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Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – If I Can Dream (Album Review)

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Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – If I Can Dream (Album Review)

It never ceases to amaze me just how many different ways the music industry can repackage the music we know and love. While I was underwhelmed by the Carpenters With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra release, I was blown away by the Elvis Presley album. 

The song selection is superb, but I do question if Burning Love was the best song to get the Philharmonic treatment and open the album with. Of course, that is only one song, and the rest of the album is beyond reproach with a very tasteful orchestral inclusion to Presley’s timeless classics. 

Of course, this 2015 compilation wouldn’t be the only release to merge the classical with the rock and roll legend, but to be completely honest, I haven’t taken the time to listen to the followup, The Wonder Of You, as I fear it was released following the overwhelming success of If I Can Dream and history has taught me to be wary of additional instalments as they can, but rarely do, exceed the expectations of the original highly successful release. Of course, the Helene Fischer duet on The Wonder Of You is, to say the least, compelling as she has a divine voice. Never say never, dear reader, for one day you may just see a review of The Wonder Of You pop up on Subjective Sounds; just don’t hold your breath for a review of Christmas With Elvis And The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The release of If I Can Dream that I’m fortunate enough to own is the standard 14-track CD release. Sonically, it’s beautiful and that is of course, in part, due to the masterful arrangements and mixing that ensures Elvis has never sounded better. The mastering is beyond reproach and shows just how good CD can sound, thanks in part to Vic Anesini at Battery Studios in New York. Of course, as with all standard releases, there is also a Deluxe Edition that I’ve lusted over for some time, but I have to remind myself that I am thoroughly happy with the track selection that is featured on the standard CD release and while I may be missing out on Anything That’s Part Of You, What Now My Love, and Heartbreak Hotel, I much prefer the artwork on the standard release as it is less pompous than the Deluxe Edition. Although, and this may be confusing, the Apple Music/iTunes (Mastered for iTunes) edition uses the alternative artwork even though the additional tracks are not present. Nevertheless, I love the classic photographs that appear throughout the liner notes as they pay homage to the era; something that I feel all reissues should do henceforth as a true representation of the artist.

Also included in the liner notes is a lovely reflection by Priscilla Presley, giving us some insight into Elvis’ mindset following his recording sessions whereby he longed for a fuller sound, one that can really only be achieved with the assistance of an orchestra. I can’t argue with that opinion, for I too love the fullness of an orchestral body of work and when I listen to some of the legacy Elvis recordings, I would appreciate a fuller sound. Well, now we have it and it is fair to say that if you take the time to listen to, and appreciate, If I Can Dream, you’ll hear these classics as you’ve never heard them before and you’ll likely, as I have, fall in love with them all over again. 

Just a final note on the liner notes, I can’t begin to express just how appreciative I am to the team behind this release. They have gone above and beyond, nothing has been missed, and it is a pleasure to sit, flick between the pages, and enjoy as I sit back and listen to this masterpiece. I’d like to say this is common, but I have so many CD releases that seem as though they’ve just been thrown together on a whim, with no real thought or care put in place, especially in the modern era where streaming is now dominant. Subsequently, it is refreshing to see that some record labels and releases still go that extra step to ensure fans are rewarded with albums that can really be wonderful experiences that extend beyond the sonic pleasures of the release. 

Burning Love is a great song, but I’m a little conflicted about the decision to use it as the opener as the other songs included on this compilation release are a little less rock and roll. That isn’t to say that Burning Love doesn’t work with an orchestra approach, or that I dislike the song, nothing could be further from the truth. It simply means that out of all the songs selected, I feel this is the least appealing, but I can understand why it was chosen. Regardless of my subjective thoughts, fans will likely be in awe and will thoroughly enjoy this rendition. 

It’s Now Or Never is a lovely song and sets the tone and overall tempo for the rest of the album. 

Love Me Tender is one of the most beautiful songs ever written and recorded and while the original is beyond reproach, this melding of styles takes the song to a completely new level. One that will allow you to experience it as if it were the first time all over again. This song is the very reason why I love music as much as I do. 

Fever (feat. Michael Bublé) is a great song and while I was initially skeptical of Bublé’s inclusion, it works so well. However, if there is one element that doesn’t sit well with me, it is the vocal tracking. There is a difference between the Presley and Bublé vocal tracks, resulting in a little echo, most likely due to the tracks being recorded in two different studios, at two different time periods. You don’t notice it when listening to the songs with Presley on his own, but it is a minor irritation in this song. Not that it deters me from enjoying it, for I love it, but this slight variation is especially apparent when listening via headphones so music lovers who are sensitive to such small deviations may be best advised to listen to the album via loudspeakers. 

Bridge Over Troubled Water is an absolute classic and while I love the Simon & Garfunkel original, Presley’s rendition has always been incredible, one of the very best ever recorded, and this orchestral rendition takes the song to another level of listening pleasure. Truth-be-told, I’ve never heard a bad interpretation of this masterpiece, but I do have a soft spot for this version and I suggest you turn the volume up, sit back with a glass of wine, and enjoy. It’s absolutely spectacular!

And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind is a song where you can really hear Neil Diamond. Arguably, I feel the Neil Diamond original is the better version and as I think about it, I can’t help but wonder just how incredible Diamond’s entire catalogue would be with an orchestral mix. Nevertheless, this is a lovely rendition and a perfect addition to the album. 

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling is another absolute classic and while I enjoy Presley’s rendition, I feel the mix with the original recording and the orchestral backing is a little rough in places, especially in the backing vocal elements that I feel detract from the orchestral element as they are simply too prominent in the mix.

There’s Always Me is one of the songs on the album that I’m not overly familiar with. Yes, I adore Presley’s entire catalogue, but even the most devout fan will likely be unfamiliar with a few songs here and there. Nevertheless, There’s Always Me is a lovely addition to the album and doesn’t feel out-of-place.

Can’t Help Falling In Love is another Presley classic that requires no introduction or commentary. The original is a masterpiece and this orchestral version has merely enhanced the song. Stunning!

In The Ghetto is one of my all-time favourite Elvis songs. Without a doubt, the production team behind this release really chose well, considering just how many exceptional songs Presley recorded in his life. I can only imagine the discussions surrounding the selection process. It certainly wouldn’t have been easy and perhaps that is why additional releases have been forthcoming because the mixture of Elvis and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is a match made in heaven.

How Great Thou Art is a lovely hymn and on first listen doesn’t seem like a good song to select for this compilation, but I’m happy to say that I stand corrected for I couldn’t imagine this release without this song. 

Steamroller Blues is moody and brooding and absolutely perfect. 

An American Trilogy is a lovely song that is enhanced beautifully with the orchestral overtures. 

If I Can Dream is the perfect song to close the album on as it bookends the album nicely with the style of Burning Love as the opener, ensuring that I will listen to the album again and stay within Presley’s extensive catalogue of music. 

Overall, If I Can Dream is, truly, a dream come true for any Elvis fan. Elvis is in the room with you, as is the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and arguably has never sounded better. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I couldn’t imagine a better homage to such a sensational talent. We are truly fortunate to have Elvis’ music, but we are even more fortunate to have such a respectful modernisation of some of his greatest hits. 

If I Can Dream is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes)

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Glenn Frey – After Hours (Album Review)

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Glenn Frey – After Hours (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SIDE ONE

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

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

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

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

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

SIDE TWO

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

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

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

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

Same Girl is stunning! 

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

Additional Deluxe Edition Tracks:

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

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

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

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

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

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A-Ha – Hunting High And Low (Album Review)

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A-Ha – Hunting High And Low (Album Review)

Few debut albums reach the commercial success a-ha had with Hunting High And Low, yet I dismissed it as just another campy 80s synth-pop release that wasn’t worth exploring. Well, dear reader, I was wrong, but you have to promise not to tell my better half as she has always enjoyed a-ha and whenever she spoke about them my sarcastic response was a-ha, yeah, a-ha! Don’t worry, I did the same with Wham!, yet I absolutely adore their music today. Many who know me well know that I can be fickle, but I also feel that we should never be entirely closed off to experiencing new music, outside of our comfort zones, for one never knows just where that experience can lead. In this case, it has led to a true appreciation of a band that I had previously ignored. 

Thanks, in part, to streaming, one can now explore a world of music beyond their own tastes and Apple Music’s 2015 Remastered Version, also Mastered for iTunes, is sonically pleasing without a single digital artefact to worry about. Remastering often gets a bad wrap, even here on Subjective Sounds, and while I can’t comment on how the album originally sounded, this Apple Music stream sounds just right. While I’m keenly interested in picking up Hunting High And Low on vinyl, along with their career perspective, Headlines And Deadlines: The Hits Of A-Ha, I’d be perfectly satisfied with this digital stream. It’s really that good!

Take On Me may be a-ha’s most successful song, but it is also the campiest and the one which probably kept me at arm’s length for so many years. It isn’t bad, but I do feel that it has been excessively played and that can, unfortunately, create boredom and disdain for an otherwise solid song. All one needs to do is look at how loathed Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On and Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing are to know that overplaying of a song can ruin it. 

Train Of Thought has a great rhythm and reminds me in places of Elton John and Grace Jones. Subsequently, I love it!  

Hunting High And Low is absolutely stunning. While stylistically different from the first two tracks, Hunting High And Low sounds familiar while taking a-ha in a completely different direction musically, showing just how talented these musicians are. 

The Blue Sky returns the album to a more synth-pop styling and while solid, I’d class it as a B-side. It has a sound that is very alternative and one which I feel takes a few listens to fully appreciate. Still, it isn’t the strongest song on the album, but there is a solid tune hidden here, if only the tempo was shifted a little and the lyrical delivery was more in-line with the musicality.  

Living A Boy’s Adventure Tale is great! You’ll want to turn the volume up when listening to this. The soundstage is incredible and that initial gradual build is extremely compelling. 

The Sun Always Shines On T.V. is one of my favourite songs on the album. Yes, it is borderline campy, just as Take On Me is, but it has been played to a less excessive degree. Plus, it rocks! Turn that volume up and you’ll be amazed at just how enjoyable The Sun Always Shines On T.V. is. It’s a stadium filler if there ever was one. 

And You Tell Me isn’t a bad ballad-styled track, but I’m unsure how I really feel about it. In one way I thoroughly enjoy it, but in another I question myself as to why. I also feel it is a little too short. Nevertheless, Hunting High And Low wouldn’t be the same without it. 

Love Is Reason is a classic B-side. It isn’t bad, but that repetitive chorus does become tiresome. Great musicality, however. 

I Dream Myself Alive is a solid tune. Nothing to write home about, but worthy of inclusion.

Here I Stand And Face The Rain has a very unique opening with the vocal delivery. I do thoroughly enjoy the acoustic styling, however, when the synth elements enter the mix, they do so in a manner that is complementary, thereby ensuring fluidity. Without a doubt, Here I Stand And Face The Rain compels me to listen to Hunting High And Low again and stay within a-ha’s catalogue of music; exactly what a closing song should compel the listener to do.

Overall, Hunting High And Low is an incredible debut and an album that represents some of the very best music in both the synth-pop and new wave eras. Yes, it retains an 80s feel, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and to be completely honest, the album hasn’t aged nearly as badly as one would have thought. 

Hunting High And Low is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).   

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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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New Kids On The Block – 10 (Album Review)

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New Kids On The Block – 10 (Album Review)

New Kids On The Block was never on my radar during their peak years, I was too cool for a boyband. Funny thing is Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, and Nirvana was just that; a sausage fest. They just we’re cutesy and just like many people ridicule Nickelback today, New Kids On The Block received as much ridicule as Nickelback and Justin Bieber. Okay, no, Bieber gets way more ridicule than the kids ever did. Truth-be-told, besides Baby, I’ve never taken the time to listen to a Justin Bieber album, so I’m not going to pile on because I may, end up, liking something that he’s released – Love Yourself, for instance, isn’t bad. A great collaboration with Ed Sheeran!

Long-time readers would no doubt be aware of my erratic music tastes. After all, I just finished writing my review for Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All and went straight for this album. No, I’m not insane, I just love music and good music is good music. Actually, my eclectic music tastes have been a source of ridicule by friends, family, and peers for years. So many people don’t understand how one can appreciate such a broad range of music. For me, there is no other way and it makes perfect sense. Most important of all, it brings me true happiness. So, laugh if you will, cause when I put 10 on, I turn the volume up and I’m transported to my happy place. The place where no one can touch me. Where I’m alone. Me and the boyband that I once rolled my eyes at but now acknowledge just how talented these musicians are.  

I enjoy the album so much that I purchased the CD (unfortunately 10 has never been released on vinyl), but the moment my daughter saw it, she asked if she could have it as she loves We Own Tonight and Remix (I Like The). Well, what could I say? I rolled my eyes but in hoping that my children will love music to the level that I do, I passed my brand-new unplayed CD onto her. I still haven’t bought a replacement. I’m waiting for her to tire of it and give it back to me, but I’m starting to think that will never happen. Nevertheless, while I enjoy listening to music alone (okay, so I like to sing and dance without anyone seeing me), sharing music with those you care about is one of the greatest gifts you can give anyone, and it is one of the reasons why I love sharing my passion with all of you.  

In the absence of the CD, I turn to TIDAL Hi-Fi’s CD-quality stream that is indistinguishable from the CD counterpart. I still move uncontrollably to the beat and sing-along where appropriate. Sure, my daughter would let me borrow her copy of the CD, but maybe instead of me reviewing that copy, perhaps she will one day add her own review to Subjective Sounds, of the CD, even if it is only via the comments section. Regardless, the TIDAL Hi-Fi stream is magical as 10 has been recorded and mastered beautifully. It is dynamic and not at all jarring on the senses thereby ensuring that I could listen to the album on repeat for hours. Similarly, the lossy Apple Music stream is beautiful as the mastering is the same, although, as is to be expected, it is a little more concealed by comparison to the CD-quality stream. That said, unless you compare them side-by-side, as I have, you’ll likely be more than satisfied with either stream. 

We Own Tonight is the perfect song to open the album with. The shared vocals and harmonies are lovely as is the soundstage that has been created. It is one of those songs that gives me goose bumps and it’s incredibly addictive, resulting in the song being played on repeat and sung along to more times than I can remember. Music should impact you on an emotional level and We Own Tonight certainly does that.   

Remix (I Like The) picks up the beat and all I want to do is dance. Yes, it would be embarrassing to witness so I’m glad I’m a writer and not a YouTuber. When I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever stood or sat still when this song is playing. Even as I’m typing this review, my legs are moving to the beat. Thankfully, my hands know their way around the keyboard and can type while the rest of my body is moving to the rhythm. 

Take My Breath Away is initially less energetic, but the ballad-pop-styled tune is absolutely perfect for the New Kids On The Block style. Take My Breath Away is a killer song and if I have one criticism it would be that I would like to have the backbeat more pronounced in the soundstage as it sounds a little hidden when I feel it should be at the forefront of the song.

Wasted On You is sensational. I love the beat. The atmosphere. The vocal performance. That mid-song sonic shift is incredible. Wasted On You is a perfect pop song!

Fighting Gravity is a little predictable and campy, but if we class it as a B-side, then it is perfectly acceptable and suited to the album and the New Kids On The Block legacy. 

Miss You More has a sonic introduction and backing that I adore. I’d love to hear just the instrumental of it, but I absolutely love the vocal delivery on this song. It’s sensational and one of the best songs on the album.

The Whisper has an addictive beat that will get you toe-tapping, but it’s a largely forgettable B-Side. 

Jealous (Blue) has a fantastic vocal presentation and unlike The Whisper, my entire body moves with this song. I adore the depth and width of the soundstage on Jealous (Blue). Exceptional!

Crash reminds me of the entire A Night At The Roxbury soundtrack. Good soundtrack! Crash does feel a little out-of-place with the other songs on the album, but it’s done so well that the campiness of the song is absent and it will encourage you to get up and move to the dancefloor. Seriously, if you’re sitting still while Crash is playing, you’re listening wrong.

Back To Life is a fantastic vocal-led song that while fundamentally different from Crash, flows perfectly. While it isn’t one you can sing along to and you’ll likely not have the inclination to toe-tap, or head-bop, Back To Life is thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable. 

Now Or Never is campy, but it’s a good song. Yes, I can roll my eyes and be embarrassed when this song comes on the speakers and everyone looks at me, but that subjective response doesn’t mean it’s bad. 

Survive You / Let’s Go Out With A Bang is a sensational way to close the album. Survive you is stunning and the CD-hidden track, Let’s Go Out With A Bang, is off-the-charts! Of course, the silence between the songs is infuriating and as I’ve mentioned before, I’d love the record label or artist to re-track the hidden songs so that when you stream the album, you can listen to just that one song if you wish. Regardless, Let’s Go Out With A Bang is the perfect song to conclude the CD with and it encourages me to listen to the album again and explore more of the New Kids On The Block back catalogue. Of course, if you’re streaming via Apple Music, you’ll find there’s an iTunes exclusive track to enjoy.

Block Party has attitude and follows Let’s Go Out With A Bang perfectly. Sure, I feel the aforementioned track would be better suited to close the album with, but I’m far from disappointed with the inclusion of Block Party on the iTunes/Apple Music edition of 10.

Overall, 10 is an exceptional album that has to be heard to be believed. Yes, it is modern day pop-styled and if you’re not into that kind of music, you’ll likely not enjoy this album. 10 simply isn’t overproduced, unlike many modern pop albums. It also isn’t compressed to hell and back as the soundstage is well developed and each sonic element is beautifully expressed without the crushing sound that is often associated with this style of music. Sure, there is a lot of electronic sampling, but it is handled respectfully, reminding me of the Bee Gees disco era. It has been five years since 10 was released and while an EP, Thankful, was released in 2017, I want a true follow up to 10 as I feel the New Kids On The Block are just getting started.

10 is available on CD and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 10 is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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Agnetha Fältskog – A (Album Review)

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Agnetha Fältskog – A (Album Review)

Every now and then new music appears from the individual members of ABBA. Agnetha Fältskog is, of course, one-quarter of the enormously successful Swedish pop group. As a lifelong fan, of both ABBA and Fältskog’s solo efforts, I immediately ordered the vinyl release and while I love the album as a creative piece of work between Fältskog and her collaborators Jörgen Elofsson and Peter Nordahl, the vinyl release is a little disappointing.

From the get-go, I was surprised the cover art was so out of focus. Yes, it is captured softly to separate Fältskog from the album typography and while it may look glorious on streaming services and CD-sized canvases, the larger vinyl reproduction makes me wonder if I’m slowly going blind. One would have thought, or at least hoped, that this would have been taken into consideration, but sadly it wasn’t. 

While the mastering is solid, the pressing is questionable. Pressed by GZ vinyl, there are a number of scuffs from the manufacturing process that create a few additional pops and clicks. Yes, vinyl is fundamentally a fragile medium, but if records are cared for, as mine are, they can be appreciated without pops and clicks destroying or impacting the listening experience. Nevertheless, when the pops and clicks aren’t audible, the vinyl reproduction is sonically beautiful. 

SIDE A

The One Who Loves You Now is a lovely song to commence the album with, although I’d like to hear a version with a slightly slower tempo as I feel it would have further amplified an already exceptional song.

When You Really Loved Someone really comes into its own when the chorus begins. That said, this song borders on campy pop music and Fältskog’s vocal sounds a little overproduced and processed on this song. It isn't necessarily bad but it makes me think of numerous modern pop stars and therefore I question if the vocal presentation really suits Fältskog’s capabilities. Regardless, When You Really Loved Someone is an exceptionally enjoyable song.

Perfume In The Breeze has a great tempo. You'll be toe-tapping and head-bopping in no time. Although, again, I feel it is overproduced, especially in the vocal region of the chorus. It just sounds as though it’s following a modern pop music formula. As with the other songs, however, I do thoroughly enjoy Perfume In The Breeze. 

I Was A Flower is absolutely stunning. It’s one of the greatest songs Fältskog has ever recorded, if not the greatest. You'll want to turn the volume up and become absorbed by the soundstage as it wraps around you as the speakers disappear, leaving you, Fältskog, and the instrumental orchestral movements to exist in that special place where music and ecstasy intersect. Amazing!

I Should've Followed You Home is the perfect song to follow I Was A Flower. It’s a recording and mixing marvel as the vocals were recorded in two different studios. Yes, this has been done before, but each studio has a unique sound, yet the vocals are merged superbly. The decision to have Gary Barlow duet with Fältskog was superb as his vocal tonality compliments Fältskog’s perfectly. That all said, it would have been interesting to hear the difference had both artists been recording in the studio, at the same time, in a linear manner. I have a sneaking suspicion the song would have been even stronger, but I’m far from disappointed with the song we have as it’s superb.

SIDE B

Past Forever is beautiful. I really love Fältskog’s vocal on this track as it sounds largely untouched and natural. Her soaring vocal is a pleasure to listen to and I could put this song on repeat for hours. Actually, I’d like to see this song re-recorded as a duet with Celine Dion. All the sonic cues are there to suggest such a collaboration would be nothing short of pure perfection.

Dance Your Pain Away is a disco-based track that is significantly different to the past few songs and while auto-tune is clearly used here, it's a great dance track that has a modern sound and one which DJs would have a field day incorporating into their live sets. If you want to hear additional remixes, check out the remixes EP on TIDAL Hi-Fi or Apple Music

Bubble is a lovely vocal-based track. I absolutely adore it!

Back On Your Radio is campy. Okay, it isn't that bad. No, wait, there's the chorus again. It just isn't good and should never have been recorded, let alone released. Harsh, yes, but this is a song for an artist aiming for a younger audience, arguably an audience that Fältskog wasn’t focusing on as it sounds out-of-place with the rest of the album.

I Keep Them On The Floor Beside My Bed is the only song on A to be penned by Fältskog and is absolutely beautiful. As the final song on the album, it closes it perfectly and encourages me to listen again and stay within Fältskog’s back catalogue.  

Overall, A is a thoroughly enjoyable album that should be in every fan’s collection.

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

If you prefer streaming, A is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music

Click here to read other Agnetha Fältskog reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

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Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

Who doesn't like a good ballad? Yes, you in the corner, I see you rolling your eyes, not willing to admit you're a ballad junkie. That's okay, it can be difficult for some of us to acknowledge our emotions, but Air Supply's ballads are just so addictive and easy to sing-along to that even the most emotionally guarded individual will feel compelled to join in, especially when no-one else is watching. It's a great feeling, isn't it? Don't worry, dear reader, this will be just between us, for the magic would be lost if anyone knew our little secret.

Few artists do ballads as well as British–Australian soft rock group Air Supply, but it would be naive to pigeonhole them into that category for their orchestral soft rock styling is so expansive that their peers are a who's who of soft rock culture from the last four decades. While their prime is arguably behind them, their songs, including those written by others, remain timeless and recognisable. Perhaps that is why I'm drawn to The Ultimate Collection because, as the title suggests, it really is the epitome of their creativity.

Love And Other Bruises is an interesting song to commence this career perspective release on as it isn't necessarily one of their best or most popular tunes. Nevertheless, the musicality is there, resulting in an enjoyable beginning to an exceptional collection of songs.

Bring Out The Magic is the reason I suggested it naive to class Air Supply as a ballads-only band. This is soft rock at its finest.

Lost In Love is beautiful!

All Out Of Love is a stunning composition and one of the greatest ballads ever written and recorded.

Every Woman In The World is another stunner. Absolutely sensational!

Just Another Woman offers an interesting shift into the disco-era and immediately reminds me of Elton John's Victim Of Love as the two were somewhat unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable. Just Another Woman is fantastic and despite the shifting style, the song is absolutely worthy of inclusion.

Chances returns the compilation to its ballad-based roots and is thoroughly enjoyable with a vocal presentation that is off-the-charts. The slow build works exceptionally well, and Chances is simply amazing to listen to.

The One That You Love is sonic gold! It may sound like a cliché, but they don't write songs like this anymore. Plus, that drum track is amongst my favourites of all time, only bested by Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight and Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing.

Here I Am is badly placed as the lyrics of The One That You Love also includes the phrase, here I am, throughout. Nevertheless, Here I Am is a lovely ballad that I never tire of. The soundstage and sonic depth of Here I Am is exceptional with a drum track that I adore. 

Sweet Dreams is epic! My recommendation is you turn the volume up when this song comes on, you'll thank me later. Sweet Dreams is one of the best songs ever recorded and that guitar solo and vocal interlude is absolutely incredible.

I’ll Never Get Enough Of You is exceptional! 

This Heart Belongs To Me has a great dual tempo that allows the listener to experience this song in a non-traditional manner, thereby making it truly subjective. This is yet another Air Supply song where the drum tracking is superb. I love it!

Keeping The Love Alive is, as this entire compilation is, exceptional!

Even The Nights Are Better is a song that reminds me of the Carpenters, especially with the vocal styling. That's, of course, a positive reflection as I adore Karen Carpenter's vocal.

Now And Forever is musical perfection. This truly is the ultimate Air Supply collection.

Two Less Lonely People In The World is remarkably good and sounds as fresh today as it did when first released on Air Supply's 1982 release, Now And Forever.

Making Love (Out Of Nothing At All) is a Jim Steinman classic power ballad and is an incredible Air Supply song. I find that I’m torn between this original recording and Bonnie Tyler’s rendition as both are exceptional. 

Young Love is a lovely song and that dual vocal presentation is simply amazing, as is the entire musicality of the song. 

Come What May is a great tune with an incredible soundstage and presence that fills the room. If all music was recorded and mixed this well, we'd never stop listening. As the closing track on The Ultimate Collection, it certainly compels me to listen to the compilation again and stay within Air Supply's back catalogue.

There is little doubt regarding my love of Air Supply and The Ultimate Collection release. It is so good that everyone should have a copy in their collection. Unfortunately, it has yet to receive a vinyl release and while I'm not opposed to picking it up on CD, the TIDAL Hi-Fi CD-quality stream is more than adequate.

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

If you prefer streaming, The Ultimate Collection is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music

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Barbra Streisand – One Voice (Live Album Review)

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Barbra Streisand – One Voice (Live Album Review)

Barbra Streisand needs no introduction and by anyone's standards is one of the greatest musicians to have ever sung a single note. No more is that more apparent than on One Voice; a long-awaited live performance captured September 6, 1986. While Streisand has, in recent years, released a few additional live performances, One Voice remains at the pinnacle of Streisand’s career and is, in my subjective opinion, the greatest live performance of her career. There isn’t a single B-side to be heard on this flawless recording. The mix and master are equally compelling and while One Voice is a live album, it would also have to be placed amongst Streisand’s greatest releases. 

I was fortunate enough, many years ago, to own this release on both cassette and CD, but as one who initially thought the MP3 was the ultimate solution for the music lover, I digitized the CD and subsequently sold both copies. What a fool! Nevertheless, thanks to TIDAL's CD-quality Hi-Fi stream, I can access the album whenever in the mood. To be completely honest, I'd love to see One Voice reissued on vinyl as it was originally recorded using an analog system and would be nothing but pure joy to appreciate on that format, especially if the vinyl pressing process was an all analog affair. Still, the TIDAL Hi-Fi stream is perfectly transparent to my memories of the CD and is thoroughly enjoyable. The Apple Music stream is equally compelling, even if tad concealed by comparison.

Somewhere (Live) starts off slowly with a lovely atmospheric introduction. The first notes Streisand sings are magical, and you can immediately tell just how extraordinary this performance is going to be.

Evergreen (Love Theme From "A Star Is Born”) (Live) is, while very similar, a much better rendition than the studio counterpart. Streisand's vocal soars and compels me to turn the volume up, resulting in a musical experience unlike any other. Simply amazing!

Something's Coming (Live) is a great song, but the synthetic elements irritate me. I'd love to hear this song with an orchestra backing instead.

People (Live) is one of the greatest songs of all time. Streisand’s presentation here is absolutely flawless and her words at the beginning of the song are as relevant today as they have always been. I absolutely adore this song!

Send In The Clowns (Live) is beautiful!

Over The Rainbow (Live) is absolutely magical. Seriously, listening to Streisand perform this song makes one question how the human voice is capable of such beauty and that final note is held with so much control, it leaves me speechless every time I hear it.

Guilty (Live Duet With Barry Gibb) has always been one of my most favourite songs from Streisand's catalogue and, as with Evergreen, I much prefer this live performance to the studio edition.

What Kind of Fool (Live Duet With Barry Gibb) is another astonishingly good song. The duelling vocals are so perfectly suited that they not only complement each other, but they amplify the song to greater heights. No-one else could have performed this song with Streisand as well as Gibb has. Of course, as a Bee Gees fan, I’m likely a little biased. 

Papa, Can You Hear Me (Live) is such a delicate song but Streisand performs it masterfully. While I haven't listened to every cover of this song, thus far, Streisand’s is superior to all I have heard, even the rendition recorded by the incomparable Nina Simone.

The Way We Were (Live) is one of my favourite Streisand films, second only to The Mirror Has Two Faces. Subsequently, I absolutely adore this song. It is one of Streisand's greatest. 

It's A New World (Live) is a lovely ballad with a beautiful meaning.

Happy Days Are Here Again (Live) is a beautiful song. It’s timeless, although that could easily be said about the entire performance.

America The Beautiful (Live) is sung so stunningly that one can only sit and admire it. America The Beautiful closes the recording nicely, ensuring I'll listen to the live performance again and stay within Streisand’s extensive catalogue of music.

Overall, One Voice is one of the greatest live performances of all time. That it was captured for us to appreciate is a wonderful blessing and gift to the human race.

One Voice is currently available on CD, the TIDAL Hi-Fi (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, One Voice is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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Sophia Pfister – Birdcage (Album Review)

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Sophia Pfister – Birdcage (Album Review)

In 2016 I declared that the world needed a complete Sophia Pfister album as her Self-Titled EP was so captivating, due in part to Pfister's sultry vocals and the production quality, that I simply wanted more. During the last couple of years, I've seen sporadic updates of the recording process and in August, Pfister dropped her first full-length album, on vinyl first and then a later on digital stores and streaming services.

At the time of the album's release, I was busy moving home and subsequently delayed ordering the vinyl edition. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that I’ve still yet to place my order, however, just as I did with Pfister's debut EP, I can review the streaming edition and compare the vinyl release at a later date. Pfister is actually the perfect artist to do this with as she is a proponent of the vinyl format and I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever see Birdcage on the various digital platforms. While I applaud her commitment to the vinyl format, especially considering she remains independent and these releases are completely self-funded, I feel it is far more important for independent artists to focus on attention, rather than the delivery method. With that in mind, I don’t feel streaming and other digital delivery methods challenge artistic intent, for the physical counterpart should always offer a value-added proposition to the music lover. It is also important to remember that no matter how much we champion the vinyl format, there will always be those amongst us who dislike or are not interested in the format and that is okay. Yes, one could argue that exclusivity towards formats should be viewed in the same manner as attending an art gallery, or concert venue, where the consumer needs to go where the artist feels their work is best represented. If I were reviewing Beyoncé’s exceptional Lemonade, and the associated initial exclusivity with TIDAL, I’d agree with my aforementioned statement, but with one caveat – Beyoncé is a household name and therefore can afford to lose the attention of the casual fans as her rabid fan base will follow her to whatever platform or venue she decides to release her music via. While I’ve no doubt Pfister can reach similar heights throughout her career, it takes time to develop an audience and that audience needs access to Pfister without restrictions at this stage in her career. 

Birdcage (Feat. White Buffalo Stands) offers a seamless transition from Pfister's Self-Titled EP. If you loved that release, as I did, you'll feel right at home as it’s a beautiful way to start the album. The backing indigenous-styled vocals towards the end of the song are beautiful and show a skilled layering of musicality that has evolved since Pfister's Self-Titled EP.

The Wheel is a rather complex composition, with a variety of musical elements and styles throughout. While on paper it shouldn't work, it absolutely does and it's one of those songs that offer the listener something unique upon each listen.

Drifting is a beautiful vocal-focused tune. It’s thoroughly relaxing and that Banjo element, that I claimed was too prominent on Pfister's song, Sugardaddy, I find is perfectly mixed here and is simply stunning. In fact, the entire soundstage and musical depth of Drifting is nothing short of spectacular. Yes, dear reader, this is sonically how good music should sound. Exceptional!

Loved By Strangers has a very familiar rhythm that picks up the pace of the album. The composition, again, is rather complex, but you feel as though you are encapsulated by musical elements as the soundstage is perfectly presented with incredible instrument separation. Another great tune!

Bad Decisions is the greatest song Pfister has written and recorded thus far. As I listen to this masterpiece, I’m reminded of Adele, on stage, singing Hello. Yes, it is that good and this song is stadium ready and a massive hit just waiting to be discovered.

Ride The Wave isn't a bad song, but I feel there are elements within that have been borrowed too heavily from Pfister's Self-Titled EP. Of course, following Bad Decisions was always going to be a challenging task. That said, if there is a B-side to be heard, it is Ride The Wave.

Separate Ways (Feat. Dave Alvin) is second only to Bad Decision. It’s bloody brilliant and an exceptional duet. I love it! If I had one criticism, it would be that the electric guitar tracking should have been a couple of decibels louder, especially towards the end of the song.

Living In The Grey is a thoroughly enjoyable closing track that ensures I'll listen to the album again and stay within Pfister's small, but growing, catalogue of music.

Birdcage is an absolutely stunning debut album and, by any standards, is world-class. When you compare it to some of the big name mainstream releases, you can only wonder how they have received recording contracts while Pfister remains independent. Of course, Pfister may decide to remain independent, but she has the musical talent to be one of the leading ladies in the music industry and while the industry is changing, record labels and solid management and promotional teams remain vital to achieving such heights, especially at the beginning of one’s career as a musician.

I can, without doubt, confirm that Birdcage is both sonically beautiful on Apple Music and TIDAL Hi-Fi. Yes, TIDAL's CD-quality stream offers a little more depth but the core performance is transparent, regardless of the delivery platform, meaning that the recording, mixing, and mastering is absolutely perfect. With that in mind, and knowing just how good Pfister’s debut vinyl EP sounded, I can't wait to get the vinyl release of Birdcage. Speaking of which, I better go and order myself a copy before they sellout.

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

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

Click here to read other Sophia Pfister reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Elton John – Reg Strikes Back (Remastered) [Album Review]

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Elton John – Reg Strikes Back (Remastered) [Album Review]

Reg Strikes Back would arguably be the last mediocre Elton John album of the 80s, as the exceptional Sleeping With The Past was just around the corner. That said, there are a number of hits and essential back catalogue songs buried amongst John's cover-filled outfits to appeal to most fans. Yes, the colourful album cover is akin to a trip down memory lane and really deserves to be held on vinyl. Of course, if you’re after a vinyl release, you'll have to be satisfied with a secondhand copy as Reg Strikes Back has yet to be reissued on the format. It was, however, reissued on CD in 1998 and remastered at the same time. While most of John's remasters have been exceptional, it is the additional non-album songs that often deter me. With that said, let's take a listen and see not only how well the album fits into John's legacy, but if those additional tracks are a value-added proposition or mere filler.

Town Of Plenty is average at best. What was it with John's 80s albums that the lead song, more often than not, sounded like a demo and should have been omitted? I guess Town Of Plenty isn't that bad, but it isn't great either. Although, my daughter disagrees with my assessment as she loves the track.

A Word In Spanish is a beautiful song and Reg Strikes Back would have been significantly stronger if it was the album's opening track.

Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Part 2) is a story arc continuation from the song Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters that appeared on John's 1972 album, Honky Château. It's one of my favourite Elton John songs, but I do feel mellon collie towards this Part 2 offering as it is quite different in tonality to the first song. That said, if I listen to Part 2, as a song on its own, I find it compelling with a high level of energy that has one toe-tapping and head-bopping when seated and dancing around while standing. The composition is quite detailed with incredible instrument separation and a broad soundstage. Plus, the trumpet tracking really takes the song to another level. Perhaps John and Bernie Taupin could have renamed the song, as to not throw such a severe contrast in musicality between the original and this second coming. Nevertheless, Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Part 2) is an exceptional song.

I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That is the best song on Reg Strikes Back and is one of John’s greatest recordings. The mix with the steady beat and shifting piano tracking is addictive and John’s vocals complete the package beautifully.

Japanese Hands is very similar in tonality and style to another Elton John song. I’m thinking Razor Face, from Madman Across The Water, but I couldn’t be certain without going through his extensive back catalogue. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoy Japanese Hands, especially once it hits the half-way point and the soundstage broadens. The result is a song that is beautifully atmospheric and thoroughly relaxing.

Goodbye Marlon Brando shifts the tone of the album with an edgier rock element. It isn’t a bad song, but I'd call it a B-side as I honestly wouldn't miss the song if it was removed from Reg Strikes Back.

The Camera Never Lies has a campy 80s sound signature and sadly never recovers. It’s another forgettable tune that is pure filler in my opinion.

Heavy Traffic is a song you wouldn't want to listen to if you were stuck in heavy traffic, it would cause you to have homicidal thoughts. Seriously, what were John and Taupin thinking when they penned and recorded this disaster?

Poor Cow gets the album back on track. While it isn't the strongest song on Reg Strikes Back, it does have a compelling rhythm that I find is satisfyingly addictive.

Since God Invented Girls is the closing song for the original non-remastered album. It’s clearly a B-side, as much of the second half of Reg Strikes Back is, but its enjoyable enough for me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue. However, in this case, we will continue listening to the remastered album’s bonus tracks.

Rope Around A Fool should have never been added to the remaster. It's just bad!

I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That (Shep Pettibone Mix) is fantastic. Yes, the original is unbeatable, but when remixes are this good, I find it difficult to choose which version I should be listening to as I thoroughly enjoy both.

I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That (Just Elton And His Piano Mix) shows just how exceptionally talented John is. I could listen to this version on repeat all day. I love it!

Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Pt. 2) [The Renaissance Mix] falls a little flat for me and as the last song on the remastered album, I'm not sure it compels me to listen to the album again or stay in John's catalogue. Sometimes additional tracks are great, other times they can deter one's interest. In fact, this remix encourages me to listen to Michael Jackson's Thriller as the mimicked tones of Billie Jean can be heard throughout, especially towards the end of the song.

Overall, Reg Strikes Back (Remastered) is a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, there is some exceptionally good music to be heard here, but it is the three or four lacklustre songs that really shifts one's interest.

Reg Strikes Back (Remastered) is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Reg Strikes Back (Remastered) is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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

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