Monday, October 19, 2009

Record of the Month - Classic

Another installment of a disk I have enjoyed over the years. I'm trying to keep the Record of the Month posts to be fairly new releases. Classics are going to be ones that are at least 5 years old.

This month you get two Classic disks. Technically you get one. Or two-for-one. Whatever. Yeah, this will be a little weird, so bare with me.

You know those Desert Island Disks where you are supposed to pick like 10 albums if you were stuck forever? Fleetwood Mac's Tusk is only one of two I have identified that I'd have with me. The other eight are still up in the air - or don't yet exist.

Completely misunderstood by the Rumours buying public, Tusk is really an incredible disk. Mind you - it is not a band effort so much as three partial solo albums thrown together and labeled as a band.

In a move that probably shocked some band members, all of radio and record execs, Fleetwood Mac went out on a limb and produced the most ambitious music they had ever done - or will ever do. Except for 'Sara' and 'Think About Me' - there isn't a true radio single to be had, which is kind of horrific for a band that made its mark with two previous albums that were primarily just that.

While the album didn't bomb, per se, it did comparatively to Rumours. That being a 20 million seller and Tusk being a meager 4 million. It did not help that the day before its release, Warner Bros had every AOR station in the country play it back to back, uninterrupted. Three times! Fuck - everyone taped it. I did!

Oh and at the time of its release - 30 years ago this month!!! - it became the most expensive list priced album on the market, $17.99. In 1979! It was doomed and set-up for commercial failure.

That all being said - I loved, and still love, the disk. Each singer/songwriter with their own style and basically left out there on their own. Stevie Nicks being the least, as she truly includes the others in their harmony vocals. I'm not 100% sure anyone else appears on Lindsey Buckingham's least not most of them. Christine McVie is just herself, but possibly more introspective than usual.

But it is Buckingham who shines. From the weird-ass title track, which is still fascinating, to his best work ever: "I Know I'm Not Wrong", "What Makes You Think You're the One", "The Ledge" and "It's Not That Funny".

It's also his work as an arranger/producer that really makes him stellar. His working of Nicks' "Sisters of the Moon", "Storms" and mostly his vocal arrangement of "Beautiful Child" show how talented he is. And to her credit, Nicks doesn't sound like she phones it in - like she will in their next two studio disks.

Nicks has the least amount of songs, but the most playing time. Buckingham has the most songs and the least time. But McVie has some really solid work - especially the opener "Over and Over" and "Honey Hi".

The styles are so diverse and the production so clean, it really is a go-to disk that I have yet to tire of, even after three decades.

Though I know most won't agree with me on that above statement, there is someone who might: Camper Van Beethoven.

Strange but true, CvB did a song for song remake of Tusk maybe two decades after the originals release. It sat unreleased for years after that - and not even put on the market until they broke up.

While probably considered a tribute, don't look for faithful renditions of most of the songs....if any. The band is/was in awe of the original disk and would play it often at concerts and just decided to commit it to tape. The songs are in the same order as Fleetwood Mac's version.

They probably do a better job with Buckingham's songs because the originals lent themselves to more garage type bands than the slickness of McVie's or Nicks' music. But I really like their cover of McVie's "Brown Eyes" and they do ok with Nick's "Storms" and "Angel".

One of CvB's members said after the fact, that it's little surprise that the guy who sang on Nicks' songs eventually came out. Don't they always?

I'm not sure either version of Tusk is for the uninitiated, but most will have an easier version of Fleetwood Mac's - for consistency and availability. CvB's is a little harder to come by - but if you like the original, it is definitely something to check out for the sake of interest.

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