Top Artists – Fleetwood Mac & Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

It’s easy to hear what the good pressings are doing. They’re big and rich, never thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deeper on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. Stevie’s vocals are breathy and present. The energy of her performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate the sound one could expect on a good Tom Petty album. Nothing surprising there; this album, like Petty’s, was produced and engineered by the same team, Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus. They’ve made some great records together, Damn the Torpedoes being the best of the bunch for sonics.

Bella Donna may not reach those exalted heights, but it’s still quite good, especially for 1981. As the decade wore on things went south very quickly, sonically and musically, so we must be thankful that this record came out early in the decade and not much later. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk – On Japanese Vinyl

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

FOUR EXCELLENT SOUNDING SIDES ON QUIET JAPANESE VINYL! This Captiol-mastered, Japanese-pressed LP has excellent sound on the first two sides and SUPERB sound on sides three and four. I doubt you’ve ever heard the title track rock like this! 

We dug up a few Japanese copies of Tusk that were mastered at Capitol. Because they were made from the real tapes, these don’t have the typical smeary subgen sound associated with Japanese pressings. We found that the best Japanese copies could hold their own with the best domestics on sides one and two, and could win outright on sides three and four.

Four Amazing Sides

Side one is RICH, WARM, and SWEET. The top end is lovely — silky sweet with lots of extension. The vocals are full-bodied with lots of breath and ambience. Detail lovers will freak out over the hi-res sound on this side.

Side two is big, bold, and full of life! Storms sounds particularly good — clean, clear, and very present.

The real magic here begins at the edge of side three. The moment the needle hits the grooves, you’ll be blown away by the AMAZING CLARITY and PRESENCE. The bass is deep, tight, and full-bodied. The vocals are silky sweet and the electric guitars have tons of meaty texture. The highs are delicate, the bottom end is superb, and the drums are clean and crisp, but not overly so. The overall sound is open, spacious, and super transparent – you can easily pick out each vocal line. (more…)

Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna

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  • Insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) sound from beginning to end for what is surely Ms Nicks’ best solo album
  • Both sides are big and clear, with plenty of rockin’ energy as would be expected from the team of Yakus and Iovine
  • Two of her biggest hits are here (and they still hold up): Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around & Leather And Lace
  • AMG raves: “Equally engaging are less exposed tracks like the haunting “After the Glitter Fades.” Hit producer Jimmy Iovine wisely avoids over-producing, and keeps things sounding organic on this striking debut.”

It’s easy to hear what the good pressings are doing. They’re big and rich, never thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deeper on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. Stevie’s vocals are breathy and present. The energy of her performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate the sound one could expect on a good Tom Petty album. Nothing surprising there; this album, like Petty’s, was produced and engineered by the same team, Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus. They’ve made some great records together, Damn the Torpedoes being the best of the bunch for sonics. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This Hot Stamper Rumours has FREAKISHLY GOOD SOUND! It’s been YEARS since we even tried to find 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!  (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Future Games

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  • An awesome pressing with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides, just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too! 
  • The sound is HUGE on this early pressing – it’s also wonderfully sweet and spacious, two qualities that are key to the best sounding copies of Future Games
  • Fleetwood Mac practically invented Space Rock, which reached its apotheosis in 1973 on Mystery to Me, my personal favorite by the band
  • A criminally underrated Fleetwood Mac album which is unlike anything you’ve heard, and a Better Records favorite for more than 40 years 

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Fleetwood Mac – Future Games – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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More Future Games

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Finally, SUPERB SOUNDING STAMPERS have been discovered for this wonderful Fleetwood Mac album, a personal favorite from 1971! We can GUARANTEE you have never heard one that sounds like this, because practically every copy we’ve ever played sounded like an old cassette. Unless you have a very special copy — domestic, not Brit, more about that later — and know how to clean it right, the pressing you own of Future Games will 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; check out our Revolutionary Changes in Audio commentary for the latest improvements.  (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

We won’t be surprised if you don’t have this one in your collection. Let’s face it, who in his right mind would keep throwing good money after bad, buying up one bad sounding copy after another in the hopes that someday one of them would sound good?

We would! Why shouldn’t we? We get paid good money to do that kind of dirty work, and beyond the money, we get the THRILL of being the first to play these wonderful records, full of the music we love. (Not too many Hot Stamper shootouts get done for bands and albums we don’t like. Who could get motivated enough to sit through copy after copy of some Audiophile Bullshit LP?) 

Here’s a record that we almost never have on the site — a stunning White Hot Stamper copy of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac — some of the hardest hitting Blues Rock ever made or ever to be made!

We Love the Early Fleetwood Mac

This is the band back in the day when they were playing their unique brand of Blues Rock, with Peter Green leading the band, about as far from Rumours as you can get. If you like British Blues Rock, I don’t think any other band can hold a candle to the Mac back then. Clapton may have been considered a god but I think Green is the better guitar player.

AGAIG Sound

Side two is As Good As It Gets — Triple Plus (A+++). The pluck of the guitar transients aren’t smeary and dull for once. There’s real extension up top, a big help to the cymbals, and the voice sounds tonally correct with just the right presence, placing Green front and center but still keeping the band in the mix. Like a good vintage Brit record, the sound is smooth, rich and full. This is ANALOG baby; they don’t make ’em like this anymore because they don’t know how. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Mystery To Me – Whomp Factor on “Why”

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More Mystery To Me

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

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.) 

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.

“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.) (more…)

Buckingham Nicks – Buckingham Nicks – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

TWO WHITE HOT A+++ SIDES! The overall sound is UNBELIEVABLY rich, sweet, open, spacious, and transparent. Most copies suffer from a seriously bloated bottom end, but the bass on this one is nice and tight. The other big problem with the typical copy is a harsh top end, but the highs here are much sweeter and never aggressive.

Those of you who read our commentary for Commoner’s Crown will recognize this bit, lifted practically whole from the listing. The British Sound? This record has it in spades:

The sound is rich and full in the best tradition of English Rock, with no trace of the transistory grain that domestic rock pressings so often suffer from. The bass is deep, punchy, full up in the mix and correct. There’s plenty of it too, so those of you with less than well controlled bass will have a tough time with this one.

But never fear; it’s a great record to tweak with and perfect for evaluating equipment.

Things have changed as we never tire of saying here at Better Records, but in a way you could say they have stayed the same. This used to be a demo disc, and now it’s REALLY a Demo Disc. You will have a very hard time finding a record with a punchier, richer, fuller, better-defined, dare I say “fatter” bottom end than the one found on both these sides.

Notice how there is nothing — not one instrument or voice — that has a trace of hi-if-ishness. No grain, no sizzle, no zippy top, no bloated bottom, nothing that reminds you of the phony sound you hear on audiophile records at every turn. Silky-sweet and tubey-magical, THIS IS THE SOUND WE LOVE.

We Love The Music Too Of Course

We really enjoy this album here at Better Records. It’s a wonderful preview of things to come for these two. Check out the wonderful early version of Crystal. On the best copies, it is warm, rich, and sweet — just like it is on the best copies of the Fleetwood Mac self-titled LP. In fact, many parts of this album bring to mind the best of ’70s Fleetwood Mac. Fans of the self-titled LP and Rumours are going to find A LOT to like here.

What We’re Listening For

There are a couple of qualities that set that Top Copies apart. The biggest problem with this record is sound that gets too fat and too rich. There has to be transparency to the sound that lets us listen into the studio. When Stevie is singing, almost always double-tracked by the way, Lindsay is often doing harmony vocals well behind her, double-tracked as well. You want to be able to hear PAST her all the way back to him and hear exactly what he’s doing. Most copies don’t let you do that.

The other problem is smeary guitar transients. The multi-tracked acoustic guitars tend to be rich and sweet on practically every copy you can find; this is not the problem. When they lack transient information, the right amount of “pluck”, they also tend to lack harmonic information, the overtones of the notes. Put those two together and you get a blobby mass of smeared guitars overlaid onto one another — not an irritating sound, but not a pleasing one either.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Crying In The Night
Stephanie
Without A Leg To Stand On
Crystal
Long Distance Winner

Side Two

Don’t Let Me Down Again
Django
Races Are Run
Lola (My Love)
Frozen Love

AMG Review

While it will be hard to find, this lone album cut by a young and ambitious (and still romantically attached) Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham a short two years before joining Fleetwood Mac is well worth digging out for your turntable… Buckingham Nicks is an engaging listen and served as a proving ground of sorts for both artists’ songwriting chops and for Buckingham’s skills as an emerging studio craftsman. Crisp, ringing acoustic guitars and a bottom-heavy rhythm section (using the talents of Waddy Watchel, Jim Keltner, and Jerry Scheff) framed the pair’s songs in a sound something akin to FM-ready folk-rock. Lesser known tracks like the glistening opener, “Crying in the Night,” from Nicks and Buckingham’s lonely-guy lament, “Without a Leg to Stand On,” are on a par with their later mega hits.

Fleetwood Mac – Penguin

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout  
  • This early Reprise LP is a huge step up from most – this copy is full-bodied, smooth and musical – classic Fleetwood Mac sound
  • One of my favorite songs on the album is one of Christine McVie’s best from this period, Did You Ever Love Me – on this pressing it’s rich and sweet exactly the way it should be
  • “Fleetwood Mac’s first album made after the departure of Danny Kirwan features the additions of guitarist Bob Weston and singer Dave Walker… This album gave Fleetwood Mac its best U.S. chart showing yet…”

This is the rare copy that strikes the right balance between richness and texture. So many copies sacrifice one for the other, but not here. Fully extended on both top and bottom, with big bass and plenty of energy, this pressing is getting Penguin right. 

On the best pressings, the sound is positively JUMPING out of the speakers in a way that is completely unexpected. We often talk about the size of the soundfield on a particular pressing, side to side, bottom to top, and even more often about the energy found on one copy relative to another. On this copy, we were surprised by a Penguin that was bigger and more energetic than most of the pressings we heard in our shootout. (more…)