Life at 33 1/3: A gas, gas, gas

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Fleetwood Mac: Tusk (Warner Brothers)

From the vaults of Carl Meyer, a record review written back in October 1979.

Two years after the polished “Rumours”, Fleetwood Mac returns.  And boy are you in for a surprise.  The group is not sticking to their million dollar formula, but rather lets mad professor Buckingham loose in his laboratory of sound.  And believe me, “Tusk” is one of the most splendid pop albums I’ve heard in years!  Four record sides filled to the brim with everything you could possibly want from a pop act, and then some: Agile, bewitching melodies; Crystal clear production; Variety; Fantasy; Vigour; Plush elegance; Gritty quirkiness.  It’s all here.  Music you can immerse yourself in.  “Tusk” is a state of blissful intoxication.

Lindsey Buckingham is all over the album – composer, producer, vocals, keyboards and guitar.  His guitar playing is exquisite and diverse.  He brings a playful quality of the unexpected to the proceedings that hasn’t really been present in pop music since the Beatles called it a day (and the Beach Boys imploded).  Examples?

“That’s All For Everyone” – intricate harmony voices, ascending and descending as wind and waves.  “That’s Enough For Me” – a fast slice of blues/rock with drums kicking and guitars crackling.  The wonderfully insisting “Not That Funny” – J.J. Cale backed by a herd of marching elephants.  “Save Me A Place” – metal pail drums and folk-atmosphere (in the neighbourhood of  Small Faces’ “The Universal”).

All glory to Mick Fleetwood too, quite possibly the greatest drummer of pop music at the moment.  “Tusk” is proof.  Dig his precision, his punch, his less is more.  And dig that sound!  He provides each song with its own unique identity.  The drums are so close-miked they enter your room and become visible.  Fleetwood creates a stereo-web of rhythm.  He’s the one who makes sure Stevie Nicks doesn’t disappear into her trance like gypsy dreamscapes.

Mick is the captain.  Along with Buckingham, he is responsible for the “Tusk” sound.  This Beatle like balance between self-control, variety and unrestrained, impulsive joy of playing (say hello to “The Beatles” from 1968).

Christine McVie’s beautiful melancholy and Stevie Nicks’ possessed dance on moon beams fit the programming perfectly, creating stunning contrasts to Buckingham’s colourful, brisk and disciplined sound fantasies and Fleetwood’s razor sharp focus.  And then they got John McVie’s bass keeping the blood running through the veins of these songs.  “Tusk” is a masterpiece.  A pleasure from start to finish.  Every little acoustic sigh floats like a rainbow across the sky.  And the title track is a gas, gas, gas!

Finally, Fleetwood Mac has surpassed their 10 year old classic “Then Play On.”

Released: October 12, 1979

Produced by: Fleetwood Mac, Richard Dashut, and Lindsey Buckingham

Contents: Over & Over/The Ledge/Think About Me/Save Me a Place/Sara/What Makes You Think You’re the One/Storms/That’s All for Everyone/Not That Funny/Sisters of the Moon/Angel/That’s Enough for Me/Brown Eyes/Never Make Me Cry/I Know I’m Not Wrong/Honey Hi/Beautiful Child/Walk a Thin Line/Tusk/Never Forget

Personnel:

Lindsey Buckingham – guitar, piano, bass guitar, drums, percussion, harmonica, vocals

Stevie Nicks – vocals, keyboards

Christine McVie – keyboards, piano, accordion, vocals

John McVie – bass guitar

Mick Fleetwood – drums, percussion

Additional personnel:

USC Trojan Marching Band – percussion, horns – appears on “Tusk”

Peter Green – guitar – appears uncredited on “Brown Eyes”