Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fleetwood Mac--Tusk (1979)

     Tracing the history of Fleetwood Mac, one might be surprised at the musical twists and turns they've taken. Starting out as a straight blues band, they slowly morphed into a blues/rock/pop sound then dropping all pretensions of the blues as Bob Welch and Christine McVie directed them into California rock. As Welch left the band to be joined by Lindsay Buckingham and his girl friend Stephanie (Stevie) Nicks, the freshness brought to be band was felt and heard immediately on the album "Fleetwood Mac" (1975). That album and it's massive follow-up "Rumors" (1977) defined the late 70's California sound, and also set the template for a generation of musicians in pop, rock and country (any question about the latter...check out any CD by Little Big Town).
     The huge success of Rumors allowed the group to go into the studio with a blank check on creating the follow-up. Buckingham, who had provided not only songwriting and production skills, also brought an energy to the group that spread to all of it's members. However, by 1978, all in the group were physically and emotionally spent. Most who are fans of the Mac are well aware of all of the relationship disasters and drugs that went into the making of the most successful album of it's era. So when it came time to go back into the studio, no one was particularly interested. It's with this back story that frames the album that was to become "Tusk". Buckingham had inspired the group before, at this point, at least for this album, he takes over.
     The result was a double album that was nothing like anything done by the group before or after. The guitarist, who was admittedly a disciple of Brian Wilson's adventuresome nature in the studio, created an album that was brilliant in it's fractured nature as "Rumors" was in it's cohesiveness. That album was a picture of a group that was cracking, "Tusk" was a snapshot of a group that was broken. It's centerpiece was the title track. The major theme of the song was based on a riff that was used during sound checks before a show, and Mick Fleetwood suggested that a song be built around it. Buckingham took it and added lyrics, and an overall sound that perfectly mirrored the cocaine fueled paranoia that still pervaded the band.
     The sound, provided by the USC Band added a quirkiness that became a hallmark of a lot of Buckingham's solo work in the 80's. The album sold close to 4 million copies, but compared to it's predecessor it was considered a failure. Three decades on, it is considered as brilliant in it's own way as "Rumors". By the way...on the video...you'll notice that John McVie was represented by a cardboard cut out carried around by Fleetwood. Turns out that the bassist was pissed at Buckingham over something and refused to take part....



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