Elton John – Blue Moves (Album Review)

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Elton John – Blue Moves (Album Review)

Blue Moves is a hidden gem, that is if you give it time to grow on you. Seriously, it wouldn't be far-fetched to claim that Blue Moves is one of John's most disliked albums. However, I'm going to buck the trend and declare it one of his greatest achievements. Sure, the tonality of the album is different from his earlier albums, but from a mere sonic perspective, it’s audible gold!

Volume 1:

Your Starter For... is a short, but pleasant, musical introduction to the album. It has a fantastic rhythm and it’s just a shame the song doesn't go longer, however, I also feel it is the perfect length.

Tonight is symphonically beautiful, with gorgeous piano work. I simply can't help but turn the volume up, in order to be enveloped in the incredible soundstage. Beautifully recorded, mixed, and mastered, this is one song you really need to listen to in a darkened room, with eyes closed, to fully enjoy the complex musicality. Tonight is one of John's greatest recordings!

One Horse Town is a great song with an incredible rhythm, but you have to wait for it as the introduction slowly builds from the more delicate Tonight to the upbeat pace of One Horse Town. I really enjoy John's vocal performance here, especially with those slightly higher notes as he takes his vocal right to the edge before backing off at the last moment. Pure perfection!

Chameleon is gorgeous!

Boogie Pilgrim is a B-side. It works well in the album format, but as an individual song, it’s largely forgettable. That is if you can get the catchy tune out of your mind.

Cage The Songbird returns the album to a style I feel is closer to the overall musicality of Blue Moves. It’s a lovely vocal-driven track. Beautiful!

Crazy Water is a bit of a mixed bag. From a composition standpoint, it works really, really well. I love John's vocal delivery but the musicality sounds a little dated and campy. Nevertheless, it manages to come together and ends up being one of my favourite tracks on the album.

Shoulder Holster is a solid song and a perfect addition to the album. The brass instrumentation certainly makes the song and I dare say without it, Shoulder Holster would be rather bland.

 

Volume 2

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word is, as I've said before, absolutely magnificent!

Out Of The Blue is a musical jolt after the sonic brilliance of Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. It isn't that it is a bad song, just the wrong choice to come after the aforementioned song. Once you get past the musical shift, the song really comes into its own with yet another addictive rhythm.

Between Seventeen And Twenty may sound a little offbeat, but I love it!

The Wide-Eyed And Laughing is quite a different Elton John song. I can understand why some would dislike it, but I find it captivating!

Someone's Final Song is superb. I even detect a little Freddie Mercury as I listen to John's vocal style on this song.

Where's The Shoorah? is lovely and perfectly suited to the album.

If There's A God In Heaven (What's He Waiting For?) is a B-side. Not bad, but certainly nothing to write home about.

Idol is beautiful, although George Michael mastered it on his stunning live album Symphonica.

Theme From A Non-Existent TV Series is another musical interlude that works well, despite the rhythmic shift from Idol. That said, Theme From A Non-Existent TV Series leads brilliantly into the final track.

Bite Your Lip (Get Up And Dance!) gets you moving, although I can't help but think Idol would have been the perfect song to conclude the album on. Nevertheless, Bite Your Lip (Get Up And Dance!) encourages me to play Blue Moves again and stay within John's catalogue.

Blue Moves is, without a doubt, one of the most overlooked albums of all time, I implore you to give it another listen as you will be amazed by just how good this album sounds. Sure, it isn't representative of John's chart hits, but it could be argued that this album was an attempt to do something more bold from an artistic standpoint. If that was the intent, then Blue Moves ticked all the boxes.

For this review, I listened to the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi. The mastering is perfect and while I'll likely pick up the 2017 vinyl reissue, I can't imagine Blue Moves sounding better than it does via TIDAL's CD-quality stream. It is nothing short of absolute perfection!

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

If you prefer streaming, Blue Moves can also be heard on Spotify and Apple Music.

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

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John Fogerty – Deja Vu All Over Again (Album Review)

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John Fogerty – Deja Vu All Over Again (Album Review)

It can be difficult to think of John Fogerty as a solo artist, for his songwriting, singing, and overall musicality has permanently been linked to Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). However, if you think he did his best work in CCR, you'd be mistaken as Fogerty is nothing short of a living legend. While the solo albums may not sell as well as the CCR back catalogue, Deja Vu All Over Again is impeccably recorded and mastered, showing just how good the red book CD format can sound.

With a short runtime of just over half an hour, there isn't a single B-side to be found. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I love shorter runtimes as artists tend to focus on perfection, rather than filling the available capacity of the format.

It also helps to have a stellar band, including the prolific and exceptional drummer Kenny Aronoff. Mark Knopfler also makes a sonically spectacular appearance on Nobody's Here Anymore; Dire Straits fans will be thoroughly pleased, I know I am!

Fogerty himself arranged and produced the album and as you listen, you can hear the love and devotion that he placed into the entire album. Although, that could be said for all his records dating back to Bayou County in 1969 with CCR. Let's just say the magic of John Fogerty is not often matched.

This review is based on listening to the 2004 Geffen CD release: Cat: 9863468. Deja Vu All Over Again has only ever been released on CD, but that shouldn't be seen as a negative viewpoint as I can't imagine this recording sounding any better on vinyl or high-res digital, it is really that good!

Deja Vu (All Over Again) is the perfect song to commence the album with. The musicality will envelop you as Fogerty's vocal is so clear you feel he is in the room with you. Pure perfection!

Sugar-Sugar (In My Life) has an upbeat sound that reminds me of Hanson's MMMBop. Yes, dear reader, I’m starting to think I listen to too much music. Nevertheless, I love these odd connections. They are often comical and circumstantial, but can also, at times, reveal musical influences.

She's Got Baggage is your classic rock and roll song. It's fun and if your body isn't already moving, it will be by the end of this song. Although, it is borderline campy, but manages to stay clear of being too campy.

Radar sounds like the 60s was reimagined for a modern era. I love it!

Honey Do slows the album to a country-style, but the shift is perfect and not jarring to the listener. I don't know about you, but I always find myself singing along to this spectacular rockabilly song.

Nobody's Here Anymore is sonic gold. Not only is it the best song on the album, but it is up there as one of the best songs Fogerty has ever written and recorded. Lyrically, even though written in 2004, the other dimension Fogerty sings about is still relevant to our modern society. Yes, Knopfler's beautiful guitar work is the icing on the cake!

I Will Walk With You is a beautiful song, highlighting the rhythm of the bass guitar. It works so well and perfectly suits the album.

Rhubarb Pie is a fun little song with a killer slide guitar performance throughout.

Wicked Old Witch is blues/country rock 101. However, while I love this song, I find the introduction to be a mixed bag. I would have much preferred the song to commence with the bass drum beat, rather than the Banjo. That said, I do appreciate the intent, but I feel as though the Banjo is simply too distant and concealed in the soundstage, therefore making it a less than desirable addition.

In The Garden has an incredible drum track that is beautifully mixed with all other musical elements. In The Garden is the perfect way to close the album and it compels me to listen to this short, but perfect, album again.

Deja Vu All Over Again is superb from start to finish and reminds me that despite my admiration for CCR, I do find Fogerty's solo works to be more appealing and addictive. Either way, there can never be too much CCR or John Fogerty.

Deja Vu All Over Again is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Deja Vu All Over Again is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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1927 – …ish (Vinyl Review)

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1927 – …ish (Vinyl Review)

Sometimes a debut album can become a smashing success that simply can’t be replicated. Selling in excess of 400,000 copies and winning the 1988 Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Awards for best debut single (That's When I Think of You) and album, 1927 effectively became a household name in Australia overnight. While international success eluded them, that shouldn’t reflect on the wonderful musical experience that is ...ish. Ian McFarlane, in his opus The Encyclopedia Of Australian Rock And Pop, put it perfectly when he wrote ...ish is brimful of stirring, stately pop rock anthems. Yes, dear reader, it is that good!

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SIDE A

To Love Me is a great opener that is truly representative of the Australian music scene during the 80s. It is recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully, as is the entire album.

That’s When I Think Of You has a beat, vocal presentation, and guitar solo that are off the charts. There is no pretentious playing here, it is simply beautiful! This is what good music sounds like, you literally won't be able to stop your body moving to the rhythm. So good!

If I Could is rock ballad heaven. Listen to the song once and you’ll be singing it for the rest of the day. If I Could is simply stunning!

You'll Never Know picks up the tempo, but doesn't feel out of place in the tracking of the album. By this stage, if you haven't already turned the volume up, I suggest you do so. Get that air guitar out and warm up those vocal cords, you're going to need them.

Compulsory Hero is one of the greatest songs ever recorded, by anyone, anywhere in the world. It is an unofficial Australian anthem and not only does it bring me to tears, but it makes me proud to be an Australian. It’s a sonic masterpiece!

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SIDE B

All The People is a great pop/rock tune, but it was always going to be difficult for any song to follow Compulsory Hero. Thankfully, in the minute or so it takes to flip the record, the senses have a chance to reset. Regardless, All The People is a worthy addition to the album.

Nothing In The Universe is a lovely song. While not on par with some of the earlier songs, it is certainly no B-side.

Propaganda Machine has an interesting punk/pop feel to it. I love it!

Give The Kid A Break has a sensational beat and series of guitar riffs. I hope you didn't turn that volume knob down as this song deserves to be heard at ear bleeding levels. While a B-side, no one ever said a B-side couldn't be thoroughly enjoyable.

The Mess, unfortunately, doesn't follow the quality B-side that is Give The Kid A Break. The mess is, for lack of a better term, a mess and sounds like pure filler. That, however, doesn’t deter me from flipping back to Side A and enjoying this sensational album once more.

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...ish is not only one of the greatest albums ever recorded by an Australian band, it is sonically and musically on par with all the greatest bands of the era. In fact, the production quality here is world-class and it truly shows on the 2018 vinyl re-issue. Pressed at the world-renowned Pallas plant in Germany, I’ve never heard this album sound so good…ever! The record is pressed on audiophile quality eco-grade vinyl and is so silent you’ll hear the blood rushing through your veins before you hear any unwanted surface noise. The soundstage is immersive, with incredible depth that proves just how good vinyl can sound if diligence is taken in the mastering and pressing process. Yes, the remastered edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi is excellent, but it pales in comparison to the vinyl release.

I could honestly keep talking about how exceptional this album is, but I suggest you just order a copy and experience it for yourself.

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

If you prefer streaming, ...ish is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

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Elton John – Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (Album Review)

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Elton John – Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (Album Review)

The mid-1970's was a tsunami of creativity within the music industry. Leading the charge, along with many others, was Elton John with his larger-than-life persona and signature sound. Most impressively, John would release 12 albums during this decade alone. While the quality of the output varied, I feel the shift in recording styles, during this decade has had a longer-lasting impact on the music industry than even the preceding decade. No doubt someone will disagree with my elation of the 70's, but as much as I adore The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who with their 60's sound, Elton John, the Eagles, and Aerosmith would further evolve this raw rock sound, creating sonic signatures that were equally unique and progressive. No, dear reader, I haven't forgotten about the Disco era or the impact of Motown's soul. I merely mention all this insofar as I feel Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy defines the era. Yes, that is a bold statement, but John and Taupin really blended all genres of music to create nothing less than an incredible body of work.

While I’ve always liked Alan Aldridge’s artwork, I do find the cover art to be a little too busy. That said, I’ve never owned this album on vinyl and I have no doubt the artwork would become more immersive on the larger canvas.

For this review, I'm listening to the 24/96kHz MQA edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi. It is exquisite, with a sonic signature that just sounds right. Trust me, I know how vague that sounds, but the soundstage is well presented and no musical elements are concealed, as they are with the 16/44.1kHz CD-quality FLAC edition from the mid-90's mastering sessions. That isn’t to say the standard CD edition is inferior, but you do get a greater sense of transparency with the MQA edition. The drum track, in particular on Curtains, comes alive to such an extent that you can visualise Nigel Olsson’s intensity as well as the tension on each drum. It is simply spectacular!

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy may be an awesome name for an album, but sadly the song is lacklustre. It isn't necessarily bad, it just fails to live up to the Elton John hype and really shouldn’t have been used as the lead song.

Tower Of Babel is a song that grows on you the more you listen to it. I do recall initially disliking it, but as the years have passed, I find it to be an exceptional song that is worthy of more fanfare than I feel it has received over the years.

Bitter Fingers takes a minute or so to get going, but once it does there is no stopping the addictive rhythm. The chorus is off-the-charts and while it is not easy to sing-a-long to, I dare you to sit still while enjoying this song. My advice, turn the volume up when this song comes on.

Tell Me When The Whistle Blows has a Marvin Gaye feel to it. See, this is why I said this album encompasses the musical styles of the decade? While it isn't a bad song, I don't feel it is well-suited to John. That said, the album wouldn’t be the same without it!

Someone Saved My Life Tonight is spectacular! In my review of The Very Best Of Elton John, I said Someone Saved My Life Tonight is a lovely ballad with a perfect balance and overall composition. I certainly stand by that aforementioned statement.

(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket is Elton John meets The Rolling Stones. Needless to say, I love it!

Better Off Dead isn't a bad song and interestingly reminds me of The Who’s music. That's a good thing!

Writing is a little too campy for me with that continuous twang. As I listen to it, I can't help but hear the guitar sound that Mark Knopfler would adapt as the signature Dire Straits sound.

We All Fall In Love Sometimes is beautiful!

Curtains follows on perfectly from We All Fall In Love Sometimes. It is so perfect that you would be forgiven for assuming the songs are not separate, but one exceptional masterpiece. As I mentioned earlier, I simply adore the drum track on this MQA version. In fact, all musical elements are perfectly presented with an impressively wide and immersive soundstage. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds is a Beatles classic, but just as John outperformed The Who on Pinball Wizard, he takes the Beatles tune, surpasses the original, and makes it his own.

One Day At A Time has an interesting panning effect between the left and right channels. I can't say I like it, but it pays homage to the psychedelic era. One Day At A Time is a B-side but remains a worthy addition to the album.

Philadelphia Freedom, along with the two previous songs, were not included in the album tracking until the 1995 remastering sessions. Such a shame considering how excellent the song is. Regardless, it is here now, unless you get the vinyl re-issue of the album that stays loyal to the original track listing. While Curtains is a fantastic track to close the album on, Philadelphia Freedom most certainly encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue.

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy is another exceptional Elton John album. While a couple of the songs may not live up to John's reputation, the album as a body of work is perfect and should be a must-own for every fan.

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

If you're so inclined, there is also a Deluxe Edition (featuring a live performance from 1975 at Wembley Stadium) available on double CD and iTunes. The Deluxe Edition is also available for streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

Other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds:

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SIXX:A.M. – This Is Gonna Hurt (Album Review)

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SIXX:A.M. – This Is Gonna Hurt (Album Review)

One would be forgiven for thinking rock legends of the calibre of Nikki Sixx, Dj Ashba, and James Michael wouldn't have anything inspirational to say, particularly if you consider Sixx's entertainingly sex, drugs, and rock and roll past. That, however, couldn’t be further from the truth as This Is Gonna Hurt is perhaps one of the most positive, heartfelt, and inspiring albums to ever be released in the rock and roll genre.

This Is Gonna Hurt is a stellar hard rock song to commence the album with. I love it!

Lies Of The Beautiful People is fantastic, but I feel it’s sonically compromised as it sounds overly compressed. Ashba's guitar solo is also lost in the overly complex and shallow soundstage. Yes, I recognise this is a style of recording, but when you have musicians as skilled as Ashba and Sixx, you really want them to shine.

Are You With Me is a great tune with a killer semi-solo drum beat that blows my mind. Unfortunately, it’s another track that is sonically compromised due to a shallow soundstage.

Live Forever is superb! Michael's vocal dexterity is perfect for the song and while I don't often listen to lyrics for their literal meaning, preferring to consider lyric delivery as just another musical element, I often find with all Sixx: A.M. records that I gravitate to the vocals. James Michael is clearly not only a marvellous Producer, but he has the unique vocal chops that are needed to stand out from the crowd. Plus, Ashba's solo really stands out on Live Forever. I love it!

Sure Feels Right slows the album down with a mellow, country-inspired, tune. Yes, it may sound a little strange, but when you listen to the song it simply works and surprisingly doesn't feel out-of-place with the rest of the album. It reminds me a little of the shift in rhythm that Kid Rock has applied to some of his music over the years. Exceptional!

Deadlihood is one of my favourite songs on the album. It is a hard-hitting rhythmic wonderland with some very cool vocal distortion.

Smile is an absolutely beautiful recording.

Help Is On The Way is a fun song. One of their best! Yes, it is overly compressed with almost no soundstage to speak of. However, it reminds me of the intense rhythm of Rob Zombie's Sinister Urge album. I don’t know about you but I feel the importance of rhythm in rock and roll is understated. A solid rhythm can make an average song sound exceptional and that is certainly the case for Help Is On The Way. That said, I must admit I also find the song to be a little campy, not that that is always a bad thing!

Oh My God is a song so similar in tonality that the casual listener would be forgiven for thinking it’s a U2 song. That shouldn't be seen as a negative reflection as the song is beautiful in its own right. There’s even a small hint of Bon Jovi’s musical style in Ashba's guitar solo. Regardless, Oh My God is an exceptional song that most listeners will find inspirational.

Goodbye My Friends is a mixed bag. I love the musicality and piano introduction, but I'm not sold on the vocal style throughout the verses. Overall, Goodbye My Friends sounds too busy, causing my brain to struggle to determine which all-important rhythm to connect with.

Skin is brilliant! Amazing! Exceptional! You get the idea. This song should inspire everyone. It is so beautiful and I would go as far as saying it is one of the best songs ever written and recorded.

This Is Gonna Hurt is an incredible album that I have always enjoyed. Although, truth-be-told, I could say that about all of Sixx: A.M.'s music.

This review is based on listening to the CD (cat: 88697749012). While I would love to be able to own a vinyl edition, specifically for the artwork and increased dynamic range, This Is Gonna Hurt was unfortunately never released on vinyl. Hopefully, a reissue will turn up sometime, perhaps for the 10th Anniversary. That said, a unique iTunes edition exists that I’ve owned since the album's release in 2011. It is superb with interactive artwork, a documentary, and music videos. While I may lament the sonic quality of iTunes AAC 256kbps files, the iTunes LP is a value-added proposition. Sadly, despite Apple continually claiming music is in their DNA, iTunes LP releases are not available on the iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. I say sadly because the iTunes LP idea is pure gold for music lovers. It is the missing link in digital music downloads and streaming. Whether it was Apple dropping the ball or the record labels not willing to invest in the concept, l’m not sure. Perhaps consumer demand wasn't there either. I still hold out hope that this will change, especially considering bonus features in films have made their way to iTunes purchases, across all Apple hardware platforms, but I feel it is more likely that Apple will quietly abandon the iTunes LP feature. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but l’ve never understood why higher quality and more elaborate content is rewarded in the film industry but dismissed in the music industry. It simply doesn’t make sense!

Regardless, This Is Gonna Hurt is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), iTunes LP, and as a standard iTunes release.

If you prefer streaming, This Is Gonna Hurt is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Other Sixx: A.M. Reviews By Subjective Sounds

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Elton John – Caribou (Remastered) [Album Review]

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Elton John – Caribou (Remastered) [Album Review]

Following an album like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was always going to be a monumental challenge. Of course, it didn’t help that Caribou was recorded in only nine days. As incredible an artist as John is, the lack of time in the recording studio shows, resulting in a mixed bag of songs that often sound like a series of outtakes from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sessions along with some that would have been perfectly suited to his debut album, Empty Sky. Regular readers will recall my love for Empty Sky, hence the aforementioned statement isn't a criticism as such, it is more a realisation of the song selection on Caribou.

The Bitch Is Back is one of the two killer songs on Caribou. It feels polished and is solid Elton John. Pure perfection and one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded!

Pinky has a beautiful tonality, but the shift in style from The Bitch Is Back is jarring to the senses and it takes a minute or so to enjoy Pinky for its own musicality.

Grimsby has an addictive rhythm. You will be toe tapping and head bopping from the first note. The electric guitar riff found throughout is sonic perfection. I love it!

Dixie Lily is a classic B-side. It may have suited Tumbleweed Connection, but it feels out of place on Caribou.

Solar Prestige A Gammon has a strange beginning, but I find myself compelled by the lyrical implementation and overall musicality; even though the song is a little left of the center.

You're So Static is a great song. The addition of brass instrumentation really solidifies the rhythm, making You're So Static a hidden gem.

I’ve Seen The Saucers starts off beautifully with a gorgeous beat and interesting vocal style that is borderline Jazz inspired. However, as the song continues, it builds into a solid pop/rock tune. If only there was a little more spit and polish, I’ve Seen The Saucers could have been a massive hit, but the magic is concealed.

Stinker isn’t a bad song, and while it isn’t my favourite, it works well within the album structure and has some musically pleasing moments.

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me is the second killer song on Caribou. It is simply fantastic!

Ticking is a lovely song. Another hidden gem in my opinion.

Pinball Wizard is exceptional! For me, it beats The Who's original recording in every aspect.

Sick City is another song off Caribou that is enhanced by the addition of brass instrumentation. It has a great rhythm and is a worthy addition to the album.

Cold Highway is an enjoyable song that I wish was the last track on the remastered edition of Caribou as Step Into Christmas would have to be my least favourite Elton John song ever recorded. I generally dislike Christmas music as it has a tendency to be crass. Yes, that may insult some readers, but I absolutely hate it when an artist releases a single Christmas song on an otherwise excellent album as it tarnishes the experience. Artists should put out a dorky Christmas album, instead of polluting a regular release. How John could even be proud of this song, enough to let it see the light of day, is beyond me.

While Step Into Christmas may be complete garbage, Caribou is a solid and enjoyable album that should never be listened to right after Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. On its own, however, it expands John's catalogue with a few incredible tunes that any pop/rock star would be proud of.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition. While I found it to be well-mastered and sonically pleasing, I enjoyed Caribou far more when listening via headphones as I found the loudspeaker playback resulted in a sound that was a little too clinical, especially in the highs. It wasn't that it was a bad presentation, just that this mastering is well suited to those of you that have a nice headphone setup, perhaps connected to a dedicated DAC, such as the Oppo HA-2 that I personally find irresistible.

Before I let you go, dear reader, do you think Steve Urkel's character on the television sitcom Family Matters, was mimicked on John's high pants on the Caribou cover?

In all seriousness, it’s a great cover. Simple, but striking and effective!

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

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

Other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds:

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Rex Brown – Smoke On This... (Album Review)

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Rex Brown – Smoke On This... (Album Review)

You may know him as the bassist from Pantera and Down, but despite his Heavy Metal roots, Brown has delivered an exceptional solo debut filled with killer blues-based hard rock tunes.

Listening to Smoke On This… gives me the impression of an album that while being unique is also influenced at times by Pantera's Cowboys From Hell and the sound signature Slash used for his solo album and further collaborations with Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators. That isn't to say plagiarism of any sort has occurred, but if you appreciate the aforementioned artists, you will thoroughly enjoy this album.

Sonically, the album is nicely mixed and mastered, despite pushing distorted elements to their limit. The one problem I have come across is on Johnny Kelly's drum track whereby the crunching of the cymbals is jarring on the senses. I would have preferred a slightly more open sound, thereby allowing the cymbals space in the soundstage to breathe and shimmer. It would be interesting to see if this same issue is prevalent on the vinyl release, or if due to the restricted vinyl mastering process, this distortion has been limited as the dynamic range most likely wouldn’t be as compressed.

Speaking of vinyl, that cover art is awesome and would look fantastic. I adore black and white photography and while it won't work with all album covers, it works perfectly in this instance as it captures the attitude of both the artist and recording.

Lone Rider gets the album off to an energetic start. The distracting element, however, is the aforementioned crunching cymbals. Otherwise, it’s an incredible song to commence the album with.

Crossing Lines has a great rhythm, but again the shrill sound of the cymbals are a little too forward in the mix and I feel it takes away from an otherwise solid tune.

Buried Alive has an incredible guitar twang introduction that builds into a blues-based rock tune that any musician would be proud of. Brown’s vocal presentation, not only on this track but across the entire album, is exceptional and feels perfectly suited to the associated musicality.

Train Song is amazing! Best song on the album without a doubt. Yes, I can hear the influence of Cowboys From Hell, but I love that song too. I don't know about you, but I enjoy music that offers similarities but has been completely restructured to present something new and evolutionary.

Get Yourself Alright has a mellon collie blues-rock sound. It is an impressive mix and offers incredible depth, reminding me of the work Julian Lennon did with his exceptional Photograph Smile album. Get Yourself Alright pushes the genre limits and is anything but another mere rock tune.

Fault Line is a lovely soft rock tune. Every musical element is perfectly positioned and I simply adore the interweaving vocal along with the gorgeous piano outro.

What Comes Around... is a little campy, especially in the chorus. However, if we call it a B-side, it’s a valued addition to the record.

Grace, while suiting the album, is a classic B-side.

So Into You is a solid rock song. Despite that, the overlapping lead and rhythm guitar confuses the senses as I’m unsure of which groove to connect with.

Best Of Me is a beautiful song! From the elegant beginning to the riff-driven chorus, to the mellow verse; every aspect of this song is perfect. While it may not suit everyone, the musical shifts are incredible and at no time does the song feel disjointed.

One Of These Days is a killer final track. It compels me to listen to the album again and hope that Brown will not only have success with this debut solo release but will continue to record new music.

Overall, Smoke On This... is an exceptional album and while a debut solo performance for Brown, this is one example that showcases how decades of experience can have a profound effect on one’s musicality.

I’m so enamoured by this release that I'm going to order a copy on vinyl; specifically, the limited edition clear version that includes the CD. I like it when vinyl records are shipped with a CD. It is simply a value-added proposition for the consumer.

Smoke On This... is also available as a standalone Vinyl release. Alternatively, you can purchase the album on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, the album can also be heard on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Album Review)

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Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Album Review)

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road needs no introduction as it is arguably Elton John's greatest commercial achievement. Although, I remain hesitant to call it his greatest recording as I feel that undermines the other incredible recordings he has made throughout his career. It also arbitrarily limits his musical influence to a particular era. Nevertheless, it is one of the greatest albums ever recorded and while I love the 2014 vinyl re-issue, I'm going to be using Greg Penny’s astonishingly good 5.1 Surround Sound DTS-HD Master Audio 24/96kHz edition for this review. The stereo versions of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, are incredible, but they simply can't compare and sound flat by comparison to the surround sound options. My advice is that if you have a good surround sound setup, consider purchasing either the SACD or Blu-ray Audio (High Fidelity Pure Audio – HFPA) release. You won’t regret it!

Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding has to be one of the greatest lead-in songs of any album ever recorded. I absolutely love it and from a surround sound perspective, I’m enveloped in the atmosphere that introduces the song. Exceptional! The soundstage completely surrounds you and each beat is felt with every aspect of your soul. The band is certainly present with you in the room, with John front and center. You will probably get tired of hearing me praise the surround sound mix, but you’ve really never experienced Goodbye Yellow Brick Road until you've been able to listen to it in surround sound. A bold statement, yes, but a true indication of how exceptional this recording and Greg Penny's surround mix is.

Candle In The Wind is pure gold. That piano, that drum beat, that vocal – it leaves me speechless! Even the 1997 version, altered lyrically for Princess Diana's funeral, is beyond reproach. It is a song made in heaven by two extremely talented men. Thank you, Elton and Bernie!

Bennie And The Jets is an awesome song, but I’ve never enjoyed the faux live audience element. However, it is less apparent in the surround sound mix as the audience noise is better positioned, slightly outside the soundstage and in the distance.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is sensational regardless of how you listen to it. The surround sound mix has a significant boost in the drums, resulting in an atmosphere where you can visualise the exact drum or cymbal being hit in the soundstage. In fact, all musical elements are perfectly placed in the soundstage. Pure perfection!

This Song Has No Title follows Goodbye Yellow Brick Road beautifully. It’s a rather raw recording, with no noticeable fanfare, but when you have a vocalist like John, sometimes you don't need much more than a piano and a minor musical accompaniment.

Grey Seal has a fantastic introduction, but I must confess that I’ve never really enjoyed the song. I find it is too shrill and it’s a little all-over-the-place from a composition standpoint.

Similarly, I've never developed a liking for Jamaica Jerk-Off. I won't skip the song, as the album wouldn't be the same without it, I just don't feel reggae and John go well together. Jamaica Jerk-Off sounds as though it was left over from another recording session, rather than being part of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sessions. Unfortunately, it doesn't grow on me the more I listen to it either.

I've Seen That Movie Too is a welcome change and depicts the style and tonality that I identify as being the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album. It's a beautiful ballad, with an incredible soundstage, that thankfully isn't filled with unnecessary elements.

Sweet Painted Lady is a lovely song!

The Ballad Of Danny Bailey (1909-34) isn't my favourite song on the album, but I especially like it in surround sound as it sounds less sonically compressed, allowing the musical elements space to breathe. It has a great rhythm, but on vinyl, or even the high-res stereo mix, it doesn’t work for me. I only mention this as I find it to be an interesting variance that while I can explain my thoughts, I can’t fully comprehend how it is significantly different enough to allow me to appreciate the song.

Dirty Little Girl is an excellent rock song. As I’m listening, I keep thinking how I'd love to hear the Foo Fighters cover this song.

All The Girls Love Alice is a killer rock tune. Maybe the Foo should cover this one! Regardless, it is one of the best songs on the album and one of John’s best.

Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n Roll) is a fun little tune and leads the listener beautifully into one of the greatest songs in rock and roll history; Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.

Roy Rogers slows the album down again and sounds as though it would have been perfectly suited to Tumbleweed Connection. However, it doesn't sound out-of-place on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as it’s a lovely song that relaxes you following the intense pace of Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.

Social Disease is a great pop/rock song with an incredible country music twang. I love it!

Harmony closes the album beautifully, ensuring I’m still interested in listening to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road again. However, with a runtime exceeding 70 minutes, this double album, like all doubles, is difficult to listen to again in quick succession. Honestly, I think the 33.3rpm vinyl record got it right with a total runtime in the vicinity of 44 minutes. Long enough to enjoy, but not too long to tire of.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road deserves the praise it gets, although I maintain that it shouldn’t be singled out as John's major success for his greatness exceeds a single album.

By now, I'm sure stereo aficionados have plenty to say, but having listened to this album in stereo for years, in various formats, the surround sound version is the one that trumps all others. That isn't to say the stereo mix isn't extraordinary, just that the multichannel mix takes the album to another level of appreciation.

Some purists may even question if the artist intended for it to be heard in surround sound. From my perspective, that matters less than the fact that I enjoy the album more due to the multichannel mix. That said, there are times when I much prefer to listen on headphones and the stereo mix is perfectly immersive during those times.

For reference, the stereo mix I prefer on the High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) Blu-ray release is the DTS-HD Master Audio 24/96kHz. The reason for this preference over the Linear PCM (LPCM 24/96kHz) option is due to the fuller low end that is often associated with DTS. However, if I listen to the PCM version, it’s transparent with the vinyl reissue. Both are from the same 2014 remastering sessions, so it is good to see the only core difference is the slight shift in noise between the digital and analogue formats.

The 24/96kHz DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is, however, from the 2003 mastering sessions, making it of course different. While I certainly prefer this mix, as I believe it is the best rendition of the album I have ever heard, don't let that deter your interest in the stereo mixes. Honestly, if I had never purchased the HFPA Blu-ray edition, I would have been extremely happy with my vinyl copy.

While the artwork is beautifully replicated on the HFPA Blu-ray release, it is nothing like holding that trifold release in your hands. I often find myself telling my significant other that I’ll likely sell the vinyl as I prefer the Blu-ray release, but I'm lying to both of us as the artwork is equally important and I can't imagine parting with it.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is available on Vinyl, High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) Blu-ray, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered For iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, you can also enjoy Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on TIDAL Masters (24/96kHz MQA), Spotify and Apple Music.

There are also additional 40th Anniversary releases of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Deluxe Edition/Super Deluxe Edition) that are available to purchase and/or stream.

Other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds:

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Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (Album Review)

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Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (Album Review)

Bat Out Of Hell is an absolute classic and while there are few that would dismiss its importance to the history of recorded music, most of us would agree that it is a landmark album. It's a shame then that the sonic quality has never really lived up to the hype, but more on that later.

In 1993, Meat Loaf had once again exploded on the world's stage with Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell and the monumentally popular lead single I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). Both would herald my first experiences of Meat Loaf and I was immediately hooked. So much so that the acquisition of the album that started it all was all but guaranteed.

As I played the Bat Out Of Hell cassette, I remember being surprised that an album would have fewer than ten songs. You must remember that this was at the height the CD era when artists and record labels had a tendency to fill the capacity of the CD for no other reason than because they could. Sure, there were some exceptional albums that went for the 74-minute duration, but they were often the exception, rather than the rule. Despite this, I quickly learnt that the song limitations on Bat Out Of Hell were due to the approximate 44-minute runtime of the vinyl LP and the fact that Meat Loaf often defied the radio-friendly runtime. 

Sadly, the cassette no longer exists in my collection. It became a casualty of the MP3 era. Yes, dear reader, I was a bloody idiot! The most unfortunate aspect of this move to digital convenience was that I’ve never been able to find a comparable copy, on any format. While I acknowledge the placebo effect in relation to my memories of how the cassette sounded, I have found that many of the currently available editions lack midrange with excessive treble. It is frustrating and reminds me of my beloved ABBA collection. Some releases are excellent, most are substandard, usually due to varied masters and master tape quality.

A few years ago, I decided to pick up a vinyl release as much for the artwork as the promised return to analog sound. Well, let's just say the CD-quality edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi is significantly better. That's putting it mildly as Lucifer himself wouldn't allow the Simply Vinyl pressing to enter hell. It truly is that bad!

The catalogue number for the aforementioned atrocity is SVLP 0086/82419. Simply Vinyl even had the audacity to claim that it was pressed on Virgin Vinyl, a fact that is a completely inaccurate as the surface noise alone is off the charts. Even recycled vinyl can sound adequate if the record has been mastered and pressed with respect to the limitations of the medium and the original recording. Besides the poor sonic quality, the Simply Vinyl release is pressed so poorly that the lead song, Bat Out Of Hell, starts about a second later than it should.

I could go on and on about how pathetic the pressing is and how much extraneous treble is present. I could also detail how the record lacks soul, drive, and emphasis, not to mention musicality, but I think you get the idea. Simply avoid this pressing at all costs.

As a result, I won’t be using the Simply Vinyl release for this review as it would tarnish my thoughts on the songs themselves. I will subsequently be using the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition as the basis for this review. It still isn’t what I would consider as perfect, but it offers a decent quality that allows me to enjoy Bat Out Of Hell.

Bat Out Of Hell is a killer track to commence the album with. It is the epitome pop/rock opera, along with Paradise By The Dashboard Light of course, and I simply adore it.

You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) has the classic Jim Steinman spoken intro that works well with the song, but I find the musicality in this track to be too campy and rather dated. That is not to say that I dislike it, but this song could have easily come from Abba's catalogue, especially with the backing vocal style. Regardless, once the song gets going, I find it captivating and feel the need to sing-a-long.

Heaven Can Wait is simply gorgeous!

All Revved Up With No Place To Go is a little too jazzy for my liking. Despite that, I don’t dislike the song and will once again belt out every chorus and verse. 

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad is pure Meat Loaf. Just like Heaven Can Wait, I thoroughly enjoy songs that highlight Meat Loaf's vocal presentation. While he’s been criticised in recent years for poor live performances, there is no shame on this track. He knocked it out of the park with Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad; one of my all-time favourites.

Paradise By The Dashboard Light has a reputation that needs no introduction, Pure perfection from a songwriting and musical perspective. It's a shame it lacks midrange while also needing a little boost in the low end. Regardless, it would be in my Top 100 songs of all-time, if I had such a list.

For Crying Out Loud is another of those exceptional vocal-driven tunes that are perfect for Meat Loaf. While we all likely gravitate to the well-known, face-paced, rock tunes on the album, I personally adore this song and the gradual build-up is pure gold. Just as Bat Out Of Hell was the perfect song to begin the album with, For Crying Out Loud is the ultimate closer, encouraging me to listen to the album again and stay within Meat Loaf's catalogue for the rest of the day.

Bat Out Of Hell is one of the greatest albums ever recorded; even if not from a sonic standpoint. While Meat Loaf gets most of the credit, Jim Steinman needs to be remembered as the silent but extremely talented writer that was as important to Meat Loaf’s success as Bernie Taupin was to Elton John. Yes, both Meat Loaf and Elton John have worked with other songwriters, but it could be argued that their best work occurred when working with these key contributors.

Without doubt, I need to source a better original for my physical music collection. I have been considering the Analogue Spark SACD release as it is reported to be very good and amongst the best masterings of the album. However, as I was finalising this review, I noticed that Friday Music has just re-issued the album as a 40th Anniversary Edition on red vinyl. Yes, I’m sceptical of another vinyl edition as well. However, it is important to note that this edition has been mastered by Joe Reagoso and Kevin Gray at RTI. Those names alone are akin to royalty in audiophile circles and based on my prior experience with Friday Music pressings, I’m almost tempted to order a copy.

Do you have a preferred edition of this classic? If so, please let us know in the comments. 

Bat Out Of Hell is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Bat Out Of Hell is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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