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Legs Diamond – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Legs Diamond – Self-Titled (Album Review)

If you’re into rock and roll, especially the sort that came out of the California music scene in the late 70s, then you’re going to love this eponymous debut album from Legs Diamond.

I often sit and wonder why one band is more prominent than the other. How did they connect with the social consciousness of the time? Was a band who didn’t receive the recognition they deserve merely out of time? Well, Legs Diamond failed to set the world on fire but would later gain a dedicated following that would result in them reforming and continuing to tour and record to this day; along with various breakups throughout the years. Subsequently, you can be forgiven for having never heard of the band, but thanks to the modern era of music streaming, we can all explore and enjoy the music that was merely out of time, for Legs Diamond is certainly no diamond in the rough and is one of the greatest 70s hard rock albums I have ever heard. How Legs Diamond is not a household name is beyond comprehension, but join me as we explore their eponymous debut. You can thank me later!

It’s Not The Music kicks the album off with a rhythm that is out of this world. If you’re not head bopping and toe tapping from the first note, you’re listening wrong. With numerous influences, including Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, Legs Diamond’s It’s Not The Music is not only a song that should go down in history as one of the grooviest 70s rock anthems, but it is the perfect song to open the album with. So good!

Stage Fright has a killer guitar riff and flows perfectly from It’s Not The Music. It’s full-on 70s west coast rock and roll that will require you to dust off your air guitar. I love it!

Satin Peacock is your classic blues-based rock and roll tune. Turn that volume up and enjoy, I know I am.

Rock And Roll Man is an epic song that reminds me fondly of Black Sabbath’s Ozzy era. This is one seriously good album!

Deadly Dancer is another great song that is very much inspired by Deep Purple and as a Purple fan, that isn’t a bad thing.

Rat Race is full of groove. Yes, you can again hear the influence of Deep Purple, but Legs Diamond creates a sound that is so unique and perfect that it is only reminiscent of Deep Purple in spirit. Regardless, Rat Race will have you head bopping and toe tapping to the addictive rhythm. 70s hard rock doesn’t get much better than this!

Can’t Find Love is a little over-produced at the beginning of the song and really doesn’t start until almost two minutes have elapsed. However, once the song gets going, it’s a riff and vocal driven masterpiece and is literally one of the best songs on the album.

Come With Me closes the record out with the same energy that has permeated throughout the entire album; although I’m not fond of the fade out as I feel commencing the fade on the vocal was a mistake. Nevertheless, there is absolutely no doubt that I will listen to Legs Diamond again and stay within Legs Diamond’s rather extensive catalogue.

Overall, Legs Diamond is not only an exceptional eponymous debut, but it is one of the greatest 70s hard rock albums to have ever been recorded and released. How I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during these recording sessions as the album is mixed and mastered beautifully. So well, in fact, that I’m blown away by the dynamics and soundstage present via the Apple Music stream. While I’d love to track down a vinyl copy, and likely will at some time, this digital release is absolutely amazing and will showcase the very best your speakers or headphones have to offer. It also provides further validation that lossy music can sound exceptional if it has been recorded, mixed, and mastered properly. An incredible album from start-to-finish!

Legs Diamond is available to own on CD and iTunes.

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Apocalyptica – 7th Symphony (Album Review)

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Apocalyptica – 7th Symphony (Album Review)

It’s cello-metal time!

Yes, the world has collided and those of you who are die-hard classical music fans may wish to look away. Similarly, the metal heads may also have a difficult time coming to terms with just how perfect metal and classical overtures and instrumentation work together. Certainly, Metallica proved just how well the mix could be applied when they performed their exceptional live concert, S&M, with the San Francisco Symphony, in 1999. It’s a classic performance and one of the best recordings Metallica has ever released. It’s certainly better than their latest live effort, Helping Hands...Live & Acoustic At The Masonic. I love Metallica, but this album is only slightly better than their Lou Reed collaboration, LuLu. Regardless, Metallica has been an inspiration for the Finnish cello-metal band Apocalyptica and you should really check out their 1996 release, Plays Metallica By Four Cellos. It’s exceptional and one can only wonder if upon hearing this album, Metallica decided to test the waters with their own classical interpretation three years later. Whether or not this was the case, S&M is one of the greatest live albums and performances of all time and Apocalyptica has grown beyond covering their idols, becoming a band that has not only stood the test of time but commands the respect of the classical music lover and metal head alike.

Released in 2010, 7th Symphony is Apocalyptica’s seventh studio release and fast became one of my all-time favourite albums. This review is based on the iTunes/Apple Music standard edition as that is the one that I’ve been enjoying for years. Interestingly, however, as much as I adore this album I’ve yet to add it to my physical collection. Given it was released on various formats, it amazes me that I’ve never taken it to the next level. My only reasoning is that I thoroughly enjoy the digital edition that I purchased so many years ago and as such it makes me wonder if obtaining the vinyl release, amongst other possibilities, is really that important. The music collector within says it most certainly is, but the music lover says if you like the way it sounds, don’t buy another copy. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I have countless examples of different formats sounding at odds with each other, as if you’re listening to an entirely different album. Sometimes it is subjectively better, other times it is just different. Yes, I’m aware of how different masterings can sound and that each format has its own unique sonic elements, but that doesn’t always mean that vinyl is better than digital or vice versa. Subsequently, I say, enjoy the music you have and if you’re not grooving with the sound, then perhaps you should look for an alternative format/mastering to see if a subjectively better release is available. Of course, as I say that, I’m looking at the cello-shaped USB edition of the album...I want it! Yes, I know I contradicted myself. It isn’t the first time and it certainly won’t be the last. It is the bane of the music collector and as much as one can enjoy the process, it is an addiction just like any other hobby.

Addicted is certainly one way to describe my love of 7th Symphony. By and large, the album as a coherent piece of musical art is superbly crafted and I welcome you to join me as I take a look at the songs that make up Apocalyptica’s 7th Symphony.

At The Gates Of Manala is a sonic wonderland and is the perfect song to open the album with as you know exactly what to expect from the rest of the album when you listen to this song. That isn’t to say that Apocalyptica repeats themselves, for they are certainly diverse, but what is immediately apparent is that this record, in particular, is going to be a little more on the symphonic heavy side than some may assume. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and there are more mellow tunes throughout 7th Symphony, but At The Gates Of Manala, and the entire album, is one that takes no prisoners and if you’ve never heard anything by Apocalyptica, up until now, I’ve no doubt you’ll be hooked listening to this instrumental song. I certainly was!

End Of Me (feat. Gavin Rossdale) has incredible rhythm and while I’m not overly familiar with Bush, Rossdale performs this song beautifully. However, as good as he sounds, I’d love to hear Corey Taylor on vocals here. Yes, I may well have a man crush on Taylor, but the guy epitomises the lifestyle and genres he performs in. Nevertheless, Rossdale should be congratulated on a stellar performance and the backing musicality is off-the-charts. A great song and a wise choice for the first single from 7th Symphony.

However, Not Strong Enough (feat. Brent Smith), is the best song on the album. Smith has an incredible vocal range that is perfectly suited to the album. Interestingly, however, due to frivolous music industry practices, the Brent Smith original was unable to be released stateside and subsequently another version of the song was recorded with Doug Robb of Hoobastank. To be completely honest, both versions are spectacular but if I had to pick one, it would be the rendition with Brent Smith as I feel his vocal is more suited to the style of the song and backing musicality. Either way, Not Strong Enough is one of the greatest songs in Apocalyptica’s catalogue and I can only recommend you turn the volume up and enjoy. It has an attitude that will make you feel invincible; a positive confidence building element that is exclusive to the listening and appreciation of music.

2010 (feat. Dave Lombardo) is another killer instrumental and Lombardo delivers an exceptional drum track. Its speed metal meets rhythmic metal but performed with symphonic overtones. What’s not to like?

Beautiful is certainly more mellow but is absolutely stunning. I hope you haven’t turned the volume down for Beautiful needs to be heard as loud as you can play it without causing hearing damage or inducing audible distortion.

Broken Pieces (feat. Lacey Sturm) is a lovely song and Sturm delivers an exceptional vocal performance that in some ways reminds me of Avril Lavigne. Perhaps the only disappointment I have when listening to Broken Pieces is the crushed percussion elements as a result of brickwalling. This is quite a shame as all other songs sound dynamic with a broad soundstage, despite the album’s overall low dynamic range. That said, according to the Dynamic Range Database, Broken Pieces has the greater dynamic range in comparison to the rest of the album, almost double the other songs, yet when you listen to it, you wouldn’t agree with that finding

On The Rooftop With Quasimodo begins in a mellow tone, but that doesn’t last as this instrumental track grows in boldness before returning to its original mellow state mid-song, then returning to a heavier symphonic sound. The sonic shifts are done extraordinarily well and you won’t feel they’re disjointed as they blend masterfully together resulting in a song that tells a story through instrumentation alone.

Bring Them To Light (feat. Joseph Duplantier) picks up the pace and it’s a killer scream/speed metal track. The rhythm on Bring Them To Light really directs the song beautifully and Duplantier’s vocals are spot on. A sensational track!

Sacra is absolutely mind-blowing. The moodiness of the cello certainly comes out in this song and I couldn’t imagine a metal-infused cello track being more textbook accurate than this one. If you want to let someone here just what symphonic metal and the cello can sound like, this is most certainly the song to play for them. Perfect would be an understatement as Sacra really is beyond adequate description and has to be heard to be believed. Although, I’m not fond of how it transitions into Rage Of Poseidon.

Rage Of Poseidon has an opening that doesn’t compel me, but as the song progresses, the grinding rhythm takes hold and it becomes a valued addition to the album, ensuring that I’ll certainly play thestandard 10-track edition of 7th Symphony again and stay within Apocalyptica’s diverse and extensive catalogue.

Overall, 7th Symphony is an album that should be in everyone’s collection, be it digital or physical. It is compelling and while on the surface it may seem a little mismatched to the newcomer, it is absolutely perfect to those of us who believe the merging of musical genres is not only a good thing but is an essential element in the continuous evolution of music as a form of art.

As for the tracks not included on the standard edition, but present on varied releases in different regions, I have this to say:

Return Game is simply stunning and brings the cello right to the front of the mix, an element that I thoroughly appreciate. I really wish this song was included on the standard 10-track album.

Through Paris In A Sportscar is a solid tune. Nothing to write home about, but adequate nonetheless.

The Shadow Of Venus is a lovely song, but it does have the tendency to sound a little repetitive.

Spiral Architect is a Black Sabbath cover, first appearing on Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath from 1973. Let me be completely honest, just listen to the original Sabbath version of the song.

These additional four tracks, along with a DVD featuring performances from the Sibelius Academy, are all included on the Deluxe Edition. Thankfully, this additional content has also been made available on iTunes, as well as Apple Music, for those who wish to download or stream the content. The additional performances included are for the songs Beautiful, Not Strong Enough, End Of Me (if you’d like to see the official music video (feat. Gavin Rossdale), click here), I Don’t Care (an incredible song originally released on Apocalyptica’s 2007 release, Worlds Collide), Sacra, and Bittersweet. Yes, these additional elements can often be seen as bonus material that you’re unlikely to consume more than once, but I would encourage you to check it out as the songs are performed in an acoustic manner, showcasing just how seriously talented these musicians are. Tipe Johnson of the Finnish rock band, Leningrad Cowboys, provides the vocals on these acoustic performances and does a simply incredible job.

Apocalyptica’s 7th Symphony is available to own on CD and iTunes. A Deluxe Edition is also available on CD/DVD and iTunes.

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Device – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Device – Self-Titled (Album Review)

David Draiman is a man with few peers and with such a unique vocal presentation it can be difficult to separate the man from Disturbed; a band that would catapult him to international fame. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your philosophical bent, Disturbed entered a hiatus between 2011 and 2015, resulting in a series of side projects by the various band members. Bassist, John Moyer, would join Adrenaline Mob and form Art Of Anarchy, while Dan Donegan and Mike Wengren formed Fight Or Flight. Draiman, of course, went on to form Device with former Filter guitarist, Geno Lenardo. Device, while not completely dissimilar to Disturbed, in part due to Draiman’s unique vocal presentation, does have a greater electro-industrial sound than Disturbed that fans will undoubtedly adore.

You Think You Know is a hard-hitting start to the album and in some ways is reminiscent of Disturbed’s Believe era. Despite that, You Think You Know sounds fresh and unencumbered by the link to Disturbed. The rhythm elements are fantastic, but the drums are sadly a little flat, especially in the high-hat region. This is due, in part, to the over-compressed nature of the album whereby the dynamic range is brick-walled rather badly. When you listen to this song, and much of this Self-Titled album, it becomes apparent that the music is screaming to be heard with more separation and depth. Yes, the highly compressed nature of this style of music is somewhat of a trademark, but I feel it was taken a few steps too far and could have been dialled back a little to allow a greater sense of scope, rather than the wall of sound that is currently present. Nevertheless, I love You Think You Know and believe it is the perfect song to commence the album with.

Penance is stadium worthy as that rhythm will get you moving. Perhaps the only questionable aspect is the tempo. The chorus and overall musicality are perfectly timed, but I do wonder how Penance would have sounded if the vocal delivery was sped up a little.

Vilify is a great song, but the electro-industrial elements are a bit too in your face and sound as if they were added as an afterthought. Yes, I understand this is the style Device was aiming for, it just feels as though there are two songs here, instead of one coherent one.

Close My Eyes Forever (feat. Lzzy Hale) is amazing! I love it and could listen to it indefinitely. This is most certainly a song for my lost on a deserted island playlist. Lzzy Hale is one of the greatest rock/metal vocalists in the world today and the duet with Draiman has a sense of purity that could only have been made in heaven. As much as I love the Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford original, this edition takes the song to a new level while simultaneously paying homage to the original.

Out Of Line (feat. Serj Tankian & Terry “Geezer” Butler) is a raw and riff-driven song full of attitude. Seriously, turn this song up to 11, you’ll thank me later.

Hunted started out promising, but I don’t like Draiman’s lyrical presentation on this song. Subsequently, I’ve got to call Hunted a B-Side.

Opinion (feat. Tom Morello) is a great left-of-the-centre song. The rhythm is disjointed, but that is where the magic happens proving that order and chaos can coexist.

War Of Lies is a solid track, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Haze (feat. M. Shadows) is enjoyable and while there are moments of brilliance, I don’t feel Shadows is presented as prominently as he should have been on this track as his input sounds a little lost in the mix. A shame considering just how exceptional he is as a vocalist. In all honesty, if you didn’t know Shadows contributed to this track, you’d be forgiven in missing his addition as there is very little sign of the vocal prowess the Avenged Sevenfold frontman is known for.

Through It All (feat. Glenn Hughes) is a sensational closing track that encourages me, like all good closing songs should, to listen to the album again.

While there are no major disappointments on this album, it is frustrating that this self-titled release was never issued on vinyl. The cover art alone demands a larger canvas and the greater dynamic range, provided by the vinyl mastering process, would be a welcome addition. Similarly, it frustrates me that the edition available to Australian audiences, via digital downloads, streaming, and CD, are limited to 10 songs. There are, however, three additional songs that have been made available on various editions of the album. A Deluxe Edition that includes a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Wish and A Part Of Me. The Best Buy Exclusive also includes the track titled Recover. Are these additional songs any good? Well, I have reluctantly taken to YouTube to check out the tracks, despite the poor audio quality, and one can understand why they weren’t included on the core album. That doesn’t change the fact that in the era of streaming, these songs should easily, and legally, be available to fans the world over.

Overall, Device’s Self-Titled album is exceptional and while Draiman has stated that there is no intention to release more music under this moniker, I hope he reconsiders this position as this work complements his work with Disturbed in much the same way that Corey Taylor’s Stone Sour complements Slipknot.

Device’s Self-Titled album is available to own on CD and iTunes.

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Alice Cooper – Pretties For You (Album Review)

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Alice Cooper – Pretties For You (Album Review)

I doubt anyone would proclaim the Alice Cooper band’s debut release, Pretties For You, as their favourite album, yet it is strangely compelling. The psychedelic styling mixed with a high level of experimentation results in Pretties For You being located somewhere sonically between a garage band jam session and a demo recording. Yes, by conventional standards and that of the later Alice Cooper band records, Pretties For You is just bad, but as an album on its own, it showcases the era and origins of a band that would go on to have a successful career until, of course, Alice Cooper went solo and created an even larger monster, similar to Rob Zombie's move away from White Zombie. While Cooper was no doubt the pioneer, Zombie’s path a couple of decades later was not all that different to his idol’s as the early White Zombie recordings are also very raw and experimental.

Raw is perhaps the best way to describe Pretties For You and the vinyl re-issue I have is so badly mastered and pressed that it sounds like a beaten-up second-hand edition from 1969. That isn't necessarily a bad thing and the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams aren't much better, they just lack the noisy vinyl pressing, one that is also pressed off centre and has audible drift in the first song where one channel of audio is heard in a ghostly manner for the first few rotations of the record. There is even a broken groove on Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio, causing the album to play like a broken record, akin to a repetitive run-out groove. Nevertheless, I have contemplated replacing the 2009 Warner Bros. pressing with the newer 2017 re-issue, but as strange as it may sound, I kind of like the problems this pressing has as it has a character of its own. When the inoperative run-out groove presents itself, the softest of taps on my Pro-jet Debut Carbon’s plinth gets the needle tracking into the correct groove. Yes, it is a ritual, that's one reason why I love vinyl. Needless to say, it’s an imperfect format. Each and every play of an album will yield a different result, not unlike attending a concert where the performance, for any multitude of reasons, cannot be the same as the night before. No doubt some of you by now are questioning my sanity and wondering why I don’t simply get rid of this album considering it isn’t a favourite. Well, I can’t argue with that thought process, but as a life-long Alice Cooper fan, I find that I do enjoy the album, when in the mood, but I also acknowledge its flaws. Yet, I have been known to play the album on repeat for hours on end as it grows on you. 

SIDE ONE

Titanic Overture is a garbled mess but is an interesting start to the album that really goes nowhere until the piano element comes into the mix. That's a shame as I’ve always wondered what would have been if the piano track didn’t fade out. Seems like we’ll never know unless there are unheard recordings floating around that I'm unaware of.

10 Minutes Before The Worm is just weird. Still, it’s interesting but you wouldn't play it outside of the album format. It also is the first time we hear Cooper's vocal and as you may notice he has remained true to that styling throughout the years.

Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio is a great tune with a divine introduction. However, that high pitch vocal, in places, really takes a solid song and turns it into an experience that isn't quite as memorable as one would have hoped for. Nevertheless, it is one of the best songs on the album and one that I would love to see Cooper rerecord. Interestingly, and as a side note, when listening via Apple Music, the high pitch of Cooper's vocal, that I mentioned earlier, is much more reserved and subsequently less ear piercing. It’s interesting because digital music is normally fatiguing, in that regard, not vinyl. It just goes to show that lossy music alternatives do have their place in a music-first audiophile setup. Plus, for those who don’t appreciate the risk of possibly receiving a broken record pressing, the digital counterpart, of course, plays seamlessly.

Today Mueller is similar to Ten Minutes Before The Worm. Weird, yet strangely compelling. I like it!

Living is a solid rock tune from the era and a valued addition to the album.

Fields Of Regret is a song I thoroughly enjoy. However, I’d love to see Cooper rerecord Fields Of Regret with Bob Ezrin, in the production, chair as there is a solid song hidden here, begging to be brought out into the open.  

SIDE TWO

No Longer Umpire is short but enjoyable.

Levity Ball (Live At The Cheetah) is a great song but it's even more sonically compromised, than the rest of the album, as it's a live recording. Yes, dear reader, this is another song I would love to see Cooper rerecord.

B.B. On Mars is pure filler but works well within the album format.

Reflected is brilliant! Yes, the Alice Cooper band would rewrite and rerecord Reflected and release it as Elected on Billion Dollar Babies. However, I must say as much as I enjoy Elected, I prefer Reflected. Yes, there is a fanbase ready to Lynch me for that comment, but Reflected is, in my opinion, the one song that makes Pretties For You worth owning. Seriously, give it a listen.

Apple Bush is a quirky, but enjoyable, song.

Earwigs To Eternity is rather left of the centre but remains compelling and fits the experimental style of the album perfectly.

Changing Arranging is the final song on the album and is good enough to encourage me to listen to the album again and stay within the Alice Cooper catalogue.

Overall, Pretties For You is a solid debut by a band that had yet to find their sound and synergy. But, is it worth owning? For Alice Cooper fans I would say yes, but it isn't a landmark album and therefore will likely only appeal to the most dedicated fans and collectors. Hence, this is one album that you should consider streaming prior to outlaying the cash to buy Pretties For You on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), or iTunes.

You can stream Pretties For You on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (Album Review)

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Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (Album Review)

Despite being an album focused on juvenile sexual innuendos, Muscle Of Love is one of the greatest Alice Cooper albums to ever be released. This would also be the last album featuring the original Alice Cooper band lineup and would not include the master, Bob Ezrin, in the Producer's chair. Nevertheless, Jack Douglas and Jack Richardson did a wonderful job of guiding the album, while allowing creative artistry to flourish.

Yes, many of the songs on Muscle Of Love have never been part of Cooper's live set, at least for many years, but I've always found that with Alice Cooper, the best albums, songs, and performances are not the compilation filling or concert played fan favourites. Therefore, I implore you to give Muscle Of Love, as an album, a shot. I have a feeling you won't regret it.

I know I haven't regretted picking up the Friday Music vinyl re-issue from 2013. While the reissue isn't a perfect replica, sonically it is beautiful with a full analogue sound that will impress even the most hardened critic. I have listened to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams and I have to be completely frank when I say the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition makes me want to cancel my subscription. It sounds incredibly flat and shrill, much like really early CD pressings did, and perhaps TIDAL is using the same master that has yet to be remastered. Yes, Steve Hoffman and Stephen Marsh worked their mastering magic on the Audio Fidelity quadraphonic reissued SACD, but that mastering is not available outside the now increasingly rare and costly SACD pressing. Truth-be-told, I've lusted over that SACD release for some time, as it also includes a standard stereo mix for both SACD and CD layers from the aforementioned mastering engineers, but I get so much enjoyment from the Friday Music vinyl release that I don't feel the need to check it out. While I may have daggers out for the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, the Apple Music stream is beautiful, with a similar mastering to the vinyl record. If there is a difference to report, it would be that the Apple Music stream sounds a little concealed by direct comparison to the vinyl release. What it does show, however, is just because something is portrayed as being lossless, and at CD-quality, that doesn't automatically mean it will be better. Mastering really makes a far more significant difference than higher resolutions.

SIDE I

Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo) not only has a great groove, but that psychedelic undertone is superb. I dare you to sit still, without moving a muscle, during this song, I can't do it. The guitar tracking is divine and the inclusion of the violins perfectly suits the song. Plus, that outro = extraordinary!

Never Been Sold Before is your meat and potatoes rock and roll track. I love it! If I had one complaint, it would be that I'd like to hear a 1 to 2-decibel increase in the bass guitar. Just as the addition of strings to Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo) enhanced that song, the horn element in Never Been Sold Before is fantastic and has a similar effect.

Hard Hearted Alice is a song that slowly builds with a beautiful atmospheric introduction. This is one song where the quadraphonic mix would likely be astonishing, but the vinyl counterpart is no slouch with a soundstage that removes the speakers, creating a spacious sound that has to be heard to be believed.

Crazy Little Child is a fun song. I absolutely adore the piano element and I love the overall New Orleans Jazz feel. I'd love to see Cooper do an entire jazz album, even one full of standards would do. He certainly has the vocal chops for it.

SIDE II

Working Up A Sweat continues the lighthearted approach to the overall theme of the album. It's a solid song, but not one to write home about as I find Cooper’s vocals are a little distant in the mix, although, the music has an addictive and thoroughly enjoyable rhythm.

Muscle Of Love is a killer tune. The guitar intro and drum beat is superb and I find myself playing the air guitar and drums for hours after listening to this song. Exceptional!

Man With The Golden Gun was originally written and recorded for the associated James Bond film but was sadly never used. When you listen to the song, armed with that knowledge, you can immediately hear the James Bond undertones and one can only wonder how the Man With The Golden Gun’s introduction would have differed with this song. Nevertheless, it’s a solid addition to Muscle Of Love and I'm just glad it was released and not shelved as it really is quite enjoyable, even if it’s not the strongest song on the album.

Teenage Lament '74 has remained somewhat of a fan favourite and while I thoroughly enjoy the song, I feel bemused as to its popularity. I guess it just proves that I should never be asked by an artist, or record label, which songs should be released as a single or be played live.

Woman Machine is an interesting song to close the album on. Yes, it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Cooper's catalogue, but I find Woman Machine to be a little repetitive and the outro is a little too much, in my opinion, although I can see the approach Cooper and the band were going for.

Overall, Muscle Of Love is exceptional and is truly one of the best Alice Cooper albums ever recorded. Yes, it helps to have a good mastering of an album and this Friday Music release, that is a prized possession of mine, is said to have been mastered from the original Warner Bros. tapes by Joe Reagoso. After hearing it countless times, I have no reason to doubt Friday Music's claims. It really is THAT good!

Muscle Of Love is available on Vinyl, Quadraphonic SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC) and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Muscle Of Love is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

Click here to read other Alice Cooper reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Five Finger Death Punch – And Justice For None (Deluxe Edition Album Review)

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Five Finger Death Punch – And Justice For None (Deluxe Edition Album Review)

There are times when I scratch my head and wonder why it took me so long to check out an artist. Yes, my musical interests are broad and that could be presented as a justification, but I’ve known about Five Finger Death Punch for a number of years and despite being an active fan of their associated genres and counterparts, I've never taken that next step, until now.

And Justice For None is more than just an interesting wordplay on Metallica's ...And Justice For All. From this perspective it reminds me of the Murderdolls calling their last album Women And Children Last; a play on Van Halen's Women And Children First. Both are classics, as is Metallica's ...And Justice For All, but how does Five Finger Death Punch’s And Justice For None stack up? Well, for starters, Five Finger Death Punch didn't turn down the bass!

On a serious note, And Justice For None is one of the greatest metal-infused albums I have ever listened to. There isn't a bad song to be heard and the musicality of the band is off-the-charts.

While you can't judge an album by its cover, I absolutely love the artwork on the Deluxe Edition that is the basis for this review. It's demonic and arguably a cliche, but is perfectly suited to the band and their style of music. The Standard Edition is equally compelling, but I decided to listen to and review the Deluxe Edition as that version is specifically available on vinyl and the album is so good that I'll have to pick up a copy. It’s also important to note there is a slightly different track listing between the editions; most notably Trouble, the lead song on the Deluxe Edition is omitted completely from the Standard Edition. I find this fascinating as Deluxe Editions traditionally dump additional songs at the backend of the album. As exceptional as Fake is, Trouble is a perfectly valid song and sets the tone for the entire album. The rhythm is amazing, as is the quality of the recording, mixing, and mastering. You can't always say that about metal-focused bands as they are either bass heavy and subsequently muffled, or they sound too thin throughout the entire soundstage. Five Finger Death Punch, however, punches you in the face with their sound, preserving the bass while ensuring there's a broad stereo image which is crystal clear.

Fake is bloody brilliant! It’s hard hitting and Corey Taylor inspired. In fact, I'd love to hear Taylor cover it, or perform it live with Five Finger Death Punch. That said, the song is so perfect with Moody's vocal presentation that Taylor could ruin it. Sorry, Corey, I love ya man, but Moody kicks ass on this song. Actually, when I think about it, Rob Zombie would also be perfectly suited to cover this masterpiece.

Top Of The World is rhythmic heaven and yes, I still hear a little Corey Taylor influence on this song, not that that’s a bad thing!

Sham Pain is brilliant. With a little hip-hop, pop-rock ballad tones, and metal-infused elements, this song ticks all the boxes for me. Plus, the play on words and lyrical context is incredible. Although, that guitar solo ends prematurely, despite fading out nicely.

Blue On Black is an absolute classic, entering into the social consciousness in 1997 when recorded by the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. I thought the original was great, but Five Finger Death Punch has mastered it, making it their own. I dare say, besides the original, there isn't an artist on the planet that could cover this song better. Death Punch's version is really that good!

Fire In The Hole has an incredible musical hook that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last note is played.

I Refuse is a stunningly beautiful ballad!

It Doesn't Matter is a great song, one I would label as pop-metal, but that isn’t a criticism as the song is excellent.

When The Seasons Change is a near-acoustic song that initially sounds a little out-of-place, but upon repeat listens, blends beautifully with the body of work that is And Justice For None.

Stuck In My Ways is great, but if there is a B-side to be found, this is it.

Rock Bottom is bordering on scream metal but thankfully backs off just before going over the edge. It’s a solid song, but nothing to write home about.

Gone Away is another exceptional cover. The original Offspring recording is remarkably good, but Five Finger Death Punch has taken it to another level, creating a unique, yet familiar, version of the song.

Bloody is a little pedestrian, but if it was recorded by another band, say Nickelback, I'd suggest it was perfectly suited for their style. It just sounds a little out-of-place for Five Finger Death Punch but it remains a solid B-side with a killer ending.

Will The Sun Ever Rise is simply fantastic!

Bad Seed is a symphonic-styled vocal-driven song that will have you reaching for the volume knob. You’ll really want to pump the volume to get the most out of this song, and the entire album. However, if on headphones, you can do permanent damage to your hearing, so please put it on the stereo and drive your neighbours insane. If they complain, tell them you have my permission!

Save Your Breath is the greatest song on the album. I could listen to it on repeat for eternity. It’s the perfect song to close the album with and encourages me to listen to the album again and explore more of Five Finger Death Punch's back catalogue.

From start to finish, And Justice For None is superb and will, without doubt, become a classic metal album as it ages; although, I’d argue that it has already reached that status.

And Justice For None (Deluxe Edition) is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store 16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, And Justice For None (Deluxe Edition) is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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Disturbed – Evolution (Album Review)

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Disturbed – Evolution (Album Review)

Sometimes the only way for an artist to remain relevant, and continue to grow creatively, is to evolve. Yes, Disturbed's latest album doesn’t have a meaningless title as they have evolved with a series of songs that will likely divide fans.

There is little doubt that Draiman has the vocal chops to approach most styles, but I can't help but wonder if some of the songs on this album would not have been better utilised for a side project. Think Corey Taylor's Slipknot verse Stone Sour styles and you'll likely understand where I'm coming from. Yes, Disturbed has a reputation for exceptional covers, especially The Sound Of Silence, but Evolution is a mix of Disturbed’s metal roots and their creative acoustic aspirations. It’s familiar, yet different; reminding me somewhat of the disjointed mess that is John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy. That album and this should really have been two separate albums or at the very least expanded and presented in the same manner as The Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness double album.

Are You Ready is the signature stadium-filling song that is pure Disturbed. Its energy and finesse is addictive and will appeal to new and old fans alike. I love it!

No More has a great vibe, with a little Marilyn Manson influence, especially in the opening and hook areas of the song. Donegan's semi-solo guitar tracking is fantastic as is the entire mix.

A Reason To Fight is a stunningly beautiful ballad. Seriously, Disturbed needs to release a pure ballads album or an acoustic record. Think Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York. It would be a superb addition to their repertoire. If you thought their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound Of Silence, from Immortal, was impressive, you'll be blown away with A Reason To Fight. It is arguably the best song on the album and one of the best original songs Disturbed has ever written and recorded.

In Another Time has a lovely slow build up that is required when transitioning from A Reason To Fight. It’s a solid Disturbed tune, but nothing to write home about.

Stronger On Your Own similarly doesn't blow me away. Don't get me wrong, I'll happily accept more Disturbed music any day of the week, but I feel Stronger On Your Own is recorded at the wrong tempo. Plus, again, I hear elements of Marilyn Manson, encouraging me to listen to his catalogue. It's a little Disturbing...pun intended!

Hold On To Memories is another song to get the acoustic treatment. It’s beautiful and Draiman's lyrical delivery is gorgeous. However, I remain steadfast in my recommendation of greater style separation. Besides the aforementioned albums, think Foo Fighters' In Your Honor.

Saviour Of Nothing, unlike Stronger On Your Own, has the perfect tempo. Equally hard-hitting, yet relaxing. The musicality is interesting and the short drum solo, followed by the guitar solo is incredible. A great song!

Watch You Burn is a B-side and I'm hoping it will grow on me, but at the moment I feel it isn't really a Disturbed song as it sounds out-of-place in their catalogue. That said, I adore the symphonic elements and believe they should have been more prominent throughout.

The Best Ones Lie brings us back to the traditional Disturbed sound we all know and love. The Best Ones Lie sounds like it was left over from the Believe sessions. That's a good thing if you were wondering.

Already Gone is another ballad and closes out the album beautifully. Yes, it encourages me to listen to Evolution again and stay within Disturbed's catalogue. I did initially listen to the Deluxe Edition, but I find the standard 10 track version offers the perfect length, especially considering the sonic differences and experimentation between Evolution and Disturbed’s back catalogue.

Overall, Evolution is an excellent album that grows on you the more you listen to it. Given the widespread popularity of The Sound Of Silence, it’s hardly surprising that Disturbed has decided to evolve their sound to include more ballad tones. I do, however, still wish they had separated the styles a little more, but I also acknowledge that the song introductions are well thought-out in relation to the shifting styles and don’t feel overly disjointed. It will be interesting to see how Disturbed take this shift in styling and apply it to future records.

This review has been based on listening to the TIDAL MQA (Masters) and Hi-Fi editions, as well as the Apple Music stream. Subjectively, I found the MQA edition to be a noticeable improvement over the Apple Music stream. However, the variance between the MQA edition and CD-quality Hi-Fi stream was negligible. The MQA edition, however, felt subjectively more musical, compelling me to move and connect better with the music. That all said, when an album is recorded, mixed, and mastered this well, you’ll enjoy it thoroughly regardless of the format.

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

If you prefer streaming, Evolution is available on TIDAL (MQA or Hi-Fi), Apple Music, and Spotify.

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REO Speedwagon/Chicago (Concert Review)

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REO Speedwagon/Chicago (Concert Review)

I went to high school and college in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, the music I prefer is from that time period. And the many concerts I attend are artists and groups from those eras. Recently I had the pleasure of enjoying a band that has been making music for over 50 years: Chicago.

But first, let’s start with the opening act, REO Speedwagon.

The first time I saw REO was in July 2003. I remember thinking at that time that lead singer Kevin Cronin talked a lot! In the 15 years that have elapsed, nothing has changed! However, his talking between songs was showing appreciation to the fans. He acknowledged that without us, there would be no REO Speedwagon. As fans, we pay good money for concert tickets, merchandise, physical media, and streaming services. It’s nice to hear that the artist is aware of this, and recognizes it. Many artists don’t.

REO played their hits, including, “Take It On The Run,” “Roll With The Changes,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” and “Keep On Loving You.” REO performed like they wanted to be there, not as if they were begrudgingly fulfilling an obligation. At 66 years old Cronin can still sing the hits like it’s 1980.

The show ended with a tribute to Tom Petty. Cronin told the story of how Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was his favorite band (as is mine), and that he and Petty were neighbors in Southern California. The band dedicated “Listen To Her Heart” to Petty. REO kept it simple and beautiful.

Chicago was the headliner, and based on the crowd reaction, they were ready to party. But the mood grew quiet as Chicago announced they would be playing their album, Chicago II in its entirety. The only songs most fans recognized were “Make Me Smile,” “Color My World,” and “25 or 6 to 4.”  While they sounded great, it was a bit of a bore, as most people, including myself, like to hear the hits from a band that has been around more than 20 years, and in this case, more than 50.

The crowd woke up once the classic rock section began: “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “Beginnings,” “Saturday In The Park,” “If You Leave Me Now.” The brass section, including original members James Pankow and Lee Loughnane, were having the time of their lives, and sounded amazing. Another original member, Robert Lamm, sang with as much enthusiasm as he did when he first performed these songs 40 plus years ago.

The highlight of Chicago’s set was the Spencer Davis Group cover of, “I’m A Man.” Drummer Walfredo Reyes, Jr., and percussionist Ramon Yslas couldn’t have enjoyed themselves more banging on the drums, bongos, tambourine, occasionally trading places without missing a beat.

I would have preferred for Chicago to skip playing the album and focus on the hits. Their catalog is so vast, ranging from rock to brass to pop, that there’s a little something for everyone. While this wasn’t my favorite Chicago concert, if they come back to my area I will be in the audience once again.

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Alice Cooper – DaDa (Album Review)

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Alice Cooper – DaDa (Album Review)

Alice Cooper may have no recollection of writing and recording DaDa, but I personally consider it one of his greatest achievements.

While it pleases me to know Cooper emerged from this era sober, one can't help but consider just how much his alcohol addiction influenced this opus. While I don't condone substance abuse in the name of art, and I’m a teetotaller, one can't deny that the music we have in our culture today would likely not exist should experimentation with mind-altering substances have not occurred. That said, not all of Cooper's intoxicated albums are as special as DaDa. There is something mystical here that truly defies explanation, so much so that Cooper has previously suggested that he has no idea as to the meaning of the album, only declaring that it’s the most frightening album he has ever made. From my perspective, it’s a sonic wonderland and not foreboding at all.

This review is based on the 2018 vinyl reissue from Warner Music. Specific mastering details are omitted, but let me assure you this is one album you simply have to hear to believe just how good it is. Most modern reissues are pressed from high-resolution digital files, but it sounds as though this pressing was sourced from the analogue master tape. It’s incredibly warm with that familiar analogue sound while being totally absent of the sterile and cold reproduction that is often associated with CD and digital music reproduction. The CD release I have (cat: 7599-23969-2) was never bad, but this vinyl pressing is significantly better. Plus, that orange swirl vinyl, which looks more like a splattering, looks really cool and is a value-added proposition for this collector.

Having owned the CD for a number of years, this was one album that I desperately wanted on vinyl. The exquisite cover art simply demands a larger canvas and while the CD-sized artwork still looked excellent, it just isn’t the same. The liner notes on the rear cover pay homage to the original pressings, as does that Warner Bros. Records label. I don't know about you, but all these elements matter to me. It just makes the tactile experience all the more rewarding. Nevertheless, it is ultimately all about the music.

Side One

DaDa is a Bob Ezrin masterpiece. Yes, Ezrin alone wrote this lead song and as the producer and engineer, the entire album certainly has his sonic fingerprint. Ezrin and Cooper are akin to Elton John and Bernie Taupin or Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman; an incredible collaborative team! Largely instrumental, with near incoherent spoken words, DaDa sets a sombre tone that is eerie, yet riveting to listen to. In some respects, this lead-in song is as spectacular as Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding from Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Hence, I’d have to say that DaDa is one of the greatest lead-in songs of any album ever recorded.

Enough's Enough changes the tempo quite significantly, but despite this change, it does not sound so different that one may think they were listening to a different album. Enough's Enough is classic rock with a pop-influence. The rhythm is toe-tapping and head-bopping heaven. Dick Wagner's guitar presentation here and throughout the album shines. Enough’s Enough is simply a fantastic song and I find it perplexing that Cooper has never performed this, or any other song from DaDa live. What a waste!

Former Lee Warmer is epic! The musicality is beautiful, as is Cooper's vocals. Such a relaxing song. I could listen to Former Lee Warmer on repeat for hours.

No Man's Land picks up the pace again. While there isn't a bad song on the album, No Man's Land comes close. I say that partially because, as an earworm, it has the tendency to play like a broken record. It’s catchy and a little campy, but it does fit DaDa perfectly.

Dyslexia starts a little slowly, but by the time the first chorus kicks in, the song begins to grow on you. It’s an interesting composition, but to be quite frank, I'm not sure if I like Dyslexia or not. Yet, I can't imagine this opus without it.

Side Two

Scarlet And Sheba is one of Cooper's greatest songs. Absolutely sensational rock and roll and I love the eclectic musical overture that introduces the song. You'll find yourself singing along, as I do. The shifting style between chorus and verse is sensational. The team of Cooper, Wagner, and Ezrin hit the ball out of the park on this song, and quite frankly the entire album. Alice Cooper doesn't get much better than this! If only he would play it live, it would become a fan favourite as it flows seamlessly into I Love America and would seem like a no-brainer when touring stateside.

I Love America is campy 101 and brings a snigger to this non-American. Who knows, perhaps my American friends also find some humor in this song. It isn't bad, quite enjoyable actually, but it is unlikely to ever become an anthem. It’s no Lost In America or Born In The USA, but I still love it!

Fresh Blood is seriously groovy with a rock/jazz feel that is most certainly locked into the 80s sound. They don't make music like this anymore and that's okay as the nostalgic element is extremely satisfying. Nevertheless, it also has a dance/disco feel to it, not unlike many of the songs found on Elton John's excellent Victim Of Love.

Pass The Gun Around takes a while to get going. So long, in fact, that upon the first couple of listens you may think DaDa has come to an end. It’s likely done to separate the varied styles between this song and Fresh Blood. Nevertheless, once the song starts, you’ll be met with an astounding song that simply blows my mind every time I hear it. It is psychotic, yet relatable. The only other song I can think of that has such an effect on my psyche is the Guns N' Roses song Coma. The haunting chorus and overall musicality is magical as it connects with the pleasure centres of the brain. Yes, the song is slightly disturbing, and perhaps it takes a slightly disturbed mind to enjoy it, but it is sensationally hypnotic and makes me want to listen to this entire masterpiece again and again. Although, that inferred bullet shot always shocks me, despite knowing it’s coming. I think that is part of the appeal of the song as it not only brings ultimate meaning to the song but breaks the hypnotic hold it has on you.

While I’ve always been captivated by Alice Cooper and consider his body of work to be amongst some of the very best in recorded music history, DaDa is exceptional. It’s an album I can't live without and I dare say people will be dissecting this record forever, trying to figure out exactly what it’s about and what was going through Cooper’s head at the time. Well, I say good luck to them as Cooper, himself, has no idea. I'm equally naïve, so if you’re reading this via The Wayback Machine, I don’t have the answer either. I just know I love DaDa and if I could only have one Alice Cooper album, it would most likely be this one.

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

If you prefer streaming, DaDa is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

Click here to read other Alice Cooper reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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