Midnight Oil – Head Injuries (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil – Head Injuries (Album Review)

Head Injuries has to have one of the most recognisable Australian album covers in existence that truly captures the energy of the entire album and band. It certainly is an improvement over the visual absence of their debut album Midnight Oil, although many bands over the years have successfully adopted this simple design element that is as compelling as it is confusing.

As much as I adore the music from their debut album, it is fair to say that as a follow-up, Head Injuries takes their music to an entirely new level that is more reminiscent of the production qualities found in their later works. However, the shift between albums is more evolutionary than revolutionary; unlike Queen’s transition from their early albums.

Cold Cold Change has, in my opinion, one of the greatest guitar-driven introductions in rock music history. You can’t help but get your air guitar out and bounce across the room. It may just be the remastering of this song, but the hi-hats sound mashed to pieces. To me, the musicality of the piece just sounds a little hollow, as though too much treble has been dialled in. That, of course, doesn’t prevent me from thoroughly enjoying this ripper rock and roll track, but it is one aspect that I hope is addressed in the upcoming reissues. Thinking about vinyl production for a moment, this is one track that I’m sure would benefit from vinyl mastering and playback limitations.

Section 5 (Bus To Bondi) returns the band to their punk roots and reminds me of a band that were at their peak during the same era: 999 (Nine Nine Nine). Section 5 (Bus To Bondi) is fun and full of energy. While not my favourite song on the album, it does grow on you. Yes, even the self-serving guitar solo midway through the song.

Naked Flame has an incredible rhythm and I absolutely love Garrett’s high-pitched vocal introduction. I will probably get crucified for this comment, but songs like this make me immediately ponder if Midnight Oil was Australia’s answer to Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones. That isn’t to say any copy-cat action was taking place, just that it is interesting to ponder the thoughts of the mind as one is enjoying the music. I should also add that I don’t subscribe to the theory that Aerosmith is a carbon copy of The Rolling Stones. Yes, I can see the similarities, but claiming this to be the case undermines the longevity and success that Aerosmith has had. Despite all this, Naked Flame is an incredible song with some simply gorgeous guitar work and backing vocals. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and in their entire catalogue. In fact, this song is much more worthy of being included on a greatest hits album than Back On The Borderline.

Back On The Borderline is a good song, but I feel it is overrated. I know it is a Midnight Oil staple, but it has always been one of their songs that I have to be in the mood to listen to.

Koala Spirit has a Lou Reed vocal style that works extremely well for not only Garrett but the entire song. The composition while erratic is utterly perfect. Koala Spirit is both mellow and heavy hitting with an incredible level of musicality from the band. I absolutely adore the musical chorus throughout. It simply has the goods and delivers an exceptional performance in every meaning of the word. Unlike the poor mastering that is present in Cold Cold Change, Koala Spirit is simply magnificent. As I’m writing this review and listening to the album countless times, I am drawn to my own subjective thoughts regarding the songs that I would place on a Greatest Hits album by Midnight Oil. I dare say it would be significantly different to all that have come before.

No Reaction is the perfect song for you headbangers out there. It will get you moving and if you only ever listen to music to toe tap and head bop, then you should simply move on to the next song as this one is not for you. It is Australian rock and roll at its best.

Stand In Line has a Skyhooks vibe and I absolutely love the depth of the drums and the forward nature of the bass guitar throughout the song. As I listen to the song, I can understand exactly where Garrett's dishevelled dance moves come from. Your body simply relaxes and you move without conscious thought as you become one with the music. It is exceptionally enjoyable!

Profiteers slows the album down somewhat. The first minute or so of the song is a confused mess, but then the song comes into its own. It isn’t the greatest song on the album, but it isn’t filler either. Although, it is more instrumentally focused than the other songs on the album and that may put some listeners off. Personally, I enjoy rock and roll albums that have an instrumental focus.

Is It Now? has a very familiar guitar riff, yet I can’t place it. Perhaps the riffs have been mimicked over the years, hence the familiarity. However, Is It Now? suffers from the bad mastering that was present at the beginning of the album. If all songs, on this remaster, were done by the same mastering engineer then this discrepancy shouldn’t be present. I can’t help but wonder if the songs that suffer from the mashed percussions weren’t the result of variances in the recording sessions. Regardless, Is It Now? is still a memorable song and as the final track on the album, it does encourage me to listen to the album once again.

Head Injuries is currently available on CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. Streamers can listen to the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music. For those of you interested in the vinyl release, you will have to wait until the release of the Deluxe Box Set as there has been no news about this album being re-issued separately. As mentioned in my Midnight Oil review, depending on how successful the re-issues are, I would assume it is likely that these albums will also be released separately, in order to capitalise on the 2017 concerts, just don't quote me on it!

This review was based on listening to the 2008 remastered edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Other than the mastering variances, throughout the album, it is an exceptional release that should be part of any collection or playlist. As far as I am concerned, it sits amongst some of the best Australian rock albums and would certainly be included in my top 100 of all time.

There is little doubt, knowing Midnight Oil’s later works, that I will be picking up one of the new collections when they are released. Based on listening to Head Injuries, I have a feeling that I will order the box set through Matau Records as I have no doubt the Head Injuries album cover would look exceptional in the vinyl format. I’m also sincerely hoping the mastering artefacts, that I have heard on the existing remasters, are removed from the vinyl mastering process. I guess time will tell and it will all depend on which masters they decided to use for the project.

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Jen Gloeckner – VINE Album Review

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Jen Gloeckner – VINE Album Review

The sheer talent that our world has to offer never ceases to amaze me. I am constantly blown away by the music that I have yet to discover and Jen Gloeckner’s new album VINE is no exception.

As I listen to VINE, I am drawn to the atmospheric depth of the album. The overall soundstage and sonic presentation truly defy explanation and the only way to fully appreciate this sonic masterpiece is to listen to it for yourself. That said, I will offer you, dear reader, my own subjective opinion and trust that I can capture a mere fraction of the essence that is Jen Gloeckner’s VINE.

Whenever I commence a review, I like to do a little background research. Sometimes it is to clarify facts, other times it is for no other reason than mere curiosity. Curiously, Gloeckner’s Twitter account simply states in the about section: Living, dreaming, singing. I found that tidbit of information intriguing as listening to Gloeckner’s music truly gives you a sense of life being merged with dreams, culminating in song. However, that wasn’t the only astonishing revelation I came across as I found out the album was produced and recorded entirely in Gloeckner’s bedroom. I kid you not, it is stated in the liner notes! The reason I bring it up is that I am simply amazed that such an epic performance could be captured in a non-traditional location. While I acknowledge that the recording studio is also not always the greatest location for numerous reasons, I can’t help but wonder how much the aforementioned culmination of life and dreams were as a direct result of the recording location. Regardless, it has resulted in an album that is a must listen for anyone who is interested in ambient music with a touch of seductively haunting vocals.

Vine is, as many of the songs are, a sonic wonderland that is not only beautiful but mystical and haunting. The song is incredibly relaxing as Gloeckner’s vocal delivery is perfectly suited to this style of music.

Firefly (War Dance) increases the rhythm of the album. It is primarily an instrumental track with vocal interludes throughout. It reminds me of Enya, Kate Bush, and even Jamiroquai. I simply love it!

Breathe is a perfectly balanced song. Rather than simply listening to the song, you become immersed in the soundstage as the song builds around you. That is certainly the feeling I get when I listen to the album with headphones. It is strange at first because so very few songs are recorded and mastered in this manner, but I appreciate the inclusive feeling as it brings me one step closer to the musician. Breathe also showcases the incredible control and clarity Gloeckner has over her vocal delivery.

Ginger Ale has me swaying from side to side. I can’t stress how much I am enjoying the mix and mastering of this album. You honestly get the feeling that you are the only person present in a personal concert with Gloeckner at the helm. The more I listen to Ginger Ale, the more I want to play it. It is nothing short of exceptional and is one of the best new songs I have heard this year.

The Last Thought has an oriental feel that I enjoy, but I don’t find myself connecting with this song as much as I have with the previous tracks. That isn’t to say it is bad, just that Ginger Ale is a hard act to follow. I also feel there is a lack of vocal depth between the vocal interludes. It subsequently reduces the echo that I assume Gloeckner was aiming for. That all said, it is still a very pleasant song.

Blowing Through is a lovely composition, but I would love to hear more separation between Gloeckner’s vocal and the backing instrumental track as her vocal gets lost in the soundstage. A couple of decibel drop in the instrumental track would be perfect in my option.

Counting Sheep is a lovely song that will help you go to sleep! Seriously, it is so soothing that I couldn’t initially describe the feeling. At first, I wondered if the song simply wasn’t appealing to me, yet I wanted to listen to it again and again. At the same time, by the end of each listen, I could have quite happy slipped into sleep. It is unique and perhaps the best thing I can say about Counting Sheep is that you should listen to it for yourself and as you close your eyes, see where the darkness and dreams take you.

Prayers, by comparison to Counting Sheep, will wake you from your slumber with an increased rhythmic beat. I absolutely love the raw feminine tonality of Gloeckner’s vocal in this song. However, I am less pleased with the level of distortion that is present as I find it distracting.

Colors is a simply stunning song.

Row With The Flow has a really intriguing backing vocal throughout the chorus. It is almost demonic sounding in an otherwise peaceful song. It reminds me of the style I would normally associate with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. When I first heard Row With The Flow I was unsure if I liked it, but it does grow on you the more you listen to the song.

I am Sold on this album! On a serious note, Sold closes out the album perfectly. The song itself is unlike any other on the album, yet it is strangely familiar and encourages me to listen to the album once again. I also love the gradual reduction in volume towards the end of the track. This technique is present across the entire album and it is a shame that it is not as common a practice amongst musicians as it once was.

VINE is an album that I implore you to listen to, if not purchase, as it is truly worth the investment. Having never heard Gloeckner’s work before, I can say with complete honesty that I am now a fan. I’m also looking forward to exploring her back catalogue, reviewing albums such as Miles Away and Mouth Of Mars.

This review was based on listening to an MP3 320kbps edition of the album that was provided to me by the artist’s management. While I would usually prefer to review an album based on FLAC CD-quality tracks, with a bit rate of 1,411 kbps, I can assure you that the mastering is done so well that I’m sure I couldn’t tell the difference if I had both editions side-by-side. VINE once again proves that if an album is well recorded and mastered, then the delivery format need not be a contentious issue. The bottom line is: regardless of how you listen to this album, your ears will thank you.

VINE will be available for purchase via bandcamp and the artist’s website at jengloeckner.com. The album will also be available on iTunes and all popular streaming services from April 14, 2017.

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Midnight Oil - Self-Titled Debut Album Review

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Midnight Oil - Self-Titled Debut Album Review

On May 5th, Midnight Oil is set to re-issue their entire catalogue in a Deluxe Vinyl Box Set, along with The Full Tank and The Over Flow Tank CD-based collections that are sure to appeal to many Midnight Oil fans.

While I do consider myself to be a fan of this iconic Australian band, I must admit that I have never really focused my attention toward their albums. Various singles and compilations have always given me my Midnight Oil fix. However, with the re-issues on the horizon, I thought it would be a good idea to review their catalogue of albums in order to ascertain if these new releases are worthy of inclusion in my collection.

I'm not currently sold on the vinyl box set as it is rather plain, especially when compared to the Tank editions. However, one of the key issues to be considered is the cost. At AU$299 for each Tank edition and AU$499 for the vinyl box set, one must truly appreciate the majority of their work, not just the singles and compilations as I have in the past.

I find it interesting that the CD collection is AU$200 cheaper than the vinyl release. Some of you may point out the differences in artwork and sonic representation and that would be totally valid. Although I believe Steve Smart of Studios 301 in Sydney remastered both sets of releases from the original tapes, hence there will be some consistency in the mastering and quite frankly mastering efficiency trumps format comparisons. Plus, if I want the previously unreleased material, then that is only available with The Over Flow Tank release.

Throughout the coming weeks I will be reviewing each album from their catalogue while discussing my thoughts and the decision making process, ultimately culminating in declaring my final purchase decision when I review the final Midnight Oil album Capricornia. Until then, let's take a look at their 1978 self-titled release, Midnight Oil.

Midnight Oil while their first release under that moniker, was not the origin of the band as prior to this release they were known on the Sydney pub scene as Farm. Farm was originally formed in 1972 and while this self-titled release is significantly different in style and composition to their later albums, such as Diesel and Dust or Blue Sky Mining, there is a certain level of polish and musicality that comes through in this Punk/Progressive Rock release, proving that the many nights spent traversing the Sydney pubs certainly provided a worthy training ground. As I listen to this debut album, I can't help but feel the energy that the band must have had when performing live. To say that this is one of the greatest debut albums wouldn't be an understatement, but I know many who would disagree with my subjective opinion.

Recorded in the September of 1978, Midnight Oil heralded a singular single, Run By Night. While I don't feel that it is the strongest song on the album, especially in an era when radio play was an essential element separating success from obscurity, it is a solid punk-inspired rock tune that highlights the recognisable tonality of Garrett's vocal delivery.

Opening Midnight Oil, Powderworks is erratic, yet organised in composition. You immediately get the sense that this is a band that is very familiar with playing in garages and pubs. I adore the guitar soloing mid-song and while the song is rough around the edges, it isn't a bad entry for the album. That said, in the era of music streaming you would be forgiven if you gave the album a miss based on this introduction track. Perhaps I am being overly harsh as the song would be genuinely enjoyable for fans of the band, but I fear new listeners may not feel the same way. 

Head Over Heels begins with a lovely guitar introduction that continues throughout much of the song. One element you will notice on Midnight Oil is the extended soloing. While some may not appreciate this showmanship, I find it to be suited to the songs and the overall sound of the album. Also of note is the layered instrumental backing. While it does force Garrett's vocals to be somewhat hidden in the soundstage, it is perfectly executed and my subjective feeling is that Head Over Heels is one of the strongest songs on the album.

Dust is a really interesting song. It is punk rock meets jazz. I know that sounds strange, but when you listen to it, you will understand what I mean. There is a distinct jazz fusion inspired feel to the song that is strangely compelling. The album wouldn't be complete without it and it is another highlight from this self-titled release. 

Used And Abused speeds the album back up to punk rock speed. Musically I thoroughly enjoy this song, but I don't feel Garrett's vocals were well executed on this song. As a result, I honestly feel that it could have been left as an awesome instrumental only track as the electric guitar work is once again glorious.

Surfing With A Spoon is a gorgeous track with a beautiful minute-long introduction. As I reflect on this song, I have to admit that the entire composition is a masterpiece that certainly merges punk-rock/pop with progressive rock elements. It is not only one of the best songs on the album, but one of their greatest.

While I have already discussed the album's only single, Run By Night, I feel it is important to note how well this song fits into the tracking of the album. There really isn't a song out of place on the entire album and Run By Night certainly grows on you the more you listen to it.

Nothing Lost - Nothing Gained is a sonic masterpiece that compels you to listen to the album again. In my opinion, it is the best song on the album with a perfect beat and gorgeous electric guitar riffs. It doesn't get much better than this as Garrett's vocal delivery is also perfectly suited for this song.

Midnight Oil is an exceptional debut release that should be in everyone's collection. It is currently available on CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. Streamers can listen to the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music. For those of you interested in the vinyl release, you will have to wait until the release of the Deluxe Box Set as there has been no news about this album being re-issued separately. Depending on how successful the re-issues are, I would assume it is likely that these albums will also be released separately, in order to capitalise on the 2017 concerts, just don't quote me on it!

This review was based on listening to the remastered edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. While I have never heard the original release, sonically Midnight Oil is appealing and doesn't cause listener fatigue when listening on speakers. Headphones, by comparison, will bring you closer to the recording, but it does tend to present a shallower soundstage that is a little more jarring. This is most likely a result of the remastering process rather than the original recording. That said, I find Midnight Oil to be one of the few rock-based albums that can be enjoyed at any volume level. Seriously, try to listen to AC/DC at any volume below 60%. Yes, it's doable, but the experience is lacklustre. That certainly isn't the case with 'The Oils' debut release.

Overall, I find that I am enamoured with Midnight Oil and if this album is any indication, the box sets are going to be well worth the investment.

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Barry Gibb – In The Now (Deluxe Edition CD Review)

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Barry Gibb – In The Now (Deluxe Edition CD Review)

In November 2016, I reviewed the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition of In The Now. While my opinion of the album remains unchanged, I did want to comment on the Deluxe Edition CD as it includes three additional songs that are exclusive to this release.

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The Deluxe Edition CD comes in a standard jewel case and includes a full-featured liner notes booklet. However, the lyrics for the bonus tracks are omitted. Interestingly, the liner note credits for these additional tracks are included behind the CD storage shell, rather than in the master booklet. This has most likely been done as a cost saving measure and while it isn’t a major issue, I would like to see more effort put into releases that are considered to be deluxe. While the additional tracks are most important, a redesigned booklet and digipak presentation would have made this collector very happy.

Another interesting omission, in the liner notes booklet, is the lack of photographs with Gibb and his sons Stephen and Ashley. Both his sons were instrumental in the writing of the album and it seems to be a missed opportunity, much like a deluxe edition that isn’t all that deluxe and the vinyl release isn’t all that limited. Nevertheless, Gibb’s sons are certainly credited for their contributions and perhaps their exclusion is an attempt to highlight Gibb as a solo performer and avoid obvious comparisons between this work and that of the Bee Gees trio.

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Regardless, the recording is exceptional and Bob Ludwig has once again blown me away with a mastering job that is spot on. When comparing the CD to the TIDAL edition, both are tonally and dynamically identical to my ears. That said, at the same volume levels, using the same equipment, I did notice a slight increase in the bass frequencies of the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition. This minor variation could be due to a number of factors, but unless you’re going to listen to both versions side-by-side, this comparison is moot.

So, are the additional three tracks worth it? Absolutely!

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I do wish that the album had been re-tracked, rather than adding the bonus tracks to the end of the album. I say this because I still believe that End Of The Rainbow is the perfect song to close this album on. That shouldn’t take anything away from the additional tracks, as they are exceptional, but it does change the feeling of the album, especially when the first additional track, Grey Ghost, is quite a musical shift from End Of The Rainbow. Grey Ghost has an oriental influence that is lovely in its own right, although it isn’t the strongest song in Gibb’s collection and it causes the album to become disjointed.

Daddy’s Little Girl, by comparison, is simply gorgeous and should have been included with the standard release of the album. Perhaps it is meaningful to me as my own daughter is fast becoming a teenager and there will be a day, in the not too distant future, when the meaning of this song will truly become relevant. I don’t like to think about it, but at least my daughter and I will have this song to reflect upon. The song features some exquisite guitar work and Gibb’s vocal reaches out and will touch your soul.

Soldier’s Son is epic! The beat, the tonality of vocal, the instrumentation, the guitar work, simply everything just fits into place perfectly. While this song becomes a fitting end to the Deluxe Edition CD, I still prefer End Of The Rainbow for it’s inferred meaning.

It really doesn’t matter which edition of In The Now you decide to listen to. As an album and a piece of art, In The Now will appeal to fans of Gibb and the Bee Gees alike. The Deluxe Edition CD was certainly worth picking up and it gives me great joy to add it to my CD collection.

The standard edition of In The Now is also available for purchase on Vinyl, CD, iTunes, and in 16/44 FLAC from the TIDAL Store.

The standard edition is also available for streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

If you enjoyed this review, make sure you check out the reviews for Bee Gees – Extended (RSD 2015 Edition) and Robin Gibb's – 50 St. Catherine's Drive (TIDAL Hi-Fi).

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Andrea Bocelli – Cinema (Deluxe Edition CD Review)

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Andrea Bocelli – Cinema (Deluxe Edition CD Review)

Every now and then an album comes along that is the pinnacle of perfection. Cinema is just that as it blew my mind the first time I listened to it. While I am well aware of Bocelli’s work, having been a fan since his Romanza album in 1994, I wasn’t prepared for the quality of his latest work Cinema. There is little doubt regarding Bocelli’s exceptional talent, but I feel that recent albums, such as Passione, didn’t showcase his true potential. That said, I appreciate films and their associated scores, hence it could very well be my own subjectivity that passes judgement against this recent work. Regardless, the song selection and tracking on Cinema is perfect. The songs not only bring out the best in Bocelli, but many of these interpretations surpass their original compositions.

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The Deluxe Edition CD is housed in a beautiful tri-fold digipak with full featured liner notes. The booklet is presented so well that I can honestly say it is one of the most detailed I have seen in recent years. It describes not only the inspiration and history of the songs, but all production elements are meticulously added. This level of detail is what audiophiles ask for but rarely get. It is wonderful to see this level of production, given the CD format has been faltering in sales recently.

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There is a vinyl edition of Cinema, but I won’t be adding it to my collection. The CD offers one of the best masterings in my collection. If you want a CD that is reference quality, for auditioning new hardware, just use this one. This is how digital music should sound and proves that CD is a truly capable medium that has, more often than not, never been utilised to its full potential. Subsequently, I see no justification for higher resolution editions of this album, especially considering the audiophile 96kHz/24bit edition from HDtracks features exactly the same dynamic range as that available on the CD. While I have yet to see dynamic range numbers for the vinyl release, I think we could confidently assume that it would have been created from the same Hi-res master used for both HDtracks and the CD, therefore resulting in no improved dynamic range. The only benefit may be the analogue sound that some listeners may prefer. Although, as much as I love vinyl, I prefer listening to classical music in a high-quality digital format as the organic surface noise of vinyl can be distracting in low volume passages.

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Maria (from “West Side Story”) is simply a gorgeous song that is perfectly suited for the tenor voice. While I’m not sure it is the best interpretation of the song, it is amongst the best and is thoroughly pleasing.

La Chanson De Lara (from “Doctor Zhivago”) is incredibly moving. It encourages the man with two left feet to dance with his significant other. It also reminds me of how exceptional the film Doctor Zhivago is. In fact, Doctor Zhivago is my second favourite film of all time, second only to Casablanca.

Moon River (from “Breakfast At Tiffany’s) is beautiful. When I think of this song, it is with Frank Sinatra in mind as I have always preferred his version. However, Bocelli has made this song his own while paying homage to the classical renditions by Sinatra and many others. It is sensational!

E Pit Ti Penso [duet with Ariana Grande] (from “Once Upon A Time In America”) is a song that I’m unfamiliar with, but I love it when Bocelli does duets as the intermingling vocals are always respectfully done and in cohesion. It is a beautiful song and worthy of inclusion on Cinema. I certainly look forward to hearing it many more times over the coming years.

Be My Love (from “The Toast Of New Orleans”) is another song I am unfamiliar with, yet it sounds somewhat familiar. Regardless, Bocelli delivers another stunning performance that works perfectly with his vocal register.

The Music Of The Night (from “Phantom Of The Opera”) is one of the most recognisable pieces of music in the world. Personally, I consider Michael Crawford’s interpretation to be the one to beat. No-one else has ever come close in my opinion. That said, I’m extremely impressed with Bocelli’s rendition and I have a feeling that even Michael Crawford would acknowledge this as nothing short of a stellar performance. If you haven’t already got your stereo turned up to ear-bleeding levels, you will definitely want to turn that volume knob to the right. Bocelli is absolutely amazing!

Brucia La Terra (from “The Godfather”) is one of my favourite film-based songs. I’ve been a fan of The Godfather series for decades and while the original song is superb, it is nothing like this. Bocelli has left me speechless and all I can say is: Wow!

Por Una Cabeza (from “Scent Of A Woman”) picks up the pace a little from the solemn notes of Brucia La Terra, but it doesn’t feel out of place. Personally, I feel it was a wise tracking choice as there is a similar vocal tonality throughout this song, despite the obvious shift in tempo.

No Llores Por Mi Argentina [duet with Nicole Scherzinger] (from “Evita”) reminds me vividly of the exceptional Elaine Paige version. However, I feel Bocelli and Scherzinger have done an exceptional job with this song. I can’t help but wonder if they also recorded the English version. That said, the utilisation of foreign tongue in music doesn’t concern me, especially when the performing artists are so incredibly talented and blessed with voices that instrumentalise emotion more succinctly than any instrument is capable of.

L’Amore E Una Cosa Meravigliosa (from “Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing”) is a beautiful song that I am not familiar with. That said, I truly appreciate a compilation-styled album such as this because it expands one’s musical appreciation into a series of songs that one may otherwise have never heard. It still amazes me how much beautiful music exists in the world and I can only imagine how much I have yet to experience.

Mi Mancherai (from “Il Postino: The Postman”) takes you on a musical journey that is simply exquisite.

Cheek To Cheek [duet with Veronica Berti] (from “Top Hat”) is an incredible song and while it has been played and interpreted numerous times, it never gets old. My personal favourite rendition, however, is the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recording from their 1956 album Ella And Louis. As good as the Bocelli/Berti version is, no one does it better than Fitzgerald and Armstrong in my opinion. That said, I would love to see Bocelli do more jazz-inspired songs as his vocal capabilities are perfectly suited to that style of music.

Sorridi Amore Vai (from “Life Is Beautiful”) is a beautiful song. As I listen, I remain amazed at the restraint that Bocelli has on his vocal performance. Many artists tend to reach too high and it sounds forced. As far as I can recall, I have never heard Bocelli extend his vocal beyond the requirements of a song. It is this professionalism that makes him one of the best vocalists in the world.

Historian De Amor (from “Love Story”) is a song I absolutely adore and I don’t recall ever hearing a bad rendition of it. Bocelli's interpretation carries on that trend and is an absolute pleasure to listen to.

Ol’ Man River (from “Show Boat”) is a song that I’m not overly familiar with and is probably the one song that I feel doesn’t fit well on the album. Bocelli’s vocals just don’t seem well suited to this song. That isn’t to say it is bad, but it doesn’t reach me on an emotional level.

Nelle Tue Mani [Now We Are Free] (from “Gladiator”) is one of the most stunning songs on the album and in any film that I can recall. It is moving and emotionally engaging. While I felt the film was lacklustre, this song is completely opposite as it empowers the listener and creates a sonic visualisation that is incredibly vivid. Bocelli’s performance is simply flawless. We, as music lovers, are truly blessed to have such sonic perfection in our lives. It literally brings me to tears.

Mere words can not explain just how moving this album is and how perfect the performance and production is from start to finish. While Bocelli is most certainly the star attraction and performs flawlessly, this album has an A-list of who’s who in the musical and studio production world. While this review would never end if I mentioned them all, all I can say is a sincere thank you to everyone involved in the making of Cinema.

Music simply doesn’t get any better than this and while Cinema is available on vinyl, the Deluxe Edition CD is all you will ever need to truly enjoy this masterpiece. Plus, if you play albums as I do, you will wear out the vinyl edition from the inability to put the record back on the shelf. It really is that good!

For those of you who are interested in streaming, the Deluxe Edition is unavailable. However, both the Standard 13-track and 19-track Special Edition of Cinema are currently available on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

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Shy Girls – Salt (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

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Shy Girls – Salt (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

We all know what alternative rock and roll is, but alternative pop and R&B is somewhat new territory; at least to me, it is. Leading me through this new found musical landscape is Shy Girls. Shy Girls is the performance vehicle for the solo works of Dan Vidmar, but there is nothing shy about the music employed on the Salt album. It is bold, daring, and doesn’t conform to traditional styles of music.

The album artwork is exceptional and while this is obviously a TIDAL Hi-Fi review, I have to say that this is still the reason to collect vinyl; although my iPad Pro does showcase the artwork nicely. That said, I can’t help but wonder why liner notes in the digital age seem to be more complicated to reproduce than their physical counterparts.

Intro is a sonic overture full of vocal improvisations. It reminds me of the vocal techniques used by Daniel Johns on his exceptional album Talk. It is a lovely way to start the album and a perfect introduction for You Like The Pain Too, whereby this vocal interlude continues as part of the overall harmony. In places, You Like The Pain Too feels as though there is some jazz inspiration that has been uniquely mixed with a hip-hop style sound. It is different, but truly captivating with an incredibly immersive soundstage.

Watercolor Dreams has a killer introduction with tones so low that they sound like they are coming from underwater. It instantly reminds me of the sound found on …And Then Shoot Your Cousin, by The Roots. The subsonic presentation alone will test the bass response of your audio gear, but thanks to the clarity of TIDAL Hi-Fi and the accuracy of the Oppo HA-2, the Bose Lifestyle 235 Series II system can perform at its very best. There is no unintended distortion present in this exceptional song. It is a pure joy to listen to and you will feel this track resonate with your soul. I’m a true believer of feeling music, as well as hearing it, as it brings you closer to the music.

Trivial Motion permits the body to sway and tap to the incredible bass beat. The one amazing thing about this song, and most of the songs on this album, is that the bass beats are not overused to whereby they drown out other aspects of the music. Actually, while I don’t have exact dynamic range figures to quote, this recording would have to be a 10+ out of 20. It is just so atmospheric that I am blown away. The vocals are clear and well defined and never demoted to being just another instrument in the soundstage.

Why I Love also has a gorgeous beat and it is clear that Shy Girls isn’t just a thrown together album. This is true talent and Vidmar has a real understanding of music composition both from a listener standpoint and technical execution. Plus, if I haven’t mentioned it already, he has an exceptionally smooth high-toned vocal. You will close your eyes, sway to the harmonics, and sing the chorus ‘that’s why I love’ with as much vigour as Vidmar. The grungy acoustic guitar that closes out the song creates a perfect closing point.

Say You Will is exceptional. The vocal presentation is incredible, as is the beat that despite vibrating your teeth, never distorts. It is impressive to see such professionalism and refrain shown in this song. Songs like this can be a disaster as they can be taken too far. This is not the case with Say You Will. If you like Ed Sheeran, you’re going to love this song.

What If I Can is a song that I haven’t truly connected with it. The vocal and beat feel disjointed to me. My mind is unsure of which aspect of the composition to primarily listen to as both elements are fighting to be heard. I do, however, enjoy the horn-styled instrumental ending of the song.

Time (Hell Won’t Wait For Us) is exceptional!

I Am Only A Man is a good song, but I feel the vocal tracking lets this song down. The vocal is somewhat lost in the mix and I’d love to see it further forward in the soundstage. The musical elements are very enjoyable, but this is definitely a B-side in my opinion.

Collecting is quite different to the rest of the album. The bass beat is removed to make way for a vocal and piano based performance. To be completely honest, I’m unsure of how I feel about this song. It does encourage me to listen to the album again, but I just don’t feel a strong association to this song.

Salt is an amazing album that will appeal to many music lovers of various genres. There is something here for everyone. It is immersive, unique, and will push your equipment beyond their limits. You will honestly sit in pure wonderment as you ponder how Shy Girls was able to compose such an incredible soundstage throughout the entire album.

The TIDAL Hi-Fi stream is flawless and while it is all you would ever need, I strongly encourage you to seek out the vinyl release; I know I will be.

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Ryan Hurd – An Introduction To A New Country Music Star (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

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Ryan Hurd – An Introduction To A New Country Music Star (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

Country Music and I have a love/hate relationship. I truly enjoy the genre, but I find that there is a lot of country music that I just can’t relate to, therefore I don’t listen to the genre as often as I would like. That said, I can listen to Achy Breaky Heart anytime and I sincerely encourage you all to take a listen to Some Gave All as the debut album from Billy Ray Cyrus is extremely good. I feel the music we are hearing from Ryan Hurd is as revolutionary as that which Cyrus introduced in the early 90s. Hurd obviously has a different sound and technique, but he is revolutionising what country music is by combining more recording and production elements from the breadth of country, rock, and pop music. I don’t necessarily want to say that Hurd is making accessible country music, but his musical style will certainly appeal to a mainstream audience.

While Hurd’s debut album has yet to be released, he has released four incredible singles that I have been playing continuously. If these songs are any indication of the quality we can expect on the album, then I have no doubt that Ryan Hurd will be the next great country music star. After all, he has already penned music for Jake Owen, Tim McGraw, and many others including a No.1 hit duet, Lonely Tonight, recorded by Blake Shelton and Ashley Monroe.

Hold You Back has a hypnotic beat that is immediately addictive. It is easy to sing-a-long to as your body sways uncontrollably from side to side. However, the most compelling aspect is the forward presentation of Hurd’s vocal track. Actually, his vocal is prominent in all the songs currently released, ensuring it doesn’t get lost in the instrumental accompaniment. While this technique is common in country music, I feel that modern recording techniques have lessened vocal presentation due to their overly compressed nature. That all said, I absolutely adore the electric guitar solo in this song. It blends in perfectly and isn’t too long. 

City Girl is country music intertwined with soft rock and pop. It is exceptional! I particularly enjoy the variances in vocal pace throughout the song. I could honestly listen to Hurd’s vocal performance all day; he is an exceptional vocalist. 

Love In A Bar is an atmospheric song that gradually introduces musical elements as the song progresses. Personally, I love music that starts simply and becomes more involved as it takes the listener on a sonic journey. A gorgeous guitar solo makes another appearance in this song and is similarly well restrained. 

We Do Us is really upbeat and while unmistakably country, it is pop-driven country music that will appeal to a larger audience. We Do Us is, in my opinion, the weakest of the first four singles that Hurd has released, specifically in highlighting the musical talents of his vocal performance. That said, his vocal presentation is perfect for this style of song.

Ryan Hurd is an exceptionally talented country music performer that is also capable of diversification. I can’t wait to hear his debut album. Until then, I will have to be content with the four singles, and three music videos, provided by TIDAL Hi-Fi. The soundstage of these performances is wide and welcoming, with little to no dynamic range compression. The sound is most certainly country, but limiting it to this genre would be a mistake as Hurd offers a style of music that would be perfect at any country music festival, as well as any big city stadium.

Seriously, add Ryan Hurd to your music library. You won’t regret it!

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The xx – I See You (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

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The xx – I See You (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

An interesting dichotomy occurs when we listen to music. The more we listen, the more we find that we like, or dislike, a particular song or album. Yet, this contrast is unexplainable as there is no guarantee which emotion we will feel. Yes, there are many who wish that Celine Dion’s songs will simply cease going on and on, and some who want to miss everything Aerosmith sings about. Then there is The xx, a band that I had completely ignored until their latest release. Initially, as I sampled the tracks from I See You, I was unsure if I even wanted to listen to the album. I felt as thought there was something missing, but I remained intrigued and kept sampling the tracks to try and figure out what it was.

This previous weekend as our family set off on a road trip, I decided to download I See You in TIDAL Hi-Fi’s offline mode. For those interested, the two other albums I downloaded for the drive were Sepultura’s Machine Messiah and the classical album Cantillation Allegra: Miserere. Yes, dear reader, my music interests are vast and I have no issue whatsoever in changing between these two styles of music. That said, my significant other rolled her eyes elegantly as I made the change. Nevertheless, the time had come for The xx’s I See You to take a virtual spin.

One would think that a 2016-model motor vehicle would have a respectable stereo system, but I am constantly let down by the unit’s internal DAC, so I devised an experiment to see if I could get a better, more accurate, sound reproduction from the stock stereo. Using Oppo’s remarkable HA-2 DAC, I ran the signal directly from my iPhone, via the lighting to USB adapter into the DAC. Then I ran a 3.5mm to 3.5mm stereo cable from the HA-2’s Line Output to the Line Input on the car stereo. This process bypasses the car stereo’s inferior DAC and merely requires the car stereo to handle the amplification process; a task it can handle admirably.

Listening to an album in this manner may never be a perfect way to audition and review and music, but the fact remains that through this technique the sound emanating from the car stereo was simply gorgeous. Of course, it was nowhere near the quality I experience with my main stereo system, but it was a significant upgrade to the car’s previous sonic offerings. Even my better half couldn’t believe the stark contrast in quality by simply adding the Oppo HA-2. It is true to say that every element in the audio reproduction chain is important and you should always start with the best source possible and proceed from there.

On that note, I feel it is essential to illustrate that this isn’t merely a one-off occurrence. A number of years ago, my significant other and children gifted me the Bose AE2 headphones. To be completely frank, I couldn’t stand them. They are the most comfortable headphones I have ever had the pleasure of wearing, but their sound was thin and shrill when connected to every single piece of audio-based technology I owned. When I got the Oppo HA-2, I decided to give the AE2 headphones another try and I’m not joking when I say the HA-2 breathed new life into those Bose headphones. It was proof that the DAC/Amplifier element in the process is essential to getting the very best from speakers, headphones, and digital music. Hence, TIDAL Hi-Fi + Oppo HA-2 = Beautiful Sound Reproduction even with modest headphones and audio equipment. I’m sure many of you are saying that the Bose AE2 is now the weakest link in my headphone setup and while I agree, they do tick off the all important Wife Acceptance Factor. The bottom line is that I can listen to this combination for hours without suffering any physical or mental fatigue and the sound is absolutely non-offensive and engaging.

Getting back to listening to music in the car and I couldn’t help but ponder if other albums that I had dismissed in certain surroundings, wouldn’t have appealed more to me in different situations. Yes, another crazy thought from the guy that believes metal and classical music can happily co-exist. The interesting aspect, however, is the human element. There is simply no way to predict the emotion created by the situation and the associated music at a given point in time. It is, therefore, another instance of a dichotomy that one may experience when exploring new music. Even music we know and love can sound different as time passes and our interests change. I notice this occurring more frequently as I age. While there has been plenty written on the subject, the best book I have read thus far is John Powell’s Why We Love Music. It is to the point, not overly complex or presumptuous, and insightful.

Regardless, I See You just felt right in the car and a grin formed from ear to ear that didn’t erode until it was time to exit the vehicle. It was this experience alone that ensured I became a fan of The xx. I’m even tempted to buy the vinyl release, the album is that good, but the real lesson in my never ending ramblings is that there is no perfect way to listen and appreciate music. It is subjective and if it induces an emotional response, then the music and the hardware available to you has done its job.

The album artwork is simplistic but iconic and as I looked through The xx’s catalogue of releases I couldn’t help but see the consistency of the X symbol. While some may complain about the artwork being too similar, the similarity does assist in branding and allowing oneself to be immediately identifiable. To this day I still think of Prince as a symbol. I used to find it humorous to see where music stores would try and place his albums after he undertook the transition and I can’t help but wonder how one would search for his symbol in the modern Internet era.

That makes me wonder, can you search Google for a symbol?

Anyway, that isn’t important and as always I digress, let’s get back to the review in question.

I also appreciate the difference in artwork between the digitally purchased/streaming releases and the Vinyl/CD releases. It gives me, as a collector, another reason to seriously consider adding the physical release of the album to my collection.

Dangerous sets the tone of the album and the horn introduction is pure perfection. The bass beat throughout, while predictable, is pleasing to the ears with more than enough depth to encapsulate you in the middle of the soundstage. It isn’t my favourite song on the album, but I do enjoy it.

Say Something Loving has a really unique vocal introduction that I’m unsure of. However, it is strangely well suited to the track and as the song progresses the vocal tonality and variance in the beat is superb. It is an exceptional song, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that it could be more dynamic as the soundstage feels a little too restrictive and fails to completely absorb the listener in the music.

Lips begins with a glorious vocal interlude that reminds me why I consider vocals to be more aligned to an instrument, than a literal storytelling aspect of music. Lips is possibly my favourite song on the album, but there are so many wonderful tracks. It has a perfect harmonic presentation and is thoroughly engaging. If you only listen to one song from this album, make it this one!

A Violent Noise slowly builds a sonic masterpiece from elements that are continually added as the song progresses. It pulls you in and captures your soul. It is spectacular!

Performance is a lovely ballad-styled song that presents Croft’s vocals so clearly and forward in the soundstage that one would believe she is present in the room with you. It is a performance that has to be heard to be believed.

Replica follows the ballad pace of Performance beautifully and is equally compelling. While I love my physical library of music, the lure of TIDAL Hi-Fi can be seen in the ability to be exposed to so many great musical talents, such as that of The xx. For all of life’s worries, music lovers certainly live in exciting times.

Brave For You is perfectly tracked and isn’t merely there to provide filler for the album as it, along with the previous two songs, is amongst some of the best compositions on the album. The bass track throughout this song has an incredible timbre that simply amazes me every time I hear it.

I simply love On Hold.

I Dare You has a fantastic beat and is a perfect song for any road trip.

Test Me is a lovely song to end the album on. While not as upbeat as the rest of the album, it does encourage me to listen to the album again and stay within The xx catalogue.

It is important to note that the above opinions were a culmination of my experience with both the Oppo HA-2 via the car stereo and the Oppo BDP-103’s analogue stage via my home stereo. While both platforms utilise different DAC’s, the house sound of Oppo is somewhat similar and therefore the differences between the experiences are minimal.

Both playback methods presented a nicely balanced soundstage that was immersive. There are a number of elemental aspects to the entire album that I truly appreciate and they became even more apparent in my higher resolving main stereo setup. I found the low end of the album to be on the precipice of distortion but it never went so far as to drown out other musical elements.

While the average dynamic range of the digital releases, including the Audiophile 96kHz/24bit HDTracks edition, was 6 out of 20, the vinyl release is reported to raise that average to a 9. It is disappointing that the loudness wars once again plague modern recordings, but as I was listening to the album, I did not feel it was compressed as badly as these numbers may suggest. While I would welcome an increased dynamic range, I feel it is important to also consider that certain musical styles and sound signatures are well suited to lower dynamic ranges. After all, this is not a symphonic release. That said, it is disappointing the HDTracks has an edition that is inferior in dynamic range to the vinyl release, especially when the marketing team are content with declaring it as being an audiophile release. In light of this, is there any reason in wondering why the average consumer classes high-resolution audio as snake oil? I guess that is why I find TIDAL Hi-Fi to be the happy medium as albums are presented in CD-quality with many thousands being released as TIDAL Masters (I See You is not one of them), thereby competing directly against HDTracks, but included in the price of TIDAL’s Hi-Fi monthly subscription.

Despite all of this, I found the sound presentation to be exceptionally engaging. The xx have released a sonic masterpiece and I’m certainly looking forward to listening to the rest of their catalogue and all future releases.

I See You is also available on Vinyl, CD, and in 16/44 FLAC at the TIDAL Store.

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The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

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The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

Experimental rock can be hit or miss and when I noticed The Flaming Lips had just released a new album, I was sceptical as I absolutely detested their album The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs With Henry Rollins And Peaches Doing The Dark Side Of The Moon. At the time I swore that I would never listen to another Flaming Lips album again, but a second chance should be given to all.

Interestingly, as I began listening to Oczy Mlody, I started to question my previous thoughts and decided to revisit the before-mentioned album. Perhaps I was too harsh in my initial opinion.

Nope. I still detest it!

Take a listen to the horrid version of Pink Floyd’s Money and you will see what I mean. While I understand the reimagining concept behind the recording, I don’t feel it was executed well. That said, I’m sure there are plenty of people who consider it to be an amazing interpretation. Thankfully, we are all welcome to our subjective opinions.

The album artwork of Oczy Mlody is clearly psychedelic in intention with a contrasting colour scheme that you can’t help but look at. I’m sure it would look striking on vinyl, but is it worthy of adding to my vinyl collection and TIDAL Hi-Fi music library?

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Oczy Mlody is just an odd title for both the song and album. Nevertheless, it is an instrumental only tune that sets the mood for the entire album. It is atmospheric with a soundstage that appears larger than it really is. It tricks the ears as your mind ebb and flows through the soundscape. It is uplifting while being simultaneously sombre. I love it!

How?? starts off beautifully smooth, but while I am a proponent of profanity in music when it is of artistic benefit, I find the first instance of profanity to be disjointed to the overall musicality of the song. Other than that, I would class the song as a vocal and atmospheric masterpiece. The low-bass distortion is particular pleasing as it doesn’t detract, but adds to the depth of the song.

There Should Be Unicorns steps up the tempo but retains that gorgeous atmospheric sound. I’m literally held captive by the music, in that special place where we should all be when we are thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young) is perhaps the most experimental track on the album. It shifts direction within the song itself and will appeal to music lovers who appreciate not only musical experimentation but the extreme edges offered by alternative recordings. That said, The Flaming Lips sound signature is still present. While it isn’t a favourite track of mine, it will likely grow on me after a series of listens.

Night Nie (Never No) pans the music from the left and right stereo channels perfectly. You literally follow the sound around the soundstage as you become immersed in the virtual reality that the artist has created. I love it, but there are a few audible shocks along the way that prevent you from getting too relaxed.

Galaxy I Sink is cold and isolated from a subjective perspective. It is distant and somewhat haunting. While I feel the idea is superb, I just don’t like the lyrical approach and I feel the lyrics become distracting in an otherwise excellent composition. To be honest, the musicality of The Flaming Lips is so strong that vocals are not needed. While I understand this isn’t the approach they are aiming for, it would be fantastic to have just an instrumental only edition of the album as I feel there are two distinct ways this album could be appreciated.

One Night While Hunting For Faeries And Witches And Wizards To Kill certainly presents a soundstage that is relatable to the song title. The beat, however, is somewhat predictable and the vocal elements again are a slight distraction. It is as though the two elements are simply not co-existing cohesively. Of course, one needs to remember that in the spirit of experimental rock, this style of vocal delivery is perfectly acceptable.

Do Glowy seamlessly continues from the previous track but varies the beat and vocal delivery. The vocals in this instance are purposely auto-tuned a little too far, but it works perfectly with the song and I feel that the vocals are once again in sync with the instrumental elements.

Listening To The Frogs With Demon Eyes is not as demonic as one would like and I feel that the soundstage is a little too shallow, compared to the rest of the album, especially in the initial elements of the song. It does open up a couple of minutes into the track, but at over 7 minutes in length, there are a number of changes that will either appeal or become distracting to the listener. It is an interesting song as I neither like or dislike it. It merely exists. However, post 5 minutes in duration, the song changes character and I truly appreciate the immersive soundstage.

The Castle picks up the beat and while I enjoy the song, I find that the beat is a little too distorted in the low end. I’d say this has been done purposefully as it is consistent throughout the song. I thoroughly enjoy the track, but when I have to turn the Bass+ feature off on my Oppo HA-2, and the distortion is still present, then I question if that level of distortion was truly needed and what purpose it ultimately serves.

Almost Home (Blisko Domu) is a sonically beautiful song that I truly adore. I could listen to it for hours on repeat.

We A Family continues with the smoothness of Almost Home (Blisko Domu), but shifts focus somewhat. It isn’t a bad song, but it isn’t one of my favourite on the album. That said, it does encourage me to listen to the album again.

While I have openly disliked a previous recording by The Flaming Lips, I’m overjoyed that I gave them a second chance and accept that I don’t need to like every album in an artist’s catalogue to be a fan of their work. It merely means that I will be selective regarding the albums I include in my TIDAL Hi-Fi music library. Similarly, I’m still not sure if Oczy Mlody is worthy of inclusion in my vinyl collection, but I have a feeling that it will grow on me exponentially as I listen to it over the coming weeks and months.

Oczy Mlody is also available on Vinyl, CD, and in 16/44 FLAC at the TIDAL Store.

The album is also available on HDTracks in audiophile 24/96 FLAC, however, that edition is reported to have an average dynamic range of 4 out of 20. While I haven’t heard that edition as it is not available in Australia due to region restrictions, I wouldn’t describe the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition as being dynamically compromised. That said, there are areas where increased dynamic range could have changed and probably improved the tonality of the album, but as this comes under the banner of experimental rock, could we say that the lower dynamic range is done intentionally?

Regardless, I am completely satisfied with the musicality of the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, but reports of such a low dynamic range cannot be ignored.

I did do a quick comparison of the album on Spotify Premium and while it is very similar to the TIDAL Hi-Fi release, it does sound more boxed in and subsequently more compressed. However, that could simply be due to the variance in codecs and the fact that the Spotify Premium stream is a lossy presentation in comparison to TIDAL’s CD-quality FLAC stream.

Interestingly, there are two identical editions of the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi, versus only one on Spotify. As The Flaming Lips are distributed by Warner Bros. Records, I can’t help but wonder if one of the editions will be assigned to the TIDAL Masters (MQA) program. Although, neither album would play as a TIDAL Master. If this changes, I will update this review, in the comments, with any information I feel would be relevant. 

How about you? What has been your experience? Do you feel Oczy Mlody is sonically compromised? Your subjective thoughts are always welcome!

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Sepultura – Machine Messiah (Tidal Hi-Fi Review)

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Sepultura – Machine Messiah (Tidal Hi-Fi Review)

Music discovery is like love, it’s a wonderful thing!

Hold on a second there Mark, are you really quoting Michael Bolton in a Sepultura review?

Well, dear readers, I had to come up with something as the truth of the matter is I know next to nothing about Sepultura. Sure, I’ve heard of the band. Even listened to the odd song when it has been playing somewhere, but the band has never made it into my collection. As Machine Messiah is their fourteenth album, I thought I better sit up and take notice. Plus, that artwork is extraordinary. While I’m obviously pro-TIDAL Hi-Fi, artwork like this is one of the reasons why I still enjoy collecting vinyl.

So, will this album have what it takes to ensure I become a Sepultura fan?

If the album, and band, can be represented by the lead song and album title Machine Messiah, then I can say unequivocally yes.

Machine Messiah is a sonic wonderland with a slow burn towards each chorus. I love it! The guitar work is exquisite and the first thing I notice is that the recording and mastering are not overly compressed. There is plenty of depth in the soundstage and everything is in its place. That said, the CD is said to have an average dynamic range of 6 out of 20. While I don’t have the CD to compare, that number doesn’t seem accurate as the release on TIDAL Hi-Fi is exceptional and would put many other heavy metal albums to shame.

 I Am The Enemy is pure thrash metal. It is hard hitting and doesn’t let up. While I miss the more melodic Machine Messiah, I am thoroughly enjoying the energy of this track. It takes a very special vocalist to sing like this and Derrick Green has a massive amount of talent that I would liken to Corey Taylor’s vocal range and shifting capabilities.

Phantom Self continues to damage my hearing as I can’t help but turn up the volume. Is it worth it? Ask me when I get to 70! I like to feel the music, not just hear it. While I may regret that later on, songs like Phantom Self reach the soul in a way that is simply not possible without excessive volume levels. The oriental tunes throughout this song initially sound a little disjointed but make perfect sense when you hear the epic duel that takes place during the guitar solo.

Alethea thankfully slows the pace to allow the soul to recover from the onslaught that was Phantom Self. That said, while I enjoy the tempo of the instrumental backing, I find that the vocals don’t fit the song well. To me, it sounds as though the vocal track has been unnaturally slowed down.

Iceberg Dances is a purely instrumental track and I love it!

Sworn Oath made the hair on the back of my neck stand up when it started. In an interesting dichotomy, it has a demonic sound, yet not an evil sound. I can’t put my finger on the contrasting factor, but Sworn Oath is thoroughly enjoyable and the vocal delivery is masterful. Actually, one element that I feel is important to note, on the entire album, is how clear the screaming vocals are. With this style of music, vocals can often become incomprehensible, but this certainly isn’t the case with this album.

Resistant Parasites has some killer bass notes. I love the sound of the bass guitar and while I know that everyone wants the guitar solo, I also love it when the bass guitar is featured prominently in a recording. The overall rhythm of this song has me moving uncontrollably.

Silent Violence isn’t a bad song, but I’m not locking in with the beat as much as I would like. It is causing me to listen, rather than become enveloped in the music.

Vandals Nest has a killer guitar intro that immediately reminds me of Metallica’s thrash days. There is so much going on in this song that you simply don’t have an opportunity to rest. Believe it, or not, this is a good thing!

Cyber God is an interesting song as it reminds me of Avenged Sevenfold, yet it is completely unique. The guitar work and drum beat are simply exquisite and world-class. Green’s vocal style is also amazing as he shifts tone and pitch seamlessly throughout the song.

Chosen Skin is a skull shattering song that has a rhythm and attitude that invokes movement in the listener. When I listen to a song like this, I am continually amazed at how music is captured and distributed. It is pure magic and while I know the fundamentals of how it is done, it never ceases to impress me.

Ultraseven No Uta is a song that should have definitely not been included on the album. That said, this is a bonus track that, along with Chosen Skin, is not included on all formats. Ultraseven No Uta is awful and sounds like a pop song with rock and roll distortion added. What was Sepultura thinking?

While Ultraseven No Uta doesn’t encourage me to listen to the album again or stay within the Sepultura catalogue, it doesn’t destroy the sonic perfection and musicality of Machine Messiah.

As regular readers would know, I don’t listen to music for the literal interpretation of lyrical meaning. Thankfully, Sepultura discuss the meaning behind the songs, in the following videos, for us all to enjoy.

Without a doubt, this is one of the best metal albums I have heard in recent years and it will be a welcome additional to my TIDAL Hi-Fi music collection. Most likely I’ll aim to pick up a vinyl release at some stage in the near future, but I’m not sure which one as there are a few versions including an incredible picture disc version.

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Yes, I’m still jaded by Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son picture disc, and I acknowledge the limitations of the picture disc format, but I also have a number of picture discs that play extremely well. The problem is knowing if Machine Messiah will be one of them.

Overall, the edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi is nothing short of an unforgettable sonic experience. While I also have a Spotify Premium subscription, when music sounds this good, I wonder why I bother with other streaming services. As John Darko intimated, TIDAL Hi-Fi really is a CD-store in your home.

Sepultura’s Machine Messiah is also available on Vinyl, CD, and 16/44 FLAC at the TIDAL Store.

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