Fleetwood Mac: Tusk — Deluxe and Super Deluxe

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Fleetwood Mac
Tusk-Deluxe and Super Deluxe 
(Warner Brothers/Rhino)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Considering that a large portion of the Fleetwood Mac catalog has never been upgraded from the original CD pressings decades ago, it’s a little unsettling that we now have a second expanded reissue of the 1979 double album Tusk. Many no doubt have already sprung for the 2004 edition that cleaned up the album’s sound and added a second disc of demos and outtakes. But, record label bottom lines being what they are, this 5 CD, 1 DVD-5.1 audio, twin vinyl nearly $100 package (that follows a similarly buffed-up 2013 35th anniversary Rumours), is here to separate real Mac fans from both casual listeners and their money.

Those taking the plunge will find moderate sonic polishing of the 20 track set on the first disc, 21 “singles, outtakes, sessions” on the second, another version of the songs– in order– on disc number 3 and two hours of live Mac, culled from various dates on the ‘79/’80 Tusk tour filling CDs four and five. The more frugal can opt for a triple platter that sticks with the first three.

Critically dismissed/misunderstood when first released, Tusk has since taken on a cachet over the decades as a more experimental extension of Lindsay Buckingham’s talents made possible by the overwhelming success of its predecessor and reportedly lots of drugs. His songs such as “The Ledge,” “What Makes You Think You’re the One” and “Not That Funny” craft decidedly non-pop melodies over scruffy, skeletal, pounding beats that push outside the cushy confines of Rumours. Other selections from Christine McVie (“Think About Me,” “Over and Over,” “Never Forget”) and Stevie Nicks (“Sara,” “Storms,” “Beautiful Child”) hue closer to their previous work and audience expectations. It’s a sprawling, expansive, somewhat messy yet ultimately satisfying 75 minutes that is arguably the unlikely pinnacle achievement, artistically if not commercially, of the Buckingham/Nicks years.

The live cuts show how the group, removed from their meticulous studio crafting, adapted many of the songs to the stage. These have never been officially available and don’t seem to have been sweetened, leaving relatively ragged but right performances. The extensive outtakes follow the evolution of tracks like “I Know I’m Not Wrong” (6 takes!), and “Tusk” (4 takes), but like the recent Bob Dylan box, it’s unlikely anyone but the hardest core will play it more than once. Ditto for the “alternate” album of more polished but different takes of the set list.

Whether this is worth the substantial extra cash is up to the individual and how dedicated one is to the album and band. For most, the 2004 double, available at a fraction of the price (which also includes two covers recorded at the sessions that inexplicably don’t appear here), should suffice.  Those obsessed with everything Tusk and/or with fatter wallets will find enough to keep them occupied and the sumptuous presentation, in addition to the surround audio (mixed a decade ago but unreleased until now), may justify the additional cost.

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