Slash - Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Slash - Self-Titled (Album Review)

Slash really needs no introduction. Widely recognised as one of the greatest guitarists in rock and roll, Slash has played with a who’s who of the music industry and in 2009, it was only fitting that peers and idols collaborated with Slash on his first solo, non-band, outing entitled Slash. While the album is, of course, self-titled, I like to refer to it by its visual cover art moniker: R&FN’R.

The idea of Slash & Friends admittedly sounded campy from the outset as that style of album has been released ad nauseam, across various genres, and has a reputation that isn’t far removed from the cliche and utterly pointless Christmas album. However, Slash didn’t disappoint on this release, writing and co-writing the entire album of completely original recordings. Perhaps this is where other artists have come unstuck as they have a tendency to simply re-record their classics, with their friends, resulting in a less than stellar release.

Released in March, 2010, Slash would once again catapult the guitarist to international fame resulting in a World Tour with the incredibly talented Myles Kennedy on vocals – a match made in heaven and one that continues to exist to this very day when Kennedy isn’t busy with Alter Bridge and Slash isn’t touring with Guns N’ Roses. For this Self-Titled release, however, Kennedy would only perform two songs, Back From Cali and Starlight; both are exceptional and an indication of what was to come.

Ghost (feat. Ian Astbury) gets the album off to a rocking rhythmic start and is superb from start to finish. Astbury has an incredible vocal that is perfect for the tonality of Ghost. Such an incredible start to the album.

Crucify The Dead (feat. Ozzy Osbourne) flows seamlessly from Ghost and showcases Osbourne’s vocal prowess perfectly. I don’t know about you dear reader, but I like the slower, more methodical, Ozzy songs. Sure his fast and heavy stuff is good too, but the tempo of Crucify The Dead is absolutely perfect.

Beautiful Dangerous (feat. Fergie) is one of the greatest songs on the album and one of the most unexpected. Seriously, most of us know Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas and while her contribution to the Black Eyed Peas was extraordinary, she takes her skills as a vocalist to another level on this song. She really should be fronting a rock and roll band, if not undertaking her own solo hard rock album and associated tour. I’d buy tickets for that! The groove and guitar licks used here are sensational and I could literally listen to Beautiful Dangerous on repeat indefinitely. It is so good!

The music video is also quite entertaining with a well thought out story and connection with the song’s lyrical meaning. It is, however, let down when you see Slash taking a shot and then drinking a Monster Energy Drink. Talk about product placement! Truth-be-told, Monster probably paid for the music video, especially considering a Monster Energy Drink Edition, of this Self-Titled release, was released with the bonus track, Chains And Shackles (feat. Nick Oliveri).

Back From Cali (feat. Myles Kennedy) is the first of two masterful Myles Kennedy additions to this incredible Self-Titled album. Music doesn’t get much better than this!

The music video for Back To Cali is your classic interwoven scenes from a variety of live performances and random backstage and location shots. It works. It’s R&FN’R, but once you’ve seen it a couple of times, you’ll likely forget about it and simply enjoy the song.

Promise (feat. Chris Cornell) is sensational. I’ve adored Cornell’s vocals ever since I first heard Soundgarden’s Superunknown and Promise only intensifies my admiration.

By The Sword (feat. Andrew Stockdale) is a great tune. That semi-acoustic element is off-the-charts good! Plus, Stockdale’s vocal is so unique that I can’t help but be drawn in. It happened when I first heard Wolfmother’s Self-Titled debut and it continues here on this masterful performance.

Gotten (feat. Adam Levine) is a lovely tune and perfectly suited to the album. To be completely honest, I don’t know much about Levine, or his band Maroon 5, as they have remained off my radar over the years. Trust me, it isn’t intentional, there are just so many hours in the day and only so many albums I can listen to. Subsequently, some artists will naturally fall through the cracks. Given how good Levine is on this song, perhaps I should check out his other creative works. Nevertheless, Gotten is thoroughly enjoyable and if this is the only song of his I ever listen to, I can be satisfied.

Doctor Alibi (feat. Lemmy Kilmister) is hard and fast with an addictive rhythm that is perfect for Kilmister’s vocal prowess.

Watch This (feat. Dave Grohl and Duff McKagan) is the only instrumental track on the album and while Grohl and McKagan are legends that I admire, I feel this song is a little lacklustre and nothing more than filler. Given Grohl’s history as frontman for the Foo Fighters, one would have thought that a killer rock and roll tune with him on vocals and Duff on backing vocals would have been the perfect combination. Nevertheless, it wasn’t to be and while Watch This isn’t fundamentally bad, it feels like a missed opportunity to me.

I Hold On (feat. Kid Rock) is a solid song and as much as I enjoy anything that Kid Rock releases, I really feel that I Hold On could have been written and recorded with a harder rock element. Yes, it is in line with much of Rock’s catalogue, but for this particular collaboration, I would have been interested to see something heavier come out of the recording session. That isn’t to say that I dislike the song, or the performance, just that if I were sitting in the producer’s chair, I’d likely suggest trying a different style.

Nothing To Say (feat. M. Shadows) is perfectly suited to Shadows’ vocal style and is a much better collaboration than his inclusion on Device’s song Haze. It is reminiscent, to my ears, of Avenged Sevenfold’s Self-Titled 2007 release. Subsequently, I love this addition to the album.

Starlight (feat. Myles Kennedy) is incredible. It is one of the best songs on the album and you’d be hard pressed to find a song that Kennedy does any better than Starlight. You really need to turn the volume up on this one, you’ll thank me later. Superb!

Saint Is A Sinner Too (feat. Rocco DeLuca) is a lovely track with an acoustic approach that is not only perfectly suited to the album but fits masterfully into the tracking of the record.

We’re All Gonna Die (feat. Iggy Pop) is a song that only Iggy Pop could have sung. It’s the perfect way to close out the CD and Vinyl release of Slash’s eponymous album and one can’t help but agree with the sentiment expressed in We’re All Gonna Die; it’s priceless!

Bonus iTunes/Apple Music Track:

Paradise City (feat. Cypress Hill & Fergie) is a great mashup tune and it’s great to see it included on the streaming version of the album. It certainly pays homage to the original and while I adore the original edition on Appetite For Destruction, this is an incredible cover that will likely appeal to fans of this classic song.

Songs Not Included On Mainstream Releases:

As is often the case, different regions get an exclusive bonus song or edition of the album. The Japanese market got Sahara (feat. Koshi Inaba), a very different rock tune that upon reflection doesn’t match the rest of the music released on this eponymous release. It merely sounds disjointed as if the vocal element has been taken from another song and overlaid on an instrumental track. It isn’t inherently bad, but I am glad it didn’t make the final cut for the international release.

The now out-of-print Australian Deluxe edition includes an acoustic version of Back From Cali. As much as I love the integration of acoustic elements in the original studio recording, the acoustic version feels a tad lifeless by comparison and subsequently I’m glad a little more production was added to it. It is interesting to ponder, however, what my opinion would have been if the acoustic version was the only one ever released. Would I have loved it, loathed it, or been ambivalent towards it? We may never know, but the right version was selected for the international CD release.

Also on the Australian Deluxe edition is an acoustic version of Sweet Child Of Mine with Myles Kennedy on vocals and Izzy Stradlin on guitar, side-by-side with Slash once again. It is a beautiful rendition and I truly wish that I didn’t have to listen to it on YouTube, for it is unavailable physically, via digital downloads, or streaming services in Australia. Such a shame considering how good it is.

While we’re on the topic of Australian editions, those that pre-ordered the album on iTunes received the bonus track Chains And Shackles (feat. Nick Oliveri). It’s a killer rock and roll song and it’s ridiculous to think that it isn’t currently available for fans who didn’t pre-order.

Mother Maria (feat. Beth Hart), is an iTunes exclusive song that is not available to the Australian market. It’s your blues meets country meets rock song that is appealing if you enjoy Fleetwood Mac. I do, hence I like it, but it’s style is quite different from the entire album and wouldn’t have suited the international release.

I bet by now you’re thinking that I’ve covered all the bases. Well, there are several more editions that I won’t bore you with, other than to say the song, Baby Can’t Drive (feat. Alice Cooper, Nicole Scherzinger, Steven Adler, and Flea) is fantastic and should have never been excluded from the international standard release of the album.

Overall, Slash is the epitome of R&FN’R. While the CD generally sounds good, at lower volumes, due to a low dynamic range, it doesn’t scale well and subsequently can be disappointing. While I don’t have the vinyl release, a regret that has haunted me for years, I’d suggest looking for a copy as the dynamic range is certainly greater on the format and would likely result in a broader soundstage with greater separation throughout. Streamers, while getting the same mastering as the CD, will be happy to know that this eponymousrelease sounds excellent via Apple Music and Apple’s AirPods. It is quite frankly my preferred way to listen to this album as my main stereo setup is less forgiving when brickwalling is concerned. Either way, Slash is one album that just about every rock and roll fan will enjoy.

Slash (Self-Titled) is available to own on Vinyl, CD and iTunes.

Click here to read other Slash reviews by Subjective Sounds. 

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Elton John – Farewell Yellow Brick Road (Concert Review)

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Elton John – Farewell Yellow Brick Road (Concert Review)

I recently had the privilege of seeing Elton John in concert for the fourth time. This tour, called “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” is world-wide and goes through 2021. If you ever had any intentions of seeing Elton John live in concert, do it now, as he is retiring from live performances after this tour. A list of tour stops can be found here

I’ve been a huge Elton John fan since (ahem) 1973, with the release of the album “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player,” which gave the world the classic songs, “Daniel” and “Crocodile Rock.” Both songs were performed, as well as 22 more for a rocking and energetic evening of classic Elton John.

Opening the show was “Bennie and the Jets,” which set the tone for the entire evening: the fans went wild and were singing along from the first note. “Bennie” was followed by deep cut “All The Young Girls Love Alice,” exciting for me as it comes from one of my top ten albums of all time, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

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One thing I love about Elton John: he appreciates his audience. He thanked the fans throughout the show, noting that if it weren’t for them, he wouldn’t be there. He also explained the stories behind some of his songs. “Border Song” was covered by Aretha Franklin, which made Elton and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin feel like they would be taken seriously as musicians. “Believe” was important to his work with his AIDS foundation. He also spoke of his hitting rock bottom with drugs, alcohol, and overall bad attitude, and how saying three little words-“I need help”-made all the difference in his life. Again, he expressed appreciation for those people who helped and supported him during his difficult time, and for his fans that have bought his music, merchandise, and most importantly, came to his shows.

Behind Elton was a screen that played videos during some of the songs. I could have done without that, as most of them made no sense and didn’t add anything to the performance. That is, until he played “I’m Still Standing.” Those clips were fun to watch: Elton on the “Muppet Show,” “Simpsons,” and “South Park,” old MTV videos, footage of concerts from the 1970s.

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If you want to hear the hits, Elton has you covered. “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” “Candle In The Wind,” “Bitch Is Back,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” all showcased Elton’s piano skills. As for his vocal skills, he still has it. At almost 72 years old Elton still brings everything he has to his performance.

I remember wanting the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album sooooo bad! Back then the double album cost $6. It took weeks of saving my allowance to have the money to finally buy it. I played it on constant loop; there’s not a bad song on the album. To hear Elton perform “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” was such a thrill for me, as it’s one of my favorites on the album.

During the concert I uploaded some videos to Facebook. A junior high/high school friend of mine was a HUGE Elton John fan, as in, she was a fanatic! I knew those videos would give her a thrill, and her responses to them made it all worthwhile: “OMGGGGGGGG!!” “Are you kidding me?!? He sang that too?!?” “Thank you for posting these!!”

I go to a lot of concerts, and many of the artists or bands I see are in their 60s or 70s. I’ve been asked why I bother seeing someone “so old,” what’s the point when they’ve already reached the pinnacle of their success. The reason is simple: I grew up with those artists. Yes, they’re older, and sometimes they can't hit the high notes like they used to. But they still have it! They bring their talent, charisma, and artistry to their performances. If they didn’t, no one would be paying good money for tickets. I’m afraid that in a few short years my concert going will be limited, as so many of my favorites are retiring. I forget that we all are much older than I think we are!

In just under 3 hours, Elton John sang 24 songs, with the crowd wanting more. There are so many I would have loved to hear: “Empty Garden,” “High Flying Bird,” “Harmony,” “Teacher I Need You,” and “Blues For Baby and Me” for starters. I’m sure if you asked each person in attendance, what they would like to hear, Elton’s entire catalogue would have been covered. Obviously that’s not possible. But if you like Elton John’s hits, you will NOT be disappointed with this show. Check Elton’s website for a show near you, and get tickets as soon as they go on sale. I promise it will be worth your while.

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

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Rob Zombie – Zombie Live (Album Review)

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Rob Zombie – Zombie Live (Album Review)

Rob Zombie is one of those unique enigmas of the music industry that one can’t help but gravitate towards. His legacy and influence is legendary and while he still classes Alice Cooper amongst his idols, Zombie is without a doubt a force to be reckoned with and has arguably matched the success and influence of his idol, if not superseded it. As a serious Cooper fan, I’m glad to see the torch has been passed to the younger shock rocker, but one does have to wonder who will come after Zombie for they broke the mould when they made this monster of rock.

Personally, I’ve been a fan of Zombie’s work since I first heard White Zombie’s More Human Than Human on an episode of the television series Millennium. From that moment on, I was hooked and if Zombie released it, I tried desperately to purchase it if the budget allowed for the expense. Yes, like all good record collections, there are a couple of significant holes in my Zombie-based library, but if I had everything, then there’d be nothing left to look forward to. Trust me, the unfulfilled feeling in this regard is real. I have every AC/DC album in my collection and I feel ambivalent towards it. I want more, yet there is nothing more to get. Rule 1 of music collecting is to always ensure you pass on a release that you know you’ll regret not picking up at a later date. That way, you’ll forevermore search for a copy, or hope for a reissue, and that keeps you going as you explore and expand your collection. Perhaps my greatest regret was not picking up a copy of White Zombie’s Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. Well, I wasn’t going to make that mistake again, as the aforementioned album is now impossible to get on the Australian market for a reasonable price, so I subsequently picked up the incredible It Came From N.Y.C vinyl boxset upon release. Yes, I know Zombie himself had nothing to do with that release and similarly the former White Zombie band members had nothing to do with Let Sleeping Corpses Lie but for this Zombie fan, it was always going to be a value-added proposition that includes a beautifully presented hardcover book with a detailed look at the band from inception to Zombie’s ultimate decision to go solo. Regardless, I’m sure I’ll eventually pick up a copy of Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, but it is fun to pass on copies when they come up. It becomes a talking point and I absolutely love obtaining that hidden gem as much as I enjoy leaving it on the record store shelf for another fan to purchase and add to their own collection.

The same excitement also occurs when I decide if I should pick up the CD or Vinyl release. Generally, in Australia, CD prices are at an all-time low and are always more affordable than the vinyl counterpart. The only problem with that is that as much as I adore the CD format, the mastering is often hit and miss. Not in this case, however, as Zombie Live, while mastered a little on the hotter side, is full of dynamic range and provides a real sense of the concert experience one could expect from a Zombie performance. It is, quite frankly, one of the best recorded, mixed, and mastered live CD’s I’ve ever heard. Thank you Scott Humphrey!; a man as pivotal to Zombie’s success as Bob Ezrin is to Alice Cooper. Of course, Zombie Live would be the last album Humphrey would work on with Zombie and it’s such a shame because their collaboration was off-the-charts good. As usual, I digress, but Humphrey knew how to get the very best out of Zombie and while Zombie continues to amaze, his early-era solo releases still outperform his more recent output in my opinion.

So, we have established that the mastering is perfect on the CD release and quite frankly there isn’t a single element that I would change as it simply sounds right. However, in 2018, Zombie Live was reissued on vinyl, for the first time as the vinyl resurgence wasn’t even a blip on the radar at the time of release in 2007. We were still, inserting CDs into computers, ripping them to our iPods, and accessing bonus material via the connection between the CD and the associated artist website. We’ve certainly come a long way since then and purchasing the vinyl edition would at least remove that ungodly black box of text from the exquisite album artwork. My concern, however, is what if the pressing sucks? The CD sounds right, as I mentioned earlier, and vinyl certainly has it’s own unique sound signature that is neither better or worse than the digital edition, it’s just different. Now, I have plenty of Zombie’s albums on vinyl and his Spookshow International Live is a personal favourite, that while presented on a spectacular picture disc, sounds absolutely incredible; hence it shouldn’t really be an issue but vinyl pressings are as hit and miss as CD masterings. Logic says I should be happy with the CD release, and perhaps I am, but I will always wonder if I should have picked up the vinyl edition. Of course, if I did, I would gift the CD to my son as I no longer collect and hoard both a CD and vinyl copy. It’s excessive and I found that I wasn’t enjoying an album because I got into the bad habit of comparing the CD to the vinyl release upon each play – quite frankly a futile process! 

All that said, I am thoroughly happy with the CD release and while some vinyl releases come with extensive liner notes, many don’t and if there is one thing that I’ve always appreciated about Zombie’s CD releases, it is the attention to detail and providing the music lover with a full-featured booklet to go along with the purchase. Not bad considering Zombie openly acknowledges the end of the album and the fact that no one buys them anymore. Well, Rob, I still purchase them and I thank you for keeping the album format alive, even though it goes against your personal beliefs.

Of course, I know how easy it is to simply listen to music via streaming services, but you should seriously consider picking up, at least, the CD release of Zombie Live as it offers enough additional content to appease any Zombie fan. Okay, so much of the booklet is photographs from various live performances, but they are killer shots that you likely wouldn’t find elsewhere. Unfortunately, while this live recording is Mastered for iTunes, no digital booklet is included with the iTunes purchase. As disappointing as that is, we’re here for the music, so let’s take a look at the 18 thunderous songs that make up Zombie Live.

Sawdust In The Blood, from Educated Horses, offers the perfect backdrop to launch this live performance. A killer instrumental!

American Witch flows seamlessly from Sawdust In The Blood and remains my favourite song from the Educated Horses era. It’s a little heavier than some of Zombie’s other groove-based metal songs, but I love it! Interestingly, given this was the live album that came after Educated Horses, it is somewhat surprising that Foxy Foxy didn’t make an appearance. Nevertheless, American Witch is perfectly suited to the live lineup and the attitude of the performance.

Demon Speeding has a near-symphonic sound signature that reminds me of Metallica’s astonishingly good S&M recording with the San Francisco Symphony. Subsequently, I love it, but I have always loved this song and I may have, in my younger and wilder years, used this song as the soundtrack for a little street racing.

Living Dead Girl is a song I have mixed emotions about. I’m not a fan of the studio recording, nor did I like the music video, but I absolutely love this live rendition as it adds the attitude that I feel the original recording was missing.

More Human Than Human is one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded and this live version is nothing short of pure perfection. Zombie doesn’t get much better than this!

Dead Girl Superstar has never been a favourite of mine, and I consider it to be one of the weakest songs on The Sinister Urge, but I can’t deny just how well it works live. I actually enjoy it within this context.

House Of 1000 Corpses is a personal favourite. The film is already a cult classic and this song has such an addictive mellow groove that it’s hypnotic, drawing you into the crazy psychotic mind of Rob Zombie. What’s not to like?

Let It All Bleed Out is thrash metal meets groove metal with a touch of blues rock and roll. What can I say, it works! Although, I have to admit that it took me a number of listens to fully appreciate the song when I first heard it. Actually, Educated Horses, the album from which Let It All Bleed Out comes from, was so different to Zombie’s previous works that at first, I detested the album. Thankfully it grew on me and it is now one of my favourite Zombie releases. I guess that just goes to prove that one should never be too quick to judge as music can be an acquired taste that needs to develop over time.

Creature Of The Wheel is a killer White Zombie track and is performed flawlessly.

Demonoid Phenomenon is full of energy and attitude and is a sensational live rendition of the Hellbilly Deluxe classic.

Super-Charger Heaven is another song that is sensational live. Some songs just suit live performances; it certainly seems as though Zombie has more than his fair share of songs that fall into that category.

Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy) is an absolute favourite of mine. That said, The Sinister Urge has always been, and likely always will be, my favourite Rob Zombie album as it was a revolutionary shift in his style that linked him to his White Zombie origins but also put him on a new path of exploration as an artist.

Black Sunshine flows seamlessly from Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy), further validating my previous statement about being similar, but revolutionary. It’s a great song and is incredible when played live.

Superbeast is a killer rock and roll tune. I’ll never forget first hearing it while watching the film, End Of Days. If memory serves me well, the music video was also an added DVD special feature. It blew my mind then and still does to this day. This live version is yet another flawless performance on a live album that goes above and beyond all expectations.

The Devil’s Rejects has an incredible twang and is an awesome song that gets about as close to a ballad as Zombie is ever going to get. It’s also surprisingly well-suited for this live performance and doesn’t feel at all out-of-place.

Lords Of Salem isn’t bad, but it isn’t one of my favourite Zombie songs and I’m not entirely sure it is suited to a live performance, despite the obvious approval from the crowd. Hopefully, the cheering wasn’t added in post-production.

Thunder Kiss ‘65 has one of the most recognisable riffs in the history of rock and roll, but I have a love/hate relationship with the song. The rhythm is fantastic and the verses work well, with plenty of groove, but the chorus drives me absolutely mental. Thankfully John 5 gives a masterful solo at the end of the song. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I love John 5’s solo work as well. He’s a master musician if there ever was one and while he receives significant recognition, he is under-appreciated outside the Zombie camp.

Dragula is the perfect song to close the live performance on. It’s one of Zombie’s greatest and I never tire of turning the volume up when this song comes on. Without a doubt, it encourages me to listen to Zombie Live again and stay within Zombie’s extensive catalogue of music.

Overall, Zombie Live is a masterpiece and as polished as Zombie’s studio recordings are, this live recording maintains and amplifies his overall addictive groove and attitude, thereby taking some of Zombie’s greatest hits to another level. Honestly, it isn’t often that live performances can match or exceed their studio counterparts, but this one does.

Without a doubt, this is one album you must own. Call it a Greatest Hits, if you will, it is simply that good and is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

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Janine Jansen - Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (Album Review)

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Janine Jansen - Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (Album Review)

Janine Jansen is nothing short of a musical virtuoso. Yes, Vivaldi's music is stunning, but Jansen's interpretation is exquisite and while I have a few recordings of The Four Seasons, in my collection, none are quite as compelling as this stripped down version. While a complete orchestra may not have been employed to record this masterpiece, the chamber-sized ensemble beautifully enhances the piece and Jansen's incomparable performance. She certainly makes that near 300-year-old violin, a 1727 Stradivari Barrere, sing.

Of course, the recording, mix, and mastering are absolutely perfect; another instant Decca classic, no pun intended! The Blu-ray High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) release I’m fortunate to have is akin to an out-of-this-world experience for Jansen and the supporting musicians are present in the room with you as you sit back and relax. The transparency is beyond belief and while the Blu-ray Audio allows for Linear PCM (LPCM), DTS-HD Master Audio, and Dolby TrueHD, all presented at 24bit/96kHz, I find that while my preference with these discs is generally DTS-HD Master Audio, the LPCM version is perfect as it provides a crisper representation of the recording. That isn’t to say the DTS-HD Master Audio edition is bad, just that this recording doesn't take advantage of, nor need, the lower end boost that DTS-HD Master Audio tracks generally add to a recording.

Perhaps the only interesting deviation of this reissue, from the original 2004 SACD release, is that the Blu-ray Audio edition is supplied in stereo only, whereas the SACD featured a multichannel mix. The question one must subsequently ask is if a surround sound mix is required to fully enjoy this recording? As I've never heard it, I can't adequately comment, but as I listen to the performance, there are movements where a surround mix may be more enveloping for the listener. That said, it ultimately depends on instrumental placement in the multichannel mix and when a stereo mix is this perfect, the soundstage opens up and ultimately becomes three dimensional, thereby captivating the listener. Subsequently, I have little to no interest in obtaining the multichannel mix, but I do wonder why Decca decided to omit it from this release. I could hypothesise various reasons, but it would just be unfounded conjecture.

What is not conjecture is just how good the iTunes/Apple Music edition is. With many of the Blu-ray Audio releases, Universal Music included an MP3 download code, much the same as they do for vinyl records. Perhaps, if record labels want CD sales to increase, they should include them via that format as well. Or, an even better option would be to, include a free month of TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, or Spotify et al. I don’t know about you, but the music labels need to make the physical product as compelling as they can, in order to ensure continued support. That said, classical music still remains dominant on physical media and likely will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Regardless, as Jansen's Four Seasons didn’t include a download card, and I was yet to utilise streaming services at the time of release in 2013, I purchased the album on iTunes as well so that I could have this exceptional recording with me, wherever I go. While there is no doubt that there is a difference between the lossy Mastered for iTunes release and the Blu-ray Audio, the performance shines through and one just can't be disappointed with the Mastered for iTunes release as it’s magical and makes Apple's AirPods come alive. It is amazing how far we’ve come and while there is a slight degradation in quality when compared to the Blu-ray Audio release, it’s minimal and only truly apparent when listening via loudspeakers as the soundstage is a little more shallow, lacking in depth, thereby resulting in me preferring the HFPA release when listening on my main stereo at home. That said, most people will adore the Mastered for iTunes edition and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is, after all, derived from the same high-resolution master as that used for the Blu-ray Audio. Truth-be-told, if I wasn't fortunate enough to own the HFPA edition, I would still be in awe of Jansen's Four Seasons as the iTunes/Apple Music equivalent is simply exceptional!

Normally at this stage of the review, I would take a look at the individual movements, but in this case, I would prefer to not colour your opinion with my own subjectivity for I consider the entire performance to be spectacular and while I doubt it’s possible, you may subjectively have a different viewpoint. Hence, listen for yourself. Allow the music to touch your soul. Close your eyes if that helps, but whatever you do, don’t listen to this album as background music, at least for the first play through. You’ll thank me later as this recording is most certainly an experience that will move you.

If you would like to own your own copy, Janine Jansen's Vivaldi: The Four Seasons is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes). Unfortunately, the Blu-ray Audio release is becoming increasingly difficult to track down and prices are subsequently climbing to a cost out of the reach of most music lovers, myself included. However, if you can find a copy at a price you can afford, you'll be blown away by not only the quality of sound but by the redesigned booklet that has been reformatted for the, taller-than-CD, Blu-ray liner notes. I mention this merely because many of the HFPA releases were rushed to market and in some cases, the CD booklet was simply printed within the larger canvas of the Blu-ray booklet. A little disappointing for this collector. Nevertheless, Jansen's Vivaldi: The Four Seasons is absolutely flawless, on any format, and would make a lovely addition to any music collection.

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Eagles – Eagles Live (Album Review)

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Eagles – Eagles Live (Album Review)

Live performances are a mixed bag. This is a key reason why I avoid going to concerts. I simply don’t want to come away disappointed, following a lacklustre performance. However, with an increase over the years in lip-syncing, the question regarding what constitutes a live performance yields intriguing results. However, what happens if the artist in question is such a perfectionist that they are determined to release a live recording that has its origins based in a series of live performances but thanks to excessive overdubbing can no longer really be regarded as a live performance. Well, the Eagles did just that on their first live album, released in 1980, Eagles Live.

Now, as much as I love this release, it pales in comparison to the sonic prowess of Hell Freezes Over. That said, Eagles Live is thoroughly enjoyable as it has the spit and polish that only studio overdubbing could accomplish. It is disappointing to acknowledge that this release needed significant post-recording modifications in order to bring it up to the Eagles’ demanding standards. While I lament the obvious notion that this isn’t completely a live performance, I also applaud the work done here as the Eagles were facing internal turmoil during this release, resulting in the overdubs being done in different studios, in different locations, across the United States. It’s honestly a miracle that any live album resulted and it showcases just how good the production team was in getting the sound so good with such obstacles in their way. There is little doubt that the modern era of digital recording has made these types of multi-location collaborations easier and more fluid, but Eagles Live plays so fluidly that only the most observant fans will notice the additional production elements. The rest of us will enjoy the album for what it is. A compilation of the Eagles very best songs, played live but perfected in the studio.

Hotel California (July 29, 1980, Santa Monica) is an exceptional song, but this rendition sounds concealed and while the performance is worthy of inclusion, you’d think with all the post-production aspects of this release that this would sound significantly better than it does. Regardless, if you want to hear what I believe to be the very best version of Hotel California, then you need to check out the recording on Hell Freezes Over. That said, it’s Hotel California; what’s not to like?

Heartache Tonight (July 27, 1980, Santa Monica) is, as I’ve mentioned before, an exceptional song and this live rendition is no exception. I subjectively enjoy this rendition more than the studio release on The Long Run, as the treble is dialled back on this version and subsequently is less shrill than the original. A minor detail, yes, but one that is important to me and may be important to you as well.

I Can’t Tell You Why (July 28, 1980, Santa Monica) is simply glorious. I don’t know about you, but I could listen to Timothy B. Schmit on vocals all day. Yes, this rendition, as many are on this live album, is very close to the original studio release, but when music is this enjoyable, it ceases to matter as I just sit back and enjoy the experience.

The Long Run (July 27, 1980, Santa Monica) isn’t one of my favourite Eagles’ songs and this live rendition doesn’t really change that opinion, although the brass instrumentation is fantastic. Overall, it isn’t fundamentally bad, it just isn’t a song that I feel I need to listen to. That said, I won’t skip it when it comes on.

New Kid In Town (October 22, 1976, The Forum) is, for me, similar to The Long Run. Although, I do have to say that I thoroughly enjoy this rendition. Again, the treble region has been rolled off and I don’t know about you, but that is appealing to me as the music just sounds right with a slightly reduced treble range.

Life’s Been Good (July 29, 1980, Santa Monica) is a killer rock and roll song from Joe Walsh’s solo catalogue, first appearing on But Seriously, Folks, that offers a flawless transition on the album. Given the egos associated with the Eagles, I find it refreshing to see that Walsh’s solo efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

Seven Bridges Road (July 28, 1980, Santa Monica) is a cover of the Steve Young classic. Young’s original is fantastic, but the intermingling vocal harmony of the Eagles takes Seven Bridges Road to another level of sonic perfection. Either way, whichever edition you listen to, you’re bound to love this song.

Wasted Time (October 22, 1976, The Forum) is one of my all-time favourite Eagles’ songs. Absolutely brilliant and a welcome addition to this live album.

Take It To The Limit (October 20, 1976, The Forum), on this live release, is stronger than the original on One Of These Nights as the mix, this time, just sounds right. Whereas, I’ve always felt the mix was a little unbalanced on the original studio release.

Doolin-Dalton (Reprise II) [October 21, 1976, The Forum] is a lovely, albeit brief, interlude.

Desperado (October 21, 1976, The Forum) is, as I’ve mentioned before, one of their greatest songs and is translated to the live performance masterfully; albeit with a little post-production. Nevertheless, it is an exceptional song and I consider this rendition to be one of the very best versions of the song I have ever heard the Eagles perform.

Saturday Night (July 28, 1980, Santa Monica) has, as I’ve mentioned before, perfect harmonics that make for a lovely song that flows perfectly from Desperado.

All Night Long (July 27, 1980, Santa Monica) is another Joe Walsh solo classic. I absolutely love it!

Life In The Fast Lane (July 31, 1980, Long Beach) is fantastic. That rhythm and riff are incredible but I’m not a fan of this live interpretation as I feel the studio release, on Hotel California, is significantly stronger. In some ways, however, this live rendition may be the most live song from this album as the differences are more pronounced than that heard on other songs.

Take It Easy (July 27, 1980, Santa Monica) is always great and closing out this live album with it is perfect as it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within the Eagle’s catalogue.

Overall, Eagles Live is an extraordinary release that while not entirely live, is a welcome addition to the Eagles’ back catalog. While one may decide not to listen to, or purchase, this album because of the overdubbing throughout, I would argue that it can still be enjoyed and quite frankly given I dislike live performances that are lacklustre, I’m glad a little spit and polish can be applied in order to improve the audio quality and performance. There is nothing worse, in my opinion, than hearing a live performance sound so different to the studio release that you question if the live record was recorded by a cover band. That said, lip-syncing acts have to be abolished as it’s an insult to the concert goer who attends primarily for the atmosphere associated with a live performance and pays extensively for that privilege. By comparison, the individual who buys or listens to a live album knows instinctively that some production has gone into the final product and unless you’re into the bootleg scene, acknowledges that live is not necessarily as live as the artist, record label, and associated marketing would like us to believe.

Eagles Live is available to own on CD and iTunes.

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Slash (feat. Miles Kennedy) – Made In Stoke 24/7/11 (Live Album Review)

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Slash (feat. Miles Kennedy) – Made In Stoke 24/7/11 (Live Album Review)

Following the highly successful Self-Titled Slash album, from 2010, Slash hit the road with Myles Kennedy as lead vocalist. Kennedy certainly has the vocal chops to deliver a wide range of styles and subsequently was the perfect choice as vocalist. Also joining them on this outing was Bobby Schneck on Rhythm Guitar, Todd Kerns on Bass, Backing Vocals, and Lead Vocal on Doctor Alibi, and Brent Fitz on drums. Kerns and Fitz have remained with Slash and Kennedy through their subsequent albums and touring schedule, being dubbed as The Conspirators. It’s certainly a solid lineup and as you listen to the performance, you get a sense of energy and cohesion that is usually reserved for bands that are at the apex of their careers. Yet, here, on an early outing, this is no garage band wannabe stadium headliner that was thrown together merely to capitalise on the success of the eponymous album and Slash’s back catalogue. Of course, this album was recorded in front of a modest audience of 1,500 at Victoria Hall in Stoke-on-Trent in England. Nevertheless, you don’t get a substandard performance and while it may sound different to that of a stadium-sized concert, the intimate location results in audible audience interaction that goes beyond the standard concert screaming and cheering as you can easily hear the audience singing along to many of the songs and chorus lines. It adds to the performance and the intimate feeling of being there vicariously.

While I obviously wasn’t in attendance, I am fortunate enough to have the 3LP Green Vinyl edition that looks as amazing as it sounds. The records aren’t your standard 180-gram releases; probably 140-gram, but this is never a negative aspect for 180-gram is more about marketing than quality. You can have a paper thin record and it can smoke a thick behemoth any day of the week if the mastering and pressing process was handled with respect. 

The tri-fold gatefold is stunning and when you hold this record sleeve in your hand, you know exactly why you’re a vinyl collector for no digital counterpart can ever be this immersive. iTunes LP tried, but the listeners didn’t care, nor did the record labels or the artists; the end result is a feature that is no longer being supported. It’s a missed opportunity, but if I were working for Apple or one of the record labels, I’m sure I’d sink countless millions into things like iTunes LP, whether it made financial sense or not. It’s a shame though, that the dollar value must dictate what music lovers receive. Nevertheless, Slash’s Made In Stoke 24/7/11 is one vinyl release you should own if you’re a fan of the artist/band. The records themselves are quiet, flat, and well pressed and mastered. No, this is not going to sound as good as a highly produced studio album, but it certainly gives the feeling of a live performance better than many other live albums I own. For that aspect alone, I applaud this release and while I don’t find myself gravitating to it on a regular basis, when I do, I thoroughly enjoy the experience and ponder if I should pick up the concert Blu-ray release to go along with it. 

Interestingly, in my younger years, I used to love watching recorded live performances. As I’ve aged, however, I find myself less compelled to sit and watch, preferring to relax and listen. It’s a strange dichotomy that I can’t explain and perhaps I’ll have to give some live performances a chance again to see if I can reinvigorate the interest in watching the performances. Perhaps I’ll start with The Rolling Stones’ From The Vault: No Security San Jose 1999 as the Stones have made the concert available on Apple Music. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I wish Slash and all other artists and record labels would offer this kind of value-added proposition. Of course, I’m not sure if I’d watch them all, but I know many people who would find significant value from such an inclusion. While I’d love to be able to at least rent Made In Stoke 24/7/11 from iTunes, unfortunately, the only Slash concert available to the Australian market, on iTunes, is the 2014 performance Live At The Roxy. Hey, you never know, I may just review that someday as well. Until then, let’s get back to the review of Made In Stoke.

LP 1 – Side A

Been There Lately was a really strange song to commence the performance with. It was never the strongest song from Slash’s Snakepit and it’s therefore unexpected. That isn’t to say that this live rendition isn’t good as it’s arguably better than the original, but there are many stronger songs from that era that I would have selected. Speed Parade would have been perfect as the opening song, in my opinion. Perhaps, even, Dime Store Rock would have been a better choice.  

Nightrain is an absolute classic and a personal favourite. This live rendition doesn’t shift far from the original, and that’s a good thing, but it has its own personality and is thoroughly enjoyable. I have to say, Kennedy does a wonderful job, on vocals, with all the classic Guns N’ Roses songs. 

Ghost has a killer rhythm and is textbook Slash. Kennedy does a good job with the song that was originally recorded with Ian Astbury. While I can understand the unwillingness to open the live performance with Ghost, given it was the opening track for Slash’s eponymous album, it would have been ideal and would have flowed perfectly into Nightrain. Although, Ghost also flows smoothly into the Snakepit original Mean Bone.

Mean Bone isn’t a bad rock and roll track. It has a classic vibe to it but fails to stand out and subsequently doesn’t offer much to write home about. Nevertheless, it works well for the live performance and is a value-added proposition for those of you that may have not been exposed to the Snakepit era. 

Back From Cali is Kennedy’s song and it’s astonishingly good. While not intended to be, Back From Cali is the perfect song to close out side one, ensuring that the live performance is full of energy and the listener feels compelled to keep listening to a live performance that simply gets better as the show goes on.

LP 1 – Side B

Rocket Queen is a favourite of mine, but that could be said about all songs from the Appetite For Destruction era. They haven’t aged and remain as relevant today as they were when recorded. A sign of good music? Yes, I believe so! 

Civil War is an incredible song and the band performs it stunningly with Kennedy doing a solid job of interpreting the song for his vocal style, but as much as I enjoy Civil War, I would have much preferred to hear the band perform November Rain. Of course, Slash didn’t co-write November Rain, as it was a Rose-only composition, and subsequently, it makes sense that it hasn’t made an appearance. Although, that closing guitar riff is spectacular.

Nothing To Say is brilliant and Kennedy really nails this interpretation, resulting in a song that leaves me divided because I equally enjoy this rendition and the original version featuring M. Shadows on vocals. It’s a great fast-riffed rock and roll tune. Yes, some may suggest that Slash’s style is better suited to his core blues-based rock and roll riffs. While I wouldn’t completely disagree with that point of view, the man is a legend and can certainly shred without issue. 

LP 2 – Side A

Starlight is beyond belief good! It honestly leaves me speechless as it’s nothing short of a masterpiece. Just sit back, turn the volume up, sing along, and enjoy. I know I do!

Promise is an incredible song and while Chris Cornell was the perfect choice for the original studio recording, Kennedy performs it perfectly, showing yet again just how talented he is as a vocalist. Yes, it could be argued that he is merely singing a variety of blues-based rock and roll songs and therefore the shift isn’t that dramatic, but one must remember that the original songs were written with and for other vocalists and vocal styles. The result is Kennedy pays tribute to the original vocalists, makes the song his own, resulting in pure perfection. I dare say there are very few vocalists who could adapt to so many varied styles in a live performance and absolutely nail them all.

Doctor Alibi was a killer Lemmy Kilmister song and Kerns has covered it perfectly. Seriously, if Motörhead ever wanted to tour again, following the unfortunate passing of Kilmister, they should pick up the phone and call Kerns. No, he’s not a Kilmister imitator, but his vocal prowess is most certainly appropriate for the Motörhead sound. Either way, Doctor Alibi is a killer rock and roll tune. 

Speed Parade is your classic meat and potatoes rock and roll song. Full of attitude with a riff and rhythm that is addictive and appealing to the rock and roller within.

Watch This was lacklustre on the eponymous Slash album and I was a little worried about it being included in the live performance. However, the worry was largely unnecessary as the live performance adds a little grit to the instrumental that wasn’t present on the studio recording. That said, it still isn’t exceptional and is quite frankly nothing to write home about, but this rendition is, at the very least, a better interpretation of the original composition. 

LP 2 – Side B

Beggars & Hangers On is one of the greatest songs Slash has ever written and recorded. I’ve always loved it. Eric Dover did a fantastic job with the original and as much as I enjoy Kennedy’s vocal prowess, I really feel that Dover’s is superior as the song just isn’t quite as strong with Kennedy at the helm. That isn’t to say he did a bad interpretation, it’s awesome, it just isn’t up to the same standard of the original and I wonder what Kerns would have sounded like performing this song as he nailed the gruffer vocal delivery on Doctor Alibi. 

Patience is a truly lovely song and this is a beautiful rendition of the Guns N’ Roses classic. 

Godfather Solo flows perfectly from Patience and has arguably become a Slash trademark. Having performed it for years, I dare say there isn’t another guitarist, in the world, that can express the song as elegantly as Slash does; on an electric guitar that is. Absolutely sensational! That said, I would suggest that Slash has become a little self-indulgent regarding the length of this solo. Certainly, he has earned the egotistical right to play that guitar for as long as he likes, I’m just wondering how captivated the fans remain throughout. 

LP 3 – Side A

Sweet Child Of Mine is another seamless transition, especially if you listen to the album via CD or Apple Music. Unfortunately, if you’ve got the vinyl release, you’re not going to notice this continuity. Nevertheless, Sweet Child Of Mine is exceptional and Kennedy can belt this classic out just as well as Rose has over the years. This is the type of song where Kennedy’s unique vocal style really shines. 

Slither is a favourite from the Velvet Revolver era and while I’ll always associate this song with Scott Weiland, Kennedy pays homage to the original and makes it his own. Yes, I should stop comparing the efforts of Kennedy to the vocalists that came before him, as I’m not doing that for the other musicians, but the vocal element, as an instrument, is so pertinent in music that it is difficult to separate the memory in one’s mind to the performance one is currently listening to. Perhaps that is why I dislike cover bands as I feel, despite their best efforts, they are subpar compared to the memory of the classic songs they sing. That said, I am the first to admit that not all covers and cover bands are bad, some can be better than the original, but it is the exception rather than the rule. 

LP 3 – Side B

By The Sword is epic and Kennedy absolutely nails it. 

Mr. Brownstone is one of my all-time favourite Guns N’ Roses songs. The beat is tribal and the rhythm addictive. I love it! 

Paradise City rounds out this live performance and while it would have been nice to see the album end with one of the songs from Slash’s eponymous album, Paradise City is a showstopper and one of the very best songs ever written and recorded. That riff, those lyrics, and that rhythm are sensational. If you need a textbook example of a perfect rock and roll song, I dare say this is it. Without a doubt, Paradise City leaves me compelled to listen to Made In Stoke 24/7/11 again and stay within Slash’s back catalogue.

Overall, Made In Stoke 24/7/11 is a sensational live performance that any fan of Slash and his musical cohorts should check out, if not own, as it is most certainly worth your time. Including music from Guns N’ Roses, Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver, and Slash’s iconic eponymous release, longtime fans, such as myself, will undoubtedly find something to love about Made In Stoke 24/7/11

Made In Stoke 24/7/11 is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes

Click here to read other Slash reviews by Subjective Sounds. 

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Legs Diamond – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Legs Diamond – Self-Titled (Album Review)

If you’re into rock and roll, especially the sort that came out of the California music scene in the late 70s, then you’re going to love this eponymous debut album from Legs Diamond.

I often sit and wonder why one band is more prominent than the other. How did they connect with the social consciousness of the time? Was a band who didn’t receive the recognition they deserve merely out of time? Well, Legs Diamond failed to set the world on fire but would later gain a dedicated following that would result in them reforming and continuing to tour and record to this day; along with various breakups throughout the years. Subsequently, you can be forgiven for having never heard of the band, but thanks to the modern era of music streaming, we can all explore and enjoy the music that was merely out of time, for Legs Diamond is certainly no diamond in the rough and is one of the greatest 70s hard rock albums I have ever heard. How Legs Diamond is not a household name is beyond comprehension, but join me as we explore their eponymous debut. You can thank me later!

It’s Not The Music kicks the album off with a rhythm that is out of this world. If you’re not head bopping and toe tapping from the first note, you’re listening wrong. With numerous influences, including Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, Legs Diamond’s It’s Not The Music is not only a song that should go down in history as one of the grooviest 70s rock anthems, but it is the perfect song to open the album with. So good!

Stage Fright has a killer guitar riff and flows perfectly from It’s Not The Music. It’s full-on 70s west coast rock and roll that will require you to dust off your air guitar. I love it!

Satin Peacock is your classic blues-based rock and roll tune. Turn that volume up and enjoy, I know I am.

Rock And Roll Man is an epic song that reminds me fondly of Black Sabbath’s Ozzy era. This is one seriously good album!

Deadly Dancer is another great song that is very much inspired by Deep Purple and as a Purple fan, that isn’t a bad thing.

Rat Race is full of groove. Yes, you can again hear the influence of Deep Purple, but Legs Diamond creates a sound that is so unique and perfect that it is only reminiscent of Deep Purple in spirit. Regardless, Rat Race will have you head bopping and toe tapping to the addictive rhythm. 70s hard rock doesn’t get much better than this!

Can’t Find Love is a little over-produced at the beginning of the song and really doesn’t start until almost two minutes have elapsed. However, once the song gets going, it’s a riff and vocal driven masterpiece and is literally one of the best songs on the album.

Come With Me closes the record out with the same energy that has permeated throughout the entire album; although I’m not fond of the fade out as I feel commencing the fade on the vocal was a mistake. Nevertheless, there is absolutely no doubt that I will listen to Legs Diamond again and stay within Legs Diamond’s rather extensive catalogue.

Overall, Legs Diamond is not only an exceptional eponymous debut, but it is one of the greatest 70s hard rock albums to have ever been recorded and released. How I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during these recording sessions as the album is mixed and mastered beautifully. So well, in fact, that I’m blown away by the dynamics and soundstage present via the Apple Music stream. While I’d love to track down a vinyl copy, and likely will at some time, this digital release is absolutely amazing and will showcase the very best your speakers or headphones have to offer. It also provides further validation that lossy music can sound exceptional if it has been recorded, mixed, and mastered properly. An incredible album from start-to-finish!

Legs Diamond is available to own on CD and iTunes.

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Apocalyptica – 7th Symphony (Album Review)

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Apocalyptica – 7th Symphony (Album Review)

It’s cello-metal time!

Yes, the world has collided and those of you who are die-hard classical music fans may wish to look away. Similarly, the metal heads may also have a difficult time coming to terms with just how perfect metal and classical overtures and instrumentation work together. Certainly, Metallica proved just how well the mix could be applied when they performed their exceptional live concert, S&M, with the San Francisco Symphony, in 1999. It’s a classic performance and one of the best recordings Metallica has ever released. It’s certainly better than their latest live effort, Helping Hands...Live & Acoustic At The Masonic. I love Metallica, but this album is only slightly better than their Lou Reed collaboration, LuLu. Regardless, Metallica has been an inspiration for the Finnish cello-metal band Apocalyptica and you should really check out their 1996 release, Plays Metallica By Four Cellos. It’s exceptional and one can only wonder if upon hearing this album, Metallica decided to test the waters with their own classical interpretation three years later. Whether or not this was the case, S&M is one of the greatest live albums and performances of all time and Apocalyptica has grown beyond covering their idols, becoming a band that has not only stood the test of time but commands the respect of the classical music lover and metal head alike.

Released in 2010, 7th Symphony is Apocalyptica’s seventh studio release and fast became one of my all-time favourite albums. This review is based on the iTunes/Apple Music standard edition as that is the one that I’ve been enjoying for years. Interestingly, however, as much as I adore this album I’ve yet to add it to my physical collection. Given it was released on various formats, it amazes me that I’ve never taken it to the next level. My only reasoning is that I thoroughly enjoy the digital edition that I purchased so many years ago and as such it makes me wonder if obtaining the vinyl release, amongst other possibilities, is really that important. The music collector within says it most certainly is, but the music lover says if you like the way it sounds, don’t buy another copy. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I have countless examples of different formats sounding at odds with each other, as if you’re listening to an entirely different album. Sometimes it is subjectively better, other times it is just different. Yes, I’m aware of how different masterings can sound and that each format has its own unique sonic elements, but that doesn’t always mean that vinyl is better than digital or vice versa. Subsequently, I say, enjoy the music you have and if you’re not grooving with the sound, then perhaps you should look for an alternative format/mastering to see if a subjectively better release is available. Of course, as I say that, I’m looking at the cello-shaped USB edition of the album...I want it! Yes, I know I contradicted myself. It isn’t the first time and it certainly won’t be the last. It is the bane of the music collector and as much as one can enjoy the process, it is an addiction just like any other hobby.

Addicted is certainly one way to describe my love of 7th Symphony. By and large, the album as a coherent piece of musical art is superbly crafted and I welcome you to join me as I take a look at the songs that make up Apocalyptica’s 7th Symphony.

At The Gates Of Manala is a sonic wonderland and is the perfect song to open the album with as you know exactly what to expect from the rest of the album when you listen to this song. That isn’t to say that Apocalyptica repeats themselves, for they are certainly diverse, but what is immediately apparent is that this record, in particular, is going to be a little more on the symphonic heavy side than some may assume. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and there are more mellow tunes throughout 7th Symphony, but At The Gates Of Manala, and the entire album, is one that takes no prisoners and if you’ve never heard anything by Apocalyptica, up until now, I’ve no doubt you’ll be hooked listening to this instrumental song. I certainly was!

End Of Me (feat. Gavin Rossdale) has incredible rhythm and while I’m not overly familiar with Bush, Rossdale performs this song beautifully. However, as good as he sounds, I’d love to hear Corey Taylor on vocals here. Yes, I may well have a man crush on Taylor, but the guy epitomises the lifestyle and genres he performs in. Nevertheless, Rossdale should be congratulated on a stellar performance and the backing musicality is off-the-charts. A great song and a wise choice for the first single from 7th Symphony.

However, Not Strong Enough (feat. Brent Smith), is the best song on the album. Smith has an incredible vocal range that is perfectly suited to the album. Interestingly, however, due to frivolous music industry practices, the Brent Smith original was unable to be released stateside and subsequently another version of the song was recorded with Doug Robb of Hoobastank. To be completely honest, both versions are spectacular but if I had to pick one, it would be the rendition with Brent Smith as I feel his vocal is more suited to the style of the song and backing musicality. Either way, Not Strong Enough is one of the greatest songs in Apocalyptica’s catalogue and I can only recommend you turn the volume up and enjoy. It has an attitude that will make you feel invincible; a positive confidence building element that is exclusive to the listening and appreciation of music.

2010 (feat. Dave Lombardo) is another killer instrumental and Lombardo delivers an exceptional drum track. Its speed metal meets rhythmic metal but performed with symphonic overtones. What’s not to like?

Beautiful is certainly more mellow but is absolutely stunning. I hope you haven’t turned the volume down for Beautiful needs to be heard as loud as you can play it without causing hearing damage or inducing audible distortion.

Broken Pieces (feat. Lacey Sturm) is a lovely song and Sturm delivers an exceptional vocal performance that in some ways reminds me of Avril Lavigne. Perhaps the only disappointment I have when listening to Broken Pieces is the crushed percussion elements as a result of brickwalling. This is quite a shame as all other songs sound dynamic with a broad soundstage, despite the album’s overall low dynamic range. That said, according to the Dynamic Range Database, Broken Pieces has the greater dynamic range in comparison to the rest of the album, almost double the other songs, yet when you listen to it, you wouldn’t agree with that finding

On The Rooftop With Quasimodo begins in a mellow tone, but that doesn’t last as this instrumental track grows in boldness before returning to its original mellow state mid-song, then returning to a heavier symphonic sound. The sonic shifts are done extraordinarily well and you won’t feel they’re disjointed as they blend masterfully together resulting in a song that tells a story through instrumentation alone.

Bring Them To Light (feat. Joseph Duplantier) picks up the pace and it’s a killer scream/speed metal track. The rhythm on Bring Them To Light really directs the song beautifully and Duplantier’s vocals are spot on. A sensational track!

Sacra is absolutely mind-blowing. The moodiness of the cello certainly comes out in this song and I couldn’t imagine a metal-infused cello track being more textbook accurate than this one. If you want to let someone here just what symphonic metal and the cello can sound like, this is most certainly the song to play for them. Perfect would be an understatement as Sacra really is beyond adequate description and has to be heard to be believed. Although, I’m not fond of how it transitions into Rage Of Poseidon.

Rage Of Poseidon has an opening that doesn’t compel me, but as the song progresses, the grinding rhythm takes hold and it becomes a valued addition to the album, ensuring that I’ll certainly play thestandard 10-track edition of 7th Symphony again and stay within Apocalyptica’s diverse and extensive catalogue.

Overall, 7th Symphony is an album that should be in everyone’s collection, be it digital or physical. It is compelling and while on the surface it may seem a little mismatched to the newcomer, it is absolutely perfect to those of us who believe the merging of musical genres is not only a good thing but is an essential element in the continuous evolution of music as a form of art.

As for the tracks not included on the standard edition, but present on varied releases in different regions, I have this to say:

Return Game is simply stunning and brings the cello right to the front of the mix, an element that I thoroughly appreciate. I really wish this song was included on the standard 10-track album.

Through Paris In A Sportscar is a solid tune. Nothing to write home about, but adequate nonetheless.

The Shadow Of Venus is a lovely song, but it does have the tendency to sound a little repetitive.

Spiral Architect is a Black Sabbath cover, first appearing on Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath from 1973. Let me be completely honest, just listen to the original Sabbath version of the song.

These additional four tracks, along with a DVD featuring performances from the Sibelius Academy, are all included on the Deluxe Edition. Thankfully, this additional content has also been made available on iTunes, as well as Apple Music, for those who wish to download or stream the content. The additional performances included are for the songs Beautiful, Not Strong Enough, End Of Me (if you’d like to see the official music video (feat. Gavin Rossdale), click here), I Don’t Care (an incredible song originally released on Apocalyptica’s 2007 release, Worlds Collide), Sacra, and Bittersweet. Yes, these additional elements can often be seen as bonus material that you’re unlikely to consume more than once, but I would encourage you to check it out as the songs are performed in an acoustic manner, showcasing just how seriously talented these musicians are. Tipe Johnson of the Finnish rock band, Leningrad Cowboys, provides the vocals on these acoustic performances and does a simply incredible job.

Apocalyptica’s 7th Symphony is available to own on CD and iTunes. A Deluxe Edition is also available on CD/DVD and iTunes.

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Device – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Device – Self-Titled (Album Review)

David Draiman is a man with few peers and with such a unique vocal presentation it can be difficult to separate the man from Disturbed; a band that would catapult him to international fame. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your philosophical bent, Disturbed entered a hiatus between 2011 and 2015, resulting in a series of side projects by the various band members. Bassist, John Moyer, would join Adrenaline Mob and form Art Of Anarchy, while Dan Donegan and Mike Wengren formed Fight Or Flight. Draiman, of course, went on to form Device with former Filter guitarist, Geno Lenardo. Device, while not completely dissimilar to Disturbed, in part due to Draiman’s unique vocal presentation, does have a greater electro-industrial sound than Disturbed that fans will undoubtedly adore.

You Think You Know is a hard-hitting start to the album and in some ways is reminiscent of Disturbed’s Believe era. Despite that, You Think You Know sounds fresh and unencumbered by the link to Disturbed. The rhythm elements are fantastic, but the drums are sadly a little flat, especially in the high-hat region. This is due, in part, to the over-compressed nature of the album whereby the dynamic range is brick-walled rather badly. When you listen to this song, and much of this Self-Titled album, it becomes apparent that the music is screaming to be heard with more separation and depth. Yes, the highly compressed nature of this style of music is somewhat of a trademark, but I feel it was taken a few steps too far and could have been dialled back a little to allow a greater sense of scope, rather than the wall of sound that is currently present. Nevertheless, I love You Think You Know and believe it is the perfect song to commence the album with.

Penance is stadium worthy as that rhythm will get you moving. Perhaps the only questionable aspect is the tempo. The chorus and overall musicality are perfectly timed, but I do wonder how Penance would have sounded if the vocal delivery was sped up a little.

Vilify is a great song, but the electro-industrial elements are a bit too in your face and sound as if they were added as an afterthought. Yes, I understand this is the style Device was aiming for, it just feels as though there are two songs here, instead of one coherent one.

Close My Eyes Forever (feat. Lzzy Hale) is amazing! I love it and could listen to it indefinitely. This is most certainly a song for my lost on a deserted island playlist. Lzzy Hale is one of the greatest rock/metal vocalists in the world today and the duet with Draiman has a sense of purity that could only have been made in heaven. As much as I love the Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford original, this edition takes the song to a new level while simultaneously paying homage to the original.

Out Of Line (feat. Serj Tankian & Terry “Geezer” Butler) is a raw and riff-driven song full of attitude. Seriously, turn this song up to 11, you’ll thank me later.

Hunted started out promising, but I don’t like Draiman’s lyrical presentation on this song. Subsequently, I’ve got to call Hunted a B-Side.

Opinion (feat. Tom Morello) is a great left-of-the-centre song. The rhythm is disjointed, but that is where the magic happens proving that order and chaos can coexist.

War Of Lies is a solid track, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Haze (feat. M. Shadows) is enjoyable and while there are moments of brilliance, I don’t feel Shadows is presented as prominently as he should have been on this track as his input sounds a little lost in the mix. A shame considering just how exceptional he is as a vocalist. In all honesty, if you didn’t know Shadows contributed to this track, you’d be forgiven in missing his addition as there is very little sign of the vocal prowess the Avenged Sevenfold frontman is known for.

Through It All (feat. Glenn Hughes) is a sensational closing track that encourages me, like all good closing songs should, to listen to the album again.

While there are no major disappointments on this album, it is frustrating that this self-titled release was never issued on vinyl. The cover art alone demands a larger canvas and the greater dynamic range, provided by the vinyl mastering process, would be a welcome addition. Similarly, it frustrates me that the edition available to Australian audiences, via digital downloads, streaming, and CD, are limited to 10 songs. There are, however, three additional songs that have been made available on various editions of the album. A Deluxe Edition that includes a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Wish and A Part Of Me. The Best Buy Exclusive also includes the track titled Recover. Are these additional songs any good? Well, I have reluctantly taken to YouTube to check out the tracks, despite the poor audio quality, and one can understand why they weren’t included on the core album. That doesn’t change the fact that in the era of streaming, these songs should easily, and legally, be available to fans the world over.

Overall, Device’s Self-Titled album is exceptional and while Draiman has stated that there is no intention to release more music under this moniker, I hope he reconsiders this position as this work complements his work with Disturbed in much the same way that Corey Taylor’s Stone Sour complements Slipknot.

Device’s Self-Titled album is available to own on CD and iTunes.

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Cher At The Amway Center, Orlando, Florida 1/21/2019 (Concert Review)

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Cher At The Amway Center, Orlando, Florida 1/21/2019 (Concert Review)

One of my best friends lives in Orlando and I try to visit her every year. When she lived near me we went to a few concerts together, including Peter Frampton, Elton John, and Tom Jones, as her husband really isn’t a fan of the music we like, and it gave my husband an excuse not to go with me. Now that my friend is in Orlando the only concert she’s been to with her husband is opera great Andrea Bocelli. Since I’m a huge concert fan we’ve decided to time my visit based on a concert we’d both love to attend. Two years ago it was Billy Joel. This year it was Cher. Billy was once again performing at the Amway Center in early January, and he always puts on a great show. But people, this is CHER! Not just a singer or actress, but an all-around entertainer. This was a show we did not want to miss.

If you know anything about Cher you're aware of her wild costumes, big hair, and stunning sets. At the Amway Center she did not disappoint. The show started with a video montage of Cher, from the 1960s to the present day, including clips with Sonny Bono, her former singing partner and husband, and her children. This was followed by Cher’s dramatic entrance, complete with orange hair and golden headpiece, singing one of her more recent hits, “Woman’s World.”

She took some time during the show to tell a few stories as only Cher can. She told the crowd about her “two night” 40th birthday, which was when she met one of her longtime boyfriends, Rob Camiletti. Her 15-minute story had the crowd laughing and applauding, especially after she announced that at 72 years old she wasn’t as good as she once was but was happy just to be there. Hey, if I look like that when I’m 72 I’ll find a stage somewhere and strut my stuff!

During the numerous costume changes, video montages and voice overs played on small tv screens on the set: Cher dressed as Elvis Presley and singing “Heartbreak Hotel;” Sonny and Cher performing “Little Man/All I Ever Need Is You.” The most poignant was Sonny singing his part while Cher sang live on “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe.”

Remember the “Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” from the early 1970s? For me, it was must-watch TV. Sonny and Cher not only sang, but performed in silly skits. Cheesy by today’s standards, yet a fun memory.

The fans were truly loving Cher’s covers of ABBA hits: “Waterloo,” “SOS,” and “Fernando.” Cher was feeding off the crowd’s energy and they responded by singing and dancing along.

For the ending songs, “If I Could Turn Back Time” and “Believe” Cher was rocking an outfit very similar to the risqué body stocking she wore for the video of “Time” in 1989, though this time much more modest.

Fans were expecting a party at the Cher concert and they were not disappointed. While her voice isn't quite as strong as it once was Cher still knows how to work a crowd. She may be 72 years old but she still has a bright future ahead of her.

The opening act for Cher on this tour is Nile Rodgers and Chic. I have to confess the first time I saw Chic was…ahem…40 years ago when they played at my college. Yes, that’s how long I’ve been going to concerts, with a gap when my kids were young. Chic performed for close to an hour, which really wasn’t long enough. They started with the hits, “Everybody Dance,” “Dance, Dance, Dance,” and “I Want Your Love.” Nile Rodgers talked a lot about his history in the music business, as most people either know him from his work with Chic, or his work as a producer of many well-known artists: Duran Duran, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, and Daft Punk, just to name a few. Rodgers, a cancer survivor who acknowledged music is what kept him going during his recovery, really got down and funky with Chic singing and dancing to their huge dance hits, “Le Freak” and “Good Times.” It felt like we were back in the late 1970s/early 1980s disco era, and I loved it. What a way to end the show!

Seeing Chic brought back some sweet college memories. Cher was just a lot of fun. And of course spending time with my BFF – priceless.

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