- You’ll find HUGE sound on this copy – it’s big, bold and lively – this is clearly the right sound for Future Games
- Fleetwood Mac practically invented Space Rock, which reached its apotheosis in 1973 on Mystery to Me (my favorite by the band)
- A criminally underrated album unlike anything you’ve heard and a Better Records favorite for more than 40 years
- It’s also a record that has disappeared off the face of the earth – we would love to do more shootouts for the album, but we just never see them anymore
The better copies are super spacious and that is exactly the sound you hear on this one right from the get-go: the opening track is the breathtakingly poignant Woman of 1,000 Years. The next song, Morning Rain, is a real rocker, and here again this copy comes on strong, with plenty of energy and especially meaty keyboards and bass.
Sands of Time is another example of Danny Kirwan’s brilliant Pop Songwriting in the ’70s. As befits the tone of the album, it winds around the melody for more than seven minutes. That’s the “space” part of Space Rock. It’s what makes this popular music as compelling today as it was when first released, close to 50 years ago.
What Amazing Sides Such as These 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 1971
- 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.
Unless you have a very special copy and know how to clean it right, the pressing you own of Future Games will likely have virtually no top end, no real ambience, and no presence to speak of. The band will sound like it’s playing somewhere near the back wall of your listening room, maybe even behind it. In other words dead as a doornail. This is exactly how the album sounded for the first thirty years or so that I was listening to it.
Not long ago I ran across a copy that blew my mind and I’ve been digging them up in preparation for this shootout ever since. Of course, the stereo has gotten quite a bit better of late, which helped the album immensely.
A Round Of Applause For Danny Kirwan
Danny Kirwan is the guy who really takes control on Future Games. Some of the best songs this band ever did are here, many written by Kirwan. The opening track on side one, Woman Of A Thousand Years, and the opening track on side two, Sands Of Time, are both his and set the tone for the whole side, which is folky, ethereal and extended. The best of these pop songs don’t seem to follow any of the standard pop conventions of verse verse chorus. They seem to wander on a journey of discovery. They remind me a little bit of 20th century French classical music, or some of the longer tracks from Neil Young’s Zuma, in that way.
Any Fleetwood Mac greatest hits collection would be a joke without those tracks. They are of course missing from most of the compilations I am familiar with. Sadly, few people miss them because few people have ever even heard them!
What We’re Listening For on Future Games
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Martin Birch in this case — would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
And Let’s Not Forget Christine McVie
She officially joins the band here with some of the best songs on the album. Morning Rain is one of her best and a true Fleetwood Mac classic.
This period Fleetwood Mac, from Kiln House through Mystery to Me (both are 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, on our first big shootout years ago, having played a dozen or more copies of Future Games practically all day at some pretty serious levels, that it was a positive THRILL to hear it sound so good!
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
Woman of 1,000 Years
What a Shame
Sands of Time
Lay It All Down
Show Me a Smile
By the time of this album’s release, Jeremy Spencer had been replaced by Bob Welch and Christine McVie had begun to assert herself more as a singer and songwriter. The result is a distinct move toward folk-rock and pop; Future Games sounds almost nothing like Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. Welch’s eight-minute title track has one of his characteristic haunting melodies, and with pruning and better editing, it could have been a hit. Christine McVie’s “Show Me a Smile” is one of her loveliest ballads.
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.
Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean vintage pressings with which to do a shootout? These kinds of records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of vintage pressings of Classic Rock albums.
One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.