Barbra Streisand – One Voice (Live Album Review)

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Barbra Streisand – One Voice (Live Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Send In The Clowns (Live) is beautiful!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Sophia Pfister – Birdcage (Album Review)

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Sophia Pfister – Birdcage (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Big Scary – Animal (Album Review)

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Big Scary – Animal (Album Review)

What an album cover! I don't know about you, but it drew me in as much as Jane's Addiction's Ritual De Lo Habitual did when released in 1989. In many respects, the cover art is an essential element as an album is often seen before it is heard. In that regard, Animal certainly creates a shock to the nervous system, engraining the imagery in one's subconscious. While the artwork may be a little confronting, it’s representative of only a single aspect of Big Scary; a dynamic Melbourne-based musical duo.

While I know very little about Big Scary, other than adoring Animal, their digital liner notes explain the artistic intent far more thoroughly than I could ever attempt to. However, if I were to summarise their intent, the concept that we can transcend our animal instincts and rise above the animal within is brilliant. Subsequently, Animal takes us on a sonic journey that is philosophically evolutionary.

Animal was also produced with vinyl in mind as each side of the double LP is perceived as its own self-contained entity, to be enjoyed independently or as part of a larger masterpiece. While this review will be based on the Apple Music stream, I'm keenly interested in getting my hands on the vinyl release as this aspect is a value-added proposition for the music lover and collector within. As I think further about this somewhat unique approach, I’m reminded of my beloved Sigur Rós – () album and how they approached the vinyl release in a similar manner. It’s wonderful to see independent artists thinking differently, not only about their musicality but how their music will be delivered to listeners. While part of the artistic intent was to allow the listener to play the album in a non-traditional chronological order, for simplicity, this review will focus on Animal with the same chronological tracking as seen on the following Apple Music stream.

Oxygen opens the album with a very raw drum beat that harks to the core animal status within us all. The electronic rhythm, while sonically dry, is extremely compelling. It's a great start to the album and I was hooked from the very first note.

Organism gets the body moving. The soundstage is diverse and layered, resulting in a song that is larger than the sum of its parts. Every aspect of Organism is perfect and it amazes me that music this good is made by an independent artist. I say that because Organism, and the entire album, sounds better than many big label/artist releases.

Double Darkness continues the somewhat sombre tones, but I love it! That vocal placement and delivery is sublime, reminding me of many Paul McCartney recordings.

Savior Add Vice seamlessly transitions from Double Darkness. Even the shift, a third of the way through, is done masterfully. Although, I don't like the vocal direction as much on this song as I feel the vocal is lost in the mix. That may, of course, have been the intent, and if so then the vocal becomes merely another sonic element in the soundstage.

Lone Bird is a killer song with an absolutely perfect rhythm and composition. This is what good music should sound like!

The Endless Story sees the album becoming increasingly upbeat and I don't know about you, but that rhythm sounds awfully familiar. Regardless, it’s a solid song that is thoroughly enjoyable. The vocal echo, normally a distractive element, works really well here, although the distortion in places is a little more in-your-face than I’d prefer.

Flutism suits the album but isn't really a track I connect with. I can't honestly say why it doesn't resonate with me as it isn't inherently bad, but all I know is it’s a little too left of the center for me.

Up And Up And Up is addictively brilliant!

Breathe Underwater slows the album down considerably. While it may feel a little disjointed to those of us streaming Animal, Breathe Underwater is the first song of the Resting element of the album. The other elements include, for the first four songs, Hunting, the next four, Lurking, and the final two Waking. Nevertheless, Breathe Underwater is a beautifully mellow song.

The Opposite Of Us continues the Resting phase of the album and for some reason, when I listen to this song, I ponder of what a U2/Bono and Alanis Morissette mashup would be like. Yes, dear reader, my mind is subjectively unique and even I have no idea where these correlations come from. Anyway, The Opposite Of Us is a beautiful song and is a perfect fit for the album.

Heaven On Earth is atmospherically stunning. I can only imagine how exceptional it would sound on vinyl, for the Apple Music stream is already magical.

Over Matter has a little too much volume and channel variation that I find to be rather distracting. Even the vocal delivery pace isn’t in harmony with the songs that came before it, resulting in a bit of a garbled mess.

Lamina is a great song to close the album with. The moody tones are reminiscent of the opening tracks and it is so good that I feel compelled to listen to Animal again and delve deeper into the modest back catalogue of Big Scary.

Overall, Animal is a compellingly addictive album that I thoroughly enjoy and will have to pick up on vinyl.

Animal is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes.

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

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Jimmy Barnes – Out In The Blue (Album Review)

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Jimmy Barnes – Out In The Blue (Album Review)

You should never judge a book by its cover, or an album for that matter. Yes, Jimmy Barnes's Out In The Blue has a cringe-worthy cover, but the musicianship within is worth looking past this stark reminder that the world’s rock stars are human just like you and I. Yes, I acknowledge and respect that Out In The Blue was written and recorded following Barnes’s open heart surgery and that the rock in his life has been his wife Jane; both aspects that the cover art represents. It just isn’t a compelling cover and given Barnes’s stature in the Australian music industry, it’s surprising this cover made it to the final release.

If you’re not familiar with Jimmy Barnes, he is near royalty in Australia. Be it his years as Cold Chisel’s frontman, or his extensive solo career, Barnes has carved out a legacy that many can only dream about. It also doesn’t hurt to have a vocal that is gritty yet soulfully smooth.

While I’ve been a fan of Barnsey, as he's affectionately known Down Under, since his Two Fires and Soul Deep eras. However, I must be completely honest by saying that much of his later catalogue failed to register on my radar. There was no particular reason but I do acknowledge that as the world became increasingly interconnected, my focus on the Australian music industry became less prominent. Of course, that was all to change when I read his stunning double biography, Working Class Boy and Working Class Man. Seriously, even if you’ve never listened to any of his music, Barnes is a master storyteller. The books really are page turners and I’m not ashamed to say I have a signed copy of Working Class Man as well as a digital copy. Excessive, perhaps, but my argument is that when I wanted to read it, we were moving at the time and my books were boxed and I couldn’t remember which box the book was in. Okay, that is a lame justification, but when I say that I have no regrets owning both copies, that is an indication of just how enjoyable his writing and life story is.

When reading music biographies, I find myself listening to the artist in question in the background. I love this process as I find it brings me closer to the artist, not in some weird perverted manner, but in understanding them and how elements of their life impacted their music. In all honesty, they broke the mould when they made this man but Barnes remains relevant to this day as he is willing to continue to break the preconceived notions of what it is to be a rock star. Therefore, dear reader, I ask you to fracture any misconceptions you may have about Barnes and the Australian music industry as you join me in discovering and enjoying Out In The Blue.

I Can't Tell You Why is classic Jimmy Barnes. It's a great start to the album.

Out In The Blue flows on beautifully from I Can't Tell You Why and is a lovely song to share the album's name. There is a country twang to this song that really works well for the multifaceted Barnes, perhaps in part influenced by respected country music producer Nash Chambers. Chambers sits in the production chair for this entire album and besides his own creative endeavours, he’s also the older brother of Australian country music legend Kasey Chambers, who coincidentally duets with Barnes on When Two Hearts Collide. Without a doubt, Chambers brings his own sound signature to the record and combined with Barnes’s talent and that of the supporting band, this song and the entire album is nothing short of exceptional.

You From Me has an interesting panning of the stereo image. It’s distracting if you prefer listening to music via headphones but it sounds perfect via speakers. That said, if the distortion and panning were dialled back a little, You From Me would be that much better.

Blue Hotel is a beautiful piano-based ballad that was penned by the exceptionally talented Neil Finn.

When Two Hearts Collide is a sensational duet with Kasey Chambers.

Red Light has a really familiar guitar intro that sounds rather similar to Glen Campbell's Southern Nights. Despite the similarities, I thoroughly enjoy listening to both artists and imitation is, after all, the greatest form of flattery. Regardless, Red Light is a killer song with a perfect amount of distortion.

Everything's Changing brings back the aforementioned stereo panning, but this time it’s a little more subtle. That said, I feel this song never really achieves greatness. There's a beautiful song hidden here, but it needs a remix, perhaps a re-imagining, to really realise its potential.

Better Off Alone is a great song that sounds as though it belongs in a different era. That isn't a bad thing as the 50s style is fantastic, but I feel it was a little pedestrian for Barnes, especially at that stage in his career.

Water Wash All Over Me is one of the greatest songs ever recorded, by anyone, and it reminds me why I love music. I could listen to this song on repeat indefinitely.

I'm Surprised is a great song.

Losing You isn't a bad song, but there's a little distortion in Barnes's vocal that sounds as though he was a little too close to the microphone. It’s a shame as it had the capacity to be a really solid B-side.

Forgiveness is a beautiful song to close the album on, ensuring I’ll listen to it again and stay within Barnes's catalogue.

Overall, Out In The Blue is an exceptional album that not only has some of Barnes's greatest recordings, but in a number of ways pays homage to the Cold Chisel years, his prior solo efforts, and his ability and willingness to shift styles, the culmination of which is a thoroughly compelling release that should be in everyone’s collection.

Out In The Blue is available on CD and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Out In The Blue is available on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Angus & Julia Stone – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Angus & Julia Stone – Self-Titled (Album Review)

To listen to Angus & Julia Stone is to experience nirvana. The Australian sibling duo is astonishingly good, pumping out songs in the keys of indie-pop and folk rock while maintaining an acoustic-based singer-songwriter style that will leave you in pure amazement.

Teaming up with superstar producer, Rick Rubin, I was initially concerned that this Self-Titled release might be compromised as Rubin is known for his involvement in the loudness wars, producing low dynamic range albums such as Metallica's Death Magnetic and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Californication. While one has to acknowledge that this Self-Titled release is right on the border, sonically this level of compression and distortion works incredibly well with the style of music and the Stone siblings’, often lower chord, vocal presentation. That said, the soundstage is rather expansive, allowing all sonic elements space, in the mix, to breathe.

As I’ve listened to the Self-Titled Angus & Julia Stone release on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music, I can say conclusively that there is no sonic difference between the two as the lossy Apple Music stream matches the lossless CD-quality streamed via TIDAL Hi-Fi. This is yet another example that validates that if the master is the same, there is little-to-no perceivable difference.

A Heartbreak sets the tone of the album and you'll clearly hear the distortion on this song just teetering into the red. It would have been nice to have the master reduced by a couple of decibels as the song is louder than the following tracks. Nevertheless, it's a great song to commence the album on.

My Word For It has a killer psychedelic sound signature that is simply addictive. Julia's smooth vocal is absolutely captivating on this song as she's right there in the room with you. A fantastic mix!

Grizzly Bear has an offbeat beginning, but once the musicality picks up, the rhythm will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping uncontrollably. An absolutely beautiful song!

Heart Beats Slow is a great song that I’d love to hear Stevie Nicks cover with Neil Finn.

Wherever You Are has a stunning acoustic introduction that builds progressively with a beat that will connect with your inner soul. While there are a number of vocal shifts throughout, that may deter some listeners, I feel it works extremely well given this song is largely stripped down from a production standpoint.

Get Home is lovely!

Death Defying Acts is moody and I love it! One of the best songs on the album and that is difficult to declare as the entire album is a masterpiece. If there were one criticism to be made, it would be the drum track is not as spacious as I would like in some sections. That said, it does work with the darker tone of the song.

Little Whiskey has a fantastically compelling beat, but it is very much a song that is on the alternative side of the siblings’ offerings. That may not appeal to all listeners, but I feel it flows perfectly with the surrounding tracks.

From The Stalls is a great song. May I suggest you sit in a relaxing chair, with your eyes closed, and allow the musicality to involuntarily take control of your muscles as you'll be toe-tapping and swaying in no time.

Other Things shouldn’t work musically, as it is a little left of the centre, yet it absolutely does.

Please You is such a mellow song. Beautiful!

Main Street is pure sonic gold and in many ways leaves me speechless. Therefore, I feel it is only right to suggest you experience it for yourself.

Crash And Burn, as Ian McFarlane rightly suggests in The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop, invokes a memory of the sonic signature often associated with Neil Young and Crazy Horse. That is, of course, a compliment. Crash And Burn is the perfect song to close the album on as it encourages me to listen to this Self-Titled release again and stay within Angus & Julia Stone's catalogue.

This Self-Titled album is a masterpiece. Nothing more really needs to be said other than it’s worth the hour to just sit and listen. I'm sure you won't regret it, I know I haven’t.

Angus & Julia Stone's Self-Titled album is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Angus & Julia Stone's Self-Titled album is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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David Bowie – 1. Outside (Album Review)

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David Bowie – 1. Outside (Album Review)

David Bowie has always been an enigma to me. A brilliant, but arguably eccentric, sonic experimentalist. Some of his work I hate, some of it not so much, then there are releases like 1. Outside that make me think about his brilliance, ignoring all my ignorant misconceptions. Much like Shakespeare is dissected still to this day, Bowie's music will not only live on but will surely be studied, for context, by future generations.

The self-portrait cover art of 1. Outside is stunning and deserves to be held on vinyl as one enjoys this lengthy but sonically rewarding album. At present, I have to settle for the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition and its counterpart streamed from Apple Music. While both are largely indistinguishable from each other, the atmospheric brilliance of Bowie, combined with Brian Eno’s talent, really shines on the lossless stream with a greater three-dimensional soundstage.

Leon Take Us Outside is an interesting musical and spoken word introduction that flows seamlessly into Outside, making me wonder why it’s a separate track at all.

Outside is an incredibly detailed track that is masterfully composed. The rhythm will connect with your soul, causing involuntary body movements. No, this isn't a song you'll likely sing-along to, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and is a fantastic way to commence the album.

The Hearts Filthy Lesson is a fantastic song. While there is a radio edit, available on the exceptional career perspective, Nothing Has Changed, I find myself drawn to the full length original as it is a more substantial version of the song.

A Small Plot Of Land has a near jazz-fusion introduction that I thoroughly enjoy. Although, A Small Plot Of Land loses its lustre for me when Bowie joins the mix as I don't feel his vocals on this track are a good mix with the musical style. However, A Small Plot Of Land would be sensational as a purely instrumental track.

(Segue) – Baby Grace [A Horrid Cassette] is musically interesting. I'm still not sold on the spoken word segue’s throughout, but this one grows on you.

Hallo Spaceboy is EPIC! You'll want to turn the volume up on this track. The Pet Shop Boys remix is featured on Nothing Has Changed, but to be completely frank, I hate it! It adds nothing to the original and makes the song sound weak. It’s amazing that the remix made the cut on Bowie's career perspective release as I believe the original release is incomparable and one of Bowie's greatest recordings.

The Motel is musically beautiful, although it takes close to half the duration of the song before coming into its own. Subsequently, I feel the introduction was a little too drawn out and the song could have evolved faster had the composition been reconsidered. Of course, my subjective opinion is rather irrelevant as it is a piece of Bowie’s sonic artwork and subsequently is created with his vision in mind.

I Have Not Been To Oxford Town has a sensational rhythmic undertone and Bowie's vocal delivery is perfectly suited to the musicality.

No Control is a solid, albeit a little disjointed, song with regards to the shifts in lyrical delivery. That said, I do find No Control to be rather compelling.

(Segue) – Algeria Touchshriek doesn't sonically work well with the album, but as a segue, one can forgive this aspect as the concept album must, by definition, tell a story that, at times, requires segueing.

The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) is, from my perspective, a garbled mess.

(Segue) – Ramona A. Stone / I Am With Name doesn't add much to the album. It is more of a distraction than a beneficial addition. Of course, I’m less interested in the underlying story arc than I am the musicality of the album.

Wishful Beginnings, while an interesting composition, fails to excite.

We Prick You sounds more like an 80s tune than one composed in the 90s. It isn't bad, but it's a B-side.

(Segue) – Nathan Adler, Pt. 1 is, as many of these segues are, a distractive element to an otherwise free-flowing album.

I'm Deranged is meh!

Thru' These Architects Eyes is a B-side at best and one can't help but wonder, by this stage, when this album will end as there is considerable self-indulgent filler throughout.

(Segue) – Nathan Adler, Pt. 2 makes me question if any of these segues were really necessary. I'm honestly not sure they were.

Strangers When We Meet, as heard on 1. Outside is a re-recording of the song which was first released on Bowie's The Buddha Of Suburbia. I much prefer this re-recording as it is more aligned with Bowie’s vocal delivery and overall style. It’s also the perfect song to conclude 1. Outside on and encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Bowie's catalogue.

Despite a few songs failing to impress, 1. Outside is a solid album from start to finish. Although, I don't feel I’m missing out by only having it in my streaming library and while I maintain an interest in holding the album artwork, the album itself, much like John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy, is a little too disjointed for me to appreciate on vinyl. Nevertheless, there are some exceptional Bowie songs to be heard here. Thankfully, a few of them are on my regularly spun Nothing Has Changed career perspective release.

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

If you prefer streaming, 1. Outside is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (Album Review)

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Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (Album Review)

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

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

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

SIDE I

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

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

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

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

SIDE II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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