Big Scary – Animal (Album Review)

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Big Scary – Animal (Album Review)

What an album cover! I don't know about you, but it drew me in as much as Jane's Addiction's Ritual De Lo Habitual did when released in 1989. In many respects, the cover art is an essential element as an album is often seen before it is heard. In that regard, Animal certainly creates a shock to the nervous system, engraining the imagery in one's subconscious. While the artwork may be a little confronting, it’s representative of only a single aspect of Big Scary; a dynamic Melbourne-based musical duo.

While I know very little about Big Scary, other than adoring Animal, their digital liner notes explain the artistic intent far more thoroughly than I could ever attempt to. However, if I were to summarise their intent, the concept that we can transcend our animal instincts and rise above the animal within is brilliant. Subsequently, Animal takes us on a sonic journey that is philosophically evolutionary.

Animal was also produced with vinyl in mind as each side of the double LP is perceived as its own self-contained entity, to be enjoyed independently or as part of a larger masterpiece. While this review will be based on the Apple Music stream, I'm keenly interested in getting my hands on the vinyl release as this aspect is a value-added proposition for the music lover and collector within. As I think further about this somewhat unique approach, I’m reminded of my beloved Sigur Rós – () album and how they approached the vinyl release in a similar manner. It’s wonderful to see independent artists thinking differently, not only about their musicality but how their music will be delivered to listeners. While part of the artistic intent was to allow the listener to play the album in a non-traditional chronological order, for simplicity, this review will focus on Animal with the same chronological tracking as seen on the following Apple Music stream.

Oxygen opens the album with a very raw drum beat that harks to the core animal status within us all. The electronic rhythm, while sonically dry, is extremely compelling. It's a great start to the album and I was hooked from the very first note.

Organism gets the body moving. The soundstage is diverse and layered, resulting in a song that is larger than the sum of its parts. Every aspect of Organism is perfect and it amazes me that music this good is made by an independent artist. I say that because Organism, and the entire album, sounds better than many big label/artist releases.

Double Darkness continues the somewhat sombre tones, but I love it! That vocal placement and delivery is sublime, reminding me of many Paul McCartney recordings.

Savior Add Vice seamlessly transitions from Double Darkness. Even the shift, a third of the way through, is done masterfully. Although, I don't like the vocal direction as much on this song as I feel the vocal is lost in the mix. That may, of course, have been the intent, and if so then the vocal becomes merely another sonic element in the soundstage.

Lone Bird is a killer song with an absolutely perfect rhythm and composition. This is what good music should sound like!

The Endless Story sees the album becoming increasingly upbeat and I don't know about you, but that rhythm sounds awfully familiar. Regardless, it’s a solid song that is thoroughly enjoyable. The vocal echo, normally a distractive element, works really well here, although the distortion in places is a little more in-your-face than I’d prefer.

Flutism suits the album but isn't really a track I connect with. I can't honestly say why it doesn't resonate with me as it isn't inherently bad, but all I know is it’s a little too left of the center for me.

Up And Up And Up is addictively brilliant!

Breathe Underwater slows the album down considerably. While it may feel a little disjointed to those of us streaming Animal, Breathe Underwater is the first song of the Resting element of the album. The other elements include, for the first four songs, Hunting, the next four, Lurking, and the final two Waking. Nevertheless, Breathe Underwater is a beautifully mellow song.

The Opposite Of Us continues the Resting phase of the album and for some reason, when I listen to this song, I ponder of what a U2/Bono and Alanis Morissette mashup would be like. Yes, dear reader, my mind is subjectively unique and even I have no idea where these correlations come from. Anyway, The Opposite Of Us is a beautiful song and is a perfect fit for the album.

Heaven On Earth is atmospherically stunning. I can only imagine how exceptional it would sound on vinyl, for the Apple Music stream is already magical.

Over Matter has a little too much volume and channel variation that I find to be rather distracting. Even the vocal delivery pace isn’t in harmony with the songs that came before it, resulting in a bit of a garbled mess.

Lamina is a great song to close the album with. The moody tones are reminiscent of the opening tracks and it is so good that I feel compelled to listen to Animal again and delve deeper into the modest back catalogue of Big Scary.

Overall, Animal is a compellingly addictive album that I thoroughly enjoy and will have to pick up on vinyl.

Animal is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Animal is available on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Jimmy Barnes – Out In The Blue (Album Review)

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Jimmy Barnes – Out In The Blue (Album Review)

You should never judge a book by its cover, or an album for that matter. Yes, Jimmy Barnes's Out In The Blue has a cringe-worthy cover, but the musicianship within is worth looking past this stark reminder that the world’s rock stars are human just like you and I. Yes, I acknowledge and respect that Out In The Blue was written and recorded following Barnes’s open heart surgery and that the rock in his life has been his wife Jane; both aspects that the cover art represents. It just isn’t a compelling cover and given Barnes’s stature in the Australian music industry, it’s surprising this cover made it to the final release.

If you’re not familiar with Jimmy Barnes, he is near royalty in Australia. Be it his years as Cold Chisel’s frontman, or his extensive solo career, Barnes has carved out a legacy that many can only dream about. It also doesn’t hurt to have a vocal that is gritty yet soulfully smooth.

While I’ve been a fan of Barnsey, as he's affectionately known Down Under, since his Two Fires and Soul Deep eras. However, I must be completely honest by saying that much of his later catalogue failed to register on my radar. There was no particular reason but I do acknowledge that as the world became increasingly interconnected, my focus on the Australian music industry became less prominent. Of course, that was all to change when I read his stunning double biography, Working Class Boy and Working Class Man. Seriously, even if you’ve never listened to any of his music, Barnes is a master storyteller. The books really are page turners and I’m not ashamed to say I have a signed copy of Working Class Man as well as a digital copy. Excessive, perhaps, but my argument is that when I wanted to read it, we were moving at the time and my books were boxed and I couldn’t remember which box the book was in. Okay, that is a lame justification, but when I say that I have no regrets owning both copies, that is an indication of just how enjoyable his writing and life story is.

When reading music biographies, I find myself listening to the artist in question in the background. I love this process as I find it brings me closer to the artist, not in some weird perverted manner, but in understanding them and how elements of their life impacted their music. In all honesty, they broke the mould when they made this man but Barnes remains relevant to this day as he is willing to continue to break the preconceived notions of what it is to be a rock star. Therefore, dear reader, I ask you to fracture any misconceptions you may have about Barnes and the Australian music industry as you join me in discovering and enjoying Out In The Blue.

I Can't Tell You Why is classic Jimmy Barnes. It's a great start to the album.

Out In The Blue flows on beautifully from I Can't Tell You Why and is a lovely song to share the album's name. There is a country twang to this song that really works well for the multifaceted Barnes, perhaps in part influenced by respected country music producer Nash Chambers. Chambers sits in the production chair for this entire album and besides his own creative endeavours, he’s also the older brother of Australian country music legend Kasey Chambers, who coincidentally duets with Barnes on When Two Hearts Collide. Without a doubt, Chambers brings his own sound signature to the record and combined with Barnes’s talent and that of the supporting band, this song and the entire album is nothing short of exceptional.

You From Me has an interesting panning of the stereo image. It’s distracting if you prefer listening to music via headphones but it sounds perfect via speakers. That said, if the distortion and panning were dialled back a little, You From Me would be that much better.

Blue Hotel is a beautiful piano-based ballad that was penned by the exceptionally talented Neil Finn.

When Two Hearts Collide is a sensational duet with Kasey Chambers.

Red Light has a really familiar guitar intro that sounds rather similar to Glen Campbell's Southern Nights. Despite the similarities, I thoroughly enjoy listening to both artists and imitation is, after all, the greatest form of flattery. Regardless, Red Light is a killer song with a perfect amount of distortion.

Everything's Changing brings back the aforementioned stereo panning, but this time it’s a little more subtle. That said, I feel this song never really achieves greatness. There's a beautiful song hidden here, but it needs a remix, perhaps a re-imagining, to really realise its potential.

Better Off Alone is a great song that sounds as though it belongs in a different era. That isn't a bad thing as the 50s style is fantastic, but I feel it was a little pedestrian for Barnes, especially at that stage in his career.

Water Wash All Over Me is one of the greatest songs ever recorded, by anyone, and it reminds me why I love music. I could listen to this song on repeat indefinitely.

I'm Surprised is a great song.

Losing You isn't a bad song, but there's a little distortion in Barnes's vocal that sounds as though he was a little too close to the microphone. It’s a shame as it had the capacity to be a really solid B-side.

Forgiveness is a beautiful song to close the album on, ensuring I’ll listen to it again and stay within Barnes's catalogue.

Overall, Out In The Blue is an exceptional album that not only has some of Barnes's greatest recordings, but in a number of ways pays homage to the Cold Chisel years, his prior solo efforts, and his ability and willingness to shift styles, the culmination of which is a thoroughly compelling release that should be in everyone’s collection.

Out In The Blue is available on CD and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Out In The Blue is available on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Angus & Julia Stone – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Angus & Julia Stone – Self-Titled (Album Review)

To listen to Angus & Julia Stone is to experience nirvana. The Australian sibling duo is astonishingly good, pumping out songs in the keys of indie-pop and folk rock while maintaining an acoustic-based singer-songwriter style that will leave you in pure amazement.

Teaming up with superstar producer, Rick Rubin, I was initially concerned that this Self-Titled release might be compromised as Rubin is known for his involvement in the loudness wars, producing low dynamic range albums such as Metallica's Death Magnetic and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Californication. While one has to acknowledge that this Self-Titled release is right on the border, sonically this level of compression and distortion works incredibly well with the style of music and the Stone siblings’, often lower chord, vocal presentation. That said, the soundstage is rather expansive, allowing all sonic elements space, in the mix, to breathe.

As I’ve listened to the Self-Titled Angus & Julia Stone release on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music, I can say conclusively that there is no sonic difference between the two as the lossy Apple Music stream matches the lossless CD-quality streamed via TIDAL Hi-Fi. This is yet another example that validates that if the master is the same, there is little-to-no perceivable difference.

A Heartbreak sets the tone of the album and you'll clearly hear the distortion on this song just teetering into the red. It would have been nice to have the master reduced by a couple of decibels as the song is louder than the following tracks. Nevertheless, it's a great song to commence the album on.

My Word For It has a killer psychedelic sound signature that is simply addictive. Julia's smooth vocal is absolutely captivating on this song as she's right there in the room with you. A fantastic mix!

Grizzly Bear has an offbeat beginning, but once the musicality picks up, the rhythm will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping uncontrollably. An absolutely beautiful song!

Heart Beats Slow is a great song that I’d love to hear Stevie Nicks cover with Neil Finn.

Wherever You Are has a stunning acoustic introduction that builds progressively with a beat that will connect with your inner soul. While there are a number of vocal shifts throughout, that may deter some listeners, I feel it works extremely well given this song is largely stripped down from a production standpoint.

Get Home is lovely!

Death Defying Acts is moody and I love it! One of the best songs on the album and that is difficult to declare as the entire album is a masterpiece. If there were one criticism to be made, it would be the drum track is not as spacious as I would like in some sections. That said, it does work with the darker tone of the song.

Little Whiskey has a fantastically compelling beat, but it is very much a song that is on the alternative side of the siblings’ offerings. That may not appeal to all listeners, but I feel it flows perfectly with the surrounding tracks.

From The Stalls is a great song. May I suggest you sit in a relaxing chair, with your eyes closed, and allow the musicality to involuntarily take control of your muscles as you'll be toe-tapping and swaying in no time.

Other Things shouldn’t work musically, as it is a little left of the centre, yet it absolutely does.

Please You is such a mellow song. Beautiful!

Main Street is pure sonic gold and in many ways leaves me speechless. Therefore, I feel it is only right to suggest you experience it for yourself.

Crash And Burn, as Ian McFarlane rightly suggests in The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop, invokes a memory of the sonic signature often associated with Neil Young and Crazy Horse. That is, of course, a compliment. Crash And Burn is the perfect song to close the album on as it encourages me to listen to this Self-Titled release again and stay within Angus & Julia Stone's catalogue.

This Self-Titled album is a masterpiece. Nothing more really needs to be said other than it’s worth the hour to just sit and listen. I'm sure you won't regret it, I know I haven’t.

Angus & Julia Stone's Self-Titled album is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Angus & Julia Stone's Self-Titled album is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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Elton John – Reg Strikes Back (Remastered) [Album Review]

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Elton John – Reg Strikes Back (Remastered) [Album Review]

Reg Strikes Back would arguably be the last mediocre Elton John album of the 80s, as the exceptional Sleeping With The Past was just around the corner. That said, there are a number of hits and essential back catalogue songs buried amongst John's cover-filled outfits to appeal to most fans. Yes, the colourful album cover is akin to a trip down memory lane and really deserves to be held on vinyl. Of course, if you’re after a vinyl release, you'll have to be satisfied with a secondhand copy as Reg Strikes Back has yet to be reissued on the format. It was, however, reissued on CD in 1998 and remastered at the same time. While most of John's remasters have been exceptional, it is the additional non-album songs that often deter me. With that said, let's take a listen and see not only how well the album fits into John's legacy, but if those additional tracks are a value-added proposition or mere filler.

Town Of Plenty is average at best. What was it with John's 80s albums that the lead song, more often than not, sounded like a demo and should have been omitted? I guess Town Of Plenty isn't that bad, but it isn't great either. Although, my daughter disagrees with my assessment as she loves the track.

A Word In Spanish is a beautiful song and Reg Strikes Back would have been significantly stronger if it was the album's opening track.

Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Part 2) is a story arc continuation from the song Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters that appeared on John's 1972 album, Honky Château. It's one of my favourite Elton John songs, but I do feel mellon collie towards this Part 2 offering as it is quite different in tonality to the first song. That said, if I listen to Part 2, as a song on its own, I find it compelling with a high level of energy that has one toe-tapping and head-bopping when seated and dancing around while standing. The composition is quite detailed with incredible instrument separation and a broad soundstage. Plus, the trumpet tracking really takes the song to another level. Perhaps John and Bernie Taupin could have renamed the song, as to not throw such a severe contrast in musicality between the original and this second coming. Nevertheless, Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Part 2) is an exceptional song.

I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That is the best song on Reg Strikes Back and is one of John’s greatest recordings. The mix with the steady beat and shifting piano tracking is addictive and John’s vocals complete the package beautifully.

Japanese Hands is very similar in tonality and style to another Elton John song. I’m thinking Razor Face, from Madman Across The Water, but I couldn’t be certain without going through his extensive back catalogue. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoy Japanese Hands, especially once it hits the half-way point and the soundstage broadens. The result is a song that is beautifully atmospheric and thoroughly relaxing.

Goodbye Marlon Brando shifts the tone of the album with an edgier rock element. It isn’t a bad song, but I'd call it a B-side as I honestly wouldn't miss the song if it was removed from Reg Strikes Back.

The Camera Never Lies has a campy 80s sound signature and sadly never recovers. It’s another forgettable tune that is pure filler in my opinion.

Heavy Traffic is a song you wouldn't want to listen to if you were stuck in heavy traffic, it would cause you to have homicidal thoughts. Seriously, what were John and Taupin thinking when they penned and recorded this disaster?

Poor Cow gets the album back on track. While it isn't the strongest song on Reg Strikes Back, it does have a compelling rhythm that I find is satisfyingly addictive.

Since God Invented Girls is the closing song for the original non-remastered album. It’s clearly a B-side, as much of the second half of Reg Strikes Back is, but its enjoyable enough for me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue. However, in this case, we will continue listening to the remastered album’s bonus tracks.

Rope Around A Fool should have never been added to the remaster. It's just bad!

I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That (Shep Pettibone Mix) is fantastic. Yes, the original is unbeatable, but when remixes are this good, I find it difficult to choose which version I should be listening to as I thoroughly enjoy both.

I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That (Just Elton And His Piano Mix) shows just how exceptionally talented John is. I could listen to this version on repeat all day. I love it!

Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Pt. 2) [The Renaissance Mix] falls a little flat for me and as the last song on the remastered album, I'm not sure it compels me to listen to the album again or stay in John's catalogue. Sometimes additional tracks are great, other times they can deter one's interest. In fact, this remix encourages me to listen to Michael Jackson's Thriller as the mimicked tones of Billie Jean can be heard throughout, especially towards the end of the song.

Overall, Reg Strikes Back (Remastered) is a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, there is some exceptionally good music to be heard here, but it is the three or four lacklustre songs that really shifts one's interest.

Reg Strikes Back (Remastered) is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Reg Strikes Back (Remastered) is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

Click here to read other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds. 

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David Bowie – 1. Outside (Album Review)

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David Bowie – 1. Outside (Album Review)

David Bowie has always been an enigma to me. A brilliant, but arguably eccentric, sonic experimentalist. Some of his work I hate, some of it not so much, then there are releases like 1. Outside that make me think about his brilliance, ignoring all my ignorant misconceptions. Much like Shakespeare is dissected still to this day, Bowie's music will not only live on but will surely be studied, for context, by future generations.

The self-portrait cover art of 1. Outside is stunning and deserves to be held on vinyl as one enjoys this lengthy but sonically rewarding album. At present, I have to settle for the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition and its counterpart streamed from Apple Music. While both are largely indistinguishable from each other, the atmospheric brilliance of Bowie, combined with Brian Eno’s talent, really shines on the lossless stream with a greater three-dimensional soundstage.

Leon Take Us Outside is an interesting musical and spoken word introduction that flows seamlessly into Outside, making me wonder why it’s a separate track at all.

Outside is an incredibly detailed track that is masterfully composed. The rhythm will connect with your soul, causing involuntary body movements. No, this isn't a song you'll likely sing-along to, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and is a fantastic way to commence the album.

The Hearts Filthy Lesson is a fantastic song. While there is a radio edit, available on the exceptional career perspective, Nothing Has Changed, I find myself drawn to the full length original as it is a more substantial version of the song.

A Small Plot Of Land has a near jazz-fusion introduction that I thoroughly enjoy. Although, A Small Plot Of Land loses its lustre for me when Bowie joins the mix as I don't feel his vocals on this track are a good mix with the musical style. However, A Small Plot Of Land would be sensational as a purely instrumental track.

(Segue) – Baby Grace [A Horrid Cassette] is musically interesting. I'm still not sold on the spoken word segue’s throughout, but this one grows on you.

Hallo Spaceboy is EPIC! You'll want to turn the volume up on this track. The Pet Shop Boys remix is featured on Nothing Has Changed, but to be completely frank, I hate it! It adds nothing to the original and makes the song sound weak. It’s amazing that the remix made the cut on Bowie's career perspective release as I believe the original release is incomparable and one of Bowie's greatest recordings.

The Motel is musically beautiful, although it takes close to half the duration of the song before coming into its own. Subsequently, I feel the introduction was a little too drawn out and the song could have evolved faster had the composition been reconsidered. Of course, my subjective opinion is rather irrelevant as it is a piece of Bowie’s sonic artwork and subsequently is created with his vision in mind.

I Have Not Been To Oxford Town has a sensational rhythmic undertone and Bowie's vocal delivery is perfectly suited to the musicality.

No Control is a solid, albeit a little disjointed, song with regards to the shifts in lyrical delivery. That said, I do find No Control to be rather compelling.

(Segue) – Algeria Touchshriek doesn't sonically work well with the album, but as a segue, one can forgive this aspect as the concept album must, by definition, tell a story that, at times, requires segueing.

The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) is, from my perspective, a garbled mess.

(Segue) – Ramona A. Stone / I Am With Name doesn't add much to the album. It is more of a distraction than a beneficial addition. Of course, I’m less interested in the underlying story arc than I am the musicality of the album.

Wishful Beginnings, while an interesting composition, fails to excite.

We Prick You sounds more like an 80s tune than one composed in the 90s. It isn't bad, but it's a B-side.

(Segue) – Nathan Adler, Pt. 1 is, as many of these segues are, a distractive element to an otherwise free-flowing album.

I'm Deranged is meh!

Thru' These Architects Eyes is a B-side at best and one can't help but wonder, by this stage, when this album will end as there is considerable self-indulgent filler throughout.

(Segue) – Nathan Adler, Pt. 2 makes me question if any of these segues were really necessary. I'm honestly not sure they were.

Strangers When We Meet, as heard on 1. Outside is a re-recording of the song which was first released on Bowie's The Buddha Of Suburbia. I much prefer this re-recording as it is more aligned with Bowie’s vocal delivery and overall style. It’s also the perfect song to conclude 1. Outside on and encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Bowie's catalogue.

Despite a few songs failing to impress, 1. Outside is a solid album from start to finish. Although, I don't feel I’m missing out by only having it in my streaming library and while I maintain an interest in holding the album artwork, the album itself, much like John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy, is a little too disjointed for me to appreciate on vinyl. Nevertheless, there are some exceptional Bowie songs to be heard here. Thankfully, a few of them are on my regularly spun Nothing Has Changed career perspective release.

1. Outside is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 1. Outside is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (Album Review)

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Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (Album Review)

Despite being an album focused on juvenile sexual innuendos, Muscle Of Love is one of the greatest Alice Cooper albums to ever be released. This would also be the last album featuring the original Alice Cooper band lineup and would not include the master, Bob Ezrin, in the Producer's chair. Nevertheless, Jack Douglas and Jack Richardson did a wonderful job of guiding the album, while allowing creative artistry to flourish.

Yes, many of the songs on Muscle Of Love have never been part of Cooper's live set, at least for many years, but I've always found that with Alice Cooper, the best albums, songs, and performances are not the compilation filling or concert played fan favourites. Therefore, I implore you to give Muscle Of Love, as an album, a shot. I have a feeling you won't regret it.

I know I haven't regretted picking up the Friday Music vinyl re-issue from 2013. While the reissue isn't a perfect replica, sonically it is beautiful with a full analogue sound that will impress even the most hardened critic. I have listened to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams and I have to be completely frank when I say the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition makes me want to cancel my subscription. It sounds incredibly flat and shrill, much like really early CD pressings did, and perhaps TIDAL is using the same master that has yet to be remastered. Yes, Steve Hoffman and Stephen Marsh worked their mastering magic on the Audio Fidelity quadraphonic reissued SACD, but that mastering is not available outside the now increasingly rare and costly SACD pressing. Truth-be-told, I've lusted over that SACD release for some time, as it also includes a standard stereo mix for both SACD and CD layers from the aforementioned mastering engineers, but I get so much enjoyment from the Friday Music vinyl release that I don't feel the need to check it out. While I may have daggers out for the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, the Apple Music stream is beautiful, with a similar mastering to the vinyl record. If there is a difference to report, it would be that the Apple Music stream sounds a little concealed by direct comparison to the vinyl release. What it does show, however, is just because something is portrayed as being lossless, and at CD-quality, that doesn't automatically mean it will be better. Mastering really makes a far more significant difference than higher resolutions.

SIDE I

Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo) not only has a great groove, but that psychedelic undertone is superb. I dare you to sit still, without moving a muscle, during this song, I can't do it. The guitar tracking is divine and the inclusion of the violins perfectly suits the song. Plus, that outro = extraordinary!

Never Been Sold Before is your meat and potatoes rock and roll track. I love it! If I had one complaint, it would be that I'd like to hear a 1 to 2-decibel increase in the bass guitar. Just as the addition of strings to Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo) enhanced that song, the horn element in Never Been Sold Before is fantastic and has a similar effect.

Hard Hearted Alice is a song that slowly builds with a beautiful atmospheric introduction. This is one song where the quadraphonic mix would likely be astonishing, but the vinyl counterpart is no slouch with a soundstage that removes the speakers, creating a spacious sound that has to be heard to be believed.

Crazy Little Child is a fun song. I absolutely adore the piano element and I love the overall New Orleans Jazz feel. I'd love to see Cooper do an entire jazz album, even one full of standards would do. He certainly has the vocal chops for it.

SIDE II

Working Up A Sweat continues the lighthearted approach to the overall theme of the album. It's a solid song, but not one to write home about as I find Cooper’s vocals are a little distant in the mix, although, the music has an addictive and thoroughly enjoyable rhythm.

Muscle Of Love is a killer tune. The guitar intro and drum beat is superb and I find myself playing the air guitar and drums for hours after listening to this song. Exceptional!

Man With The Golden Gun was originally written and recorded for the associated James Bond film but was sadly never used. When you listen to the song, armed with that knowledge, you can immediately hear the James Bond undertones and one can only wonder how the Man With The Golden Gun’s introduction would have differed with this song. Nevertheless, it’s a solid addition to Muscle Of Love and I'm just glad it was released and not shelved as it really is quite enjoyable, even if it’s not the strongest song on the album.

Teenage Lament '74 has remained somewhat of a fan favourite and while I thoroughly enjoy the song, I feel bemused as to its popularity. I guess it just proves that I should never be asked by an artist, or record label, which songs should be released as a single or be played live.

Woman Machine is an interesting song to close the album on. Yes, it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Cooper's catalogue, but I find Woman Machine to be a little repetitive and the outro is a little too much, in my opinion, although I can see the approach Cooper and the band were going for.

Overall, Muscle Of Love is exceptional and is truly one of the best Alice Cooper albums ever recorded. Yes, it helps to have a good mastering of an album and this Friday Music release, that is a prized possession of mine, is said to have been mastered from the original Warner Bros. tapes by Joe Reagoso. After hearing it countless times, I have no reason to doubt Friday Music's claims. It really is THAT good!

Muscle Of Love is available on Vinyl, Quadraphonic SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC) and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Muscle Of Love is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

Click here to read other Alice Cooper reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You (Album Review)

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Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You (Album Review)

Nina Simone had one of the most distinctive voices in recorded music history. Her skill and control over her vocal delivery showed no bounds and no truer is that statement than when listening to her opus I Put A Spell On You. There is not a bad song to be heard and it really is a case of discussing which of the 12 songs is better than all the others.

Adding to this musical brilliance is the fact that I've been enjoying I Put A Spell On You at 24/96kHz on the High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) Blu-ray format. To call this pressing immaculate would be a gross understatement. I have listened to the counterpart on Apple Music and TIDAL Hi-Fi and while the recording is largely transparent on those services, they lack a level of smoothness and relaxation when compared directly against the HFPA release. Yes, I've also listened to the MQA edition and while nice, it’s still too harsh for my liking. The HFPA release has incredible detail, minus the harshness found via other formats, and sounds extraordinary via both my main stereo set-up and headphones. For those of you who are interested, for this HFPA release, I prefer to listen to the album in the PCM format, rather than my preferred DTS-HD Master Audio format. I simply find that the original recording doesn’t need the additional low end that the DTS-HD Master Audio mix provides.

The HFPA format releases are sourced from the master tapes and this is one release where the tape qualities have been maintained throughout the digitisation process. While a little tape noise and analogue playback artefacts may deter digital purists, I love it as it takes me into the studio. If I close my eyes and focus only on the music, I'm experiencing my own personal concert with Simone and it is an experience that is astonishingly satisfying. That all said, the core performance does translate to the other formats, but the HFPA edition takes the recording to another level, especially if you have stereo equipment capable of taking advantage of high-resolution audio. For those that don't, or aren't interested in going to these lengths, may I suggest the Apple Music edition that is Mastered for iTunes. As I have listened to the album on many of the available formats, that is the one closest to the HFPA sound signature in my opinion.

I Put A Spell On You is as much a Nina Simone song as it is a Screamin' Jay Hawkins’ classic. However, while Hawkins may have recorded the original, I doubt there would be many who would proclaim his rendition as being superior to Simone's. I also love the Creedence Clearwater Revival interpretation as it takes cues from both Hawkins and Simone and if you want to take the song up a notch, on the metal-infused dial, you could always listen to Marilyn Manson's rendition, as featured on Smells Like Children. Regardless of how you wish to appreciate this song, a plethora of musicians have covered the song well, but I always return to Simone's rendition as being the definitive recording of the song. She made it her own and I doubt anyone will ever be able to top it.

Tomorrow Is My Turn is a lovely song. You really get a sense of the vocal control Simone has, especially on the fast, yet clear and soft, lyrical aspects of the song. By the way, is it just me or does this song sound as though it was taken straight out of a 007 James Bond flick?

Ne Me Quitte Pas is spectacular!

Marriage Is For Old Folks is witty and incredibly entertaining to listen to. Seriously, if you don't have a smile on your face when listening to this song, you're taking life too seriously. It’s a fantastic tune and perfectly suited to Simone, especially the doo, doo, dooo, de-doo lyrics.

July Tree is a lovely song that while not a classic, is a beautiful addition to the album.

Gimme Some picks up the pace with an addictive rhythm that will have you head-bopping and toe-tapping from the very first note. Plus, that Little Richard inspired vocal growl, that Simone includes, is incredible.

Feeling Good is astonishingly good! Again, Simone's rendition is arguably the greatest to have ever been recorded, but as I've mentioned before, George Michael did perform it beautifully.

One September Day is a thoroughly relaxing track that again shows the control Simone had over her vocal delivery. Remember, this was recorded in 1965, long before Auto-Tuning vocals was a thing. Yes, dear reader, this is what a truly talented vocalist sounds like.

Blues On Purpose is a fun little song with a solid mix of blues and jazz that will appeal to just about any music lover. While Blues On Purpose is an instrumental track, Simone plays the piano sufficiently, as she did throughout the entire album.

Beautiful Land is an interesting song that I find to be rather compelling, yet I'm unsure if I actually like the song or not. It isn't bad, it's just a little left of the centre.

You've Got To Learn is a beautiful tune.

Take Care Of Business is a superb song to close the album on and ensures I’ll stay within Simone's back catalogue while longing to play I Put A Spell On You again.

I Put A Spell On You is pure perfection from start to finish. If there were a criticism to be made, it would be that the album is too short, with a runtime of approximately 34 minutes. However, that weakness is also its greatest strength for the filler tracks that are known and loathed are nowhere to be seen. It plays like a well-curated greatest hits compilation would.

Nina Simone was one of the greats, and will always be one of them, for the musical skill she possessed is a rare occurrence that even the greatest modern day vocalists can only aspire to. There is little doubt she has put a spell on me, I hope you are equally spellbound by I Put A Spell On You.

I Put A Spell On You is available on Vinyl, High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) Blu-ray, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, I Put A Spell On You is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi (MQA or CD-quality), Apple Music, and Spotify.

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Vintage Trouble – 1 Hopeful Road (Album Review)

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Vintage Trouble – 1 Hopeful Road (Album Review)

Rhythm & Blues with a touch of Rock & Roll = PURE PERFECTION!

Yes, that pure perfection is exactly what you can expect from 1 Hopeful Road, the third studio album from Vintage Trouble. 1 Hopeful Road leaves me somewhat speechless as there’s no accurate way to describe the masterful styling of Vintage Trouble. They must be heard to be believed and if you enjoy the aforementioned musical styles, you're going to love 1 Hopeful Road.

Run Like The River sets the tone of the album with a perfectly distorted guitar intro and beat that is addictive. It’s a killer blues rock and roll track!

From My Arms slows the album's tempo down, but it’s presented so masterfully that it doesn’t feel out-of-place. From My Arms is a beautiful near ballad-acoustic piece that is recorded, mixed, and mastered immaculately well. This is how good music should sound. Where before you would have been toe-tapping and head-bopping to the pace of Run Like The River, you'll be doing the same here but in slow motion. Spectacular!

Doin' What You Were Doin' continues the smooth but determined blues-rock beat. I always feel compelled to sing-along to this song. Of course, I absolutely butcher the beautiful tonality of the song, but it is so good that I simply can't help myself. As I sit and enjoy Doin’ What You Were Doin’, I can’t help but think how happy the executives at Blue Note must be with their decision to distribute Vintage Trouble. The label's legacy and the band’s style are so perfectly suited that I couldn't think of a better match.

Angel City, California kicks the rock element up a notch and in some ways is reminiscent of the Eagles style. A great song with a great tempo. I love it!

Shows What You Know gets rather bluesy, but that’s a good thing. Seriously, listen to that soundstage and the shimmer of the cymbals. If anyone tells you good music doesn't exist in the modern era, point them to this album and this song.

My Heart Won't Fall Again is a thoroughly enjoyable upbeat song. Ty Taylor's vocal delivery is buttery smooth with just the right amount of grit. Taylor is, without a doubt, one of the world's greatest vocalists.

Another Man's Words is one of the best songs on the album, if not the best. The musicality is off-the-charts. Absolutely beautiful!

Strike Your Light (feat. Kamilah Marshall) wakes you up, just in case you slipped into a micro-sleep following the smooth and relaxing Another Man's Words. Despite the musical shift, Strike Your Light is an excellent song, but if there was a single song, on 1 Hopeful Road, that I could point to as being a B-side, it would be this one.

Before The Tear Drops has an incredible vintage sound! Sorry, but I had to go there. It’s the perfect blues club song for toe-tapping over dinner.

If You Loved Me is absolutely fantastic, reminding me of the music from legendary artists such as Bobby Womack, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson.

Another Baby would be a perfect song for Jimmy Barnes to cover on his next soul and blues album. Yes, it is that good, but I'm not sure Another Baby is perfectly suited to Vintage Trouble.

Soul Serenity is a beautiful song to close the album on, reminding me just how stunning the entire album is. There really isn't a bad song to be heard on 1 Hopeful Road as it plays like a greatest hits release of a band who has been around for decades. Let's hope their future albums are just as good, if not better than 1 Hopeful Road, but improving on perfection is not the easiest task.

This review was based on listening to the TIDAL Hi-Fi (CD-quality) stream and the Apple Music counterpart. While the TIDAL version was marginally better, with slightly better instrument separation, the Apple Music edition was no slouch and was sensational to listen to on my AirPods as I went about my daily tasks, away from the confines of my main stereo and headphone setups. Basically, when musicians are this talented and the album is recorded, mixed, and mastered with care, you're going to be presented with a sonically beautiful presentation regardless of lossy or lossless delivery methods. Truth be told, the only way to top the quality of the aforementioned streams would be to pick up 1 Hopeful Road on vinyl as Vintage Trouble’s style would perfectly suit the warmth and broadness often associated with the vinyl format.

1 Hopeful Road is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, 1 Hopeful Road is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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André Rieu Presents Mirusia – Always & Forever (Album Review)

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André Rieu Presents Mirusia – Always & Forever (Album Review)

The soprano vocal is spectacular and while many can deliver it well, Mirusia Louwerse has mastered the art of presenting it with an equal mix of delicacy and power. I haven’t heard such an exceptionally talented soprano since Marina Prior. However, if there is a criticism to be made regarding Mirusia's style, it’s that she has a little sibilance in her vocal which is quite apparent during some songs. It is, of course, more prominent when listening on headphones, but still noticeable on speakers. That said, if you don’t focus on it, you’re unlikely to hear it.

My first exposure to Mirusia’s talent was via maestro André Rieu. Together they have produced an absolute masterpiece that will be enjoyed by generations of music lovers to come.

Whether you’re a classical music lover or not, you’ll likely be familiar with many of the tunes on Always & Forever. They could arguably be considered standards but are interpreted so well that Mirusia and Rieu have made them their own while staying loyal to the original compositions. The result is an astonishingly good series of performances and a recording that you'd be hard-pressed to fault.

Ave Maria (Live In Maastricht) is stunning and offers a perfect start this album. Mirusia's vocal control is exceptional and will resonate with your soul on this track. Without a doubt, this is one of the greatest interpretations of Ave Maria that I’ve ever heard.

Feed The Birds is a beautiful song, but Mirusia's sibilance is especially apparent throughout. It doesn't tarnish the song but it can be distracting.

Botany Bay is, by this stage, an Australian Classic. It’s performed beautifully and is a stunningly good interpretation.

Concerto Pour Une Voix is a song where Mirusia's vocal talent truly shines. Her soaring vocal becomes an instrument that communicates incredible emotion. Absolutely stunning!

Solveig's Lied is a beautiful song that I must admit I'm not familiar with. Nevertheless, Mirusia absolutely nails the performance.

Porgi Amor is beautifully relaxing.

Plaisir D'amour (feat. Carmen) is simply angelic.

Panis Angelicus (Live In Maastricht) is one of my all-time favourite classical pieces. Music doesn’t get much better than this and Mirusia does an incredible job interpreting the delicacy of the song. Spectacular!

Ich tanze mit dir in den Himmel hinein (2008 Version) is a lovely song, but that sibilance is back again. Thankfully, not as prominent as on Feed The Birds. That said, if there was a B-side to be found on Always & Forever, this would be it.

Memory (Live, Acer Arena, Sydney) is mind-blowingly good. I have always enjoyed this song and will always associate it with Elaine Paige as I feel her interpretation is still the one to beat. Although, Mirusia, at the very least, matches Paige's beloved recording of this classic song.

Con Te Partirò is another favourite, although I find it a little disappointing that Mirusia didn’t perform the song as a duet. Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman really set the bar high with their interpretation and while Mirusia performed it beautifully, I feel she could have taken it even further.

Send In The Clowns is a beautiful song and one that I most often associate with Barbara Streisand. Streisand’s live performance, on One Voice (Live), is second to none, but Mirusia interprets the song slightly differently, making it uniquely her own. Regardless, Mirusia's rendition is, however, thoroughly enjoyable.

There Is A Song In Me is lovely. Nothing to write home about, but lovely nonetheless.

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again is an absolute classic and is performed beautifully. It’s a perfect way to close the album and ensures I’ll listen to Always & Forever again and seek out additional Mirusia recordings.

From start to finish, Always & Forever is pure perfection. Yes, there are a couple of minor quibbles, as mentioned throughout the review, but they in no way tarnish the album listening experience.

For this review, I have listened at length to the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams and found both to be exceptionally good. Yes, the CD-quality, delivered by TIDAL, is slightly more spacious, delivering an experience that simulates a concert hall, but even the Apple Music stream, via Apple’s AirPods, sounds incredibly satisfying and only the most fastidious of audiophiles would be disappointed in the lossy edition of Always & Forever. Frankly, when music is recorded, mixed, and mastered this well, you're going to be blown away regardless of the delivery method.

Always & Forever is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Always & Forever is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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