Elton John - Madman Across The Water (Album Review)

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Elton John - Madman Across The Water (Album Review)

Madman Across The Water is an unequivocally exceptional album from start to finish. Having listened to the 24/96kHz MQA edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi, there is only one word that can fully describe the album and that would be immersive. The soundstage, performance, and presence of the band is incredible and you really get a sense of being in the studio while the album was being recorded. I have also listened to the CD-quality FLAC on TIDAL Hi-Fi, but it sounds rather flat and uninspiring by comparison. Yes, the MQA edition is really that good! That said, one must remember that MQA is not a cure and a poor sounding master will still sound poor. Sometimes there is little to no difference as readers would have seen in my review of Kalio’s sensational album A/B. It all depends on how the album was mastered. If the same mastering was used then the difference between a well-mastered CD and MQA, or high-res, is minimal at best. However, there are so many poorly mastered CDs that I dare say MQA looks more appealing as it isn’t based upon the CD master, but the original studio mastering that hopefully, in most cases, is not compressed to hell and back. For more information about MQA, check out MQA.co.uk.

Tiny Dancer is an absolute classic and John's vocals are perfectly placed in the mix. Close your eyes and you will swear John and his band are in the room with you. The timbre of the instruments and John's vocals are simply astounding.

Levon is an incredible performance. The vocal build to the choral climax is to die for. It is sonically beautiful and one of John's greatest recordings.

Razor Face is a solid song, but it isn't anything to write home about.

Madman Across The Water is incredible, but as mentioned in my review of Tumbleweed Connection, I do prefer the original over this re-recording. As this is the version most people would be familiar with, I encourage you to check out the original. You won't regret it!

Indian Sunset has an impressive level of musicality. So good, in fact, that it almost steals the thunder from John's vocal delivery which is astonishing in its own right. I specifically love the near acoustic vocal delivery and the gradual layering of musical components, resulting in a more realised composition that will knock your socks off. Music is seldom this good and while I adore my Elton John compilations, Indian Sunset doesn’t feature on any of them. This song is yet one more point of validation that proves John and Taupin are musical geniuses and a collaborative team like no other.

Holiday Inn feels as though it should have been included on Tumbleweed Connection as it sounds a little disjointed with the rest of the songs on Madman Across The Water. As a song on its own, it has some exceptional musical shifts that I simply adore, but overall the song is somewhat forgettable as I don't feel the lyrical delivery is as polished as it could be. Of course, I could merely have this view because it follows the exceptional Indian Sunset.

Rotten Peaches is a B-side. It flows well within the album tracking, but it is pure filler.

All The Nasties is my favourite song from the album. It astonishes me that this song hasn't made any of his career perspective compilations. Elton John is clearly greater than a single compilation will allow. Thankfully in the modern era of the playlist, the individual listener can compile their own quasi-compilation. By the way, the drum depth throughout this song is pure gold. All The Nasties is truly exceptional and will captivate you from the first note.

Goodbye is short but beautiful. It follows on perfectly from All The Nasties and compels me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue.

Overall, Madman Across The Water is an incredibly recorded, mixed, and mastered performance that is simply unforgettable. While I adore the sonic presentation that the MQA edition delivers, the collector in me is compelled to pick up the SACD release as it contains the 2004 Greg Penny 5.I Surround Sound Mix that can only improve upon the immersion provided by MQA. Interestingly, the surround sound version reportedly contains the external version of Razor Face on the surround sound mix. That said, it wasn't my favourite song on the album so I'm unsure if it’s truly of interest. Nevertheless, it is good to know a variant exists, even if it’s only a longer rendition.

Madman Across The Water is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Madman Across The Water on Spotify or Apple Music.

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Kaleo - A/B (Album Review)

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Kaleo - A/B (Album Review)

When released in 2016, Kaleo's A/B left listeners in shock and awe as they proved, as many artists do, that good music is still being made that pushes the envelope of what has come before while remaining uniquely unique.

If you like Folk music, with a splash of Blues, and some killer Rock & Roll riffs, then you are going to love this album. It is so good that I give you permission to stop reading this review while you check out one of the best albums of 2016 and what would be one of my all-time favourite albums in the aforementioned genres.

No Good is already a classic in my mind. It sets the tone for the album and has some killer riffs, beats, and a solid vocal delivery perfectly suited to the song. Yes, this song is your meat and potatoes Rock & Roll but it would work equally well in the local pub as well as a major stadium. No wonder Kaleo opened for The Rolling Stones when they toured Hamburg in 2017.

Way Down We Go slows the album down a little, but it is simply gorgeous! The vocal delivery is off the charts and the bass and drum beats will have you in Rhythm & Blues heaven. This is one song you may have heard before as it has been featured in a number of high profile television shows and films.

Broken Bones is sublime!

Glass House returns the tempo to a higher pace. It is classic Blues-based Rock & Roll and there is nothing wrong with that!

Hot Blood is a great rock tune. It is rock solid, pun intended!

All The Pretty Girls is a slower tune that has a very interesting vocal presentation, in comparison to the other songs on the album. That said, it works extremely well. It just goes to show the level of musicality that is present within the band, even at this early stage in their career.

Automobile is an incredibly catchy tune. I love it!

Vor í Vaglaskógi is sonic perfection! While it is the only non-English song on the album, the vocal delivery is velvety smooth and is an absolute pleasure to listen to. The musicality is equally off the charts. It’s such a beautiful song and I do hope that Kaleo will one day release an entire album in their native Icelandic tongue.

Save Yourself is a lovely song. Nothing to write home about, but solid nonetheless. The album wouldn't be the same without it.

I Can't Go On Without You closes the album beautifully. It is an incredible song that makes me want to listen to the album again.

From start to finish, Kaleo’s A/B is nothing short of pure perfection. The album plays better than many greatest hits releases, yet it is a debut. There truly isn't a bad song on this album. It is so good that I have already ordered my Vinyl copy from mataurecords.com.au.

This review was based on listening to the 16/44.1 kHz CD-quality FLAC release on TIDAL Hi-Fi. I also listened to the 24/88.2kHz MQA version and while I found it to be a little tighter in the bass region, I didn't find the difference to be significant enough to recommend it over the standard CD-quality offering. That isn't a bad thing, it just proves that if a CD is mastered well it can sound just as good as any high-res source. In fact, I prefer the CD equivalent as the bass, while more refined in the MQA edition, is too clean and lacks the grit that I feel should be present in this style of music.

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

If you prefer streaming, A/B is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection (Album Review)

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Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection (Album Review)

You'd think that following the Pop/Rock success of John's self-titled album, Elton John, the last thing on his mind would have been a change of style. Well the country-infused concept album, Tumbleweed Connection, cemented the musical skill of not only John but Bernie Taupin. While it isn't Nashville Country Music, it is appealing to a broader demographic with its Roots, Blues, and Country Rock musicality. That said, Tumbleweed Connection is more the merging of the genres, rather than highlighting one in particular. It is unique, compelling, and is classic Elton John.

The artwork for this album is legendary, but you wouldn't know that looking at the basic artwork shown on all streaming services. As numerous albums from the vinyl era do, their cover continues to the rear, thereby creating a captivating landscape. While I don't yet have a physical copy of this album, the website Discogs is a wonderful place to explore all the editions and associated design choices.

While I have Tumbleweed Connection on my Discogs wish list, I aim to pick up the 2004 SACD edition, rather than the Vinyl release as it contains the surround sound mix by Greg Penny. These mixes are generally highly regarded and if my Blu-ray High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) 5.I Surround Sound copy of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is any indication, then I am in for an experience that has to be heard to be believed. By comparison, my Vinyl copy, and all other stereo editions of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sound flat and lifeless by comparison. Yes, I acknowledge the mastering variations of a surround sound mix versus a stereo mix, but the difference is quite profound and more enjoyable. Regardless, when I pick up the SACD release, I'll post a review for those of you who may be interested. In the meantime, this review is based on the 1995 remaster available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Overall, it is a very relaxed and enjoyable remaster that pre-dates the horrors of remastering for loudness alone.

Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun is now a staple in John's catalogue, but as catchy as it is, I just can't get into the tempo as it has always sounded a little too offbeat for my liking.

Come Down In Time is simply gorgeous. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and one of the best songs Elton John ever recorded.

County Comfort is an absolute classic that has been covered numerous times. Of the mainstream covers, I don't believe Rod Stewart did a great job of it on Gasoline Alley. Whereas, I thoroughly enjoy Keith Urban’s rendition on Be Here as I feel it pays homage to the original while being simultaneously modern and perfectly suited to Urban's style. That said, the original is, as most originals are, beyond reproach. John's version is so compelling that I could listen to it repeatedly without tiring of the song.

Son Of Your Father isn't great. Musically it’s interesting, but the lyrical delivery is disjointed until the chorus kicks in, then the song starts to become a little more compelling. Sadly, it isn't enough for me to be captivated and hence I put this song into the B-side category.

My Father's Gun is fantastic. That chorus is really appealing and the overall musically of the song is top notch in my opinion.

Where To Now St. Peter? is really enjoyable. Yet it is somewhat offbeat and shouldn't really work, but it does and systematically showcases the incredible understanding of music and its associated composition by John and Taupin.

Love Song works in well within the album construct. However, as a song on its own, I don't find it compelling. The background real-life sounds also detract from the music, although I am interested to see how these elements will be placed in the surround sound mix.

Amoreena is a B-side for me. It isn't bad, but it isn't a standout either.

Talking Old Soldiers is lovely in its simplicity. A simply amazing performance. Sonic perfection!

Burn Down The Mission is a solid B-side. Musically, there is much to like here, but I find the mix conceals the vocals a little too much.

Into The Old Man's Shoes is a great song that, once again, fits in perfectly with the album and overall style of the recording.

Madman Across The Water is epic! I never tire of this song and I really love this original version. It has such an immersive soundstage, you really need to turn the volume up on this one and be enveloped with sound. The re-recording on the similarly titled album, Madman Across The Water, is also compelling, but I find it to be overproduced and lacking some of the rawness that made this original so special.

Overall, Tumbleweed Connection is a masterful release that adds intrinsic value to Elton John's early era in the recording industry.

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

A Deluxe Edition is also available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Tumbleweed Connection is also available on Spotify (Standard / Deluxe Edition) and Apple Music (Standard / Deluxe Edition).

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Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend: The Best Of (Deluxe Edition) [Compilation Review]

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Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend: The Best Of (Deluxe Edition) [Compilation Review]

In November of 2016, I reviewed the 30th Anniversary Tri-Coloured Vinyl Re-issue of this classic compilation. While I adore that edition, I was also intrigued by the Deluxe Edition that expands the original release with a series of alternative versions. Hence, I thought it would be interesting to review Volume 2 while contrasting how the songs compared to the core mixes that we all know and love. Subsequently, if you're interested in reading my thoughts about the music contained within Volume 1, then please check out the aforementioned link.

Volume 2

One Love / People Get Ready (Extended Version) is considerably longer than the version on Volume 1. Despite the obvious repetition of rhythm, with minor musical shifts, I find that I thoroughly enjoy this extended version. The core, radio-friendly, release is nice, but the extended runtime truly adds to the sonic presentation of the song. So, do I have a preferred version? Not really. Both are exceptional and I could listen happily to either version. Although, you can clearly hear a different mastering between the two editions. The extended version has a smoother presentation that I personally prefer and therefore from a sonic standpoint alone, I would choose the extended edition.

Waiting In Vain (12" Single Version) takes an already beautiful song and makes it divine. The extended musicality, especially three-quarters through the track, really appeals to me and I, therefore, find the 12" Single Version offers a significant improvement over the mainstream release. Truth-be-told, l've never really liked the idea of radio-friendly tracks, limited in length and artistry by the demands of terrestrial radio stations. While I often prefer extended versions, there are always exceptions and not all songs should have extended versions. Thankfully, this version of Waiting In Vain doesn’t fall into that category. Perhaps it is the groovy, somewhat hypnotic, Reggae sound that melds beautifully with the soundstage, captivating my soul. Regardless, the 12” Single Version is glorious.

Jamming (12" Single Version) pales in comparison to the mainstream edition on Volume 1. It simply tries to do too much, failing to add substance to the song. I feel the core groove has been lost due to the longer presentation and additional musical elements. I don't know about you, but I would have been quite happy if this 12" Single Version had never been released.

Three Little Birds (12" Mix (Dub Version)) adds a nice guitar element that isn't heard in the core song, but while I feel this and other musical elements add qualitatively to the song, I still prefer the succinctness of the version available on Volume 1.

Could You Be Loved (12" Mix) offers an excellent expansion to an already exceptional song. However, the original was so good that I question the need for an extended edition. Nevertheless, we are truly fortunate to have both editions.

No Woman No Cry is the studio recording, whereas the edition found on Volume 1 is the live 1975 performance in London. When I reviewed the tri-coloured vinyl release, I had the following to say: "the studio edition is arguably not as strong as the live performance, but neither is 100% perfect." I still stand by that statement after listening to both editions, again, for this review.

Coming In From The Cold (1984 12” Single) didn’t make the original Legend tracklisting. It isn't a bad song, but one can see why it wasn't included. The rhythm, while familiar, is quite different tonally from the other songs found on Legend. That said, I'm really glad it was included in the Deluxe Edition for those who would not necessarily collect the individual albums, but want a career perspective. If there was one song that would convince me to purchase the Deluxe Edition, it would be the inclusion of Coming In From The Cold. The more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it!

Buffalo Soldier is a significantly different remix and doesn't come close to being comparable to the original. This version is overproduced in what can only be seen as an attempt to reach a wider demographic. The sound lacks that loveable Reggae sound and introduced too much synthetic musicality that destroys the song. I simply don't like it.

Jamming (US Version) is much better than the 12" Single Version and is basically on par with the excellence heard on the core song.

Waiting In Vain (US Version) is a great song and while this is the third version found on the Deluxe Edition, the differences are subtle enough that it sounds fresh and thankfully doesn't deviate from the core essence of the song too much.

Exodus, this time around, offers us a remix of the legendary song but doesn't damage the original. It does, however, offer a different perspective. Think of it as akin to the Director's Cut of a film. It offers more and some will like that while others are content with the original release. This is another song where I am glad we have both options to choose from.

Lively Up Yourself is another song that wasn't featured on the original Legend compilation. As with Coming In From The Cold, one could argue that the tonality of the song doesn’t match the overall musicality of the album. As a song on its own, however, I really enjoy the Reggae and Jazz mix. It is bold and appealing to me as I thoroughly appreciate both genres. Lively Up Yourself is another excellent reason to pick up the Deluxe Edition. Yeah, like I really needed a justification to purchase this album again!

One Love / People Get Ready (Dub Version – 1984 12” Remix) is a different mix that incorporates A cappella elements. I like it, although, it’s not my favourite mix as I feel it comes across slightly disjointed. Despite this, I'm glad that this edition exists and as the final track on the Deluxe Edition, it encourages me to listen to the core compilation and this bonus content again.

The Deluxe Edition of Legend is an astonishing compilation from Bob Marley And The Wailers. While many of my peers are frustrated by the fact that they have to repurchase the same music over and over again, this album never disappoints and the varied mixes on Volume 2 are certainly a value-added proposition for diehard and casual fans alike.

This review was based on listening to the 16/44.1 kHz CD-quality FLAC edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi. For the most part, I found the additional mixes to be sonically on par with the master releases. I mention this primarily because bonus volumes have a tendency to have varied sonic properties that can impact one’s appreciation of the music and the artist. Thankfully, that isn't the case in this instance.

Bob Marley And The Wailers – Legend: The Best Of (Deluxe Edition) is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Legend: The Best Of (Deluxe Edition) on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Elton John – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Elton John – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Elton John has no shortage of classic albums that can be seen as both revolutionary and standing the test of time, but this self-titled second album sees John return to the studio with an even more polished production than was heard on Empty Sky. While I adore Empty Sky, Elton John has that recognisable Elton John sound signature and it is more realised in both sonic and lyrical terms.

Released in April of 1970, Elton John features his breakthrough and likely most recognisable song, Your Song. As the first song on the album, the piano introduction, with the vocal accompaniment, builds into an incredible song that is simply one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. If you don't feel the need to sing-a-long to this song, you're not listening correctly? It is gorgeous from the first note and I never tire of it.

I Need You To Turn To is an incredible pop ballad. When I hear music this pure, I wonder if John and Taupin, along with the musicians, and the production team, were aware of the incredible music they were creating. Wouldn’t it be a shame if they considered some of these classics as nothing more than B-sides?

On that note, I find it fascinating that producer, Gus Dudgeon, has stated in a 2002 MIX interview that the album was never intended to launch John's career as the aim was to present a series of polished demos for other artists to record. If you’re interested in the evolution of a song, the 2008 Deluxe Edition contains more stripped down piano demos of many of the tracks. It is interesting to listen to these early demos, but I tend to always prefer the final album release.

Take Me To The Pilot has a raw acoustic introduction that I find very appealing. While it’s far from being the best song on the album, it has an addictive rhythm that draws me in every time I listen to the album.

No Shoe Strings On Louise has a nice country music twang to it, but I've never been convinced that style was perfectly suited to John, despite his later successes. I also feel this song is mimicking Mick Jagger’s style a little too much. You would honestly be forgiven if, upon hearing this song on the radio, you assumed it was a Rolling Stones or Mick Jagger solo recording. That said, it is still enjoyable and works well within the structure of the album.

First Episode At Hienton is sonically beautiful. While it is a song you will never sing-a-long to, you will find yourself turning the volume up in order to be enveloped in the immersive soundstage.

Sixty Years On begins with the sonic equivalent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. That shouldn’t be seen as a negative comment as you immediately get the impression that this is going to be a music experience like no other. Musically, Sixty Years On is pure perfection. The classical overtures are most certainly the highlight of the song, but John’s vocal delivery is also off-the-charts.

Border Song is a perfect composition. I simply love every aspect of this song.

The Greatest Discovery is magical!

The Cage has a great groove and rhythm. Think New Orleans Jazz meets Rock and Roll.

The King Must Die has a ridiculously good drum and bass beat throughout. You can feel it in your soul, just as you can picture the piano and John in the room with you as you close your eyes and turn up the volume. It is as close to a personal concert with Elton John as you will ever likely get.

Bad Side Of The Moon isn't a bad song, but it is a B-side. Plus, that little bump in volume towards the end is really annoying. I've come across that before, in other recordings, but I’ve always felt it ultimately detracts from the song. I wonder if it is a technique or a flaw in the original analogue recording? If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear from you.

Grey Seal is a fun tune, although I much prefer the recording of the song that made it on John’s legendary Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Rock And Roll Madonna is my least favourite song on the album. It certainly doesn't leave me with an overwhelming urge to listen to the album again as I find the composition is overly complex, especially when John's vocal kicks in. There simply isn't enough instrument separation and the song doesn’t have enough room to breathe. The result is an assault on the senses that ultimately would have been better left off the album.

Overall, Elton John is one of the greatest recordings in Rock/Pop history. Yes, we will all point to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as being John’s pinnacle, but there is much to love about this self-titled release.

When I set out to review this album, I was aware of the various releases and masterings that exist. While I haven't heard the 2004 Multichannel SACD or the SHM SACD from Japan, I’m informed the Japanese release is subtly better. Although, as with everything, better is a subjective term. Subsequently, I based this review on the 24/96 kHz MQA edition streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Yes, I also listened to the remastered 16/44.1 kHz CD edition, also on TIDAL Hi-Fi, and the differences were significant. The standard remastered CD lacked emphasis, soundstage, and felt flat when compared directly to the MQA edition. Hence, I’m intrigued to hear how good the SACD versions are by comparison. One problem, however, is the Japanese release is twice the price of the standard SACD and lacks the multichannel mix. Most normal music fans would say just enjoy the MQA version. Truth be told, the average fan would be content with the standard CD or MP3 equivalent. I wish I could say that I could be satisfied with whichever release comes down the pipeline, but once you have heard how different, different masterings can be, you tend to not settle for a lesser option be it MP3 or high-res, for both can produce substandard results if the mastering was done in haste. Of course, the problem is that I, like most people, don’t have an endless supply of cash and l'm also limited by the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor). I have to be honest, the amount my beloved has allowed me to spend on music is significant and I can't thank her enough for allowing me to partake in this hobby. But, whatever you do dear reader, don't tell her that!

The ultimate truth is that I can be completely content with the MQA version as it is the best rendition of the album I have ever heard. While I still question just how much better the album could be on SACD, or even Vinyl, I’m not left wanting more from the MQA edition.

Elton John is available on Vinyl, SACD (Stereo and Multichannel), SMH-SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered For iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Elton John on Spotify and Apple Music.

Other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds:

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ZZ Top – Eliminator (Album Review)

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ZZ Top – Eliminator (Album Review)

With a signature sound like no other, ZZ Top is the very definition of blues rock and roll. They are a no-frills trio that are, in my opinion, only topped by AC/DC. Although, let’s be honest, as cool as Angus' schoolboy uniform is, those signature beards remain unchallenged.

Eliminator is eighth studio album by ZZ Top and is arguably as polished as the band has ever been. While I love their entire catalogue, Eliminator plays like a greatest hits compilation and there isn't a B-side to be found. Seriously, if you don't have a copy of Eliminator in your collection, you're missing out on one of the greatest rock and roll albums in recorded music history. 

Of course, it wasn't only the music that made this band a household name. The now iconic music videos certainly played a part. Yes, they're corny and cliche, especially with their fluffy guitars, but it encapsulates the 80s and the MTV era. 

If the beards didn’t catch your attention, then Eliminator would. Yes, Eliminator not only characteristically graced the album cover but would also appear in their music videos during this era. I don’t know about you, but Eliminator is simply stunning. 

The vinyl artwork is truly amazing and simply looks fantastic on display or in the hand. However, I have always been perplexed by the coloured box within the artwork itself. Initially, I had thought it was an indicator guide for other formats that was simply left in the final artwork, but that isn't the case as the reformatting, of even the cassette version, crops tighter into the artwork. It is an absolute mystery. If you have any thoughts regarding this interesting design decision, I'd love to hear from you.

Overall, the 30th Anniversary vinyl release (circa 2013) is a collector's dream come true. Yes, it is rather barebones, but the print and pressing quality is exquisite. Priced in the budget range at sub $30 ($AUD), the sonic performance of this record trumps many of my more expensive 'audiophile' pressings, thereby proving that one does not need to go broke in the collecting of new vinyl for one's passion. That said, this is the exception rather than the rule and the similarly priced 2016 re-issue is reported to have a serious pressing fault as Legs prematurely ends. Logic would dictate that the same master should have been used, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. If it was, one must then question the obvious lack of quality control. Regardless, the 2013 pressing I have is flawless. Beautifully quiet, although not a major issue for rock music, and sonically pure. I’ve never heard the album sound better. It is honestly a 10 out of 10. I’ve also compared it to the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, from the 2008 remastering session, and I find that by comparison, it lacks the overall warmth and depth of the vinyl counterpart. It is, however, a solid edition should you prefer to stream the album. Unfortunately, I don't know which specific master was used for the 30th Anniversary release as that information is not available. However, a little research and subsequent deduction indicate this release was most likely pressed from a different master as the 2008 Deluxe Edition CD reportedly reduced the dynamic range from a 12 to a 6 out of 20. Yes, I acknowledge the dynamic range differences between the formats, but this difference is simply too large to ignore. Most likely this is why I prefer the vinyl release as every drum and bass beat resonates within your soul as the lead guitar and vocals tantalise your senses. Yes, it really is that good!

The 30th Anniversary vinyl release is printed in a high-gloss that looks incredibly impressive but quickly becomes a fingerprint magnet. Inside, you get a singular printed sleeve with Eliminator on one side while the other side remains black. Yes, it is a basic design but appeals to purists as it remains faithful to the original 1983 release. I like it when record labels don't make changes for the sake of making a change.

SIDE XI

Gimme All Your Lovin has such an incredible rhythm. It is the perfect song to start the album with and really sets the tone for the entire record.

Got Me Under Pressure continues the toe-tapping head-bopping rhythm. Sensational!

Sharp Dressed Man is a song that defies explanation. Just turn the volume knob to 11.

I Need You Tonight slows the rhythm, but increases the blues. It's absolutely gorgeous and that guitar is, as with most ZZ Top recordings, pushing the distortion right to the limit while remaining hauntingly clear.

I Got The Six is a perfect rock and roll song. It's nothing to write home about, but it is the meat and potatoes of the album.

SIDE X2 

Legs is iconic! Interesting fact: every time I hear the first few chords, I'm reminded of the Mythbusters television series theme song. I’m honestly surprised there wasn't a lawsuit around this unless they obtained permission of course. Either way, after watching an episode it makes me want to listen to Eliminator.

Thug is a solid tune but it isn't one of my favourites. That said, I do appreciate the bass emphasis on this track.

TV Dinners is one of my all-time favourite ZZ Top songs. Seriously, to take something as mundane as a TV dinner and turn it into an incredibly rhythmic blues rock and roll tune, that takes exceptional skill. It is soloing heaven and features some of the best musicality heard on the album. I also adore those mid-song pauses as they're executed perfectly.

Dirty Dog is a great tune with a tone that is borrowed from Legs. While plagiarism is bad in and of itself, self-plagiarism in music ensures an identifiable sound. 

If I Could Only Flag Her Down brings us back to blues rock and roll. While it’s enjoyable, I feel the vocal tracking is particularly lacking and lost in the mix, especially in comparison to the rest of the album. It sounds like Lemmy Kilmister sang instead of Gibbons. Hey, I love Motorhead too, but this is a ZZ Top album.

Bad Girl, as the final track, is compelling enough for me to play the entire album again. The rhythm is addictive, as is the rawness of the pseudo-live performance. However, the final spoken words, at the end of the track, seem pointless. I really don't like it when artists do that. I know it’s artistic expression, but you'd think I was a little weird if I closed every review with a random word or two.

Regardless, Eliminator is not only one of the best albums ever recorded by ZZ Top, it is one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all-time.

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

If you prefer streaming, you can also enjoy Eliminator on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Elton John - Empty Sky (Album Review)

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Elton John - Empty Sky (Album Review)

Debut albums are interesting. They can produce one hit wonders, launch long-lasting careers, or be largely forgotten. The later is, of course, what has happened to Elton John's debut Empty Sky. Yes, John would go on to be incredibly successful, but I dare say most people would be unaware of this debut and would likely point to the self-titled Elton John album as his debut. Regardless, if you are reading this then it is not too late to check out Empty Sky and can hear the true origins of one of the greatest musicians in history.

Besides Skyline Pigeon, most people, even casual fans, would not have heard the songs off this album as they seldom appear on John’s live performances or career perspective compilations. It is truly a shame as there is plenty to appreciate here. The album is beautifully recorded and mastered, even though the edition used for this review was the 1995 remaster. We must remember, however, that remaster wasn’t always such a dirty word. It did, initially at least, have noble intentions.

The album artwork is gorgeous and screams of the need to own a copy on vinyl. While it was reissued in September 2017, it is important to note the bonus tracks are not included on the vinyl release. I'm normally a stickler for original track listings, but in this case I feel the bonus tracks add depth to the album and most likely the only reason they were previously omitted was due to vinyl runtime restraints. Fingers crossed there is a download code that will include the bonus tracks, but wouldn’t it be cool if they packaged the original vinyl with a 7 or 10-inch record including those three tracks. Now, that would be a value-added proposition for fans like you and me.

Empty Sky has a great rhythm that sets the tone for the entire album. The instrumental introduction is fantastic and allows the mind to become enveloped in the tempo before John's iconic vocal is introduced. You will be toe tapping and head bopping throughout.

Val-Hala has a very regal sound to it. It is lovely, but there is a little distortion in the recording that I find distracting. I'm not sure if this was intentional, or a result of the recording and mastering techniques of the era. I had considered that it could have been an artefact of the remastering process, but if one is to believe the blurb, this remastered edition used the Sadie Digital System and Prism Super Noise Shaper that is said to only enhanced the recording. Subsequently, my only thought is that it is present on the original, especially as it is also the only song on the album that exhibits the effect. Perhaps it was done with artistic intention.

Western Ford Gateway has an absolutely sensational electric guitar riff! The vocal presentation is reminiscent of John Lennon's Imagine (album) recording style. Of course, Lennon’s album was released well over a decade later, but I find it intriguing to look back on music with present-day thoughts and wonder where the influence originated. When I hear this song I often wonder if Elton John influenced John Lennon, or if Elton took influence from Lennon's recordings with The Beatles. Even if there was no real-world correlation, it is interesting to ponder such blasphemous theories.

Hymn 2000 is an enjoyable song, but I find the flute and other musical elements detract from John's vocal delivery. It simply feels a little too busy, especially when listening on loudspeakers. Headphones, interestingly enough, limit this effect.

Lady What's Tomorrow is a nice song, but it is nothing to write home about. A classic B-side!

Sails has a rhythm rivalling Empty Sky. I love it! When I listen to this song, and so many songs from the album, I can't believe these classics have mostly been omitted from the various live performances and compilations. Granted, when you are as successful as Elton John has been, all songs can't always be revisited, but it would be wonderful to see a little more variety at times.

The Scaffold has a gorgeous tonality and rhythm. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and has an addictive chorus that compels you to sing-a-long. Absolutely Brilliant!

Skyline Pigeon is arguably the most well-known track from John's debut album and was included the exceptional compilation Diamonds (Deluxe CD and streaming editions only). The Piano Version included on Diamonds is the re-recording that was done during the Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player sessions. It certainly has more polish than the original and John's vocals are significantly more prominent, but I do love the rawness of this original recording and if you haven't heard it, I implore you to give it a go. It is more acoustic, by comparison, but thoroughly worthwhile.

Gulliver/It's Hay Chewed (Reprise Version) is an interesting song that closes out the original release. It isn't bad, but the intermingling of songs is somewhat distracting and I feel Skyline Pigeon would have been the perfect song to conclude the album with. That said, the first few minutes of Gulliver/It's Hay Chewed is excellent.

Lady Samantha is a solid bonus track with exceptional musicality. It is a shame it didn't make the core album.

All Across The Havens is most certainly a B-side. Perfectly adequate but I can understand why this song didn't make the initial cut. It has a great rhythm to it, however.

It's Me That You Need has an incredibly gorgeous vocal track. I also love the musical elements and it is yet another track that shows just how successful Elton John was to become.

Just Like Strange Rain isn't bad, but it isn't great either. While I’m glad it’s on the remastered CD/ digital release, it isn't overly compelling and fails to generate the interest I believe is required to listen to the album again. That said, l know how good the rest of the album is and therefore I'm going back for another listen.

Overall, Empty Sky is one Elton John album that you simply must own or have within your streaming music library. It is timeless and will likely always remain that way. 

This review is based on the 1995 remastered CD on TIDAL Hi-Fi. While I remain interested in the vinyl reissue, I find the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi is sonically perfect. That said, the collector in me is already wanting to reach out to Piers (mataurecords.com.au) and ask him to order me a copy.

Elton John's Empty Sky is available to own on Vinyl and CD, or digitally from the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC) or iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, you can check the album out on Spotify or Apple Music.

Other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds:

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Foo Fighters - Wasting Light (Album Review)

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Foo Fighters - Wasting Light (Album Review)

A few years ago, many of the department stores in Australia were either drastically reducing their music department, or removing them completely as sales of compact discs were in continuous decline. While it was a sad state of affairs, collectors were relishing the discount prices and over the years I have certainly bagged a bargain. One, in particular, was the Foo Fighters Wasting Light CD, including a piece of the original master tape. At the time, I was still heavily invested in the MP3 era and collecting music again, in any physical format, wasn't at the top of my priority list. However, a chance to own a piece of the master tape was an extremely enticing and unique opportunity. Plus, for AU$5, I couldn’t leave it on the shelf.

While my segment of the tape may only contain silence, or perhaps a single note, it is mine and a treasured possession in my collection. I’ve often wondered if all the fans got together and joined their pieces together, would we be able to reconstruct the original master tape? Yes, it’s a romantic notion, but a cool idea nevertheless.

If you’re unfamiliar with Wasting Light, you may be wondering why a 2011 release would be recorded directly to tape. Truth is tape-based systems are still being used around the world, although they are now the exception rather than the rule. While I could give you a complete rundown on why the Foo Fighters took this approach, I suggest you check out Tom Doyle’s excellent article: Foo Fighters: Recording Wasting Light as it answers all the questions you may have about their intentions.

While the Foo Fighters have a signature sound, the analogue production certainly created a unique sound signature. It is warm and full of emotive rhythm while maintaining a genuinely raw sound. Although the CD is rather heavily compressed, from a sonic perspective, the result is an addictive sound that I feel still offers a true representation of just how good analogue recordings can sound on CD. The only issue arising from the compressed dynamic range is Hawkins’ drums sound a little off in some areas, especially in relation to cymbal representation. They simply fail to shimmer as much as I would like.

The packaging is impressive, but that shouldn't be surprising as the Foo Fighters often go the extra mile for fans who wish to own the physical product. Did you collect all eight vinyl covers of Sonic Highways?

The CD, liner notes, and coveted piece of master tape are presented in a gatefold pack, reminiscent of the vinyl release. I know some people don't like this style of CD packaging, but I love it! Japanese Mini-LP’s anyone?

While there isn’t a bad Foo Fighters album, I would have to say Wasting Light is my overall favourite, followed by their Greatest Hits. Yes, I know the greatest hits release isn't an album per se, but it does encapsulate some of their greatest songs into a single album.

Bridge Burning sets the tone for the entire album and does not let up until the final note is played. You get a real sense of energy from the song and Grohl's vocals are incredible in both depth and presentation. Bridge Burning is incredibly addictive and you will feel compelled to move. I strongly suggest not sitting down to listen to this song, or the entire album, as it demands interactivity (get those air guitars, microphones, and drums ready). 

I find the introduction of Rope to be tedious. That is until the chorus enters the mix. Part of the problem is that I feel there are two songs, fighting to be heard, at the beginning of the song. However, it does all fall into place and becomes one of the best songs on the album. The guitar solo is particularly compelling, as is the intermingling drum beat. Massively complex, and I love it!

Dear Rosemary is one of the grooviest songs on Wasting Light. The deep, soulful, yet gritty vocals of Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü & Sugar) is a welcome addition to an exceptional song. It is one of my all-time favourite Foo Fighters songs.

White Limo is guitar riff heaven with a killer bass and drum beat. It is grunge 101, but that isn't a bad thing!

Arlandria shifts the album to a more rhythmic groove, yet this shift feels perfectly natural and I absolutely love this song. It is sonic perfection, with a perfect mix! Alan Moulder, you're a legend for this mix alone.

These Days is simply gorgeous!

Back & Forth is a killer rock tune. The blues-infused rock sound is extremely appealing and while the guitar solo is nothing to write home about, it suits the recording perfectly.

A Matter Of Time is a great tune, but Hawkin's cymbals are particularly affected by the dynamic range compression. I can't help but wonder if the vinyl mastering would fix this issue as it has a reported dynamic range response of 11 out of 20, whereas the CD pressing is a 5. Nevertheless, I still really enjoy the song and I love how it flows seamlessly into the incredible Miss The Misery.

Miss The Misery is one of the best songs on the album and one of the greatest ever recorded by the Foo Fighters. Although, just between you and me, I could say that about the majority of the Foo Fighters recordings. They are simply sensational in every meaning of the word.

I Should Have Known is an incredibly beautiful and emotional song. Grohl's Lennon-inspired vocal style, think Imagine era, is one of the greatest vocal recordings I have ever heard. I put it in the same category as Cobain's vocal on Something In The Way

If any band is struggling to find the perfect song to close an album with, that will encourage the fans to play the album again, then they should most certainly take note of Walk. It encompasses the very best of Wasting Light and the Foo Fighters.

Walk is my desert island song, but Wasting Light is also coming along as it is one of the greatest rock albums in not only the Foo Fighters’ career but in recorded music history.

The catalog number for the CD used in this review is: 88697-84493-2.

Despite the dynamic range compression, the CD sounds exquisite. Therefore, I recommend you track down a copy; if for no other reason than owning a piece of the master tape (only available with the CD release, Vinyl releases unfortunately missed out).

As much as I love the CD, I really should get a copy on vinyl as the album artwork would be stunning. Speaking of artwork, is it just me or did Metallica somewhat copy the concept for Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. Different, I know, but I can't help but see the similarities.

Wasting Light is available on CD, Vinyl, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC) and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Wasting Light on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

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Deep Purple - 30: Very Best Of (Compilation Review)

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Deep Purple - 30: Very Best Of (Compilation Review)

30: Very Best Of Deep Purple was my first foray into the musical world of Deep Purple. While I can’t remember the compelling reason for picking up the compilation, I dare say it may have been due to hearing Child In Time in the film Twister. Mediocre scene, superb song!

As many of you would be aware, music can be a great conversation starter and this album has certainly had that desired effect as many individuals, some whom I assumed would never listen to Deep Purple, professed their love for these timeless classics.

I have always used music in the workplace and this album was no exception. Music has the power to break down the employer/employee relationship and while it never garners considerable benefits, it does help dilute tension. Seriously, when the CEO starts strumming the air guitar, you have connected with the human behind the façade. While all workplaces aren’t always accommodating, or for various factors can’t permit the playback of music, I truly believe music introduces a more relaxed atmosphere that encourages productivity.

Hush (1998 Remastered Version) was an excellent choice to commence the compilation on. From the howl to the rhythmic instrumental introduction, to the vocal dexterity; the entire song is simply awesome!

Black Night (1995 Remastered Version) has a killer guitar riff and beat that will have you moving uncontrollably. Seriously, that guitar work is exquisite and pushes the distortion right to edge, but never results in a sub-standard sonic presentation.

Speed King (Dutch Single - Piano Version) is a Killer song and the piano elements certainly add depth to the song. This song is one of the reasons why Deep Purple is one of the greatest rock bands in music history.

Child In Time (Single Edit) is a sonic masterpiece. Yes, Smoke On The Water is coming up, but Child In Time smokes any other song in Deep Purple's catalogue.

Strange Kind Of Woman has a great groove with an addictive vocal. Sometimes, that is all a good song needs.

Fireball is perhaps the only Deep Purple song, on this compilation, that I don't have much love for. I've simply never been able to connect with the song.

Demon's Eye has a great groove and is musicality pleasing. I really appreciate the slower pace of this song and the tempo works well for the style of music we recognise as Deep Purple‘s signature sound.

Smoke On The Water (1997 Remastered Version) really needs no discussion as that guitar riff says it all. Exceptional!

Highway Star (1997 Remix) is the complete package and while the soundstage is somewhat concealed, it rocks?

When A Blind Man Cries (1997 Remix) is an absolutely amazing composition. Music doesn't get much better than this.

Never Before is a solid rock song, but nothing to write home about.

Woman From Tokyo (Single Edit) is another example of musical perfection. While not an overly complex composition, it ticks all the right boxes.

Burn (2004 Remastered Version) is a great song, but the chaotic intermingling of vocal and instrumental aspects, especially in the verse, can become fatiguing.

Stormbringer (2009 Remastered Version) has a killer groove. I love it!

You Keep On Moving is strangely the final track on the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition of the compilation as the 1998 CD featured three additional tracts, including Perfect Strangers, Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic, and Any Fule Kno That. It is a complete mystery as to why these songs are omitted, especially considering I don’t feel You Keep On Moving is a solid enough song to close the compilation with. The aforementioned songs are truly missed and I wish I had never sold the CD during my idiotic MP3 rules era.

It is interesting, however, that these songs are available on iTunes, should you purchase the entire compilation. On Apple Music, however, the songs are greyed out. Yet, they are included on Spotify (thanks to their compile from any album feature). Basically, it is a bloody mess! The only saving grace for me is that iTunes Match streams all the songs as they were, on the original CD, when I ripped it into iTunes as a series of MP3 files.

Hence, just for you dear readers, I will review these three additional songs. 

Perfect Strangers is one of the greatest rock and roll songs to have ever been recorded. Turn the volume to 11 and enjoy as the musicality is off the charts!

Ted The Mechanic (sic) has a unique style that won’t appeal to everyone and I tend to have a love/hate relationship with it. Depending on the mastering, the song can sound rather shrill, but following the introduction the soundstage expands, becoming a more complete Deep Purple song that I really dig. Regardless, it was always a welcome addition to this collection. 

Any Fule Know That is superb. What an incredible beat! As the former final song on the compilation, it always encouraged me to listen to the album again and stay within the Deep Purple catalogue. Truth be told, I’d often put this song on repeat as it is simply that good!

What is disappointing is how this compilation has been handled over the years. Originally released in 1998, there is no reason why streaming services should have a version that includes remasters from 2004 and 2009.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

Trust me when I say that the original CD was mastered beautifully. I don't know about you, but this constant meddling really irritates me.

Memo to all record labels and musicians: If the original is substandard, don't release it. If you do release it, leave it alone. We don't want your remasters.

This, of course, isn't the first time I have been irritated by different editions and masterings of Deep Purple records. See Deep Purple - Made In Japan (Thoughts On The Many Editions).

Despite the questionable antics, surrounding the various masterings, this compilation is still one of the greatest in the history of recorded music. The cover artwork is exceptional and I'll never forget the starkness of that space purple CD.

From a sonic perspective, you can certainly hear variances between the tracks. While the remastered songs don’t help the situation, it is also plausible that this is simply a result of songs being recorded at different studios and at different stages in Deep Purple’s career. That said, at no time does this distract from the enjoyment of the compilation. It really is the very best of Deep Purple!

Deep Purple - 30: Very Best Of is available on CD and iTunes. There is also an extended Special Collectors Edition available on iTunes, albeit with a completely different tracking.

If you prefer streaming, the compilation is also available on Spotify (Standard Edition/Special Collectors Edition) and Apple Music (Standard Edition/Special Collectors Edition).

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Sound City (Documentary Film Review)

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Sound City (Documentary Film Review)

You may know him as the drummer from Nirvana, or the founder and lead singer of the Foo Fighters, but what you may not know is Dave Grohl is equally comfortable behind the lens in the director’s chair. In his debut directorial role, Grohl delivers the endearing documentary film, Sound City.

We are often used to the film star wanting to be a rock star, but seldom does it go the other way. Yes, Rob Zombie has had success in recent years with his Horror flicks, but this isn't your average crossover as Grohl plays to his strengths, producing and directing one of the most intriguing music-themed documentaries in recent times. It also doesn’t hurt to have a Rolodex that includes John Fogerty, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Rick Rubin, Rick Springfield, Corey Taylor, Neil Young, and Paul McCartney.

The documentary itself is told beautifully, by the people who worked at the once great Sound City Studios and the musicians who recorded there. Paul Crowder (also editor of Ron Howard's The Beatles: Eight Days A Week) expertly compiles this intermingling tale that talks about the rise and fall of a highly sort after recording studio as the industry made the transition from tape-based recording methods to digital-based recording systems.

It is difficult to not get carried away with the emotion shown by Grohl and his peers. You will laugh, you will empathise, but you will never look for the remote as the narrative is captivating.

On cursory examination, Sound City is aimed squarely at music lovers, but while it examines the effect that technology has had on the music industry, specifically from a recording standpoint, it speaks to a much larger debate regarding the effect technology has on society and culture. It is this unique approach that will undoubtedly generate interest by music lovers and documentary film buffs alike.

The filming of the documentary is immaculate and for a directorial debut, Grohl will have no detractors.

If you believe a quality soundtrack is of considerable importance, you won’t be disappointed. This is certainly not a film that you will want to watch with only your television speakers. Yes, I believe a film’s sound is fifty percent of the experience and while the film contains samples of some of the most recognisable recordings in history, it also features new and engaging compositions that were also released as a soundtrack album.

Perhaps the only disappointment is the final thirty minutes of the film where the documentary shifts focus to the recording of the soundtrack. It almost feels as though this should have been bonus content, and I can’t help but wonder if it couldn’t have been dispersed more thoroughly throughout the documentary. That said, it is utterly fascinating to see musicians like Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, and Paul McCartney share the studio with the Foo Fighters in a jazz-like jam session.

Overall there isn't a dull moment to be seen here. Even if you’re not a music fan it is an intriguing and entertaining look at a side of the industry that is less star-studded and glamorous, but nevertheless essential. 

Sound City is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and for rental and purchase on iTunes.

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