Following the major success of last year's Record Store Day 33 RPM and 45 RPM audiophile reissues of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, Warner/Reprise is back this year with the band's self-titled 1975 release. A revamped lineup added Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and also brought about a poppier sound--and the band's first real taste of commercial success, with the album spawning three Top 20 hits: Over My Head, Rhiannon, and Say You Love Me. Today's review covers the new 45 RPM reissue.
In preparation for this review, I pulled out what has been my go-to copy of the album for a number of years--an early U.S. KENDUN-mastered copy, with POGO and 1a in the deadwax of side one. I've always thought it was a great-sounding record--better sounding, in fact than the best of the standard Capitol-mastered copies of its successor, Rumours. And despite never selling as many copies as Rumours, Fleetwood Mac has always been relatively easy to find in the used bins. However, wanting another pressing to compare to the new 45 RPM issue, I thought I'd find a MFSL, which generally isn't that hard to come by--but instead, found an unplayed early UK Reprise pressing (with "E.G. Allen" in the deadwax). And, just as I was surprised by the degree of improvement upon hearing the Rumours 45 last year, I was again surprised with the results of this year's comparison.
|(Fleetwood Mac, 1975)|
Pressing and Packaging
The two record 45 RPM set is housed in a gatefold cover made of medium-heavy cardstock, and features the lyrics and credits inside the gatefold, rather than on a sheet as with the original release. The vinyl, pressed at Pallas feels all of the advertised 180 grams, and despite one disc having a light warp and small manufacturing mark, all four sides played silently following a wet vaccum cleaning.
Chris Bellman of Bernie Grundman Mastering performed the mastering duties for this 45 RPM set (as well as the just-released 33 RPM reissue not reviewed here). Bellman has lent his prodigious talent to many significant pop and rock releases over the years, including the Neil Young Original Release Series vinyl and Classic Records' reissues of the Who's catalog. Bellman has gone back to the original master tapes to master and cut this 45 RPM reissue and has delivered two slabs of vinyl full of dynamic range, big tight bass and devoid of grain or distortion--all of the things one expects from a 45 RPM audiophile mastering. And unlike the Hoffman/Gray Rumours 45 RPM mastering, the highs on this release are not restrained. If anything, they might be more extended than on the standard U.S. KENDUN mastering--and certainly the UK release. This isn't to say this 45 sounds overly bright--it doesn't. However, if you're looking for the Hoffman-style mastering favoring lower-mids over highs, you'll need to go elsewhere.
This 45 RPM mastering clearly has all of the characteristics of a premium audiophile mastering. But as I listened to the three copies of this record over and over, I kept finding that despite the huge dynamics and big bass of the 45, the emotional connection to the music that gets your toes tapping was lacking, compared to the other issues of this record. On Over My Head, the 45 boasts a hyper-detailed sound, bringing forth details such as the guitar-fills and percussion/bongos, to the extent that they begin to detract from the emotion of McVie's vocal. Both the U.S. KENDUN and the U.K. have a more cohesive sound, with the UK's rich midrange doing a particularly admirable job of allowing McVie's vocals to naturally shine through. Similarly, the 45's huge bass and extended highs result in the crowding out of some of the midrange frequencies--and Nicks' vocals on Rhiannon and Landslide vocals are delivered with more "head" rather than "chest."
|(Christine McVie in the studio with Fleetwood Mac, 1975)|
This 45 RPM mastering, like Bellman's vinyl remastering of Damn The Torpedoes, has all of the hallmarks of an audiophile release, with wide dynamics, big tight bass, and a sound devoid of grain or distortion. If you've been happy with your U.S. KENDUN, the degree of difference between it and this 45 will not be as significant as it was with last years, Rumours 45. If you've found your copy to be plagued by distortion, sloppy bass--or if even you're craving a dead-silent copy, then you should definitely consider this reissue. However, if you've found your KENDUN copy to be too bright--you need to seek out a UK press. While it doesn't quite sparkle like the KENDUN and is probably an additional generation removed from the master tape, its characteristically British midrange richness really highlights the vocals and electric guitars and sounds fantastic once you turn up the volume.