Tusk

Fleetwood Mac

Reprise Records, 1979

http://www.fleetwoodmac.com

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/24/2004

How can a group follow up on one of the biggest selling albums of all time? Simple: Build a million dollar studio, give near/complete control of production to one of your members, and record a double album.

This is indeed what Fleetwood Mac did in 1979. Rumours was the most successful album of 1977. By the time Tusk was released, it had already sold 13 million copies. Even if Fleetwood Mac had come out with another Sgt. Pepper's, the new album could never live up to expectations. It is unfortunate that was the case, as Tusk is a near brilliant album, pushing the boundaries of what "pop" music was in the early 1980's.

Fleetwood Mac has been driven by three major forces within the band since 1975, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie. Buckingham is the "experimente.r. McVie can always be turned to for a good pop song. Nicks lies somewhere in the middle. On Tusk, the balance is decidedly in Buckingham's favor, but the other two are not excluded, not by a long shot.

McVie and Nicks both turn in great performances, but it is Buckingham that I want to talk about. His songs are the most interesting, lyrically and musically. It is also important to note Buckingham was a producer on the album. His vision is fully realized. Buckingham goes with a my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Pet Sounds approach in regard to how his songs sound. There are African rhythms, shoebox guitars, a plethora of unique sounds and solos that make his songs more than just a regular "pop" song.

The best example of such is "Tusk." The vocals are sung more intensely than perhaps any Mac single to date. The aforementioned African Beats are thrown in; the USC Marching band provides a stirring brass performance, all the while with various shouts and comments from the band being blared from your speakers. The result is one of the strangest yet most engaging pop singles of the last three decades.

As I said earlier, Nicks and McVie both perform admirably. Stevie Nicks has always had one of the most unique voices in rock, and that isn't any different on Tusk. Her strong, at times almost husky, vocal deliveries make up for deficiencies in the lyrical material. "Dreams" and "That's Enough For Me" are typical Nicks songs, in the vein of a power ballad. She gets by on feeling, rather than technique. McVie's straight-out pop numbers anchor the album. On Mac's most recent album, Say You Will, McVie chose not to participate. Her presence was sorely missed, as the album became more like Buckingham/Nicks solo material rather than Fleetwood Mac.

Rumours struck a chord with the populace, in part because of the nature of the lyrics -- it's the ultimate break-up album. Tusk does not repeat the same subject material. By this point, the band's old wounds had somewhat healed. Lyrically, just like the style, the album is all over the map. Some are love songs, some venture into more abstract territory. The latter is Buckingham's influence certainly.

However, there is one important factor that takes away from Tusk. It is a double album. The double album is usually indicative of the success of a band, coming at the height of their popularity. However, it is near impossible to pull off a double LP without it containing some filler material. This is true from The White Album to Physical Graffiti. Tusk is guilty of this crime as well. The second half of Tusk, while sounding just as good as earlier songs, just doesn't hold up as well. It runs out of steam, though it gains momentum back with "Tusk and "Never Forget." Tusk could have been a brilliant single album, but it was not meant to be.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+


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© 2004 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise Records, and is used for informational purposes only.