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Nick's Notes: Fleetwood Mac's Alternate Tusk


I have been a huge fan of the Mac since I first heard their Rumours album in 1977. That album was a huge success for the band, and as such, an impossible one to follow up. If you don't know the story behind making the Rumours album, it was quite an accomplishment for a band that was in such emotional turmoil at the time.

Coming off the success of Rumours, the band was led by Lindsey Buckingham to approach their next project much differently. With the punk movement happening, Buckingham felt they really needed to change their game in order to stay relevant, and was really adamant the next project should not be a Rumours II. That next project became the lavishly packaged, 20 track, double LP Tusk.

I, as many others at the time, was initially regretful of my purchase. This album just did not hit me like Rumours did. It was a little bit of a departure from the music I had heard from this band just two years prior, and it did take a while to grow on me. And, over time, I have become to like Tusk every bit as much as Rumours. It could only be sweetened by a proper re-issue with bonus material.

At the end of 2015, deluxe editions of Tusk were, indeed, released with bonus material: a 5 disc set, which also included a vinyl copy, and a 3 disc set. I just went for the 3 disc edition as I found a good price for it. While there was a 2004 reissue with extra material, this 3 disc set is quite a bit different. The first disc is the original album remastered. The second disc contains some radio edits, roughs, and outtakes. The interesting part of this second disc is two particular songs ("Tusk" and "I Know I'm Not Wrong") that are presented over several takes, revealing the progression up to what the tracks ultimately became. I enjoy hearing early takes, and was quite impressed with the inclusion of this material.

However, the third disc is what really prompted me to write about this set. The third disc contains alternate versions of every song, and in the same running order as the original album. It is titled as the "The Alternate Tusk," and I absolutely love this disc. It's like a whole new experience with this album. There aren't any major changes in the song structures, but the different instrumentation, different vocals, or different feel is so enjoyable. In a few songs, I do like the alternates somewhat better, but I love listening to both the original and alternate Tusk discs.

Three particular standout alternate tracks are: Stevie Nicks' "Storms," Lindsey Buckingham's "Walk A Thin Line," and Christine McVie's "Brown Eyes." Stevie's "Storms" feels so much more emotional, if that's even possible for this melancholic song. Lindsey's guitar accompaniment on the alternate "Walk A Thin Line" totally changes the feel of this song. And Christine's alternate version of "Brown Eyes" is probably the most different from original release, and even includes session guitar from legendary Fleetwood Mac founder, Peter Green.

I've enjoyed hearing outtakes and alternate tracks in the reissues of past albums by other artists over the years, but those 'bonus' discs, or added tracks, usually don't get much play. However, this particular 'bonus' disc presented as a whole alternate album is fantastic, and I have been listening to it quite regularly. It really got me thinking it would be so cool to hear other classic albums in this way. If you like Fleetwood Mac, I encourage you to check out the expanded edition of Tusk.

My sincere thanks to Fleetwood Mac for their incredible music over the years. I do hope to see them before they finally call it quits, especially since they recently got Christine McVie back from retirement. Supposedly, there will be a new album coming in 2017.

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