Fleetwood Mac – Tusk – Warner Brothers (1979)/ Reprise Records (2012) 531909- 180-gram audiophile stereo double-vinyl, 74:35 ****1/2:
(Lindsey Buckingham – guitar, bass guitar, piano, harmonica, drums, vocals; Stevie Nicks – keyboards, vocals; Christine McVie – piano, keyboards, accordion, vocals; John McVie – bass guitar; Mick Fleetwood – drums, percussion; featuring Peter Green – guitar; USC Trojan Marching Band)
In 1977, Fleetwood Mac released Rumours, one of the biggest-selling albums of all time (over 20 million copies). Any follow-up would come under massive scrutiny. Ten years earlier, the band was started by three members of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers: Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. Playing blues-based rock, the band seemed destined to be a credible British sixties phenomenon. But the addition of keyboardist/singer Christine McVie and later the duo of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks transformed the band into a pop/rock juggernaut.
In 1979, Fleetwood Mac recorded Tusk. At a cost exceeding 1 million dollars, and taking up two years in studio time, this double album was a significant departure. Under the artistic direction of Buckingham, the twenty-song project mixes a variety of musical styles in a fragmented technical whirlwind. Surrounding the concise songwriting of McVie and Nicks is the spontaneity of Buckingham. However, the anchor to this music is the inimitable rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. It is hard to think of another bass/drum partnership that is so fluent and cohesive. Side 1 opens with a subtle atmospheric number (“Over And Over”) that showcases McVie’s soulful alto, and the blended backup vocals. The next song is more experimental with Buckingham adding some New Wave guitar jaggedness. The juxtaposition continues with a buoyant love song (with impeccable harmonies) arranged in a joyful, British folk romp (“Save Me A Place”). The side concludes with Nicks’ ruminative “Sara”. Her deep-throated singing is compelling and the ethereal backup singing on the bridge is exquisite.
Side 2 kicks off with a Buckingham rocker (“What Makes You Think You’re The One”) that features “punk” vocals and some interesting tempo shifts. The stylistic ambiance of the album drew comparisons to The Beatles White Album. Buckingham’s dexterity with flowing guitar technique and inventive chords livens up “That’s All For Everyone”. Nicks’ balladry is rendered with delicacy on “Storms”. Side 3 is vibrant, and demonstrates the versatility and studio eloquence of Fleetwood Mac. Starting with a full-throttle rocker (“Angel”), Nicks establishes her credentials as a front singer. “That’s Enough For Me” is frenetic and translates like a speeded up “Second Hand News”. Christine McVie is known for tender, emotional love songs. “Brown Eyes” captures this sentiment with a mellow electric piano groove. For trivia buffs, Peter Green contributed an uncredited guitar line. After another slower piece, Buckingham jolts the listener with a ferociously loud guitar lead on “I Know I’m Not Wrong”.
The fourth side is notable for the dynamic title cut. Quirky and primal, the band combined African drum cadences, the USC Trojan Marching Band and chanting to weave a dizzying tonal aesthetic. McVie’s bass is muscular and propels the tempo. “Tusk” was released as a single, reflecting the unconventional approach of the group. As a final mid-tempo pop number ends in a swelling chorus, the nearly seventy-five minute album feels exhilarating, if not a bit disjointed.
Although more sparse than previous albums, Tusk is rich and multi-textured. This re-mastered 180-gram vinyl is superb. Guitars tracks are stacked one on top of the other, enhancing the overall sound. Vocals are intermingled with agility and devoid of unnecessary gimmickry. Sequencing facilitates the prominence of the cuts. Not all of the songs are memorable, but the ambitious vision validates an excellent Fleetwood Mac album.
Side 1: Over And Over; The Ledge; Think About Me; Save Me A Place; Sara
Side 2: What Makes You Think You’re The One; Storms; That’s All For Everyone; Not That Funny; Sisters Of The Moon
Side 3: Angel; That’s Enough For Me; Brown Eyes; Never Make Me Cry; I Know I’m Not Wrong
Side 4: Honey Hi; Beautiful Child; Walk A Thin Line; Tusk; Never Forget