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Icehouse – In Concert (Live Album Review)

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Icehouse – In Concert (Live Album Review)

Have you ever purchased an album by an artist you love, yet disliked it upon the first play? Well, I have, and this release was one that I just couldn’t get into. It didn’t matter that I had both the vinyl and CD editions, as well as an autographed placard of the album cover. I just didn’t connect with the live performance as I had hoped I would. Subsequently, both releases remained unplayed in my collection since their release in 2015. That, of course, changed when my son asked if he could have the CD edition for his own collection.

As I thought more about my son’s request, I found myself at an interesting crossroads regarding my love of collecting the music that brings me joy. Not only have I acknowledged that I’ll never be able to own all the albums I desire in my own personal collection, but I also acknowledge that it is somewhat foolish to have multiple copies of the same album as I find little joy in trying to decide which edition of an album I should listen to. It is the old Vinyl vs CD argument and rather than enjoying the music I find myself focusing on the formats; a rather tedious and often soul-destroying process that yields no enjoyment. A great example of this predicament is Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms of which I have two copies; one vinyl, the other the 20th Anniversary SACD release featuring not only the standard CD edition but the HDCD, SACD stereo mix, and SACD 5.1 surround sound mix on a single disc. The vinyl edition is the incredible Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab release. Yes, all this jargon will likely drive non-audiophiles to the hills, with those remaining wanting to declare me insane; quite frankly I couldn’t blame them. It is insane and given I can only listen to one album at a time, I think it is time to cull down my collection and select the edition that brings me the most pleasure. After all, there is no point in listening to one version of the album only to wonder how a song would sound on another format. 

Of course, the big winner in all of this is my son. He was always going to inherit an incredible music collection, but I can start giving him some of my duplicates, knowing that he will enjoy them. Also, selfishly on my part, I get to see the excitement in his eyes and truth-be-told that is the greatest gift of all. Although, I didn’t quite say that when he woke up the entire household singing along to Electric Blue from the In Concert album, I had given him the night before. Still, I had a grin from ear to ear because I’m sure I did exactly the same thing when I first heard Electric Blue so many years ago. 

As I no longer have the CD release, my son will have to write that review, this review will be based solely on the vinyl release that is nothing short of spectacular now that I am no longer comparing it to the digital counterpart. 

Spread across three records and six sides, the entire near two-hour performance is presented on the most beautiful black vinyl you’ve ever seen. The label itself is gorgeous and while some may think of it a simple, I appreciate how it connects back to the ultra-successful Man Of Colours era; a theme that remains consistent throughout the artwork.  

Photographs and typography are simply gorgeous and the message from Icehouse front man and founder, Iva Davies, is a welcome addition. His acknowledgement of the work bassist Steve Bull put into making this release a reality is one of those rare moments in the music industry where credit is given where credit is due. Similarly, Davies also informs us through the liner notes that while this live album is not from a singular show, it matches the setlists that were performed throughout late 2014 and the subsequent best versions of each song were selected with no overdubbing or re-recording. The result is exceptional and it’s utterly flawless as the songs flow so smoothly you’d swear they were recorded on a single night in the same concert hall. 

Perhaps the only element that is a little disappointing for the vinyl release is the rice paper record sleeves as they have a tendency to scuff records and deposit additional pop and click inducing fibres into the grooves. Thankfully, my Pro-ject anti-static record cleaning brush solves that problem as does replacing the sleeves with anti-static inner sleeves; admittedly an additional cost, but one that I thoroughly recommend to all vinyl music lovers.  

The noise floor of the records, however, is incredibly low. You’ll be hard pressed to hear any surface noise, even when pumping the volume to ear-bleeding concert levels. The records have also been cut with audible quality in mind as there is no chance of inner grove distortion as each record ends before the dreaded inner grooves can become an issue. Yes, you’ve got to get up and turn the record over more frequently, but it is worth it for the additional sonic benefits. Plus, who doesn’t like a 3LP set? You really feel like you own something with a package that large and it reminds me fondly of my six-sided Wings Over America; another truly exceptional concert that I have on both CD and vinyl and will have to decide which edition truly brings me joy, gifting the other to my son. 

Anyway, without further ado, let’s take a look at the songs that make up Icehouse’s In Concert

SIDE ONE

Walls was an interesting choice to open the live performance. I’m unsure if I agree with the helicopter introduction. Yes, it works well, but how does it apply itself to the music? Given many of Icehouse’s recent live performances have been in theatres, I’m struggling to see the relevance. Nevertheless, Walls is an excellent song that has always been a favourite of mine since first being released on Icehouse and this live performance maintains the energy of the original, ensuring the listener knows exactly what to expect from the entire live album.

Mr Big has a sensational rhythm, but that chorus-driven drum element is a little too shallow for my liking. It isn’t bad, it’s just different to the way the original studio release sounds and my preferred live performance of this song can be found on Live From The Ritz, available on the 25th Anniversary CD+DVD release of Man Of Colours.

Love In Motion is sensational and while the Chrissy Amphlett duet was off-the-charts good; sadly Amphlett is no longer with us, but her legacy with the Divinyls lives on as does her spirit, captured on the 1992 re-recording of Love In Motion for the compilation album Masterfile. While Masterfile is long out-of-print, you can find this exceptional version of Love In Motion on White Heat: 30 Hits.Yes, Love In Motion was written and recorded well before the Amphlett/Icehouse collaboration, but she really added something special to the song and while I don’t think there was a ever a live performance of the song with Amphlett, she is remembered fondly when listening to this live rendition.

Crazy has one of my all-time favourite guitar hooks. So good! The live performance is perfect as it is reminiscent of the original studio recording, while being unique in its own right.    

SIDE TWO

Hey, Little Girl is a song that I have a love/hate relationship with. That’s a subjective viewpoint and not indicative of the song itself, but sometimes I feel this song is simply too campy and other times I thoroughly enjoy it. The live performance is excellent, minus the spoken word elements before the start of the song. However, if you really like this song, you’ll definitely want to track down a copy of the Hey Little Girl (’97 Remixes) as the remixes are seriously good on that long out-of-print maxi single. It also has one of the most unique CD designs I’ve ever seen as the CD is partially clear. 

Electric Blue is iconic; such an 80s song! It’s one of my favourites and you may remember earlier that my son woke up the household singing Electric Blue as it is also one of his favourites. Electric Blue makes you want to sing and while my son still gets some of the lyrics wrong, he’s giving it his all, not worried about how he sounds and how much taunting his sister dishes out to him. It would be a proud moment for this music-loving father if he did something music related when he grows up. If not as a career, certainly as a hobby. I’m thinking about an Icehouse cover band, what do you think, dear reader? 

Baby, You’re So Strange is a fun song and I love the live rendition on In Concert as it really takes the song to another level of moody and brooding musicality. 

SIDE THREE

Heartbreak Kid is lovely. Davies decision to talk about the history of the song, prior to commencing the performance, is invaluable as it’s fascinating to hear about the origins of the tune and see just how smoothly Davies transitions from a Bob Dylan impersonator to Iva Davies. Exceptional!

Dusty Pages has always been a favourite song of mine. It’s the best song off Sidewalk with the exception of Don’t Believe Anymore. This acoustic-based rendition is absolutely lovely and complements the original perfectly.  

Street Café had a great music video when first released in 1982. No, it wasn’t quite as epic as Great Southern Land, but this live interpretation is. It’s magnificent and a pleasure to listen to, as are all the acoustic-based songs on side three of the vinyl collection. 

Man Of Colours is Davies’ song, so I was quite surprised to find that Michael Paynter was the lead vocalist on Man Of Colours. His performance is absolutely stunning, but I still miss Davies performing this masterpiece. Sure, Davies is there in a backing vocal capacity, also allowing him to play the Oboe while Paynter vocalises the song, but it isn’t quite the same. That, of course, shouldn’t take anything away from Paynter as he is incredible, and I look forward to following his career in the years to come. He really did pay homage to the original while making it his own. 

SIDE FOUR

Miss Divine is one of the best songs off Code Blue and I have always thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I’m torn over this live performance as I feel it’s a little disjointed in the vocal department and that acoustic guitar strum is too forward in the mix. Of course, loving the original as much as I do, I could simply prefer the studio recording which I believe is impeccable. Subsequently, this live performance just doesn’t do it for me. 

Don’t Believe Anymore would have to be my all-time favourite Icehouse song. Okay, perhaps I have a few that that could be said about, but the saxophone element in both this live performance and the original studio release is nothing short of spectacular as it captivates me beyond belief. 

Great Southern Land is the quintessential Icehouse song and requires no hyperbole. 

SIDE FIVE

Can’t Help Myself has an addictive beat, but it’s one Icehouse song that I neither love nor hate. It merely exists. It isn’t a bad live recording, but it isn’t great either. 

Nothing Too Serious is one of Icehouse’s best and is certainly a highlight from Man Of Colours. It’s a great live performance but the tuning on those cymbals sound a little off as they’re very shrill. I’d love to say it is only on the vinyl edition, but I’ve heard it both on the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams.

We Can Get Together is another fantastic song from Icehouse and I’m consistently amazed as to just how good the debut, by Flowers at the time, really was. This live performance is incredible and has all the energy that one would expect from the song. Incredibly, while it may be over three decades old, We Can Get Together remains timeless.

SIDE SIX / FIRST ENCORE

Icehouse, of course, became the band’s name following the shift from Flowers to Icehouse in 1981. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’ve never heard a better version of Icehouse than that which appears on In Concert. Exceptional!

Cross The Border is another of my all-time favourites. It has a sensational rhythm and is the best song from Measure For MeasureThis live performance isn’t bad either. It doesn’t stray far from the original composition, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when the song was perfect to begin with. 

/ SECOND ENCORE

Sister closes the live album nicely with the energy that has always existed in this song. It, without a doubt, encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Icehouse’s extensive catalogue of music. 

In Concert is an exceptional live album with a selection of songs that cover the greatest eras of the band. However, it’s a little disappointing that nothing from Big Wheel or The Berlin Tapes was included. Satellite would have worked well before or after Nothing Too Serious. Heroes, the David Bowie song that Davies performs immaculately well, would have been perfectly suited to appear after Man Of Colours. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, these songs were excluded and while they are missed, it doesn’t detract from the astonishing performance and album that is In Concert. 

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

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

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Elton John – Ice On Fire (Album Review)

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Elton John – Ice On Fire (Album Review)

Sales and initial impressions may have been lacklustre, but Ice On Fire is, overall, an exceptional Elton John album, albeit with a few B-sides.

Ice On Fire starts off with a song that sounds as though it was leftover from the Victim Of Love recording sessions. Yes, This Town has an upbeat tempo that is reminiscent of the disco era, but one can forgive this inclusion as the song has just enough 80s synth to exist in both time periods. Plus, it is a thoroughly enjoyable and addictive song with some exceptional brass instrumentation.

Cry To Heaven slows the album down significantly with an absolutely gorgeous ballad. Cry To Heaven is one of the best songs on Ice On Fire and, as is often the case, I wonder how this masterpiece has not been more prominent in John's catalogue over the years.

Soul Glove is a great song with a rhythm that will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping in no time.

Nikita, as l've mentioned before, is a compelling song that is a personal favourite. Yes, I still don't know why I like this song so much, but that is okay as sometimes the mystical element is just as important as the subjective meaning. Interestingly, and I only found this out recently, George Michael provided the backing vocals. I had never noticed his inclusion before as his vocal presentation is a little hidden in the mix and quite similar to John’s vocal delivery. That said, now I know, I can absolutely hear and appreciate his input, especially with regards to the higher pitched vocal harmonies towards the end of the song.

Too Young is a solid track, but I find it a little pedestrian, especially considering Queen's John Deacon and Roger Taylor played on the song. For all the talent in the studio, Too Young fails to hit the mark and is, for lack of a better term, a B-side.

Wrap Her Up is awesome, what a sensational song! While it wasn't featured on my beloved The Very Best Of Elton John it did make the VHS video release. I have fond memories of watching that video compilation and listening to this addictive song. I dare you to sit still while listening to Wrap Her Up and try not to sing-along. It can't be done!

Satellite has a killer introduction with a drum beat that I find incredibly satisfying. That said, while I enjoy Satellite, it is a B-side and sounds as though it's a demo waiting for a producer to fully realise its full potential.

Tell Me What The Papers Say is similar to Satellite with regards to sounding like an unrealised demo.

Candy By The Pound is three decades removed from the 80s. It's not a bad song per se, it’s just not suited to John's style or the era. It would have been perfect for any pop performer in the 50s however.

Shoot Down The Moon is another stunning Elton John ballad. However, the ending falls a little flat and could have been better thought out.

The Man Who Never Died (1985 Remix) is sonically beautiful with a wide and deep soundstage. It really is quite special!

Restless (Live At Wembley Stadium 1984), as I've mentioned before, has a good groove, but despite being a live track, the band still isn't jamming and I'd say this is one song that tarnishes the remastered edition of Ice On Fire. Sometimes, bonus tracks just shouldn't be added to an existing album. Although, The Man Who Never Died is an exception to that rule.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Live Version) is another exception. That said, these live tracks would have been perfect if presented on a second CD. Yes, that wouldn't help with modern day streaming, but one must remember, these remasters were done at the pinnacle of the CD era. Unfortunately, during that time, the general consensus was to fill the capacity of the CD, for no other reason than because you could.

I'm Still Standing (Live At Wembley Stadium 1984) closes out the remastered release nicely and ensures I’ll play the album again and stay within John's catalogue. It isn't the best live performance of this epic song, but it could be argued that it is a true representation of the live sound without overdubbing.

Overall, Ice On Fire is one of John's most satisfying 80s albums, with a number of hits to be heard and some hidden gems that are rarely appreciated outside of the album format.

Ice On Fire is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Ice On Fire is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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

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The Adicts – And It Was So! (Album Review)

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The Adicts – And It Was So! (Album Review)

I think I'm a closet punk fan!

Yes, it's true, l've never identified with the punk era, but as I age I find that I’m being drawn towards punk-styled music genres and associated bands. As I reflect on my relationship with music, throughout the years, I’ve come to the realisation that I really have listened to a lot of punk music. Although, and this may be sacrilegious, I would refer to it as Rock and Roll or Alternative music. I know, I know, music lovers and musicians worldwide are rolling their eyes with that admission, but it’s true. Regardless of my own wacky relationship with punk music, I'd never heard of The Adicts, despite their decades in the business, until this last week. The album artwork for And It Was So! drew my attention, as I was browsing Apple Music. Upon hearing Picture The Scene, I was hooked.

Picture The Scene has an Alice Cooper styled entrance that I love. I'm not normally a fan of spoken word elements in songs, but this one is superb. The hook and rhythm of Picture The Scene is incredibly addictive and that guitar work throughout will get any rocker moving. What a great start to the album!

F****d Up World is a solid punk tune. Nothing to write home about, however, but perfectly suited to the album. The outro explosion is a little too lengthy, but I do like the approach they were aiming for.

Talking S**t is an excellent song. No, it's bloody brilliant! When I hear this song, I’m reminded of quite a few people who Talk S**t, even without the influence of mind-altering substances! At any rate, dear reader, you might assume I talk a lot of S**t. You wouldn’t be wrong but that’s okay as Talking S**t is hilarious and is one of my favourite songs on the album.

If You Want It reminds me of a few early Midnight Oil recordings, but this song arguably has a more upbeat rhythm. Regardless, If You Want It is a killer song and will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping in no time at all.

Gospel According To Me is a fun little song.

Gimme Something To Do is a little pedestrian and never really delivers. It's a B-side at best but is still suited to the album.

Love Sick Baby has a killer groove, I love it! It also has an underproduced feel to it that is, in my opinion, perfect for a punk record.

And It Was So is a great song.

Deja Vu follows on perfectly from And It Was So. Seriously, there is a little Deja Vu to be heard. A stellar track!

I Owe You another song! Yes, Adicts, you owe me another song. This one is horrendous and reminds me of songs that made the soundtracks of numerous bad teen flicks. Yes, I watched them in the 90s, but I no longer connect with this style of music.

Wanna Be is fantastic, although any song would be better than I Owe You.

You'll Be The Death Of Me is music gold. Undoubtedly the best song on the album and one of my ultimate favourites. I can listen to this song on repeat for hours and my kids find this song so funny that we have labelled it our family anthem. Geez, I must say You’ll Be The Death Of Me to them a little too often!

And It Was So! that from start to finish, The Adicts have released an album that I enjoy playing on repeat and one that encourages me to check out their entire back catalogue in order to see what I've been missing out on all these years. If this album is any indication, it's a lot!

And It Was So! is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, And It Was So! is available on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Elton John – Too Low For Zero (Album Review)

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Elton John – Too Low For Zero (Album Review)

A mixed bag! Yes, that’s how I would adequately describe Too Low For Zero. There is little doubt that this album was another successful collaborative effort between John and Taupin, and while it would mark a return to John's original band lineup, from his classic era, Too Low For Zero isn't what I would consider to be a classic album. Don't get me wrong, there are some killer songs to be heard on this album, but not all of them are noteworthy.

I must admit that l've always liked the cover art of Too Low For Zero, but I find it humorous that the hieroglyphs by themselves are not enough, therefore requiring the album name to appear at the bottom of the album artwork. Nevertheless, it is the music we’re here for, so let's check it out.

This review is based on listening to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music remastered editions of the album. Sonically, the difference between the two is negligible, ensuring you’ll enjoy this album regardless of the streaming platform.

Cold As Christmas (In The Middle Of The Year) is musically a good song, but John should have remained mute, allowing the song to be an instrumental composition only. Yes, I'm not a fan of anything Christmas related, as many regular readers would note, but it’s just not suited to John and at best is a B-side. It certainly should have never been the opening track for the album. It's not as bad as Dear John, but it isn't far off either.

I'm Still Standing, as l’ve mentioned before, is addictive and truly awesome!

Too Low For Zero certainly has an 80s sound, but to be completely honest, I find it difficult to connect with this song as I feel the chorus is a little whiny, bordering on campy. Unfortunately, no amount of repeat listens can change my mind. It also sounds very under-produced, one step away from a demo recording. It’s a great album title, but a lacklustre song. Although, that piano solo is thoroughly enjoyable.

Religion isn't a bad song with a toe-tapping rhythm, but it’s also a B-side and offers nothing to write home about.

I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues is such a beautiful song. Well written, recorded, mixed, and mastered. It really is, as I’ve said before, simply fantastic!

Crystal is a great song. The beat is compelling, the backing atmospheric music is captivating, and John's vocal is perfectly presented on this song. One of the best, non-hit, songs on the album!

Kiss The Bride is, as I've mentioned before, one of the greatest songs ever recorded! Seriously, does anything more than that need to be said about this masterpiece?

Whipping Boy just isn't good. When I say Too Low For Zero is a mixed bag, this song validates that viewpoint.

Saint is a solid B-side and a worthy addition to the album.

One More Arrow is a beautiful song that should really be more prominent in John's catalogue. The vocal shifts are incredible and one can only wonder how amazing this song would be if performed live.

Earn While You Learn has an intriguing entrance that sounds like it would have been better suited on Victim Of Love or 21 At 33. It's a solid instrumental track, even if it’s a little self-indulgent.

Dreamboat is the very definition of campy. It isn’t bad, it’s just not great and probably should have been left in the archives.

The Retreat is a solid song to close the remastered edition of Too Low For Zero. It encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue. However, I also have the same opinion of One More Arrow closing out the original non-remastered edition of the album.

Overall, Too Low For Zero is an excellent album, but it is most certainly a mixed bag of extraordinary and mediocre. Hence, it is difficult to recommend this album on vinyl as the skip ability of that track you may not like is not nearly as flexible as digital delivery methods. Regardless, the tracks that are truly worth hearing are the hits and they are available on various compilations. That recommendation, of course, limits some of the better non-hit tracks from being heard, but the songs that are truly bad, are bad enough to mar the album if you're not a truly dedicated fan.

Too Low For Zero is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Too Low For Zero is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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

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Elton John – The Fox (Album Review)

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Elton John – The Fox (Album Review)

Longtime readers would likely be aware of my admiration for Elton John's back catalogue, especially those albums that didn’t get the recognition they deserved. However, I also call a spade a spade and while a number of the songs featured on The Fox were from the recording sessions of the exceptional 21 At 33, sadly the sparkle of that album failed to make it to The Fox. That’s not to say that The Fox is categorically a bad album, but it is a collection of B-sides. Of course, a B-side for Elton John would be akin to a hit for many other artists, therefore, one shouldn’t be too harsh in their assessment of this album; even if the cover is uninspiring and obscure. Nevertheless, let’s listen to the music and see if there are any redeeming qualities that may appeal to listeners other than John’s diehard fans.

Breaking Down Barriers isn't a bad tune, the musicality is beautiful with an addictive beat, but it lacks the spit and polish often associated with John's recordings. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoy the mix and the depth of the soundstage.

Heart In The Right Place has a moody rhythm that I enjoy. It reminds me of some of John's earliest recordings and it's a great song with yet another excellent mix. It gets better the more you listen to it and in many ways, that’s a sign of a good song.

Just Like Belgium is a solid pop-rock tune. Nothing to write home about though. Although, as with many of the tracks on the album, the musicality and mix are excellent, making for a rather enjoyable listening experience.

Nobody Wins has a compelling beat that is stuck in the 80s, yet I love it as I lived through that era and the music expression of the time was certainly unique. Nobody Wins is one of the best songs on the album.

Fascist Faces is average at best. It just proves that despite the incredible collaboration efforts of John and Taupin, not every song they wrote together was a hit.

Carla / Etude / Fanfare / Chloe is a lovely song, or collection of songs, that is truly worthy of being a part of John's back catalogue. While much of The Fox is a missed opportunity, this recording, in particular, is a hit and deserves to be heard. Absolutely beautiful!

Heels Of The Wind is an enjoyable B-side that works well within the album format.

Elton's Song was rather controversial at the time of release. However, if the song was released today I dare say it wouldn't receive the same level of pushback and negative press. Actually, it would be interesting to see John reissue Elton's Song as a single as I feel it would be well received and finally receive the credit it deserves for not only its subject matter, but its simple, yet complex, composition. A lovely song!

The Fox follows Elton's Song nicely and is a fantastic song to close the album with ensuring I'll stay within John's catalogue, even if I don’t immediately listen to The Fox again. Although the album does grow on you the more you listen to it.

Overall, The Fox is a solid album but one can’t deny that it isn’t one of John’s greatest releases. It’s highly likely that The Fox will only ever appeal to his most dedicated fans. That said, I implore you to give it a listen as there are a couple of hidden gems to be heard and you may end up thoroughly enjoying the album.

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

If you prefer streaming, The Fox is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Spotify.

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

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(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton – [Compilation Review]

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(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton – [Compilation Review]

Few would argue about the influence of Melbourne's music scene in the 70s, for it was the mecca of the Australian Music Industry at the time. That said, I'm sure my Sydney neighbours would fervently disagree. While I’m Sydney born and bred, good music is good music and (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton validates that point. With a runtime nearing three hours, this compilation is an extensive trip down memory lane, but will also excite those of us that missed out on experiencing this wonderfully vibrant music scene during its heyday.

SkyhooksCarlton (Lygon Street Limbo) is the perfect song to open this compilation. Not only were Skyhooks one of the most successful bands on the scene, at the time, but Carlton (Lygon Street Limbo) incorporates the energy and musicality of the 70s. A sensational song!

The SportsWho Listens To The Radio? (Original 7" Version) is one of my all-time favourite songs, having heard it repeatedly, ironically, on the radio. Yet, until listening to this compilation, I never knew who the artist was. Now I do and I have this compilation and streaming music to thank for bringing me back to one of the coolest songs from the era.

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsSo Young is another sensational song and reminds me, in spirit, of Tom Petty. I love it!

The DotsLowdown is a little rough around the edges, but that adds to the character of the song. However, I’d argue that while Lowdown isn't a standout song, it is thoroughly enjoyable and the compilation wouldn't be the same without it.

StilettoMiddle Of The Bed is a sensational classic with a killer vocal, rhythm, and an intriguing guitar tune.

The Bleeding HeartsHit Single has a disjointed musical style that surprisingly works perfectly. Hit Single is dynamic and never dull. I don't know about you, dear reader, but it’s a hit from my perspective. It also has a slight Skyhooks influence; what's not to like?

Mighty KongHard Drugs (Are Bad For You) is another rhythmic monster. Seriously, you have to listen to this compilation, it is hit after hit. Incredible!

Mondo RockPrimal Park is a solid tune but it has a little too much pop-influence for my liking. However, there are certain elements, such as the chorus, that are spot on and thoroughly enjoyable.

Mark GillespieSuicide Sister is pure perfection!

High Rise BombersFaster Than Light is a great song. That brass section undoubtedly makes the song and I could happily listen to Faster Than Light on repeat for hours.

The ToadsEudil is addictive. Yes, even that interesting near-pop-based backing vocal grows on you; the song would be lost without it.

The Pelaco BrosMechanics In A Relaxed Manner isn't a bad blues-based tune, but I find the mix confuses my mind as the vocal presentation is too forward and slightly offbeat to the rhythm. In some respects, it is as though two songs have morphed into one.

The Relaxed MechanicsTruckin' Casanova is a campy tune, but I can't help but love it. An absolute classic and arguably a song that only an Australian band could have conjured up.

MillionairesGossip has a shifting tempo that takes a little getting used to. It isn't my favourite song from the compilation, but there was bound to be at least one of the tracks that didn't connect with me.

The KevinsOut At Night is a great song. Yes, another campy tongue-in-cheek song, but such is Australian humour.

Martin Armiger & Buzz LeesonNo Reason is a killer classic rock tune.

ParachuteThe Big Beat isn't anything to write home about, but the compilation wouldn't be the same without it.

Spare ChangeLet's Get Rich Together is one of those songs that takes repeat listens to truly enjoy. That said, once the connection is made, you'll be hypnotised by this exceptional song.

The Glory BoysThe Ballad Of Good & Evil is a fantastic song. The rhythm is amazing, but that vocal delivery is off-the-charts. So Good!

Eric Gradman Man And MachineCrime Of Passion is a solid song with an interesting vocal overlay. The sonic shift, mid-song, is also intriguing and while I'm unsure of how I really feel about Crime Of Passion, it suits the compilation perfectly.

Martin ArmigerI Love My Car is certainly reminiscent of the era, but I’d argue that it’s not quite worthy of this collection.

The Bleeding HeartsBoys (Greg Macainsh Demo Version) is a great track. It kinda makes me wonder what the non-demo version sounds like as this edition was already ready for prime-time in my opinion.

StilettoRozalyn is a killer song. The vocal delivery, in particular, is absolutely sensational, making for one of the best songs on the compilation. That said, there is a little sibilance in the vocal that can be distracting, especially when listening via headphones.

The DotsI See Red is rather rough around the edges, reminding me a little of the early Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan recordings. Overall, however, it isn't a bad song but it could have been great with a little more spit and polish.

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsOnly The Lonely Hearted isn’t a song to write home about, but it's a solid addition to this compilation.

The SportsSuddenly is a great song that improves upon each listen. I love the vocal style and Suddenly is perfectly mixed.

Mondo RockTelephone Booth has a great rhythm that is full of energy. I dare say Telephone Booth would have been exceptional when played live.

Daddy CoolSaturday Night (GTK Live) is merely satisfactory as there are much better Daddy Cool songs that could have been selected for this compilation.

SkyhooksHey, What's The Matter? (Steve Hill Demo Version) is awesome! Although, the final master recording is even better. Regardless, it's Skyhooks, what is not to like?

Company CaineBuzzin’ With My Cousin is a little too left of the centre for me. That doesn't mean that you won't like it, but I just don’t connect with it.

Captain Matchbox Whoopee BandRoll That Reefer is different and feels out-of-place, but it’s certainly a compelling tune.

Stephen Cummings & Dave FlettThe Third Degree sounds too much like The Rolling Stones. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the song is excellent, but I do value uniqueness.

Rock GraniteYou Got Me Where You Want Me is a toe-tapper and a head-bopper. Great tune!

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsSomeday It's Gonna Come To You (1976 Demo Version) is far better than the demo tag would make you believe. A sensational song!

Mark GillespieComin' Back For More is thoroughly enjoyable.

AutodriftersLocked Out Of Love is not my type of song, but you may enjoy it; especially if you're a Hank Williams fan.

Fabulous NudesI'll Be A Dag For You, Baby is daggy! It isn't the greatest song and should have been omitted from the compilation.

The Pelaco BrosTruckdrivin' Guru is a solid song, but nothing to write home about and again we have a song that is somewhat influenced by The Rolling Stones. I guess imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery.

Peter Lillie & The LeisuremastersHangin' Round The House is brilliant! An Aussie Classic!

The SportsLive Work & Play (Nightmoves Live) isn't a bad song but I'm more interested in the polish that often accompanies studio recordings. That said, this is a strong live performance with plenty of energy.

High Rise BombersRadio Show is a great song and that jam session mid-song is superb.

Eric Gradman Man & MachineBright Boy has an addictive beat and is overall an exceptional song.

SkyhooksThis Is My City is a great way to close this compilation. It ensures that I'll listen again as Skyhooks can do no wrong in my opinion.

For those of you calculating the track listing, some will wonder why there are only 43 songs reviewed, rather than the 45 included on the album. Sadly, likely due to contractual permissions, Daddy Cool’s Boy You're Paranoid and The Indelible Murtceps' Blue Movies Made Me Cry are missing from streaming services. This discrepancy is yet another reason why owning the CD is a good idea as you're not limited to accessing the music you love by outside influences that are out of your control. Despite this, (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton is an incredible compilation of Australian artists from the 70s and the reputable Melbourne music scene. While there are a couple of songs that don't connect with my soul, the compilation as a whole does. Subsequently, every song, regardless of my subjective viewpoint, is essential.

(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes. It’s important to note that the aforementioned absent songs are available if you purchase the album.

If the omission of those two songs doesn’t worry you, you can also stream (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton on Spotify and Apple Music.

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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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ZZ Top – Eliminator (Album Review)

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ZZ Top – Eliminator (Album Review)

With a signature sound like no other, ZZ Top is the very definition of blues rock and roll. They are a no-frills trio that are, in my opinion, only topped by AC/DC. Although, let’s be honest, as cool as Angus' schoolboy uniform is, those signature beards remain unchallenged.

Eliminator is eighth studio album by ZZ Top and is arguably as polished as the band has ever been. While I love their entire catalogue, Eliminator plays like a greatest hits compilation and there isn't a B-side to be found. Seriously, if you don't have a copy of Eliminator in your collection, you're missing out on one of the greatest rock and roll albums in recorded music history. 

Of course, it wasn't only the music that made this band a household name. The now iconic music videos certainly played a part. Yes, they're corny and cliche, especially with their fluffy guitars, but it encapsulates the 80s and the MTV era. 

If the beards didn’t catch your attention, then Eliminator would. Yes, Eliminator not only characteristically graced the album cover but would also appear in their music videos during this era. I don’t know about you, but Eliminator is simply stunning. 

The vinyl artwork is truly amazing and simply looks fantastic on display or in the hand. However, I have always been perplexed by the coloured box within the artwork itself. Initially, I had thought it was an indicator guide for other formats that was simply left in the final artwork, but that isn't the case as the reformatting, of even the cassette version, crops tighter into the artwork. It is an absolute mystery. If you have any thoughts regarding this interesting design decision, I'd love to hear from you.

Overall, the 30th Anniversary vinyl release (circa 2013) is a collector's dream come true. Yes, it is rather barebones, but the print and pressing quality is exquisite. Priced in the budget range at sub $30 ($AUD), the sonic performance of this record trumps many of my more expensive 'audiophile' pressings, thereby proving that one does not need to go broke in the collecting of new vinyl for one's passion. That said, this is the exception rather than the rule and the similarly priced 2016 re-issue is reported to have a serious pressing fault as Legs prematurely ends. Logic would dictate that the same master should have been used, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. If it was, one must then question the obvious lack of quality control. Regardless, the 2013 pressing I have is flawless. Beautifully quiet, although not a major issue for rock music, and sonically pure. I’ve never heard the album sound better. It is honestly a 10 out of 10. I’ve also compared it to the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, from the 2008 remastering session, and I find that by comparison, it lacks the overall warmth and depth of the vinyl counterpart. It is, however, a solid edition should you prefer to stream the album. Unfortunately, I don't know which specific master was used for the 30th Anniversary release as that information is not available. However, a little research and subsequent deduction indicate this release was most likely pressed from a different master as the 2008 Deluxe Edition CD reportedly reduced the dynamic range from a 12 to a 6 out of 20. Yes, I acknowledge the dynamic range differences between the formats, but this difference is simply too large to ignore. Most likely this is why I prefer the vinyl release as every drum and bass beat resonates within your soul as the lead guitar and vocals tantalise your senses. Yes, it really is that good!

The 30th Anniversary vinyl release is printed in a high-gloss that looks incredibly impressive but quickly becomes a fingerprint magnet. Inside, you get a singular printed sleeve with Eliminator on one side while the other side remains black. Yes, it is a basic design but appeals to purists as it remains faithful to the original 1983 release. I like it when record labels don't make changes for the sake of making a change.

SIDE XI

Gimme All Your Lovin has such an incredible rhythm. It is the perfect song to start the album with and really sets the tone for the entire record.

Got Me Under Pressure continues the toe-tapping head-bopping rhythm. Sensational!

Sharp Dressed Man is a song that defies explanation. Just turn the volume knob to 11.

I Need You Tonight slows the rhythm, but increases the blues. It's absolutely gorgeous and that guitar is, as with most ZZ Top recordings, pushing the distortion right to the limit while remaining hauntingly clear.

I Got The Six is a perfect rock and roll song. It's nothing to write home about, but it is the meat and potatoes of the album.

SIDE X2 

Legs is iconic! Interesting fact: every time I hear the first few chords, I'm reminded of the Mythbusters television series theme song. I’m honestly surprised there wasn't a lawsuit around this unless they obtained permission of course. Either way, after watching an episode it makes me want to listen to Eliminator.

Thug is a solid tune but it isn't one of my favourites. That said, I do appreciate the bass emphasis on this track.

TV Dinners is one of my all-time favourite ZZ Top songs. Seriously, to take something as mundane as a TV dinner and turn it into an incredibly rhythmic blues rock and roll tune, that takes exceptional skill. It is soloing heaven and features some of the best musicality heard on the album. I also adore those mid-song pauses as they're executed perfectly.

Dirty Dog is a great tune with a tone that is borrowed from Legs. While plagiarism is bad in and of itself, self-plagiarism in music ensures an identifiable sound. 

If I Could Only Flag Her Down brings us back to blues rock and roll. While it’s enjoyable, I feel the vocal tracking is particularly lacking and lost in the mix, especially in comparison to the rest of the album. It sounds like Lemmy Kilmister sang instead of Gibbons. Hey, I love Motorhead too, but this is a ZZ Top album.

Bad Girl, as the final track, is compelling enough for me to play the entire album again. The rhythm is addictive, as is the rawness of the pseudo-live performance. However, the final spoken words, at the end of the track, seem pointless. I really don't like it when artists do that. I know it’s artistic expression, but you'd think I was a little weird if I closed every review with a random word or two.

Regardless, Eliminator is not only one of the best albums ever recorded by ZZ Top, it is one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all-time.

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

If you prefer streaming, you can also enjoy Eliminator on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Midnight Oil - Red Sails In The Sunset (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Red Sails In The Sunset (Album Review)

As I’m currently reviewing Midnight Oil's catalogue in chronological order, some of you may wonder why 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 has been overlooked. The good news is, I reviewed 10 to 1 in 2015 and you can read that review here. The subjective opinions expressed in that review remain relevant.

I should also add that the Midnight Oil box sets have arrived in record stores. I had a chance to look at the Full Tank CD collection, it’s rather impressive. It is certainly a unique collectable that will have fans drooling. I didn’t, however, get a chance to see the vinyl box set and I still think I would prefer that edition. Yes, dear reader, I have yet to place my order, but it is on my to-do list. Although, I will have to wait for the second pressing as the first pressings have already sold out. Some retailers may still have stock. However, it may be best to wait as there has been a pressing error on the first batch of releases, Stars Of Warburton appears twice on Side A of Blue Sky Mining. Please see the announcement for more information. Perhaps this is why the set is appearing to be sold out. I guess if you really want an edition with the error, you better go crate digging ASAP. Either way, it also gives me time to check out some reviews and see what other fans think, before placing the final order. Perhaps I am procrastinating too much, but either option isn’t cheap, so this music loving fan must ensure it is worth the investment.

Red Sails In The Sunset has a particularly disturbing cover of my hometown being destroyed in nuclear warfare that resembles the desolate craters on Mars. That said, I do appreciate the art style. I just hope, as I'm sure many Sydneysiders do, that our beautiful city is never exposed to such devastation.

Midnight Oil hit a home run with Red Sails In The Sunset as it would be their first album to reach No.1 in Australia and would go on to be certified 4x Platinum. Interestingly, the album would only produce two singles, When The Generals Talk and Best Of Both Worlds. I mention this because success in 1984 was still determined largely by successful charting of numerous singles and associated music videos.

When The Generals Talk is an incredible rock song that is immediately addictive. The various vocal techniques build character and you will be singing along to the chorus in no time. The song is reminiscent of the 80’s sound, but I don't feel it is dated to that period. It is, without a doubt, one of their best songs.

Best Of Both Worlds is a song that I have a love/hate relationship with. I detest the introduction and shrill musicality that accompanies it. However, once the song gets going, I actually don't mind it. It seems to be a trend that I generally dislike many fan favourites. I can assure you, it is not intentional.

Sleep is an incredible song with an acoustic introduction that I adore. It is a slower composition than we generally expect from Midnight Oil, yet it is perfectly suited to their style of music. The backing vocals and musicality heard on When The Generals Talk is applicable here and I would have preferred Sleep to be the second track on the album. Regardless, it is a must listen and should be on every compilation they release.

Minutes To Midnight is a little too disjointed for my liking. I simply feel the song never truly arrives and it sounds like a studio demo. Despite that, I still hear promise amongst the chaos. I’m not always a fan of remixes, but a remix of this song would likely yield fantastic results.

Jimmy Sharman's Boxers is an incredible sonic composition. I love it!

Bakerman is a fun instrumental interlude.

Who Can Stand In The Way is a song I neither like or dislike. As I listen to this song, my mind becomes lost as there is more than one rhythm present in the track. Such confusion, unfortunately, prevents a pleasurable listening experience.

Kosciusko thankfully returns the rhythm to the pleasure centre of the brain. This is a song I have always enjoyed, yet I feel from a musical perspective that it is a little too shrill, but it is my hope that the vinyl limitations, with the new re-issues, will correct this problem. That said, to change the tonality of the song, one would also destroy the composition. Any shift represents an extremely fine line to walk and this is arguably a key reason why I believe that tone and bass controls, along with manual equalisers, are still essential.

Helps Me Helps You is another scattered song that I simply don't connect with. Although, I do love the didgeridoo at the beginning of the song.

Harrisburg slows the pace of the album, but it offers no competition to Sleep as Harrisburg is rather erratic in places. It is very experimental, but the results are less than favourable. Remove the sonic experimentation and what remains is a solid B-side.

Bells And Horns In The Back Of Beyond is a solid B-side but is nothing to write home about. Although, I truly enjoy the instrumental aspects of this song.

Shipyards Of New Zealand is not a bad song, but it follows a number of disjointed experimental compositions that has resulted in a mediocre album, with some absolutely exceptional moments. Unfortunately, as a final song on the album, it doesn't compel me to listen to the album again or stay within the Midnight Oil catalogue.

For this review, I listened to the 1988 master on Tidal Hi-Fi. This edition is most likely the same master that would have been used for the original 1985 CD.

I also listened to the 2008 remaster on TIDAL Hi-Fi, but it was too loud, and subsequently too shrill, to adequately enjoy. I literally had to turn my stereo down by 5-10% and that sadly didn't help the sonic destruction that had occurred in this remaster.

Interestingly, I had to turn the 1988 edition up by 10%. It reminded me of vinyl in that respect, but most importantly, I was in charge of the loudness being reproduced. Subsequently, there was no disintegration of sound or brickwalling when listening to this digital master.

Red Sails In The Sunset is available for purchase on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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