Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Tubey Magical Analog – the sound is open, spacious and transparent, with a huge three-dimensional soundfield
  • A Better Records Top 100 title – when you hear it sound as good as it does here, you’ll know why we’ve long considered Rumours an Audiophile Demo Disc
  • If you own the album on two 45 RPM discs (you know the one), allow us to send you a copy that will beat the pants off that modern mediocrity — this one!
  • 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.

What the Best Sides of Rumours Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1977
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For on Rumours

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 its 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.

Extensive Track Commentary

We really spent some quality time on the track commentary for this one, so make sure you refer to it while comparing what we are saying to what you are hearing at home, using whatever copy you own. 

If you end up with one of our Hot Stampers, listen carefully for the effects we describe. This is not an easy record to reproduce — everything has to be working in tip-top form to even begin to get this complicated music sounding the way it should — but if you’ve done your homework and gotten your system really cooking, you are in for the time of your Fleetwood Mac life.

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? Fifteen or twenty bucks each, we know already. Thanks in advance for your letter.

A Must Own Pop Record

This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Popular Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

Few would argue against this being the Biggest, Boldest Statement by the Buckingham-Nicks iteration of Fleetwood Mac, one which we too consider to be their Magnum Opus Wikipedia defines the term as “a large and important work of art, music, or literature, especially one regarded as the most important work of an artist or writer.” Seems to fit the bill nicely.

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

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Rumours is the kind of album that transcends its origins and reputation, entering the realm of legend — it’s an album that simply exists outside of criticism and outside of its time, even if it thoroughly captures its era.

Prior to this LP, Fleetwood Mac were moderately successful, but here they turned into a full-fledged phenomenon, with Rumours becoming the biggest-selling pop album to date. While its chart success was historic, much of the legend surrounding the record is born from the group’s internal turmoil. Unlike most bands, Fleetwood Mac in the mid-’70s were professionally and romantically intertwined, with no less than two couples in the band, but as their professional career took off, the personal side unraveled. Bassist John McVie and his keyboardist/singer wife Christine McVie filed for divorce as guitarist/vocalist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks split, with Stevie running to drummer Mick Fleetwood, unbeknown to the rest of the band.

These personal tensions fueled nearly every song on Rumours, which makes listening to the album a nearly voyeuristic experience. You’re eavesdropping on the bandmates singing painful truths about each other, spreading nasty lies and rumors and wallowing in their grief, all in the presence of the person who caused the heartache. Everybody loves gawking at a good public breakup, but if that was all that it took to sell a record, Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights would be multi-platinum.

No, what made Rumours an unparalleled blockbuster is the quality of the music. Once again masterminded by producer/songwriter/guitarist Buckingham, Rumours is an exceptionally musical piece of work — he toughens Christine McVie and softens Nicks, adding weird turns to accessibly melodic works, which gives the universal themes of the songs haunting resonance. It also cloaks the raw emotion of the lyrics in deceptively palatable arrangements that made a tune as wrecked and tortured as “Go Your Own Way” an anthemic hit. But that’s what makes Rumours such an enduring achievement — it turns private pain into something universal.

Some of these songs may be too familiar, whether through their repeated exposure on FM radio or their use in presidential campaigns, but in the context of the album, 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.

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.”

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