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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.

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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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