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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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The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs (Album Review)

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The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs (Album Review)

While Bee Gees’ 1st would be their international debut, The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs is actually their first album, recorded in Australia before the harmonising trio relocated to London.

Released in 1965, the album is largely made up of singles that had been released in the years preceding this release. The success of this album was lacklustre and the Bee Gees would only really receive the recognition they deserved, in Australia, at a later stage in their career. Nevertheless, if one was to base their likes and dislikes on album sales, they would miss out on the richness of back catalogues.

The Bee Gees’ back catalogue is full of hidden gems, especially considering many readers would only be familiar with their chart-topping, re-invented, disco-styled music. Nevertheless, these early recordings are beautiful. You’ll hear the influence and similarities to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and The Hollies amongst others. That isn’t to say that the Bee Gees lacked originality, for their harmonious interweaving vocals were as legendary then as they would be throughout the band's career.

Out of the 14 songs, five were new recordings with the lead song, I Was A Lover, A Leader Of Men being released as a single. While the single failed to gain any traction in the charts, the song is exceptional with a sonic signature that would be replicated, albeit with more success, on future albums.

I Don't Think It's Funny is a lovely acoustic-based song with Robin Gibb on lead vocals. His gritty, yet smooth, vocal delivery is absolutely captivating.

How Love Was True is another enjoyable track that is somewhat reminiscent, in my mind, of the harmonious Lennon/McCartney years.

To Be Or Not To Be is definitely inspired by early Beatles recordings. Think Please, Please Me/With The Beatles era. It isn't a bad tune but arguably doesn't suit the Bee Gees.

Timber is short and to the point. It is certainly reminiscent of the late 50s and early 60s. Timber was recorded and released as a single in 1963 and with a runtime of less than two minutes, one can only wonder how tedious playing that 45 would have been.

Claustrophobia is a great 60s pop tune. I love it!

Could It Be I’m In Love With You has an addictive rhythm that will have you toe tapping and head bopping uncontrollably.

And The Children Laughing is a song that reminds me of The Seekers. Unfortunately, it isn't to my taste and while it’s adequate, it’s a B-side.

Wine And Women would be the first Bee Gees single to achieve chart success, no doubt due to the band, their friends, and dedicated fans buying as many copies as possible in the hope radio disc jockeys would notice them. I don't know about you, dear reader, but surely they could have come up with a better song to release as a single. Okay, so it isn't that bad, but it certainly isn't the most compelling song.

Don't Say Goodbye is another B-side. Although, the choral harmonies are very nice.

Peace Of Mind is a great song with a killer guitar solo. Sensational!

Take Hold Of That Star is too slow for the Bee Gees. That said, it is a lovely song, I just don't feel it suits them.

You Wouldn't Know is a great pop/rock tune with an incredible rhythm.

Follow The Wind is a fantastic song to conclude the album with and ensures that I’ll to listen to the album again and stay within the Bee Gees pre-disco era catalogue.

Overall, The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs is a superb collection of their early recordings. While it doesn't necessarily stand out, it certainly shows just how talented these three brothers were at such a young age.

Sonically, one must remember the era these songs were recorded in. However, the 2012 remaster, from TIDAL Hi-Fi, which this review is based upon, is likely the best quality these songs will ever be presented in. It doesn't happen often, but this remaster is lovely and worthy of inclusion in any Bee Gees collection.

The album cover is also exquisite. Yes, it’s reminiscent of the era and the style of music, but it also just works. I’d love to see this re-issued on vinyl. It would be a pre-order for sure! Until then, I will have to be satisfied with the edition available in CD-quality on TIDAL Hi-Fi as a CD release is also unavailable. Nevertheless, if you would like to own a copy of The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs, the album is available on the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC) and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs on Spotify and Apple Music.

Click here to read other Bee Gees reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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19-Twenty – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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19-Twenty – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Exceptional music isn’t just the domain of mainstream artists. Independent artists, such as 19-Twenty, are often just as talented, if not superior. Thanks to music streaming, finding these exceptional acts is easier than ever before.

19-Twenty is an Australian-based band with a sound that infuses soft rock, blues, roots, and folk music. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find this blending to be absolutely compelling and addictive to listen to.

The Tavern is a beautiful song, with sensational vocals and overall musicality. It sets the tone of the album and shows just how talented 19-Twenty were at the commencement of their recording career. The Tavern also has an addictive rhythm and the mix, soundstage, and mastering will blow your mind. Exceptional!

Kiama Town is simply stunning!

Lorne picks up the pace in a literal fast-plucking manner. I love it!

Louis Collins distorts and electrifies 19-Twenty's sound beautifully. It reminds me a little of early Rolling Stones and certainly Keith Richards' overall style on his latest solo release, Crosseyed Heart.

45 Degrees is an incredible song. This album just keeps getting better and better.

Wasn't For The Beat, with its frantic guitar strumming isn’t generally an element of acoustic music that I enjoy. Nevertheless, the song grows on you the more you listen to it.

Bucket Of Poison goes the grungy distortion route and interestingly reminds me of Adele’s Rumour Has It. That works for me. A solid 10/10!

1920'S Blues is a B-side and feels a little offbeat when compared to the rest of the album.

16 Hours has a simply stunning vocal presentation. Acoustic-based music doesn't get much better than this!

Slow It Down has a fantastic beat and rhythm that ensures I’ll listen to the album again and stay within 19-Twenty's growing catalogue.

As far as debut albums by Independent artists go, 19-Twenty is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish and the band has proven that a big recording contract, while likely desirable, does not dictate the quality of one's music.

While I would love to own this album on vinyl, I don't believe it was ever pressed to the format. The edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi is sonically perfect, but I’ll be tracking down a copy of the CD as it is certainly worth adding to my permanent physical music library.

19-Twenty can be purchased on CD and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 19-Twenty is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Elton John - Madman Across The Water (Album Review)

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Elton John - Madman Across The Water (Album Review)

Madman Across The Water is an unequivocally exceptional album from start to finish. Having listened to the 24/96kHz MQA edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi, there is only one word that can fully describe the album and that would be immersive. The soundstage, performance, and presence of the band is incredible and you really get a sense of being in the studio while the album was being recorded. I have also listened to the CD-quality FLAC on TIDAL Hi-Fi, but it sounds rather flat and uninspiring by comparison. Yes, the MQA edition is really that good! That said, one must remember that MQA is not a cure and a poor sounding master will still sound poor. Sometimes there is little to no difference as readers would have seen in my review of Kalio’s sensational album A/B. It all depends on how the album was mastered. If the same mastering was used then the difference between a well-mastered CD and MQA, or high-res, is minimal at best. However, there are so many poorly mastered CDs that I dare say MQA looks more appealing as it isn’t based upon the CD master, but the original studio mastering that hopefully, in most cases, is not compressed to hell and back. For more information about MQA, check out MQA.co.uk.

Tiny Dancer is an absolute classic and John's vocals are perfectly placed in the mix. Close your eyes and you will swear John and his band are in the room with you. The timbre of the instruments and John's vocals are simply astounding.

Levon is an incredible performance. The vocal build to the choral climax is to die for. It is sonically beautiful and one of John's greatest recordings.

Razor Face is a solid song, but it isn't anything to write home about.

Madman Across The Water is incredible, but as mentioned in my review of Tumbleweed Connection, I do prefer the original over this re-recording. As this is the version most people would be familiar with, I encourage you to check out the original. You won't regret it!

Indian Sunset has an impressive level of musicality. So good, in fact, that it almost steals the thunder from John's vocal delivery which is astonishing in its own right. I specifically love the near acoustic vocal delivery and the gradual layering of musical components, resulting in a more realised composition that will knock your socks off. Music is seldom this good and while I adore my Elton John compilations, Indian Sunset doesn’t feature on any of them. This song is yet one more point of validation that proves John and Taupin are musical geniuses and a collaborative team like no other.

Holiday Inn feels as though it should have been included on Tumbleweed Connection as it sounds a little disjointed with the rest of the songs on Madman Across The Water. As a song on its own, it has some exceptional musical shifts that I simply adore, but overall the song is somewhat forgettable as I don't feel the lyrical delivery is as polished as it could be. Of course, I could merely have this view because it follows the exceptional Indian Sunset.

Rotten Peaches is a B-side. It flows well within the album tracking, but it is pure filler.

All The Nasties is my favourite song from the album. It astonishes me that this song hasn't made any of his career perspective compilations. Elton John is clearly greater than a single compilation will allow. Thankfully in the modern era of the playlist, the individual listener can compile their own quasi-compilation. By the way, the drum depth throughout this song is pure gold. All The Nasties is truly exceptional and will captivate you from the first note.

Goodbye is short but beautiful. It follows on perfectly from All The Nasties and compels me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue.

Overall, Madman Across The Water is an incredibly recorded, mixed, and mastered performance that is simply unforgettable. While I adore the sonic presentation that the MQA edition delivers, the collector in me is compelled to pick up the SACD release as it contains the 2004 Greg Penny 5.I Surround Sound Mix that can only improve upon the immersion provided by MQA. Interestingly, the surround sound version reportedly contains the external version of Razor Face on the surround sound mix. That said, it wasn't my favourite song on the album so I'm unsure if it’s truly of interest. Nevertheless, it is good to know a variant exists, even if it’s only a longer rendition.

Madman Across The Water is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Madman Across The Water on Spotify or Apple Music.

Click here to read other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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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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Elton John - Empty Sky (Album Review)

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Elton John - Empty Sky (Album Review)

Debut albums are interesting. They can produce one hit wonders, launch long-lasting careers, or be largely forgotten. The later is, of course, what has happened to Elton John's debut Empty Sky. Yes, John would go on to be incredibly successful, but I dare say most people would be unaware of this debut and would likely point to the self-titled Elton John album as his debut. Regardless, if you are reading this then it is not too late to check out Empty Sky and can hear the true origins of one of the greatest musicians in history.

Besides Skyline Pigeon, most people, even casual fans, would not have heard the songs off this album as they seldom appear on John’s live performances or career perspective compilations. It is truly a shame as there is plenty to appreciate here. The album is beautifully recorded and mastered, even though the edition used for this review was the 1995 remaster. We must remember, however, that remaster wasn’t always such a dirty word. It did, initially at least, have noble intentions.

The album artwork is gorgeous and screams of the need to own a copy on vinyl. While it was reissued in September 2017, it is important to note the bonus tracks are not included on the vinyl release. I'm normally a stickler for original track listings, but in this case I feel the bonus tracks add depth to the album and most likely the only reason they were previously omitted was due to vinyl runtime restraints. Fingers crossed there is a download code that will include the bonus tracks, but wouldn’t it be cool if they packaged the original vinyl with a 7 or 10-inch record including those three tracks. Now, that would be a value-added proposition for fans like you and me.

Empty Sky has a great rhythm that sets the tone for the entire album. The instrumental introduction is fantastic and allows the mind to become enveloped in the tempo before John's iconic vocal is introduced. You will be toe tapping and head bopping throughout.

Val-Hala has a very regal sound to it. It is lovely, but there is a little distortion in the recording that I find distracting. I'm not sure if this was intentional, or a result of the recording and mastering techniques of the era. I had considered that it could have been an artefact of the remastering process, but if one is to believe the blurb, this remastered edition used the Sadie Digital System and Prism Super Noise Shaper that is said to only enhanced the recording. Subsequently, my only thought is that it is present on the original, especially as it is also the only song on the album that exhibits the effect. Perhaps it was done with artistic intention.

Western Ford Gateway has an absolutely sensational electric guitar riff! The vocal presentation is reminiscent of John Lennon's Imagine (album) recording style. Of course, Lennon’s album was released well over a decade later, but I find it intriguing to look back on music with present-day thoughts and wonder where the influence originated. When I hear this song I often wonder if Elton John influenced John Lennon, or if Elton took influence from Lennon's recordings with The Beatles. Even if there was no real-world correlation, it is interesting to ponder such blasphemous theories.

Hymn 2000 is an enjoyable song, but I find the flute and other musical elements detract from John's vocal delivery. It simply feels a little too busy, especially when listening on loudspeakers. Headphones, interestingly enough, limit this effect.

Lady What's Tomorrow is a nice song, but it is nothing to write home about. A classic B-side!

Sails has a rhythm rivalling Empty Sky. I love it! When I listen to this song, and so many songs from the album, I can't believe these classics have mostly been omitted from the various live performances and compilations. Granted, when you are as successful as Elton John has been, all songs can't always be revisited, but it would be wonderful to see a little more variety at times.

The Scaffold has a gorgeous tonality and rhythm. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and has an addictive chorus that compels you to sing-a-long. Absolutely Brilliant!

Skyline Pigeon is arguably the most well-known track from John's debut album and was included the exceptional compilation Diamonds (Deluxe CD and streaming editions only). The Piano Version included on Diamonds is the re-recording that was done during the Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player sessions. It certainly has more polish than the original and John's vocals are significantly more prominent, but I do love the rawness of this original recording and if you haven't heard it, I implore you to give it a go. It is more acoustic, by comparison, but thoroughly worthwhile.

Gulliver/It's Hay Chewed (Reprise Version) is an interesting song that closes out the original release. It isn't bad, but the intermingling of songs is somewhat distracting and I feel Skyline Pigeon would have been the perfect song to conclude the album with. That said, the first few minutes of Gulliver/It's Hay Chewed is excellent.

Lady Samantha is a solid bonus track with exceptional musicality. It is a shame it didn't make the core album.

All Across The Havens is most certainly a B-side. Perfectly adequate but I can understand why this song didn't make the initial cut. It has a great rhythm to it, however.

It's Me That You Need has an incredibly gorgeous vocal track. I also love the musical elements and it is yet another track that shows just how successful Elton John was to become.

Just Like Strange Rain isn't bad, but it isn't great either. While I’m glad it’s on the remastered CD/ digital release, it isn't overly compelling and fails to generate the interest I believe is required to listen to the album again. That said, l know how good the rest of the album is and therefore I'm going back for another listen.

Overall, Empty Sky is one Elton John album that you simply must own or have within your streaming music library. It is timeless and will likely always remain that way. 

This review is based on the 1995 remastered CD on TIDAL Hi-Fi. While I remain interested in the vinyl reissue, I find the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi is sonically perfect. That said, the collector in me is already wanting to reach out to Piers (mataurecords.com.au) and ask him to order me a copy.

Elton John's Empty Sky is available to own on Vinyl and CD, or digitally from the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC) or iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, you can check the album out on Spotify or Apple Music.

Click here to read other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Cut Is The Deepest is gorgeous!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nirvana - MTV Unplugged In New York (Album Review)

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Nirvana - MTV Unplugged In New York (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Man Who Sold The World is glorious!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Crosby, Stills & Nash - CSN (Album Review)

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Crosby, Stills & Nash - CSN (Album Review)

Most people would already know if they are a CSN (Crosby, Stills & Nash) fan, but for those of you who are not aware of the 70s rock band, specialising in folk while dabbling in country, then the album CSN is the perfect introduction to a band that demands respect from music fans the world over.

From a sonic perspective, think America, Genesis, and Neil Young. Yes, Young would join CSN throughout their career and those performances would be under the moniker, CSNY (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young). Other sonic similarities include, but are certainly not limited to the Eagles and Bread. It is my opinion that if you enjoy these artists, you will love CSN.

The album cover really appeals to me for some reason. Perhaps it is the happiness expressed by the band members and the feeling that they are ordinary guys like you and I. Whatever it is, I class this cover as one of the most iconic for the era and I dare say it is the best cover art from their career.

While they may appear, on face value, to be three ordinary guys, the incredible soundstage and overall sonic presentation is anything but ordinary. Sit back, relax, and join me as we experience the sonic wonderland that is CSN.

Shadow Captain really highlights the musical style of CSN. I absolutely adore the rhythm and depth of the soundstage. The drum beat is exceptional and full of energy. The continuous hi-hat element is recorded beautifully as the sound tapers off gently into the next note. While it adds a little treble to the mix, it doesn’t detract from an otherwise smooth sound.

See The Changes has an exceptional vocal harmony. The acoustic musicality is a basic composition but is performed remarkably well. Sometimes less really is more and I couldn't imagine this song with more complex sonic elements. See The Changes is nothing short of pure perfection.

Carried Away is beautiful!

Fair Game has a Caribbean feel. It’s a good song but it isn't a favourite of mine.

Anything At All is a lovely song that will captivate you from the very first note. 

Cathedral immediately reminds me of Genesis. I don't know about you, but I love it when a song reminds me of another artist. It is like my mind has a built-in discovery algorithm. Anyway, getting back to the song, I absolutely adore Cathedral! From the slow beginning to the increased tempo mid song, it is absolutely perfect and one of the best songs CSN ever recorded.

Dark Star is a really enjoyable song, yet I find that I don't connect with it on an emotional level.

Just A Song Before I Go is another song that has a perfect match of vocal harmony and instrumentation. It is a gorgeous song that has been recorded, mixed, and mastered impeccably well.

Run From Tears has a killer guitar riff that, along with Stephen Stills' lead vocal, really takes a B-side and turns it into an A-side.

Cold Rain has a delightful piano introduction as it builds to yet another gorgeous vocal harmony. Cold Rain is sonically beautiful and an absolute pleasure to listen to. Your ears will thank you for listening to this track.

In My Dreams is textbook Easy Listening.

I Give You Give Blind has an introduction that I'm not fond of, but once the song begins I tend to enjoy it. As the final track, it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within the CSN and CSNY catalogues. That said, there is part of me that would have liked to have seen Just A Song Before I Go as the final track. Yes, I know it would have been corny, but I also think it would have been perfect.

Overall, CSN is one of the greatest albums ever recorded. Even the couple of songs that I don’t connect with are worthy when listening to the entire album as a single body of work.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Master/MQA edition at 24/96 kHz. It is important to note that this was only the first software unfold, carried out by Audirvana Plus 3, as I’ve yet to invest in an MQA compatible DAC. Unfortunately, Oppo has yet to announce their intentions regarding support for MQA. If you have a DAC that is MQA compatible, you will be able to listen to CSN at the full 24/192 kHz resolution. That said, the 24/96 has a full-bodied sound with perfect mastering. Yes, I am aware that Steve Hoffman worked his mastering magic on CSN in 2013, however, I have not heard that edition and subsequently can not comment on the sonic qualities of that release. The MQA edition lists mastering, remastering, and digital mastering as being undertaken by Joe Gastwirt. Regardless, I can honestly say that if I were only able to listen to the MQA edition, I would consider it an absolute privilege to enjoy such a high-quality production. When compared to the 16/44.1 kHz CD-quality edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi, there is a noticeable difference and I find the CD-quality edition to be rather fatiguing as the dynamics and overall soundstage is simply not as smooth as that presented by MQA, despite being the work of the same mastering engineer. I know many of you have yet to test MQA, but I have consistently been blown away by the quality since TIDAL began streaming it in January 2017. More information about TIDAL Masters/MQA can be found here.

CSN is available on CD, 24 Karat Gold CD from Audio Fidelity, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes). If you prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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