Top Engineers – Richard Dashut

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

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Reviews and Commentaries for Rumours

  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from start to finish, this early pressing of Fleetwood Mac’s Magnum Opus will be very hard to beat
  • 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!
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these Classic Rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 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.”
  • If you’re a Fleetwood Mac fan, this undeniable classic from 1977 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1977 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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…)

Fleetwood Mac – Rockin’ the Fat Snare on Dreams

This is a rock album — it needs to be played LOUD and it needs to be played on a DYNAMIC system.

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 the 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 other favorite records of ours, and we expect favorites of yours too.

Side One

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.

Punchy bass and punchy drums are key to the best sounding copies of Rumours.

What to Listen For in General

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 — this is 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.


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Fleetwood Mac – Mirage

  • An outstanding copy of Mirage, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from top to bottom
  • Most copies are washed-out, recessed, and lack weight, but this one will show you just how right this music can sound
  • The producing-engineering team of Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut return to provide top quality Rumours-like production
  • The album spent five weeks at Number One, probably on the strength of the amazingly fun single “Hold Me.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, a killer copy of their 1982 release might just need a home in your collection, and is the last Fleetwood Mac album that we would recommend to anyone but the most diehard fan
  • The albums to come later — Tango in the Night (1987). Behind the Mask (1990), Time (1995) and Say You Will (2003) — have never been offered as Hot Stamper pressings, a fact that is unlikely to change
  • Like Tusk, this is a Digital Recording that sounds great on vinyl

Mirage is a surprisingly good album if you can find the right copy.

The mids and highs can be really silky and sweet. The whole album has a glossy sound, clearly the influence of Lindsay Buckingham and his production team. The sound of Fleetwood Mac in this period is their doing, and with a phenomenal run of success that’s rarely been seen in pop history, it’s hard to argue with either their approach to the material or the sound. It strikes us that they used every track on the multi-track recorder and then some. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

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More Five Star Albums Available Now

  • The best sounding tracks are killer here – clear, rich, warm, full-bodied, with all the hallmarks of high-production-value analog throughout
  • These vintage pressings have 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.”
  • If you’re a fan of Late-’70s pop, especially the kind with a harder edge, this is a Must Own from 1979 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1979 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here. (more…)

Buckingham Nicks / Self-Titled

More Lindsey Buckingham

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  • A superb pressing of Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’ one and only album, with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich and Tubey Magical with a massive bottom end – this is a true Bass Demo Disc (much like the first Mac album they sang on)
  • Recording Engineer great Keith Olsen went for a very rich, very smooth sound, in the tradition of Classic British Folk 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.

(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.”
  • If you’re a Lindsey Buckingham fan, a killer copy of his album from 1981 surely belongs in your collection

(more…)

Listening in Depth to Rumours

This is a rock album — it needs to be played LOUD and it needs to be played on a DYNAMIC system.

Case in point: consider how quietly The Chain starts out, and how loud it is by the end. Those kinds of macro-dynamics are very rare on a pop recording. Rumours has the kind of dynamics you just don’t hear anymore, which is why the killer copies are a such a THRILL to play on a big dynamic system fitted with a top-notch turntable.

The best copies exhibited the kind of presence, bass, dynamics and energy found only on the kind of Super Demo Discs we rave about here endlessly: the BS&Ts, Stardusts, Zumas and the like. When you get a good copy of this record, it is a Demo Disc.

Who knew? Who even suspected? Who raves about Rumours but us? Let’s fact it, the audiophile world has no clue how good this record can sound.

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 the 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.

(more…)

Buckingham Nicks – Watch Out for Too Fat and Too Rich

More of the Music of Lindsey Buckingham

More of the Music of Stevie Nicks

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 an especially pleasing one either.

Hotstamperville

What we’re always trying to find in these shootouts are 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.

(more…)

Listening in Depth to Fleetwood Mac’s Self-Titled Album from 1975

So few copies we ran across in our shootout had that “jump out of the speakers” sound we knew was possible from our previous shootouts of the album. When finally one did, boy did it ever. What a knockout. Hot Stampers? The best copies are on fire!

If you have a big speaker system and have taken advantage of the audio revolutions we discuss throughout the site, this is the kind of record that shows just how much progress you’ve made.

When a record like this blows everything you’ve ever heard out of the water, you are definitely on the right track!

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Monday Morning

This copy is so transparent that it revealed a quality of the recording that we were never aware of before. The songs that Lindsey sings, which tend to be the rockers, have a certain gritty quality to the vocals which is not on any of the other songs, those sung by Stevie Nicks or Christine McVie. It’s not a pressing problem. It HAS to be the way they wanted his vocals to sound. There’s a certain rawness and bite that he seems to be going for, so don’t expect the smoothness and sweetness of the other tracks when playing his.

Warm Ways

Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this. This song is PURE POP PERFECTION. This is our favorite test track for side one. Christine’s voice needs to be present and immediate, while at the same time completely free from grain or artificial EQ. On the best copies she is breathy and sweet. In case you haven’t noticed, these are not qualities you hear often in the songs Christine sings lead on. Most of her vocals are veiled and farther back in the mix. Stevie Nicks tends to get better sound for some reason, don’t ask me why. Just listen to the sound of the vocals on Landslide; McVie never gets that kind of presence and immediacy. (more…)