In the fastest turnaround of Fleetwood Mac singer/guitarist/producer Lindsey Buckingham's career, Gift of Screws comes two years after his previous solo LP, Under the Skin. For the first couple of tracks, we want to stamp it "return to sender." "Great Day" boasts guitar ripples we first heard on his disembowelment of "Big Love" from Fleetwood Mac's live set The Dance, coupled with lyrics best described as verbal tags rather than coherent statements. A couple of songs exist as mere instrumentals: "Bel Air Rain" is Ottmar Liebert on Vivarin. "Did You Miss Me" comes closest to unearthing the romantic wanderlust that's been Buckingham's trademark since 1975's "Monday Morning," but as indelible as the chorus melody is, he could be directing his plaint to a mirror — or, heartbreakingly, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie, whose harmonies would've reminded him (and us) of what he's missing. The feisty title track, replete with look-at-me-now axemanship and oddball vocal effects, feels anchored to a recognizable eccentricity; it's no surprise that Mick Fleetwood and John McVie constitute its rhythm section. Alas, "Trouble" and National Lampoon's Vacation one-off "Holiday Road" excepted, not a single track in Buckingham's solo period rivals Mac's "Go Your Own Way" for precision; he's a human being with conflicts, lusts and such only when he's allowed to express them around and to other people. Here, "Underground" acknowledges the dilemma: "Say what you mean, but please don't mean a thing" is not just a curt description of the Buckingham Problem, but a beautifully sung line from an artist capable of transcending limitations, yet content to bask in lapidary gestures. When Buckingham goes his own way, he wants it both ways — and goes nowhere at all.
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