Victor Cajiao And Joe Cristina – Surrender (FLAC 16/44.1 Review)

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Victor Cajiao And Joe Cristina – Surrender (FLAC 16/44.1 Review)

Imagine you’re at a big city jazz club. The drinks are flowing. The smell of dinner emanates from the kitchen as you make small talk with your beloved while the band is warming up. There is something special in the air tonight. You surrender yourself to an evening of bliss and know from the first track that you will not come away disappointed.

No, Surrender isn’t a live album, but it is so exceptionally vivid that I swear the musicians are in the room with me. I don’t think I have ever turned up a Jazz record this loud before. Normally, I would sit the volume around 30-35% of max volume, for digital music playback. That produces a sound that I consider full and enveloping on my main system. For this album, however, I pushed that to 50% and had a surreal moment whereby a jazz club oasis appeared before me.

The mastering on Surrender is top notch, hence my ability to push volume levels beyond my normal comfort zone. This is digital done right! While I have mainly listened to, and prefer, the FLAC 16/44.1 files, the mastering quality remains consistent across both the MP3 (320 kbps and VBR) files that are included in the purchase, when you buy the album from CD Baby.

As I listened to the title track Surrender, the first thing that popped into my head was Carlos Santana. It was the vibe, the beat, the electric guitar work merged with an energetic jazz backing track that formed this image. That isn’t to say that the song attempts to be Santana-esk, but if you like Santana, I really believe you will love this track.

11-22 has a Bossa Nova feel to it that reminds me of the Quincy Jones track Se E Tarde Me Pardoa (Forgive Me If I’m Late). I absolutely adore it!

Canto Libre is nothing short of a sonic wonderland. The stereo imaging is amazing. This song is literally one that will encourage you to close your eyes as the music paints a picture in your subconscious. Interestingly, I was initially torn regarding the inclusion of harmonic-styled vocals. While the vocals don’t detract from the song, I felt the song didn’t need them. However, when I listened to the song via headphones, rather than loudspeakers, this perception changed. Music truly tells a story and sometimes the intimate nature of headphones allows that story to be told and appreciated differently.

Dubai Dream has a compelling beat that will get your foot tapping and head swaying from the first note. The saxophone work within this track is gorgeously restrained. I love the saxophone as an instrument but, just like the electric guitar, it can be overemphasised. That is certainly not the case on this track. I could honestly listen to Dubai Dream on repeat for hours.

Manolo is a beautiful track, but I find that the chime elements distract my mind from the music. While they are atmospheric and not harsh, they are sometimes unexpected. I feel my listening mind moving around the soundstage a little too much, not really quite sure of where I should be concentrating. That all said, I find that as they song progresses, this becomes less problematic. 

Light This Candle is a beautiful song, with Christina Clifford on vocals. Clifford has a lovely jazz-style vocal, but I find there is a little sibilance in her vocals. As I’ve mentioned in many of my other reviews, if you’re not familiar with sibilance, ignore this comment and don’t look into it as once you know what to listen for, it can become rather distracting.

If you like the piano and saxophone, then you have to listen to Tu También. It is such a beautiful track and one of my favourites on the album. When I undertake reviews, I generally have a notepad to jot down thoughts as I’m listening. My note for this song was: sax on track 7 = YEAH!

Through The Dark Night/The Lamp is a rather upbeat track and I can’t help but wonder if it shouldn’t have been tracked before Tu También. It is only that Tu También is more mellow and subjectively I feel it would have been the perfect track to end the album on. Nevertheless, Through The Dark Night/The Lamp has some beautiful guitar work and the vocals are lovely. However, I would like the vocals to be a little more forward as there are moments when I feel they get lost in the accompanying musical elements, especially during the verses.

Victor and Joe have put together a jazz album that not only shows a deep appreciation of the genre, but also proves that a lifelong friendship and collaboration can produce an album that will be enjoyed by generations of jazz lovers. It is certainly a valued addition to my own jazz collection.

That said, it would be amiss of me to not acknowledge the remarkable line-up of highly skilled and respected musicians who have appeared on this album. This is a recording that each and every one of them can be proud of.

From a non-musical perspective, Nikki Starwalker’s album artwork, Dream Oty's Memory is exceptional and visually represents the feeling of the album.

Surrender will undoubtedly appeal to any jazz fan, but remains accessible to a wider audience. You can purchase your copy from the following online retailers: CD Baby, TIDAL Store, iTunes, and Amazon.

The album is also available for streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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Sophia Pfister – Self-Titled EP (Vinyl Review)

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Sophia Pfister – Self-Titled EP (Vinyl Review)

Last month I had the privilege of reviewing Sophia Pfister’s debut EP on TIDAL Hi-Fi. While I was blown away with the mastering, nothing could have prepared me for the sonic wonderland that is contained within the grooves of the vinyl record. Well, that isn’t entirely true as Sophia did mention to me that “it sounds way better on vinyl! It's mixed and mastered slightly different, you'll hear!”

You may recall that I wasn’t fond of the Banjo presence, on the track Sugardaddy, as I felt it was too jarring for my sensitive ears. That is no longer the case. The mastering on the vinyl release mixes the Banjo elegantly with other instrumental elements and Sophia’s incredible vocals.

What this proves is that mastering does matter. Sadly, that isn’t always the case as many ‘new’ vinyl releases are simply cut from the same digital source and arguably sound terrible. Hence, I won’t be getting rid of TIDAL Hi-Fi anytime soon as it is simply too compelling to have a CD-store in my home.

The vinyl pressing of Sophia’s EP has a soundstage that is massive, fat, and creamy; just like vinyl should be. Sophia’s vocals are even smoother than on the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition.

How is that even possible?

Yes, vinyl is the king of sonic quality when mastered and pressed to the highest standards. Although, I have to ask myself, when an independent artist can produce a record this good, why can’t the big record labels?

The EP certainly highlights the capabilities of my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon and Ortofon OM20 needle. While my setup and collection is on the modest end of the audiophile spectrum, this EP is right up there with the best pressing in my collection; Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms (Mo-Fi Edition). The pressing, of Sophia’s EP, is about as silent as vinyl can get, with very little of the normal noise that is associated with the medium. Tom Weir of Studio City Sound did an incredible job mastering this EP. I’ll have to watch out for other albums that he has had a role in.

When the record arrived I was ecstatic. In-fact, it nearly didn’t arrive as it was delivered to my neighbour’s home by accident. Thankfully, they are honest people and I can’t thank them enough for ensuring the record was delivered safely.

As I carefully opened the box, the first thing I noticed was a little message of Thank You! written on the inner flap. Record collectors will understand, that’s just cool and something that adds that little special element to one’s collection, especially considering the addressing of the package was also personally written by Sophia. Yes, this slightly crazy collector will be keeping the mailing box!

Taking the record out of the carefully packed bubble wrap outlay, my next surprise was that Sophia had signed the rear album cover. I had a grin from ear to ear as this was such a wonderful surprise. I actually didn’t read that these were signed copies when I made the purchase, hence my surprise. I love collecting signed copies of albums, but what makes this album so special is that not only was the record sleeve signed, but Sophia also wrote a personalized short message on the inner sleeve. Let’s just say I was on cloud number nine.

BTW: if you want your own copy of the vinyl EP, you’d better hurry as there are only 29 left as I publish this article. Given the sonic improvement over the that of TIDAL Hi-Fi, and my love of the EP, I may just have to buy a second copy for myself as I fear this one will be worn out from repeat plays.

If vinyl isn’t your thing, remember that you can purchase the EP in CD-quality FLAC on the TIDAL Store or on iTunes. The EP is also available for streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.  

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August Rigo – The Fall Out (Tidal Hi-Fi Review)

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August Rigo – The Fall Out (Tidal Hi-Fi Review)

Thanks to TIDAL’s Discovery section, now merged with TIDAL Rising, I came across August Rigo’s album The Fall Out. Seriously, as a music lover, the CD-store in your home is the perfect way to sample new music and artists that I would have previously overlooked.

When I am interested in listening to a new artist, or album, I generally listen to the first three songs. I feel that is where a stellar song will be, if there is going to be one. The first track off The Fall Out, Versions, was all I needed to know that I wanted to hear more.

The Official Video for the New Single Versions from the Upcoming album The Fall Out SummerChild Records 2015 Manhattan Records 2015 (Japan). Also available on TIDAL.

Versions has an acoustic feel to it and the vocal range that Rigo uses reminds me of Michael Jackson’s work on Thriller. Think Human Nature and The Lady In My Life. Yes, Rigo has acknowledge Jackson as a musical influence, but that isn’t to say that Rigo is trying to imitate Jackson. Rigo has his own style that is smooth, but also raw and gritty. I absolutely love the premise of Versions as it is a love song with a dose of reality.

Keep Me In Your Heart has a dual approach to rhythm and I much prefer the slower aspects of the song as I feel they really highlight Rigo’s vocals. That said, I can appreciate the approach Rigo was going for with this song. One issue that I did find on this track was distortion in the piano/keyboard aspects of the track, especially in the first 10 seconds of the song. Interestingly, this distortion wasn’t as apparent when I was listening to the song via speakers, but it is positively jarring on the ears when listening with headphones. I initially thought that it might be my headphones, but upon doing a series of tests across my various components, I found that it is definitely part of the song. I even went as far as selecting the track at a lower resolution on TIDAL to make sure it wasn’t just an encoding error. Then, I hate to say it, but I turned to YouTube and it is definitely part of the song and most likely Rigo’s artistic style. While the distortion doesn’t cause me to dislike the song, I can imagine that when I’m playing the album in future, I will likely proceed to the next song. I’m not against experimenting with sound, or distorting sound, I just don’t feel it was done well in this particular situation.

Ambulance is sonically appealing with many atmospheric layers that I find enhances the song. This broken heart love song is simply excellent and I love the lyrical aspects of the song. Yes, dear long-time reader, I am finally listening to the lyrics. Interestingly, this song makes me smile and I find the song humorous. I’m sure this wasn’t the intended purpose of the song, but this is Subjective Sounds and that is how I subjectively appreciate the song. Just listen to the chorus and you will know what I mean. Either way, it is a really nice mellow song that you just have to listen to.

Easy To Let Go has a fantastic rhythm and Rigo’s vocal capabilities are highlighted in this song. Unfortunately the distortion in the low end, that is baked into the artistry of the song, is a distraction; especially when compared to Rigo’s smooth vocals. Again, this is only really highlighted on headphones. Whenever I review an album, I always listen to it via loudspeakers and headphones (both over-the-ear and in-ear). This allows me to experience the album differently. That isn’t to say that one is better than the other, but there are differences in sound reproduction, even if you’re using the same DAC/Amplifier combination. The simple fact is that headphones are so close to the ear drum, with little to no ambient noise in-between, ensuring sound waves are not interrupted or dropped off by mere distance from the speaker. This often results in hearing more detail if you have a decent set of headphones. This song has a lot of promise, but I would love to see the track remastered with a cleaner bass track and less vocal distortion.

Honest is your run-of-the-mill pop track, but there is nothing wrong with that as it is an enjoyable listen.

The Fall Out is a song that really highlights Rigo’s unique vocal style. The song has a nice twang about it and my immediate thought was it could be a fantastic country song. However, as a slow pop tune, it is thoroughly enjoyable. I should also note that at the end of the song there is a guitar and bass string that are purposely played out of tune to highlight the lyrical content. It is a perfect way to conclude the track and ensure a symbiosis between the lyrics and music.

I find the song, I Wanna Be Loved, to be rather complex, but I love the complexity. There are a lot of influences here and as I listen I can’t help but think of iconic artist influences such Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley, and Michael Jackson merged into a single song. It is one of my favourite songs on the album.

Official Music Video to "Just Drive" by August Rigo Connect with August Rigo: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AugustRigoMusic Twitter: https://twitter.com/augustrigo Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/augamatic. Also available on TIDAL.

Just Drive is a song that ticks all the boxes for me when it comes to pop music. My body moves, the beat is present but not overbearing, and the vocal delivery is superb.

Why Won’t You Dance With Me is in the same category as Just Drive. Perfect. I love it!

A Mother’s Vow is a beautiful song to end the album on. It is arguably the best track on the entire album. The introduction of the electric guitar and drum beat is perfect and not distracting from Rigo’s lyrical approach and song meaning. Distortion, while present in this track, is used respectfully and in this case enhances the song. Interestingly, at the end of the song, the track continues in silence for about 30 seconds. I’ve no idea why this is the case, but if you have the album on repeat, it does allow a reflective moment before going back to the first track. If that was the artist’s intention, then it certainly makes sense.

Overall, August Rigo’s album The Fall Out is exceptional for an artist that is endeavouring to commence a solo career, having previously been a writer/co-writer for artists that include, but are not limited to, Justin Bieber, One Direction, and Chris Brown.

Rigo has an undeniable talent and while the before mentioned artists are not always on my radar, their collective success speaks volumes and proves that Rigo as a song writer and musician is one to watch in the future.

I can’t wait to hear a new album, hopefully with a little less distortion, but until then The Fall Out will be getting many repeat plays on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

The Fall Out is also available for purchase in CD-quality FLAC on the TIDAL Store. The album is also available on the iTunes Store, or via streaming on Apple Music.  

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Frank Sinatra – Songs For Young Lovers (10-inch Vinyl RSD 2015 Review)

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Frank Sinatra – Songs For Young Lovers (10-inch Vinyl RSD 2015 Review)

Frank Sinatra had one of the most recognisable voices in recorded music history. He is the epitome of that ‘easy listening’ area, located within most music stores. Plus, when it comes time to turn down the lights, and enjoy a romantic evening with a significant other, there is no one quite like Sinatra to set the tone.

Songs For Young Lovers is Sinatra’s seventh album and is rather short with a running time of just over 21 minutes. Interestingly, there has been a trend over the last few years where albums are being released with a shorter runtime. Two that I can immediately think of are AC/DC’s Rock Or Bust (34:55) and Rob Zombie’s The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser (31:29). I was initially a little perturbed by this shortening of albums again, but it is growing on me and I find that a shorter runtime is keeping the album tight, with no filler to be seen. This is one reason why I adore Songs For Young Lovers as it plays like it should simply be a greatest hits release. In reflection, I feel the CD with its 74–80-minute runtime was just too long for an album. After listening to an album that maxes out of the capacity of CD, I find that I am often tired by the time it concludes. Whereas a 40-minute album, or less, encourages me to listen to the album again. It is an interesting conundrum, but I do hope with the resurgence of vinyl and the refocus on the song, via streaming services, that we will see less filler-filled albums; for a format need no longer be filled, just because it can be.

Anyway, at the time of Record Store Day 2015 ( RSD 15), my better half was in Europe looking for a gift to buy her beloved, that’s me (she doesn’t read my reviews, so I can pad my ego), to say she was thinking of me. She had asked me if there was anything in particular I would like. It was a shame that she wasn’t travelling to the United States as I would have got her to pick up Neil Young’s Pono music player, but I did make it clear that I wasn’t interested in the regular fridge magnet, fancy spoon, or other dust collecting knickknack. Yes, dear reader, I know what I want, and I’m not afraid to ask for it when questioned on the subject. Sure, I like surprises too, and I did get a couple of those, but as much as consumerism may be essential to modern society, I only want to have the goods and services that I will use. Hence, this is one reason why I generally only link to TIDAL Hi-Fi here at Subjective Sounds, despite most of the albums I discuss being available on other streaming platforms. I know some reviewers out there have numerous subscriptions, but I find that TIDAL’s catalogue is sufficient for my diverse interests. For the few albums that aren’t present on the service, I generally have those in my private collection anyway. Interestingly, the biggest holdout for TIDAL Hi-Fi is Metallica. Given that they supported Neil Young’s Pono, with a limited edition signatured edition, I’m quite surprised that they would not be present on a platform that not only pays a higher royalty, but also offers CD-quality streaming to a significant number of countries. Nevertheless, I have their catalogue on vinyl and CD, plus with the addition of iTunes Match for my own private collection, I have my bases covered.

Now will you look at that, I have written close to 500 words about everything other than Frank Sinatra’s album. Fingers crossed I can get back on track, but don’t quote me on it.

One of the things that intrigued me, when my significant other gifted me this album, was that it came as a 10–inch release. In-fact, it was the first 10–inch vinyl in my collection, so to me it was rather unique. It was also the first time that this album had been reissued on vinyl since the mid 80s and the version I have is the stereo release. The RSD reissue was not released in Mono, however, Vinylogy’s DOL label reissued a Mono release in 2015 that includes additional tracks. It is important to note that as Songs For Young Lovers is no longer in copyright in Europe, Vinylogy’s release is most likely cut from a digital source of unknown origin or mastering quality (possibly a CD). It is almost certain that the original tapes would not have been used. Perhaps a first, or second, generation duplication master tape if we’re lucky. That said, these ‘bootleg’ style pressings from DOL, WaxTime, Vinyl Lovers etc, that I have in my collection, all seem to have a pleasurable sound as well as being incredibly quiet with little to no noticeable noise between the tracks, or throughout the lower volume areas within songs. Even some of the highly regarded vinyl labels don’t achieve this. I guess what I am trying to say is that if you are after a Mono release of the album, you should seriously consider the DOL release. Personally, the stereo edition is adequate as I’ve never quite got into Mono recordings. If anyone can suggest a Mono recording that I should check out, that you believe is superior to the stereo mix, please let me know and I will take a look.

While the RSD 15 edition of Songs For Young Lovers was limited to an odd print run of 2,575 copies, none of them are numbered. Yes, I know a number isn’t everything, but it is something to show off and my kids think it’s cool. When it comes to music appreciation, music loving parents really have to fight to have the music heard in the modern era. Yes, the technologies have been wonderful for music discovery, but let’s just say that YouTube et al has eroded more hours of my life than I care to admit.

What I particularly like about this reissue of Songs For Young Lovers, is Universal Records ensured that this release is as close to a replica of the original as possible. Yes, there are a couple of very minor alterations but original information is presented such as how to store the record and a word about high fidelity vinyl reproduction. From a collector’s point-of-view, I love this additional information as it is nostalgic, as well as informative, of the vinyl production, distribution, and playback processes employed in the 1950s. If only they would include this kind of information/marketing speak on modern releases. I love linear notes that give me something more than who sang and played what, along with the lyrics of the song and the random individuals the artist wishes to thank.

I’ve often read that Songs For Young Lovers is considered to be one of the first concept albums, whereby a theme or story arc continued throughout the entire album. While I’m in no position to disagree, I have always enjoyed a concept album and have held Alice Cooper’s concept releases, such as Welcome To My Nightmare, in the highest regard as they tell an overarching story across the entire album, rather than being random songs from the same genre, as Songs For Young Lovers is. That opinion shouldn’t be viewed as negative, just a different view as to what a concept album is.

Songs presented on this album include:

The lovely playful song My Funny Valentine. It immediately shows off Sinatra’s gorgeous vocal delivery. Honestly, the world has so many amazing vocalists, but as soon as I hear Sinatra, I find that I am just in awe and I honestly don’t believe he had, or has, any peers.

The Girl Next Door is a lovely easy-listening track. Perhaps what I love most is the mix of Sinatra’s vocal with the accompanying musical elements. In this case, as with most of Sinatra’s recordings, his vocal delivery takes pride of place and isn’t drowned out by the music; a very common problem I find with modern recordings.

A Foggy Day is a song that I truly enjoy. The song has a number of slow and fast elements that work perfectly together.

Like Someone In Love has that traditional classic tone that is common in recordings of that era. It isn’t my favourite song on the album, but I don’t think I have ever heard a bad Sinatra song.

I Get A Kick Out Of You is an absolute classic Sinatra song. If you’ve never heard the song before, just take a listen. It is one of the best songs Sinatra ever recorded and it would be in a playlist of my top songs of all time. I love how Sinatra holds onto the lyrics, before ending the specific word. It is unique and has a very jazzy feel.

Little Girl Blue is a letdown after I Get A Kick Out Of You, but it is a lovely relaxing song.

They Can’t Take That Away From Me has a very sultry late night jazz sound. I love it! It is a sing-a-long song that makes you move and smile throughout. The one thing that I find fascinating is how short this song is. That said, it is the perfect length at just under two minutes, but it feels like it should be considerably longer.

Violets For Your Furs isn’t my favourite Sinatra song, but as I eluded to earlier, there really isn’t a bad Sinatra song. It should also be noted that Sinatra sang other people’s songs. Hence, not all songs are equally appealing to his vocal style.

So how does the record sound? Absolutely gorgeous. Warm and smooth with no harshness to be seen. I have also listened to this album on TIDAL Hi-Fi and that edition is akin to a facsimile of the record. Not bad by any means, but just not as dynamically engaging as the record. Plus, the record adds an element of nostalgia to a recording that was released when vinyl reigned supreme. As I listen to the vinyl edition, it sounds like Sinatra is is my living room. Hence, as much as I love TIDAL Hi-Fi, if you can get a copy of this album on vinyl, don’t hesitate as it is significantly more appealing.

Overall, this is a great collection of songs that highlight some of Sinatra’s greatest recordings. If you’re looking to add a little romance to your relationship, you can't go wrong by spinning this album, while you share a glass of wine and a cheese platter with your significant other.

Songs For Young Lovers is available on Vinyl and TIDAL Hi-Fi.

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Sophia Pfister – Self-Titled EP (Tidal Hi-Fi Review)

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Sophia Pfister – Self-Titled EP (Tidal Hi-Fi Review)

Music lovers will appreciate that moment when you find, and add, an exceptional new artist to one’s collection. It is a rare event and is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Well, I may have just found that needle, thanks to Michael Fremer’s Analog Planet post: Meet Sophia Pfister.

Pfister has one of the most remarkable female voices that I have ever had the privilege of hearing. Amazingly, this EP is her first release and to find such control from a debut, especially from an unsigned artist, is quite a rare occurrence.

I have been listening to the 5-song EP on TIDAL Hi-Fi, over the last couple of weeks, and it has rarely been turned off. I have been so impressed that I intend order the vinyl release that is limited to 200 copies, with only 60 left at the time of writing this review. Memo to self: Order this EP, NOW!

Linked directly from Analog Planet's YouTube channel.

As a singer/songwriter/musician, Pfister is incredibly talented and part of the appeal is in the simplicity of her music. That isn’t to suggest that it isn’t evolved, in-fact it is incredibly deep and complex, but what I find makes the best groove, jazz, folk, and country-styled recordings is keeping the musicality at the forefront of the experience, in which this recording certainly does. For instance, you will sway elegantly with Faded Tatto and tap your foot along with Los Angeles. It is truly difficult to sit still when listening to this EP. I have found that it is a perfect album to listen to on my daily walk. This EP is also mastered beautifully and is not taxing to the listener. It sounds perfect on my main setup and with headphones. Bottom line: I just want more. Seriously, Sophia, the world needs a complete album. However, for now, we need to be satisfied with the EP.

Let’s take a look at the songs:

Los Angeles starts off with a moody beat that I simply adore, before Pfister’s incredibly smooth, yet gritty, vocal kicks in. The song is presented in a spoken-word style that reminds me of Johnny Cash or Lou Reed, but naturally smoother. This style really works for Pfister’s vocals and is a reoccurring style throughout the EP. I can honestly listen to this song on repeat, without tiring of it.

Snakes has a lovely jazzy feel and the inclusion of the wind instruments throughout is perfect. Sonically this song is quite busy, but there is nothing I would remove. While regular readers know that I don’t listen to music specifically from the aspect of song meaning, I’m glad to see that Pfister’s vocals are prominent throughout, except on the track Sugardaddy.

New Mexico takes a slight pop/country shift and shows that Pfister can handle a number of different genres with ease. The chorus in this song is slow toe tapping and head bopping bliss. 

Sugardaddy is probably the only song that I’m not smitten over. I have a love/hate relationship with the banjo. To me, the instrument is a little too jarring and while it doesn’t destroy this song, a levelling down of the banjo tracking, especially during the chorus, would have made it more appealing as I feel Pfister’s vocals and other background instruments are simply overpowered by the banjo.

Voice and Lyrics by Sophia Pfister. Guitar by Mark Fontana. Shot by Joseph Pfister. Recorded by Tom Weir. www.sophiapfister.com

Faded Tatto is harmoniously gorgeous. I love the background instrumental aspects. Subtle, but sonically appealing. It is a perfect song to end the EP on.

This self-titled EP is incredibly soothing and while much of that is to do with Pfister’s beautiful tones, her talent as a musician and song writer cannot be overlooked. Let’s hope we see a full album release in the not too distant future.

Sophia Pfister’s self-titled EP is available for purchase on vinyl and iTunes. It is also available for streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

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A Playlist For A Very Long Walk And A Great Cause

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A Playlist For A Very Long Walk And A Great Cause

A friend of mine, Graeme Gates, will today, Monday 13th June, commence his walk across the Simpson Desert, on what is known as The Madigan Line.  His 520km (323mi) journey, through one of Australia’s most uninhabitable regions, will be arduous and equally enthralling, but most importantly his walk is nothing short of inspirational.

As part of his walk, Graeme is also raising money for Beyond Blue. Beyond Blue supports individuals who are suffering with anxiety and depression, and are truly inspirational in their own right. If you are able to, please take a moment to donate, in support of Graeme’s walk.

A few months before Graeme set off on this journey, he asked if I would put a playlist of songs together for him. Of course, he had to remind me several times as my mind wanders, but I was progressively putting together a list in my head as I went for my own daily walks. Graeme’s aim is to take a little bit of home, and the people he knows, with him on a journey that would test anyone’s resilience and ability to be content with the thoughts in one’s own mind. My aim, therefore, was to create a playlist that he could use for a day on repeat. I decided that it would be roughly 2 hours in duration, that way ensuring that the entire playlist would be heard about 3-4 times, depending on how many kilometres Graeme walked in a specific day.  

I knew of some of Graeme’s personal tastes when it came to music, but he also wanted a playlist that was representative of the person who created it. Honestly, if I gave him that playlist, he would have the men in white coats coming after me. Yes, dear reader, you know only too well how diverse my musical tastes are. Therefore, I aimed to include music that I enjoy and feel is motivational, energetic, and risqué.

The playlist I created for Graeme includes the following songs:

Queen – It’s A Beautiful Day

This is such an inspirational song. I can imagine as Graeme sets off for his day, that this song will bring brightness and joy for the journey ahead.

Icehouse – Great Southern Land

This song is an unofficial Australian anthem. I’ve often driven throughout outback Australia with this song blaring from the car stereo. Every time it raises goose bumps as it is incredibly moving and meaningful, from an Australian perspective. While I’ve never been as far inland as Graeme will travel, I trust this song will bring further meaning to his journey. 

Men At Work – Down Under

This is another Australian classic that many would say is also an unofficial anthem for the nation. It just had to be included.

Genesis – I Can’t Dance

I can imagine Graeme walking, dancing, and singing along to this song. It is fun, with a great beat, and it flows perfectly into the first stand-up comedy segment of the playlist.

Ray Romano – Bachelor Party

The entire album Live At Carnegie Hall is well worth a listen, but I picked out specific tracks that I felt would offer Graeme the most laughs. The aim was to provide a little relief between musical transitions.

Whitesnake – Here I Go Again ‘87

This was selected to start the heavier rock elements of the playlist that would encourage Graeme to pick up the pace. It is a great motivational song; that is certainly how I perceive it.  

Kenny Loggins – Danger Zone

For most of us, Graeme is most certainly going to the ‘Danger Zone’. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to include this song.

George Thorogood And The Destroyers - Bad To The Bone

I know Graeme is a fan of Thorogood, so I have no doubt he will be singing along. This song is full of attitude that elevates the soul from the limitation of the body.

The Who – Baba O’Riley

Okay, I just included this song for no other reason than I love it.

Blue Öyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper

I wonder if Graeme ever saw the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel ‘The Stand’. I love the way this song was used in that film and frankly, it is a haunting song. Let’s just hope it doesn’t keep him awake at night.

Ray Romano – Forty

As Graeme is in that age group, he will either find this stand-up comedy track hilarious, or traumatising.

Chuck Berry – My Ding A Ling

Ah, the first of the innuendo songs. When a man is in the desert, for a month without his wife, you have to mess with his mind. That’s what friends are for, right?

Green Jelly – Three Little Pigs

This song is an incredible retelling of the classic children’s story, but with a heavy metal approach. I absolutely love this song. It puts a smile on my face every time I hear it.

Icehouse – Nothing To Serious

This is a song that is just fun and will lighten the mood, especially if the day isn’t going as planned.

Meat Loaf – Paradise By The Dashboard Light

Paradise By The Dashboard Light is a classic song that is absolutely filled with innuendo as one sings along. It had to be included.

Tenacious D – Tribute

This is the best song in the world! That is all.

Bloodhound Gang – The Bad Touch

You can’t listen to this song without smiling. Go on, try it, I dare you! I have no doubts that Graeme will be in hysterics with this addition.

Warrant – Cherry Pie

If anyone tells you sexually charged innuendo-based songs are inappropriate, tell them to get a life and have some fun. Cherry Pie is a classic and is a no frills fun song, although it does have a cherry on top. Enjoy!

Ray Romano – Adult Movie

This track is a perfect addition after the last couple of songs.

Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger

Now the innuendos are over, it is time to get down to business and give Graeme a little boost to pick up the pace again. Nothing really needs to be said about Eye Of The Tiger. Yes, it is clichéd to the extreme, but it is very motivational.  

Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way

Let’s hope Graeme doesn’t go Kravitz’s way and have a similar wardrobe malfunction. Although, there is already a hilarious story of Graeme having the wrong underwear.

Metallica – Wherever I May Roam

I love this song for its powerful determination and ability to empower the listener.

Disturbed – Indestructible

This song follows Wherever I May Roam perfectly. Metal-infused songs are perfect for giving us the strength to overcome our human limitations. I certainly know they give me the determination and strength to carry on. Hopefully, they have the same effect for Graeme.  

Ozzy Osbourne – I Don’t Wanna Stop

This is a fantastic Ozzy, not Aussie, song that will hopefully keep Graeme’s fire burning.

Ray Romano – The Duties

This track was selected to remind Graeme of his duties when he gets home.

Aerosmith – Walk This Way

Heading into the last few tracks of the playlist and Walk This Way is a perfect addition. The beat alone applies to any walk I can think of.

Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City

This has to be the most perfect song for Graeme’s walk. I can imagine, with a little humour in my thoughts, that he will come across an oasis of Paradise City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.

Supertramp – Take The Long Way Home

Graeme most certainly is taking the long way home and therefore this final track is perfect to not only close out the playlist, but it also flows perfectly into Queen’s It’s A Beautiful Day, when the playlist is on repeat.

I have had so much fun putting this playlist together and I can’t thank Graeme enough for asking me to contribute to his walk in this way. Let's hope Graeme is having a great time with the playlist and I haven’t messed with his mind too much; but that’s what friends are for.

So what would you have added to the playlist? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments. 

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The Songs That Influenced My Lifelong Obsession With Music

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The Songs That Influenced My Lifelong Obsession With Music

My children recently asked the question that every music loving parent wants to hear: “What was the first song you heard, that made you love music so much”?

For almost a decade I have waited patiently to answer that question. However, it wasn’t merely one song, but two, that I recall so vividly. Both songs were heard on a battery operated AM/FM radio that I would take everywhere. It was one that had the extendable antenna and black fabric loop for securing around one’s wrist. I also remember the white lettering and red dial, against a black background, that would show the AM/FM numbers which would of course correspond with an associated station. I’ve no idea of what became of that little radio, but it lives within my memories as it would often be seen in one hand, while the other hand grasped my ‘baby bear’. Please note, I was about 5 years old at the time. Somewhere in the family archive is a picture of me, my BMX bike, and the little radio and ‘baby bear’ sitting in the basket at the front of my bike. Unfortunately, as much as I would love to share the photograph with you, I can’t find it anywhere. If/when I do come across it, I will be sure to update this article.

The small radio was so frequently used that batteries were continually being replaced. In-fact, I was proud of that fact. The obsession to burn the batteries out was almost as strong as the determination to listen to, and experience, more music. In some ways, this addictive quality has continued throughout my life as I get a buzz out of working my gear, lovingly, into the ground.

I also recall the fascination of tuning past the static to a station that would play this thing called music. At the time I had no musical influences and I really didn’t have an idea of what music actually was; despite being captivated by it. To this day I can’t recall the radio stations that became my favourites, but I do recall their rough positions on the dial (around the 100-110 FM frequency range).

In my younger years, I also recall sitting and listening to live relays of Australia beating England for the Ashes. Although, the English will likely tell you it was the other way around. Truth be told, I don’t recall the outcome, so they can have the win if they want it. As a result, I found that I wasn’t that fond of the talkback style radio, although my grandmother would continually listen to Sydney’s 2CH (now called Magic 2CH) as she drifted off to sleep. She thoroughly enjoyed all their programming, including their late night talk back.

Yet again, my grandmother proved to be a great influence to my interest in music, as one of her most prized possessions was her battery operated transistor radio. During the 90s, her old radio had started to fail and I purchased her a new one for her birthday. I recall the excitement both of us had, but it was also like she was breaking up with a long-lost lover. She truly missed the radio that she had owned since before I was born in the 70s. It had kept her company, been her confidant, and given her music and a connection with the world beyond her own. While my grandmother is no longer with us, I also place significant emphasis on the physical product, as I share the same admiration for all my audio equipment. While I often want to upgrade, I just can’t let go of a legacy piece of gear until it ceases to function as advertised. It gets even more complicated if my family has gifted me a piece of audio gear. The sentimental value, for me, supersedes the sonic quality. While I won’t use these specific pieces as often, I still try to ensure that they are being used to somehow validate their meaning to me. I’m certainly in a sentimental mood today, aren’t I?

Now, what was this post about again?

That’s right, the two songs that I recall hearing that influenced my lifelong love of music. I really have to stop digressing don’t I? Unfortunately, I thoroughly enjoy this subjective reflection and I hope, as the reader, you are similarly captivated.

The first song I recall hearing on my little transistor radio was Starship’s We Built This City. I still enjoy this song today, mostly because it brings back comforting memories of a childhood that had its fair share of ups and downs. However, it is still a great song that highlights the sound signature of the mid-80s. While it is dated to that era, it isn’t a bad recording. It is a fun soft rock/pop song that can easily be sung along to.

The second song, and one that I absolutely adore, is Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl. The beat is fantastic and while the lyrics were a little beyond the comprehension of an impressionable young boy, the song is just fun. It is easy to sing along to and ensured that I had an appreciation of not only music, but Billy Joel. He is an incredibly talented artist and I wish he was still recording new music, but what he did record is absolutely sensational.

After I mentioned, and played, these songs for my children they wanted to know I ever found my ‘uptown girl’, some twenty years after first hearing Joel’s romantic tones? I’d like to think so, but you will have to ask her if she ever found her ‘downtown man’. 

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Subjective Sounds Is Now On Instagram

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Subjective Sounds Is Now On Instagram

In recent weeks I have been wondering how to best present the music I listen to daily. Individual daily posts seemed excessive, but at the same time my eclectic interests likely appeal to many readers. Hence, I have decided that Instagram would be the best way to share snapshots of the music I am currently listening to. 

It is important to note that this will not detract from my regular album reviews, but will simply be an add-on service to Subjective Sounds. Subsequently, you won’t see a ‘box’ of Instagram photographs appear on site. However, the Instagram feed will be automatically shared to the Subjective Sounds Facebook Page.

You can also like, and add comments to, any of the photographs by going directly to Instagram

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Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

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Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

I have been living under a rock. How come I never knew of Kate Bush? Seriously, I have only just heard my very first Kate Bush album and I’m blown away with the sonic masterpiece that is 50 Words For Snow.

I’m sure there are a plethora of exceptional artists that I have yet to personally discover. In-fact, it would be an impossible feat to experience the work of every artist, in one’s lifetime. There is just so much talent, yet so little time to enjoy the music. Therefore, it is a precious moment when a new artist is found and added to the existing music library.

Knowing absolutely nothing about Kate Bush presents an interesting way to appreciate and review her music, as I’m not coloured by any preconceived ideas of musicality. I came across 50 Words For Snow when simply browsing one of the online music retailers in Australia. It is akin to crate digging in the digital age and I was simply drawn to the cover.

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One of the first things I noticed, when looking for the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi, was the length of the tracks. These are not short songs and that is sometimes cause for concern as artists often expand a good song, for no good reason. Excessive verse or chorus repetition; not to mention self-indulgent solos, does little to impress this reviewer. Thankfully, that isn’t the case here. Every song is balanced and none feel like they should be shortened. Each track, whilst independent of each other, merges perfectly in the album format.

I also don’t recall really hearing anything similar to the style of music Kate Bush has created with this album. Enya's work springs to mind, but Bush has such a unique sound that I don’t feel she would have many contemporaries. Perhaps I just need to look more into the art pop et al genres; certainly I’ll be looking deeper into Bush’s discography and will be able to form a more conclusive opinion in due course.

While I am blown away with the mastering that is presented via TIDAL Hi-Fi, I have also ordered the vinyl release. One thing to note is there is a US and a UK pressing of this album. Based on a number of unverifiable reviews, the US release is rather noisy in comparison to the UK pressing. Hence, I ordered the UK pressing and will have my fingers crossed for a nice silent release. This album really doesn’t need excessive vinyl noise distracting the sonic depth that is present in the music.

Based on a little research, I understand that the album, and associated songs, have been written, and recorded, with the backdrop of snow as the merging theme. While there is very little snow in Australia, I can’t confirm this correlation with the music but, I can say that the music can be appreciated in any weather condition. However, I must admit that the haunting sounds do cause a feeling of isolation and separation from the world that could be associated with snow; or even night time. Without a doubt 50 Words For Snow is a sonic masterwork that reaches far into the senses of oneself and takes you on an emotional journey.

As I continue to play this album repeatedly, each listen introduces new elements that I haven’t experienced before. This is an album you will want to listen to with the best speakers or headphone setup you own. In-fact, as good as my main stereo system is, headphone listening truly allows you to hear more of the music. One example of this can be heard on the track Wild Man. At the beginning of the song, wind is blowing and you can feel the wind in your ears when listening on headphones. It is incredibly dimensional and makes for a wonderful headphone experience.

Unlike many of my other reviews, I’m not going to dissect this album track by track. The reason for this is I believe this album should be experienced as an ‘album’, not as separate songs. This kind of approach to listening to music predates music in the digital form whereby vinyl, and cassette, predominately demanded that the listener listens to the album as a body of work, rather than the individual songs. Yes, history repeats itself and I am well aware that the single song predated the album format, but trust me when I say there isn’t a bad song on this album and you will not regret spending 65 minutes simply listening to this album. Take the time and enjoy the experience.

50 Words For Snow is available on Vinyl, CD, and TIDAL Hi-Fi

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Robin Gibb – 50 St. Catherine’s Drive (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

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Robin Gibb – 50 St. Catherine’s Drive (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

Posthumous album releases can either add an exceptional balance to the catalogue of an artist, or they can be disastrous by trying to capitalise on the fame of an artist. Thankfully, 50 St Catherine’s Drive brings a beautiful balance to one of the most talented musicians to have walked the earth.

I have been a fan of the Bee Gees since I was a child, but only recently have I started to look deeper into the individual catalogues of the Gibb brothers. To be honest, I don’t know why I hadn’t explored their music in more depth, as their talents are certainly not restricted to the Bee Gees brand. This is perhaps where streaming services, such as TIDAL Hi-Fi, are essential to music lovers as they allow one to sample an album, prior to purchase. Yes, I will be buying this album on CD, despite having the exact same quality available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. One key reason that confirmed this process, in my mind, was when we moved home a couple of months ago. It took three weeks until a service technician was able to come out to the home and transfer our Internet connection. During that time, I simply wasn’t able to use TIDAL Hi-Fi and had to turn to my own collection of music for entertainment. Plus, I personally feel more connected to the music if I can hold a CD case while enjoying the album. You will note that I have said CD. That is because this album was sadly not released on vinyl. In-fact, the entire Bee Gees catalogue needs to be reissued on vinyl, but that’s a story for another day.

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50 St. Catherine’s Drive is said to be the last album of unreleased recordings by Robin Gibb. I couldn’t be happier with how his legacy has been presented and I have had the album on heavy rotation, having listened to it completely at least a dozen times. Upon each listen I appreciate the album further as I marvel at the unique vocal delivery that only Robin Gibb was able to bring to music. Honestly, this is an album that you can easily play all day without getting fatigued. I even thoroughly enjoyed it on my morning walk. When music can remove the monotony of walking from my consciousness, I know something special is occurring.

So let's take a look at the songs that make this album special:

Days Of Wine And Roses opens with a beautiful intermingling of piano and vocals. You instantly know what to expect from the rest of the album. It feels fresh, while also being reminiscent of Robin's work in the Bee Gees.

Instant Love is an instant love for this fan. I adore this song. The musical arrangement is exceptional. There is an electronic sound in the background that is subtile, by really appeals to me. As I’m not a musician, I couldn’t tell you what this sampled sound is called, but if anyone can elaborate, I would love to hear from you.

Alan Freeman Days was written in tribute for Australian DJ Alan Freeman. It is a lovely song, but I feel a little too upbeat for a tribute song. That said, it was obviously recorded with artistic license so, one must respect the approach that Robin took with this song. He also adds a single lyric in memory of his late brother Maurice Gibb. It is a lovely addition and well worth a listen.

Wherever You Go is rhythmically perfect. It is a toe tapper and Robin’s vocal delivery is perfect on this song. Without a doubt, this is one of my favourite songs from the album.

I Am The World (New Version) is a re-recording of the Bee Gees version that first appeared as a B-Side on their 1966 release Spicks And Specks. From my point of view, this re-recording is superior to the original. That isn’t to say I dislike the original, but the increased professionalism, maturity, and vocal development over the years ensured the song is significantly more polished than the original release. It was also the first single released from 50 St. Catherine’s Drive.

Mother Of Love is such a peaceful song. Magnificent vocal delivery and pace again proves what an exceptional vocalist Robin was.

Anniversary has a simple but appealing acoustic guitar introduction. I may love the distorted sound of an electric guitar, but a well played acoustic is equally as good; albeit different. However, while the song is lovely and Robin's vocals are spot on, there is just something that isn’t quite grabbing my attention with this song. I could quite easily proceed to the next track when this one comes on.

Sorry is a song that has a modern pop styling to it. It isn’t bad, but reminds me of another really popular song that I just can’t put my finger on at the moment. If I ever figure it out, I will add an appendix. 

Cherish has a fantastic beat and flow. Sometimes that is all you need.

I absolutely love the vocal delivery on Don’t Cry Alone. Seriously, just take a listen to this track. It is moving and emotional and is nothing short of beautiful.

Avalanche is a nice song, but it does feel like filler and lacks a little bit of polish in my opinion.

One Way Love unfortunately falls into the same category as Avalanche. The beginning of the song had promise, but again something is missing.

Broken Wings has an interesting entrance whereby it is very atmospheric as it builds to the initial verse. It then merges into a dance/disco style song. Not bad at all, just unexpected.

Sanctuary brings back that wonderful acoustic guitar. Robin’s vocals really work well in conjunction with the acoustic sound. The overall beat and pace of this track is pleasing, although the sibilance in Robin’s vocals becomes apparent and it is a little distracting. If you don’t know what sibilance is, keep it that way. After researching it and knowing what to listen for, so many good recordings have become a disappointment for me because I now notice it.  

Solid is a solid song. Yes, I know I went there, but it is genuinely good. Not exceptional, but not quite a B-side filler track either.

All We Have Is Now is toe tapping and head bopping heaven. Although, Robin’s vocal delivery sounds as though it is in a lower register than he normally sings. It is different, but very enjoyable.

Sydney (Demo) marks the last song that Robin ever recorded. While the album only features a demo of the song, I feel this is the perfect way to close out the album.

Given Sydney (Demo) is Robin’s last recording, I hope his estate also considers this to be the last album of previously unreleased material to be released. While we all want more from our favourite artists, the last thing we need is a collection of songs that Robin likely would not have been happy to have released. That said, it's highly likely that he would be very pleased with the release and mastering of this album. As a fan, I know I am.

If you’re a Bee Gees fan, then this album is a must own. Frankly, I believe every music lover will find something to appreciate about this album. It is exceptional. While a couple of the tracks are a little less than perfect, this has little to no impact on the album as a whole.

50 St. Catherine’s Drive is available on CD and TIDAL Hi-Fi.

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