Tusk

Fleetwood Mac

Reprise Records, 1979

http://www.fleetwoodmac.com

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/11/2007

Listening to a Fleetwood Mac album is always an adventure, though attempting to review one can often be a nightmare.

You can always bet the band is bound to throw some curveballs in there, and in the case of Tusk it comes in the title track. To say “Tusk” is unlike anything Fleetwood Mac has done or attempted since would be the understatement of the decade. Featuring incredible drumming by FM’s leader, Mick Fleetwood, and additional music provided by the USC Marching Band, “Tusk” is not only an anomaly of sorts for the band, it is also their greatest triumph. If only the rest of the album was as exciting as that one track.

The fact that Tusk is a double album only means one thing -- it requires a lot of patience. However, you can always rest assured that the rewards will be great and unexpected in the end. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Christine McVie gets to open and close this album with two of her songs; this is pretty much Lindsey Buckingham’s baby, although Steive Nicks is the one who saves the day.

Buckingham takes on the lion’s share of material to be found here, though not all of it works. All three of his songs on Side One (for those of you who remember vinyl) fall embarrassingly flat. “The Ledge” is one of several songs on Tusk that makes use of the fuzz bass, but somehow it sounds like a bunch of monkeys playing kazoos (sorry, John McVie). On “What Makes You Think You’re The One,” there’s no rhyme or reason to the madness, from Lindsey’s throat singing to Mick’s random drumbeats. And then “Save Me A Place” adds further insult to injury with dreary backing vocals and monotonous guitar strumming, a downer when compared to Buckingham's other guitar work. nbtc__dv_250

Once those blights are bypassed, it is, thankfully, all uphill for the remainder of the album. Lindsey recovers nicely by toning it down a notch on “That’s All For Everyone” and as much as “Not That Funny” reeks of being a near-outtake, it does feature some interesting sounds and is probably his strongest contribution. Song titles like “That’s Enough For Me” and “I Know I’m Not Wrong” are fairly symbolic to how big Mr. Buckingham’s ego had grown after Rumours’ monumental success. Eventually, being a member/team player of  Fleetwood Mac would prove too limiting to how excessive his creativity and perfectionism would become. Lindsey would stick it out for two more Mac albums before opting out for an ill-advised solo career. After limited critical success on his own, he would be welcomed back into the Fleetwood Mac fold in the 90s.

Part of the reason Lindsey probably felt stymied in Fleetwood Mac is because he had to share the spotlight, divide the songwriting duties, and essentially compete with two incredibly talented women, Christine McVie (the understated musician) and Stevie Nicks (the beguiling songwriter). When you compare Nicks’ material to Buckingham’s, it is truly like day and night -- Stevie Nicks wins each and every time.

Nicks' songs on Tusk are among her very best.  In 1979, she was at the top of her game and truly ready for a solo career.  The track “Angel” really should have been saved for her 1981 debut album, Bella Donna, but alas remains a forgotten gem. Yet from the timeless “Sara" to the melancholy “Storms” to the stunning “Beautiful Child,” Nicks can do no wrong on Tusk -- in fact, she single-handedly saves the day for her bandmates. Though she only has five songs, they each help to breathe some much-needed life into an otherwise manic and tedious experiment. 

Without Nicks, this album would have been a total disaster. Christine McVie would have put people to sleep with her contributions and Buckingham would have been a complete laughingstock. Can’t you just see him dancing around the studio like a coked-out court jester to the song “I Know I’m Not Wrong?” Don’t get me wrong, both Christine and Lindsey have their moments on Tusk to shine, but neither of them could ever touch the magic Stevie was able to achieve with this album, and her entries are what make this one worth visiting.

Rating: B

User Rating: B+


Comments

The sheer willingness of the band to reach beyond the scope of the Fleetwood Mac and Rumours discs and attempt something different still impresses me to this day about this disc. Buckingham in particular was reaching way beyond the band's commercial boundaries here ... and that makes it my favorite Mac album of all time.








© 2007 Michael R. Smith 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.