Top Artists – Fleetwood Mac

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. (more…)

Lindsey Buckingham / Law and Order

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  • An outstanding copy of Buckingham’s first solo album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The sound here is rich, full-bodied and lively, with solid and present vocals, as well as excellent clarity all around
  • You can thank Richard Dashut for the superb recording quality, and Better Records for finding a copy of the record that sounds as good as this one does
  • September Song was an inspired choice – it might just be the best song on the album
  • “. . . this album to me covers a wide spectrum of emotion and musicality that is hard to find in solo departures like this one. The music carries a funny, kind of goofy vibe throughout . . . but Buckingham isn’t afraid to get serious and pull out dramatic day-to-day human circumstances . . . and let the audience become captivated by his minimalist approach that seems to fit in each time.”

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Fleetwood Mac – The Original Fleetwood Mac

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  • A very good pressing, with Hot Stamper sound from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This album sounds like Fleetwood Mac is playing live in the studio most of the time, and that is a glorious sound
  • 4 stars: “An undeniably strong collection culled primarily from the band’s first incarnation, featuring John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, and Jeremy Spencer.”

The music on this album was recorded when they were still a blues band — tracks left off their early albums for one reason or another.

As is so often the case with unreleased material, these songs do not have that overproduced, too-many-generations-of-tape sound. This sounds like Fleetwood Mac live in the studio most of the time. In other words, awesome. If the drum sound on the first track isn’t enough to convince you this is an amazing sounding record, I don’t know what would.

These British imports are the only way to go. The domestic copies are definitely made from dub tapes. They can sound good, but they never sound this good! (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

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  • This outstanding copy of Tusk boasts solid Double Plus (A+) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The best sounding tracks are killer here – clear, rich, warm, full-bodied, with all the hallmarks of high-production-value analog throughout
  • This vintage pressing has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the 40 year old tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copy of those tapes)
  • 5 stars: “McVie and Nicks don’t deviate from their established soft rock and folk-rock templates, and all their songs are first-rate… Because of its ambitions, Tusk failed to replicate the success of its two predecessors, yet it earned a dedicated cult audience of fans of twisted, melodic pop.”

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Fleetwood Mac – Bare Trees

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  • With insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish, this copy will be very hard to beat — exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • It’s the impossibly rare copy that’s this lively, solid and rich… drop the needle on the title track and you’ll see what we mean
  • “Arguably the first consistently strong album Fleetwood Mac ever recorded [not true, Kiln House is] … 1972’s Bare Trees is also the album where the band finally defines its post-blues musical personality.”

This period of Fleetwood Mac, from Kiln House (1970) through Mystery to Me (1973) — both are albums I would put at the top of my list to 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 that it is a positive THRILL to hear it sound so good!

Until not that many years ago we simply were not able to successfully shootout Bare Trees, Fleetwood Mac’s wonderful album from 1972. The pressings we were playing just didn’t sound very much like Hot Stampers to us. British, German, Japanese, domestic originals, domestic reissues; all of them left much too much to be desired.

Thankfully we can tell you that the best copies sound a whole lot better now than they did then. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Dire Straits, Boston and Rumours

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:  

Hey Tom,   

Just some feedback. I know its been a long time. Just always busy. Anyways, All the albums were great. The Dire Straits I thought was the best. FM was next. Boston is hard for me to listen to nowadays. I used to really be a big Boston fan, played it all the time in the car cassette deck. In fact I first heard album #1 in a friends car deck. Now, I’m not so much a big fan, but The hot stamper was great. When I first contacted you about your hot stampers you mentioned that I might not be able to notice a big difference with my setup. But I could tell the difference right away. I frequent your site at least once a week looking for something of interest and within my price range. It’s amazing what you guys do.

Anyways, I’ll keep looking and thanks for the awesome hot stampers. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk – Some of Our Favorite Twisted Melodic Pop

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Tusk For Sale

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  • A MONSTER pressing that simply cannot be beat – all four sides (well, almost) earned our highest sonic grade of Triple Plus (A+++)
  • Staggering Demo Disc Quality sound on the more highly produced tracks, of which there are plenty spread across these two discs
  • The power of the bottom end is especially impressive on all the sides (and John McVie kills it on bass as usual)
  • 5 stars: “Because of its ambitions, Tusk failed to replicate the success of its two predecessors … yet it earned a dedicated cult audience of fans of twisted, melodic pop.” Twisted melodic pop? Sign me up!

This copy is absolutely KILLER, with the kind of transparency, space and openness you simply cannot find on most copies. When the soundstage is as wide and three-dimensional as it is here, it’s amazing how much more SENSE the music starts to make.

And the clarity is not the phony “audiophile” kind that’s the result of too much treble. The tonality is correct throughout, and there’s no lack of richness or warmth to the sound. They just don’t get any better. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac / Greatest Hits – Find a Copy Where the Drums Punch Through the Mix

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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Many pressings are compressed, murky, veiled and recessed, especially the early ones. To find one that is transparent, clear, present and punchy is no mean feat.

On either side listen for the drums to punch through the mix.

Mick Fleetwood is banging the hell out of his toms on Black Magic Woman. If it doesn’t sound like he’s really banging away, you need a better copy (or a better stereo; one must always be open to the possibility that the system may not be up to reproducing punchy drums properly).

Oh Well Part 1 has some big drums too, so now you can check both sides of your copy.  (more…)

Letter of the Week – Fleetwood Mac – How We Go About Our Shootouts and Lots More Where That Came From

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

  Sorry to say I will be returning this White Hot Stamper. Did a lot of
  research before ordering, understand and fully appreciate what you’re
  doing, seriously sad to not be keeping it. Pretty obviously you are
  crazy dedicated to this so wanted to fully explain why. Especially
  since there’s still good odds I would like to try again.

  First let me say it was quite the experience unpacking and seeing a
  cover still in its original shrink wrap. Probably quite a few would
  consider that alone worth the price. I never even slipped it out of
  the excellent plastic sleeve you shipped it in, that’s how much
  instant respect I have for the unbelievably unlikely existence of this
  thing. It truly is amazing. I bought it for the music not the cover,
  but still….

  The reason I will be returning this is Side 1. Monday Morning was a
  disappointment, but I really think we are kind of at the mercy of the
  master here. Warm Ways is a whole lot better, and yes quite a bit
  better than my copy, with a fair bit more inner detail and palpable
  presence but overall not much more than I have got from some good 45
  or heavy vinyl pressings.

  Just so you know, yes I do follow all your suggestions. Warm up,
  demagnetize, anti-static, all of that and more. Have a demagnetizer
  much more effective than the Talisman. Been doing all this stuff over
  20 years now. Because I hear and appreciate. Cables elevated off the
  floor. Every wire from the breaker to the speaker been cryo’d. Yes I
  pulled the wire out of the house, drove it down to Cryo One, had them
  do it all.

  Part of the problem. I hear how much better Side 1 is, it goes into
  that frame of reference. For over $300 it needs to be at least as
  great an improvement over my copy as I can get from warm-up,
  demagnetize, etc. Its not.

  Well your rating did say Side 2 was a bit better. Frankly, I think you
  could stand to correct that. Side 2 is a whole lot better. Right from
  the first track its just way more lively, present, dynamic, punchy,
  you name it. Not sure why you say Say You Love Me is “rich and sweet
  and tubey” probably that is one of the stock phrases you use
  throughout the site because this track offers, relative to the others
  on this side, less of this.

  Which brings me to Landslide, and World Turning. These two tracks
  totally deserve all the most glowing Better Records accolades! Simply
  superb sonics. Better even in some ways than my MoFi 45 of Brothers in
  Arms. Now this is what I was hoping for! The spellbinding sound of
  these two tracks is almost enough to make me forget Side 1.

  Almost. And its not like the rest of Side 2 is bad. Honestly, when it
  gets to this level (of pressing quality) you can hear so deeply what’s
  going on it becomes inescapable we are at a level where we are at the
  mercy of the mastering engineer. Or if not him then someone even
  further along up the recording chain. You know what I mean. I know you
  know what I mean. Because, in reading one of your glowing reviews was
  the comment, basically, “but get real, its Springsteen.” Because for
  whatever reason he could never be bothered to turn out a good recording.

  So I know. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It might
  very well be no copy of Fleetwood Mac ever pressed gonna have a Side 1
  that sounds as good all the way across as this Side 2. But I figure if
  anyone would know that it would be you.

  And that’s kind of where I am. The copy I have right now is worth to
  me only a fraction of the price. If the whole thing sounded like Side
  2 though, then I would be a happy camper. The price would still be
  dear, but worth it. Find me a copy like that, same price, don’t bother
  posting it, its sold. Or credit this one down a whole lot. I’d prefer
  the first option. If it even exists.

  Sorry for the email. Guy like you I would love to get on the phone.
  Which with my schedule, no chance until Wed or Thurs, and I didn’t
  want to wait. But I still would like to talk. You know the records and
  now you know a little about me. Maybe you can help me find the few
  select copies I just can’t live without. I got the feeling if anyone
  can, its you.

  Best regards,

  Chuck M.

Chuck,

A few quick thoughts:

Since every stereo plays every record differently, it’s hard to know why
our copy did not sound as good to you as it did to us. When it comes
back I will personally play it against our 3+ ref copy and see how it
holds up.

2.5+ means it came in second in the shootout. Maybe it didn’t deserve
that grade, I will find out!

The other issue is a much more subtle one. We play all the side ones
against all the other side ones, so comparing side one to side two is
something we would never do, it’s apples and oranges in a way, many side
ones of albums simply do not sound as good as their side twos, and vice
versa, and we note that in some of our listings.

We could honestly say that about a great many records if we took the
time to do it.

On F Mac’s self-titled album I am not aware that that is the case, but
it could be!

We play tracks one and four on side one to test with. They are the
hardest tracks to get right in our experience.

Monday Morning has huge amounts of bass and a slightly gritty vocal, so
it’s very difficult to get that song to sound right and easy to spot
when it does sound right.

Warm Ways is a piece of cake and sounds at the very least “good” most of
the time, so it’s not much of a test for us, although richness,
intimacy, space and transparency are obviously better on this track on
the better copies.

Anyway, I will check it out when it comes back and hopefully get back to
you before too long.

Thanks for taking the time to write.

Best, TP

Tom,

Had Fleetwood Mac all packed to send back, couldn’t quite do it. Last
night I pulled it out for a second listen. This time, instead of going
head to head with my other copy I had a more normal listening session of
playing increasingly good SQ records. I have a pretty good memory for
these things which is probably what was bugging me and keeping me from
sending it back. Sure enough, listening again you can clearly hear much
deeper into the recording than probably anything else I have. This is by
far the most I’ve ever paid for any one record, I was actually nervous
handling it, probably just psyched myself out. Plus, and this is still
sinking in, this is a very unusual and highly specialized niche item
we’re talking about. Much as I’d wish for a copy where both sides sound
as good as Side 2 on this one does, I can tell by now you wouldn’t be
selling that one for the same price anyway! (more…)

Buckingham Nicks – Buckingham Nicks

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  • An incredible copy with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades; exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich and Tubey Magical with a massive bottom end – this is a true Demo Disc for bass (much like the first Mac album they sang on)
  • Recording Engineer great Keith Olsen mastered the perfect mix, with rich, full sound, in the great tradition of English Rock
  • “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 framed the pair’s songs…”

We really enjoy playing this album here at Better Records. It’s an obvious preview of things to come for these two (and the engineer too!). Check out the wonderful early version of Crystal. On the better copies, it is warm, rich, and sweet — just like it is on the better 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.

Those of you who read our commentary for Commoner’s Crown will recognize this bit, lifted practically in its entirety from that 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.

What We’re Listening For on Buckingham Nicks

There are a couple of qualities that set that better copies apart from the pack. 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.

Another 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, or “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 an especially pleasing one either.

And, lastly, we take off lots of points for copies that have the edgy, boosted upper mids we mentioned earlier.

In these shootouts, we are always trying to find copies with the right BALANCE. When everything fits together nicely, when the mix sounds right and all the parts are working their magic separately and together, you know you are on the road to Hot Stamperville. You may not be hearing the best copy ever pressed, but you are undoubtedly hearing a copy that has The Kind of Sound You Want This Music to Have.

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