Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

Fleetwood Mac - TuskEveryone who releases an album does so because they feel like they’ve packed it with their best material, so naturally they think it’s good. Sometimes the listening (and record-buying) public may not agree – and sometimes the public reaction is more than they expected. That’s the position Fleetwood Mac was in after the release of 1977’s Rumours – the album was a phenomenal success, stayed on the charts forever, and has even gone on to inspire a tribute album not just to the band, but to the songs on Rumours specifically. How does one top that? Ask anyone managing the group or its label, and they’ll fall back on a classic answer: more of the same. More like Rumours, please. Which is exactly what Lindsey Buckingham didn’t want to do.

Granted, Fleetwood Mac is still going to sound like Fleetwood Mac – it’s no exaggeration and also no oversimplification to say that a lot of the success of Rumours was down to some damned good songwriting. Buckingham wanted to punch up how the songs were arranged and produced however, sometimes going for a grand sound and sometimes going for something more simple and raw. While persuading his bandmates to not take the obvious path of repetition, Buckingham had already set about crafting many of his portions of Tusk in his own home studio. While some of the numbers penned by Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie are a little more traditional in terms of the 1970s Fleetwood Mac sound, Buckingham’s songs are offbeat and exciting. And they helped to lay some new foundations for the group’s sound in years to come: the multi-tracked, stereo-panned layers of Mick Fleetwood’s drumming, denser layers of Buckingham’s signature guitar work, and tighter, slicker harmonies then ever before. Tusk is, if nothing else, the dawn of Lindsey Buckingham, the producer.

Not that the songs suffer from the experimentation, mind you. McVie’s “Over And Over” and Stevie Nicks’ “Sara” are highlights of the album (despite the fact that, ever since I first heard it, I’ve always taken points off of “Sara” for one of the tritest lyrics in rock history: “Drowning in the sea of love / where everyone would love to drown”). Stevie Nicks’ slightly country-fried “Storms” is an oft-overlooked favorite of mine, as are Christine McVie’s “Think About Me” and the haunting “Brown Eyes”. Lindsey Buckingham steals the show, however, with such numbers as “Last Call For Everyone”, “The Ledge”, and even “what was he thinking when he did this?” songs like “Tusk” itself, recorded with the USC Trojans Marching Band – it’s an unusual enough song on its own merits, but with all of that brass draped over it, it attains a whole new layer of “what the…?”

Buckingham is just as responsible for some songs that have always struck me as misfires too, though – Tusk wouldn’t have suffered if “Not That Funny” had landed on the proverbial cutting room floor.

3 out of 4I’m not going to try to make any definitive statements as to whether or not Tusk is Fleetwood Mac at their best, but I give the band full marks for struggling mightily to do something more creative than just doing what everyone expected them to do. Rumours II – something that Lindsey Buckingham has always said he didn’t want to do – it ain’t.

Order this CD

  1. Over & Over (4:35)
  2. The Ledge (2:02)
  3. Think About Me (2:44)
  4. Save Me A Place (2:40)
  5. Sara (4:37)
  6. What Makes You Think You’re The One (3:28)
  7. Storms (5:28)
  8. That’s All For Everyone (3:04)
  9. Not That Funny (3:19)
  10. Sisters Of The Moon (4:36)
  11. Angel (4:53)
  12. That’s Enough For Me (1:48)
  13. Brown Eyes (4:27)
  14. Never Make Me Cry (2:14)
  15. I Know I’m Not Wrong (2:59)
  16. Honey Hi (2:43)
  17. Beautiful Child (5:19)
  18. Walk A Thin Line (3:44)
  19. Tusk (3:36)
  20. Never Forget (3:40)

Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 1979
Total running time: 72:27