News has solidified this week of “Buckingham McVie,” a new album due out June 9 via Warner Bros. The result of sessions that initially were expected to be for a full Fleetwood Mac record, “Buckingham McVie” coalesced around guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and keyboardist Christine McVie after singer Stevie Nicks opted out.
The announcement of a July 19 Buckingham McVie concert date in Seattle, falling between two full Fleetwood Mac appearances at the Classic West and Classic East festivals in mid and late July, begs the question of whether the duo will add other shows this year. Austin City Limits Music Festival, perhaps? (And/or maybe an “Austin City Limits” TV taping?)
Though the new record centers around the two songwriters, the namesake Fleetwood Mac rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie also reportedly contributed. Fleetwood, in Austin earlier this month for a South by Southwest interview session, mentioned that he’d arrived in town in time to catch Nicks’ concert at the Erwin Center on March 12, suggesting members are still on good terms despite Nicks’ absence from the Buckingham McVie record.
Nicks is the most universally recognized act in the Fleetwood Mac lineup, the only one who’s had platinum-selling records outside of the band. But both Buckingham and McVie have made terrific solo albums. Buckingham is endlessly inventive as a musician and producer, and McVie’s innate knack for melodic pop songwriting is even more direct than Nicks’ often more mystical approach. That sounds like a recipe for something special, in ways beyond what the full Fleetwood Mac lineup likely would have done at this stage.
A tangential thought: What other bands might come up with artistically intriguing music if a key member were removed? Here are a few possibilities — a short list that no doubt could be expanded:
• The E Street Band without Bruce Springsteen. It’s a seemingly insane notion on the surface. But there’s so much talent in the lineup that it might be fun to see them all step out for a “group” effort without the bossman. A few Steve Van Zandt songs, a couple of Tom Morello tunes, maybe give Garry Tallent a chance to let his roots-rock bona fides shine. And Patti Scialfa certainly could steal a scene or two.
• R.E.M. without Michael Stipe. Bring back original drummer Bill Berry and put bassist Mike Mills out front. He’s a fine singer in his own right, and Peter Buck’s guitar playing would still hold everything together. Yes, the absence of Stipe’s distinctive vocal stamp would be a gaping hole, but seeing how the others adjust to that is largely what’s fun about imagining such a scenario.
• The Eagles without Glenn Frey. Ironically (if sadly), we’ll get a chance to hear this one soon enough. The band will join Fleetwood Mac as headliners of the Classic West and Classic East festivals. Henley’s solo shows (including the one he played at ACL Live a couple of months ago) long have given some idea of how this might go, but it’s a different game when all the hits on which the late Frey sang lead are in the mix. How will they handle it?