The Adicts – And It Was So! (Album Review)

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The Adicts – And It Was So! (Album Review)

I think I'm a closet punk fan!

Yes, it's true, l've never identified with the punk era, but as I age I find that I’m being drawn towards punk-styled music genres and associated bands. As I reflect on my relationship with music, throughout the years, I’ve come to the realisation that I really have listened to a lot of punk music. Although, and this may be sacrilegious, I would refer to it as Rock and Roll or Alternative music. I know, I know, music lovers and musicians worldwide are rolling their eyes with that admission, but it’s true. Regardless of my own wacky relationship with punk music, I'd never heard of The Adicts, despite their decades in the business, until this last week. The album artwork for And It Was So! drew my attention, as I was browsing Apple Music. Upon hearing Picture The Scene, I was hooked.

Picture The Scene has an Alice Cooper styled entrance that I love. I'm not normally a fan of spoken word elements in songs, but this one is superb. The hook and rhythm of Picture The Scene is incredibly addictive and that guitar work throughout will get any rocker moving. What a great start to the album!

F****d Up World is a solid punk tune. Nothing to write home about, however, but perfectly suited to the album. The outro explosion is a little too lengthy, but I do like the approach they were aiming for.

Talking S**t is an excellent song. No, it's bloody brilliant! When I hear this song, I’m reminded of quite a few people who Talk S**t, even without the influence of mind-altering substances! At any rate, dear reader, you might assume I talk a lot of S**t. You wouldn’t be wrong but that’s okay as Talking S**t is hilarious and is one of my favourite songs on the album.

If You Want It reminds me of a few early Midnight Oil recordings, but this song arguably has a more upbeat rhythm. Regardless, If You Want It is a killer song and will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping in no time at all.

Gospel According To Me is a fun little song.

Gimme Something To Do is a little pedestrian and never really delivers. It's a B-side at best but is still suited to the album.

Love Sick Baby has a killer groove, I love it! It also has an underproduced feel to it that is, in my opinion, perfect for a punk record.

And It Was So is a great song.

Deja Vu follows on perfectly from And It Was So. Seriously, there is a little Deja Vu to be heard. A stellar track!

I Owe You another song! Yes, Adicts, you owe me another song. This one is horrendous and reminds me of songs that made the soundtracks of numerous bad teen flicks. Yes, I watched them in the 90s, but I no longer connect with this style of music.

Wanna Be is fantastic, although any song would be better than I Owe You.

You'll Be The Death Of Me is music gold. Undoubtedly the best song on the album and one of my ultimate favourites. I can listen to this song on repeat for hours and my kids find this song so funny that we have labelled it our family anthem. Geez, I must say You’ll Be The Death Of Me to them a little too often!

And It Was So! that from start to finish, The Adicts have released an album that I enjoy playing on repeat and one that encourages me to check out their entire back catalogue in order to see what I've been missing out on all these years. If this album is any indication, it's a lot!

And It Was So! is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, And It Was So! is available on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Elton John – Breaking Hearts (Album Review)

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Elton John – Breaking Hearts (Album Review)

The 80s, in many respects, wasn't Elton John's finest decade, but amongst some of the pedestrian B-sides, there is a plentiful amount of stellar songs from his 80s catalogue that you simply have to listen to; some of which can be found on Breaking Hearts.

Breaking Hearts maintained John's classic era band lineup, just as Too Low For Zero did. Without a doubt, there is a level of musicality that feels familiar, harking back to John's 70s era, validating just how important a band can be to the sound of an artist. Yes, John has always been a solo act, with a backing band, but Elton John really could have been an all-inclusive band name, in a similar manner as Alice Cooper presented himself in the early 70s. While it’s understandable that these leading men wanted to branch out and achieve a level of creative freedom, not normally associated with a band lineup, both artists are renowned for their early albums that have stood the test of time and are now considered classics. One should then question if the band dynamic is such a bad thing. Although, don't suggest that to Rob Zombie as he still laments his period as the lead man for White Zombie. Call me sentimental but I like original lineups. It’s subsequently a shame that Breaking Hearts would be the final Elton John album to include the original band lineup. Yes, nothing lasts forever, but while it did, their collaborative efforts produced some of the greatest songs ever recorded.

Restless isn’t a bad song to start the album with. The groove is there, and that electric guitar draws you in, but it isn’t spectacular, sounding as though it was recorded against a click track. It simply sounds as though the band was going through the motions with this song, rather than jamming and improvising. A solid tune, but a missed opportunity.

Slow Down Georgie (She’s Poison) sounds like manufactured pop music. It isn’t necessarily bad, but it hardly shows off the songwriting talent of John and Bernie Taupin, not to mention the original band that collectively brought us so many masterpieces.

Who Wears These Shoes? is a little more fun than the preceding tracks, with a beat and lyrical hook that will see you toe-tapping, head-bopping, and singing along.

Breaking Hearts (Ain't What It Used To Be) is a beautiful ballad.

Li’l ‘Frigerator gives the listener a jolt, especially following such a relaxing ballad. Plus, that entry is just weird – likely trying to separate itself from Breaking Hearts (Ain't What It Used To Be). Regardless, once Li'l 'Frigerator gets going, it's a fun and thoroughly enjoyable song.

Passengers is brilliant. I have always loved it, ever since hearing it for the first time on John’s The Very Best Of compilation. It's quirky in places but is so much fun from the very first note. I do consider it one of John's greatest recordings.

In Neon is a lovely song and one which bemuses me as I ponder how a song this good is not more prominent in John's catalogue.

Burning Buildings blows my mind. It is that good! An absolutely sensational song that has gone largely unacknowledged over the years. I know John already has so many hits, he is an absolute legend, but Burning Buildings is just as good, if not better than many of the fan favourites.

Did He Shoot Her? is a thoroughly enjoyable pop/rock tune. It was never going to win any awards, but Breaking Hearts wouldn't be the same without it.

Sad Songs (Say So Much) is, as l’ve said before, a groovy song that isn't sad at all. It’s also a fantastic way to close Breaking Hearts and encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue.

Overall, Breaking Hearts is a solid release and one of John's best albums from the 80s. While the album was remastered in 2003, the version on Apple Music isn't specific, therefore making me wonder if it isn't simply the original CD mastering. I say that because sonically it’s a little flat while sounding somewhat concealed. Interestingly, however, the iTunes edition of Breaking Hearts is listed as remastered. It’s intriguing and I would love to know if they are different versions. Regardless, it isn't overly detrimental to the enjoyment of the album, but when you've heard the hits so many times, you know how they should sound.

Unfortunately, Breaking Hearts is not available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, so I'm unable to compare and offer any further opinions on the exact mastering used. What I can say with certainty, however, is that Breaking Hearts is not Mastered for iTunes, therefore making it more likely that the Apple Music edition may be sourced from the original CD mastering. Despite this, it’s still thoroughly enjoyable to listen to for this music-first audiophile.

Breaking Hearts is available on CD and iTunes.

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

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

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Five Finger Death Punch – And Justice For None (Deluxe Edition Album Review)

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Five Finger Death Punch – And Justice For None (Deluxe Edition Album Review)

There are times when I scratch my head and wonder why it took me so long to check out an artist. Yes, my musical interests are broad and that could be presented as a justification, but I’ve known about Five Finger Death Punch for a number of years and despite being an active fan of their associated genres and counterparts, I've never taken that next step, until now.

And Justice For None is more than just an interesting wordplay on Metallica's ...And Justice For All. From this perspective it reminds me of the Murderdolls calling their last album Women And Children Last; a play on Van Halen's Women And Children First. Both are classics, as is Metallica's ...And Justice For All, but how does Five Finger Death Punch’s And Justice For None stack up? Well, for starters, Five Finger Death Punch didn't turn down the bass!

On a serious note, And Justice For None is one of the greatest metal-infused albums I have ever listened to. There isn't a bad song to be heard and the musicality of the band is off-the-charts.

While you can't judge an album by its cover, I absolutely love the artwork on the Deluxe Edition that is the basis for this review. It's demonic and arguably a cliche, but is perfectly suited to the band and their style of music. The Standard Edition is equally compelling, but I decided to listen to and review the Deluxe Edition as that version is specifically available on vinyl and the album is so good that I'll have to pick up a copy. It’s also important to note there is a slightly different track listing between the editions; most notably Trouble, the lead song on the Deluxe Edition is omitted completely from the Standard Edition. I find this fascinating as Deluxe Editions traditionally dump additional songs at the backend of the album. As exceptional as Fake is, Trouble is a perfectly valid song and sets the tone for the entire album. The rhythm is amazing, as is the quality of the recording, mixing, and mastering. You can't always say that about metal-focused bands as they are either bass heavy and subsequently muffled, or they sound too thin throughout the entire soundstage. Five Finger Death Punch, however, punches you in the face with their sound, preserving the bass while ensuring there's a broad stereo image which is crystal clear.

Fake is bloody brilliant! It’s hard hitting and Corey Taylor inspired. In fact, I'd love to hear Taylor cover it, or perform it live with Five Finger Death Punch. That said, the song is so perfect with Moody's vocal presentation that Taylor could ruin it. Sorry, Corey, I love ya man, but Moody kicks ass on this song. Actually, when I think about it, Rob Zombie would also be perfectly suited to cover this masterpiece.

Top Of The World is rhythmic heaven and yes, I still hear a little Corey Taylor influence on this song, not that that’s a bad thing!

Sham Pain is brilliant. With a little hip-hop, pop-rock ballad tones, and metal-infused elements, this song ticks all the boxes for me. Plus, the play on words and lyrical context is incredible. Although, that guitar solo ends prematurely, despite fading out nicely.

Blue On Black is an absolute classic, entering into the social consciousness in 1997 when recorded by the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. I thought the original was great, but Five Finger Death Punch has mastered it, making it their own. I dare say, besides the original, there isn't an artist on the planet that could cover this song better. Death Punch's version is really that good!

Fire In The Hole has an incredible musical hook that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last note is played.

I Refuse is a stunningly beautiful ballad!

It Doesn't Matter is a great song, one I would label as pop-metal, but that isn’t a criticism as the song is excellent.

When The Seasons Change is a near-acoustic song that initially sounds a little out-of-place, but upon repeat listens, blends beautifully with the body of work that is And Justice For None.

Stuck In My Ways is great, but if there is a B-side to be found, this is it.

Rock Bottom is bordering on scream metal but thankfully backs off just before going over the edge. It’s a solid song, but nothing to write home about.

Gone Away is another exceptional cover. The original Offspring recording is remarkably good, but Five Finger Death Punch has taken it to another level, creating a unique, yet familiar, version of the song.

Bloody is a little pedestrian, but if it was recorded by another band, say Nickelback, I'd suggest it was perfectly suited for their style. It just sounds a little out-of-place for Five Finger Death Punch but it remains a solid B-side with a killer ending.

Will The Sun Ever Rise is simply fantastic!

Bad Seed is a symphonic-styled vocal-driven song that will have you reaching for the volume knob. You’ll really want to pump the volume to get the most out of this song, and the entire album. However, if on headphones, you can do permanent damage to your hearing, so please put it on the stereo and drive your neighbours insane. If they complain, tell them you have my permission!

Save Your Breath is the greatest song on the album. I could listen to it on repeat for eternity. It’s the perfect song to close the album with and encourages me to listen to the album again and explore more of Five Finger Death Punch's back catalogue.

From start to finish, And Justice For None is superb and will, without doubt, become a classic metal album as it ages; although, I’d argue that it has already reached that status.

And Justice For None (Deluxe Edition) is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store 16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, And Justice For None (Deluxe Edition) is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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Mariah Carey – #1 To Infinity (Compilation Review – North American Edition)

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Mariah Carey – #1 To Infinity (Compilation Review – North American Edition)

Throughout the 90s, Mariah Carey’s music was regularly played in my home as I was captivated by Music Box and Daydream, along with Carey’s earlier recordings that I would hear on the radio. I was also a frequent listener of Carey's first Christmas album, Merry Christmas, during the holiday season of course. Yes, longtime readers would undoubtedly remember my dislike of Christmas music, as I seem to reference it every chance I get, yet there was a period in time when this music was important to me. It no longer is, but I don't have any regrets listening to it at the time. Nevertheless, following Daydream, I found myself no longer connecting with Carey's music. Yes, she became increasingly a Diva, but she also shifted styles upon each new album; in my opinion, less successfully than Madonna has done over the years. Mind-blowing ballads such as Hero and Endless Love have become increasingly absent in Carey’s later releases and it's a shame from my perspective as she had the capacity to go head to head with the likes of Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion, but she chose a different creative path. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before she returns to her roots as her vocal range is absolutely incredible and classic ballads will always outlive the current pop trends.

Diva or not, Carey has an incredible back catalogue and as soon as #1 To Infinity was released on vinyl, I had to have it. It's important to note that there are different versions of this compilation; a North American release (the one which this review is based upon), an International version, and a Japanese edition. However, the vinyl edition has only ever featured the North American tracking and subsequently, if you want to enjoy the other editions, from other regions, you’ll have to import a CD as streaming services localise the album to your particular region.

The vinyl release is simply stunning, not only to listen to but to enjoy as a physical counterpart to the music. Presented in a heavy duty gatefold, you get the feeling that much care and thought was put into this production. As you open the gatefold, there is a short message to the fans, from Mariah, which is a nice touch. Carey also pens the inner sleeves, describing a little background of each song prior to the reprinting of the lyrics and production information. It’s wonderful to see this attention to detail as so many career perspective releases are thrown together as nothing more than a sales opportunity by the record label and often without the input of the artist.

Turning our attention to the record cover, I’m not a fan of it. I much prefer the photograph on the rear of the vinyl release as it encapsulates Carey’s innocent era as well as her more provocative era. That said, one can’t argue that the cover is striking and stands out from other records, therefore ensuring it isn’t missed on the shelves of your local record store.

Each record comes in a printed inner-sleeve and while the photographs detail much of Carey’s career, I find it interesting that the selected photographs somewhat conclude with Carey’s Butterfly era, rather than proceeding through to the compilation’s release in 2015. Nevertheless, the selected photographs are fantastic and are a joy to look at while listening to the record.

Vision of Love is the perfect song to commence the compilation on. While I was never fortunate enough to own Carey's self-titled debut album, it was impossible to go for any length of time without hearing Carey's soaring vocals on the radio. It's the kind of song, as many of Carey's classics are, that create the dreaded earworm. Of course, in this case, it’s a song that I'm happy to allow my subconscious to play over and over again as if it were a broken record.

Love Takes Time is a beautiful song and I truly hope Carey will return to her roots, in the future, where her vocal is crystal-clear and front and center. We already have more than enough manufactured and overproduced music. I want these power ballads. Exceptional!

Someday (MTV Unplugged) is a great performance. I would, however, have preferred them to edit the track down to the drumstick count in as the spoken word introduction is cheesy. Carey would probably hate this, but the backing vocalists make this live performance. It’s also a great mix and I don't know about you, but I’ve yet to come across a substandard MTV Unplugged performance, by any artist. While I do question the inclusion of a live track on a greatest hits compilation, Carey explains in the liner notes that she wasn’t completely satisfied with the overproduced version of the studio recording, whereas she found this version more appealing. After comparing both, she’s got a point. The original is substandard when compared to the MTV Unplugged performance. It’s actually difficult to listen to after the live version.

I Don’t Wanna Cry is another exceptional song from Carey's debut album. So well recorded, mixed, and mastered. It’s an incredibly musical song that encourages one to sit back, close their eyes, and turn up the volume.

Emotions has a great beat that compels you to move your body. It’s a little campy, but an absolute classic.

I'll Be There (Feat. Trey Lorenz) is an incredible cover, but I find Carey sings it too similar to the Jackson 5 original, rather than making it her own. Perhaps it was due to the last minute plan to record it for the MTV Unplugged performance that caused Carey to approach the song in this manner. Of course, the similar nature of her version could have been as a direct result of her admiration for the Jackson 5. Regardless, she nails it!

Dreamlover is a great pop song and god only knows how many times I played this song in the 90s, as Music Box was spun repeatedly. It isn't Carey's greatest song, that title goes to Hero, but it’s not far behind and will arguably be present on every Carey career perspective album that will see the light of day.

Hero is the definitive Mariah Carey song. While it has been played ad nauseam, it’s still her greatest recording and I don’t believe she'll ever top it.

Fantasy (Bad Boy Fantasy Feat. O.D.B) is an interesting choice as I've always enjoyed the original studio release, but I must say this remix is compelling and has grown on me the more I have played it. That said, I'm not sure I agree with remixes appearing on compilations. Neil Sedaka's The Very Best Of was somewhat ruined when some of his greatest songs appeared in a medley format. Thankfully I like this version of Fantasy as much as the original album version.

One Sweet Day (Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men) is a beautiful song. Both Carey and Boyz II Men were at their creative peaks when this song was recorded and it shows.

Always Be My Baby has a sensational intro, and while I enjoy the song, I find the verses to be pedestrian. Thankfully the chorus kicks this song into high gear. That said, I'm not sure if this song is compilation worthy. It's good, but is it great?

Honey isn't a bad song, but it’s overproduced and while it isn't dated, give it another couple of decades and the sonic signature will have aged quite badly.

My All is a beautiful ballad and is truly worthy of inclusion on this career perspective compilation. Carey really needs to focus on this style of song, in my opinion. In this category, she has very few peers.

Heartbreaker (Feat. Jay-Z) is fantastic. I don't know about you, but it gets me head-bopping and toe-tapping as I turn the volume up and sing along. Jay-Z really is the spit and polish on this song. His contribution isn't as prominent as I'd like, but it's arguably perfect.

Thank God I Found You (Feat. Joe & 98 Degrees) is a lovely ballad, although I find the tempo to be a little too slow, not dissimilar to the audible slow down on a cassette walkman just as the batteries were beginning to fail.

We Belong Together is a solid pop tune, but I wonder, again, if this song is worthy of a career perspective album.

Don't Forget About Us is in a similar category to We Belong Together. It's good, but perhaps not great.

Touch My Body is one of Carey's newer songs that I truly enjoy. A great song with a great beat.

Infinity is, of course, the only new song to appear on this career perspective release. It isn’t bad and fits in well with the other tracks on the compilation. That said, I feel it’s overproduced and Carey's vocal tracking could have been stronger as her vocal range isn't well represented on this song.

Like many greatest hit albums, length is an issue and I find after the 79-minute duration has elapsed, I'm ready to listen to something else. That said, while listening to #1 To Infinity, I thoroughly enjoy it and don’t for a moment regret picking it up on vinyl.

The song choice for the North American edition is well-considered, but I do miss Without You and that incredible duet with Luther Vandross; Endless Love. Both are included on the International release of the album. At least we didn't get the campy All I Want For Christmas Is You, although it is included on the Japanese edition if you’re a fan of that song.

Sonically, the vinyl pressing is full bodied with a warmth that will appeal to analogue aficionados. If you’re interested in picking up the vinyl release, a download code is also included and the mastering, while not confirmed, sounds identical to the vinyl release, minor the unique analogue sound of course. Overall, the pressing is very quiet, with almost no surface noise, ensuring headphone listening is enjoyable. It’s truly worth owning for fans of Mariah Carey’s music.

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Elton John – Too Low For Zero (Album Review)

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Elton John – Too Low For Zero (Album Review)

A mixed bag! Yes, that’s how I would adequately describe Too Low For Zero. There is little doubt that this album was another successful collaborative effort between John and Taupin, and while it would mark a return to John's original band lineup, from his classic era, Too Low For Zero isn't what I would consider to be a classic album. Don't get me wrong, there are some killer songs to be heard on this album, but not all of them are noteworthy.

I must admit that l've always liked the cover art of Too Low For Zero, but I find it humorous that the hieroglyphs by themselves are not enough, therefore requiring the album name to appear at the bottom of the album artwork. Nevertheless, it is the music we’re here for, so let's check it out.

This review is based on listening to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music remastered editions of the album. Sonically, the difference between the two is negligible, ensuring you’ll enjoy this album regardless of the streaming platform.

Cold As Christmas (In The Middle Of The Year) is musically a good song, but John should have remained mute, allowing the song to be an instrumental composition only. Yes, I'm not a fan of anything Christmas related, as many regular readers would note, but it’s just not suited to John and at best is a B-side. It certainly should have never been the opening track for the album. It's not as bad as Dear John, but it isn't far off either.

I'm Still Standing, as l’ve mentioned before, is addictive and truly awesome!

Too Low For Zero certainly has an 80s sound, but to be completely honest, I find it difficult to connect with this song as I feel the chorus is a little whiny, bordering on campy. Unfortunately, no amount of repeat listens can change my mind. It also sounds very under-produced, one step away from a demo recording. It’s a great album title, but a lacklustre song. Although, that piano solo is thoroughly enjoyable.

Religion isn't a bad song with a toe-tapping rhythm, but it’s also a B-side and offers nothing to write home about.

I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues is such a beautiful song. Well written, recorded, mixed, and mastered. It really is, as I’ve said before, simply fantastic!

Crystal is a great song. The beat is compelling, the backing atmospheric music is captivating, and John's vocal is perfectly presented on this song. One of the best, non-hit, songs on the album!

Kiss The Bride is, as I've mentioned before, one of the greatest songs ever recorded! Seriously, does anything more than that need to be said about this masterpiece?

Whipping Boy just isn't good. When I say Too Low For Zero is a mixed bag, this song validates that viewpoint.

Saint is a solid B-side and a worthy addition to the album.

One More Arrow is a beautiful song that should really be more prominent in John's catalogue. The vocal shifts are incredible and one can only wonder how amazing this song would be if performed live.

Earn While You Learn has an intriguing entrance that sounds like it would have been better suited on Victim Of Love or 21 At 33. It's a solid instrumental track, even if it’s a little self-indulgent.

Dreamboat is the very definition of campy. It isn’t bad, it’s just not great and probably should have been left in the archives.

The Retreat is a solid song to close the remastered edition of Too Low For Zero. It encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue. However, I also have the same opinion of One More Arrow closing out the original non-remastered edition of the album.

Overall, Too Low For Zero is an excellent album, but it is most certainly a mixed bag of extraordinary and mediocre. Hence, it is difficult to recommend this album on vinyl as the skip ability of that track you may not like is not nearly as flexible as digital delivery methods. Regardless, the tracks that are truly worth hearing are the hits and they are available on various compilations. That recommendation, of course, limits some of the better non-hit tracks from being heard, but the songs that are truly bad, are bad enough to mar the album if you're not a truly dedicated fan.

Too Low For Zero is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Too Low For Zero is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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

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Disturbed – Evolution (Album Review)

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Disturbed – Evolution (Album Review)

Sometimes the only way for an artist to remain relevant, and continue to grow creatively, is to evolve. Yes, Disturbed's latest album doesn’t have a meaningless title as they have evolved with a series of songs that will likely divide fans.

There is little doubt that Draiman has the vocal chops to approach most styles, but I can't help but wonder if some of the songs on this album would not have been better utilised for a side project. Think Corey Taylor's Slipknot verse Stone Sour styles and you'll likely understand where I'm coming from. Yes, Disturbed has a reputation for exceptional covers, especially The Sound Of Silence, but Evolution is a mix of Disturbed’s metal roots and their creative acoustic aspirations. It’s familiar, yet different; reminding me somewhat of the disjointed mess that is John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy. That album and this should really have been two separate albums or at the very least expanded and presented in the same manner as The Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness double album.

Are You Ready is the signature stadium-filling song that is pure Disturbed. Its energy and finesse is addictive and will appeal to new and old fans alike. I love it!

No More has a great vibe, with a little Marilyn Manson influence, especially in the opening and hook areas of the song. Donegan's semi-solo guitar tracking is fantastic as is the entire mix.

A Reason To Fight is a stunningly beautiful ballad. Seriously, Disturbed needs to release a pure ballads album or an acoustic record. Think Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York. It would be a superb addition to their repertoire. If you thought their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound Of Silence, from Immortal, was impressive, you'll be blown away with A Reason To Fight. It is arguably the best song on the album and one of the best original songs Disturbed has ever written and recorded.

In Another Time has a lovely slow build up that is required when transitioning from A Reason To Fight. It’s a solid Disturbed tune, but nothing to write home about.

Stronger On Your Own similarly doesn't blow me away. Don't get me wrong, I'll happily accept more Disturbed music any day of the week, but I feel Stronger On Your Own is recorded at the wrong tempo. Plus, again, I hear elements of Marilyn Manson, encouraging me to listen to his catalogue. It's a little Disturbing...pun intended!

Hold On To Memories is another song to get the acoustic treatment. It’s beautiful and Draiman's lyrical delivery is gorgeous. However, I remain steadfast in my recommendation of greater style separation. Besides the aforementioned albums, think Foo Fighters' In Your Honor.

Saviour Of Nothing, unlike Stronger On Your Own, has the perfect tempo. Equally hard-hitting, yet relaxing. The musicality is interesting and the short drum solo, followed by the guitar solo is incredible. A great song!

Watch You Burn is a B-side and I'm hoping it will grow on me, but at the moment I feel it isn't really a Disturbed song as it sounds out-of-place in their catalogue. That said, I adore the symphonic elements and believe they should have been more prominent throughout.

The Best Ones Lie brings us back to the traditional Disturbed sound we all know and love. The Best Ones Lie sounds like it was left over from the Believe sessions. That's a good thing if you were wondering.

Already Gone is another ballad and closes out the album beautifully. Yes, it encourages me to listen to Evolution again and stay within Disturbed's catalogue. I did initially listen to the Deluxe Edition, but I find the standard 10 track version offers the perfect length, especially considering the sonic differences and experimentation between Evolution and Disturbed’s back catalogue.

Overall, Evolution is an excellent album that grows on you the more you listen to it. Given the widespread popularity of The Sound Of Silence, it’s hardly surprising that Disturbed has decided to evolve their sound to include more ballad tones. I do, however, still wish they had separated the styles a little more, but I also acknowledge that the song introductions are well thought-out in relation to the shifting styles and don’t feel overly disjointed. It will be interesting to see how Disturbed take this shift in styling and apply it to future records.

This review has been based on listening to the TIDAL MQA (Masters) and Hi-Fi editions, as well as the Apple Music stream. Subjectively, I found the MQA edition to be a noticeable improvement over the Apple Music stream. However, the variance between the MQA edition and CD-quality Hi-Fi stream was negligible. The MQA edition, however, felt subjectively more musical, compelling me to move and connect better with the music. That all said, when an album is recorded, mixed, and mastered this well, you’ll enjoy it thoroughly regardless of the format.

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

If you prefer streaming, Evolution is available on TIDAL (MQA or Hi-Fi), Apple Music, and Spotify.

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Elton John – Jump Up! (Album Review)

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Elton John – Jump Up! (Album Review)

I’m an album guy. Playlists are a cool modern take on the good old mixtape, but despite being once known as the Mixtape Master, I much prefer to experience music in the album format as it generally showcases a particular era and style that correlates and often complements the artist. That said, sometimes albums have mismatched tracks and that is certainly the case with Elton John’s 1982 release, Jump Up!

Much of Jump Up! is excellent, well except for the intro track, but more on that shortly. The album artwork is also permanently lodged in the 80s, but I think in some ways that is an appealing aspect. Yes, dear readers, as I age the nostalgic element is becoming more pronounced. Jump Up! likely won't appeal to the fans that are mainly interested in the hits, even though this release features the fan favourite Blue Eyes. Jump Up! May lack focus, but don’t let that deter you for there is enough intriguing music to be found on this release to please all Elton John fans. 

This review is based on listening to the 2003 remastered editions on both TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music. To be completely frank, there is almost no difference to be heard and if anything I find the FLAC version via TIDAL Hi-Fi to be a little more clinical, therefore less relaxful. It isn’t always about resolution and file size. There is little doubt that, for this album, I prefer the Apple Music stream.

Dear John why did you record this song? Seriously, it's horrid! An absolutely terrible start to the album. I honestly can’t think of a worse song, from any album, as the lead track. Although, I’m sure there are plenty. Dear John, please never write and record another song like this one.

Spiteful Child flows on nicely from Dear John and is a much better song. That said, John’s vocal delivery in the chorus can become a little tiresome and I find myself being drawn into the musical accompaniment. It’s layered, diverse, and has a solid soundstage. What's not to like? Oh, that’s right, John's harmony as he delivers the chorus.

Ball & Chain is awesome! It would have been perfect for Tumbleweed Connection, but it works really well here. Ball & Chain has a great groove and fans of The Who may be interested to know the acoustic guitar on this song is strummed by none other than Pete Townsend.

Legal Boys is beautiful! The musicality is beyond reproach as is John's vocal delivery. How is this song not more prominent in his catalogue?

I Am Your Robot is unique; I like it! It’s 80s toe-tapping and head-bopping gold and I'm actually surprised that no one in the hip-hop world has sampled I Am Your Robot. There is greatness hidden here and with the right artist, I Am Your Robot could morph into something amazing. Just so long as they don’t transition into Blue Eyes. It has always amazed me that Blue Eyes was never the lead track on Side B. While CD and associated streaming has largely ignored the sides of a record, Jump Up! was released when Vinyl and Cassettes were the dominant formats and Blue Eyes simply doesn’t flow well after I Am Your Robot.

Blue Eyes is likely the most popular song from Jump Up! Okay, it’s probably the only song off the album that most listeners would have heard. Regardless, as I reflect on what I’ve said previously about Blue Eyes, I stand by my statement that I’m glad John didn't sing consistently in this lower register, that is reminiscent of many a piano bar singer. Nevertheless, Blue Eyes a great song and one can understand why it has become a fan favourite.

Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) is a beautiful Taupin / John collaborative song that was written as a tribute to John Lennon. It’s one of John's greatest recordings and one that I've no doubt you'll appreciate when you listen to it. I could, seriously, listen to Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) on repeat for hours, it is that good!

Princess follows Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) seamlessly and is an absolute classic. Yes, it is a little campy, but it’s a lovely song that works extremely well and this time John nailed his vocal range in the chorus.

Where Have All The Good Times Gone is a great tune. A B-side, yes, but great nonetheless.

All Quiet On The Western Front is sensational despite the commercial failure of the song as a single. Musically it’s gorgeous and the anti-war message will always be relevant. As I listen, I feel compelled to turn the volume up as the sonic elements, especially that drum track, blows my mind. This is one song I'd love to hear in surround sound and I feel in some ways it is out of place on Jump Up! It would have been perfect for inclusion on Madman Across The Water. Regardless, All Quiet On The Western Front compels me to stay within John’s catalogue.

Overall, Jump Up!, while not commercially one of John’s greatest albums, is thoroughly enjoyable. I would have dumped Dear John and re-tracked the album so that Blue Eyes was better presented, but I guess that’s what playlists are for.

Jump Up! is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Jump Up! is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Spotify.

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

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Paul McCartney – Egypt Station (Album Review)

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Paul McCartney – Egypt Station (Album Review)

At this stage in his career, Paul McCartney owes the fans nothing. He’s a living legend and while every solo album hasn't been a home run, Egypt Station certainly is. I’d go as far as saying it’s the best album of 2018 and it is certainly one of McCartney's greatest releases, if not the greatest. I say this having listened to the album so many times that I’ve lost count. Seriously, I'm playing it daily and that generally doesn't happen unless it has that inexplicable special element.

Making it even more special is that exquisite cover art. Yes, dear reader, even in the age of streaming, killer artwork is essential. Without a doubt, the cover art alone demands a purchase on vinyl, especially the concertina sleeve edition. Sadly, a purchase will have to wait as I’m in the process of moving house and my beloved vinyl collection is already packed and ready to go. Being a lifelong renter, this isn’t my first move but my record collection is always the one thing that I ensure is packed before anything else. It has to be protected at all costs. I even move it myself, not trusting removalists to handle with care. Yes, I’m overprotective of my music collection, but if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll likely understand why it is so important to me. I do hope, your music collection, be it physical or digital is equally important. I’d be lost without music and I owe my sanity to artists like McCartney.

Despite not being able to listen to this masterpiece on vinyl, I have been enjoying it via the 24/96kHz MQA edition and 16/44.1kHz FLAC edition, both streamed from TIDAL Hi-Fi. The MQA edition has a slightly greater soundstage and depth than the CD-quality FLAC counterpart, but both sound absolutely exquisite. Similarly, streaming the Mastered for iTunes edition from Apple Music presents the album in slightly less fidelity than the aforementioned editions, but the magic is still there and the album sounds fantastic via my main stereo setup as well as via AirPods. Let’s just say that when an album is recorded, mixed, and mastered this well, there is very little difference between versions. Although, I really, really, can’t wait to hear just how good Egypt Station sounds on vinyl.

Opening Station is an ambient sonic introduction that sets up the concept album perfectly. Admittedly, it’s a little left of the centre, but it works and flows beautifully into I Don't Know.

I Don't Know is simply stunning. The musical elements are crystal clear with a slow rhythm that is nothing short of hypnotic. There is so much depth to be explored by the aural senses and the soundstage is well-defined and broad. Exceptional!

Come On To Me shifts the pace a little with a song that is rock focused. It's a great tune, with a pleasing composition that has an eclectic feel. Although, I feel this song, in particular, has been mastered a little too hot. A reduction of a few decibels would have been perfect in my opinion. That said, I’ve no doubt Come On To Me will be a stadium-filling song.

Happy With You shifts the album again to a more acoustic-based style. Truth-be-told, the style shift isn't that noticeable, when listening non-critically, as all songs flow nicely into each other. Happy With You is thoroughly enjoyable and really highlights McCartney's vocal capabilities that are simply astonishing for a man of his years.

Who Cares is an awesome rock and roll song with a fantastic message. I wish I had a song like this during my teenage years. Nevertheless, my sensitive soul has it now. Who Cares has a killer rhythm and in places reminds me of Crowded House‘s sonic signature. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I do enjoy the mystery behind subjective music correlations. 

Fuh You is the only song on the album that doesn’t grab my attention. It’s campy and is over-produced with a mix that makes the drums sound flat. A style, perhaps, but not one that compels me. Thankfully, Fuh You only goes for 3 min 23 seconds! Okay, perhaps I'm over exaggerating. It isn't that bad, but it isn't great either. Although, the musical interlude about two-thirds of the way through the song is thoroughly enjoyable.

Confidante is another acoustic-based song that is simply beautiful.

People Want Peace is short but meaningful. People Want Peace had the potential to be campy, but it isn't. It's an interesting composition that has classic McCartney cues throughout. As I listen, I can’t help but feel that People Want Peace would have been a killer song for The Beatles.

Hand In Hand is absolutely stunning! One of McCartney's greatest songs.

Dominoes is a complex composition, yet my mind knows just how to connect with the song, ensuring involuntary movements as one dances or head-bops and toe-taps throughout the entire song. As I listen to Dominoes, I can't help but hear Julian Lennon's vocal style that’s prominent on his album Photograph Smile. Isn’t it interesting how one song can remind you of another artist?

Back In Brazil is my daughter's favourite song off the album. She enjoys singing and dancing to the song. While I enjoy the track, I don't have the same connection with it as my daughter does, but I'm glad to see that McCartney’s music will appeal to all ages, for various subjective reasons. That said, she wasn’t a McCartney fan before hearing Egypt Station, so here’s hoping this will be the beginning of a lifelong admiration for everything McCartney. My son is already there as he loves The Beatles, but his musical tastes closely follow mine whereas my daughter is far more subjective with her likes and dislikes.

Do It Now is absolutely gorgeous. This is music at its very best. It blows me away every time, it is that good!

Caesar Rock has a really interesting introduction. It’s different, but it works really well. I guess that could be said about the entire song.

Despite Repeated Warnings is one of the longest tracks on the album, at close to 7 minutes, yet it never becomes tiresome as the song is so layered and diverse. Sensational!

Station II seems somewhat superfluous, especially at this late stage in the album, however, it sets up Hunt You Down / Naked / C- Link perfectly.

Hunt You Down / Naked / C-Link is hands down the best song on the album and one of the greatest songs McCartney has ever recorded. The cello tracking is amazing, ensuring the rhythm has the perfect backbeat to build itself on. Every time I listen to this last song, I feel compelled to listen to the album again. It’s a vicious cycle, but one that I’m glad to go through.

Egypt Station reminds me of the era when I used to collect cassettes and I would listen to them until they wore out. Listening to Egypt Station gives me that same level of satisfaction and perhaps it is a good thing that I don’t yet have the vinyl release for I would have worn that out too.

If my former self, the Mixtape Master, were in business today, he'd share this album with all his friends. It subsequently gives me great pleasure to share it with you and I truly hope you find as much pleasure with Egypt Station as I have. It’s an absolute masterpiece!

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

If you prefer streaming, Egypt Station is also available on TIDAL (MQA or CD-Quality FLAC) and Spotify.

Click here to read other Paul McCartney reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Elton John – The Fox (Album Review)

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Elton John – The Fox (Album Review)

Longtime readers would likely be aware of my admiration for Elton John's back catalogue, especially those albums that didn’t get the recognition they deserved. However, I also call a spade a spade and while a number of the songs featured on The Fox were from the recording sessions of the exceptional 21 At 33, sadly the sparkle of that album failed to make it to The Fox. That’s not to say that The Fox is categorically a bad album, but it is a collection of B-sides. Of course, a B-side for Elton John would be akin to a hit for many other artists, therefore, one shouldn’t be too harsh in their assessment of this album; even if the cover is uninspiring and obscure. Nevertheless, let’s listen to the music and see if there are any redeeming qualities that may appeal to listeners other than John’s diehard fans.

Breaking Down Barriers isn't a bad tune, the musicality is beautiful with an addictive beat, but it lacks the spit and polish often associated with John's recordings. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoy the mix and the depth of the soundstage.

Heart In The Right Place has a moody rhythm that I enjoy. It reminds me of some of John's earliest recordings and it's a great song with yet another excellent mix. It gets better the more you listen to it and in many ways, that’s a sign of a good song.

Just Like Belgium is a solid pop-rock tune. Nothing to write home about though. Although, as with many of the tracks on the album, the musicality and mix are excellent, making for a rather enjoyable listening experience.

Nobody Wins has a compelling beat that is stuck in the 80s, yet I love it as I lived through that era and the music expression of the time was certainly unique. Nobody Wins is one of the best songs on the album.

Fascist Faces is average at best. It just proves that despite the incredible collaboration efforts of John and Taupin, not every song they wrote together was a hit.

Carla / Etude / Fanfare / Chloe is a lovely song, or collection of songs, that is truly worthy of being a part of John's back catalogue. While much of The Fox is a missed opportunity, this recording, in particular, is a hit and deserves to be heard. Absolutely beautiful!

Heels Of The Wind is an enjoyable B-side that works well within the album format.

Elton's Song was rather controversial at the time of release. However, if the song was released today I dare say it wouldn't receive the same level of pushback and negative press. Actually, it would be interesting to see John reissue Elton's Song as a single as I feel it would be well received and finally receive the credit it deserves for not only its subject matter, but its simple, yet complex, composition. A lovely song!

The Fox follows Elton's Song nicely and is a fantastic song to close the album with ensuring I'll stay within John's catalogue, even if I don’t immediately listen to The Fox again. Although the album does grow on you the more you listen to it.

Overall, The Fox is a solid album but one can’t deny that it isn’t one of John’s greatest releases. It’s highly likely that The Fox will only ever appeal to his most dedicated fans. That said, I implore you to give it a listen as there are a couple of hidden gems to be heard and you may end up thoroughly enjoying the album.

The Fox is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, The Fox is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Spotify.

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

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Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

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Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

I recently visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for the third time. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, the Hall is an experience like no other for music fans.

Because my husband and I visited the Hall last year we didn’t go through every exhibit, and we still spent the entire day absorbing the displays and information presented. The best place to learn about what the Hall has to offer is their web site

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Of particular interest to us was the new exhibit, “Part of the Machine: Rock & Pinball.” Working pinball machines celebrate rock icons like KISS, Alice Cooper, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, and Elton John. We played pinball on almost a daily basis when we were in college, so playing on an old school pinball machine brought back a lot of wonderful memories.

Walk through the Hall and you’ll find John Lennon’s elementary school report card, hand written song lyrics by Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie, Michael Jackson’s sequined glove, drawings by Jimi Hendrix. You’ll learn the history of the Blues, how artists from the past have influenced today’s popular acts. Use interactive computers to discover “One Hit Wonders” and “Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.” Check out the Hall of Fame gallery and the many multimedia exhibits.

Most compelling this visit was the “Power of Rock Experience.” This amazing short movie, directed by the late acclaimed director Jonathan Demme, is a compilation of Hall of Fame induction ceremony performances. On the surface that sounds interesting, but nothing special. Quite the opposite. For music lovers, this film touches a place deep inside your soul. I was almost in tears watching this film, as were many people around me. The highlight was the extended clip from the 2004 Hall of Fame induction ceremony: Prince, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, and Dhani Harrison performing George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” This performance is all the more poignant following the recent anniversary of Tom Petty’s passing. Prince’s guitar playing is nothing short of genius and mesmerizing, and, in my opinion, one of the greatest moments in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony history.

Many people have negative feelings toward the Hall; the politics of a deserving artist not yet included, or the fact that the name is rock & roll hall of fame and other music genres are represented. Ignore all that. Appreciate it for what it is: a collection of musical memorabilia that speaks to us, makes us think, makes us happy or sad, brings back memories. Music is the soundtrack of our lives, and it’s celebrated at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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