Fleetwood Mac – Mystery To Me – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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More Mystery To Me

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Here it is, folks — the best sounding copy of Mystery To Me to ever hit our site. This copy positively DOES IT ALL — it’s super open and spacious with tons of energy and incredible presence. The bottom end is just KILLER and there’s dramatically more richness and fullness than you get on most copies out there. 

It’s beyond difficult to find great sounding copies of this album, which is why it’s been about four years since we last had these on the site.

Mystery To Me is my All Time Favorite Fleetwood Mac album, and this White Hot Stamper copy has the sound that I always DREAMED this album could have, but didn’t — until now. This is just the second Hot Stamper shootout that we’ve been able to do, since clean copies with the right stampers are ridiculously hard to come by. I’m not kidding. I have spent the last ten years and more trying to find the right stampers for this record. I can tell you I was dead wrong so many times in the past that I had almost given up. Time and time again, just when I thought I had it figured out, I would go back and play my so-called “hot” copy, to find myself miserably disappointed all over again.

Half the copies you find of this record are mud and the other half have no bass. If my math is correct that leaves zero copies that aren’t muddy and actually have bass. That comports rather well with what I was finding: under test conditions zero of the copies I played sounded any good. I was sorely vexed. Sorely sorely vexed.

Then the skies opened up and the sun began to shine.

Getting To This

The new cleaning rituals cleared up enough of the mud to allow us to hear which stampers had promise, and the better equipment and room changes brought those hotter stampers to life, showing us which copies were worthy of the throne and which were merely pretenders.

The best copies get rid of that ridiculously smeared veiled quality that practically every copy you find suffers from. Clear and present mids and highs are essential to any copy worth playing.

An Amazing Bass Drum Awaits You

As I said above, that’s half the battle, and the other half is the bottom half of the spectrum, BASS and WHOMP. There is an amazing bass drum on this album that plays on selective tracks, most notably the song “Why”, and it will shake the foundation and knock your knick-knacks right off their shelves if you’ve got the woofers (and the room) to play it right. (I was using this record to demo my system in the mid-’70s. I had a pair of Fulton Js and they could really pump out the low end this record needs.)

That bass drum tells you a lot about your deep bass reproduction, but we prize a little something called whomp here at Better Records every bit as much. It’s the WEIGHT and POWER you sense happening down below that translates into whomp factor. (This is the frequency area that screens and small dynamic drivers have the most trouble with. You need to be able to move lots of air under, say, 200 cycles to give the music a sense of real power down below. Few systems I’ve run into over the last thirty years can really pull it off.)

“Why”

Speaking of the song “Why”, I have to confess that it’s my favorite Fleetwood Mac song of all time. Considering how many great songs this band has recorded over the last thirty plus years, that’s really saying something. (Need Your Love So Bad off Pious Bird is right up there with it.)

Bob Weston, I learned today, did the arrangement. (I found his bio and copied it below. Check it out, what a great story!) He plays the lap guitar you see pictured in image number two. His guitar work throughout the album, along with the wonderfully complex arrangements for the songs, make this music a powerful and engaging listening experience thirty years on.

This Hot Stamper pressing is the one that lets you hear it the way it was meant to be heard. Mid-fi quality systems are going to struggle with this one, but top quality systems are going to make this album a JOY to hear, with breathy vocals, textured string arrangements, and the kind of rich, warm sound that is the hallmark of ANALOG.

One Last Thing

I’ve only heard two British copies of MTM, and one Japanese pressing in my entire life, but all three were dreadful sounding. Stick with the domestic pressings on this one. And if you’ve got ten years to spend searching in the wilderness, you too may find a Hot Stamper like this one!

Bob Weston Bio — Stop Messin’ Round

Robert (Bob) Weston was born in 1947 in Liverpool, England. He began his musical career playing violin at the age of 8. But after only a few short years, inspired by blues legends like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Buddy Guy, he decided to take up the guitar. He was just 12 years old at the time.

Weston’s real break came while playing with Long John Baldry’s band, with whom he recorded “You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover” and “Lord Remember Me”. Both songs appeared on Baldry’s “Everything Stops For Tea” album — an album that happened to have been produced by none other than Rod Stewart and Elton John. While gigging with Baldry, Weston met the members of Fleetwood Mac. And the rest is history.

Bob Weston: “My big moment came when I was asked to join Long John Baldry’s band.Sammy was going through some personal problems, and he had been sacked. We trotted off to America. It was wonderful! But the money was terrible, £60 per week. We often opened for Fleetwood Mac. Mick Fleetwood was being particularly friendly at the time. I thought, nice people, very charming.”

As the story goes, in 1972 Danny Kirwan was asked to leave Fleetwood Mac. Manager Clifford Davis decided to hire a lead vocalist, Dave Walker, and a guitar player. That guitar player was Bob Weston. For the first time in it’s history, Fleetwood Mac went on tour as a six-piece band.

In January 1973, the new line up entered the studio to record the “Penguin” album. Although most of the tracks on this album were written by Christine McVie and Bob Welch, Bob Weston contributed significantly, penning the beautiful acoustic guitar piece “Caught In The Rain” and sharing lead vocals with Christine on the magnificent “Did You Ever Love Me”. The latter was released as a single but unfortunately never charted.

After the album’s release, the band toured the States and Europe. It wasn’t long, however, before it became very clear that the European fans were missing the classic Peter Green/Danny Kirwan/Jeremy Spencer sound. Not long after that, Dave Walker was asked to leave the band; Bob Weston remained with the four other members.

The band recorded another album, the inspiring “Mystery To Me”. It contained such Mac classics as “Hypnotized”, “Emerald Eyes”, and the song “Why” which was a Bob Weston arrangement (a fact sadly left off the album’s liner notes). It is also interesting to note that Bob Welch’s song, “Good Things (Come To Those Who Wait)” was dropped at the last minute (but not before thousands of record sleeves and lyric inserts had been printed) in favor of a song suggested by Weston, the Yardbird’s “For Your Love”, which was also released as a single.

Eager to support the promise of “Mystery To Me”, the band scheduled a tour of the States. The tour had already begun, when Mick Fleetwood noticed something was awry. Bob Weston, always the ladies’ man, was spending a whole lot of time with Mick’s wife, Jenny. Not surprisingly, it became increasingly difficult, as the tour progressed, for the two musicians to appear on stage together. And Jenny did nothing to dispel his worst suspicions. Mick toughed it out as long as he could, but by the end of October it was clear someone had to go. Road Manager John Courage did the deed: Bob Weston was fired on October 26, 1973. 

And so ended one of the most magical lineups the band ever produced.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Emerald Eyes 
Believe Me 
Just Crazy Love 
Hypnotized 
Forever 
Keep on Going

Side Two

The City 
Miles Away 
Somebody 
The Way I Feel 
For Your Love 
Why

AMG Review

At this point, the band was best-known as a British blues unit. Slowly but surely the band was becoming more acclimated with a production style that was reminiscent of the California pop sound. With the majority of the blues and psychedelic behind them, Mystery to Me finds Fleetwood Mac in a more ruminative vein. American guitarist Bob Welch established that path. Despite the all-encompassing ethos, Welch’s songwriting skills made him walk a fine line between the mystical and the silly. But luckily most everything works here.

The leadoff song, the laid-back “Emerald Eyes” matches Welch’s spacey lyrics and vocals as Christine McVie provides great backing help. The album’s best track, the gorgeous and lyrically strong “Hypnotized” has Welch matching an effortless, soothing croon with jazzy guitar riffs. Throughout Mystery to Me the amazing and almost telepathic drums and bass of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie give this effort more panache and muscle than was represented on this effort’s predecessor, Bare Trees. The best Bob Welch offering, “Keep on Going,” has a strong, soulful string arrangement and Christine McVie’s customary sensual and poised vocals … This effort is custom-made for those who like thoughtful offerings and is a valuable set in the scheme of the band.