A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.
In 2005, after doing a big shootout with a British original, Japanese pressings and domestic pressings, I was shocked to find that I actually think my Hot Stamper domestic pressing gets the sound of this side [two] better than any of the others. The Brit is silky smooth, but it’s a little too smooth and doesn’t rock on this song the way the domestic copy does.
I was also shocked to note that the American original seems to be made not from a dub but rather from a real master tape. The tell tale signs of a sub-generation tape are inaudible.
The domestic copy I am discussing here has the same stampers as a White Label Promo that I sold a while back. Most domestic copies of Bare Trees are not very good and don’t sound like this one.
Our Hot Stamper listing from 2008, the next big shootout we did, drilled down a bit deeper.
Most copies of this album are severely limited at both ends — no real top, no real bottom — with a veiled midrange to boot. That’s 0 for 3 in our book. The British copy we used to like didn’t fare too well this time around. Although side two was pretty good, side one was a mess. The last copy we had must have been better; here’s what we wrote:
These are the hottest British stampers I know of — as smooth and sweet as it gets. As I comment below, the right, exceptionally rare domestic copies have their good qualities too. But if you value naturalness and a complete freedom from aggressive, phony highs, this copy is hard to beat.
With better equipment at our disposal (the EAR 324 deserves much of the credit here) — less distortion, greater dynamics — we find this time around that the best domestic copies have pulled ahead of the pack. It’s always true, and needs to be remembered, that most of the distortion you hear on a record is caused by your equipment (which includes record cleaning equipment), your room, and your electricity. If this were not the case, how would the same records you’ve owned and played for decades continue to become so much less distorted and better sounding with every improvement to your system, cleaning techniques, room and power?
The State of the Art audio system of ten or twenty years ago simply could not play an album like Bare Trees. A less-than-State-of-the-Art system today can. This is what the the Revolutionary Changes in Audio link is all about. Without taking advantage of the latest advances in audio, Bare Trees is going to sound like it always did — a mess. But if you kow how to really clean a record, and have the kind of amazing equipment and room treatments that are on the market today, you can, with enough copies, find one that sounds far better than you ever thought the album could sound. That’s the only standard we can reasonably apply it seems to me. Better Than You Thought Possible — what more can you ask for?
Enough already with the philsophical musings. This copy rocks, with tight punchy bass, clear breathy vocals and plenty of top end extension to keep the sound open and spacious.
Early- to Mid-’70s Mac
This period Fleetwood Mac, from Kiln House through Mystery to Me (both are the kind of records I would take to my Desert Island), has always been my favorite of the band. I grew up on this stuff, and I can tell you from personal experience, having played a dozen copies of Bare Trees practically all day at some pretty serious levels, that it is a positive THRILL to hear it sound so good!
In-Depth Track Commentary
This is where most of the best music on Bare Trees can be found. I like every song on this side.
If this song doesn’t get your blood pumping, you need to turn up the volume another click or two. There is tremendous energy and joy in this song, and it needs to be played loud to get those feelings across.
Spare Me a Little of Your Love
This is a tough track to get right. The Brit is smoother and sweeter, which works on this song. Bad copies can sound hard on Christine’s vocals as well as the chorus.
One of my all time favorite Fleetwood Mac songs. On a good copy this track sounds so sweet. The texture to the voices is right on the money — neither grainy nor dull.
Thoughts on a Grey Day