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Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell (Album Review)

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Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell (Album Review)

Some albums become instant classics, not requiring the usual time + nostalgia equation. Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell was most certainly an instant classic as there isn’t a bad song to be heard on this 1993 release while paying homage to the original Bat Out Of Hell album from 1977.

While one may suggest it was mere nostalgia that contributed to the success of this release, we have to remember that Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose was less than a stellar release and ultimately failed to captivate music lovers as Bat II did. Yes, there are many reasons for this, such as Jim Steinman’s absence during the album’s creation, even though a number of his songs were used. Of course, the legal dispute between Steinman and Meat Loaf, regarding the phrase Bat Out Of Hell, certainly didn’t help and one has to wonder how much of Bat III was really about closing out the trilogy and how much was driven by the obvious capitalisation of the brand. While I’d like to suggest the latter is not a factor, if there is money to be made, sadly the powers that be will milk a franchise for all it’s worth until they destroy it. As such, Bat III just doesn’t have the soul of the original album, nor Bat II; even though the second instalment is an album that I consider to be the pinnacle of Meat Loaf’s career and one which is, in my subjective opinion, better than the original masterpiece.

Yes, I acknowledge my aforementioned declaration of love for Bat II is likely to ruffle some feathers, but one must remember that Bat II was my first exposure to Meat Loaf and the moment I saw the music video for I’ll Do Anything For Love, (But I Won’t Do That), with its epic motorcycle revving introduction and the lustful Dana Patrick, I was hooked.

Of course, I’d go on to own Meat Loaf’s entire catalogue. Yes, even those albums that I’m sure Meat Loaf would regret having recorded and released. I am a collector, after all. Nevertheless, when I wanted my Meat Loaf fix, throughout the 90s, I’d turn to Bat II as it is a killer album from start to finish without a single B-Side to be found. Yes, Wasted Youth and Back Into Hell are minor distractions, but they ultimately suit the album’s styling adequately enough that they don’t feel too out-of-place.

Speaking of things being out-of-place, I even tried to woo a girl with this album as the teenage mind believed that music could be a great icebreaker. Well, it kind of was but truth is often stranger than fiction and this particular girl asked if she could borrow the CD after hearing me casually discuss it with another friend at the time. I said sure and took the CD from the portable CD player, placed it back into its case, and handed it across.

The golden brown locks and those hazel eyes captivated me and like many testosterone-driven teenage boys, I was sure this was going to be my foot in the door.

A couple of days later, I got the shock of my life, as she returned the CD to me and merely said thank you. Of course, being a massive music nerd, I couldn’t leave it at that, I had to enter the interrogation mode and find out what she thought of it. I quickly found out she didn’t even listen to it. Her father was a huge Meat Loaf fan and didn’t yet have the album. Of course, I was assured that he liked the album.

Yes, dear reader, I was rejected and my heart was broken and life as I knew it would never be the same again. Okay, maybe that is a little overdramatic, but it is truly amazing how rejection, for any reason, can impact the psyche of the teenage mind.

Of course, a quarter of a century later, I no longer feel rejected by it. In fact, I find it hilarious that I could have even pondered such a notion, although not much as changed as I’m fast approaching 40, getting ready for my midlife crisis, only imagining the ludicrous stories I will be able to tell you upon reflection in the years to come. That, however, is another lifetime away and until then, let’s take a look at the songs that make up Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell.

I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) has an exceptional opening that is simply unmistakable. While some may lament the extensive radio play that this song has received, I still find that it’s fresh and the intro, if nothing else, is one of the greatest in the history of rock and roll. Nevertheless, I put I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) in the same category as Paradise By The Dashboard Light; it is pure perfection and should be part of everyone’s power ballad playlist.

While, obviously, this is primarily a Meat Loaf review, credit must be given to Lorraine Crosby for the incredible vocal prowess she delivered on this track. Meat Loaf is good, but with Crosby, he and I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) is great!

I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) also won a Grammy Award for the Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo in 1994 at the 36th Annual Grammy Awards, beating out Peter Gabriel’s Steam, Sting’s Demolition Man, Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower, and perhaps most surprisingly Lenny Kravitz’s Are You Gonna Go My Way.

If you’d like to cross into an alternate reality, the symphonic metal band Xandria recorded an exceptional cover of I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).

While I haven’t viewed the music video for a couple of decades, it’s still rather compelling. Although, I don’t find it as captivating and mystical as I did in my teenage years. Isn’t it interesting how as we age, our viewpoints change? In its heyday, I recall watching the music video back to back for hours at a time; that poor VHS tape. Of course, if I’m to be completely honest, I was most probably more captivated by the beauty of Dana Patrick than any other aspect of the music video. Nevertheless, it’s still worth checking out and hasn’t really aged despite drastic changes in filmmaking during the last couple of decades. Perhaps we could put that down to the vision of Michael Bay who directed all Meat Loaf’s music videos during this era. Of course, the music video, and associated radio mix is truncated as the original song is a 12-minute epic. It’s a shame as the shift is noticeable in the music video, especially if you’re familiar with the original album release.

Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back is my all-time favourite Meat Loaf song. It is rock and roll 101 and the poetic delivery, mixed with the sarcastic and ironic has always appealed to my slightly left-of-the-centre mindset. I love it!

Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through is a great tune, but it has aged significantly and no longer feels as fresh as it once did. Nevertheless, it is one of my favourite songs on the album but may not appeal to modern fans of Meat Loaf.

Of course, you may be familiar with the Jim Steinman original, released on his 1981 release, Bad For Good and sung by Rory Dodd. Dodd is no Meat Loaf, from a vocal perspective, but I thoroughly enjoy this original and in this case, I consider it to be a published demo. There’s a music video for this original and it’s so bad that it’s good! Dodd doesn’t appear in the music video as Steinman delivers lead vocals via lip syncing that is surprisingly convincing.

The Meat Loaf music video isn’t bad, but it isn’t the greatest either. Of course, at the time, I thought it was wonderful. Hey, come on, it featured Angelina Jolie; what else was I to do as my teenage mind took control of my likes and dislikes. I know you’ve been there too, dear reader, there’s no use denying it.

It Just Won’t Quit shifts the flow of the album and while musically It Just Won’t Quit is glorious, I find the flow of the album is adversely affected by this song. Of course, once the song gets going, things start to pick up and therefore it has me wondering if we really needed the slow, near-acoustic, introduction or if the song could have started more promptly. Although, I do thoroughly enjoy the closing element that bookends the song in the same manner as the introduction, so you can’t necessarily have one without the other. Perhaps you could, but it wouldn’t be the same and there is certainly a balance that works with this edition.

It Just Won’t Quit is another cover for Meat Loaf as it was originally recorded and released by Pandora’s Box on their 1989 release, Original Sin. The Pandora’s Box original isn’t bad, but I do prefer Meat Loaf’s cover.

Out Of The Frying Pan (And Into The Fire) has a killer guitar track. Yes, dear reader, get your air guitar ready, you’re going to need it. In fact, the entire song is fantastic and one of the best on the album and in Meat Loaf’s catalogue.

Jim Steinman originally released Out of the Frying Pan (And into the Fire) on Bad For Good. Steinman’s version isn’t appealing, but one can certainly see the origins of what the song would become.

Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are is a beautiful song from start to finish. While I enjoy Meat Loaf’s louder, more rock-driven songs, the guy has an incredible vocal prowess that works brilliantly with Steinman’s near-symphonic songwriting style.

…and yes, every time I look at the bottom of the rear view mirrors on my car, and notice the safety message, I’m reminded that I should put this album on and rock out to Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are.

The music video is, as the song is, a rollercoaster ride of emotions that is true to the song and visually appealing. Yes, dear reader, once again as I was a teenager when this album and the subsequent video clip was released, the scene depicting an older woman teaching the younger man about the mystery and the muscle of love was likely at the forefront of my experience with this song. In fact, in my own life, I would gravitate to a beautiful woman some nine years older than myself. Well, will you look at that, life really does imitate art!

Wasted Youth is one track that I have a love/hate relationship with. I’m not sure I would call it a song. Although, if viewed in similar styling to Lou Reed’s work, then perhaps it could be classed as a song. That said, it isn’t a bad parable and flows well into Everything Louder Than Everything Else, but one must question if it adds any intrinsic value to the album.

Everything Louder Than Everything Else is a solid riff-driven rock and roll song that was never going to set the world on fire but is thoroughly enjoyable when it comes on. Of course, it could just be a welcome inclusion following Steinman’s spoken word Wasted Youth. Okay, maybe I’m being a little too harsh on Wasted Youth, it really isn’t that bad, but it does break the flow of the album.

Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere) is jazzy rock and roll. I love it! Seriously, what’s not to like? Turn the volume up and enjoy!

As with It Just Won’t Quit, Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere) is another Pandora’s Box cover. The original is solid, reminding me of many Bonnie Tyler songs. Yes, Meat Loaf’s version is the one to beat, but Pandora’s Box really recorded an exceptional original. Released as a single, the Pandora’s Box version also had a music video made which is rather good but seriously dated to the time. Seriously, check it out and you’ll see what I mean.

Back Into Hell is an interesting instrumental track that works well on its own, but does it really work well in the album format? Over the last couple of decades I’ve become familiar with it, so removing it now would not be an option. However, as with Wasted Youth, one can’t deny that it shifts the flow of the album.

Lost Boys And Golden Girls is pure Meat Loaf. His vocal tracking on Lost Boys And Golden Girls is superb and the song is a perfect classical-styled rock song, ensuring I remain in Meat Loaf’s catalogue and listen to the album again. In fact, as I think about it further, I would say Lost Boys And Golden Girls is the one song that links Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell to the original Bat Out Of Hell.

Lost Boys And Golden Girls was also originally recorded and released on Steinman’s Bad For Good. As much as I love Meat Loaf’s rendition, Steinman performs it masterfully.

Overall, Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell is one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time. Yes, I know that praise is often given to the original Bat Out Of Hell, but the collaboration between Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman on this second instalment is beyond reproach. Rock and roll, truly, doesn’t get much better than this!

This review was based on listening to the Apple Music stream and the CD release. Sonically, both are sensational and you won’t be disappointed with the mastering on this release; a stark contrast to the original Bat Out Of Hell. However, sadly, the CD copy I own has very faded artwork that makes me wonder how it got past quality control checks. It’s tragic considering just how beautiful Michael Whelan’s artwork is.

I’m also fortunate enough to have a double cassette release of Bat II that was issued when Meat Loaf toured Australia. Unfortunately, I haven’t got a cassette deck anymore, so it sits staring at me in hope that the cassette revival will reach critical mass and I will come back to a format that I adore and grew up with. If money were no object, I’d likely buy a good Hi-Fi cassette deck on the secondhand market; cause I’ve gotta have the best hardware possible to play the four cassette tapes remaining in my collection. Nevertheless, will you just look at that cover. I thought the original cover was spectacular, but I love the darker, hell-inspired cover art of the limited edition release.

The cassette, of course, includes the entire album on Cassette 1, while the second cassette includes live editions of Bat Out Of Hell, You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, and Everything Louder Than Everything Else; repeated on both sides. Liner notes, however, are not included, which is a shame, but not entirely unexpected given the change in format and limited nature of the release. I seem to recall there was also an outer cardboard slipcase when I first got the album, but if that were the case, the slipcase is long gone and likely would have got battered up from the various moves I’ve done throughout my life.

Speaking of the varied formats, I really need to pick up a copy of the 25th Anniversary vinyl re-issue. Let’s just hope it isn’t as flawed as my release of Bat Out Of Hell was.

Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes.

Click here to read other Meat Loaf reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Fleetwood Mac – Concert Review

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Fleetwood Mac – Concert Review

When I was in high school, Fleetwood Mac released their seminal album, “Rumors.” Every song was a gem, and everyone I knew owned a copy. Everyone. It won a Grammy in 1978 for album of the year. Over 40 years later, Fleetwood Mac is still performing many songs from that album, but with a slightly different group lineup. Recently they were appearing in my neck of the woods, so of course I had to be there!

Lindsey Buckingham was unceremoniously fired from the band in early 2018 and was replaced by Neil Finn, of Split Enz and Crowded House, and Mike Campbell, guitarist extraordinaire from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch. I was worried that even though Finn and Campbell are talented musicians, would they be able to replace what Buckingham brought to the group. By the end of the evening my answer was no, not totally.

Let’s start with the overall concert. For just over two hours, Fleetwood Mac gave fans everything they had, singing hit after hit to an adoring crowd. Singalongs were common throughout the evening. One of my favorites, “The Chain” started off the show and set the tone for the rest of the night: a mutual lovefest between artist and fans.

Neil Finn took over Buckingham's vocals, with mixed success. He was enthusiastic and animated, but his voice doesn’t have Buckingham’s strength. Finn’s best performance was a duet with Stevie Nicks, “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” Finn’s hit with Crowded House. As for Mike Campbell, he gives Lindsey Buckingham a run for his money in the “shredding guitar” department. If you’ve seen Campbell perform with Tom Petty you know what I mean.

The highlight of the evening was Stevie Nicks singing “Landslide” while Neil Finn played acoustic guitar. Nicks dedicated the song to a young girl in the front row, telling her she can do anything she sets her mind to. Cell phone flashlights were prominent as the audience swayed and sang.

Another highlight for me was my all-time favorite Fleetwood Mac song, “Gypsy.” Stevie Nicks, dressed in black and with plenty of flowing scarves, twirled and spun as she did in the magical videos played on MTV and VH1. (Remember when those stations used to play music videos? Now they’re just sweet memories…)

Christine McVie sang lead on “Little Lies,” “Say You Love Me,” “Everywhere,” and “You Make Loving Fun.” While her piano skills are there her vocal skills are not. I saw Fleetwood Mac in 2017 and thought so then. McVie’s voice has no strength and wasn’t always on key.

The last song of the set was “Go Your Own Way.” It started out rough on the vocals, but they brought it home in the second half of the song.

The three-song encore began with a beautiful tribute to Tom Petty. Photos of Petty were shown on the video screen at the back of the stage while the band performed an emotional version of “Free Fallin.” It was sad and glorious at the same time. As a huge Tom Petty fan, those photos brought tears to my eyes.

Is it time for Fleetwood Mac to hang up their instruments and call it quits? That’s hard to say. I’ve seen the band three times, all with different iterations of members. The first time was without Christine McVie. This time there was no Lindsey Buckingham. My favorite Fleetwood Mac concert was the second one I saw, with all the members most of us know: Stevie Nicks on vocals, Christine McVie on vocals and keyboards, Lindsey Buckingham on vocals and guitar, John McVie on bass guitar, and Mick Fleetwood on drums. That’s the Fleetwood Mac of my youth, the Fleetwood Mac I sang along with, the Fleetwood Mac I remember. If you’ve never seen them in concert, I would say go, as they may not tour again. It will be worth it.

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Elton John – Farewell Yellow Brick Road (Concert Review)

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Elton John – Farewell Yellow Brick Road (Concert Review)

I recently had the privilege of seeing Elton John in concert for the fourth time. This tour, called “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” is world-wide and goes through 2021. If you ever had any intentions of seeing Elton John live in concert, do it now, as he is retiring from live performances after this tour. A list of tour stops can be found here

I’ve been a huge Elton John fan since (ahem) 1973, with the release of the album “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player,” which gave the world the classic songs, “Daniel” and “Crocodile Rock.” Both songs were performed, as well as 22 more for a rocking and energetic evening of classic Elton John.

Opening the show was “Bennie and the Jets,” which set the tone for the entire evening: the fans went wild and were singing along from the first note. “Bennie” was followed by deep cut “All The Young Girls Love Alice,” exciting for me as it comes from one of my top ten albums of all time, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

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One thing I love about Elton John: he appreciates his audience. He thanked the fans throughout the show, noting that if it weren’t for them, he wouldn’t be there. He also explained the stories behind some of his songs. “Border Song” was covered by Aretha Franklin, which made Elton and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin feel like they would be taken seriously as musicians. “Believe” was important to his work with his AIDS foundation. He also spoke of his hitting rock bottom with drugs, alcohol, and overall bad attitude, and how saying three little words-“I need help”-made all the difference in his life. Again, he expressed appreciation for those people who helped and supported him during his difficult time, and for his fans that have bought his music, merchandise, and most importantly, came to his shows.

Behind Elton was a screen that played videos during some of the songs. I could have done without that, as most of them made no sense and didn’t add anything to the performance. That is, until he played “I’m Still Standing.” Those clips were fun to watch: Elton on the “Muppet Show,” “Simpsons,” and “South Park,” old MTV videos, footage of concerts from the 1970s.

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If you want to hear the hits, Elton has you covered. “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” “Candle In The Wind,” “Bitch Is Back,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” all showcased Elton’s piano skills. As for his vocal skills, he still has it. At almost 72 years old Elton still brings everything he has to his performance.

I remember wanting the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album sooooo bad! Back then the double album cost $6. It took weeks of saving my allowance to have the money to finally buy it. I played it on constant loop; there’s not a bad song on the album. To hear Elton perform “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” was such a thrill for me, as it’s one of my favorites on the album.

During the concert I uploaded some videos to Facebook. A junior high/high school friend of mine was a HUGE Elton John fan, as in, she was a fanatic! I knew those videos would give her a thrill, and her responses to them made it all worthwhile: “OMGGGGGGGG!!” “Are you kidding me?!? He sang that too?!?” “Thank you for posting these!!”

I go to a lot of concerts, and many of the artists or bands I see are in their 60s or 70s. I’ve been asked why I bother seeing someone “so old,” what’s the point when they’ve already reached the pinnacle of their success. The reason is simple: I grew up with those artists. Yes, they’re older, and sometimes they can't hit the high notes like they used to. But they still have it! They bring their talent, charisma, and artistry to their performances. If they didn’t, no one would be paying good money for tickets. I’m afraid that in a few short years my concert going will be limited, as so many of my favorites are retiring. I forget that we all are much older than I think we are!

In just under 3 hours, Elton John sang 24 songs, with the crowd wanting more. There are so many I would have loved to hear: “Empty Garden,” “High Flying Bird,” “Harmony,” “Teacher I Need You,” and “Blues For Baby and Me” for starters. I’m sure if you asked each person in attendance, what they would like to hear, Elton’s entire catalogue would have been covered. Obviously that’s not possible. But if you like Elton John’s hits, you will NOT be disappointed with this show. Check Elton’s website for a show near you, and get tickets as soon as they go on sale. I promise it will be worth your while.

Click here to read other Elton John 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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Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (Album Review)

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Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (Album Review)

Billy Joel has an exceptional back catalogue that would be the envy of many musicians. While Storm Front will always be my personal favourite, An Innocent Man, not unlike Joel's sensational Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2, is about as close to perfection as you can get. Yes, dear reader, An Innocent Man plays like a greatest hits release and should be in all serious music collections.

While it has never made it to my physical collection, I have promised myself the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) double LP release that has been mastered from the original master tapes using MOFI’s patented GAIN 2™ technology. While all the acronyms look impressive, I have a number of these releases and they are simply astonishing and make CD-quality streaming services, like TIDAL Hi-Fi, sound lifeless and flat by comparison. Speaking of TIDAL Hi-Fi, this review is based on listening to and enjoying that edition. I’ve also taken the time to appreciate An Innocent Man on Apple Music and have found the two streaming services are comparable to each other as they are derived from the same master. However, the Apple Music stream, for An Innocent Man, is about five percent louder. The additional loudness could be due to any number of production reasons, but louder volumes do give the faux perception of better quality. Now, I'm not suggesting this is the case, but it would be naive to ignore the possibility. Of course, if the volume is extended too far, the sound will degrade as a result of increased distortion; a key problem in the loudness wars. Correct management of volume, particularly in the recording, mixing, and mastering stages, is a fine line that has sadly been crossed far too often. That all said, both streams sound exceptional, but when an album is of this calibre, it will sound good regardless of lossy or lossless compression algorithms.

Without doubt, An Innocent Man, is one of the greatest albums from the 80s, but the launch window would result in a disappointing result for Joel as Michael Jackson's Thriller won the Grammy for Album Of The Year over An Innocent Man. While Jackson's Thriller is a landmark album, one I thoroughly enjoy, I'd argue that Joel’s An Innocent Man is a better album and has also stood the test of time much better than Thriller which, in my subjective opinion, is starting to sound a little dated. Perhaps An Innocent Man avoided the dreaded dating of its sound as Joel based the writing of the album on his beloved, and arguably timeless, 50s and 60s music styles. The continuous lighthearted Be-bop, Soul, and R&B styling is addictive and remarkably well suited to Joel.

Easy Money has a sensational beat – thank you Liberty DeVito! It’s a fun little song to start the album with, but the chorus isn't compelling as I find it a little distracting with it’s downbeat shift. Nevertheless, Easy Money is a great song that sets the listener up for the music they’re about to hear on the album.

An Innocent Man slows the pace of the album a little, but the transition never sounds out-of-place. When listening to An Innocent Man, you really begin to comprehend what a sensational vocalist Joel is. Joel has incredible control of his vocal and takes it right to the edge, ensuring the presentation is nothing short of a pleasure to listen to. I could listen to this song indefinitely, it is that good.

The Longest Time is, as Uptown Girl is, one of the most enjoyable songs to sing along to. Seriously, tell me you can sit and listen without singing along to this classic. Even if only in your mind, it’s addictive. I love it!

This Night really opens up throughout the chorus. Yes, the whole song is fantastic, but as a Ludwig van Beethoven fan, I really appreciate how Joel merged his vision with that of Beethoven’s. The result is a sonic interpretation that is absolutely timeless. A masterpiece!

Tell Her About It has a fantastic upbeat tempo that will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping from the very first note.

Uptown Girl is my song. It, along with Starship's We Built This City, is responsible for my love of music. Absolutely brilliant!

Careless Talk shifts the style of the album and can sound a little out-of-place following the upbeat sound of Tell Her About It and Uptown Girl. However, as a song on its own, it’s a solid recording, but if there were a B-side on An Innocent Man, it would be Careless Talk.

Christie Lee is a sensational rock tune with an exceptional saxophone element. I love it! You’ll most certainly want to turn the volume up on this song.

Leave A Tender Moment Alone is a stunningly beautiful ballad.

Keeping The Faith is a song I’ve always enjoyed, but it’s a strange song to conclude the album with as it’s somewhat different to the songs that came before it. It sounds too modern for the album’s style, but as a song on its own, it's extraordinary!

Overall, An Innocent Man is an astonishingly good album and one of Joel's best, if not his best. If you want to listen to a flawless album, that is also timeless, then this is the album for you. Pure perfection!

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

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

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Elton John – Leather Jackets (Album Review)

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Elton John – Leather Jackets (Album Review)

Leather Jackets failed to set the world on fire from both sales and critical review perspectives, but was Leather Jackets just a quick-to-market money-spinning effort, with leftover songs from the Ice On Fire recording sessions, or are there a few hidden gems to be heard? Let's find out!

Leather Jackets is your classic bad 80s pop song, but it's so bad that it's good!

Hoop Of Fire changes the tempo of the album significantly, but it’s a beautiful song.

Don't Trust That Woman has a toe-tapping tempo and a rather compelling chorus, but the Caribbean styling is a little too subdued and I feel the song could have been stronger if it had focused more on that sonic signature.

Go It Alone is another song, that I thoroughly enjoy, with a stellar rhythm. Yes, it is lacking a little spit and polish, but that is strangely appealing for this song.

Gypsy Heart is, as many of the songs are on Leather Jackets, a B-side. However, it’s a lovely song that is worthy of inclusion in John's back catalogue.

Slow Rivers could have been exceptional, especially with the combined talents of John, Bernie Taupin, and Cliff Richard. Sadly, it’s a missed opportunity and a lacklustre song.

Heartache All Over The World is average at best, and that is being generous. It's just bad and when Johns sings Girls, Girls, Girls, all I think of is Mötley Crüe's Girls, Girls, Girls; an infinitely better song.

Angeline has a terrible opening and the song sadly doesn't get any better as it progresses.

Memory Of Love isn't bad if it was a demo. There is a beautiful song hidden here, it's just a shame John wasn’t in the right headspace when recording this album.

Paris is musically and lyrically boring. One of the worst songs on the album and one of John's most disappointing recordings. It’s unstructured and from a composition standpoint is a convoluted nightmare.

I Fall Apart is adequate to close the album with, but it doesn't compel me to listen to Leather Jackets again or stay within John's catalogue. That said, there are some exceptional songs, as referenced throughout this review, to be heard on this album.

Without a doubt, Leather Jackets is the perfect album for the streaming era as one can add songs of interest to a playlist. While I remain a fan of the album format, I can't help but be envious of the younger generations and their digital playlists, for us old-timers would have had to buy an entire album to get maybe one or two worthwhile tracks. I'd like to say that didn't happen very often, but I have many albums with only one killer song. Perhaps that is why I have become increasingly interested in compilation releases as well as favouring streaming.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi (CD-quality FLAC) edition and the Apple Music stream. The difference was negligible as the mastering is a little concealed and arguably muffled on both platforms. Hence, any improvement the lossless TIDAL stream may have had over Apple Music becomes irrelevant. Leather Jackets really needs to be remastered, but that would do little to make this album more compelling. While it's a shame that Leather Jackets isn’t a stronger album, there is enough enjoyable music here to listen to the album from time to time.

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

If you prefer streaming, and for this album, you should, Leather Jackets 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 – 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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Elton John – Breaking Hearts (Album Review)

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Elton John – Breaking Hearts (Album Review)

The 80s, in many respects, wasn't Elton John's finest decade, but amongst some of the pedestrian B-sides, there is a plentiful amount of stellar songs from his 80s catalogue that you simply have to listen to; some of which can be found on Breaking Hearts.

Breaking Hearts maintained John's classic era band lineup, just as Too Low For Zero did. Without a doubt, there is a level of musicality that feels familiar, harking back to John's 70s era, validating just how important a band can be to the sound of an artist. Yes, John has always been a solo act, with a backing band, but Elton John really could have been an all-inclusive band name, in a similar manner as Alice Cooper presented himself in the early 70s. While it’s understandable that these leading men wanted to branch out and achieve a level of creative freedom, not normally associated with a band lineup, both artists are renowned for their early albums that have stood the test of time and are now considered classics. One should then question if the band dynamic is such a bad thing. Although, don't suggest that to Rob Zombie as he still laments his period as the lead man for White Zombie. Call me sentimental but I like original lineups. It’s subsequently a shame that Breaking Hearts would be the final Elton John album to include the original band lineup. Yes, nothing lasts forever, but while it did, their collaborative efforts produced some of the greatest songs ever recorded.

Restless isn’t a bad song to start the album with. The groove is there, and that electric guitar draws you in, but it isn’t spectacular, sounding as though it was recorded against a click track. It simply sounds as though the band was going through the motions with this song, rather than jamming and improvising. A solid tune, but a missed opportunity.

Slow Down Georgie (She’s Poison) sounds like manufactured pop music. It isn’t necessarily bad, but it hardly shows off the songwriting talent of John and Bernie Taupin, not to mention the original band that collectively brought us so many masterpieces.

Who Wears These Shoes? is a little more fun than the preceding tracks, with a beat and lyrical hook that will see you toe-tapping, head-bopping, and singing along.

Breaking Hearts (Ain't What It Used To Be) is a beautiful ballad.

Li’l ‘Frigerator gives the listener a jolt, especially following such a relaxing ballad. Plus, that entry is just weird – likely trying to separate itself from Breaking Hearts (Ain't What It Used To Be). Regardless, once Li'l 'Frigerator gets going, it's a fun and thoroughly enjoyable song.

Passengers is brilliant. I have always loved it, ever since hearing it for the first time on John’s The Very Best Of compilation. It's quirky in places but is so much fun from the very first note. I do consider it one of John's greatest recordings.

In Neon is a lovely song and one which bemuses me as I ponder how a song this good is not more prominent in John's catalogue.

Burning Buildings blows my mind. It is that good! An absolutely sensational song that has gone largely unacknowledged over the years. I know John already has so many hits, he is an absolute legend, but Burning Buildings is just as good, if not better than many of the fan favourites.

Did He Shoot Her? is a thoroughly enjoyable pop/rock tune. It was never going to win any awards, but Breaking Hearts wouldn't be the same without it.

Sad Songs (Say So Much) is, as l’ve said before, a groovy song that isn't sad at all. It’s also a fantastic way to close Breaking Hearts and encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue.

Overall, Breaking Hearts is a solid release and one of John's best albums from the 80s. While the album was remastered in 2003, the version on Apple Music isn't specific, therefore making me wonder if it isn't simply the original CD mastering. I say that because sonically it’s a little flat while sounding somewhat concealed. Interestingly, however, the iTunes edition of Breaking Hearts is listed as remastered. It’s intriguing and I would love to know if they are different versions. Regardless, it isn't overly detrimental to the enjoyment of the album, but when you've heard the hits so many times, you know how they should sound.

Unfortunately, Breaking Hearts is not available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, so I'm unable to compare and offer any further opinions on the exact mastering used. What I can say with certainty, however, is that Breaking Hearts is not Mastered for iTunes, therefore making it more likely that the Apple Music edition may be sourced from the original CD mastering. Despite this, it’s still thoroughly enjoyable to listen to for this music-first audiophile.

Breaking Hearts is available on CD and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Breaking Hearts is available on Apple Music and Spotify.

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

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Elton John – Jump Up! (Album Review)

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Elton John – Jump Up! (Album Review)

I’m an album guy. Playlists are a cool modern take on the good old mixtape, but despite being once known as the Mixtape Master, I much prefer to experience music in the album format as it generally showcases a particular era and style that correlates and often complements the artist. That said, sometimes albums have mismatched tracks and that is certainly the case with Elton John’s 1982 release, Jump Up!

Much of Jump Up! is excellent, well except for the intro track, but more on that shortly. The album artwork is also permanently lodged in the 80s, but I think in some ways that is an appealing aspect. Yes, dear readers, as I age the nostalgic element is becoming more pronounced. Jump Up! likely won't appeal to the fans that are mainly interested in the hits, even though this release features the fan favourite Blue Eyes. Jump Up! May lack focus, but don’t let that deter you for there is enough intriguing music to be found on this release to please all Elton John fans. 

This review is based on listening to the 2003 remastered editions on both TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music. To be completely frank, there is almost no difference to be heard and if anything I find the FLAC version via TIDAL Hi-Fi to be a little more clinical, therefore less relaxful. It isn’t always about resolution and file size. There is little doubt that, for this album, I prefer the Apple Music stream.

Dear John why did you record this song? Seriously, it's horrid! An absolutely terrible start to the album. I honestly can’t think of a worse song, from any album, as the lead track. Although, I’m sure there are plenty. Dear John, please never write and record another song like this one.

Spiteful Child flows on nicely from Dear John and is a much better song. That said, John’s vocal delivery in the chorus can become a little tiresome and I find myself being drawn into the musical accompaniment. It’s layered, diverse, and has a solid soundstage. What's not to like? Oh, that’s right, John's harmony as he delivers the chorus.

Ball & Chain is awesome! It would have been perfect for Tumbleweed Connection, but it works really well here. Ball & Chain has a great groove and fans of The Who may be interested to know the acoustic guitar on this song is strummed by none other than Pete Townsend.

Legal Boys is beautiful! The musicality is beyond reproach as is John's vocal delivery. How is this song not more prominent in his catalogue?

I Am Your Robot is unique; I like it! It’s 80s toe-tapping and head-bopping gold and I'm actually surprised that no one in the hip-hop world has sampled I Am Your Robot. There is greatness hidden here and with the right artist, I Am Your Robot could morph into something amazing. Just so long as they don’t transition into Blue Eyes. It has always amazed me that Blue Eyes was never the lead track on Side B. While CD and associated streaming has largely ignored the sides of a record, Jump Up! was released when Vinyl and Cassettes were the dominant formats and Blue Eyes simply doesn’t flow well after I Am Your Robot.

Blue Eyes is likely the most popular song from Jump Up! Okay, it’s probably the only song off the album that most listeners would have heard. Regardless, as I reflect on what I’ve said previously about Blue Eyes, I stand by my statement that I’m glad John didn't sing consistently in this lower register, that is reminiscent of many a piano bar singer. Nevertheless, Blue Eyes a great song and one can understand why it has become a fan favourite.

Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) is a beautiful Taupin / John collaborative song that was written as a tribute to John Lennon. It’s one of John's greatest recordings and one that I've no doubt you'll appreciate when you listen to it. I could, seriously, listen to Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) on repeat for hours, it is that good!

Princess follows Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) seamlessly and is an absolute classic. Yes, it is a little campy, but it’s a lovely song that works extremely well and this time John nailed his vocal range in the chorus.

Where Have All The Good Times Gone is a great tune. A B-side, yes, but great nonetheless.

All Quiet On The Western Front is sensational despite the commercial failure of the song as a single. Musically it’s gorgeous and the anti-war message will always be relevant. As I listen, I feel compelled to turn the volume up as the sonic elements, especially that drum track, blows my mind. This is one song I'd love to hear in surround sound and I feel in some ways it is out of place on Jump Up! It would have been perfect for inclusion on Madman Across The Water. Regardless, All Quiet On The Western Front compels me to stay within John’s catalogue.

Overall, Jump Up!, while not commercially one of John’s greatest albums, is thoroughly enjoyable. I would have dumped Dear John and re-tracked the album so that Blue Eyes was better presented, but I guess that’s what playlists are for.

Jump Up! is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Jump Up! is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Spotify.

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

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