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Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

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Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

Who doesn't like a good ballad? Yes, you in the corner, I see you rolling your eyes, not willing to admit you're a ballad junkie. That's okay, it can be difficult for some of us to acknowledge our emotions, but Air Supply's ballads are just so addictive and easy to sing-along to that even the most emotionally guarded individual will feel compelled to join in, especially when no-one else is watching. It's a great feeling, isn't it? Don't worry, dear reader, this will be just between us, for the magic would be lost if anyone knew our little secret.

Few artists do ballads as well as British–Australian soft rock group Air Supply, but it would be naive to pigeonhole them into that category for their orchestral soft rock styling is so expansive that their peers are a who's who of soft rock culture from the last four decades. While their prime is arguably behind them, their songs, including those written by others, remain timeless and recognisable. Perhaps that is why I'm drawn to The Ultimate Collection because, as the title suggests, it really is the epitome of their creativity.

Love And Other Bruises is an interesting song to commence this career perspective release on as it isn't necessarily one of their best or most popular tunes. Nevertheless, the musicality is there, resulting in an enjoyable beginning to an exceptional collection of songs.

Bring Out The Magic is the reason I suggested it naive to class Air Supply as a ballads-only band. This is soft rock at its finest.

Lost In Love is beautiful!

All Out Of Love is a stunning composition and one of the greatest ballads ever written and recorded.

Every Woman In The World is another stunner. Absolutely sensational!

Just Another Woman offers an interesting shift into the disco-era and immediately reminds me of Elton John's Victim Of Love as the two were somewhat unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable. Just Another Woman is fantastic and despite the shifting style, the song is absolutely worthy of inclusion.

Chances returns the compilation to its ballad-based roots and is thoroughly enjoyable with a vocal presentation that is off-the-charts. The slow build works exceptionally well, and Chances is simply amazing to listen to.

The One That You Love is sonic gold! It may sound like a cliché, but they don't write songs like this anymore. Plus, that drum track is amongst my favourites of all time, only bested by Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight and Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing.

Here I Am is badly placed as the lyrics of The One That You Love also includes the phrase, here I am, throughout. Nevertheless, Here I Am is a lovely ballad that I never tire of. The soundstage and sonic depth of Here I Am is exceptional with a drum track that I adore. 

Sweet Dreams is epic! My recommendation is you turn the volume up when this song comes on, you'll thank me later. Sweet Dreams is one of the best songs ever recorded and that guitar solo and vocal interlude is absolutely incredible.

I’ll Never Get Enough Of You is exceptional! 

This Heart Belongs To Me has a great dual tempo that allows the listener to experience this song in a non-traditional manner, thereby making it truly subjective. This is yet another Air Supply song where the drum tracking is superb. I love it!

Keeping The Love Alive is, as this entire compilation is, exceptional!

Even The Nights Are Better is a song that reminds me of the Carpenters, especially with the vocal styling. That's, of course, a positive reflection as I adore Karen Carpenter's vocal.

Now And Forever is musical perfection. This truly is the ultimate Air Supply collection.

Two Less Lonely People In The World is remarkably good and sounds as fresh today as it did when first released on Air Supply's 1982 release, Now And Forever.

Making Love (Out Of Nothing At All) is a Jim Steinman classic power ballad and is an incredible Air Supply song. I find that I’m torn between this original recording and Bonnie Tyler’s rendition as both are exceptional. 

Young Love is a lovely song and that dual vocal presentation is simply amazing, as is the entire musicality of the song. 

Come What May is a great tune with an incredible soundstage and presence that fills the room. If all music was recorded and mixed this well, we'd never stop listening. As the closing track on The Ultimate Collection, it certainly compels me to listen to the compilation again and stay within Air Supply's back catalogue.

There is little doubt regarding my love of Air Supply and The Ultimate Collection release. It is so good that everyone should have a copy in their collection. Unfortunately, it has yet to receive a vinyl release and while I'm not opposed to picking it up on CD, the TIDAL Hi-Fi CD-quality stream is more than adequate.

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

If you prefer streaming, The Ultimate Collection is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi 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 Vinyl, 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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Midnight Oil – Breathe (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil – Breathe (Album Review)

Compared to Earth And Sun And Moon, Breathe is a transitional album that sees Midnight Oil return to their signature sound. While Breathe is still no Blue Sky Mining or Diesel And Dust, there are some exceptional songs to be heard on the album. That is, of course, if you can get past the grotesque album artwork. Yes, it is relevant to the album, but it is one cover that I don’t feel compelled to own on vinyl.

Underwater is an exceptional track. The distorted musical introduction merged with a crystal clear vocal is very enjoyable. As the elements of the song build, the rhythm really takes form and you will find yourself toe tapping and head bopping throughout.

Surf's Up Tonight isn’t a bad song. I remember first hearing it on 20,000 Watt R.S.L. and it surprised me as I never felt it was worthy of a greatest hits album. Yes, it has a great groove and is one of the best songs on Breathe, but I also feel the chorus lyric, 'surf's up tonight', is too repetitive.

Common Ground is a gorgeous composition. I absolutely love this song! That said, I feel the mix of the track is slightly off, particularly in the chorus as the instrumentation is too busy, thereby resulting in mental confusion and increased treble. Most likely this shallow soundstage could be corrected in a remastering, but given how bad many remasters are, it could simply make things worse.

Time To Heal is a perfect Midnight Oil song as every element shows just how skilled they were as musicians and songwriters.

Sins Of Omission has a decent groove, but I'm not a fan of the introduction and the continuous hi-hat beat is a little grating on the senses. Sins Of Omission is most definitely a B-side, but I have heard worse from Midnight Oil.

One Too Many Times is a great song, but I don't feel it is a great song for Midnight Oil. It is too folky for their style of music. Yes, experimenting with musical styles is a good thing when it works. However, in this instance, I don't feel it does.

Star Of Hope is AWESOME! The Neil Young inspired sound is perfectly suited to Midnight Oil. See, I really don't mind sonic experimentation when it works.

In The Rain is a short track that proves sometimes less is more. I adore this track for that very reason.

Bring On The Change is a disjointed mess and that hi-hat beat once again distracts the listener.

Home is a duet and I think it is a first for Midnight Oil. For those of you wondering who the vocalist is, it is the great Emmylou Harris. She is such an incredible vocalist and merged with Garrett's vocal style, it is a sonic match made in heaven. Home is exceptional and the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it.

E-Beat is a B-side.

Barest Degree has a nice rhythm and vocal presentation, but it is most certainly another B-side.

Gravelrash gets the cymbal sound right for the first time on the album as it is not jarring and simmers into the next note perfectly. As an instrumental track, I like it. However, Midnight Oil is as much about Peter Garrett as it is his musical counterparts. Hence, it is the perfect song to close the album on, but it is also missing that identifying frontman. If I had heard this song, absent from the album, I don't believe I would connect this instrumental track with Midnight Oil.

Breathe, overall, is an exceptional album and sees Midnight Oil come one step closer to their renowned sonic signature following their quizzical Earth And Sun And Moon album. Despite a couple of B-sides, the album experience is solid. I tend to be someone who listens to albums, rather than songs. I have considered writing song reviews, especially for those that have been heavily covered, but the simple fact is that I don't enjoy music one song at a time. Long live the album experience!

For this review, I listened to the 1996 mastering on TIDAL Hi-Fi. The mastering itself is adequate, but I feel it is a disjointed effort as some tracks are more refined than others. Of course, it is important to note that these variances could quite as easily be the result of varied recording styles or mixing decisions. My criticism in this respect shouldn't be considered negative, as the album is very good, but I believe it could have been significantly better.

Breathe is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, Breathe is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Midnight Oil - Earth And Sun And Moon (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Earth And Sun And Moon (Album Review)

Following their career defining albums, Earth And Sun And Moon had a lot to live up to. At this stage of their career, Midnight Oil not only had the punk rock pub fan from their early days, but they also had the newer and commercially valuable mainstream rock audience. Earth And Sun And Moon interestingly presents a shift in style for the band and it is fair to say that both fan bases would have approached this album with scepticism. While the themes remained controversial, the musicality would shift towards the pop rock genre and, subsequently, the album sounds different to everything that came before it.

This type of shift is far from exclusive to Midnight Oil. Another iconic Australian band, Icehouse, followed their incredibly successful Man Of Colours album with the industrial and unconventional album Big Wheel. While Big Wheel is an exceptional album, it was no Man Of Colours. Perhaps there is a stage in every musical career when a pinnacle has been reached and subsequent albums, while good on their own, don't necessarily add to the artist’s body of work.

Despite the sonic shift, the cover art of Earth And Sun And Moon is extraordinary. It is inspired by indigenous artwork and, I don't know about you but, I find this form of art to be very pleasing as there is always a story to be told and a lesson to be learnt. Let's just hope the artwork isn’t the only highlight of Earth And Sun And Moon.

Feeding Frenzy has an interesting and very familiar tempo. Think Deep Purple meets Midnight Oil. The shifts in rhythm seem out-of-place, but you quickly come to appreciate the genius behind this composition. While Feeding Frenzy is not your standard Midnight Oil track, it does offer some enjoyment, especially if you listen to it numerous times.

My Country is certainly not their strongest song. It is a B-side at best. That said, as with Feeding Frenzy, I find that I appreciate it more, the more I listen to it.

Renaissance Man lacks the energy Midnight Oil is known for. There are certain elements that work, but it is not a true Midnight Oil song. It's too campy for my liking.  

Earth And Sun And Moon is an overproduced mess. As with Renaissance Man, it is another example of Midnight Oil going for a campy sound. While Earth And Sun And Moon is a cool album name, the song should have been left in the studio.

Truganini is textbook Midnight Oil. It's about time! However, it provides such a shift in musicality that one can only imagine, with bemusement, why the previous songs even exist and where they fit into the Midnight Oil legacy.

Bushfire isn't bad in places, but it fails to impress overall.

Drums Of Heaven is a song that leaves me speechless. Not because it is good, but because of how bad it is. Drums Of Heaven ironically lacks a killer drum beat. Seriously, other than an excellent distorted guitar element, there is nothing to praise here. Normally, I hate being so negative in reviews, but I have to call a spade a spade.

Outbreak Of Love is sonically incredible. I love it! Yes, it is soft rock, but it is done well.

In The Valley isn't a bad soft rock song, but it still doesn't sound like the Midnight Oil we know and love.

Tell Me The Truth has a killer groove that will get you moving. I absolutely love it!

Now Or Neverland has a fantastic bass beat. I love the lead and rhythm guitar, but the bass guitar is one of the most underappreciated instruments in history. While it's present in every song, it is rarely highlighted. I certainly would like to hear more bass in all recordings. No, I'm not talking about doof doof bass, I'm referring to actually hearing the strums and reverberation of the real instrument. It resonates with my soul and I love the instrument.

Sadly, Earth And Sun And Moon is not the follow-up to Blue Sky Mining that many fans would have been expecting. There is certainly an EP worth of quality material here, but it honestly surprises me that the record label didn’t block the release of the album. I also feel it was shortsighted of Midnight Oil to choose Nick Launay over Diesel And Dust and Blue Sky Mining collaborative producer Warne Livesey. Thankfully, Midnight Oil would record Redneck Wonderland and Capricornia with Livesey and while my review of those albums will be published in the coming days, let's just say they sound like Midnight Oil.

For this review, I listened to the 1993 mastering on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Despite not connecting with the album, I can say that it wasn't due to poor mastering. Some things were done really well on this album, but it is the mediocre elements and shift in musicality that resulted in a less than pleasing experience.

Earth And Sun And Moon is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Midnight Oil - Diesel And Dust (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Diesel And Dust (Album Review)

Ian McFarlane's Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop references Diesel And Dust as groundbreaking and one of the greatest Australian albums of all time. I dare anyone to challenge that claim as Diesel And Dust is the quintessential album Midnight Oil should be remembered for.

John O'Donnell, Toby Creswell, and Craig Mathieson also thought so highly of Diesel And Dust that it was awarded the No.1 Australian album in their book, The 100 Best Australian Albums. O'Donnell, Creswell, and Mathieson go on to say: in the process of reinventing themselves, Midnight Oil has crafted an album of brilliant, passionate, and intelligent songs that carry a message.

Truthfully, any additional commentary I add in this review would be seemingly superfluous. That said, join me on my own subjective journey of Diesel And Dust.

Beds Are Burning is incredible! I have always adored this song and find that when I want to listen to Midnight Oil, this is the song that comes to mind. The lyrical delivery is clear, unlike some of their earlier albums, and that beat and musicality are simply unmatched. It is as good as Australian rock and roll gets.

Put Down That Weapon is anthemic. It’s sonically gorgeous!

Dreamworld is a song I've always had mixed feelings about. I simply find it to be another Midnight Oil song that is on the shrill end of the spectrum. Although, it is a bloody good song. It is just disappointing that, in contrast to the previous tracks, I find it too jarring.

Arctic World slows the album down considerably, but sonically I love the musicality and it is a song that showcases Peter Garrett's vocal capabilities. While it isn't my favourite song on the album, it is perfectly suited to the themes and style of Diesel And Dust.

Warakurna flows beautifully from Arctic world with rhythmic perfection. It is one of my all-time favourite Midnight Oil songs.

The Dead Heart is another exceptional song that I have always enjoyed. Seriously, Diesel And Dust plays like a greatest hits album. It really is that good! Part of the appeal is the catchy, sing-a-long style of the songs. While some may point, rightly so, to the message portrayed in these songs, long time readers would note that lyrical meaning is often lost on me. While that isn't the case with Midnight Oil, I strongly believe their music can be appreciated without specific background knowledge or political loyalties. This is music for everybody; similar in that regard to the recordings of Yothu Yindi.

Whoah is sonically beautiful. Close your eyes, relax, and enjoy.

Bullroarer picks up the pace with a hard hitting rock song that mergers their punk roots with their new rock style. You will want to turn this song up to 11. I love it! The chorus is amongst the best ever written and recorded.

Don't touch that volume knob as Sell My Soul is one killer song.

Sometimes is a song that I find to be tedious, that is until the chorus kicks in for the first time. After that, the song blows me away.

Gunbarrel Highway interestingly wasn't included on vinyl and cassette releases of the album. It was only sporadically included on CD as some regions had it while others were excluded. This process was and still is, rather common. It sends us music collectors slowly insane as we try to get hold of the various editions. Thankfully, it is far easier now, than it was in 1987, thanks to the Internet, streaming services, and the continuous stream of re-issues. I raise this point because one must ask if Gunbarrel Highway is the best song to conclude Diesel And Dust on. Subjectively, I believe it is, it encourages me to listen to the album again.

I truly don't believe there is a word in the English language that can fully describe the brilliance of Diesel And Dust. Therefore, all I will say in conclusion is that you must listen to this album.

For this review, I listened to the 2007 remaster on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Sonically, that remaster is a pleasure to listen to. Despite Red Sails In The Sunset being a remastering nightmare, Diesel And Dust has not only been recorded beautifully, but it has been remastered, in this instance, with kid gloves.

Diesel And Dust is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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