A caveat: fans of Bob Welch, Danny Kirwan, Bekka Bramlett, Rick Vito, and Rocky Burnette won't find anything of interest on Rhino's new reissues of Fleetwood Mac (1975), Rumours (1977), and Tusk (1979), documenting an obscure and mildewed stretch of Fleetwood Mac's career. However, these items still have something to offer fans of upward wealth redistribution. Why do these people need more of your money, unless they intend to donate to Rocky Burnette? Obviously because without buying them, you wouldn't have an early version of Tusk's "Planets of the Universe" or that album's endless version of "Sara" with Stevie Nicks' "cleaning lady" monologue—pressed onto CDs that duplicate the original vinyl inner label! You know, like you can probably do at home.
Actually, the alternate versions (five extra cuts on Fleetwood Mac, a bonus disc apiece with Rumours and Tusk) are pretty cool in that none is better than the finished one, so you get to see how a highly successful musical ensemble "tweaks" their product, sometimes coincidentally naming the results "Crystal." The demo for Rumours' "Dreams" is the same as the album cut but without the bass; had this version been released earlier, then that terrible Corrs desecration could've crossed the water to a Protestant country and been aborted. On Tusk, the Lindsey Buckingham songs sound the same as the demos, which is to say the same as each other speeded up and slowed down and scattered randomly throughout what sounds like a Jad Fair record, except the lyrics aren't as good.
Most of the alternate takes have the guitar solos missing. I bet Lindsey did this on purpose when picking which versions to keep in the vaults. You sort of hear the solos even when they're not there, meaning they have "memorable melodic phrases," which nonguitarists insist guitar solos are supposed to have. Well, fuck them—those "telegraphic blips" on Rumours' "You Make Lovin' Fun" are great as well! "Don't Stop" (Rumours) almost survives without the solo due to being the band's most poignant and probably greatest song, evoking as it does a simpler time when the president blew gentle wafts of crack smoke through his sousaphone instead of masturbating in a coffin on a pentagram. Also, without the guitar solo it sounds more like "Dream Weaver" or "Bad Bad Leroy Brown." Christine McVie could be meaner than a junkyard dog sometimes. She was the keyboard player, so she was probably responsible for taking nine days to tune the piano during the Tusk sessions. Why wasn't that recorded and included on a third Tusk CD? And why did LaMonte Young hide his piano-tuning tapes? Maybe Christine would've sued his ass. Or maybe they were just boring.
(See, I'm one of those philistines who doomed Tusk to its Hindenburg-like box-office belly flop! Other reasons Parke Puterbaugh's liner notes give for its relative-to-the- 20-million-selling-Rumours market failure—Tusk merely sold a couple mil on its way to the bargain bins—include "the cover's postmodern graphics" and the fact that it was "broadcast in its entirety on the Westwood One Network, making it unnecessary for those with tape recorders to go out and purchase the album." So now that nobody home-tapes anymore, it's a great time for a deluxe reissue!)
1975 being the year of Jaws and "high concept," Fleetwood Mac's back cover pictured all five of them in a rest room looking sheepish. Since there's a law against writing about F.M. without mentioning Krell, I'll propose that maybe Tusk failed as a "punk" album because they didn't all move on to heroin. Where the vinyl edition of Tusk was noteworthy for having about 16 inner sleeves that barely fit into each other, making it impossible to refile ever again, the Rhino edition only has one of those plastic trays that breaks the first time you try to remove disc two. Despite their titles, neither "That's All for Everyone" nor "That's Enough for Me" is the last track, which is even funnier than "Not That Funny" actually being hilarious, since it doesn't sound as much like the Talking Heads as "Sisters of the Moon" does without even trying. Why would Lindsey want to "go punk," anyway? The Rotters could sing "Sit on My Face, Stevie Nicks," while he probably actually got her to do it! Sideburn action prevents us from knowing whether he got his red wings or not, however.
You should buy the Tusk one, because there's at least 10 more minutes of "Sara" here than on earlier CD editions, and because the album title might indicate a White Stripes connection. (I don't understand why people hate the White Stripes so much, do you? Something to do with an arrhythmic beat supposedly signifying a pernicious strain of reactionary individualism, apparently.) And you should get Rumours, because there are never too many ways to hear John McVie's bass playing, without which Fleetwood Mac would've sounded like the '80s college rock that made hearing "Don't Stop" 78 times a day on the classic-rock station such a pleasurable option. You should also buy all their other albums, and the solo albums, and solo albums by people who weren't even in the band, like Rocky Burnette, and albums by people you can imagine being in the band, like Melissa Auf Der Mar or Gretchen Wilson, and albums by bands you can imagine the members of Fleetwood Mac wanting to be in, like the Beach Boys or the Darkness, and albums by bands that would perhaps be better if members of Fleetwood Mac were in them, like the Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd or the Theater of Eternal Music or the Eagles. Led Zeppelin were actually a better band than Fleetwood Mac, but that was only because their lyrics were worse, as were their rhythm section and guitar player.
Fleetwood Mac play White River Amphitheatre, 40601 Auburn Enumclaw Rd., Auburn, at 8 p.m. Thurs., July 1. $32.75–$146.75 adv.