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Slash (feat. Miles Kennedy) – Made In Stoke 24/7/11 (Live Album Review)

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Slash (feat. Miles Kennedy) – Made In Stoke 24/7/11 (Live Album Review)

Following the highly successful Self-Titled Slash album, from 2010, Slash hit the road with Myles Kennedy as lead vocalist. Kennedy certainly has the vocal chops to deliver a wide range of styles and subsequently was the perfect choice as vocalist. Also joining them on this outing was Bobby Schneck on Rhythm Guitar, Todd Kerns on Bass, Backing Vocals, and Lead Vocal on Doctor Alibi, and Brent Fitz on drums. Kerns and Fitz have remained with Slash and Kennedy through their subsequent albums and touring schedule, being dubbed as The Conspirators. It’s certainly a solid lineup and as you listen to the performance, you get a sense of energy and cohesion that is usually reserved for bands that are at the apex of their careers. Yet, here, on an early outing, this is no garage band wannabe stadium headliner that was thrown together merely to capitalise on the success of the eponymous album and Slash’s back catalogue. Of course, this album was recorded in front of a modest audience of 1,500 at Victoria Hall in Stoke-on-Trent in England. Nevertheless, you don’t get a substandard performance and while it may sound different to that of a stadium-sized concert, the intimate location results in audible audience interaction that goes beyond the standard concert screaming and cheering as you can easily hear the audience singing along to many of the songs and chorus lines. It adds to the performance and the intimate feeling of being there vicariously.

While I obviously wasn’t in attendance, I am fortunate enough to have the 3LP Green Vinyl edition that looks as amazing as it sounds. The records aren’t your standard 180-gram releases; probably 140-gram, but this is never a negative aspect for 180-gram is more about marketing than quality. You can have a paper thin record and it can smoke a thick behemoth any day of the week if the mastering and pressing process was handled with respect. 

The tri-fold gatefold is stunning and when you hold this record sleeve in your hand, you know exactly why you’re a vinyl collector for no digital counterpart can ever be this immersive. iTunes LP tried, but the listeners didn’t care, nor did the record labels or the artists; the end result is a feature that is no longer being supported. It’s a missed opportunity, but if I were working for Apple or one of the record labels, I’m sure I’d sink countless millions into things like iTunes LP, whether it made financial sense or not. It’s a shame though, that the dollar value must dictate what music lovers receive. Nevertheless, Slash’s Made In Stoke 24/7/11 is one vinyl release you should own if you’re a fan of the artist/band. The records themselves are quiet, flat, and well pressed and mastered. No, this is not going to sound as good as a highly produced studio album, but it certainly gives the feeling of a live performance better than many other live albums I own. For that aspect alone, I applaud this release and while I don’t find myself gravitating to it on a regular basis, when I do, I thoroughly enjoy the experience and ponder if I should pick up the concert Blu-ray release to go along with it. 

Interestingly, in my younger years, I used to love watching recorded live performances. As I’ve aged, however, I find myself less compelled to sit and watch, preferring to relax and listen. It’s a strange dichotomy that I can’t explain and perhaps I’ll have to give some live performances a chance again to see if I can reinvigorate the interest in watching the performances. Perhaps I’ll start with The Rolling Stones’ From The Vault: No Security San Jose 1999 as the Stones have made the concert available on Apple Music. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I wish Slash and all other artists and record labels would offer this kind of value-added proposition. Of course, I’m not sure if I’d watch them all, but I know many people who would find significant value from such an inclusion. While I’d love to be able to at least rent Made In Stoke 24/7/11 from iTunes, unfortunately, the only Slash concert available to the Australian market, on iTunes, is the 2014 performance Live At The Roxy. Hey, you never know, I may just review that someday as well. Until then, let’s get back to the review of Made In Stoke.

LP 1 – Side A

Been There Lately was a really strange song to commence the performance with. It was never the strongest song from Slash’s Snakepit and it’s therefore unexpected. That isn’t to say that this live rendition isn’t good as it’s arguably better than the original, but there are many stronger songs from that era that I would have selected. Speed Parade would have been perfect as the opening song, in my opinion. Perhaps, even, Dime Store Rock would have been a better choice.  

Nightrain is an absolute classic and a personal favourite. This live rendition doesn’t shift far from the original, and that’s a good thing, but it has its own personality and is thoroughly enjoyable. I have to say, Kennedy does a wonderful job, on vocals, with all the classic Guns N’ Roses songs. 

Ghost has a killer rhythm and is textbook Slash. Kennedy does a good job with the song that was originally recorded with Ian Astbury. While I can understand the unwillingness to open the live performance with Ghost, given it was the opening track for Slash’s eponymous album, it would have been ideal and would have flowed perfectly into Nightrain. Although, Ghost also flows smoothly into the Snakepit original Mean Bone.

Mean Bone isn’t a bad rock and roll track. It has a classic vibe to it but fails to stand out and subsequently doesn’t offer much to write home about. Nevertheless, it works well for the live performance and is a value-added proposition for those of you that may have not been exposed to the Snakepit era. 

Back From Cali is Kennedy’s song and it’s astonishingly good. While not intended to be, Back From Cali is the perfect song to close out side one, ensuring that the live performance is full of energy and the listener feels compelled to keep listening to a live performance that simply gets better as the show goes on.

LP 1 – Side B

Rocket Queen is a favourite of mine, but that could be said about all songs from the Appetite For Destruction era. They haven’t aged and remain as relevant today as they were when recorded. A sign of good music? Yes, I believe so! 

Civil War is an incredible song and the band performs it stunningly with Kennedy doing a solid job of interpreting the song for his vocal style, but as much as I enjoy Civil War, I would have much preferred to hear the band perform November Rain. Of course, Slash didn’t co-write November Rain, as it was a Rose-only composition, and subsequently, it makes sense that it hasn’t made an appearance. Although, that closing guitar riff is spectacular.

Nothing To Say is brilliant and Kennedy really nails this interpretation, resulting in a song that leaves me divided because I equally enjoy this rendition and the original version featuring M. Shadows on vocals. It’s a great fast-riffed rock and roll tune. Yes, some may suggest that Slash’s style is better suited to his core blues-based rock and roll riffs. While I wouldn’t completely disagree with that point of view, the man is a legend and can certainly shred without issue. 

LP 2 – Side A

Starlight is beyond belief good! It honestly leaves me speechless as it’s nothing short of a masterpiece. Just sit back, turn the volume up, sing along, and enjoy. I know I do!

Promise is an incredible song and while Chris Cornell was the perfect choice for the original studio recording, Kennedy performs it perfectly, showing yet again just how talented he is as a vocalist. Yes, it could be argued that he is merely singing a variety of blues-based rock and roll songs and therefore the shift isn’t that dramatic, but one must remember that the original songs were written with and for other vocalists and vocal styles. The result is Kennedy pays tribute to the original vocalists, makes the song his own, resulting in pure perfection. I dare say there are very few vocalists who could adapt to so many varied styles in a live performance and absolutely nail them all.

Doctor Alibi was a killer Lemmy Kilmister song and Kerns has covered it perfectly. Seriously, if Motörhead ever wanted to tour again, following the unfortunate passing of Kilmister, they should pick up the phone and call Kerns. No, he’s not a Kilmister imitator, but his vocal prowess is most certainly appropriate for the Motörhead sound. Either way, Doctor Alibi is a killer rock and roll tune. 

Speed Parade is your classic meat and potatoes rock and roll song. Full of attitude with a riff and rhythm that is addictive and appealing to the rock and roller within.

Watch This was lacklustre on the eponymous Slash album and I was a little worried about it being included in the live performance. However, the worry was largely unnecessary as the live performance adds a little grit to the instrumental that wasn’t present on the studio recording. That said, it still isn’t exceptional and is quite frankly nothing to write home about, but this rendition is, at the very least, a better interpretation of the original composition. 

LP 2 – Side B

Beggars & Hangers On is one of the greatest songs Slash has ever written and recorded. I’ve always loved it. Eric Dover did a fantastic job with the original and as much as I enjoy Kennedy’s vocal prowess, I really feel that Dover’s is superior as the song just isn’t quite as strong with Kennedy at the helm. That isn’t to say he did a bad interpretation, it’s awesome, it just isn’t up to the same standard of the original and I wonder what Kerns would have sounded like performing this song as he nailed the gruffer vocal delivery on Doctor Alibi. 

Patience is a truly lovely song and this is a beautiful rendition of the Guns N’ Roses classic. 

Godfather Solo flows perfectly from Patience and has arguably become a Slash trademark. Having performed it for years, I dare say there isn’t another guitarist, in the world, that can express the song as elegantly as Slash does; on an electric guitar that is. Absolutely sensational! That said, I would suggest that Slash has become a little self-indulgent regarding the length of this solo. Certainly, he has earned the egotistical right to play that guitar for as long as he likes, I’m just wondering how captivated the fans remain throughout. 

LP 3 – Side A

Sweet Child Of Mine is another seamless transition, especially if you listen to the album via CD or Apple Music. Unfortunately, if you’ve got the vinyl release, you’re not going to notice this continuity. Nevertheless, Sweet Child Of Mine is exceptional and Kennedy can belt this classic out just as well as Rose has over the years. This is the type of song where Kennedy’s unique vocal style really shines. 

Slither is a favourite from the Velvet Revolver era and while I’ll always associate this song with Scott Weiland, Kennedy pays homage to the original and makes it his own. Yes, I should stop comparing the efforts of Kennedy to the vocalists that came before him, as I’m not doing that for the other musicians, but the vocal element, as an instrument, is so pertinent in music that it is difficult to separate the memory in one’s mind to the performance one is currently listening to. Perhaps that is why I dislike cover bands as I feel, despite their best efforts, they are subpar compared to the memory of the classic songs they sing. That said, I am the first to admit that not all covers and cover bands are bad, some can be better than the original, but it is the exception rather than the rule. 

LP 3 – Side B

By The Sword is epic and Kennedy absolutely nails it. 

Mr. Brownstone is one of my all-time favourite Guns N’ Roses songs. The beat is tribal and the rhythm addictive. I love it! 

Paradise City rounds out this live performance and while it would have been nice to see the album end with one of the songs from Slash’s eponymous album, Paradise City is a showstopper and one of the very best songs ever written and recorded. That riff, those lyrics, and that rhythm are sensational. If you need a textbook example of a perfect rock and roll song, I dare say this is it. Without a doubt, Paradise City leaves me compelled to listen to Made In Stoke 24/7/11 again and stay within Slash’s back catalogue.

Overall, Made In Stoke 24/7/11 is a sensational live performance that any fan of Slash and his musical cohorts should check out, if not own, as it is most certainly worth your time. Including music from Guns N’ Roses, Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver, and Slash’s iconic eponymous release, longtime fans, such as myself, will undoubtedly find something to love about Made In Stoke 24/7/11

Made In Stoke 24/7/11 is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes

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Diana Ah Naid – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Diana Ah Naid – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Sonically positioned somewhere between Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette is Australia's own, Diana Ah Naid. Ian McFarlane describes this 1997 independent, self-funded, release as a restless, funky brand of acoustic guitar folk with urgently charged vocals backed by an emotional, primal energy – Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop. I don't know about you, dear reader, but McFarlane is spot on and no amount of pondering on my behalf could come up with a more precise review of this thoroughly satisfying Self-Titled release. That said, join me as I take a look at the individual songs and how I subjectively feel about them and the entire album.

I Go Off is a musical wonderland with nothing more than a vocal and guitar track filling the soundstage. While both are beautifully presented and recorded, Ah Nard's vocal prowess is simply astonishing. How she isn't a household name, is an absolute mystery.

If You Insist has a beautiful introduction. That guitar tuning is stunning and provides the perfect backing to the song. In some ways, it is a little too similar to I Go Off, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing as it develops a sound that allows the listener to identify and connect with the artist.

Fill Me Up has a good rhythm and a very alternative vocal presentation that is perfect for the style of music. The added brass instrumentation really builds a sonically pleasurable soundstage that ensures Fill Me Up is memorable and ready to be played on repeat. If you enjoy World Music, you'll love Fill Me Up.

See Through is an interesting composition that is a little scattered in places, but the hook is catchy. A solid addition to the album, but nothing to write home about.

Make It Begin is sonic gold. That musical introduction is magical as the piano is beautifully recorded. You really need to listen for yourself to appreciate just how amazing it is. Make It Begin may be mellow, but it’s one of the best songs on the album, if not the best. Absolutely stunning!

Wrapped Around My Head is a lovely tune but fails to fully captivate my senses. I find my mind wandering when listening to the song.

Ruok? is short, but spectacular!

Get Yourself Lost is a little too erratic and subsequently, I find it difficult to connect with a specific rhythm.

Leaving The Country is a gorgeous tune. Ah Naid's vocal presentation is mind-blowingly good. It is as if an angel is singing to you, and only you.

Flowers is a B-side that I simply can't get into.

K9 is musically impressive, but I have to be honest and say I would much prefer for it to have been an instrumental interlude as the vocal distracts the listener from the musicality.

Freaky Animals is an interesting tune that I enjoy, but I also have reservations with the child vocal inclusion towards the end as I'm not sure it suits the song. There is also an error on the Apple Music stream whereby this song continues in silence for a further minute and a half. It's a shame as the error makes you think the album has concluded, but there is one more song to be played as the original CD release had a hidden 13th untitled track. That track is now listed in Apple Music as Schlork Your S*****g. Subsequently, it looks as though the album has been uploaded directly from the CD and it infuriates me when this happens. I've never liked bonus hidden tracks, and this is further proof that they should be abolished. Albums that include this common CD-feature should, at the very least, be re-tracked when uploaded to streaming music services. 

Despite my above complaint, Schlork Your S*****g is an interesting track to conclude the album with. The chorus does drive me mad, but I appreciate the artistic intent and the verses are strong enough to hold the song together ensuring I’ll play the album again and continue to explore Ah Naid's catalogue. Speaking of that, it is important to note that all post-2004 releases by Diana Ah Naid are released as Diane Anaid

Overall, Diana Ah Naid's Self-Titled debut is thoroughly enjoyable and while I have some reservations, as detailed above, all songs work extremely well in the album format.

Diana Ah Naid's Self-Titled debut is available for purchase on iTunes, or if you prefer streaming, the album is available on Apple Music.

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David Bowie – 1. Outside (Album Review)

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David Bowie – 1. Outside (Album Review)

David Bowie has always been an enigma to me. A brilliant, but arguably eccentric, sonic experimentalist. Some of his work I hate, some of it not so much, then there are releases like 1. Outside that make me think about his brilliance, ignoring all my ignorant misconceptions. Much like Shakespeare is dissected still to this day, Bowie's music will not only live on but will surely be studied, for context, by future generations.

The self-portrait cover art of 1. Outside is stunning and deserves to be held on vinyl as one enjoys this lengthy but sonically rewarding album. At present, I have to settle for the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition and its counterpart streamed from Apple Music. While both are largely indistinguishable from each other, the atmospheric brilliance of Bowie, combined with Brian Eno’s talent, really shines on the lossless stream with a greater three-dimensional soundstage.

Leon Take Us Outside is an interesting musical and spoken word introduction that flows seamlessly into Outside, making me wonder why it’s a separate track at all.

Outside is an incredibly detailed track that is masterfully composed. The rhythm will connect with your soul, causing involuntary body movements. No, this isn't a song you'll likely sing-along to, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and is a fantastic way to commence the album.

The Hearts Filthy Lesson is a fantastic song. While there is a radio edit, available on the exceptional career perspective, Nothing Has Changed, I find myself drawn to the full length original as it is a more substantial version of the song.

A Small Plot Of Land has a near jazz-fusion introduction that I thoroughly enjoy. Although, A Small Plot Of Land loses its lustre for me when Bowie joins the mix as I don't feel his vocals on this track are a good mix with the musical style. However, A Small Plot Of Land would be sensational as a purely instrumental track.

(Segue) – Baby Grace [A Horrid Cassette] is musically interesting. I'm still not sold on the spoken word segue’s throughout, but this one grows on you.

Hallo Spaceboy is EPIC! You'll want to turn the volume up on this track. The Pet Shop Boys remix is featured on Nothing Has Changed, but to be completely frank, I hate it! It adds nothing to the original and makes the song sound weak. It’s amazing that the remix made the cut on Bowie's career perspective release as I believe the original release is incomparable and one of Bowie's greatest recordings.

The Motel is musically beautiful, although it takes close to half the duration of the song before coming into its own. Subsequently, I feel the introduction was a little too drawn out and the song could have evolved faster had the composition been reconsidered. Of course, my subjective opinion is rather irrelevant as it is a piece of Bowie’s sonic artwork and subsequently is created with his vision in mind.

I Have Not Been To Oxford Town has a sensational rhythmic undertone and Bowie's vocal delivery is perfectly suited to the musicality.

No Control is a solid, albeit a little disjointed, song with regards to the shifts in lyrical delivery. That said, I do find No Control to be rather compelling.

(Segue) – Algeria Touchshriek doesn't sonically work well with the album, but as a segue, one can forgive this aspect as the concept album must, by definition, tell a story that, at times, requires segueing.

The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) is, from my perspective, a garbled mess.

(Segue) – Ramona A. Stone / I Am With Name doesn't add much to the album. It is more of a distraction than a beneficial addition. Of course, I’m less interested in the underlying story arc than I am the musicality of the album.

Wishful Beginnings, while an interesting composition, fails to excite.

We Prick You sounds more like an 80s tune than one composed in the 90s. It isn't bad, but it's a B-side.

(Segue) – Nathan Adler, Pt. 1 is, as many of these segues are, a distractive element to an otherwise free-flowing album.

I'm Deranged is meh!

Thru' These Architects Eyes is a B-side at best and one can't help but wonder, by this stage, when this album will end as there is considerable self-indulgent filler throughout.

(Segue) – Nathan Adler, Pt. 2 makes me question if any of these segues were really necessary. I'm honestly not sure they were.

Strangers When We Meet, as heard on 1. Outside is a re-recording of the song which was first released on Bowie's The Buddha Of Suburbia. I much prefer this re-recording as it is more aligned with Bowie’s vocal delivery and overall style. It’s also the perfect song to conclude 1. Outside on and encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Bowie's catalogue.

Despite a few songs failing to impress, 1. Outside is a solid album from start to finish. Although, I don't feel I’m missing out by only having it in my streaming library and while I maintain an interest in holding the album artwork, the album itself, much like John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy, is a little too disjointed for me to appreciate on vinyl. Nevertheless, there are some exceptional Bowie songs to be heard here. Thankfully, a few of them are on my regularly spun Nothing Has Changed career perspective release.

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

If you prefer streaming, 1. Outside is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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The Script – #3 (Album Review)

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The Script – #3 (Album Review)

Released in 2012, #3 is the third album from the Irish band, The Script. Most surprisingly, however, is that this album has been in my TIDAL Hi-Fi collection for years, yet I've never purchased a copy. I say surprisingly because even though The Script's style of music has a tendency to be somewhat campy, I thoroughly enjoy it. Nevertheless, I guess when you have CD-quality streaming, it isn't always necessary to have the physical counterpart.

Before we take a look at the songs, please note this review is based on the standard release of the album and while I’ve heard the Deluxe Edition, and enjoy the additional tracks, I feel they are superfluous to the album and are only truly necessary for dedicated fans and completists.

Good Ol' Days is a killer pop-rock song. It’s a sensational start to the album with a mix that is absolutely perfect. Although, I do feel this song, and the entire album, is mastered a little hot. It isn't necessarily detrimental to the enjoyment of the recording, but as I've said many times before, I know where the volume knob is.

Six Degrees Of Separation was the second single from #3 and has a beautiful introduction and vocal presentation. While it’s certainly single-ready, the composition is somewhat predictable. Despite that, I enjoy the constant reinterpretations of AC/DC’s trademark style, therefore I can tolerate and appreciate the safe approach The Script took with this song.

Hall Of Fame is the star of the album and was the obvious lead single from #3. It is inspirational, easy to sing-a-long to, and will.i.am's inclusion is essential to the song's success as a composition, in my opinion, despite him having minimal production input. Hall Of Fame should be in everyone's Inspirational Playlist.

If You Could See Me Now is a fantastic mix of pop-rock and hip-hop styling. It’s a head bopper and toe topper that is thoroughly enjoyable.

Glowing takes a while to get going. However, after the first minute, Glowing comes into its own and is one of the best songs on the album with an exceptional rhythm. Although, the loudness of the mix squashes the musicality of the song. It's still a great song, of course, but it could have been even better with an expanded dynamic range.

Give The Love Around is a B-side. Not a bad one as it certainly fits the overall style of the album, but it isn't as strong as the previous songs. There is also a little sibilance in the chorus that is rather distracting, especially when listening via headphones.

Broken Arrow has an interesting, and compelling, interweaving vocal. The mix is great, I love it!

Kaleidoscope is a stadium-filling song that reminds me, in styling, of U2.

No Words is a beautiful song that I could listen to for hours. However, there is some distortion in the harmonic elements that I find distracting. As usual, this is amplified when listening via headphones, but it is something to be aware of, especially given how much of our modern music listening is being done with headphones. I can, however, confirm that the distortion is still present on speakers, but it is less distracting.

Millionaires is a great song, with plenty of energy, to conclude the album with, ensuring I'll listen to #3 again and stay within The Script's catalogue.

Overall, #3 is an incredible album and one that should be in everyone's collection. Yes, there are some things I would have done differently, in relation to the mixing, mastering, and overall production of the album, but they are minor quibbles that would likely make the album different, not better.

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

If you prefer streaming, #3 is also available on Apple Music.

A Deluxe Edition is also available on all aforementioned formats with the exception of the vinyl release which has the same tracking as the Standard Edition.

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Reverend And The Makers – @reverend_Makers (Album Review)

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Reverend And The Makers – @reverend_Makers (Album Review)

While considered to be an Independent Rock act, Reverend And The Makers are arguably closer aligned to the Electronica spectrum. Nevertheless, if you were to put @reverend_Makers on at any party, it would go down extremely well.

This review is not based on the @BonusDisk edition of the album. I find the core 30-minute runtime to be more than adequate as I don't tire of the record, wanting to listen to it over and over again. However, the @BonusDisk edition is just a little too long for my personal tastes and I do start to become distracted approximately three-quarters of the way through. However, that shouldn't deter you, dear reader, as you may subjectively enjoy the longer runtime. Regardless, I applaud the band for giving fans the option, thereby allowing the more casual listener, such as myself, the opportunity to be captivated by the music in a sample-sized portion.

Bassline opens the album boldly. Let the escapism begin! I do hope you're reading this on your smartphone as you listen to the album as you'll be on your feet and dancing around in no time. Bassline is a sensational track that is masterfully mixed and recorded. Although, that could be said about all the songs on @reverend_Makers.

Don't sit down because Out Of The Shadows continues with a rhythm worthy of any dance floor. Sensational, absolutely sensational!

Shine The Light is a great rock track that you can dance to. Yes, (Was) Not Was declared that White People Can't Dance, but this white dude is giving it his best effort. I love it!

Depth Charge is a solid, albeit, predictable tune that works well in the album format but arguably isn't a standout track.

Warts N All has a toe tapping and head bopping beat, but I'm not sold on the vocal presentation in the chorus. It isn’t bad but sounds a little repetitive and whiny. That acoustic shift, mid-song, is absolutely marvellous, however. Overall, a great song.

Yes You Do slows the album down a little, to a near-ballad pace, but I absolutely love Yes You Do and I feel it fits beautifully into the album tracking.

The Wrestler picks up the pace and is easily one of my favourite songs on the album.

1+0 isn't inherently bad, but it is a B-side. Of course, that contradicts my Instagram micro review of the album whereby I stated there is not a single B-side to be found. Well, that was almost a year ago and I don't know about you, but I like the fact that my subjectivity can shift over time, based on further reflection and comparison against other music. It would, after all, be a sad state of affairs if our music likes and dislikes remained stagnant.

Noisy Neighbour is a killer rhythmic rock song and a rather humorous one at that.

What Goes Around has a terrible beginning, but the song comes into its own after the first minute and is extremely addictive in the final minute, compelling me to listen to the album again and stay within Reverend And The Makers catalogue.

Sonically, the TIDAL Hi-Fi stream is beyond reproach, but I dare say a vinyl release would add a little something to an already extraordinary album. That said, @reverend_Makers has only been made available on CD from a physical media standpoint. Disappointing, but you never know when a re-issue will be forthcoming.

@reverend_Makers is currently available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

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

Should you be interested in the @BonusDisk edition, simply look for the slightly varied album name: @Reverend_Makers.

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Magnetic - Miriam Clancy (Album Review)

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Magnetic - Miriam Clancy (Album Review)

Miriam Clancy at Mighty Mighty, 7 July 2011. Copyright © A Jenks 2011

Miriam Clancy at Mighty Mighty, 7 July 2011.
Copyright © A Jenks 2011

I don’t go to live music gigs. I’m a huge fan of well produced, polished music, presented in a crisp package, that I can enjoy in my own time and space. I have, however, been to one live gig. One artist I cared enough to see live and to meet.

This is a difficult review for me to write because the album is a very dear one to me, but my review of the gig was not taken well by the artist. While I don’t think I was unfair or inaccurate, I do regret the effect it had. If you know where to look, you can find that original review, but I am going to try to forget that history (and not draw it out again here) to do this review justice.

Magnetic is Miriam Clancy’s second album, released three years after her debut album, Lucky One. The two albums could not be much more different and yet both are unmistakably Miriam. Magnetic marked a new phase for Miriam, as she transitioned out of what she herself called “GarageBand-ville.” With an accomplished producer, Miriam has taken her fantastic range and applied it to a variety of styles with layers of panache and polish.

The Best is the first track on Magnetic. Proverbially, one is supposed to save the best to last, but is it the best track on the album? I’d say it’s a handy second place. Straight away the listener is introduced to the careful layering of instruments that is a strong feature of many tracks on this album. The song begins with what I feel as a restrained energy. From the first bar there is something pent up and, sure enough, it is eventually let loose in a classic Clancy crescendo. Miriam likes “light and shade” in a song and this one delivers that contrast in spades.

This track is one of a handful in my entire music collection that invokes chills down my spine, as Miriam hits that crescendo with a powerful delivery that she is so, so good at.

When I Do switches styles to a plucky pop number and was released as a single. While the energy doesn’t reach the levels of The Best, the tempo starts and remains high and the tone almost frivolous. Miriam’s vocals are almost… cheeky. Like all good singles, the chorus is catchy and leaps out of the surrounding verses. Miriam once again manages a diverse vocal delivery to fit the phase of the song, including her, perhaps trademark, breathy style.

If you thought there would be a distinct style to this album, you’d be disavowed of that notion by the time Join the Chorus begins, as yet another vibe is invoked.

It would be wrong to call this an acoustic track but I believe it would translate well to a simple vocal and guitar. A strong illustration of the layering approach, this track builds from a few plucky instruments to a rich tapestry of many more traditional ‘mainstream’ sounds, while the melody evokes a church singalong.

You Ain't the Worst Mistake I Made is another plucky number not unlike the early part of Join the Chorus but with a much evener delivery and some definite sass, as you might expect from the title. This track is, I think, one of the best showcases for Miriam’s voice, as she walks those vocals all over the map, bringing each line, each phrase, the tone it deserves.

Southern Cross is the song that, for me, beats out The Best for the actual accolade of the best song on the album. Perhaps you have to be a Kiwi (the person, not the bird^) to capture the full feeling of this song. I asked Miriam if she was away and homesick when it was written. In fact, she was at home and contemplating her move to New York. That fact makes the longing lyrics and sad timbre seem all the more poignant. I also asked if she had offered it to Air New Zealand as an anthem. Apparently, I was not the first to ask. I still think it’s perfect for them.

If I had to pick a single word to describe this song, it would be “stirring.” It makes me proud to be a Kiwi… and proud that someone as talented as Miriam is a Kiwi, too.

The liner track listing for Only Lonely One includes the words “For Dad.” I asked Miriam about this and all she said was that she included it so he would know it is about him (she didn’t think he realised at the time) and so that everyone else wouldn’t think it was “just another break-up song.”

This is a very personal story set to a simple guitar, though with some atmospheric backing and a noticeable echo on the vocals. There is probably no better example of the singer-songwriter art on this album. Although I make it sound simple, Miriam’s delivery and a catchy vocal melody make it very enjoyable.

Real Love brings back the higher tempo and layering in abundance. This is another song that makes use of vocal echo to good effect. Although it has an interesting arrangement, the structure of the track is quite straightforward with just a little escalation toward the end. Just not in the same magnitude of The Best.

The premise of Mixtape is cute, but not cutesy. Another simple arrangement, it explores various aspects of the love that goes into things you make for a loved one — that the love that goes into it should outweigh any less than perfect execution. Mixtapes, pictures, and poems that come from the heart are beautiful for what they mean, not what they are. This is, perhaps, the track that sits closest to the style of the previous album, Lucky One.

The title track of the album, Magnetic, is a great piece of pop art. While starting like a typical Clancy track, with those gorgeous and largely unchallenged vocals, the break after the second verse leads to a change in tone and that other Clancy classic tool — the escalation of energy (and noise levels). Magnetic, however, does not have a crescendo, instead holding the energy before an uncharacteristic fade-out.

If you’ve ever wondered about life in a semi-rural New Zealand town at a time when cities were starting to take the shine off the country lifestyle, then be sure to listen to Ghost Town, for it is about Miriam’s hometown. Home to Foxton Fries and (originally) Foxton Fizz, these days it is more known as a marker on one’s journey north from Wellington. Indeed, for those who like a good drive, the “Foxton straights” may eclipse them all.

If I have painted an unflattering picture of Foxton, Miriam isn’t going to up the ante. A simple song, Ghost Town has an energy level to match the subject, playing out like a story, in fact a documentary, set to music more than an epic song. As if some memory test, be sure to note how many boyfriends were had!

Another track to receive the full production treatment is Baby Blues, a song about Clancy’s son. The song tells of how having a son changed her life. Part introspective, part love story, this low tempo song is another that would translate well to acoustic despite a plethora of sounds being added in this version.

Another song that harks back, somewhat, to the style of Lucky OneThe Knife has some of the most alluring, and interesting, vocals backed with minimal instruments.

Once again, Miriam returns to a familiar formula with My Heart is a Traitor. Beginning with a quiet vocal over a simple piano line, the track slowly builds. Drums are added in the third verse, along with a bass, before the tempo picks up a little another couple of verses in and the vocals gain some extra punch. Before long, the vocals strain against the crescendo of instruments before both fade to an acoustic finish. Classic Miriam.

As an album, Magnetic is in many respects a clear progression from Lucky One, but there are a handful of standout tracks that really deserve attention: The BestMagnetic, and When I Do should be elevated as important markers in Miriam's career. Southern Cross... well... deserves a place alongside Hello Sailor's Gutter Black as a New Zealand anthem.

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

If you prefer streaming, Magnetic is also available on TIDAL Hi-FiSpotify, and Apple Music.


For Americans reading this, “Kiwi” is properly attributed to either a New Zealander, or the flightless bird of the ratite family. It is not correctly applied to a fruit, which is trademarked as “Kiwifruit.”

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Kaleo - A/B (Album Review)

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Kaleo - A/B (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

Broken Bones is sublime!

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

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

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

Automobile is an incredibly catchy tune. I love it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Foo Fighters - Wasting Light (Album Review)

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Foo Fighters - Wasting Light (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These Days is simply gorgeous!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nirvana - "Bleach" (Deluxe Edition Vinyl Review)

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Nirvana - "Bleach" (Deluxe Edition Vinyl Review)

In June, I reviewed the Deluxe Edition of “Bleach” and indicated that while I appreciated the TIDAL Masters/MQA version, I was still interested in owning the vinyl pressing. Well, the wait is over, thanks to Matau Records, as the vinyl has arrived at Subjective Sounds HQ and it is time to put it on the platter and share my thoughts. Please note, as I have already reviewed the album, this review will only consist of my opinions regarding the vinyl release, not the music and album as a piece of work. 

Housed in a thick cardboard gatefold, reminiscent of the numerous Original Recordings Group (ORG) pressings I have in my collection, the overall packaging and artwork are beyond reproach. This is certainly not your standard CD upscaled vinyl release that is becoming more and more prevalent. However, this shouldn’t be confused with the Nirvana ORG pressings as this release was pressed at RTI (another world-renowned pressing plant). The album was remastered by the late George Marino at Sterling Sound in 2009, from the original master tapes, and Jack Endino, the album’s producer, oversaw the project. 

The records themselves are pressed on 180gram vinyl and are free of blemishes and warping. From a merely observational standpoint, they are perfect! 

An MP3 download code is also included for the album. Interestingly, when I redeemed the code, I not only received the MP3 edition, but I was also able to download the CD-quality 16/44.1 kHz ALAC and FLAC files, along with a 40-page digital booklet in the universal PDF format. I’m so impressed by this inclusion, thank you S>U>B P<O<P

The included 16-page printed booklet offers some exceptional photographs from the era that are enjoyable to peruse while toe-tapping to the beat (this aging rocker is starting to get headaches with excessive headbanging these days). While the booklet also includes production details, it is a shame that a short essay, perhaps penned by Nirvana co-founder Chris Novoselic, was not included. That said, they did include the original recording contract with S>U>B P<O<P; that’s just cool! 

Upon dropping the needle, the first thing I noticed was a reduction in the reverberation that could be heard in Novoselic's bass lines; especially on the song Blew. When listening to the TIDAL Masters/MQA 24/96 kHz edition, this aspect is rather prominent and you can visualise Noveselic’s strumming style. While it is still present on the vinyl edition, it is just a little more concealed. Of course, there could be various reasons why this could be the case. While I consider my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, with the Ortofon OM20 needle, to be a good example of audiophile quality and an affordable price point, I also must acknowledge that my analogue setup may simply not be as revealing as the TIDAL Masters/MQA format allows by comparison. 

That said, I’m conflicted as my Dire Straits Brothers In Arms Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) vinyl edition is superior to any other recording in my collection; nothing compares. All the high-res albums in the world can’t outperform that vinyl record, in my system, from a sonic standpoint. I even have the 20th Anniversary SACD version that contains the HDCD, Stereo DSD, and 5.1 DSD Surround Sound mix. Trust me, the difference is immense and I feel my Oppo BDP-103 is on par with my turntable with regards to matching quality. Interestingly, MFSL did release a SACD alongside the vinyl pressing of Brothers In Arms. As it is from the same mastering session, I should probably get myself a copy so that I can accurately compare the capabilities of my analogue and digital setups. Obviously, differences would remain, but as I much prefer the MFSL mastering, that aspect alone is of greater importance than the differences between analogue and digital. 

I also find that when comparing the two “Bleach” editions, the TIDAL Masters/MQA edition has more emphasis in the mid and low end. Whereas, there is definitely more treble to be heard in the vinyl edition. That increased treble isn’t bad and doesn’t take away from the album at all, especially considering the expanded dynamic range it offers, but it does make me wonder what MQA trickery is going on as TIDAL indicates the Masters/MQA edition is also from the 2009 remastering sessions. However, one of the key points of contention is that TIDAL also lists the date of release as being 2013. 

Through the use of deduction, thanks in part to the Dynamic Range Database, the HDTracks.com 2013 24/96 kHz edition has an average dynamic range of 7 out of 20, whereas the vinyl edition averages a 13 out of 20. Sure, dynamic range isn’t everything, but if the TIDAL Masters/MQA edition is the same as the HDTracks release, then that explains the boost in the mid and low end, along with the increased treble region on the vinyl pressing. Unfortunately, like all streaming services, the production notes are not of paramount importance and therefore while I’ve no doubt the TIDAL Masters/MQA edition is sourced from a master (the little blue light confirms it), is it the master undertaken in 2009 by George Marino, or a later and louder (compressed) master? 

So, I guess the real question is which version do I like best. 

I do enjoy a boost to the mids and low end, but not to the detriment of dynamic range and overall soundstage presentation. While I praised the sonic presentation of the TIDAL Master/MQA release in July, and stand by that assessment, after listening extensively to the vinyl release, I find myself captivated by the greater dynamic range of the vinyl pressing. I guess what I am trying to say is that while MQA touts authentication of the studio master, we don’t exactly know which mastering the studio or artist is going to use. Subsequently, the search for the best mastering will continue and while MQA is a great asset for streaming music, there needs to be more than a little blue light to confirm the end user is receiving the very best, studio master, copy of the album. 

The Deluxe Edition of "Bleach" is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered For iTunes). If you prefer streaming, it is also available on TIDAL Hi-FiSpotify and Apple Music.

The catalogue number for the vinyl edition used in this review is: SP 834.

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