Rod Stewart – The Best Of Rod Stewart (Album Review)

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Rod Stewart – The Best Of Rod Stewart (Album Review)

Despite owning this compilation, I have never considered myself to be a major fan of Rod Stewart’s music and while I own Every Picture Tells A Story and Time, the desire to research and collect his entire catalog is simply not as strong as it is with the other artists that I collect. As good as his studio albums are, when I think of Rod Stewart, I think of the decades of incredible music, spread amongst no fewer than 30 albums. It is that kind of back catalog that compels one to appreciate the succinctness of compilation-based albums.

While I would love to embed the album from TIDAL et al, this compilation isn't available on any streaming service. It isn’t even available for purchase on iTunes. However, let’s not be discouraged as I have painstakingly constructed a playlist of the songs. TIDAL will, of course, be embedded below, but I have also made the playlist available for Spotify users.

Maggie May really needs no introduction, yet it is the perfect song to commence any Rod Stewart compilation with.

You Wear It Well instantly reminds me of numerous Neil Young recordings. That is, of course, until Stewart's raspy vocal kicks in. While I enjoy this song, I find that I get the most enjoyment from the instrumentation as I feel Stewart's vocal is somewhat lost in the soundstage. It results in a muddiness that is distracting.

Baby Jane is a catchy tune. I love it as it gets my body moving.

Da Ya Think I'm Sexy is one of the greatest Disco-era tunes ever recorded. It is addictive and there is little doubt that you will sing that addictive chorus to your significant other at some point in time. If you do, I just hope the following song, in your playlist, is not (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones.

I Was Only Joking is a lovely semi-acoustic ballad that really highlights Stewart's unique vocal style. The song is soothing and while directly opposite in tempo to Da Ya Think I'm Sexy, the transition doesn't feel out of place. Actually, I would say the tracking of this compilation is well thought out, which sadly is a rarity amongst career perspective compilations.

This Old Heart Of Mine is a solid song that I thoroughly enjoy, but it is nothing to write home about.

Sailing is pure perfection. It doesn't get any better than this!

I Don't Want To Talk About It is another Rod Stewart classic. What an incredible artist! This song is so delicate and could have been over-performed, but Stewart reaches deep while remaining restrained in a true showcase of professionalism.

You're In My Heart has a gorgeous acoustic introduction that gradually builds as the song plays. You may not sing-a-long to the verse, but the chorus compels you to do so. Not only is it catchy, but the use of backing singers, in the chorus, is ideal for the composition of the song. You're In My Heart is a classic song that will continue to stand the test of time; provided love prevails of course.

Young Turks is a faster-paced tune that reminds me of Dire Straits. While I should love it, I just feel there is something missing and the click track beat is a little monotonous. It isn't a bad song, but is it worthy of a Best Of compilation?

What Am I Gonna Do (I'm So In Love With You) is campy and whiny. I'm sorry to those of you that enjoy this song, but this is one song that I would skip over if given the chance. I feel it is overproduced with a lackluster performance.

The First Cut Is The Deepest is gorgeous!

The Killing Of Georgie (Part I And II) is sonic heaven and nothing short of a masterpiece. I love it!

Tonight's The Night has an incredible rhythm and I adore Stewart's vocal delivery on this track.

Every Beat Of My Heart is one of the best songs Stewart ever recorded. Every aspect of this song is perfect and Bob Ezrin certainly pushed Stewart to, and beyond, the limit with the production of this song. Sometimes a producer is as important as the artist and Ezrin rarely disappoints. His work with Alice Cooper, alone, is legendary. Ezrin is one of the greatest producers in the history of recorded music. If you see his name attached to an album, buy it!

Downtown Train is the first Rod Stewart song that I recall hearing. For that reason alone, it has a very special place in my heart. It is a perfect way to end this compilation and while Stewart continues to record new and engaging music, this 1989 release, in a similar way to Elton John's The Very Best Of, highlights the most well-known tracks from the pinnacle of Stewart's success.

I don't know about you, but I feel like listening to this album again. The collection, overall, is exceptional and is one of my prized possessions.

For this review, I listened to the Warner Bros. (7599-26034-2) CD. Overall the mastering was good but uneven in places. It is honestly difficult to find a compilation that doesn't suffer from this problem as songs are recorded in different studios, with different producers, and varied artistic abilities, depending on when the song was written and recorded. A perfect example of this, that springs to mind, would be if a Michael Jackson compilation featured both Ben and Man In The Mirror. Both are great songs in their own right, but from an artistic and musicality standpoint, they are worlds apart.

A fold-out CD booklet is included but it’s barebones, including only a single additional photograph. The only other detail included, in the liner notes, is a replication of the production information that is plastered on the rear cover. Yes, I have seen far worse album layouts, especially for compilations, but it is tedious to find that one song you really want to listen to. Seriously, who thought a rear album artwork layout, with production information, was a good idea? I’m certainly a proponent of including full production notes, but that is what liner notes are for.

The Best Of Rod Stewart is currently available on CD. Unfortunately, it remains absent from all streaming services and digital download stores.

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Alice Cooper – Constrictor (Album Review)

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Alice Cooper – Constrictor (Album Review)

Alice Cooper is a musical genius and one of my all-time favourite musicians. As such, I have spent the last couple of years tracking down some of his albums that are harder to come by, certainly in Australia; Constrictor being one of them.

While I would become a life-long Cooper fan following Trash, and the mainstream popularity of the album’s lead single Poison, my mother forbade me from having Alice Cooper in the house. At one stage, when I wanted the Trash album, she called it trash and asked why I would want that kind of trash. She thought it was a clever play on words, I thought it was ridiculous! Thankfully as the rebellious teenage years approached, I had a job and was able to start collecting some of the greatest rock and roll music in history. At no time did I consider these albums to be bad influences and quite frankly I was so captivated by the music that I spent every last cent buying records, rather than spending that same money on illicit substances like so many of my peers.

Subsequently, I encourage my children to have the same passion for music as I do. I also encourage them to never buy a 'clean' version of an album as it is not what the artist intended. I teach them about artistic license and encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experiences. That said, I don't let them listen to Steel Panther (yet), but I won't stop playing one of their records when they enter the room as I believe it encourages unhealthy taboos that can affect their lives. I've come to this conclusion based on years of psychological damage that an overprotective mother imposed on me. Thus far, it has worked wonderfully and my children understand and respect that some music is not yet appropriate for their maturity level. However, it is important to note that just because Katy Perry and Taylor Swift may both have a girl-next-door persona, it doesn’t mean that their songs are any less provocative than that of Alice Cooper and his peers. My children also know there is no such thing as trash music as it is all subjective and one's opinion does not need to meet with the approval of another.

With that in mind, join me as I give you my opinion of Alice Cooper's Constrictor. I'd love to read your own subjective opinions, so feel free to use the comments section below.

Teenage Frankenstein has some gorgeous guitar work. The overall rhythm is addictive as is the catchy lyrical delivery. Let the head-bopping, toe-tapping, and out-of-tune karaoke begin.

Give It Up is an excellent rock and roll song with a vocal presentation that I absolutely adore. The musicality is riff driven and every time I listen to Give It Up, I enter musical heaven.

Thrill My Gorilla keeps the album rocking with a rock/pop sound that is most definitely a byproduct of the 80s. I grew up through the 80s, so I love it! That era of music is very groove based and I’m so happy that Rob Zombie has taken this style, made it his own, and continues the groove-infused rock and roll sound.

Life And Death Of The Party is exceptional! It is one of Cooper's greatest songs, yet you will not see it on any of Cooper's compilations or live recordings (except for the 1989 live album Prince of Darkness). Such a shame, as it really is that good!

Simple Disobedience is awesome!

The World Needs Guts is riff and rhythm heaven. I find myself singing along to this song every time it plays. Yes, I also warm up my air guitar and dance around the house. The World Needs Guts is another exceptional Alice Cooper performance. However, the cymbals are a little concealed in the soundstage and I would prefer them to be more present in the mix.

Trick Bag is a good song, but it’s most certainly a B-side.

Crawlin' returns the album to the overall rhythmic feel heard prior to Trick Bag. It isn't the strongest song on the album, but I couldn't imagine Constrictor without it.

The Great American Success Story has a promising start, but turns the rock and roll down from 11 to 7 as it enters the chorus. It isn't a bad song, but the chorus irritates me. It is simply too campy!

He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask) [Theme from the Motion Picture, "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives") is excellent and a perfect song to close the album with.

I could, and have, listened to Constrictor on repeat for hours on end. While there are a couple of B-sides, I feel Constructor is a very underrated Alice Cooper album and, as such, I hope you will give it a listen as I truly believe it is worth your time.

For this review, I listened to the MCA Records (MCAD-5761) CD. The mastering is a bit of a mixed bag. I like it as it has that warm and fuzzy analogue 80's tape sound, but CD normally has a more clinical tonality. It simply messes with your mind as the analogue and digital streams are being crossed. Personally, I don't mind either tonality, but it is something to note when listening to the album.

From an artwork perspective, I love the cover art. Even with CD-sized graphics, the snake still looks fake! It is frankly comical that way and certainly reminiscent of the Alice Cooper character. What I can't fathom, however, is the use of pink on the rear cover and spine of the CD. I guess all one needs to do is look back at glam rock and professional wrestling in the 80s to remember that pink was the in-colour for hardasses. How fashion and times changed! The liner notes are also printed on an equally questionable yellow, but at least the complete lyrics and production notes are present. It isn’t bothersome, but it just isn't a colour scheme that I have come to expect from Alice Cooper albums. Although, Pretties For You makes me think twice about that statement! Regardless, it is a prized possession in my CD collection and I love it as much for the musicality as I do for the interesting artwork style that beckons me to recall a bygone era of towel hats, short shorts, and long socks, held high with elastic, while wearing sandals. Yes, there are pictures of me from this era, but trust me when I say that nobody needs to see that fashion era again. Nostalgia be damned!

Constrictor is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, you can check out Alice Cooper's Constrictor on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Prince – Batman (Soundtrack Review)

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Prince – Batman (Soundtrack Review)

For as long as I can remember, I have had a love/hate relationship with Prince. Most of his music I appreciate, but not all of it connects with me on an emotional level. However, my opinions began to change as I explored his extensive catalogue. Following his passing, I also found I was listening to more of his work and many of the albums that didn’t appeal to me were fast becoming staples of my Prince collection. For instance, I’m happy to go on record and state that I never really liked Purple Rain. It wasn’t until I heard the 2015 Paisley Park remastered edition, delivered in MQA, that I fell in love with the album. I know how insane it sounds, but this remaster spoke to me and this edition of Purple Rain is now one of my most beloved albums. What this says to me is to keep listening. What you may have disliked years ago, you may love today. Plus, you have my permission to be fickle. I know I am!

I remember a high school friend who was an avid Prince fan and actively encouraged me to take a greater interest. At the time I was heavily invested in Michael Jackson's music and diversification wasn't of key importance. That same friend had a DCC (Digital Compact Cassette) player and the associated Prince albums: Purple Rain and Diamonds And Pearls. I was so jealous as I had desperately wanted a DCC portable cassette player, but that wasn’t to be and the format sadly didn’t last long either. Perhaps it was my envy that prevented me from fully connecting with Prince, although I have always loved Diamonds And Pearls. The other plausible reasoning could be that I once had the philosophy that in order to like Guns N’ Roses, you couldn’t like Nirvana. Similarly, you couldn’t be a fan of The Beatles and Elvis. Hence, if you were a Michael Jackson fan, you couldn’t be a fan of Prince as well. Honestly, what was my teenage mind telling me? While I have no exact answer for my naivety, I dare say growing up below the poverty line would have resulted in these thoughts becoming justifications so that I would not be disappointed in my inability to explore other interesting music. We are truly blessed to have access to so much music at an affordable price. While numerous people complain about the cost of streaming services, Spotify gives a reasonable, albeit sonically inferior, free service. That said, I frankly feel that streaming services don’t charge enough for the incredible catalogue of music we have access to. Most services charge about the same price as Netflix, yet with music you get access to nearly everything ever recorded. Netflix, by comparison, gives us a mere fraction of all of the recorded film and television. Interesting, huh?

While Prince may have been destined to sit on the sidelines of my music appreciation, for a number of decades, I did own Prince's Batman soundtrack on cassette. I don’t recall when, or how, I acquired the cassette, but I remember seeing the 1989 Batman film on my 10th birthday. Actually, I was unable to see it on the actual day as the cinema was completely booked out. Yes, that used to actually happen. You must remember, this was the era before the Internet and on-demand media. At the time it seemed to take years for these films to make it to home video as it had to be aired on television first. While I look back on this period and wonder how we tolerated life at such slow pace, I can't help but admit that I'm a little envious of the past we left behind as I find that I am less excited about films, television shows, books, and music in modern society because everything is available, somewhere, at the click of a button. I often find myself suffering information overload and am intrigued with individuals that go off the Internet grid, even for a short period of time. The Internet, my friends, is both a blessing and a curse.

As always, I digress, but when you think how recent the non-connected era was, in human society, it blows my mind that things have changed so significantly. What hasn't changed, however, is the exceptional album that is Prince's Batman soundtrack.

The Future has an incredible rhythm that is addictive and will get your body moving. The inclusion of spoken film elements link the album to the film, rather than simply being representative of a stand-alone Price album with film branding. The Future, as much of the entire soundtrack, is significantly synth driven. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it works perfectly for the film and recording era. Plus, to be completely honest, I don’t feel this album has aged at all.

Electric Chair is a killer rock song that shows just how diverse Prince was. It is, without a doubt, one of Prince's greatest recordings and his guitar riffing is nothing short of extraordinary!

The Arms Of Orion opens with a sonic signature that instantly reminds me of the haunting score from The Dark Crystal. However, after these first notes have elapsed, the song opens with a beautiful duet with Sheena Easton. The musicality is off-the-charts and I adore the instrumental ending.

Partyman is featured prominently in the film and was perfect for the associated scene. The song is excellent, but I can’t help wonder if I class it in the manner because it evokes the film’s scene in my mind. I guess it really doesn’t matter as I thoroughly enjoy the song. Sometimes it is best to not look too deeply into the reason behind interests.

Vicki Waiting has a great beat and while very enjoyable, is nothing to write home about.

Trust has a fast upbeat pop/rock feel to it that is rather unique. It is indicative of Prince and was also featured in a key film sequence. As I love both the film and the song, this is subjectively an excellent song that I could listen, and sing-a-long to, for hours on end.

Lemon Crush has a rhythm that will ensure your body moves impulsively. As with all the songs on the album, the musicality is excellent and Prince once again proved why he was one of the greatest guitarists and most talented musicians in the world. Exceptional!

Scandalous is one of the most gorgeous songs ever recorded. Prince nailed it!

Batdance is a fun remix-style song that integrates many film elements into the song. However, while the musical elements certainly confirm this to be a Prince song, I have always felt it feels out-of-place with the soundtrack and Prince's overall style. Despite this, I feel compelled to listen to the soundtrack again and stay within Prince's catalogue.

Overall, Prince's Batman soundtrack is one of the best recordings he ever made. If I had such a list, it would be amongst my top 10 soundtracks of all time.

Batman, the soundtrack, is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Danny Elfman also produced a sensational score for the 1989 Batman film. That album is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes. You can also stream it on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

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Elton John - The Very Best Of Elton John (Compilation Review)

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Elton John - The Very Best Of Elton John (Compilation Review)

Exploring new music can become tiresome. While I have a blast listening to tunes delivered by TIDAL Hi-Fi, I have a respectable physical library and I felt it was about time to get the platter spinning and re-experience the music I know and love with every aspect of my soul.

The Very Best Of Elton John is one album that I have had a love affair with for the last quarter century. Despite the elapsed time, I can still recall the independent music store my mother took me to, when I was about 10, in order to purchase the album. At the time my weekly chore was to vacuum the floors (otherwise known as hovering to our British counterparts). Anyway, I would get two dollars each week and upon saving enough money I would be taken to the Sydney suburb of Beecroft, where in a dark and dingy shopping complex, the music store was located. The name of the store escapes my memory, but it was either so packed or so small, that no more than four people could fit in the store at any given time. Despite that, I knew exactly what I wanted as I had seen advertisements for Elton John's 1990 career perspective compilation, The Very Best Of Elton John, on television.

The record store, thankfully, had a copy of the double cassette and I was blown away, for I had never previously seen a double cassette case. I guess you never forget your first! Back then, even the double CD releases came in the fat double-jewel case. Now, you get the flimsy flip insert that has a tendency to break. They also feel less substantial, for a double cassette or CD was once a valued possession and hefty enough to be a value added proposition for a fan; even if it were all a figment of the imagination.

While I'm not entirely sure what lead me to this compilation and an appreciation of Elton John, I do recall enjoying the song Sacrifice, from John's 1989 album Sleeping With The Past. While I also wanted that cassette, my mother likely pushed me towards the compilation as it not only included Sacrifice, but a selection of the very best songs Elton John ever recorded. Regardless, I wasn’t dissatisfied as The Very Best Of Elton John would receive regular airplay at the Greentree house.

Music has always been an escape for me and it has always been my constant companion. I know many people would roll their eyes at that statement, but music lovers know exactly what I’m talking about. If you give music a chance, it will guide you through a tumultuous and unpredictable life. I truly believe one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is music. Buy them a CD or a vinyl record and let them connect with the music. The other greatest gift is books. Yes, the younger generation primarily streams music, but actually owning music takes the appreciation to another level. Perhaps I’m just becoming an old fool, but I still adore holding the CD or vinyl record as I have an emotional connection with each album in my collection. Okay, so I have an emotional connection to TIDAL Hi-Fi, but only to the service, not really the albums contained within my virtual library. When I truly want to appreciate the album, I buy the CD or vinyl record. Look at it this way, would you be content with an air guitar, or would you prefer to own a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard?

I loved the Elton John compilation so much that my Grandmother ended up buying me the accompanying music video release that would allow me to become even more attached to John and his music. As I’ve mentioned here many times before, my grandmother would often be the one that would encourage my music collection. I assume she saw the solace it gave me and I will be forever grateful. Yes, my mother may have taken me to buy The Very Best Of Elton John, but one day I will tell you the story of how I was banned from listening to Guns N’ Roses and how she forced me to sell not only my beloved Guns N’ Roses collection but my entire music collection.

Unfortunately, both my double cassette and VHS edition of the album had to be sold. While I got reasonable prices for the collection, it never matched the true value I placed on them. All was not lost, however, as I did digitise the double cassette to an MP3 file before sending it on its way. I still have that MP3 file. While the sound is well below par of the quality I generally aim for, it was the only way I could listen to this exceptional release as it had been long out-of-print by the time I could afford to repurchase my collection.

I'm sure some of you are wondering why I never picked up a secondhand edition of the compilation. Well, I'm not a fan of buying secondhand music as it fails to support the music industry and the artist. I also like that new feel and as I am overly protective of my music collection, even the slightest blemish is enough for me to not make a purchase, or return the album for a replacement. Plus, when you see Australia's JB Hi-Fi placing The Beatles In Mono vinyl box set on the store floor, to get kicked repeatedly, you know that many people don't truly care about collecting and appreciating a music collection, certainly not to the same level I do. Honestly, I have never had a scratched CD. The disc goes in the player, then is put straight back into the case. Hold on a second, that isn’t entirely true. I did lend my copy of Linkin Park’s Meteora to a family member that was staying with us for a few weeks. Well, when I got that CD back, it was fucked! Scratches everywhere and jumped on every CD player I owned. I was devastated and I’m still pissed off about it to this day as it was never replaced, nor was an apology ever issued. As a result, I no longer lend out my music. While I can respect that not everyone is as manic as I, these examples are all the justification I need to stay clear of buying secondhand music.

Anyway, some 15 years after losing the compilation of my youth, my significant other surprised me on my birthday with the vinyl re-issue of The Very Best Of Elton John. To say there were tears would be an understatement. Even as I write this paragraph, I can’t control my emotions and the tears are flowing uncontrollably. It is moments like this that remind me why I don't do YouTube reviews. While I have many prized possessions, very few of them impact me in this manner. I’m not generally the type of person to show my emotions, but this album and music, in general, has the tendency to bring my emotions to the surface. Interestingly, I like that person within myself that cries over music, or at the end of a partiality moving film or book. I tend to push him away, but by doing so I am robbing myself of a strangely pleasurable emotive experience.

People are often amazed that I don’t sing out loud to music. Well, I do, just not in the company of others. I like to connect with the music in my own way, but I can assure you I’m on stage and singing my heart out, even if you can’t see it. That said, this is the only album I can think of that has me singing for the entire two hours. I know every lyric and never miss a beat. It is an exceptional release and if I could say only one thing to Elton John it would be: you're a bloody legend! THANK YOU!

I also can’t thank Universal enough for reissuing one of the greatest compilations in history. Yes, John has released a number of other compilations, but I truly love his pre-1990 work the best and while he is still one of the world’s greatest musicians, I can be satisfied with this compilation. Plus, I think we could all agree that John’s pre-1990 songwriting collaboration with Bernie Taupin is unmatched.

Anyway, let’s get to the actual review. While I would love to embed the album from TIDAL et al, this compilation isn't available on any streaming service. It isn’t even available for purchase on iTunes. However, let’s not be discouraged as I have painstakingly constructed a playlist of the songs. TIDAL will, of course, be embedded below, but I have also made the playlist available for Spotify users.

SIDE ONE

Your Song is a superb song to commence this compilation on. While there really isn't a bad song on this release, the easy listening musicality of Your Song is lovely. It’s a basic composition, but one of pure perfection. As is to be expected, John's vocal is beyond reproach. Your Song truly is exceptional!

Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long Long Time) is such an amazing song. My kids love this song, primarily because it was featured in The Big Bang Theory episode “The Friendship Contraction”. Personally, I've always enjoyed this song and felt it is a fundamental foundation of John's classic rock era. This song, on its own, would be exceptional for any artist's career, yet it is just one of many exceptional recordings combining the skills of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Honky Cat is such a fun tune. The rhythm is addictive and the horn elements of the song are perfectly placed. I simply couldn't imagine this compilation without it.

Crocodile Rock has always been a favourite of mine. I simply can't stop singing along to this song. Yes, it’s showing it's age, but good music is good music.

Daniel slows the compilation down a little, never feels out-of-place. Daniel is a beautiful vocal ballad that simply could not have been sung by anyone else.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is an absolute classic!

Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting) is the perfect song to conclude the first side on. It’s energetic and is immediately the type of song that springs to mind when I think of classic rock and roll. I dare you to listen and not sing-a-long, I find it impossible!

SIDE TWO

Candle In The Wind is one of the most beautiful songs ever written and recorded. While the '97 rendition is the original's equal, I tend to come back to this release as my preferred edition. Regardless, as fans, we are very fortunate to have both versions. Thank you, Bernie and Elton!

Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me is a fantastic song. Much like Billy Joel's music, the central focus of the piano is ideal. I truly wish we'd see another true piano-inspired artist in the modern recording era. Perhaps it is simply a case that no-one is able to compete with these exceptional artists, but I feel it has more to do with the production and recording styles of modern music.

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds was an exception Beatles track, but I truly believe John made it his own and subsequently I feel his rendition is superior in all aspects. The comment section is now open for your rebukes.

Philadelphia Freedom is EPIC!

Someone Saved My Life Tonight is one of my all-time favourite Elton John songs. It is a lovely vocal ballad with a perfect balance and overall composition. I absolutely love the sonic build up and John's vocals are simply gorgeous. Songs like this remind me why I love music so much.

SIDE THREE

Don't Go Breaking My Heart is a good duet with Kiki Dee, but I can't help but wonder what the song would have sounded like with Dusty Springfield on vocals. We will likely never know as that version was rejected. Regardless, Don't Go Breaking My Heart is a fun song and a fan favourite.

Bennie And The Jets has an incredible soundstage and is a stellar performance, although John's vocal isn’t as clear on this song as it is on the other tracks. Despite this, the song works incredibly well and is always a pleasure to listen to.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word is nothing short of the literal truth. It is a beautiful song and I dare say many of us have utilised this song when things with our significant others aren’t going to plan. John's vocal performance is beyond reproach. Absolutely magnificent!

Song For Guy is a lovely instrumental-based song. Unfortunately, my vinyl record has a pressing fault that results in a dropout upon each rotation. It’s a shame, but that is simply one of the issues you must learn to live with when collecting and appreciating vinyl. Other than that, the pressing is superb and I've yet to hear anyone else raise it as an issue, so it may just be my copy. Yes, I can confirm my record is clean. I'm kind of anal about that stuff.

Part Time Love is a great song and the dropout that plagued Song For Guy is gone. Part Time Love has aged musically, but it is still fun with plenty of energy. I love it!

Blue Eyes sees John sing in a much lower register than normal. While it works extremely well, I'm glad it wasn't his chosen vocal style for all songs.

I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues is simply fantastic!

SIDE FOUR

I’m Still Standing is one of my daughter's favourite songs as it was covered by Taron Egerton in the film Sing. As I’m writing this review, she has been listening to the original all day. Thank you, Universal for including the MP3 download code! That said, I'm Still Standing is a song I don't tire of, although the tiny speakers in my daughter’s iMac are starting to drive me nuts. Yes, I’ve given her better speakers, but she never uses them. Truth-be-told, I remember playing this song over and over and over and over…you get the idea. It is addictive and truly awesome!

Kiss The Bride is one of the greatest songs ever recorded!

Sad Songs (Say So Much) is a groovy song that isn't sad at all. I Love it!

Whispers was a bit of a shock when I first listened to the record as the tracking of the Australian release had Passengers in its place. Whispers is a great song, but Passengers just feels right. Given the number of times I heard the cassette, I don't know if I will ever get used to hearing Whispers after Sad Songs (Say So Much). That said, it really is a great song and is worthy of inclusion on this compilation.

Nikita has always been a favourite of mine, yet I've always been at a loss to explain why it is so compelling. I just know I enjoy it. Sometimes that is all you need.

Sacrifice is one of my favourite Elton John songs. The vocal delivery, musicality, and overall performance make this song a memorable experience.

You Gotta Love Someone is the perfect song to conclude the album with. It is uplifting and compels me to listen to the compilation again; two hours of Elton John is simply not enough!

Without a doubt, The Very Best Of Elton John is just that. It doesn't get any better than this!

Unfortunately, the re-issued vinyl compilation is difficult to pick up new, but if you don't mind buying secondhand, there are a few available on Discogs. At the time of publication, there are also a couple of copies that are listed as new and sealed.

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Hank Williams Jr. – 127 Rose Avenue (Album Review)

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Hank Williams Jr. – 127 Rose Avenue (Album Review)

While he may not be the original, Hank Williams Jr. is one of the most talented and engaging country music performers on the planet.

127 Rose Avenue is a sonically gorgeous album and I was amazed to learn that Williams Jr. also took on the responsibility of the mastering process. Normally musicians record, occasionally mix, and leave the mastering to others. That, at times, results in questionable outcomes and I would much prefer that the musician master the performance, or at the very least be present for the mastering sessions thereby ensuring their fans are going to receive a facsimile as close to the original intent as possible. While we can talk ad nauseam about high-resolution, vinyl superiority, and file formats, none of this is relevant to 127 Rose Avenue as the original recording was mastered perfectly for the 16/44.1 kHz Redbook CD format. Seriously, the results are incredible and if you truly want to hear what the artist intended, then look no further than 127 Rose Avenue.

Farm Song has a great toe tapping beat and the guitar soloing is spot on. Fantastic!

Red, White & Pink Slip Blues is a gorgeous slow song that while inherently different to Farm Song, blends in perfectly. When it comes to Country Music tempo, I absolutely love this style of song as I could listen to it for hours. The soundstage is massive and I encourage you to pump the volume. It is one of the best songs on the album and one of my all-time favourite country music songs.

High Maintenance Woman has an incredible drum performance. This is how drums should sound. None of that synthetic rubbish we hear so often in modern recordings. Yes, drum machines have their place, but they can never replace a proper drum setup, driven by a skilled musician. Overall, the song is superb and will have your body moving like all great upbeat country music should.

Mighty Oak Tree slows the album down for another ballad-style track, but the tracking is done so well that there is no jolt to the senses. Mighty Oak Tree really shows off Jr.'s vocal chops and has me swaying with eyes closed as I am left mesmerised by sonic perfection. Every element is spot on and I adore the guitar and intermingling fiddle performance.

Forged By Fire has a massive soundstage. There are no crushed dynamics here! The chorus is addictive and that guitar work is once again glorious. The meaning behind the lyrics is also very touching.

Last Driftin' Cowboy has a classic country feel to it, but I'm not sure it works well as my mind struggles to connect emotionally with the song. That said, I can respect the intent of the song, but I would class it as a B-side.

127 Rose Avenue is sonic perfection. I love it!

All The Roads is a good song, but it isn't generally the style of country music that I appreciate. It is, however, recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully. Perhaps my dislike for this style is the fact that it can often come across as jarring on the senses, thankfully that isn’t the case for All The Roads.

Sounds Like Justice returns the album to the county sound I appreciate most. The lyrics for this song are brilliant and while I generally appreciate music void of lyrical meaning, that is not the case when listening to 127 Rose Avenue.

Long Gone Lonesome Blues is a song that reminds me of Keith Richards’ Crosseyed Heart. Needless to say, I love this song.

Gulf Shore Road is a gorgeous song to close the album with. It is so good that upon each listen I am disappointed that the album has come to an end. For perhaps the first time ever, I really wanted the album to have a longer runtime. That said, I will take quality over quantity every time. As such, I find myself listening to 127 Rose Avenue on repeat for hours on end. It also encourages me to explore Hank Williams Jr.'s extensive catalogue.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi (16/44.1 kHz FLAC) edition of the album.

127 Rose Avenue is available for purchase on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to the album on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass - !!Going Places!! (Album Review)

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Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass - !!Going Places!! (Album Review)

Have you ever had that experience where you know a piece of music so well, yet you have no idea who the artist is? Well, last night as l was randomly looking for some new music, I came across Herb Alpert's !!Going Places!! and hadn't the foggiest idea of what to expect. My absent-mindedness wasn't to last long, however, as within the first few notes of Tijuana Taxi, I immediately knew the tune and could recall it being featured in a random television show or film that I have long since forgotten. Regardless, I was off and running and would also listen to Alpert's The Beat Of The Brass and What Now My Love. Both are exceptional albums and well worth your time checking out. As I listened, I couldn't believe that I had never known, or collected, the music arguably made famous by Herb Alpert. I guess it is better late than never!

I hope you have experienced Herb Alpert before, but either way, join me as we explore the exceptional Latin Jazz album that is !!Going Places!!.

Tjiuana Taxi is an incredible tune that has my entire body moving to the rhythm. Absolutely brilliant!

I’m Getting Sentimental Over You transitions beautifully from Tijuana Taxi. While it is a little more mellow, by comparison, it is equally addictive and a lovely song to listen to.

More And More Amor slows the album down to a romantic pace. I absolutely adore it! The musicality is incredible and when I hear music recorded, mixed, and mastered this well, I can't understand where we went wrong with the loudness wars. I could listen to More And More Amor for hours without suffering fatigue.

Spanish Flea is another tune I recognised the moment I heard it. It is nothing short of perfection. Wow!

Mae is like a slow waltz for the sonic senses. It is very enjoyable and fits perfectly with the style of the album.

3rd Man Theme gets my body moving again. The guitar strumming throughout this song is exceptional. Although, every sonic element of 3rd Man Theme is nothing short of pure perfection. It is one of the best songs on the album and is an absolute pleasure to be able to listen to. We are truly blessed to have music this good.

Walk, Don't Run is another exceptional tune that I'm sure we’ve all heard before. It is as rock and roll as jazz can get and certainly fits within the Jazz Fusion ethos.

Felicia is a beautifully mellow song. What I continue to be amazed at is how well these songs, with quite different rhythms, coexist in the album format. It is a diverse, yet similar, collection of songs that never feel out-of-place. I mention this as it is a rare occurrence. In the age of the single song attention span, additional tracks on albums are increasingly B-sides and that is a shame as I feel the album format, as a piece of recorded performance art, is still an essential element to the music appreciation process. Sure, you can enjoy a song on its own, but there is nothing quite like a cohesive album experience.

And The Angels Sing is beautiful!

Cinco De Mayo is a good song, but it is a B-side. Subsequently, I find myself not connecting with it as much as I would like. That said, it does work well in the album format.

A Walk in The Black Forest is a fantastic little tune. I love it!

Zorba The Greek is an incredible final track that is musically dynamic. It encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Alpert's catalogue.

!!Going Places!! may only have a relatively short runtime of just over 29 minutes, but when music is this good, I will take quality over quantity any day of the week.

The cover art is similarly compelling and well thought out. I dare say, a vinyl edition would look stunning.

While I do intend to pick up the 2016 vinyl reissue, I can honestly say that the MQA 24/88.2 kHz TIDAL Masters edition is superb and likely the best way to experience this album; certainly from a sonic perspective. I also listened to the 16/44.1 kHz TIDAL Hi-Fi edition and while I would also be very happy listening to that edition, the soundstage is a little shallower and sonic elements that are present on the MQA edition are somewhat concealed on the standard 16/44.1 kHz version. These differences, however, are only truly apparent when comparing releases. Once the music plays, you will be captivated with either option. It is simply that good!

However, I would stay clear of the 2005 reissue of the album as it is harsh and lacks the subtle nuances that make the 2015 remasters so appealing. Also, it is important to note, if you are a headphone listener you may find the bass in the left channel to be a little muffled on some songs. One example of this can be heard on Walk, Don’t Run. Having listened to the various masterings I conclude that the bass is soggy across the entire lineup thereby indicating that it is present on the original recording. Even if I turn off the Bass+ feature on my Oppo HA-2, the bass still sounds loose. It far from a major problem, but one that needed to be noted. I didn’t experience this issue at all playing on loud speakers, using the same DAC/AMP, hence your experience may differ. 

!!Going Places!! is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes). If you prefer streaming, !!Going Places!! is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Metallica - Garage Inc. (Album Review)

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Metallica - Garage Inc. (Album Review)

Most would agree that Metallica has had an incredible career. However, there are many that would also argue their shifting musicality has not seen the same success. Personally, I really enjoy Metallica's entire catalogue. That said, I don't class Lulu as a Metallica album per se, but I do recognise and appreciate their willingness to experiment.

During the 90s, Metallica exploded as a mainstream act that left all other Thrash Metal bands wondering if they took a wrong turn with their own musical trajectory. Yes, I know some of you will claim Metallica sold out and weren't true to their fans. However, I know of no artist that purposely limits themselves just to please the fans. I'm sorry to tell you this, but we are not important. Sure, they say how great we are in every city they visit, but once they fly out, they issue the same platitudes to the next city of fans; Spinal Tap’s Simpsons cameo anyone? Truthfully, this isn’t a bad thing but it does prove all musicians, not just Metallica, owe us nothing. Otherwise, The Beatles would have never left Liverpool, Aerosmith would never have ventured past Boston, and AC/DC would only be recording and touring in Australia. We, the music fans, would need to gravitate to them – Woodstock style. Admittedly, music festivals handle this alternate reality in a quasi-way that ensures the journey of the music lover is equal to the music itself. Hence, it is my belief that an artist owes us fans nothing and that we should relish the albums that speak to us, and disregard those that fall short. That is certainly how I deal with Lulu. After all, we don’t need to own everything Metallica releases, do we?

Regardless, throughout the 90s, Bob Rock was a key driving force behind Metallica’s mainstream success. It was a radio friendly, welcoming sound, that would make the band a household name. Going back to their roots, momentarily, Metallica and Rock would collaborate on the exceptional covers album Garage Inc.. Although the producer’s role was still relevant, I absolutely love the statement in the liner notes that the album was ‘Somewhat produced’. Personally, I would say that it just wasn't over produced and it most likely appealed to these who disliked the production elements of the Self-Titled Black Album and Load/ReLoad albums. However, despite including covers that were closer to Metallica’s original ethos, some of the newer recordings are a little less Thrash driven and that may deter some listeners. That said, the selected songs, both new and old, merge into a compilation that has become one of my favourite Metallica albums as it has a little bit of everything. 

Following the release of the album in November of 1998, the double CD went everywhere with me. It seemed that my Discman (really a Philips CD walkman requiring 4 AA batteries), was destined to run out of juice just as I was rocking away in my own world, traversing the suburbs of Sydney. Nothing was more infuriating than boarding a train only to find the battery died five minutes into the hour long journey. Needless to say, I ended up carrying spare batteries. Fast forward to the modern era and I can be thankful that my Oppo HA-2 DAC/Headphone Amplifier not only provides an exceptional sound quality that the iPhone can’t even dream of matching, but it doubles as a charger for the aforementioned iDevice. Nevertheless, I look back with fondness, rather than regret, as it was all about the music. While the portable CD player probably sounded horrid, my teenage ears knew no better and I simply enjoyed the music. Sometimes I wish to go back to that era when specifications, who mastered the album, and which source was used was seemingly irrelevant.

Unfortunately, Garage Inc. would become another victim in the MP3 era as I digitised and sold this masterpiece. To say I was a bloody idiot is a major understatement. I guess my only saving grace is that the MP3 buried in my past and I once again own this record, on vinyl, and I couldn't be happier. Anyway, enough of my incessant rambling, find a comfortable seat and join me for the next couple of hours as we enjoy Metallica’s album Garage, Inc..

DISC 1 / Side One (New Recordings '98)

Free Speech For The Dumb is a fat Thrash-infused song that encourages you to turn the volume up. It isn't my favourite song on the album, but it gets the album off to an incredible start.

It's Electric is an excellent song that is perfectly suited to Hetfield's vocal style and the overall musicality of the band. It is mastered with a little too much focus on the treble region, but that is a minor quibble.

Sabbra Cadabra has a gorgeous guitar intro. The groove is so compelling that you will be toe tapping and head bopping subconsciously. The overall sonic signature of Sabbra Cadabra is cemented in blues rock and roll and I absolutely love it!

Turn The Page was an exceptional song when originally performed by Bob Seger, but Metallica has made it their own and has taken the song to another level. It is one of Metallica’s greatest recordings and is one of their songs I play regularly.

DISC 1 / Side Two (New Recordings '98)

Die, Die My Darling is a killer rock track. I love it!

Loverman may initially sound like a strange pick as one wouldn't normally associate Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds with Metallica, but Metallica certainly recorded an excellent rendition that is worthy of the musicality heard on the original recording. Both versions are excellent, but I find that I gravitate to Metallica’s interpretation as I feel it is the more polished of the two. 

Mercyful Fate is an exceptional song that commands you to turn the volume knob to the right. Yes, your neighbours will likely call the boys and girls in blue, but it will be worth it! Seriously, listening at lower volumes destroys the musicality and energy of this song. It is expertly recorded and mixed while being nothing short of a rock and roll symphony. King Diamond and Hank Shermann would be proud!

DISC 2 / Side One (New Recordings '98)

Astronomy has always been a favourite of mine. The incredible Blue Öyster Cult may have recorded the original epic, but the first time I ever heard Astronomy was when Metallica covered it for Garage Inc.. Hence, as excellent as the original is, I will always hold Metallica’s rendition near and dear to my heart. Interestingly, it would be this song, along with Don’t Fear The Reaper, that would push me to become a dedicated fan of Blue Öyster Cult. Therefore, one can conclude that while some cover albums aren’t worth listening to, there are others, such as Garage Inc., that are done with so much respect to the original, you feel compelled to track down the original recordings.

Whisky In The Jar is an awesome groove-filled track. It is another song that compels me to sing-a-long as my body moves to the rhythm of the music. I probably look like I’ve lost control of myself, when in public, but I don’t care, Whisky In The Jar is that good!

Tuesday's Gone is perhaps the only song on the album that I don't like. It isn't a bad song on its own, it just isn't well suited to the album. Plus, every time I listen to it, I think of Bob Geldof. I also feel Metallica sounds too much like Bon Jovi on this track. I love Bon Jovi, but this is a Metallica record. As I think about it more, perhaps it is the nasal grind of the Geldof/Bon Jovi duet, I Don’t Like Mondays, that reminds me of Metallica’s rendition of Tuesday’s Gone. That all said, I much prefer Lynyrd Skynyrd’s original as it is less monotonous. I guess we can be thankful that Metallica didn’t try to interpret Free Bird as some songs should never be covered.

The More I See wraps up the '98 recordings in style with a harder hitting song than Tuesday's Gone. It also displaces the ridiculous outro Metallica recorded as part of Tuesday's Gone. The More I See may be meat and potatoes rock and roll, but Metallica’s added gravy ensures the song sounds fantastic.

DISC 2 / Side Two (Garage Days Re-Revisited '87)

Helpless has an incredible rhythm and riff-centric sound. The soundstage, while dynamic, does border on the limits of audible compression, but manages to stay away from the mess that came with Death Magnetic. Basically, Helpless is recorded, mixed, and mastered well for the style of music and if Death Magnetic had been mastered with this approach, I dare say there would have been less opposition to an otherwise exceptional album.

The Small Hours is musical perfection as it terrifies me and simultaneously excites me. That haunting introduction and beat would be the perfect musical accompaniment for any horror film set in an insane asylum. It is pure brilliance from start to finish and in some ways reminds me of Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear The Reaper.

The Wait has incredible energy, but I feel Hetfield’s distorted vocal lets the song down as he sounds lost in the soundstage. While it certainly isn't a bad song, it also doesn't feel polished. Although, I guess that is the point of a 'Garage' style album, isn’t it?

Crash Course In Brain Surgery features the bass that Newsted was deprived of on ...And Justice For All. Overall, it is a solid cover and worthy of inclusion.

Last Caress/Green Hell is one of the greatest covers/recordings Metallica has ever made. It is punk rock with a little thrash thrown in for good measure. I love it!

DISC 3 / Side One (Garage Days Re-visited '84 + B-Sides & One-Offs '88-'91 )

Am I Evil? YES, I AM!...I always get a little carried away with this song. It is bloody brilliant and if Satan has a playlist, this would most certainly be on it.

Blitzkrieg is as thrashy as you can get. Get that air guitar out and enjoy!

Breadfan has a killer riff but, beyond that, I don't feel drawn to the song. Hence, for me, this is a filler track.

The Prince is somewhat similar to breadfan as I don't connect with the song on an emotional level. That said, I would be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy elements of each song. I can certainly point to aspects that I adore, but if it doesn’t come together cohesively, then those elements remain highlights in an otherwise pedestrian performance.

Stone Cold Crazy is a great song. I love the original as it is one of Queen's best, but Metallica, yet again, takes the song to another level of excellence.

DISC 3 / Side Two (B-Sides & One-Offs '88-'91 + Motorheadache ‘95)

So What is a great way to start the sixth side of the vinyl release. It’s rude and crude, but it’s such a fun song! If you can look past the overt profanity, you will thoroughly enjoy this epic rock song. So What reminds me of Steel Panther's style in that regard.

Killing Time is a solid cover song that I neither like or dislike. It is a filler track and is perfectly suited for that purpose.

Overkill raises mixed emotions as I believe that some music just shouldn’t be covered. Perhaps it is just me, but covering Motorhead is akin to Avenged Sevenfold covering Metallica. It works, really well, but I'm not sure it should be done.

Damage Case is a great song, with a great groove.

Stone Dead Forever is an excellent song, but I feel Hetfield is imitating Kilmister, rather than making the song his own. This is, of course, the danger of cover songs versus recording someone else’s unpublished song. Yes, imitation is a form of flattery, but I have always had reservations about it when listening to cover songs.

Too Late Too Late is a perfect song to close this epic release on. While it encourages me to listen to the album again, and stay within Metallica's catalogue, Garage Inc. is a lengthy release and I seldom follow it up with anything else as I want to savour the experience.

Metallica's Garage Inc. is an incredible covers album. There really isn't a bad song on the album and while I may not connect with a few of the songs, they certainly work well with the overall style of the compilation. It is quite clear that if Metallica ran out of song ideas and got bored playing their classics, they could make it as one of the greatest cover bands in history.

For this review, I listened to the 2014 Blackened pressing (cat: BLCKND013-1). The mastering was superb and at no time did I long for more musicality from the album or my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable (fitted with the Ortofon OM20 needle). I have also listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition and while the core mastering is the same, I truly enjoy the vinyl tonality just that little bit more. Without a doubt, the vinyl edition is a prized possession in my collection. Besides sounding incredible, the vinyl layout and design, while mimicking the original CD, is full featured and offers a valued added proposition for fans and collectors alike.

Metallica's Garage Inc. is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered For iTunes). If you prefer streaming, Garage Inc.. is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Nirvana - MTV Unplugged In New York (Album Review)

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Nirvana - MTV Unplugged In New York (Album Review)

Experimenting with sound is arguably a key motive for most musicians, but who would have ever thought Nirvana would sound superior when unplugged?

I'm serious, and I know many fans will be offended but, Nirvana was far better suited to soft/folk rock than they ever were alternative rock. I'm not trying to suggest they weren't an exceptional rock band as I truly love all their recordings, but there is something magical about their MTV Unplugged In New York performance. Perhaps this realisation came about as I was writing a review of In Utero and a headache began to form. I needed something that was a little less skull crashing. As much as I love headbanging, the poor ageing peanut, up top, rattles around a little more than it used to. Hence, an unplugged performance, ballad, or concert with a Symphony Orchestra (think Metallica’s S&M) is the perfect compromise. That said, there is no compromise here as Nirvana's musicality is off-the-charts and the entire recording represents some of the most beautiful music ever recorded.

The only dislike I have for this album is the conversation pieces between songs. It isn't excessive, nor is it irrelevant, but the volume level is so low that the context isn't easily discernible when listening via speakers. This is less of a problem when using headphones, but the vocal speech is still too low and I feel it should have been edited from the album format.

About A Girl is a killer song when performed acoustically. It reminds me of The Beatles from an instrumental and vocal composition standpoint. However, more importantly, Cobain's vocal delivery leaves me speechless. What an incredible talent!

Come As You Are is a mellow wonderland and while I adore the original studio recording, this live performance takes the song to another level.

Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam was an interesting cover song to select as, by this stage, Nirvana had their own extensive catalogue of music to select from. That said, it suits the performance and is a valued addition to their repertoire. It is also significantly better than The Vaselines’ edition.

The Man Who Sold The World is glorious!

Pennyroyal Tea really showcases Cobain's control over his vocal as he takes it right to the edge. Overall, the composition is basic, but it is an exceptional live performance. The audience was, indeed, very fortunate to witness this event.

Dumb has all the groove and rhythm of the original, yet the musicality of this performance takes the song to heavenly heights. I absolutely love the inclusion of the double bass as it is perfectly played and really fits well with the overall tone of the song.

Polly is a fantastic song and is perfectly suited to the unplugged nature of the recording. Songs such as this remind me just how fortunate we are to have Nirvana's music.

On A Plain is awesome! I could say more, but I'm too busy enjoying the song.

Something In The Way is one of the most beautiful Nirvana songs ever recorded. While nothing could ever beat the original studio recording, this alternate live recording is excellent and brings a smile to my face every time I hear it.

Plateau is musical perfection! I absolutely love the instrumentation and Cobain's vocal reminds me of Neil Young. I love it!

Oh Me is the first song that doesn't grab me. There is nothing wrong with it per se, I just feel it doesn't fit with the overall performance.

Lake Of Fire is a killer song and is one of the best songs Nirvana ever recorded.

All Apologies is an excellent groove-filled song. However, I prefer the studio recording as I feel this live version lacks soul when compared to the original.

Where Did You Sleep Last Night is a fantastic song to conclude the album on. It certainly encourages me to listen again and stay within Nirvana's catalogue.

Nirvana's MTV Unplugged In New York isn't just an exceptional live album, it is the quintessential Nirvana album.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition of the album and found the mastering to be the definition of perfection. It is so good that I need not concern myself with tracking down a physical release of the album. That said, this is one record that would be a welcome addition to my vinyl collection.

Nirvana's MTV Unplugged In New York is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, you can listen to the album on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Absent Friends - Here's Looking Up Your Address (Album Review)

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Absent Friends - Here's Looking Up Your Address (Album Review)

Have you ever heard a song, only to later forget the name of the song? Perhaps, you heard it on the radio, or in the background of a television show or movie. Yet years, or in my case, decades go by before fate would reunite me with a song that remained in my subconscious but never surfaced. It constantly amazes me how music can unlock memories and if you are interested in exploring this further, I can wholeheartedly recommend John Powell’s Why We Love Music as it explains this topic beautifully.

Despite being a fan of Wendy Matthew's solo career, I hadn’t realised she was a member of the Australian supergroup Absent Friends. The song in question that I had forgotten for so many years was their biggest hit: I Don’t Want To Be With Nobody But You. Perhaps I could be forgiven for not connecting the dots as Absent Friends only released a single studio album and, after forming in 1989, disbanded in 1990. Still, it wasn't until I was perusing Ian McFarlane's exceptional Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop, that the penny dropped. I was like a kid at Christmas and immediately recognised the song. I had waited two decades to be reconnected with a song I had adored in my youth. Immediately, I began to sing along to the song as if I had only heard it yesterday. Somehow, my subconscious mind had remembered every lyric in the song. It makes me wonder what else I have rattling around in my mind! Finding this song again was a wonderful experience and it is an absolute pleasure to be able to share it with you, my dear readers, and look at the body of work that is: Here’s Looking Up Your Address.

Hullabaloo has an incredible groove and is the type of song I immediately associate with Australian pop-rock music. One aspect I don’t like, however, is the spoken word layered behind the vocal and instrumental music as I find it distracting. This element isn’t amplified enough to comprehend what is being said and it reminds me of the audible annoyance when you hear someone whispering.

Mean Streak will get you head bopping and toe tapping. Although, that pig-styled squeal is a little off putting. Despite that, Mean Streak is a great song that really utilises and benefits from the inclusion of a background singer. Is it just me, or are background singers now a thing of the past? I know some artists still utilise the services of backing vocalists, but I feel it is not as prevalent as it once was. Perhaps, I could be wrong, but there was a stage when backing singers were as well known and respected as the lead vocalist. Think Venetta Fields, Lisa Edwards, and Lindsay Fields from John Farnham's band. Farnham is an incredible vocalist, but let’s be honest, these incredibly talented backing vocalists made his recordings and live performances sound exceptional! Similarly, Wendy Matthews' backing vocal on Mean Streak adds sonic depth and an unmistakably catchy chorus. It really is an exceptional tune!

Sister continues the groove fest with Matthews taking lead vocal responsibilities. As you listen to her vocal delivery, you can get an idea why she was destined to become one of Australia's most loved female vocalists. Yes, I know she was born in Canada, but we have adopted her and we’re not giving her back! Truth be told, she is one of the greatest female vocalists in the world and I honestly feel she never received the recognition she deserves.

Hallelujah is a sonically upbeat track, but I find the ad nauseam repetition of the lyric Hallelujah to be fatiguing. It is a B-side and doesn't reach me on an emotional level.

Everybody Up is a fun song. Although, I do wish the lyric was delivered differently as it sounds distant and lacks clarity from the listener’s point of view.

I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You defies explanation. Simply listen and you will understand why I am left speechless. Matthew's solo effort, The Day You Went Away, is another song that leaves the same impression. Yes, I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You is a cover, but it is a cover done exceptionally well and is arguably better than the Eddie Floyd original.

The transition to Come Clean is a little rough compared to the easy listening aforementioned ballad as it has a pop-rock groove. That said, it is a great song and worthy of inclusion on the album. As I listen to Come Clean, I can’t help but think of it as a song that is a perfect mix between the musicality of Wham! and Tears For Fears.

The Water Is Wide is incredible! It is one of the best songs on the album and once again showcases just how talented Wendy Matthews is behind the microphone. Songs like this remind me of why I love music so much.

Harmony is a loose song with jazz elements. While I would generally appreciate this mash-up, it feels forced and therefore it is most certainly a B-side. That said, I can't help but wonder what Matthews could have done with this song. Although, upon further reflection, I just don’t feel the song was well suited to Absent Friends and the overall direction of the album.

I Had A Premonition returns us to a more familiar tone and is an exceptional, must listen, rock track. Just remember, the best experience to be had is when you turn that volume knob to the night. I Had A Premonition has been recorded, mixed, and mastered impeccably well.

Pomona's Place is another exceptional Wendy Matthews song. She just knocks it out of the park vocally. Similar to Harmony, there are jazz elements included, but Pomona's Place uses them as complementary tools to an already excellent pop-rock foundation.

Clemency is a solid song, but it is a B-side.

Here's Looking Up Your Address is an interesting instrumental interlude. From a musical perspective, it is lovely, but I find its inclusion to be disjointed to the overall album experience. That said, if Absent Friends would ever collaborate again, an instrumental album in this blues style would be incredible.

Thankyou, Goodnight is a song that has some nice elements, but it feels disjointed musically. It is subsequently difficult to engage with as the mind is unsure of which beat to follow. However, I do love that saxophone appearing throughout the song and the entire album, but sadly it isn't enough to hold this song together for me.

Hallelujah (Choruses) is an interesting way to close the album. To be quite honest, I'm not sure it adds any value and it leaves me unsure if I want to listen to the album again. That said, other tracks on the album demand my attention, so it will most certainly be enjoyed time and time again.

Here's Looking Up Your Address is an incredible Australian album and it’s a real shame that this would be the only studio album released by Absent Friends. If nothing else, it amplified Wendy Matthews' status on the Australian music scene. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the same impact on ex-Models vocalist Sean Kelly.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition of the album. Every aspect, from the recording to mastering, was done with perfection. While I would have gone with slightly different mixes, for a couple of the songs, that personal preference is as unique as the decision to mix the album the way they did. This is why music is subjective and we are not always going to agree regarding what constitutes a good song. I'm sure a song I would class as a B-side, would be someone else’s A-side. I don’t know about you, but I find that absolutely intriguing to think about.

Here’s Looking Up Your Address is sadly out-of-print on all physical media. I would love to see a re-issue, but not a remaster as it doesn't need it. In the meantime, you can purchase the album on the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC) or on iTunes. If you prefer streaming, Here’s Looking Up Your Address is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Midnight Oil - Redneck Wonderland (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Redneck Wonderland (Album Review)

While it may not have been commercially successful, Redneck Wonderland is captivating and can be seen as an artistic success. The more I listen to Redneck Wonderland, the more I come to appreciate the merging of the new and old Midnight Oil musical styles. Warne Livesey, producer of Diesel And Dust and Blue Sky Mining, makes a welcome return, ensuring a result that will appeal to longtime Midnight Oil fans and newcomers alike.

I also have to say, before we dig into the musicality of the album, the cover of Redneck Wonderland is stunning. It is rough, raw, and clear in relation to relevance and meaning. This album cover, alone, is enough justification to buy the Midnight Oil vinyl box set; especially considering Redneck Wonderland was never released on vinyl.

Redneck Wonderland sounds as though it was conceived in a rhythm-based distorted heaven. The musicality is immediately recognisable as Midnight Oil have gone back to their roots. It is an exceptional song and should be included on every compilation and live set list.

Concrete continues the stripped-down raw rock sound that arguably hadn't been heard since Blue Sky Mining almost a decade earlier. It is a killer rock song and, as with Redneck Wonderland, the instrumental rhythm will have you moving unconsciously. It’s wonderful to see Midnight Oil return to form, following the lacklustre Earth And Sun And Moon and their previous album Breathe.

Cemetery In My Mind slows the pace of the album, but that isn't a bad thing as it is an exceptional song. The musical introduction, that is featured throughout, creates a worthy bridge that ensures the song is thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end.

Comfortable Place On The Couch has a promising start, but the musicality behind Garrett's vocal is distracting, rather than being complementary. That said, once the electric guitar and chorus come into play, the song kicks into high gear. It isn't a bad song, but it is only half a song in my opinion as the verse is akin to a demo recording.

Safety Chain Blues has a killer bass and piano introduction. This musicality continues throughout and while I feel Garrett’s vocal delivery is concealed in the soundstage, Safety Chain Blues should be considered a B-side with the promise of an A-side should a different mix be permitted. I understand Midnight Oil were aiming for a particular style, I just don't feel it was well executed. Interestingly, the song sounds superior on headphones. The vocals become more present and are less distant in the mix. That is somewhat understandable as headphones bring the music closer to the ear. It is an interesting dichotomy, but I also feel that a well recorded, mixed, and mastered song should not exhibit these variances.

Return To Sender is a groovy pop-rock song, but it does sound out-of-place with the style of the album thus far. It isn't inherently flawed, it just isn't deserving of its place on Redneck Wonderland.

Blot returns us to the raw alternative rock and roll sound Midnight Oil is renowned for. However, Blot is a mismatched mess as the mind is unable to connect with the varying backbeat. It sounds as though Blot is the culmination of three songs that really don't belong together. It is a shame because I do love that guitar riff.

The Great Gibber Plain is a B-side, but I still find it enjoyable.

Seeing Is Believing is a song that will blow you away as it is not only one of the best tracks on the album, but one of the best songs Midnight Oil has ever written and recorded.

White Skin Black Heart is exceptional! While I have always felt it was a little too shrill, I wouldn't want it changed at all.

What Goes On is an energetic song. I love it! I can't wait to hear it on vinyl as I feel it would amplify all elements and I’ll be interested to hear how the distortion transfers, particular from the drums.

Drop In The Ocean is a lovely ballad to close the album on. While it is sonically worlds apart from What Goes On, I feel compelled to listen to the album again and stay within Midnight Oil's catalogue.

Redneck Wonderland really should have been the follow-up to Blue Sky Mining, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Regardless, we have it now and that’s all that matters. It still amazes me that Redneck Wonderland was not more commercially successful, but it just goes to show how fickle us fans can be. That said, you can’t really blame fans for not having faith in a new album, following Midnight Oil’s mediocre mid-90s releases. That said, if you did miss out on hearing this album in the past, I implore you to give it a listen as it really is an excellent release.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi 16/44.1 kHz edition and found the mastering to be perfect for Midnight Oil’s musicality. However, it was mastered a little too hot but I didn't find that to be detrimental to the overall listening experience.

Redneck Wonderland is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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