Originally released in 1977, Rumours holds a special for me as one of the first records I have a very clear recollection of purchasing at or near the time of release. And over the years, I have acquired it more than a few times on vinyl and compact disc. One of the versions reviewed today is as good or better than any of them--the other, nothing short of definitive.
The 45 RPM two record set was released as a 2011 Record Store Day exclusive--and was limited to 4,000 copies worldwide. Given that it is already sold out and apparently out of print, I have to admit I was a bit conflicted about publishing this review. However, as this title will inevitably show up on Ebay and elsewhere, plus the fact that an excellent 33 RPM alternative will remain in print, I've decided to go forward and publish the review.
Rumours 45 RPM Set
Everything about this 45 RPM release says deluxe. The laminated gatefold cover, which is made of heavy cardstock, is very nice. The heavy, 180 gram double vinyl was immaculately pressed at the Pallas facility in Germany and is housed inside poly-lined paper sleeves. It played absolutely silently on every side. Contained inside the gatefold, is the original photo collage of the band. The lyric sheet is included as a double-sided single page insert.
|Fleetwood Mac Rumours 45 RPM Edition|
While almost everyone interested in vinyl has a copy of this record in their collection, it has been re-pressed so many times that sound quality can vary widely, with some copies coming from sources other than the original tapes. In preparation for this review, I've listened to several vinyl versions--including original Ken Perry-mastered Capitol pressings, a later Eighties Robert Ludwig-mastered vinyl reissue, and the recent deluxe edition compact disc.
Mastered from the original analog tapes by the veteran team of Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray, and cut at 45 RPM, this deluxe two-record set edition contains all of the hallmarks of a typical Hoffman mastering, with increased dynamics, full bass and lower mids, and smooth, somewhat restrained upper mids and highs. With this 45 RPM cutting, however, comes even more dynamics, utterly silent surfaces, quicker transients and more low level detail.
While sound quality of earlier pressings of this album has undoubtedly varied depending upon the cutting, I've always thought the better sounding versions to be quite good--until I dropped the needle on this 45 RPM version. Even the best sounding original pressings sound compressed in comparison, with lesser versions sounding drenched in reverb, and possessing thinner vocals shrouded by echo and a splashy cymbal sound.
In contrast to all of the earlier incarnations, this Hoffman/Gray mastering features much bigger bass, allowing the drums and bass to come forward, yet also manages to present more nuanced vocals, with individual backing vocals occupying their own spaces within the mix.
|(John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood)|
In a treat to fans, presumably for re-buying this album for the umpteenth time, Hoffman includes an alternate "countdown" beginning to Gold Dust Woman, which also features some of the most realistic dobro I've ever heard recorded to wax, and an remarkably wide dynamic range, with swings of over 20 decibels throughout the song. There isn't a hint of compression or limiting anywhere on the record.
While virtually every song is a delight, Dreams is nothing short of intoxicating, with big drums that come to life and a bassline from John McVie that up to now remained dormant. Stevie Nicks' vocal is dead center and sounds so incredibly real--almost angelic at times.
This 45 RPM version is so good--that it literally shattered my long held belief that Rumours was a good sounding record. One wonders what a recording like Steely Dan's Aja would sound like, given similar treatment. This set is nothing short of demo quality--and I wish nothing more than it would be available to every audiophile.
Very Highly Recommended
Rumours 33 RPM Version
The 33 RPM single disc version of this release carries the same Hoffman/Gray mastering found on the 45 RPM version reviewed above, but is cut at the standard LP speed of 33 RPM, fitting onto a single LP. A decidedly less deluxe affair than the 45 RPM set, the 33 RPM version comes in a regular weight non-laminated cover, and the medium-heavy 150 gram vinyl (also pressed at Pallas) is housed in a plain paper sleeve. As was the original, the photo collage and lyrics are contained within a folded paper insert. Compared to the 45, the 33 RPM pressing was a bit noisy in places--but not so much so that a cleaning shouldn't take care of the most of it.
Sound quality of this 33 RPM version should thrill any fan of the Hoffman mastering style--as it features the same wide dynamic range, full bass and lower-mids, and smooth upper-mids and treble his masterings are known for--and that are also featured on the 45 RPM version. In fact, this 33 RPM version gives you 80-90% of what is on the 45, primarily giving up a bit of the top and bottom end extension and transient speed found on the 45. If the 45 RPM version hadn't been offered, we'd likely still be talking about this 33 as definitive.
33 RPM VINYL
45 RPM VERSION:
*A word of caution to anyone outside of the United States. Apparently, this Hoffman/Gray mastering was only used for the 45 RPM sets sold in the U.S. If you purchase a 45 RPM set outside the U.S., it is highly likely you will receive an alternate (reportedly inferior) mastering. As of this writing, there have been no reports of any alternate 33 RPM masterings--so if you purchase the latest 33 RPM single disc Warner/Reprise pressing, you should receive the Hoffman/Gray mastering reviewed here.
Myvinylreview Rumours 33 RPM Giveaway!
Myvinylreview will be *giving away one copy of the Hoffman/Gray mastered 33 RPM version of Rumours! To enter, simply click "Like" or leave a comment under the link for the Rumours Review/Giveaway link on the Myvinylreview Facebook Page. Winner will be announced the week of May 2, 2011.
*Contest winner(s) will be chosen at random at the sole discretion of Myvinylreview, with prize determined by Myvinylreview, depending upon availability. Other similar prize may be awarded, depending upon availability. No cash value or substitutions by winner(s), please.