Review Summary: The world expected "Rumours II," but instead got a melange of Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie trying to keep the "Rumours" sound alive while Lindsey Buckingham explored new vistas.
How do you follow up an album that went on to sell 40 million copies around the world, topped the US charts of 31 non-consecutive weeks, and spawned classics like "The Chain," "Don't Stop," "Go Your Own Way" and "Dreams?" Well, first you need to spend $1,000,000 on cocaine, Blue Nun wine, a studio built to exact specifications and the USC marching band. After you have done all of that, then you can try and see if you can do better than you did before.
And that is exactly what Fleetwood Mac did, and what they gave the world surprised us all.
Very rarely do you come across a Fleetwood Mac fan who will say without any hesitation that their favorite Fleetwood Mac album is the 1979 follow up to "Rumours" simply titled "Tusk." My mother told me that she saved up for several weeks until she had the $16 (which in 1979 was equal to about $52.74 in today's money) to buy the new Fleetwood Mac album. She fell in love with the band in 1978 when she heard "Rumours" for the first time at her cousin's house, and when she heard that their new album was coming out in October of 1979 she knew she had to have it. But when she got it, she found that it was one of the strangest albums she ever heard, and it quickly became one of her all time favorites.
Out of the 20 songs on this double album, 9 were written by Lindsey Buckingham, 6 by Christine McVie and 5 by Stevie Nicks. Christine and Stevie's songs still had that same soft rock sound that you heard on 1975's "Fleetwood Mac" and their previous album "Rumours." Lindsey, on the other hand, was not about to make a sequel to "Rumours," and wanted to branch out to more contemporary sounds that were popular with the emergence of Punk and New Wave music. The artists like Blondie, the Talking Heads, and Elvis Costello were taking over as the grand and giant rock bands of the time like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Queen were starting to slowly dwindle in popularity.
1. Over & Over
One of Christine McVie's most beautifully crafted songs. Featuring her on organ and electric piano along with Lindsey on slide guitar with some acoustic in the background. While I can't say that this is the best way to open up an album, I can see why it was chosen. It harks back to "Oh Daddy" with the low, melodic keyboards and Christine's soft vocals.
2. The Ledge
OK, this song. While many of Lindsey's songs turned off the casual fan from this album, this song in particular is what may have done it. The heavily distorted guitar and raspy vocals showed how much Lindsey had deviated from the "Rumours" sound and was going off into uncharted territory. This is a weird song, and the lyrics are also very difficult to comprehend due to the tone of voice that Lindsey employs in the song.
3. Think About Me
Christine McVie is at it again. This song could have easily been featured on "Rumours" and it can bee seen why it was an obvious choice for a single. Like how "Over & Over" seems to hark back to "Oh Daddy," this song almost has the same feel that "You Make Loving Fun" has. The upbeat bass and electric piano and tight drums. All three vocalists sing on the chorus and Lindsey's voice overpowers the other two and the result is a classic song.
4. Save Me a Place
Compared to "The Ledge," this song is one of Lindsey's better contributions to the first disc of the album. Wonderful harmonies and very tight drums and what sounds like an acoustic bass from John McVie. It is an easier listen than "The Ledge," but still a rather odd piece when compared to the other songs on the album.
This song is probably my favorite song of all time. The first of Stevie Nicks's 5 contributions to the album, and the longest (clocking in at 6 and a half minutes). The lyrics deal with many different themes, ranging from:
Her relationships with Don Henley, Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham
Her friend Sara Recor (who later married Mick Fleetwood)
And supposedly the baby she was to have with Don Henley that she later aborted (which, if it was a girl, would have been named Sara).
This delicate song features Christine McVie and Nicks both on the tack piano, Buckingham on acoustic guitar, John McVie on fretless bass and Mick Fleetwood playing his drums with brushes. Originally 16 minutes long, then reduced to 8 minutes, then 6 and a half (that you hear on the album) and then to 4 minutes for the single and original CD releases. This song perfectly ends the first side of the double album on a wonderfully emotional note.
6. What Makes You Think You're the One
Opening side two of the original vinyl release, the first thing you hear is Mick Fleetwood pounding on his drums and Christine McVie playing a glissando on the piano. It's a very awkward sounding song, and the lyrics are pretty average. The keyboards are very hard to hear and the drums and guitar drown out the other instruments.
Another one of Stevie's contributions, and by far one of the most poignant songs she ever wrote with Fleetwood Mac. At first glance, this song can been seen as a retrospective of her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham, but there are also lines that hint to her love affair with drummer Mick Fleetwood. She sings with so much emotion, at times it sounds like she could be crying. Lindsey adds a soft guitar behind Christine's low keyboards. John McVie's bass is tuned down a little bit in the mix, but he remains rock solid alongside Mick Fleetwood.
8. That's All For Everyone
One thing that this album suffers from is the awkward song transition from a Nicks or McVie song to one of the Buckingham songs. After the very quiet and reflective "Storms," this song comes barging through the door. Loud and proud. My one little problem has to be the overuse of echo on the vocals, but overall its a pretty good song.
9. Not That Funny
This song is a ride from start to end. Live performances would often go on for close to 10 minutes, and features Lindsey Buckingham singing with a great deal of strain in his voice.
10. Sisters of the Moon
One of the heaviest songs that Fleetwood Mac ever recorded. Stevie's lyrics are laced in mystery and darkness, and you can picture her twirling around the studio with her shawls and flowing dresses while they recorded this song. Lindsey's guitar solo is one of the heaviest and John McVie, as usual in on point and locked in with Mick Fleetwood. Live performances would last on average of 6 to 8 minutes and give Stevie a chance to perform an extended vocal vamp during the song's coda. Personally, I do like the single remix a little more than the album mix because it has a darker feel to it and seems to fit better.
Opening the second disc with some fantastic electric piano and bouncing bass from the McVies, this song seems to also hark back to the two previous albums. The instrumentation feels almost like "Rhiannon" and "Dreams." Apparently the lyrics in this song also was inspired by the same story that inspired the lyrics to "Rhiannon." The upbeat and haunting lyrics are some of Stevie's best. It was the last single released from "Tusk" in 1980 for a Dutch release, but it did not chart.
12. That's Enough for Me
The shortest song on the album clocking in at a minute and 50 seconds, this song has the feel of a 1950's country song. Probably my least favorite song on the album, Lindsey's constant screaming of the word "Yeah" over and over again gets on my nerves.
13. Brown Eyes
A slow, smoky song by Christine McVie, it also famously features an uncredited cameo by the elusive original Fleetwood Mac guitarist, Peter Green. John McVie's bass playing on this song is probably his best on the whole album and the chorus of "Sha-la-la" is a perfect addition to this classic McVie track.
14. Never Make Me Cry
This song always reminds me of "Songbird" on "Rumours." Christine plays a deep electric piano and sings heartfelt lyrics of someone asking their lover to "never make me cry" and that they will return the favor and "never make you cry." Lindsey adds a quiet electric guitar that can be heard during the instrumental bridge. I will admit, this song did make me cry the first time I heard it. Sorry Christine.
15. I Know I'm Not Wrong
Probably one of my favorite Lindsey Buckingham songs of all time, when I saw Fleetwood Mac perform in Oakland on their recent On With the Show Tour in April of 2015, this song was a pleasant contribution to the set. One of my favorite moments of the song is the synth solo that appears during the bridge.
16. Honey Hi
Probably the weakest of Christine McVie's six contributions to the album. This is an OK song, but definitely not one of the stronger tracks. The harmony vocals from Christine and Stevie blend perfectly and Lindsey's soft acoustic guitar.
17. Beautiful Child
The final of Stevie Nicks's 5 contributions to the album, and probably her most introspective and one of her most personal (second only to "Sara"). Christine and Lindsey respectively play a soft piano and acoustic guitar. Stevie Nicks sings a song about falling in love with someone, who while is a beautiful person, deep inside is still a child. This song was a staple during their 2003-04 "Say You Will" tour.
18. Walk a Thin Line
Another of Lindsey's finest contributions to the album, the drums and bass are tightly intertwined behind his acoustic guitar. He sings harmony vocals with Stevie during the chorus, and is probably the only Lindsey Buckingham song on this album that could have easily fit on "Rumours."
OK, this song is amazing. Featuring a guest performance by the University of Southern California Trojan marching band, this has to be the weirdest song that Fleetwood Mac ever recorded. The unmistakable riff was what the band would use to warm up with at sound checks, and it was reportedly Mick Fleetwood's idea to included a 100+ piece brass band to the play the riff behind the band. Eventually it went from a brass band to a marching band, and was the obvious choice for a lead single. I remember reading somewhere that this song holds a record for the largest amount of musicians playing on a US Top 10 single, and was also the first song ever to be mixed on a digital format. During live performances, Christine McVie would switch from keyboards to accordion to recreate the sound from the marching band.
20. Never Forget
Closing out the album is a truly fantastic Christine McVie song. Featuring all three vocalists on harmony vocals near the end of the song, she sings to her lover asking him to "never forget tonight." This song could have also easily fit on "Rumours" and is a perfect way to close out the album.
When "Tusk" was released, it was deemed a failure, managing to sell only a fraction of what "Rumours" managed. Mick Fleetwood says it's his favorite of the Fleetwood Mac discography, while John McVie says the album sounds like "the work of three solo artists." The blame for the album's "failure" is almost completely centered on Lindsey Buckingham's sonic experimentation and how his songs did not blend well with Christine McVie's and Stevie Nick's contributions to the album.
All in all, while this album can seem daunting to the casual Fleetwood Mac fan, it is a definite must have for the dedicated fan. The recent 2015 deluxe re-issue which features an alternate version of the album and unreleased live performances helped bring this black sheep of an album back into the spotlight, and the music press have begun to look back on this album as a missed opportunity.
Top recommended songs on the album:
Over & Over
Think About Me
Sisters of the Moon
I Know I'm Not Wrong