An Iconic American rock album revisited, and a glance at Lau Nau
Tusk: Deluxe Edition
It’s difficult to comprehend that in 1979, one album that sold two million copies in the U.S.A. was considered a disappointment. You see, that album – Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk–followed the group’s mega-hit Rumours, which has sold over 20 million copies domestically.
However, Tusk was only disappointing from a sales standpoint. In this writer’s opinion, it is the peak of creativity for the post-1975 incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, due in no small part to Lindsey Buckingham’s contributions and sometimes off-kilter methods.
Tusk even has a bit of a cult following; for example, Camper Van Beethoven covered it in its entirety, Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields had plans to write an entire book about it and the band Ida performed most of it at one special live show. At times, Tusk is just plain weird for a largely middle-of-the-road group; the album’s unconventional first single was the title track, with multiple lead vocalists singing simultaneously and a backing marching band.
At the time, Tusk was the most expensive album ever made, and prominently placed as the album’s second track is “The Ledge,” Buckingham’s oddball homemade-sounding cow-punk indie-rock prototype. (Dolly Parton’s quote “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap” comes to mind.)
Now we have the Deluxe Edition of Tusk, which is more illuminating than the two-CD edition from 2004 by showing how certain tracks evolved over months of studio experimentation. On CD 2, “Singles, Outtakes, Sessions,” the six versions of “I Know I’m Not Wrong” show how every little detail developed. However, a more dramatic transformation happened with “Out on the Road”; it sped up, muted its pronounced country-western feel and was re-titled “That’s Enough for Me.” Christine McVie’s “Never Make Me Cry,” sung as a patient and persevering lover, originally was primarily a piano song.
CD 1 features a new remastered version of the 20-track album – also included on two vinyl discs and as a 5.1 surround-sound DVD – and CD 3 offers alternate versions of those 20 songs in the same order. Standouts include the nine-minute version of the devastating “Sara,” about Stevie Nicks’ and Don Henley’s aborted lovechild, and “Storms” with a solo guitar backing. (CDs 1 through 3 are also available as a new “Expanded Edition.”) The fourth and fifth CDs include previously unreleased live material from various 1979 and 1980 concerts, stitched together in a sensible order, with excellent sound quality.
“Oh Well” isn’t as tight and furious as it could have been, but other renditions, like the 9-minute “Rhiannon,” are more charged, with meatier drums, than their studio counterparts.
Tusk is a singular album not only in Fleetwood Mac’s catalog but also in the history of rock, and although it has numerous moments of beauty, it’s easy to see why its more peculiar details caught people off-guard.
If you have to ask, “Do we need another edition of Tusk?” then this deluxe set is not for you.
The previous album Valohiukkanen from Finnish musician Lau Nau, a.k.a. Laura Naukkarinen, came out over three years ago, but don’t think that she’s been slacking since then.
Residing on the fringes of Finnish folk music, with an embrace of sonic exploration and both acoustic and electronic instruments, Lau Nau’s evocative sounds have accompanied more than a handful of silent film screenings (including, most recently, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Fall of the House of Usher), installations, and theater and dance performances.
Her ensemble Maailma released the album Speculum in 2014, and after scoring her first feature film, Silmäterä in 2013, her second feature film soundtrack, for the documentary Hem. Någonstans (“Home. Somewhere” in English), serves as the fourth proper Lau Nau album.
With the exception of “Kuoleman laiva,” with Lau Nau acting as a scattered angelic choir, the album is a largely instrumental ambient album. This seems to retreat from certain recent paths she has taken, such as forming a backing band with a rock slant in 2012 and including a 4-on-the-floor dance number on Valohiukkanen.
This writer prefers her more playfully strange, alchemic work and considers 2008’s Nukkuu to be her masterpiece, but Hem. Någonstans obviously serves a different purpose; with fewer details to process, it is music to be simply felt, to help set a mood and not distract.
The documentary–unseen by this writer–apparently is a meditation on how people in Finland are connected with their surroundings, including the ocean and also things like fish, and Lau Nau’s score perhaps intentionally allows viewers to let their minds wander.
The gentle, exhaling instruments of “Genesis” lead to “Koti” with world-weary strings engaging in a multi-generational call-and-response with faint, tender, ringing piano replies.
“Luotsilaiva” serves up placid tones and drones, primarily relying on subtle volume variations to be expressive, and “Kiikarit” uses the eerie sounds of a bow being pulled across the bars of a glockenspiel.
As a Lau Nau album, it isn’t her most rich, intricate or mind-expanding music, but as an ambient soundtrack album, its understated beauty works.