Fleetwood Mac – Rumours – Listening in Depth

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  • A KILLER copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Tubey Magical Analog – The sound is open, spacious and transparent, with a huge three-dimensional soundfield 
  • When you hear it sound as good as it does here, you’ll know why we consider Rumours a Better Records Top 100 Demo Disc
  • 5 stars: “Each tune, each phrase regains its raw, immediate emotional power—which is why Rumours touched a nerve upon its 1977 release, and has since transcended its era to be one of the greatest, most compelling pop albums of all time.”

When you hear a good copy of Rumours, it’s very easy to understand why this is one of the best-selling pop music albums of all time. Just about everyone knows how great these songs are, but I bet you didn’t know they could sound like this!

It’s tough finding Hot Stamper copies of this album. With over 75 sets of stamper numbers for each side, it’s an extremely taxing project, even for us! We know some of the better stampers and have been acquiring them since then in preparation for this shootout.

Demo Disc Sound

This is a rock album — it needs to be played LOUD and it needs to be played on a DYNAMIC system. Case in point: consider how quietly The Chain starts out and how loud it is by the end. Those kinds of macro-dynamics are very rare on a pop recording. Rumours has the kind of dynamics you just don’t hear anymore, which is why the killer copies are a such a THRILL to play on a big dynamic system fitted with a top-notch turntable!

The best copies exhibited the kind of presence, bass, dynamics and energy found only on the kind of Super Demo Discs we rave about here endlessly: the BS&Ts, Stardusts, Zumas and the like. When you get a good copy of this record, it is a Demo Disc.

Who knew? Who even suspected? Who raves about Rumours but us? Let’s fact it, the audiophile world has no clue how good this record can sound.

What to Listen For

Top copies of Rumours are full of Tubey Analog magic. (Shockingly, the album before from 1975 is even more Tubey Magical, the most Tubey Magical album the band ever released as a matter of fact.)

The sound will be open, spacious and transparent with a huge three-dimensional soundfield.

On the best pressings Christine McVie’s vocals are solid and present, Stevie Nicks’ breathy and clear.

The overall sound can be surprisingly rich, sweet and warm — that’s analog, baby!

Of special interest to those of us who like to rock is the fact that the best sides have tremendous weight, with WHOMP factor that lets the energy of the recording (and the music) burst out of the soundfield.

Quick Listening Test — Dreams

What do the best copies have that the also-rans don’t? Lots and lots of qualities, far too many to mention here, but there is one you may want to pay special attention to: the sound of the snare. When the snare is fat and solid and present, with a good “slap” to the sound, you have a copy with weight, presence, transparency, energy — all the stuff we ADORE about the sound of the best copies of Rumours.

Next time you are on the hunt to buy new speakers, see which ones can really rock the snare on Dreams. That’s probably going to be the speaker that can do justice to the entire Rumours album, as well as anything by The Beatles, and Neil Young’s Zuma, and lots of our other favorite records, and we expect favorites of yours too.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Second Hand News

This instruments on this track, and I mean practically all of them, should positively JUMP out of the speakers. Second Hand News is built on a solid foundation of deep punchy bass, so if your copy is at all lean (Nautilus anyone?) you will not be getting what you should out of this song. It’s the lead-off batter for one of the best song lineups in the history of pop. Lightweights need not apply.

Dreams

The drums that open this track and the one monster cymbal crash at the beginning are PERFECTION on the best pressings. If you took ten copies of this album and just played that cymbal crash, I’m guessing you could tell the difference in the sound of every copy. If that cymbal crash doesn’t splash you in the face like a bucket of cold water, you do not have a killer copy. It’s way out front in the mix and that’s the way they want it.

Ideally the bass is very prominent on this track. It should be way up in the mix, loud, tight and note-like, with the guitar and kick drum clearly separated. It absolutely drives the song; the copies that got the bass right on this track really came to life. If you want to know why Fleetwood and Mac are revered as one of the all-time great rhythm sections, this song should provide all the evidence you need. (Try Werewolves of London if this song doesn’t convince you. Same sound too.)

Listen for Stevie Nick’s humming before she starts to sing. On the good copies it’s quite clear.

Never Going Back Again

The picking of the acoustic guitars on this track should sound wonderful; all their harmonic structures are fully intact and clearly audible. In other words, the guitars were recorded right and that’s the way they should sound. They frequently sound dull (lacking texture) or thin (lacking body: the strings are connected to a guitar body, not floating in the air).

The vocals are very silky on the good pressings. Some of the vocals on Rumours can strain; not so here.

Don’t Stop
Go Your Own Way

The choruses of this album have them shouting out the lines like lovers during a knock-down drag-out fight, because that’s what it is. All the hurt and anger is there in the delivery of the lines. Copies that convey that energy and emotion are doing their job and the rest are faking it.

Songbird

Side Two

The Chain

Thirty seconds into this track you should be able to tell if you have a hot side two. Tons of ambience, a wide and beautifully transparent soundstage, perfect tonality: all the special sonic qualities of the best pop recordings should be on display from the very beginning of this song. It should also be noted that this is one of the all time great Fleetwood Mac tracks. I’m a fan of their earlier stuff, but you can’t argue with a Musical Statement of this calibre.

I can’t think of another Fleetwood Mac song with more raw emotion. The best copies bring out the pain in their voices like you would not believe. It’s on the tape, but you can only feel the full power of it when the pressing lets you, and those are tough to come by.

You Make Loving Fun

I remember playing this song — it has to be close to twenty years ago — when I first discovered how good this album could sound, and thinking that I could hear Christine McVie’s voice clearly for the first time. It had always sounded muffled. The reason it had always sounded muffled is simple enough: most pressings of this album are crap. Our equipment from that era was also lacking. Now we can hear her just fine, and on these Hot Stamper copies there’s even a fair amount of ambience around her voice, the more the better.

I Don’t Want to Know
Oh Daddy

McVie’s vocal here is naked and unbelievably heartfelt.

Finding a copy that plays mint minus on this track is practically impossible.

Gold Dust Woman

Wikipedia Recap

[The grades cover the gamut from A to A+ and everything in between. Just kidding. Some critics were not impressed — the fools! — so we did not feel an obligation to include their reviews.]

Rumours has been acclaimed by music critics since its release. Robert Christgau, reviewing in The Village Voice, gave the album an “A” and described it as “more consistent and more eccentric” than its predecessor. He added that it “jumps right out of the speakers at you”.

Rolling Stone magazine’s John Swenson believed the interplay among the three vocalists was one of the album’s most pleasing elements; he stated, “Despite the interminable delay in finishing the record, Rumours proves that the success of Fleetwood Mac was no fluke.”

In a review for The New York Times, John Rockwell said the album is “a delightful disk, and one hopes the public thinks so, too”, while Dave Marsh of the St. Petersburg Times claimed the songs are “as grandly glossy as anything right now”.

In a retrospective review, AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave Rumours five stars and noted that, regardless of the voyeuristic element, the record was “an unparalleled blockbuster” because of the music’s quality; he concluded, “Each tune, each phrase regains its raw, immediate emotional power—which is why Rumours touched a nerve upon its 1977 release, and has since transcended its era to be one of the greatest, most compelling pop albums of all time.”

According to Slant Magazine’s Barry Walsh, Fleetwood Mac drew on romantic dysfunction and personal turmoil to create a timeless, five-star record, while Andy Gill of The Independent claimed it “represents, along with The Eagles Greatest Hits, the high-water mark of America’s Seventies rock-culture expansion, the quintessence of a counter-cultural mindset lured into coke-fuelled hedonism”.

In 2007, BBC’s Daryl Easlea labelled the sonic results as “near perfect”, “like a thousand angels kissing you sweetly on the forehead”, while Patrick McKay of Stylus Magazine wrote, “What distinguishes Rumours—what makes it art—is the contradiction between its cheerful surface and its anguished heart. Here is a radio-friendly record about anger, recrimination, and loss.”

Stampers Galore!

You would have to go through at least a dozen or more copies of Rumours to even hope to find one in a league with our best pressings. That’s a lot of record hunting, record cleaning and record playing!

If you know anything about this record, you know that the average domestic pressing of this album is quite average sounding; the good ones are few and far between.

And the stampers, as we’ve come to learn, aren’t the whole story. For one thing, there are at least 75 different side ones and 75 different side twos, all cut by Ken Perry at Capitol on the same three cutters from — we’re assuming, we weren’t there — the same tapes.

But of course they all sound different. Ken also cut the original English and Japanese pressings; his KP is in the dead wax for all to see. The two import KP copies that I heard were quite good, by the way. Not the best, but very good. He only cut the originals though, so practically every import copy you can find will be a reissue made from a dub, ugh.

A Ten to Twenty Dollar Used Record? Yeah, We Know Already

So if you’re the kind of person who likes to complain about us charging hundreds of dollars for a record that can be found in every used bin in town for under twenty, save yourself some typing: that’s the price we pay too.

And if the copy you paid fifteen bucks for sounds good enough, more power to you. Go with god as they say.

But if your copy doesn’t thrill you — and it’s unlikely that it does — then you have a lot of work ahead of you if you expect to find one that sounds like ours. We wish you well. We wish everybody who likes to do his own shootouts well.

We know the kind of time and energy it takes to find great records, probably better than anyone on the planet. If you have that kind of time and energy available to you, go for it. It takes us a staff of six and access to all the records in the record capitol of the world to pull it off, with thirty years experience doing it no less.

But it can be done, and you can do it. You just have to be willing to put in the time and effort. The records are cheap, right? Fifiteen bucks each, we know already. Thanks in advance for your letter.

We Get Letters

Many years ago our good customer Roger was blown away by one of our Hot Stamper pressings of Rumours. Roger did his usual thorough shootout of our Hot Stamper against his own pressings. The results? Another knockout for our Hot Stamper pressing!

Hi Tom,

Just a quick note on the Fleetwood Mac Rumors Hot Stamper I just bought. I have a Nautilus pressing and my original pressing I bought in college when it came out. I have never liked this record as much as Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac, perhaps partly because its sonics were somewhat inferior.

So I played the Nautilus and quickly remembered what a piece of sonic detritus this thing is. How can audiophile labels like Nautilus put out something that is as thin, bright, flat, and compresssed as this thing is? It obviously reinforces your point that most audiophiles are lemmings when it comes to audiophile records. If some audiophile guru said the Japanese pressing of Girl Scout Troup #657 singing the Girl Scout Theme Song was sonic nirvana, it would show up on every internet record website for $50 each.

Next up was my original pressing with an F16 matrix on side one, and man, what a relief after following the Nautilus disaster. In fact, I resisted buying a pricey hot stamper because I always felt my pressing to be pretty darned good, which it was. So I was shocked to hear just how much better the hot stamper was.

I played Dreams on side one and it took all of about 5 seconds of hearing the massive bass and startlingly dynamic cymbal crashes on this track to find the hot stamper worth every penny I paid for it. If the drum kit on Oh Daddy doesn’t get your pants flapping, time for a new stereo. Voices were eerily present, guitars had great detail, pianos had weight just like in real life (we have a piano in our house), and best of all, the highs were arrayed in space and were delicate and detailed.

Since the Nautilus is too thin to make a good frisbee and would probably fetch big bucks on ebay I will stuff it back on my shelf forever, unless I need a good laugh, and add the HS Rumors to my favorite recordings.

Roger

Roger, thanks as always for the insightful review. The sad fact of the matter is that the Nautilus Digitally Remastered Half Speed — Yes, you heard that right — is actually better than the average reissue, and probably better in most ways than the average grainy domestic original, which is pretty much unbearably edgy and gritty, especially if it hasn’t been cleaned right.

So what does the typical audiophile do? He buys the Nautilus, finds the sound better than his crappy domestic pressing — not noticing that there’s no bass on the Half Speed because his system has no bass in the first place — and stops there. It is what it is.

You took it a step further, finding a good domestic pressing, F16, far superior to the Nautilus, and figured that the sound of that LP was pretty much what the recording had to offer. You probably went through a few to get that one I’m guessing.

Ah, but now you have a pretty good idea of just how AMAZING the recording really is. (Our Triple Plus Crazy Expensive Hot Stamper copy was even better, but it takes $750 to get a record like that from us, and who has that kind of money?) Let’s face it: there are only so many hours in the day, and there are an awful lot of titles one might want to do one’s own shootouts for. Not to mention leaving time to listen for pleasure. How on earth can anyone be expected to go through all the rigmarole (defined as “a long and complicated and confusing procedure” and boy, that word sure fits the bill when it comes to record shootouts!) necessary to find a copy of Rumours good enough to enjoy?

We summed up our shootout with this final thought or two:

You would have to go through at least 25 or more copies of this record to even hope to find one in a league with our best pressings. That’s a lot of record hunting, record cleaning and record playing! (If you know anything about this record, you know that the average domestic pressing of this album is quite average sounding; the good ones are few and far between.)

And the stampers, as we’ve come to learn, aren’t the whole story. For one thing, there are at least 75 different side ones and 75 different side twos, all cut by Ken Perry at Capitol on the same three cutters from the same tapes — but they all sound different! (Ken also cut the original English and Japanese pressings; his KP is in the dead wax for all to see. The two import KP copies that I heard were quite good, by the way. Not the best, but very good. He only cut the originals though, so practically every import copy you can find will be a reissue made from a dub, ugh.)

So this is the service we offer. If you already have a job and don’t need another one, we are happy to find you the pressing that has the sound you’ve been searching for but could never find. It’s what we do best, and it positively warms our hearts to know that fellow audiophiles like Roger are sharing in the kind of musical thrill that only comes from playing a truly killer LP.

Until next time, 
TP