lead vocals until 1998, when she cut a version for the movie Practical Magic.

When the album was released in September of ’73 it turned out to be a commercial failure, probably lost in the forest of countless West Coast folk-pop troubadours popular at the time.  The duo moved to Colorado and Buckingham played guitar in the Everly Brothers touring band, which also included Warren Zevon on piano.

Keith Olsen, who produced Buckingham Nicks, played some of it for drummer Mick Fleetwood, who was seeking a replacement for Bob Welch at the time.  Impressed with Lindsey’s guitar skills, Fleetwood made an offer to Buckingham only, but Lindsey insisted that he and Stevie were a package deal.  So Buckingham and Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in 1974 and in this case it would be totally appropriate to say “and the rest is history.”

One note about this album: it’s never been officially released on CD, although a number of labels have expressed interest at one point or another.  It’s hard to find a decent copy burned off the original vinyl, but this came from the great, now defunct, blog The Research Garage by way of the equally great, but still alive, music blog Ngootb Redux.

MP3: “Crystal”

MP3: “Long Distance Winner”

MP3: “Without A Leg To Stand On”

MP3: “Stephanie”

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