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Glenn Frey – After Hours (Album Review)

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Glenn Frey – After Hours (Album Review)

Friday night comes, following a busy week, and all you feel like doing is pouring yourself a drink, sitting back, and relaxing with music; well, at least that is what appeals to me. I started out listening to Frank Sinatra’s extraordinary Come Fly With Me, twice, and as I was perusing my record collection, I noticed Glenn Frey’s After Hours. Acknowledging that I hadn’t played it for quite some time and that it is similarly relaxing to Sinatra’s 1958 opus, I took the record out of the sleeve, placed it on the platter, gave the needle a clean and got the carbon fibre brush in order to remove any dust artefacts that may have been present. It is a labour of love. Then it was time. Time to drop the needle, sit back, and enjoy. 

Yes, purists will argue that Frey is nowhere near as soulful and smooth as Sinatra, but the way I look at it is that they are different, not only from a vocal dexterity point-of-view but also from the perspective that After Hours is a stereo production whereas my copy of Come Fly With Me is the mono release. The difference between mono and stereo was ultimately the greatest shift to endure but that soon past within moments as For Sentimental Reasons rang out and opened After Hours. 

As I grew up with stereo sound, the concept of mono has sometimes seemed counterproductive but there is just something about the mono sound that is strangely compelling. It is similar to the difference between digitally delivered music and vinyl. Neither is necessarily better or worse, they are just different and some people vehemently support one format over another. For me, it just has to sound right and the two aforementioned albums certainly do. What I do find, however, is that mono recordings tend to fill the room far better. You still get an incredibly evolved soundstage but there are no audible holes in the soundstage to speak of. Whereas, a couple of times, when listening to After Hours I notice that when Frey isn’t on vocals, the soundstage sounds as though something is missing where he should be. Well, you don’t get that with mono, or certainly not in my experience. That said, it could simply have been an issue with the chosen mix for After Hours; as it only happened a couple of times, it’s not detrimental to the enjoyment of the album and overall After Hours has been recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully.

The vinyl release is quite exquisite. Housed in a gatefold sleeve, the cover art is perhaps a little pedestrian, but it certainly invokes the nighttime street view associated with countless jazz clubs. Therefore, this minimal approach is perfectly suited for the style of music but is unlikely to be memorable or displayed. It’s no Surrender; an incredible jazz album from Victor Cajiao and Joe Cristina that really needs a vinyl release to showcase the gorgeous artwork. Regardless, when you open the gatefold, you’re met with liner notes and a series of absolutely magnificent photos, presented in sepia, to once again connect the artwork to the style and era of the music contained within. 

The record label is beautifully simple and again works with the style Frey was aiming for, on what would sadly be his last album. The record is flat and quiet, with only a small amount of noise noticeable between tracks. It really is a nice vinyl mastering and pressing job. 

While not a disappointment for me, as I will explain later, some may lament the inclusion of only 11 of the 14 available tracks on the vinyl release. Yes, this is another case of the Deluxe Edition blues for those that wish for the vinyl counterpart to have the same tracking as the digital release. Let’s be honest, this is a further attempt to make fans, like you and I, purchase multiple copies. It works, but not on this occasion. Plus, with streaming services now being so varied and readily available, those specific tracks that are on a Deluxe Edition can be streamed if and when it suits me. 

Another reason for not including so many tracks on a vinyl release is that it is a doubled edged sword. On one hand, you want everything, preferably not on multiple records, but the sonic quality suffers the closer grooves are placed together and the dreaded inner-groove distortion is a real problem when a recorded has been mastered and pressed with a focus on filling all available space. It may work perfectly well on the compact disc, but vinyl needs a little more tolerance and while upgrading your needle does help with inner-groove distortion, many people will not go to those extents so it is nice to see that After Hours is mastered in such a way that inner-grove distortion isn’t present; certainly not at an audible level. 

While the three additional songs will be reviewed on their own merit towards the end of this review, I find they’re not compelling enough to buy the Deluxe Edition CD as out of the three, only one is truly worthy of inclusion and even then it doesn’t offer the listener additional value. Of course, that is my subjective opinion and you may feel the additional tracks are excellent. If that is the case, then I would strongly suggest you look at picking up the CD release. 

Another reason why I’m not compelled to pick up the Deluxe Edition to go with my vinyl release is that the tracking is different as these omitted songs are placed throughout the album, thereby changing the flow of the album that I know and love. If those additional songs were included at the end of the Deluxe Edition, as done with Barry Gibb’s In The Now I would have been more inclined to pick up the CD as well. I’m sure you know what it’s like, dear reader, for your beloved album has been remastered and it suddenly has an outtake, demo, or god-forbid an interview at the end of the CD. It is infuriating and while I like additional content, I wish the record labels would add it to an additional disc and leave the master tracking of the album alone. 

Nevertheless, as streaming allows me access to these tracks, I’ll simply add them to my virtual library to enjoy when and if the mood strikes me. On the topic of streaming, I have listened to the album on both Apple Music (Mastered for iTunes) and TIDAL Masters (MQA) and unfortunately, neither stream holds a candle to the vinyl release. That isn’t to say that neither is good, because they are both superb, but I find them very clinical in their presentation and for this style of music I honestly feel the vinyl record is a much better delivery method. Hence, if you can, and if you’re interested, may I suggest you track down a copy of After Hours on vinyl; it really is that good!

SIDE ONE

For Sentimental Reasons is a lovely song and the perfect opener for After Hours. The musicality is spot on as is Frey’s vocal. The light backing vocal element, not often heard on modern recordings, is mixed in perfectly. The end result is a rendition of a classic that is stunning and prepares the listener for the songs that are about to come throughout the rest of the album.

My Buddy is campy, has always been campy, but I love it! That drumming is off-the-charts good and Frey once again is front and centre, as if his spirit is in the room with you, as you enjoy the smoothness of My Buddy.

Route 66 picks up the tempo a little, but Route 66 is one of the greatest classics to have ever been composed and this interpretation is no exception. It isn’t fundamentally different and doesn’t necessarily take the song to a new level of enjoyment, but it doesn’t detract from the origins of the song and pays homage to the history of the most common renditions. 

The Shadow Of Your Smile is a lovely song that would be perfect as the background of any dinner or post-dinner rendezvous. Actually, this entire album could be used in that romantic context. That said, the music-lover within doesn’t want this song to be merely heard as background music, therefore for me and my significant other it may not be the best album to have playing as I would constantly be commenting on just how good it is. Yes, dear reader, I do do that; much to the frustration of my better half. Thankfully, she understands my love of music and while she doesn’t necessarily share it, she lets me harp on about it ad nauseam; yep, she’s a keeper!

Here’s To Life is one of the most beautiful songs on the album. It is the perfect way to close out Side One and absolutely encourages me to listen to Side Two. This is one song that I would have loved to have heard George Michael perform on his spectacular Symphonica release as I believe it would have suited his style and vocal capability. That said, Frey performs Here’s To Life absolutely flawlessly and I would say it is one of his greatest vocal recordings, even surpassing that of his younger years in the Eagles. That’s saying a lot considering how much I adore the Eagles and have always been blown away by Frey’s vocal prowess. Music really doesn’t get much better than this!

SIDE TWO

It’s Too Soon To Know is a beautifully smooth tune. 

Caroline, No is one of my favourite songs and Frey knocks it out-of-the-park. 

The Look Of Love is a brilliant song but nobody does it better than Diana Krall. This rendition is enjoyable, but when I hear it I just want to put on Krall’s edition

I’m Getting Old Before My Time has an incredible bass track. It’s really prominent and for lack of a better term is perfect! The song itself isn’t bad, but to be completely honest I’m not overly familiar with it, hence your opinion may be vastly different to my own. 

Same Girl is stunning! 

After Hours is a lovely song to conclude the album with, but I would have preferred Same Girl to be the closing track as I felt it relaxed the mind to such a state that it would have been the ultimate closer. Nevertheless, After Hours is no slouch in that department and it encourages me to flip the album and listen again. It’s also important to note that this is the only original composition from Frey on the album. Writing with Jack Tempchin, the result is incredible and doesn’t feel out-of-place with the other standards featured on this release. That’s no easy task, even if you are as skilled as these gentlemen. Standards are standards for a reason and After Hours is a modern-day offering. 

Additional Deluxe Edition Tracks:

The Good Life is a lovely song that offers a nice flow from My Buddy in the Deluxe Edition version and leads well into Route 66’s upbeat as it has a little faster tempo than My Buddy. However, as good as it is, I don’t find that I miss it on the vinyl release. It is very short and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the song’s over before it started.

Worried Mind has a country twang to it and while Frey and the supporting musicians perform it incredibly well, it doesn’t suit the rest of the songs on the album and therefore I am very happy that it is only on the Deluxe Edition of After Hours.

I Wanna Be Around is lovely and while it could have been included on the vinyl release, I honestly don’t feel After Hours needed this additional track as I don’t feel the 11-track release is lacking in substance.

There is little doubt that After Hours represents Glenn Frey at his very best. Yes, his Eagles work is beyond reproach, but After Hours is his greatest solo release and is an album that should be in everyone’s collection. It really is that good!

After Hours is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes). A Deluxe Edition is also available on CD and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes)

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Benny Andersson – Piano (Album Review)

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Benny Andersson – Piano (Album Review)

The Piano is one of the world’s most beautiful instruments, provided it is played by a virtuoso. It is fair to say that Benny Andersson fits that description as his musical prowess is legendary, well beyond the limitations of Abba. This is also the first time that I think I have been so drawn to a solo piano performance. Sometimes they can be shrill and fail to portray that intended emotion of the composer and the musician. Where Andersson’s Piano differs, however, is that the songs played are composed either solely by Andersson or in conjunction with other exceptional composers. Subsequently, what you get here is a life’s work, reworked for the piano, and it is nothing short of spectacular. 

For the purposes of this review, I will be listening to both the TIDAL Masters (MQA) edition of Piano as well as the Apple Music (Mastered for iTunes) release. Both are exceptional with the TIDAL Master’s edition bringing Andersson and his piano into the room in a more realistic, and less concealed, manner than the Apple Music counterpart. Ideally, as a fan of Andersson’s work, I’d like to have a copy on vinyl but, I feel compelled to write this review sooner, rather than later, as I can’t seem to stop playing the album. Yes, Piano is addictive and the vinyl release is on my wish list. Some may find, as I do, that this album is most captivating when sitting and listening intently, as the performance will bring you to tears. Others, however, may find that applying it as background music to a romantic dinner may be the ideal situation and while a dinner with the family, kids included, is far from ideal, I can attest to the relaxing nature of the album in the background as one shares their time, a good meal, and conversation with significant others. As good as that experience is, however, this is one album that really demands the attention of the listener for you will inevitably have a much more fulfilled experience should you take the time to appreciate the music in the manner in which Andersson intended you to. 

I Let The Music Speak is beautiful. While I love the original from Abba’s The Visitors, this rendition is incredible in that it is familiar yet completely unique. It amazes me just how diverse a single composition can be. 

You And I takes you on a magical ride whereby if you let it, the music will elevate your soul and take you to that very special place within your consciousness that only you know about. Music like this is the epitome of subjectivity and is incredibly relaxing. The playing and tuning of the piano on You And I simply blows my mind and is without a doubt one of the best songs on the album. 

Aldrig is a lovely song, but I feel it is tracked badly as it is musically different to You And I and doesn’t really fit in with Thank You For The Music. That said, having listened to the album numerous times, I’m unsure of where it would have been better placed. It reminds me of my love/hate relationship with soundtracks as depending on how they are presented, they can either be magnificent or an incongruent selection of songs.

Thank You For The Music is legendary, but this track in particular sounds as though it could have been played in any piano bar around the world. It isn’t the performance, but the initial composition. Plus, subjectively, I’ve never been a major fan of the Abba song as I find it is a little campy; a shame really considering that I adore The Album

Stockholm By Night is a beautiful song.

Chess is a modern-day masterpiece. Astonishing! How can music be this good? 

The Day Before You Came was an interesting choice from Abba’s catalogue and is perfectly suited to the solo nature of Andersson and his piano, but it likely wouldn’t have been a song I would have selected for this album. The performance is flawless, and the recording is captured immaculately, as it is on the entire album. The soundstage on this particular song is very special and has to be heard to be believed as the piano fills the room and captivates you from the very first note to the last.  

Someone Else’s Story is another beautiful selection from Chess. This album just keeps getting better and better.  

Midnattsdans is a lovely interpretation from BAO!, the second album from the Benny Anderssons Orkester

Målarskolan is brilliant with its slightly faster tempo when compared to the other songs on the album. 

I Wonder (Departure) is magnificent, both the original Abba recording and this interpretation. Although, I’d go as far as saying this rendition greatly improves on the masterpiece that was already present on The Album

Embassy Lament is, for lack of a better term, a B-Side. It’s enjoyable but isn’t to the same standard as the rest of the songs on Piano.

Anthem is lovely!

My Love, My Life is one of my all-time favourite Abba songs, from my all-time favourite Abba album Arrival. This rendition only enhances my feelings about this song. Absolutely spectacular!

Mountain Duet is quite an interesting composition. It sounds fully developed, yet it also feels incomplete. I know that makes no sense, but there are multiple ways one could appreciate this song and despite having heard it many times, I’m not really sure how, or if, I connect with Mountain Duet. 

Flickornas Rum is a great tune that I thoroughly enjoy. 

Efter Regnet has me closing my eyes as I picture Andersson playing a private performance for me, and only me. The recording is that transparent that you too will experience that feeling. 

Tröstevisa is an absolutely beautiful song.

En Skrift I Snön is, as Tröstevisa is, a beautiful song.

Happy New Year was a lovely song when released by Abba on Super Trouper, but I much prefer this rendition to the original. 

I Gott Bevar is the perfect song to close the album on. It’s absolutely magical and encourages me to listen to the entire album again and stay within Andersson’s extensive body of work. 

Overall, Piano is one of the greatest pieces of music Andersson has ever released and deserves a place in everyone’s collection. 

Piano is available on VinylCD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Piano is available on TIDAL Masters (MQA) and Apple Music.

Update April 15, 2019

While I had considered picking up Piano on vinyl, I came across an incredible deal, for the CD, at one of my local music stores that I simply couldn’t pass up.

The CD release is presented in a foldout digipak, not unlike a vinyl gatefold, but instead of having incredibly tight slits at the spine end of the packaging for the booklet and CD to be slid into, it has pockets where the CD and the associated liner notes sit beautifully. 

The only concern I have is the dust factor. No, my house is not a dusty mess. Vinyl collectors know just how diligent we must be and even though the CD format is more robust in that regard, dust can still be transferred from the CD to the laser and cause additional reading errors, resulting in the need for more error correction, thereby reducing the purity of the sound. Dust also has the ability to clog the internals of a CD player thereby, gradually over time, reducing the life expectancy and performance. If care is taken, however, this shouldn’t be an issue and in many respects, I welcome this type of design as I truly dislike the scratching that a CD receives when sliding it into the tight slits of a cardboard digipak.

All that aside, the liner notes are beautifully presented with photographs from Andersson’s history as a young accordion playing boy, to a live performance with his pop band the Hep Stars, and of course Abba. That isn’t all, however, as there are photographs depicting his work with the London Symphony Orchestra as they were presenting Chess in 1984 and the Benny Anderssons Orkester (BAO!) amongst many others. While brief, this visual walkthrough of some of the most pivotal moments in Andersson’s life is a beautiful collection for any fan to have. In many respects, Andersson said it best in his liner notes submission when he inferred that Piano represents a memoir of his life. 

Piano is certainly a memoir, but it is much more than that and as I suggested in my original review, Piano really is one of Andersson’s greatest releases and I’ll now go one step further and proclaim it as his greatest release of all-time. Nothing comes close!

The CD itself is simple and elegant, from a design standpoint, and the sonic quality is beyond reproach. Yes, I was impressed with the MQA stream, in my initial review, but the CD is equal to the task and sounds a little less treble focused when compared to the MQA counterpart. That may deter some listeners, but there really is no wrong way to appreciate Piano. Ultimately, it comes down to your own subjective tastes and stereo setup as to deciding which is the best version for you. For me, it is the 16/44.1kHz CD release.

The CD release of Piano that I’m fortunate enough to own is the Australian Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music release (Cat: 479 8143).

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André Rieu Presents Mirusia – Always & Forever (Album Review)

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André Rieu Presents Mirusia – Always & Forever (Album Review)

The soprano vocal is spectacular and while many can deliver it well, Mirusia Louwerse has mastered the art of presenting it with an equal mix of delicacy and power. I haven’t heard such an exceptionally talented soprano since Marina Prior. However, if there is a criticism to be made regarding Mirusia's style, it’s that she has a little sibilance in her vocal which is quite apparent during some songs. It is, of course, more prominent when listening on headphones, but still noticeable on speakers. That said, if you don’t focus on it, you’re unlikely to hear it.

My first exposure to Mirusia’s talent was via maestro André Rieu. Together they have produced an absolute masterpiece that will be enjoyed by generations of music lovers to come.

Whether you’re a classical music lover or not, you’ll likely be familiar with many of the tunes on Always & Forever. They could arguably be considered standards but are interpreted so well that Mirusia and Rieu have made them their own while staying loyal to the original compositions. The result is an astonishingly good series of performances and a recording that you'd be hard-pressed to fault.

Ave Maria (Live In Maastricht) is stunning and offers a perfect start this album. Mirusia's vocal control is exceptional and will resonate with your soul on this track. Without a doubt, this is one of the greatest interpretations of Ave Maria that I’ve ever heard.

Feed The Birds is a beautiful song, but Mirusia's sibilance is especially apparent throughout. It doesn't tarnish the song but it can be distracting.

Botany Bay is, by this stage, an Australian Classic. It’s performed beautifully and is a stunningly good interpretation.

Concerto Pour Une Voix is a song where Mirusia's vocal talent truly shines. Her soaring vocal becomes an instrument that communicates incredible emotion. Absolutely stunning!

Solveig's Lied is a beautiful song that I must admit I'm not familiar with. Nevertheless, Mirusia absolutely nails the performance.

Porgi Amor is beautifully relaxing.

Plaisir D'amour (feat. Carmen) is simply angelic.

Panis Angelicus (Live In Maastricht) is one of my all-time favourite classical pieces. Music doesn’t get much better than this and Mirusia does an incredible job interpreting the delicacy of the song. Spectacular!

Ich tanze mit dir in den Himmel hinein (2008 Version) is a lovely song, but that sibilance is back again. Thankfully, not as prominent as on Feed The Birds. That said, if there was a B-side to be found on Always & Forever, this would be it.

Memory (Live, Acer Arena, Sydney) is mind-blowingly good. I have always enjoyed this song and will always associate it with Elaine Paige as I feel her interpretation is still the one to beat. Although, Mirusia, at the very least, matches Paige's beloved recording of this classic song.

Con Te Partirò is another favourite, although I find it a little disappointing that Mirusia didn’t perform the song as a duet. Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman really set the bar high with their interpretation and while Mirusia performed it beautifully, I feel she could have taken it even further.

Send In The Clowns is a beautiful song and one that I most often associate with Barbara Streisand. Streisand’s live performance, on One Voice (Live), is second to none, but Mirusia interprets the song slightly differently, making it uniquely her own. Regardless, Mirusia's rendition is, however, thoroughly enjoyable.

There Is A Song In Me is lovely. Nothing to write home about, but lovely nonetheless.

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again is an absolute classic and is performed beautifully. It’s a perfect way to close the album and ensures I’ll listen to Always & Forever again and seek out additional Mirusia recordings.

From start to finish, Always & Forever is pure perfection. Yes, there are a couple of minor quibbles, as mentioned throughout the review, but they in no way tarnish the album listening experience.

For this review, I have listened at length to the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams and found both to be exceptionally good. Yes, the CD-quality, delivered by TIDAL, is slightly more spacious, delivering an experience that simulates a concert hall, but even the Apple Music stream, via Apple’s AirPods, sounds incredibly satisfying and only the most fastidious of audiophiles would be disappointed in the lossy edition of Always & Forever. Frankly, when music is recorded, mixed, and mastered this well, you're going to be blown away regardless of the delivery method.

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

If you prefer streaming, Always & Forever is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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