Bay Windows (07/13/2004), Rants & Raves
Bay Windows Online ("New England's Largest Gay & Lesbian Newspaper"), July 13, 2004
Rants & Raves
by Christopher John Treacy
Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac (Reprise)
Fleetwood Mac - Rumors (Warner Brothers)
Fleetwood Mac - Tusk (Warner Brothers)
Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac back in 1975, permanently transforming the former blues-pop outfit into a unique hybrid of British and Laurel Canyon-esque mentalities. The band then went on to make a trio of classic recordings in the hazy mid-to-late '70s, and now Warner Brothers/Reprise and Rhino have joined forces to make these new packages available.
All three collections come back to us now having been trudged through the WB vaults, and although "Fleetwood Mac" lacks many reasons for casual fans to re-invest (a noticeable digital sound upgrade), the latter two titles are generously expanded, brimming with outtakes and demo versions that lend insight into the band's creative process.
Regardless of how good an album "Rumors" really is, the disc suffers from radio-frenzied overexposure. But having an additional CD included with an almost completely different version of the album might just spark some renewed interest. In fact, the only song missing from the expanded section of this remaster is "The Chain," but we get two alternate versions of Nicks' "Gold Dust Woman" instead, including a skeletal demo that compensates for its lack of bite with an unexpectedly beautiful refrain near the fade.
Elsewhere, the rough mix of "You Make Lovin' Fun" unveils gorgeous harmonies, and though this busier arrangement of McVie's trademark "Songbird" might lack delicate simplicity, the song certainly has enough backbone to stand up to the additional acoustic guitar embellishments and brushed-snare backdrop. "Never Going Back Again" appears here as an instrumental ("Brushes"), and we get an unreleased gem from Nicks (a very early "Planets of the Universe" which she finally recorded on her most recent solo outing). McVie's haunting, dreamy "Butter Cookie" (previously unavailable) harkens back to the Mac's bluesy early '70s period. Additionally included is a well-mixed recording of the lost B-side "Silver Springs." There are enough top-shelf moments here to placate those who simply cannot listen to the nauseating Clinton-cheerleading-sentiment of "Don't Stop" one more time.
1979 saw the release of "Tusk," one of the most highly anticipated and costly pop records ever made. "Tusk" is considered to have been a critical and commercial disappointment. But while "Rumors" kept audiences fascinated by documenting the break-up of the McVie's marriage and the Buckingham/Nicks split, "Tusk" makes for an engaging peek into the world of Hollywood excess. But this apparent roughness actually makes it's finer moments that much more satisfying. McVie's musically somber opening cut, "Over and Over," establishes a mood much like the depressive haze that accompanies the morning after pulling an "all-nighter." In this way, "Tusk" is the sonic equivalent of an emotional hangover, complete with sheepishness and regret in the aftermath.
Looking past the singles, "Think About Me" and the title track, some of the rough takes are actually more enjoyable than the "finished" choices, particularly Nicks' "Beautiful Child," a devastating ballad available here for the first time with additional vocal tracks layered into her lead. The alternate version of "Sara" is the famed eight -minute "cleaning lady" demo (begun with Nicks' in-character declaration that she wants to be a star, not a cleaning lady), and the stately arrangement of the alternate "Storms" provides necessary backbone to balance out a hushed vocal performance. Buckingham serves up an inordinate number of his own compositions, from the pointed, sarcastic tones of "The Ledge" and "Not That Funny" to the more contemplative "What Makes You Think You're The One" and spaced-out "That's All For Everyone."
In the end, if one can move beyond the stumbling block of it not being as stunningly produced as its predecessors, "Tusk" is quite a meaty affair. It's also the final snapshot of the band's collaborative peak; by the time they reemerged with "Mirage" is 1982, Nicks had largely detached herself and, of course, the hazy '70s had given way to '80s neurosis.
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