It serves as a constant source of amazement in the way a supposedly first-class record company can go through all the trouble and expense of (A) "discovering" a new artist, (B) signing him, her, or them to a contract, (C) depositing the signee in a recording studio, (D) mixing the tapes, (E) pressing and packaging the discs, (F) releasing the finished "product"-and then, in the end, do absolutely nothing to inform the record-buying public of the performer's existence-let alone the existence of his, her (or their) debut album.
It's rather like trying to sell a house without letting anyone know it's up for sale. Within the entertainment industry, record companies seem to be outstandingly adept at this peculiar perversion. In contrast, film producers, for example, often spare no expense in promoting their newest releases-pouring astounding amounts of money and efforts into publicity-TV and radio spots, bus and subway posters, newspaper advertising, etc., etc., etc. Now, this is even true with films created by unknown directors (and featuring unknown actors and actresses). Of course, not every release gets a full page ad in the New York Times-but it's a rare film that passes into oblivion without some form of mass promotion.
Record companies? Well, if you've somehow managed to become an "established" star, there's really no need to worry about promotion. If you're a newcomer, you might miraculously find yourself singled out as the company's newest hope-in which case the hype will either make or break you. The grim reality of it all, however, is that you'll probably be another one of those faceless hopefuls who'll never get beyond that first album. Yes, the company will send out copies of your masterpiece (PROMOTIONAL COPY-NOT FOR SALE), but they'll almost invariably wind up buried (and unheard) beneath the carcasses of all the other PROMOTIONAL COPY-NOT FOR SALE's that other companies send to radio stations (and writers for publications such as this one). That's about it, too--no full-page ads in the rock press, no 30-second commercial spots on Midnight Special, no billboards along Sunset Strip. Unless some magical twist of fate brings a large dose of good fortune, you and your album (as far as the general public is concerned) might just as well not exist. If the market wasn't already cluttered with so many no-talent "artistes", your album might have had a fighting chance-and garnered some of that all-important publicity. Unfortunately, the market is shamefully over-saturated. With all this in mind, we turn (at last) to Buckingham Nicks.
No, of course you've never heard of them. Thanks to their record company, few people have. The fact of the matter is, however, that Buckingham Nicks have created what may well be one of the finest American albums released over the last three or four years.
A bit of an overstatement? Perhaps-to some peoples' ears, anyway. But in an industry which has become appallingly dominated by mindless bopping, Buckingham Nicks are a welcome change of pace. They are two people-Lindsey Buckingham and his lady, Stevi (nee Stephanie) Nicks, who were once members of a now-extinct San Francisco-based band called Fritz. Basically, their sound vaguely stems from the Los Angeles/1966 School of Music (Byrds et al). While they aren't blatantly imitating that style, the melodic and rhythmic structuring, the harmonies, and the overall atmospherics are very reminiscent of that era.
If one word had to be used to describe the album, soaring would be the obvious choice. Lindsey's shimmering guitar work, the stunning vocal harmonies, and the extremely tight and inventive rhythmic patterns exude a feeling of airiness-of flowing and syncopated movement. The songs themselves are often haunting, creating an "alive" yet foreboding atmosphere-like the electric stillness before a really good thunderstorm.
"Crying in the Night" is the obvious choice for that all-important hit single. A gently swaying, yet powerful track, it focuses on Stevi's distinctive, slightly urgent voice-accented by the faint shadow of an electric 12-string buried at the bottom of the mix. "Crystal" is strangely ominous-caught somewhere between a waltz and a funeral dirge, by way of Richard Halligan's starkly effective orchestral arrangement. The feeling is echoed in "Frozen Love"-an epic track featuring some of Stevi and Lindsey's most striking vocal work. "Don't Let Me Down Again" moves off in the opposite direction-with a simple, yet effectively strong melodic and rhythmic line. The vocals paint a vivid Slick/Balin-wailing-at-each-other-from-opposite-ends-of-the-stage panorama-and the whole thing works.
Keith Olsen produced and engineered the album-and it's enough to make one wish that every recording session had someone as good as he manning the board. Most of all, though, it's Lindsey and Stevi (with a bit of help from some session musician friends) who make it work-and they really are worth hearing. With a bit of luck, a few influential radio stations will pick up on them and, maybe then (no thanks to Polydor), people will discover exactly who Buckingham Nicks are. After that, who knows? There might even be a second album.
You never can tell.