Sunday, May 1, 2011

The #100 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era--'Tusk' by Fleetwood Mac

Tusk was produced in 1979.  This was at a time when Fleetwood Mac had to live up to expectations raised into the stratosphere by the Rumours album.  No one can do that.  I find often in situations that when expectations aren't met, the pendulum swings too far the other way, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  This appears to be the case with Tusk.

Some critics have said that had Tusk been a single album rather than a double album, it would have been much better (as if any of them had ever been musicians of the caliber of Fleetwood Mac!).  However, the point is well taken, and generally you will see double albums not as consistent as their single-album counterparts.  Why?  Because it's much harder to produce 20-25 tracks that will stand the test of time as it is to come up with 10 or 12.  Mick Fleetwood, drummer and leader of the group, said he still considers Tusk to be the best Fleetwood Mac album.  Everyone has their favorites, and while I wouldn't go as far as Mick to say that, I will say it is an amazing album.  And apparently the general public agrees.  

One of the factors going into my exclusive formula for the Top Albums of All-Time is airplay, and this album certainly ranks high for that.  "Tusk", "Sara" and "Think About Me" were all Top 15 hits for the group, but the real value of this album lies beneath the surface.  There are many songs never released as singles that have received considerable airplay from Tusk, most notably "Sisters of the Moon", "Angel", "Beautiful Child", "Brown Eyes", "Never Make Me Cry" and "I Know I'm Not Wrong".  The album sold two million copies, one of the lowest totals in the Top 100 but not the lowest.  It's Track Rating* was also fairly high, meaning the tracks are consistently strong, even though it is a double album.  "Save Me a Place" features some of the best harmonies the group has produced.  "What Makes You Think You're the One" and "Not That Funny" give the album the style that only Buckingham can contribute.  "Storms" is yet another outstanding song from Nicks.  One or two plays may not do it for you, but as you get to know the album, it grows on you--tremendously.

The songs on Tusk:

Side One

  1. "Over & Over" (Christine McVie) – 4:36
  2. "The Ledge" (Lindsey Buckingham) – 2:02
  3. "Think About Me" (C. McVie) – 2:44
  4. "Save Me a Place" (Buckingham) – 2:40
  5. "Sara"  (Stevie Nicks) – 6:27 

Side Two

  1. "What Makes You Think You're the One" (Buckingham) – 3:32
  2. "Storms" (Nicks) – 5:29
  3. "That's All for Everyone" (Buckingham) – 3:04
  4. "Not That Funny" (Buckingham) – 3:13
  5. "Sisters of the Moon" (Nicks) – 4:40

Side Three

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

Side Four

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

Tusk was recorded in 1978 and 1979 at the Village Recorder in 1978.   Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut produced the album together with the members of Fleetwood Mac.  Those two, along with Lindsey Buckingham and Richard Rojas, engineered the album.  Many of the tracks were recorded live at Buckingham's home.  The USC Trojan Marching Band famously plays on the unique title track, which was recorded live at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.  Rich Feldman mixed the album and Ken Perry mastered it.  Vigon Nahas Vigon did the album art. 

 One of the great advantages Fleetwood Mac had was that they featured three great lead vocalists who also happened to be great songwriters--Stevie Nicks, Lindsay Buckingham and Christine McVie.  Buckingham also played lead guitar, Christine played keyboards, the imitable Fleetwood provided the steady, dependable drum beats for all-time and John McVie was on bass.  One thing you won't get from the album notes--Peter Green, the outstanding ex-guitarist with Fleetwood Mac, plays backup on the Christine McVie song "Brown Eyes".  The album was released on October 19, 1979 by Warner Brothers Records.  Fleetwood Mac toured for 18 months to promote Tusk, travelling across the world.  

Tusk peaked at #4 and spent an impressive 15 weeks in the top ten, 37 total on the chart.  Those aren't mind-blowing numbers, but, together with the airplay, sales and Track Rating are enough to land Fleetwood Mac far from the top but squarely at #100.

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