The Philadelphia Daily News, Sunday, November 18, 1979

Album Reviews

by Rich Aregood

THE RECORD INDUSTRY, lately in something of a slump, is firing its big guns.

Within the past few weeks, we've seen a new album from the Eagles (now No. 1 on the charts) and another by Fleetwood Mac (No. 4 and gaining despite a walloping $15.98 cover price). And, oddly enough, both have solid merit to go with their commercial punch.

That's especially true of Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" (Warner Bros.), a two-record set that had a gestation roughly paralleling that of an overdue baby elephant. The long delay between the last Fleetwood Mac effort and the new one was necessary because it looked like "Rumours" would sell forever. So far, some 14 million copies have been sold, give or take a couple of late-reporting Korvette branches in American Samoa.

The fact is that "Tusk" is the record that will overcome the basic critic presumption that records that sell a ton are automatically less worthy than those that don't sell at all. Not since the Beatles have we had a group to so successfully combine outrageous success at the cash register with quality music. It will also do severe damage to that other cherished critical belief that all two-record sets should have been one excellent record instead of two less excellent ones. This one's solid all the way through.

ONCE YOU GROPE your way through all the cardboard (sleeves within sleeves within sleeves), there's a lot to listen to.

Lindsey Buckingham's new songs here provide a graceful kind of intensity that the band hadn't had before.

The title track is perhaps the best example, with its 60ish acidic feel, its compelling drum track played against the horns of the U.S.C. marching band and some completely irrational crowd noises. It all works, as does his marvelously biting "What Makes You Think You're the One." If he hadn't captured the feel of John Lennon at his best so well, it might be tempting to say that Buckingham has shed the whole pretty rock star image as convincingly as Paul McCartney. Let's say it anyway.

One of the things that has always distinguished this incarnation of Fleetwood Mac is its effective integration of women, unlike virtually every other rock band. That's a lot more likely to stay in your mind than the band's distinctive "sound," which can on occasion get monotonous. Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks provide the rest of the songs here.

NICKS HAS A GIFT for the kind of song you end up humming without thinking about it. She also sings the hell out of them. Those two factors combine to make hits, of course.

And despite all the gossip about her voice in the "People"-type press, she sounds just fine - better than ever. "Sara" may not be a terribly heavyweight song, but she sings it about as well as anybody could.

The Eagles' "The Long Run" (Asylum) is another matter altogether. The group has generated a lot of good music since 1971 and it's really not their fault that the imitators they spawned have generally been stupefying.

The new album doesn't have a "Take It Easy" or a "James Dean" or a "Lyin' Eyes" on it, at least not to my ears, but it does have a solid collection of well-constructed and played songs. It's a fine album that I probably won't listen to a lot.

My problem with the Eagles here is the same one I've got with the genre of "Life on the Road Sure is Miserable Even if You're a Big Star." The Eagles have this attitude. And the new album follows "Life in the Fast Lane" to something of a conclusion.

Hollywood is decadent. It is full of scary things. Life is tough.

So what? Popular music has to have a link to people - actual people, not just those who have shared a few grams with a superstar. Unrelieved bleakness is also a little hard to handle. While Fleetwood Mac used to sound seamless and was criticized for it, it's clear that nothing but seams isn't it either.

All that aside, they do it all well. "The Disco Strangler" is wonderfully compelling depravity. The next track, "King of Hollywood," is probably the best ever in the limited area of songs about casting couches.

Nice album, a hit even. It's just not likely to wear well.

Thanks to Les for posting this to The Ledge and to Anusha for sending it to us.