Wednesday, 2 March 2016

"Tusk" by FLEETWOOD MAC (2015 Warner Brothers 3-CD Expanded Edition Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…I've Always Been A Storm..." 

Following the global monolith that was 1977's "Rumours" (the most successful Rock album in history at that point) – Fleetwood Mac didn't cow down to 'more of the same please' cries from WB executives pandering to a post-punk world that wanted (nay demanded) more radio-friendly relationship angst. Instead they stuck to their artistic guns, went all Communist and produced the workers warts 'n' all double-album sprawl that was "Tusk" in the autumn of 1979.

Not everyone was pleased – many of who were fans. I remember at the time "Tusk" was greeted with a kind of 'what's this all about?' bewilderment and even palatable disappointment. Sure it looked nice with its four beautiful but slightly wasteful and pointless inner sleeves. But what was this Neil Young grunge guitar from Buckingham on tunes that seemed to repeat a single lyric line from start to finish? Or that title-song used as lead off 7" single with the Trojan Marching Band sounding like an engineer with a bad ear-infection had recorded them in a very rusty bucket? And why were all the tunes so relentlessly whiny and miserable? While "Tusk" managed the top slot in the UK LP charts – it made only No. 4 in the USA – which after the juggernaut of "Rumours" was a major come down...

But of course time and distance has turned "Tusk" into an altogether different musical beast – revered and beloved by fans and even sometimes cited by the true faithful in moments of drunken abandon as 'better' than "Rumours". Well this truly awesome 2015 Warner Brothers '3-CD Expanded Edition' certainly wants to make you reassess and re-appreciate that 1978/1979 splurge of creativity – even put up a case that suddenly Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" demands respect. And I think they're right. Here are the Sisters Of The Moon...

Released 4 December 2015 - "Tusk: 3-CD Expanded Edition" by FLEETWOOD MAC on Warner Brothers 081227950842 (Barcode 081227950842) is a 3CD Reissue/Remaster and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "Tusk (Original Album)" 2015 Remaster (74:25 minutes):
1. Over & Over [Side 1]
2. The Ledge
3. Think About Me
4. Save Me A Place
5. Sara
6. What Makes You Think You're The One [Side 2]
7. Storms
8. That's All For Everyone
9. Not That Funny
10. Sisters Of The Moon
11. Angel [Side 3]
12. That’s Enough For Me
13. Brown Eyes
14. Never Make Me Cry
15. I Know I'm Not Wrong
16. Honey Hi [Side 4]
17. Beautiful Child
18. Walk A Thin Line
19. Tusk
20. Never Forget
Tracks 1 to 12 are the double-album "Tusk" - released October 1979 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 66088 and in the USA on Warner Brothers 2HS 3350. It reached Number 1 in the UK and No. 4 in the USA LP charts.

Disc 2 "Singles, Outtakes, Sessions" (77:37 minutes):
1. Think About Me (Single Remix, 2:46 minutes) – February 1980 US 7" single on Warner Brothers WBS-49196, A
2. That's All For Everyone (Remix, 2:52 minutes)
3. Sisters Of The Moon (Remix, 4:43 minutes) – May 1980 US 7" single on Warner Brothers WBS-49500, A
4. Not That Funny (Single Remix) – February 1980 UK 7" single on Warner Brothers K 17577, A as "It's Not That Funny"
5. Sara (Single Edit, 4:40 minutes) – December 1979 US 7" single on Warner Brothers WBS 49150
6. Walk A Thin Line (3/13/79 Song No. 3)
7. Honey Hi (10/18/78 Version)
8. Storms (11/30/78 Version)
9. Save Me A Place (10/10/78 2nd Version)
10. Never Make Me Cry (4/17/79 Version)
11. Out On The Road (12/19/78 Demo – "That's Enough For Me")
12. I Know I'm Not Wrong (Demo – Lindsey's Song No. 1)
13. I Know I'm Not Wrong (10/10/78 Version)
14. I Know I'm Not Wrong (11/3/78 Version)
15. I Know I'm Not Wrong (4/25/79 Version)
16. I Know I'm Not Wrong (8/13/79 Version)
17. I Know I'm Not Wrong (1/23/79 Version)
18. Tusk (1/15/79 Demo)
19. Tusk "Stage Riff" (1/30/79 Demo)
20. Tusk (21/1/79 Outtake)
21. Tusk (1/23/79 Outtake Mix)
22. Tusk (6/4/79 USC Version)
Tracks 9, 11 and 13 to 22 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
Tracks 6 to 8, 10 and 12 first appeared on the March 2004 2CD Remaster of "Tusk" and were Previously Unreleased at the time

Disc 3 "The Alternate Tusk" (79:44 minutes):
1. Over & Over (4/2/79) [Side 1]
2. The Ledge (3/13/79)
3. Think About Me (2/18/79)
4. Save Me A Place (10/18/78)
5. Sara (3/10/79)
6. What Makes You Think You're The One (2/24/79) [Side 2]
7. Storms (6/2/79)
8. That's All For Everyone (10/20/78)
9. Not That Funny (5/19/79)
10. Sisters Of The Moon (11/12/78)
11. Angel (4/2/79) [Side 3]
12. That's Enough For Me (9/29/78)
13. Brown Eyes (with Lindsey Buckingham & Peter Green, 9/20/78)
14. Never Make Me Cry (2/8/79)
15. I Know I'm Not Wrong (11/2/78)
16. Honey Hi (10/11/78) [Side 4]
17. Beautiful Child (10/8/78)
18. Walk A Thin Line (4/6/79)
19. Tusk (7/19/79)
20. Never Forget (6/29/78)
Tracks 1, 3, 4, 6 to 9 and 11 to 20 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
Tracks 2, 5 and 10 first appeared on the March 2004 2CD Remaster of "Tusk" and were Previously Unreleased at the time

It's presented in a tactile and pleasing four-way foldout card digipak (dog photo embossed on the cover) - the four inner flaps having beautiful black and white outtake photos from a shoot that sees all five members of the band larking about in front of the camera (I think most of these are unseen). The other two flaps reproduce two sides of the four inner sleeves while each CD has the same colouring as the album cover. The 24-page booklet is a pleasingly in-depth affair with new Liner Notes from JIM IRVIN called "The Elephant In The Room: The Background To Tusk" (Pages 2 to 9) and Track-by-Track song analysis with contributions from LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM, STEVIE NICKS and MICK FLEETWOOD (Pages 10 to 15) followed by Lyrics, Photos and Reissue Credits. Long-time Rhino and Warner Brothers Audio Engineers BILL INGLOT and DAN HERSCH have handled the transfers and Remasters – and beautiful is the only word to describe it. The 2004 version had fabulous audio too but here they've somehow found more depth – sleepers like "Brown Eyes" and "Never Forget" sound breathtaking. The band trusted Inglot and Hersch with "Rumours" and anyone who's heard that beauty will know what to expect here...

Album tracks that stand out in the improvement stakes are the gorgeous Christine McVie opener "Over & Over" (the first of six compositions she did for the album – Tracks 3, 13, 14, 16 and 20 are the others) and both of the truly haunting love songs "Storms” and "Beautiful Child" by Stevie Nicks. Lindsey Buckingham's "The Ledge" and "What Makes You Think You're The One" both sound gimmicky still – but not so his brilliant and layered "That's All For Everyone" (fantastic harmonies) and the mellow "Walk A Thin Line". Christine's "Think About Me" is probably closest to that "Rumours" sound (the remixed single version has real clout) – but its Nicks who dominates the double with the soft and harsh – light and dark of "Sara" and "Sisters Of The Moon". It ends on a McVie ballad that is 'so' Fleetwood Mac – so slyly sweet - the plaintive and prophetic "Never Forget". A great job done by Inglot and Hersch...

Of the Extras - It won’t take long for fans to notice than the 2CD 'Expanded Remaster' of "Tusk" from March 2004 has superb previously unreleased outtakes like "Come On Baby (Never Forget)", "Kiss And Run" and "Farmer's Daughter" which are clearly a no-show here – so you can't quite throw that 2CD baby out of the bathwater just yet. What you do get in 2015 is the full 20-track album newly Remastered on Disc 1, six rare remixes/7" single edits of album cuts and 29 Previously Unreleased Versions/Outtakes across Discs 2 and 3 along with other tracks from previous reissues. There's even an entire 'Alternate Version' of the 2LP set on Disc 3 with a whopping 17 out of the 20 tracks being unheard before. You can't argue that you don't get diversity (quality and quantity too).

The first Previously Unreleased outtake from the sessions is a 3rd version of "Walk A Thin Line" dated March 1979 – Lindsey chugging away on Guitar while Mick hammers the drum kit and the ladies harmonise trying to find that mood and groove (its bloody good too). But then you're hit with something really special – the loveliest version of "Save Me A Place" which is all Buckingham vocals and high acoustic guitars. As a Previously Unreleased outtake (credited as a 2nd version) – it's properly worthy of the moniker 'bonus'. A really great variant of "Out On The Road" (an early version of "That's Enough For Me") graced the 2004 2CD set. Here we get a Demo that's all over the place but stylistically cool and interesting as they search for something inside all that chugging and vocal shouting (mumbles rather than words). One of the undoubted highlights of Disc 2 on the 2004 Remaster was Version No. 1 of "I Know I'm Not Wrong" which is an Instrumental in its earliest form. The compilers have decided (not surprisingly) to repeat it here but also follow it with 5 more rock-guitar variants – the song developing from take to take. In October 1978 Buckingham has a 'here comes the night' and 'I Know I'm Not Wrong' lyric in place while he ad-libs the rest. Come November 1978 the drums and guitar and more developed as are the full set of lyrics and suddenly the song is motorvatin'. By the time you get to August 1979 (the song as we know it) "I Know I'm Not Wrong" is almost fully formed. It might seem indulgent putting on six versions in a row - but actually when they're this good - it's a properly fab look into the process and it doesn’t bore because the song is great in the first place. It could just be me but I'd swear that there's an unidentified child's voice at the beginning of the January 1979 demo of "Tusk". Whatever you hear – it's more-drawn-out five-minutes is beautifully recorded with just Guitar and Drums whacking your speakers while Buckingham ad-libs vocals wails. The 'Stage Riff' version is an utter blast and even better – Buckingham playing a distorted guitar while Christine McVie gives it some Clavinet. By the time you get to the late January and early February 1979 mixes of the track – Buckingham has the 'don't tell me that you love me' roared chorus in place.

For me the 'Alternate Tusk' is a brill idea that works way better than it should. All 20 songs run in the same order but all are alternates (17 never heard before). While "The Ledge" is virtually indistinguishable to the finished track – both "Over And Over" feature thrilling new passages – a longer piano run on "Over and Over" and a different arrangement/added duet Stevie Nicks vocals on "Think About Me". The gorgeous "Save Me A Place" is another outtake winner – all beautiful acoustic guitars and ensemble vocal harmonies that makes Fleetwood Mac feel as special as Don Henley and Glenn Frey whenever they pitch their larynxes at any song. Stevie Nick's "Sara" started out as a monumental 16-minute demo, proceeded to a "...I want to be a star...I don't want to be a cleaning lady...." mix at 8:48 minutes, made the album version at 6:30 and then got chopped further down to a 7” single edit at 4:40. Here they use the 8:48 minute version – very cool stuff.

I actually prefer the unreleased 'more guitars' version of "What Makes You Think You're The One" - better to my ears than the finished article which seemed to loose something to over production. The very acoustic guitar take of "Storms" still has that aching pain in her vocal and lyrics – but the finished version that's on the album is still the one. "Never Make Me Cry" is radically altered and fab for it too. But one of the real prizes on here will be the 5:09 minutes of "Brown Eyes" with Peter Green's guitar work which was relegated to an uncredited 'end section' of the song on the album at 4:27 minutes. Now you can 'hear' those famous licks and Greeny-style as it trucks along to the finish line (how good is this)...

Reissues and Remasters come in for stick from fans – and in some cases – rightly so (look at Disc 2 of McCartney's 2012 version of "Ram" – pitiful 33 minutes of which 80% is unlistenable dreck). But presently languishing in Amazon's empty warehouse at £7.99 (March 2016) – Fleetwood Mac's 2015 3-CD Deluxe Edition overhaul of "Tusk" is not one of those crappy cash-ins. Time to welcome the mongrel back into your musical doghouse...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 250 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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