October 12, 1979 – Fleetwood Mac: Tusk

October 12, 1979 – Fleetwood Mac: Tusk is released.
# Allmusic 5/5 stars
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
# Billboard (see original review below)

Tusk is the 12th album by Fleetwood Mac, released on this date in 1979. It is considered experimental, primarily due to Lindsey Buckingham’s sparser songwriting arrangements and production techniques due to the influence of punk rock and New Wave on his work. Bassist John McVie has commented that the album sounds like “the work of three solo artists” (Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie), whilst Mick Fleetwood later proclaimed that it is his favourite and the best Fleetwood Mac studio album created by the group. Costing over one million dollars to record (a fact widely noted in the 1979 press), it was the most expensive rock album made up to that point.

Tusk peaked at #4 in the US and was certified double platinum for shipping two million copies. It peaked at #1 in the UK and achieved a Platinum award for shipments in excess of 300,000 copies. The album gave the group two US top-ten hit singles, with the Buckingham penned title track (US #8/UK #6), and the Stevie Nicks composition “Sara” (US #7/UK #37). Further releases from the album, “Not That Funny” (UK only single release), “Think About Me” and “Sisters of the Moon” were less successful; however, the latter two appear in their ‘single versions’ on the 2002 compilation The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac. “Sara” was cut to 4½ minutes for both the single and the first CD release of the album, but the unedited version has since been restored on the 1988 Greatest Hits compilation and the 2004 reissue of Tusk as well as Fleetwood Mac’s 2002 release of The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac. Original guitarist Peter Green also took part in the sessions of Tusk, but his playing for the Christine McVie track “Brown Eyes” is not credited on the album.

At a cost of two years and well over a million dollars, Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk represents both the last word in lavish California studio pop and a brave but tentative lurch forward by the one Seventies group that can claim a musical chemistry as mysteriously right — though not as potent — as the Beatles’. In its fits and starts and restless changes of pace, Tusk inevitably recalls the Beatles’ “White Album” (1968), the quirky rock jigsaw puzzle that showed the Fab Four at their artiest and most indecisive.

Like “The White Album,” Tusk is less a collection of finished songs than a mosaic of pop-rock fragments by individual performers. Tusk’s twenty tunes — nine by Lindsey Buckingham, six by Christine McVie, five by Stevie Nicks — constitute a two-record “trip” that covers a lot of ground, from rock & roll basics to a shivery psychedelia reminiscent of the band’s earlier Bare Trees and Future Games to the opulent extremes of folk-rock arcana given the full Hollywood treatment. “The White Album” was also a trip, but one that reflected the furious social banging around at the end of the Sixties. Tusk is much vaguer. Semiprogrammatic and nonliterary, it ushers out the Seventies with a long, melancholy high.

On a song-by-song basis, Tusk’s material lacks the structural concision of the finest cuts on Fleetwood Mac and Rumours. Though there are no compositions with the streamlined homogeneity of “Dreams,” “You Make Loving Fun” or “Go Your Own Way,” there are many fragments as striking as the best moments in any of these numbers.

If Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks were the most memorable voices on Fleetwood Mac and Rumours, Lindsey Buckingham is Tusk’s artistic linchpin. The special thanks to him on the back of the LP indicates that he was more involved with Tusk’s production than any other group member. Buckingham’s audacious addition of a gleeful and allusive slapstick rock & roll style — practically the antithesis of Fleetwood Mac’s Top Forty image — holds this mosaic together, because it provides the crucial changes of pace without which Tusk would sound bland.

The basic style of Tusk’s “produced” cuts is a luxuriant choral folk-rock — as spacious as it is subtle — whose misty swirls are organized around incredibly precise yet delicate rhythm tracks. Instead of using the standard pop embellishments (strings, synthesizers, horns, etc.), the bulk of the sweetening consists of hovering instrumentation and background vocals massively layered to approximate strings. This gorgeous, hushed, ethereal sound was introduced to pop with 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love,” and Fleetwood Mac first used in Rumours’ “You Make Loving Fun.” On Tusk, it’s the band’s signature. Buckingham’s most commercial efforts — the chiming folk ballads, “That’s All for Everyone” and “Walk a Thine Line” — deploy a choir in great dreamy waves. In McVie’s “Brown Eyes,” the blending of voices, guitars and keyboards into a plaintive “sha-la-la” bridge builds a mere scrap of a song into a magnificent castle in the air. “Brown Eyes” sounds as if it were invented for the production, rather than vice versa.

About the only quality that Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie share is a die-hard romanticism. On Tusk, Nicks sounds more than ever like a West Coast Patti Smith. Her singing is noticeably hoarser than on Rumours, though she makes up some of what she’s lost in control with a newfound histrionic urgency: “Angel” is an especially risky flirtation with hard rock. Nicks’ finest compositions here are two lovely ballads, “Beautiful Child” and “Storms.” Her other contributions, “Sara” and “Sisters of the Moon,” weave personal symbolism and offbeat mythology into a near-impenetrable murk. There’s a fine line between the exotic and the bizarre, and this would-be hippie sorceress skirts it perilously.

McVie is as dour and terse as Nicks is excitable and verbose. Her two best songs — “Never Forget,” a folk-style march, and “Never Make Me Cry,” a mournful lullaby — are lovely little gems of pure romantic ambiance. With a pure, dusky alto that’s reminiscent of Sandy Denny, this woeful woman-child who’s in perpetual pursuit of “daddy” evokes a timeless sadness.

Tusk finds Fleetwood Mac slightly tipsy from jet lag and fine wine, teetering about in the late-afternoon sun and making exquisite small talk. Surely, they must all be aware of the evanescence of the golden moment that this album has captured so majestically.
– Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 12/13/79.


Fleetwood Mac’s hotly anticipated followup to Rumours continues in the band’s tradition of making precision soft rock music with an accent on beautiful melodies, fluid harmonies and superb vocal work. Given that this is a two-record set, the band injects a few tracks that deviate from the traditional Fleetwood sound such as in “Tusk,” the album’s initial single. Yet the majority of tracks boast the group’s svelte, gently rocking sound that won’t disappoint. In fact, there are a number of tunes that sound as if they were culled right off the Rumours LP. The band has always been a stickler for quality and the playing of Mick Fleetwood, drums; Lindsey Buckingham, guitar; John McVie, bass; Christine McVie, keyboards; and Stevie Nicks is first-rate all the way. Nicks, Buckingham and Christine McVie penned all 20 songs which cover a broad base of styles. Best cuts: “Storms,” “The Ledge,” “Brown Eyes,” “Never Make Me Cry,” “Walk A Thin Line,” “That’s All For Everyone,” “Sisters Of The Moon,” “Tusk,” “Over & Over.”
– Billboard, 1979.

Side One
“Over & Over” (Christine McVie) – 4:36
“The Ledge” (Lindsey Buckingham) – 2:02
“Think About Me” (C. McVie) – 2:44
“Save Me a Place” (Buckingham) – 2:40
“Sara” (Stevie Nicks) – 6:27 (edited to 4:37 on original CD versions)

Side Two
“What Makes You Think You’re the One” (Buckingham) – 3:32
“Storms” (Nicks) – 5:29
“That’s All for Everyone” (Buckingham) – 3:04
“Not That Funny” (Buckingham) – 3:13
“Sisters of the Moon” (Nicks) – 4:40

Side Three
“Angel” (Nicks) – 4:53
“That’s Enough for Me” (Buckingham) – 1:48
“Brown Eyes” (C. McVie) – 4:30
“Never Make Me Cry” (C. McVie) – 2:14
“I Know I’m Not Wrong” (Buckingham) – 3:02

Side Four
“Honey Hi” (C. McVie) – 2:43
“Beautiful Child” (Nicks) – 5:23
“Walk a Thin Line” (Buckingham) – 3:48
“Tusk” (Buckingham) – 3:36
“Never Forget” (C. McVie) – 3:44

Remastered 2-Disc Deluxe Edition
A 2-disc remastered version of the album was released in 2004, featuring the entire, unedited version of the original album on the first disc and various demos, outtakes and alternate versions on the second disc:
Bonus CD
“One More Time (Over & Over)” (C. McVie)
“Can’t Walk Out of Here (The Ledge)” (Buckingham)
“Think About Me” (C. McVie)
“Sara” (Nicks)
“Lindsey’s Song #1 (I Know I’m Not Wrong)” (Buckingham)
“Storms” (Nicks)
“Lindsey’s Song #2 (That’s All for Everyone)” (Buckingham)
“Sisters of the Moon” (Nicks)
“Out on the Road (That’s Enough for Me)” (Buckingham)
“Brown Eyes” (C. McVie)
“Never Make Me Cry” (C. McVie)
“Song #1 (I Know I’m Not Wrong)” (Buckingham)
“Honey Hi” (C. McVie)
“Beautiful Child” (Nicks)
“Song #3 (Walk a Thin Line)” (Buckingham)
“Come on Baby (Never Forget)” (C. McVie)
“Song #1 (I Know I’m Not Wrong)” [alternate] (Buckingham)
“Kiss and Run” (Jorge Calderón)[5]
“Farmer’s Daughter” (Brian Wilson, Mike Love)
“Think About Me” [Single version] (C. McVie)
“Sisters of the Moon” [Single version] (Nicks)


One thought on “October 12, 1979 – Fleetwood Mac: Tusk

  1. I think that was an excellent review, and it comes in striking contrast to the many professional reviews, from Rolling Stone for example, where English Lits with pop-protest-alternative pop leanings (and not much else musically) speak out.

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