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August Rigo – The Fall Out (Tidal Hi-Fi Review)

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August Rigo – The Fall Out (Tidal Hi-Fi Review)

Thanks to TIDAL’s Discovery section, now merged with TIDAL Rising, I came across August Rigo’s album The Fall Out. Seriously, as a music lover, the CD-store in your home is the perfect way to sample new music and artists that I would have previously overlooked.

When I am interested in listening to a new artist, or album, I generally listen to the first three songs. I feel that is where a stellar song will be, if there is going to be one. The first track off The Fall Out, Versions, was all I needed to know that I wanted to hear more.

The Official Video for the New Single Versions from the Upcoming album The Fall Out SummerChild Records 2015 Manhattan Records 2015 (Japan). Also available on TIDAL.

Versions has an acoustic feel to it and the vocal range that Rigo uses reminds me of Michael Jackson’s work on Thriller. Think Human Nature and The Lady In My Life. Yes, Rigo has acknowledge Jackson as a musical influence, but that isn’t to say that Rigo is trying to imitate Jackson. Rigo has his own style that is smooth, but also raw and gritty. I absolutely love the premise of Versions as it is a love song with a dose of reality.

Keep Me In Your Heart has a dual approach to rhythm and I much prefer the slower aspects of the song as I feel they really highlight Rigo’s vocals. That said, I can appreciate the approach Rigo was going for with this song. One issue that I did find on this track was distortion in the piano/keyboard aspects of the track, especially in the first 10 seconds of the song. Interestingly, this distortion wasn’t as apparent when I was listening to the song via speakers, but it is positively jarring on the ears when listening with headphones. I initially thought that it might be my headphones, but upon doing a series of tests across my various components, I found that it is definitely part of the song. I even went as far as selecting the track at a lower resolution on TIDAL to make sure it wasn’t just an encoding error. Then, I hate to say it, but I turned to YouTube and it is definitely part of the song and most likely Rigo’s artistic style. While the distortion doesn’t cause me to dislike the song, I can imagine that when I’m playing the album in future, I will likely proceed to the next song. I’m not against experimenting with sound, or distorting sound, I just don’t feel it was done well in this particular situation.

Ambulance is sonically appealing with many atmospheric layers that I find enhances the song. This broken heart love song is simply excellent and I love the lyrical aspects of the song. Yes, dear long-time reader, I am finally listening to the lyrics. Interestingly, this song makes me smile and I find the song humorous. I’m sure this wasn’t the intended purpose of the song, but this is Subjective Sounds and that is how I subjectively appreciate the song. Just listen to the chorus and you will know what I mean. Either way, it is a really nice mellow song that you just have to listen to.

Easy To Let Go has a fantastic rhythm and Rigo’s vocal capabilities are highlighted in this song. Unfortunately the distortion in the low end, that is baked into the artistry of the song, is a distraction; especially when compared to Rigo’s smooth vocals. Again, this is only really highlighted on headphones. Whenever I review an album, I always listen to it via loudspeakers and headphones (both over-the-ear and in-ear). This allows me to experience the album differently. That isn’t to say that one is better than the other, but there are differences in sound reproduction, even if you’re using the same DAC/Amplifier combination. The simple fact is that headphones are so close to the ear drum, with little to no ambient noise in-between, ensuring sound waves are not interrupted or dropped off by mere distance from the speaker. This often results in hearing more detail if you have a decent set of headphones. This song has a lot of promise, but I would love to see the track remastered with a cleaner bass track and less vocal distortion.

Honest is your run-of-the-mill pop track, but there is nothing wrong with that as it is an enjoyable listen.

The Fall Out is a song that really highlights Rigo’s unique vocal style. The song has a nice twang about it and my immediate thought was it could be a fantastic country song. However, as a slow pop tune, it is thoroughly enjoyable. I should also note that at the end of the song there is a guitar and bass string that are purposely played out of tune to highlight the lyrical content. It is a perfect way to conclude the track and ensure a symbiosis between the lyrics and music.

I find the song, I Wanna Be Loved, to be rather complex, but I love the complexity. There are a lot of influences here and as I listen I can’t help but think of iconic artist influences such Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley, and Michael Jackson merged into a single song. It is one of my favourite songs on the album.

Official Music Video to "Just Drive" by August Rigo Connect with August Rigo: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AugustRigoMusic Twitter: https://twitter.com/augustrigo Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/augamatic. Also available on TIDAL.

Just Drive is a song that ticks all the boxes for me when it comes to pop music. My body moves, the beat is present but not overbearing, and the vocal delivery is superb.

Why Won’t You Dance With Me is in the same category as Just Drive. Perfect. I love it!

A Mother’s Vow is a beautiful song to end the album on. It is arguably the best track on the entire album. The introduction of the electric guitar and drum beat is perfect and not distracting from Rigo’s lyrical approach and song meaning. Distortion, while present in this track, is used respectfully and in this case enhances the song. Interestingly, at the end of the song, the track continues in silence for about 30 seconds. I’ve no idea why this is the case, but if you have the album on repeat, it does allow a reflective moment before going back to the first track. If that was the artist’s intention, then it certainly makes sense.

Overall, August Rigo’s album The Fall Out is exceptional for an artist that is endeavouring to commence a solo career, having previously been a writer/co-writer for artists that include, but are not limited to, Justin Bieber, One Direction, and Chris Brown.

Rigo has an undeniable talent and while the before mentioned artists are not always on my radar, their collective success speaks volumes and proves that Rigo as a song writer and musician is one to watch in the future.

I can’t wait to hear a new album, hopefully with a little less distortion, but until then The Fall Out will be getting many repeat plays on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

The Fall Out is also available for purchase in CD-quality FLAC on the TIDAL Store. The album is also available on the iTunes Store.

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Sixx:A.M. – Prayers For The Damned Vol. 1 (CD Review)

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Sixx:A.M. – Prayers For The Damned Vol. 1 (CD Review)

For years I have been watching Sixx:A.M. evolve from a side project to a fully blown iconic rock and roll band. Nikki Sixx: DJ Ashba and James Michael are the creative trio behind the band and they have just released their new album Prayers For The Damned Vol. 1. With decades of experience between the trio, Sixx:A.M. have recorded a series of songs that will entertain rock and roll music lovers for generations to come.

While it was sad to see Sixx et al retire Mötley Crüe, and DJ Ashba resign from his position as lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, I’m glad both they did because the focus these incredible musicians have given to this album has made it arguably the best rock and roll album of 2016; that is until Vol. 2 is released later this year. While I am looking forward to Vol. 2, Vol. 1 has exceeded all my expectations.

The double album format is nothing new in the world of rock and roll, but it can be challenging for fans as I still don’t know which Use Your Illusion album I prefer. In fact, just between me and you, I think that double album release could have been compiled into a single album as there is quite a bit of filler. Whereas, Prayers For The Damned has no filler tracks on Vol. 1. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t know how Sixx:A.M. is going to top the recordings on Vol. 1

I first became aware of the Sixx:A.M. upon the release of The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack. Seriously, who releases a soundtrack for a book? Pure brilliance! However, it wasn’t until the release of This Is Gonna Hurt that I truly saw what was possible from the band.

When I purchased This Is Gonna Hurt, it was the iTunes LP edition that included a gorgeous interface and additional content that would rival any blockbuster film release. At the time it was one of the very first iTunes LP releases that I purchased and I remember thinking that this is how music should be presented in the digital realm. Unfortunately, due to either a lack of support by the music industry, or Apple, that format never really took off. To be honest, Apple never really did anything with the format and playback is still limited to iTunes on a Mac or PC. Unfortunately, these types of cool ‘digital’ release features are restricted by the technology of the day and ongoing support of the particular format. Anyone remember ‘Enhanced CD’? Anyway, Prayers For The Damned Vol. 1 doesn’t concern itself with gimmick additions as it is all about the music.

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When I ordered Prayers Of The Damned Vol. 1, it was for the signature edition CD. Unfortunately, Australian retailer JB Hi-Fi didn’t send me the signed release, despite getting my order completed before they sold out, and within time applicable time. JB Hi-Fi has not even replied to my emails about the error. Such a shame that retailers disappoint consumers. If it weren’t for the promised signatures, I would have purchased the album on vinyl, but I’ll end up doing that anyway. Yes, the album is good enough to own in both formats and stream regularly on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

The mastering of Prayers For The Damned Vol. 1 is perfect for the style of music with only minimal cut-off being noticed on the cymbals. Plus, the overall production, vocal delivery, and musicality of the band is off the charts and that minor issue therefore becomes somewhat irrelevant in my mind.

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For this release I was hoping for a digipak design, rather than a jewel case. My case cracked in the mail, thanks again JB Hi-Fi (for pathetic packaging), but that additional tactile element would have added to the ‘album’ experience for me. Gorgeous photography and layout are included throughout the liner notes, but I was a little disappointed that the lyrics were not included. Now, regular readers will know that I class vocals as just another instrument as I don’t necessarily follow the meaning of a song. However, Sixx:A.M. is a rock and roll band with a social consciousness and therefore their lyrics are relevant to life and the empowerment of the listener. Hence, on this occasion, it was important to me.

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Let’s take a look at the songs:

Rise is inspirational and sets the tone for the entire album with high reaching vocals and fat guitar and bass riffs that merge perfectly with some of the best drumming I have heard on any recent rock and roll album. Dustin Steinke deserves his drumming credit, and permanent role in Sixx:A.M., as his performance is flawless across the entire album.  

You Have Come To The Right Place continues the before mentioned style with a groove element that prevents you from sitting still. In fact, I’ve been using this album on my daily walks over the last few days and it gives you inspiration to keep pushing through as you strut along with the beat.

I’m Sick mellows things out a little, but not for long as it picks up frantically when the chorus kicks in. This is a song that I had to listen to a few times, in order to fully appreciate it. Now it is one of my favourite songs on the album.

Prayers For The Damned is what I call symphonic rock and roll. Think rock ballad + symphonic orchestra tuning + rock and roll. It is exceptional! DJ Ashba makes that guitar sing. Axl was insane for never releasing a new Guns ‘N Roses album with Ashba as the lead guitarist. Yes, Slash is a rock god, but Ashba is easily his equal and this album proves that.

Better Man has an acoustic feel to it. If you have listened to 7, you will know just how beautiful this band can sound unplugged. James Michael is an incredible vocalist and I think what I truly appreciate about his vocal delivery is the clarity he brings to the music. Unlike many rock vocalists, he doesn’t slur/blur his lyrics. Perhaps this is the reason why I would have liked to have the lyrics included in this release.

Can’t Stop is presented with the verse in a spoken word lyrical style. It works perfectly with the accompanying music and overall style of the band. The song is moody and full of attitude with Nikki’s bass tracks complementing the entire song while Ashba tortures his guitar.

When We Were Gods has a beautiful verse, but I’m not blown away by the chorus. I’m torn, I’ve listened to this song no less than twenty times, in the album format, and I still have mixed feelings about it.

Belly Of The Beast is a song that reminds me of Shout At The Devil. That isn’t to say that Sixx:A.M. has reimagined Mötley Crüe, but what I am saying is this song is going to be a fan favourite live; just as Shout At The Devil was. Basically, I love this song and enjoy singing along while strumming the old air guitar. If you only listen to one song from this album, make it this one. Michael’s vocal range on this track is incredible.

Everything Went To Hell is head banger material. Fast, then melodic, then fast again. Does anything else have to be said?

The Last Time (My Heart Will Hit The Ground) is just a cool title with some magical guitar work that makes for a very enjoyable rock and roll song.

Rise Of The Melancholy Empire closes out the album perfectly. As you listen to this song, you naturally become compelled to play the album again.

The bottom line is that is you’re a rock and roll fan, you need to own this album. Sixx:A.M. have proven that rock and roll is not dead. Those who say it is should kiss their old bands goodbye and reinvent themselves as Sixx and Ashba have.

James Michael is not only a legendary producer, that has worked with a number of successful artists such as Meat Loaf, but he is an exceptional vocalist in his own right and a perfect fit for the band.

Now, we just have to wait for Vol. 2. I still don’t know how they are going to top Vol. 1 as I truly feel it is the best rock and roll album, thus far, of 2016.

Prayers For The Damned Vol. 1 is available on Vinyl, CD, and TIDAL Hi-Fi.

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The Transformers: The Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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The Transformers: The Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

As a child of the 80s, The Transformers was one of the most amazing franchises that a young boy could be exposed to. In a classic good versus evil story arc, The Transformers transformed our minds and defined what was possible with animation techniques in the early to mid 80s.

I remember as a child receiving an Optimus Prime action figure, complete with his transforming trailer. I was in heaven and despite the toy being primitive by today’s standards, it was truly revolutionary at the time.

Also during that time, the original television series of The Transformers began to air and a couple of years later, Transformers The Movie would be released. I remember being captivated by the film, although I wouldn’t see it until it received commercial television rights in Australia some years later. Interestingly, I don’t recall the soundtrack from the film, but when I saw that Music on Vinyl was getting set to re-issue a limited edition pressing on vinyl, I ordered the soundtrack without being aware of the track listing. It was the collector in me. The artwork is exquisite and being a numbered collectable, well I just had to have that for my collection. Music on Vinyl pressed 1000 numbered editions on transparent blue vinyl. I have number 899 and I believe the other numbered editions are now sold out, although you can still get the re-issue on standard black vinyl.

Streamers will be happy to know the soundtrack is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. It also contains four additional tracks, although one is not currently licensed for streaming. The licensing is such a major problem for soundtracks when they are added to streaming services. The music industry really needs to work on a solution to this problem. All you have to do is look how many songs are missing from Pulp Fiction, to see what the problem is. Seriously, if you can’t put all the tracks on, then perhaps it is best to not release the album on streaming services until agreements are made. Interestingly, in the case of Pulp Fiction, all songs are still permitted for vinyl and CD replication worldwide. Similarly, all tracks are available for sale on iTunes. As a music fan, it is simply frustrating. I wonder if the music executives know that you can stream all the songs, from the soundtrack, on YouTube for free. That’s an argument for another day, but at least in the case of The Transformers soundtrack, all of the songs bar one are included in the streaming option.

I must admit that I love writing these posts, but it is costing me an arm and a leg. In doing some background research I just found that the soundtrack was also re-released for Black Friday – Record Store Day 2015 on a new coloured, and etched, vinyl release that is limited to 5,000 pressings. If I wasn’t such a huge Transformers fan, I might overlook this release, but I must have it. Yes, I’ve already emailed Ben at Goldmine Records to see if he can get it for me. He is ordering a few copies, so get in touch with him If you want a copy.

Over the last couple of years my son has become equally engrossed in The Transformers. Perhaps this is a result of my influence, but it could also be attributed to the release of new films and the exceptional Transformers Prime animated series. It is wonderful to be able to share this passion with him and when the record arrived he was as blown away as I was. As much as I enjoy the album, I think he enjoys it more. We will often sit down in front of the stereo and build Lego together while the album is spinning. It is a father/son moment to be cherished.

The vinyl pressing is exceptional, as are all Music on Vinyl releases. I’ve yet to acquire one that I’m disappointed in. From the outer sleeve to the record itself, it is truly representative of quality and the sonic aspect of the album is exceptional. Similarly, TIDAL Hi-Fi’s edition sounds full and complete while matching the mastering found on the vinyl release. Hence, you simply can’t go wrong with this album. That is unless you’re not an 80s hair metal fan.

Yes, the soundtrack is primarily infused with hairspray and gel, but there is a small part of my heart that loves the 80s hair metal scene. Many of you will likely feel it is corny, and perhaps it is, but the power ballad is a sing-a-long marvel that permits usage of the air guitar. How can that be a bad thing?

Now you may recall, before my ramblings got out of control, that when I ordered the album I had no idea what type of music was on it. I purchased it for the franchise and for the cover artwork. I know many collectors who do the same thing. The artwork looks cool, so I’ll buy it. I must admit I haven’t done that for a while, but surprisingly you tend to become interested in the music if you like the artwork.

The first song The Touch is performed by Stan Bush. It isn’t a bad rock song, but it is just a little too ‘campy’ for my liking.

Instruments Of Destruction is grungy, without being grunge in style. It has a magnificent beat and the guitar elements are exceptionally controlled despite being the type of song where the guitar solo could easily become paramount. However, I love N.R.G.’s vocalist, Les Brown, and the range he has on his voice. He reminds me of Ronnie James Dio.

Death Of Optimus Prime is a somber and classically infused instrumental track that is simply beautiful. While remaining classical, it doesn’t feel out of place on the album. There are certainly symphonic elements that reflect the overall feel of the album thereby encouraging flow.

Dare is another song by Stan Bush. It is thoroughly enjoyable, with a fast beat, but I think Stan Bush has to be the king of ‘campy’ songs.

Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way by Spectre General is an enjoyable song throughout the versus, but the chorus is just too repetitive. That said, it suits the film and franchise perfectly.

The Transformers Theme ROCKS!

Escape is another instrumental track, by Vince DiCola, that despite starting slowly picks up pace with the rest of the album and is the musical equivalent of watching the action depicted in the film.

Hunger is another track from Spectre General and has some killer guitar riffs and guttural vocal tones.

Autobot/Decepticon Battle is self explanatory. It is of course instrumental and works exceptionally well with the album tracking and the film.

The final track on the album is by Weird Al Yankovic and is titled Dare To Be Stupid. I must admit that it took me a few listens to get used to, and enjoy, this track. Nevertheless, if you hear a song often enough, it has the ability to grow on you. This one certainly has! It is a fun track, albeit a little different to the other songs on the album, but not so different that it detracts from the album experience.

While that is the entire track listing on the vinyl re-issue, the TIDAL Hi-Fi version has three additional instrumental tracks. All are relevant to the film, but I am glad they weren’t included on the vinyl re-issue as they would have been out of place with the selection chosen. That said, they are enjoyable to listen to via streaming.

I’d recommend this soundtrack to anyone who enjoys the transformers franchise, or the 80s hair metal rock and roll era. As a compilation it works surprisingly well, with no track that is so lacklustre it prevents enjoyment. 

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The Never Ending Story – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Composers: Klaus Doldinger And Giorgio Moroder)

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The Never Ending Story – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Composers: Klaus Doldinger And Giorgio Moroder)

The Never Ending Story is one feature film from my childhood that has stood the test of time. I have thoroughly enjoyed introducing it to my children as it has such a positive message about reading and the subsequent fantasy worlds that can be created by that very act.

Not only do I have the film, and of course the associated soundtrack, but I have the book and have read it a number of times. It simply captivates me and I strongly suggest sourcing a copy if you’re an avid reader.

Despite my appreciation of the franchise, I never thought to purchase the soundtrack. This is a strange omission as I thoroughly enjoy the music from the film and generally gravitate to soundtracks of films I like. It was actually my son who asked, upon seeing the film for the first time, if we could get the soundtrack.

While I definitely wanted to pick up the soundtrack on CD, I also wanted my children to be able to experience the soundtrack immediately, in order to secure their excitement in the franchise. Subsequently, I turned to iTunes/Apple Music and noted that they had the soundtrack available. However, when I began streaming the album, it lacked significantly in dynamic range and was certainly inferior to the average dynamic range of 11 that is found on the CD. It was just flat and lifeless. However, streamers will find that the TIDAL Hi-Fi version sonically matches the CD. That said, it is the same mastering across all variants, so there should be no difference. Perhaps this difference in tonality is due to the use of an inferior codec from when the album was first encoded and released for sale on iTunes. I should note that this iTunes/Apple Music edition is not a Mastered for iTunes release.

Also of note, as a general observation, is the superior audio quality of the film’s Blu-Ray DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track when compared to the CD. Yes, I acknowledge the variation between the formats, but it is significant enough to mention. While the CD is superb, I’d love to get my hands on the soundtrack used in the film.

One of the disappointments I have with the soundtrack is the track listing. The songs are presented out-of-order, in comparison to when they appeared in the film. I’ve no idea why this tracking was chosen, but it certainly requires me to program the CD player, or TIDAL Hi-Fi playlist, to ensure the tracks are presented in the order that best mimics the film. If you have never seen the film, then this is of little concern.

Another concern I have is the naming convention of the soundtrack. The CD soundtrack is presented as The Never Ending Story, but the film is presented, depending on region, as either The Neverending Story with the alternative being The NeverEnding Story. Yet, the book that started it all is simply The Neverending Story. Yes, it confuses me as well. Personally, I don’t have an issue or preference with any of these titling methods, but I would love to see consistency across the franchise. I specifically mention this deviation as it took me a while to find the soundtrack on TIDAL Hi-Fi because they have it listed as The Never Ending Story. TIDAL’s search engine likely needs an overhaul, as iTunes easily found the variant, but it wouldn’t have been an issue if all related elements had the same naming convention.

Despite these small frustrations, the soundtrack offers an enchanting series of instrumental songs that are inspirational and moving. The one vocal track on the album is the Never Ending Story that is sung by Limahl, best known as lead singer of the band Kajagoogoo. The song at its core is pop-synth, truly resonating with the 80s sound of the time. Yes, it is clichéd, but it is still thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. Interestingly, the song really doesn’t sound as dated as many other pop-synth recordings. Although, perhaps it is just nostalgia that keeps this song fresh in my mind.

Proceeding through the track listing and Swamps Of Sadness certainly lives up to its title as the song is demure but bold and uplifting at the same time. Without a doubt it is one of my most favourite tracks, from the soundtrack, as it is moving and the corresponding scenes in the film amplify my connection with the song.

The Ivory Tower is an epic song, but there is a major problem with the edition that is available on the soundtrack. It is not the same edition as the one found in the film. The film showcases the song in a beautiful symphonic presentation that could be appreciated by any classical music fan. Yet, the soundtrack has swapped out this performance for a lacklustre pop-synth edition of the song. Disappointing to say the least! Below are the two different renditions. The first is the original that was presented in the film, while the second video is representative of the edition found on the soundtrack. 

Ruined Landscape is a delightfully sombre piece of music that not only applies to the film, but could be viewed in reflection of many beautiful landscapes that have been destroyed by man’s incessant need for natural resources.

Sleepy Dragon is much more uplifting and the guitar work in this song is exceptionally refined and not overpowering. That said, it is one of the weaker songs on the album and I think it is mainly due to its repetitious style.

Bastian’s Happy Flight is an instrumental song that is simply fun. It truly draws me back into the film, but without that connection I’m not sure the song is strong enough to stand on its own as a classical piece of music.

Fantasia is short but rather atmospheric. While it links in with the film, I would love to have seen an expanded rendition on the album.

Atreju’s Quest is elegant and and strong throughout and is beautifully performed. It is a slow climb and then builds to the ultimate climax, making it one of those songs that could easily be added to any classical movie theme collection.

Theme Of Sadness isn’t so much sad as it is thought provoking. The flute (I believe) is just stunning in its subtleness throughout this song.

Atreju Meets Falkor is a lovely song that gives you the impression of flying, although, that is likely symbolic of the film scene that accompanies it. I could also see this song being perfect for a country drive as the landscape is passing by and you are looking forward to what life holds ahead of you.

Mirrorgate – Southern Oracle is eerie, but captivating. It certainly links well with the associated film scenes, but it doesn’t feel out of place as an instrumental track on its own. Actually, it somewhat reminds me of the style of music that Jean Michel Jarre performs.

Gmork truly could have been left off the album. With a runtime of less than 30 seconds, it is merely present because it applies to a single dramatic scene in the film. If you haven’t seen the movie, you won’t enjoy it.

Moonchild is probably another one that I would say doesn’t add much to the soundtrack, although it is pivotal in the film.  

The Auryn is simply magical. While it isn’t lyrically based, the backing harmonic choir performs the tonal range of the song exceptionally well.

Happy Flight is really a shorter version of Bastian’s Happy Flight. There is certainly nothing wrong with this repetition and I feel it closes the album out nicely.

There is really no reason to omit this album from your collection, but it will likely appeal to those of you who enjoy the film, or are primarily interested in classical and instrumental scores. That said, if you can’t stand continuous shifts in instrumental music styles, then this album may not be for you. However, there are certainly a number of standout tracks that simply must be heard. 

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Iron Maiden – Twilight Zone/Wrathchild (7-inch 45rpm Single)

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Iron Maiden – Twilight Zone/Wrathchild (7-inch 45rpm Single)

Following Women In Uniform, Iron Maiden would release their fourth single, but it would take the form of a Double A-Side. For those unaware of the concept, a Double A-Side is where an artist will release a single that contains two album based songs, rather than a B-side which is often a live performance or song that didn’t make the album cut. It is a practice that has sadly died out over the last couple of decades and while not all B-sides are great, I feel we are missing out on some hidden treasures.

In this case however, Twilight Zone was initially a non-album single in the UK, although it was released on the US edition of Killers in 1981, and would be added to world-wide distribution of the album when the enhanced re-issue edition of Killers was released in 1998. That said, not all post 1998 editions have the song. Most notably the 2014 vinyl re-issues and the 2015 Mastered for iTunes release omit this classic song, amongst other editions.  

The subsequent cover of the 7-inch release targeted the song Twilight Zone for inspiration as it showed Eddie, Maiden’s mascot, returning to his beloved girlfriend. Twilight Zone is in-fact a love song from beyond the grave as it appears that England’s then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, did revoke Eddie’s license to live, as insinuated on the cover of Women In Uniform.

Speaking of covers, Iron Maiden would once again be criticized in the media for having a cover that depicted sexism and the stalking of a young girl. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see either of those elements. Anyone who read the lyrics, or listened to the song, would understand that the artwork is a representation of the song as it depicts Eddie’s attempt to reach his beloved from his imprisonment in the Twilight Zone. Eddie’s photo is even presented on the dresser, thereby indicating a connection to the ghostly figure.

All I can say is sometimes ‘political correctness’ goes a little too far. While I don’t condone gratuitous sex or violence, within art and music, a little common sense and research goes a long way. That said, I acknowledge cultural perceptions in 1981 were quite different to how we perceive this cover today.

With this in mind, I can’t help but wonder what kafuffle was made of the original Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction cover. While that artwork is still included in the liner notes, retailers refused to stock it with the original cover, hence it was restricted in most regions and I believe on all formats other than vinyl.

As we take a look beyond the artwork, it is immediately clear that Twilight Zone and Wrathchild are both very much A-Side tracks. I absolutely love the guitar and bass introduction of Wrathchild. It is hard hitting and I feel is one of the first times we see Iron Maiden as not just a heavy metal band, but a band which can turn their music into a theatrical rock opera.

Similarly, Twilight Zone also fits into the style I have mentioned above. The initial guitar riff and drum beats set the tone, but I find I actually care more for the lyrical component of Twilight Zone as it has a story that has been enhanced in importance through the cover art design. This is why I collect vinyl as it enhances the experience.

For those interested, you can still get the limited edition 7-inch release. It is well worth owning as the presentation and mastering is superb.

If you would prefer to purchase both songs on other formats, they are of course available on some of the post 1998 Killers editions that are available on CD and Vinyl.

Killers is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music for those of you who prefer to stream.

While all these options are great, the version I would recommend, for Killers, is the vinyl edition. This is because the CD, TIDAL Hi-Fi, and iTunes/Apple Music (Mastered For iTunes) releases all have low dynamic ranges that average 07 out of 20. The vinyl by comparison is 12 out of 20. For more information on these scores, please click here. That said, many of the vinyl re-issues omit Twilight Zone, so please make sure you check the track listing before purchasing.

Despite this, I still enjoy listening to my 1998 edition of Killers on CD, but it is sonically compromised when compared directly with the vinyl edition. That said, they never really did master turntables in cars, did they? 

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Buddy Holly – Greatest Hits (Vinyl)

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Buddy Holly – Greatest Hits (Vinyl)

Buddy Holly is one of those artists that one must simply have in their collection. As a rock and roll pioneer, Holly forever changed how music was performed. His new sound came at a time when the audience was ready for a shift from the big band vocal jazz and blues performances that had been culturally popular prior to the 1950s. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with those before mentioned styles, Holly was able to adapt his new sound and integrate it with traditional genres. Although, I’ve no doubt that many parents took offence, at the time, to his style and the topics he discussed via song. Perhaps it is simply a generational thing, but that response is still applicable in modern society.

Unfortunately, Holly would die tragically in a plane crash when he was only 22. It still amazes me how much wonderful music he brought to the world in the four short years between 1955 and 1959. I often sit and ponder what could have been if he, and many other musical greats, remained with us longer. Would they have further evolved music into a different art form that would seem foreign to us today? Of course, I don’t have any answer for my own hypothesising, but I can say with certainty that we are extraordinarily lucky to have the collection of songs we have.

Over the years, I had become aware of Holly’s most famous songs, but I never owned any of his albums. In 2007 I decided to change that as I purchased That’ll Be The Day from iTunes. Along with that song, that he recorded with The Crickets, I purchased a variety of 50s and 60s tracks that I didn’t have at the time. I cherish all those songs to this day and will write about them in future posts, but for now I’m busy collecting as much of this music on vinyl as I can.

With that in mind, I had recently picked up Buddy Holly and The Crickets’ album, The Chirping Crickets. It is fantastic! Seriously, get yourself a copy. For streamers, it is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

By now, you’re probably wondering how I came about collecting Buddy Holly’s Greatest Hits. For Christmas my closest friends gave me the book Rockwiz Decades – The Greatest Songs Of Our Time. Within its pages, I came across Buddy Holly’s song True Love Ways. I was captivated by the song’s beauty. It has the perfect mixture of jazz, blues, and orchestral backing music. As a result, I truly believe it is now my favourite song from Buddy Holly’s catalogue. Interestingly, I had never heard the song before and I went in search of obtaining a copy. The album it was originally released on was the posthumous release The Buddy Holly Story, Vol. 2. Unfortunately, that album hasn’t been re-issued on vinyl, so I kept searching and found that it was available on the Greatest Hits vinyl release. I was elated to find my most trusted record dealer, Goldmine Records, had a copy in stock. I was equally excited when the album arrived this morning.

The Vinyl Passion pressing contains a selection of 19 songs and certainly lives up to it’s Greatest Hits moniker. It is also perfectly silent. I’ve never fully researched how the actual DMM (Direct Metal Mastering) Cutting process works, but I have noticed that albums done using this process are always of high quality, while being reasonably priced. Regardless, the sonic mastering of this album is exquisite and matches my expectations.

Unfortunately, this album and the specific track listing, isn’t available on CD or via streaming services. That said, I will discuss some of the songs in further detail and link to the editions that are available for purchase via iTunes. The songs are also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music, so simply copy and paste the song names. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this collection; I know I do.

Peggy Sue reminds me of many of the songs from that era that would be named after an individual known to the writer. This candid biographical style of writing music seems to have diminished in the last couple of decades and I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t a case of avoiding litigation these days. If it is, the world has surely gone crazy. Regardless, the song has a great early rock beat that is easy to sing–along with.

Oh, Boy! is a wonderful song with a speedy tempo that mixes the lead vocal and background harmony so well, you will not be sure which one to sing–along with. I like songs like that. The ones where you are the lead performer during the chorus, but can then sink into the background during the verses.

Maybe Baby is the song that makes me think Buddy Holly is the sing–along king. Seriously, I’m not normally a lyrics kind of guy, but when Buddy is playing, I have to sing. The songs are so catchy, but they are not clichéd. Maybe Baby, along with Holly’s entire catalogue, remain timeless.

Listen To Me is quite a shift in tempo and I feel that is slows down the record a little too much. A simple re-tracking would have solved this problem but I find Listen To Me has a very similar tone to some of the early Beatles songs well over a decade later. I know The Beatles were inspired by 1950s rock and roll, I would love to know if this song had any impact on them.

Rave On is an epic song that sounds more akin to the early 60s style of rock and roll. I certainly don’t believe it would inaccurate to say that Holly was well ahead of his time.

Fool’s Paradise sounds like a lovely place to be. I was there once in my early courting days. If anyone knows how to get back there, please let me know! Fool’s Paradise is just one of those lovely romantic songs.

Early In The Morning is perhaps the only song that I find irritating on the album. It is a good song, but I feel the background vocals are a little too much. Think The Chipettes.

Heartbeat reminds me of the UK television police drama. The show used a cover of Holly’s original, recorded by Nick Berry, as their theme song. I truly like both editions of the song, but sometimes the overcommercialisation of a song can have detrimental effects on one’s recognition.

It Doesn’t Matter Anymore is a song that I recall from my childhood, I just can’t exactly recall why. Not being able to remember is going to drive me nuts. If I ever figure it out, I will update the post.  

Raining In My Heart is a tragic love song, but beautifully executed. Unfortunately, on my copy of the record, there are a couple of dropouts that occur within five rotations of the song commencing. It isn’t the end of the world. This is just one of the limitations of vinyl. It is just a shame given how good the rest of the album is. That said, I still love looking at the record spinning and the needle gliding through the groove. It may be old technology, by today’s standards, but it is still amazing and dare I say it, it sounds better (okay, different!).

Midnight Shift is simply a catchy song that works well in this compilation.

Peggy Sue Got Married is a sequel to the original song Peggy Sue. While it pays homage to the original, it is uniquely different with a more bluesy sound. I have always enjoyed song sequels and their appearance on concept albums. While this song in particular wasn’t part of a concept album, it was likely one of the first songs that was presented in the sequel format. That said, as with movies, the song sequel rarely meets the expectation set by the original. That is certainly true in this case.

Learning The Game isn’t one of my favourite songs as it has too much guitar twang. That said, I recognise how popular the acoustic twang was in that era and I’m sure many of you would enjoy it.

(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care is a fun song. It has also been covered by a who’s who of the music industry including, of course, Buddy Holly. I have Queen’s edition on Hungarian Rhapsody (Live In Budapest 1986). They do it well, but the mimicking vocal style Freddie Mercury applies to the song is a little over-the-top.

Valley Of Tears closes out the album with the haunting pipe organ being used in the backing track. I don’t know about anyone else, but I would love to see the pipe organ used more in modern music. I think it has a undesirable reputation due to its association with churches and associated ceremonies, along with horror medias, but it is a powerful instrument that immediately invokes emotion.

Buddy Holly is an amazing artist with a catalogue of songs that any musician would envy. If you don’t have his music in your collection, you should change that as soon as possible. You will never regret it!

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Iron Maiden – Women In Uniform (7-inch 45rpm Single)

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Iron Maiden – Women In Uniform (7-inch 45rpm Single)

Following the controversy of Sanctuary, Iron Maiden couldn’t help but once again show England’s then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, on the cover of their follow-up single Women In Uniform. Presented in classic Maiden-style artwork, Thatcher is seeking revenge on the beloved, but sinful, Maiden mascot Eddie. As mentioned previously, this type of iconic artwork is all tongue-in-cheek, but it does demonstrate the attitude of the times in which this single was released.

Although, it is important to note that Women In Uniform is not a Maiden original as it was first written and recorded by the Australian band Skyhooks, for their Guilty Until Proven Insane album. While Skyhooks is an Australian rock icon, and certainly a band that I have much respect for, I don’t particularly like their original composition of Women In Uniform. I find the Skyhook’s rendition is a little too pop driven and only truly becomes a rock song during the memorable chorus. It is simply missing that harder edge that I feel Maiden was able to bring to the song. That said, if Maiden hadn’t covered the song, I likely would have been smitten with the Skyhooks original.

While I feel the Maiden version is superior, it is widely regarded by the band, especially founder and bassist Steve Harris, as being a substandard recording due to Tony Platt (producer) mixing the song without the band’s input or approval. As a result, the song was only briefly presented on the original Australian release of Killers. Following the 1998 enhanced re-issue, Women In Uniform was removed from the track listing and subsequently only available hence forth on the 2014 re-issued 7-inch vinyl release. Women In Uniform was also featured on the now out-of-print Best of the 'B' Sides, that was included in Eddie’s Archive Box Set.

Women In Uniform has yet to be released on any streaming service, but the video clip is available for purchase on iTunes as it goes down in history as being their first recorded music video.

Iron Maiden has also made the song available, on their official YouTube channel, for those of you who don’t wish to purchase the 7-inch vinyl edition.

Paul Di’Anno, Maiden’s original vocalist, not only recorded the original but would go on to cover his own cover again in 2006 when he released the re-recorded compilation album The Classics: The Maiden Years. This album is not available for streaming, but you can hear the Di’Anno’s re-recording on TIDAL Hi-Fi or Apple Music as it appears on the The Early Iron Maiden Songbook album from 2010. Di’Anno also released the song on his 2012 release, Wrathchild – The Anthology.

I’m not sure how I really feel about re-recordings. Generally, they are released as a quick cash-grab and opportunity to return to popularity on the coattails of success, in this case Iron Maiden’s. That said, Di’Anno does a wonderful job with Women In Uniform and all other tracks that are presented on the before mentioned albums. They truly are worth seeking out and listening to.  

So, is Di’Anno’s re-recording better than the original he recorded with Iron Maiden in 1980?

Yes, and no! Clearly, Di’Anno’s newer release has a stronger rock edge to it and over the years his vocal delivery has developed, thereby bringing this re-recording inline with modern hard rock and metal recording styles. However, there is just something special about the Maiden original. It has their early raw sound that is reminiscent of a thoroughly pleasing live performance. That said, I don’t think you can wrong with either version.

The B-side on this 7-inch release contains the song Invasion. Unfortunately, the song is not available for those of you interested in streaming, but you can check it out on Maiden’s official YouTube channel below.

The song Invasion was originally released on Maiden’s debut EP, The Soundhouse Tapes. The EP is highly sought after by collectors and is ludicrously expensive, even for the most dedicated Maiden fans. That said, if you have a copy and would like to part with it, please let me know.

Invasion is classic Maiden and I would go as far as saying it was a stronger performance than their cover of Women In Uniform. The drum track and guitar riffs are exquisite and show a band that was well beyond their debut in terms of musicality and cohesion.

For the vinyl collectors out there, the 7-inch edition is still available and well worth owing. The pressing offers one of the best sonic representations of the band to date, although my only comparison for these particular songs is listening via the lossy YouTube quality, hence it is difficult to accurately compare. 

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The Art Of Noise – (Who's Afraid Of?) The Art Of Noise!

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The Art Of Noise – (Who's Afraid Of?) The Art Of Noise!

The time and place for this story may require some explanation for some readers. It was my seventh form year, my final year at college. Depending on time or place, you may be more familiar with "year 13" and "high school." In any case, I was 17 years old, living at home and not earning anything more than pocket money.

It was the year I began to take school less seriously, and it was probably while skipping English class again* that I walked into the seventh form common room to hear some most unusual sounds emanating from the turntable in the corner. Unusual but somehow compelling. When the needle reached the end one of my friends got up to flip it over, after which I asked to see what it was.

Released in 1984, Who's Afraid Of The Art Of Noise was the band's second release, but debut album. I'm not sure I've ever come across a more descriptive band name than Art Of Noise, for that aptly describes their style. Various descriptions label it as new wave, experimental rock, and techno-pop. Without fishing for a single genre, the music makes heavy use of the then emerging Fairlight synthesiser that would mark a lot of early 80s experimental sounds.

What does all that mean in practice? Lots of non-traditional "instruments" including car noises, people talking and various weird and wonderful electronic sounds. But as the band's name implies, from a collection of noises, comes art.

The opening track, A Time For Fear (Who's Afraid) kicks off with Fidel Castro making a speech about the ill-fated Bay of Pigs attack on his nation and later includes what appears to be a radio broadcast message from the (then very recent) 1983 invasion of Grenada. These, of course, are covered with a musical arrangement and this includes electronic 'notes' of some description and heavy percussion. It even includes what sounds like piston engined aircraft passing overhead, but used as a musical element rather than atmospheric sound. The whole track seems to have a military march feel to it – and I don't mean a marching song – but it dips into a most contradictory peace for a while in the middle and again at the end. It is perhaps one of the finest examples of the band's use of 'sound' or 'noise' rather than just pure musical notes. But this isn't the band's whole repertoire by a long shot.

Beat Box (Diversion One), despite it's name, is no mere diversion at 8:33 in length. Punchy, moderately paced, and with an attitude, this song makes use of stereo separation for some strong elements that make it quite fun to listen when you can get that separation in your room (or on headphones). Again, human voice is used heavily, although far more musically in this track. It is one of my favourite Art Of Noise tracks of all.

Snapshot does live up to its name at a mere 1:02 in length and is an odd, happy little tune that serves quite well as a transition to the final track of side one – the track that was the album's single and made a decent climb to number 8 in the UK charts.

Car sounds introduce Close To The Edit before a variety of musical elements including, once again, sampled human voices, build up a musical picture that is a delight at every note. At a similar pace to Beat Box, this track has a "cool" vibe about it that is my second favourite skill of the band after their use of unusual sounds to make music. This same vibe would appear with a vengeance in the Peter Gunn theme a couple of years later. Unlike the preceding tracks, there is actually singing in this one, although not much. But when it appears it is most beautiful and fits with the sound stage. This would have been the song that captured my imagination when I was 17, although I must admit I don't remember that moment clearly.

This video of Close To The Edit performed in 2004 looks to have far more live elements than the original as suggested in the comments. However, it absolutely captures the sound of the original in my opinion. What a joy to watch.

Side two starts with the album's title track which once again delves into the experimental side of the band – lots of vocal noises here including the almost surprising "Hey!" at the start, laughter of adults and children and even whole phrases – "Can I say something?" – are used as musical elements. This track is probably more typical of the band's eclectic side than A Time For Fear but I enjoy this one a little less as a musical whole.

The second track on side 2 is a magnificent piece of art. Once again switching into a completely different type of sound, Moments In Love is one of my favourite tracks in my entire music collection of well over 6,000 songs. Instrumental (well, almost), etherial, smooth, simple, beautiful, and over 10 minutes long, this track doesn't go many places but it is so beautiful I never want it to end. The reason I said it was almost instrumental is that, like Close To The Edit, the title of the song does make an appearance. But only those three words and they are so lilting that I hesitate to call them vocals rather than an important instrument in the song. In fact, for a time, the word "moments" is actually 'spoken' by instrument only, and not by voice, and indeed other 'notes' are clearly human voice but not distinct words – so where do you draw the line? In any case, if you're not relaxed and happy by the end of this track, then I don't know how I can help you.