Just Giblets

Tusk!

22nd August 2013
by Michael

Tusk!

Fleetwood Mac circa 1979I periodically go on a Fleetwood Mac jag, where I can’t get enough of their albums.  And not being a Stevie Nicks sycophant (although I do enjoy a lot of her work) but a Christine McVie fanatic, my Fleetwood Mac listening is not limited to their 1975 white album on, but goes back to the early 70’s, pre-Buckingham Nicks, when the likes of Bob Welch and Danny Kirwan were members.  My latest obsession from the last couple of weeks has been Tusk, their 1979 follow-up to the phenomenally successful, life-changing Rumours.

tuskTusk was a curious album.  There was no way the band was going to repeat the magic that emerged out of their personal break-ups and formed Rumours, number 10 on the list of best-selling albums of all time.  (You can see that list at http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/whats-the-biggest-selling-album-of-all-time/).  I’m sure the pressure from their label, Warner Bros. was pretty intense to do just that, but the band went in a completely different direction.  While it seems that Lindsey Buckingham was the driving force between the pseudo-punk, vaguely country tone of Tusk, certainly throughout all of his, the majority, contributions, his quirky production served Christine and Stevie’s compositions well.  Back in 1979, when Tusk was released, it was a rather shocking turn from Fleetwood Mac.  When listened to today, it seems even more incomprehensible juxtaposed with Rumours, but it works all the better for it.  The double album cost $1M to record, an exorbitant amount at the time, and with it only reaching #4 on the U.S. Billboard charts it is considered a disappointment.  Still, it did sell over 2M copies, earning a double platinum certification.

The title track was released as a single in advance of the album, and should have been a good indication that this was not going to be a Fleetwood Mac album like anything we’d expected.  From the jungle beat of the drums, the bizarre lyrics mumbled, then half-shrieked, and the overlay of the USC marching band, this was something visceral and different.  I was transfixed.  I ran around my high school (I was a senior) shouting Tusk!  I even included it as one of my quotes in the yearbook.

Now as I listen to Tusk some 34 years later, I am struck by how forward thinking it was, and how I think it might be Fleetwood Mac’s best album.  Okay, maybe not their best, but certainly Lindsey Buckingham does his best work ever with the band, or at least, most original.  Stevie Nicks turns in some pretty interesting work as well, and while Christine McVie has always been, in my opinion, the most reliable of the Mac songwriters, she doesn’t disappoint on Tusk.  While Tusk is arguably Lindsey’s album, it’s the way he pushes Christine and Stevie to the far reaches of what could be their comfort zones that really shines on Tusk.  (Although, part of me hopes that they all had fun trying out stuff they’d never usually perform – just take another listen to ‘The Ledge.’)

My current obsession is Christine McVie’s ‘Think About Me.’ It was a third single off the album, and is considered a minor hit for the band, only reaching #20 on the Billboard singles chart.  When I first heard ‘Think About Me’ it seemed a typical McVie single, reminiscent of ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘Say You Love Me.’ Listening to it today, I am struck by the rock ‘n roll and punk influences, and the sparse, powerful mix of the song.  Lyrically, McVie injects a little wry sarcasm into the song, something she is not usually known for.  ‘Think About Me’ really features the power of McVie’s piano driving the song rhythmically forward, and Buckingham’s chunky guitar blends to create something truly rollicking.  Once again, McVie choses to alternate vocals with Buckingham, the former taking the lead on the vocals, the latter leading the bands trademark sublime harmonies on the choruses.  The vocal mix is perfect, with each of the unique voices easily picked out when they sing together.  Add to that the solid foundation of Fleetwood’s drums and McVie’s surprisingly flashy bass and it thrills me every time I listen to it.  McVie’s other contributions include the album opener, ‘Over & Over,’ the haunting ‘Brown Eyes,’ the gorgeously simple and heartfelt ‘Never Make Me Cry,’ the intricate confection ‘Honey Hi,’ and one of the best album closers ever, ‘Never Forget.’

Stevie Nicks’ most memorable song on Tusk for most people is ‘Sara,’ the second single from the album, and the highest charting, climbing to #7 on the Billboard charts.  I’ve always found ‘Sara’ to be rather uninspired, overlong and little boring.  The fourth single from Tusk was Stevie’s ‘Sisters of the Moon,’ a dark, pseudo-sequel to ‘Rhiannon.’  Nice enough, but pretty standard Stevie-fare.  Her other three compositions for Tusk are some of her finest work.  ‘Storms’ is a gently rumbling lament, beautifully constructed, and more complex than much of her Fleetwood Mac work.  ‘Angel’ is probably my favorite song Nicks wrote for Fleetwood Mac.  It’s got a bouncy, bluesy chord progression that makes it sound like a Christine McVie composition sung by Nicks.  The hauntingly lovely ‘Beautiful Child’ closes out Nicks’ contributions to Tusk.  Powered by McVie’s gentle piano and flush with the vocal interplay Fleetwood Mac is known for ‘Beautiful Child’ is a heartfelt ballad that highlights Stevie’s strength as a songwriter.  While Nicks’ songs are possibly the least affected by Tusk’s strangeness, Buckingham keeps the arrangements sparse and raw lending an urgency even to her most gentle numbers.

But it’s true, Tusk is really Lindsey Buckingham’s album, and his creativity and originality really show through on his songs.  Penning nine of Tusk’s twenty songs, Lindsey’s short, energetic numbers are like exclamatory punctuation marks sprinkled through the narrative.  His songs burst with heavy, distorted guitars and raucous vocal shrieks that convey frustration, anxiety and anger.  In some cases the bizarre lyrics seem interchangeable (and in fact, listening to the demo tracks included on the 25th anniversary release, snippets of lyrics are used on various songs).  The first of Lindsey’s songs you experience is the punk/country hybrid called ‘The Ledge.’  You might think, ‘he’s lost his mind, what the heck is this?’ but it’s a powerful locomotive of a song with the three vocalists harmonizing with wails and whispers the likes of which Fleetwood Mac had never explored before.  ‘Not That Funny’ is Buckingham’s punk response to Rumours’ ‘Never Going Back Again.’  It’s a bouncy pop ditty that leaps off the record with a high-pitched acoustic guidtar part that sticks in your head.  Along with ‘That’s Enough for Me’ and ‘I Know I’m Not Wrong’ these are three musical outbursts that highlight Lindsey’s new musical direction and his frantic energy.  ‘What Makes You Think You’re the One’ is almost traditional anchored by a pounding piano line that McVie once said made here wrists hurt after a day of recording.  ‘Save Me a Place’ and ‘That’s All for Everyone’ are lush, dreamy tracks that retain the quirky sensibilities of Lindsey’s current vision, but are less confrontational and again, use the trio’s vocal interplay to maximum affect.   Buckingham’s most beautiful number is yearning falsetto-powered ‘Walk a Thin Line.’  It highlights his adept vocals but it once again takes the expected Mac oohs and aahs and pushes them slightly left of center to remind us that we’re not listening to Rumours.

The first time I saw Fleetwood Mac live was during the Tusk tour at the Boston Garden.  It was a glorious show, and was the first of three (or maybe four times) that I was able to see them live.  I know they have had a bit of a return in the past few years, but without Christine McVie, it’s just not the same for me.  There was some sort of magic when those five made music together, and Christine McVie is one of my all time musical heroes.  I’m just glad the band has a long history of music to which I can return.

posted in Favorites, Fleetwood Mac, Music, Nostalgia | at 9:52 pm | 0 Comments
4th January 2013
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – #’s 16 & 15

As I mentioned previously, it was a good year for books.  I read a lot of really good books last year, and I couldn’t quite stop at a top 15… I had to squeeze one more on there.  So here we go, #’s 16 & 15 of my favorite books read in 2012!  And what do they have in common?  They’re both geared toward teen readers.  #16 is a newcomer to this list, and #15 made the list last year at #10.

#16 – Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I read two teen novels with gay characters/themes in them, and while I enjoyed them both, both had flaws as well.  Will Grayson Will Grayson‘s conceit about two characters named Will Grayson, one straight, and one gay, written by two authors handling alternating chapters is both a strength and a weakness.  The two writers have noticeably different writing styles, which I found distracting.  There is also an element of over-simplification that can often mars feel-good novels.  However the book is hilarious, unabashedly moving, and a nice look at the variety of personalities embodying high school life today.

 

 

#15 – Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

Cory’s latest book tackles a subject he is passionate about: copyright and the internet. In Pirate Cinema, a boy runs away to London after his cinema mash-ups cause his family to lose internet access for a month. While living on the streets, he hooks up with a Dickensian band of pals who show him how to live on his own and educate him about the draconian nature of the laws created by big entertainment industry that struggle to hang on to the establishment, but stifle the artistic creativity of a new generation. (He also finds a pretty amazing girlfriend.)  While the novelty of this book for me was seeing my husband’s name appear throughout in a very pivotal role (Scot won naming rights at an auction) about halfway through  Cory had hooked me with a compelling read, strong characters, and a message that is so relevant to the world we live in today.  Cory’s last novel, the epic For the Win was my #10 favorite book read in 2011.

7th May 2009
by Scot

Visit from the Golden Pony

Last night, the golden pony came to Springfield, MA and pooped out a lovely evening for Michael and  I  me. (Thanks, Max.) We’re here for the Massachusetts Library Association annual conference and Michael, being Michael, lined up a truly stupendous array of guests to speak. So, last night we spent the late night hours closing down the hotel bar with:

I am so lucky that my husband is so fearless and is such a big dreamer. He gave me the wonderful gift of the opportunity to chat with Lynda and Thrity about menopause and to smoke with Talia and Michael Cunningham in the rain. Does that rock or what?

28th June 2008
by Michael

Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is a winner!

Cover Art for Neil Gaiman\'s The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book is Neil Gaiman’s latest work for children coming out in September. Now I don’t remember what it was like to be 10 or 11, but his man in his forties loved this novel. No one writes books with appeal to all ages as well as Neil Gaiman. Borrowing a concept from Kipling’s The Jungle Book, which tells the story of an orphan raised in the jungle, The Graveyard Book features a toddler who wanders out of the house and into the graveyard after his family is brutally murdered, and is raised by the spirits and others beings who live there.

Young Bod (short for Nobody) is adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a kindly couple who died childless, and watched over by Silas, a mysterious and powerful being who is neither alive nor dead. Bod learns the secrets of the graveyard, and things no living beings know. As he grows up, he begins to encounter the living from time to time, and a curiosity is sparked. All the while, Jack, the man who murdered his family, is hoping to correct his failure by finding and finishing of Bod as well.

Gaiman populates The Graveyard Book with all the sorts of mystical and fantastic creatures he is known for. Silas’ wonderful, Eastern European substitute guardian Miss Luprescu is surely my favorite, but from ghouls to witches and other denizens of the dead, there is something to astound and capture everyone’s imagination. Watch for this one when it’s published in September.

Me and Neil Gaiman at a HarperCollins PartyOf course, friends of mine will know I’ve got a long-standing admiration for Mr. Gaiman, and about a month ago, while attending BookExpo America in Los Angeles, I was able to meet and hang out with Mr. Gaiman not once, but twice!  The second time I even was so bold as to ask to have my picture taken with him.  It was a geeky thing to do, and I’m smiling way too hard in the photo, but at least I hvae it.  I’ve been reading Neil’s work since the 80′s when he broke into comics at DC with the Black Orchid miniseries.  Shortly after that Neil began what has become arguably his most popular work, The Sandman.  His work as a novelist began with the riotously fun Good Omens, co-written by Terry Pratchett.  He has since hit the NYT bestsellers’ list on his own with the titles American Gods and The Anansi Boys.   He has done screenplay work for such films as PRINCESS MONONOKE, MIRRORMASK, and BEOWULF.  His young adult novel Coraline has been adapted for the screen and is due out later this year.

posted in Authors, Books, Comics, Fantasy, Favorites, Reviews | at 8:49 am | 1 Comment
10th November 2007
by Michael

Who I Listen To

The other night we were having a conversation about music and our respective relationships with it. We had just seen A.J. Schnack‘s well-made but slightly difficult new documentary, KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON, and I was saying that Kurt and Nirvana were so popular that they defined an entire era of music. Sadly for me, that era (grunge and the 1990s) more or less signaled the end of that portion of my life where I defined my interests musically and I moved to the world of film. Not that I don’t like music anymore, I just don’t live and breathe it the way I did before.

The music I do listen to tends to be dominated by female singer/songwriters, many of whom I now discover through an online community called Ecto. One in particular, has risen to the top to claim the coveted position of favorite musical act which was once held by the likes of Kate Bush and Jane Siberry. Her name is Emm Gryner, and I’ve been a great admirer of her work for several years now. She hails from Canada (surprise, surprise) and is a rocker-bassist-chick who plays gorgeous melodies on her piano that make me cry. I’ve seen her perform live a few times, and turned some friends on to her music, but since she’s not all that widely known among my circle of acquaintances, I thought I’d post her latest video here. There’s something unique about Emm’s voice, and she is a master of the pop hook. “Blackwinged Bird” is a good representation of her ballad work, but she’s not some Tori-wannabe. If you like what you hear, check her out.

posted in Favorites, Music | at 8:00 am | 0 Comments
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