Agnetha Fältskog – A (Album Review)

Comment

Agnetha Fältskog – A (Album Review)

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

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

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

SIDE A

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

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

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

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

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

SIDE B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment

Eagles – Desperado (Album Review)

Comment

Eagles – Desperado (Album Review)

A year after their astonishingly good Self-Titled debut, the Eagles returned with Desperado; an album arguably leaning more towards a country-styling, than their debut, as they focused on the old west in American culture. Considering Desperado as a concept album, one can't help but see a correlation between Desperado and Elton John's similarly themed 1970 released Tumbleweed Connection. Perhaps the Eagles copied that concept, but if that was ever an element, it has never been discussed to my knowledge. Either way, as a fan of the old west, when the theme is done well, as it is in this case, it can be extraordinarily rewarding for the listener.

As a life-long fan of the Eagles, Desperado was always going to be a must-own release for my collection and the copy I am fortunate enough to own is the 2014 vinyl reissue. Sonically, it is a beautiful reproduction that is dynamically pleasing with an incredible soundstage that is as wide as it is deep. I love it when the speakers disappear, and I become immersed in the musicPart of the immersion can also be attributed to the album artwork that is striking in its presentation and this particular reissue has a textual cover, reportedly the same as the original 1973 vinyl release. At least it isn’t a fingerprint magnet like those albums released by Music On Vinyl (MOV); they look stunning and are very well pressed, but over time the fingerprints weaken the artwork. While the red text, on the near-black background looks a little washed out and therefore more difficult to read, it is a major improvement over the Self-Titled debut whereby the text was basically unreadable. 

While the re-issue was marketed as replicating the original artwork, the album label is different to the original releases I’ve seen whereby they had the plain white background, this edition has the clouds background. It isn’t really an issue, but I do appreciate authenticity. It would have been incredible for the record label to match the texture of the record sleeve but I'm not even sure if that can be technically achieved, as the labels are applied during the heat/moulding stage, but it is nevertheless cool to think about. 

The record itself comes in a lovely static free inner sleeve, black in colour with a clear centre. While the music itself is paramount, both sides of the album are mastered and pressed perfectly. This is certainly a re-issue that I would recommend to any fan of the Eagles.  

SIDE ONE

Doolin-Dalton is incredibly compelling. That harmonica just reaches into my soul every time I listen to this masterpiece. It’s also important to note that it is less harsh on the vinyl version when compared directly to any of the digital counterparts.

Twenty-One is too ‘country’ for my liking. The banjo is an acquired taste and while I don't dislike it, I feel it is played too fast for this song and subsequently it’s as though I’m listening to two different songs when Twenty-One starts playing.

Out Of Control is a solid rock song that I feel would have sounded better on On The Border, just as James Dean does. If you didn't know, James Dean was recorded for Desperado but held back at the time as it didn’t match the album perfectly.

Tequila Sunrise, as I've said before, is a beautifully relaxing song that gets better the more often I hear it. I don't know as I could ever tire of this song as it uses every part of the soundstage to ensure you're enveloped in sound. Amazing!

Desperado, having not been released as a single, has become a fan favourite and is one of the Eagle's very best recordings. Vocally it is a little rough around the edges, but that gives the song character and I couldn't imagine it with any more spit and polish.

SIDE TWO

Certain Kind Of Fool is fantastic. The perfect guitar strum. The perfect tempo. The perfect vocal delivery. Certain Kind Of Fool is a hidden gem that casual fans would likely miss but is undoubtedly one of the best songs on the album.

Doolin’ Dalton (Instrumental) is a distraction and while it flows well into Outlaw Man, Desperado would have been fine without this deviation. Interestingly, this instrumental track has never been listed on the back of the record sleeve. It is written on the record label, however. Other than a typo that has remained consistent throughout the years, I can’t help but wonder why this may be the case.

Outlaw Man is a killer song with a spectacular soundstage and while positioned on the B-side of the album, it’s an A-side in my opinion. I love it! On a side note, this song would have been perfectly suited to Fleetwood MacRumours era.

Saturday Night is a lovely ballad. Perfect harmonics and just an all-around great song. As good as some of the tracks on Side One are, it is really the second side that makes Desperado a must-own album. Astonishingly good!

Bitter Creek is one of my all-time favourite Eagles songs. You may not have heard it before as it is unlikely to be played live and doesn’t appear on any of the Eagles’ career perspective releases, but there is something very special here. The simplicity of that guitar strum and intermingling vocal, interspersed with the harmonies, is nothing short of amazing.

Doolin-Dalton (Reprise) is enjoyable but I would have been extremely happy if Bitter Creek was the final song on the album. I’ve never been much of a fan of the reprise, as I would generally prefer to hear the original track again, however, I do enjoy the electric guitar tracking instead of the harmonica as it creates a unique experience that works remarkably well.

Similarly, Desperado (Reprise) builds upon the original song without disrupting the magic that made the original so special. It’s a perfect way to close the album, ensuring I’ll listen again and stay within the Eagles’ catalogue.

Desperado is an album of hidden gems, combined with a few hits and a couple of misses. However, it all comes together in a coherent album that is thoroughly enjoyable and worthy of the Eagles.

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

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

Comment

Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

Comment

Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

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

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

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

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

Lost In Love is beautiful!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll Never Get Enough Of You is exceptional! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment

Eagles – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Comment

Eagles – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Some of the most interesting albums are debuts as they can either make or break an artist. Regardless of the outcome, it’s always interesting to see how the artist evolves over time, especially from a retrospective viewpoint. That said, I don’t believe I’d be wrong in suggesting that the Eagles had already found their sound on this Self-Titled debut and went about refining their talent on each subsequent album.

Album covers in the 70s were probably as unique as they have ever been, with artists and record labels seeing what would work and what wouldn’t on the large vinyl canvas. The Eagles’ debut is no exception as the cover would not only encompass the bands country meets rock musical style perfectly but would fold out to a larger poster that one could hang or admire while listening to the album. Over the years, the Eagles’ Self-Titled release has been reissued numerously and the edition I’m fortunate enough to own is the 2015 vinyl re-issue with the original album artwork. Yes, it looks impressive, but as the record doesn’t sit in a dedicated enclosure, one has to be careful not to pick the record up, out of its outer sleeve, and watch as the record slips from one’s hand across the room. Okay, so perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but if you’re new to vinyl, these unique designs can be a challenge when dealing with the larger format. 

The inner sleeve is plain and somewhat lacklustre if I’m to be honest. The red text on the natural background is incredibly difficult to read and subsequently wasn't really well thought out in my opinion. The label itself is plain but elegant. Yes, even though I use the Audio Technica AT-618 LP Stabilizer, I love looking at the record labels. I even lust over compact discs and in a bygone era, it wasn’t uncommon for me to appreciate the designs of the compact cassette. I'm not sure why it’s such a fascination, but I find it a thoroughly enjoyable part of the record collecting process.

Of course, as impressive as the record looks, it would be for nought if the audio quality wasn't up to par. Well, I think we can all agree as to just how sonically stunning the Eagles are, and this debut is no exception. The record is as black as the ace of spades, perfectly flat, and has no noticeable inner groove distortion or surface noise. While purists may lament that a significant majority of reissues are being sourced from high-resolution digital files, rather than the original master tapes, the pressing of this 2015 reissue is flawless with a full analogue sound that simply has to be heard to be believed. I have compared both the TIDAL Masters (MQA) and Apple Music (Mastered for iTunes) editions against the record and you won’t see me part with this vinyl record anytime soon. Yes, it is that good and for fans of the band, I highly recommend this particular reissue.

SIDE ONE

Take It Easy, as I've mentioned before, is perfect for a country drive. When I hear this Eagles standard, I can only imagine the excitement of fans when they put the record on for the first time in 1972. It must have blown their minds for it still astonishes me to this day as to how developed the musicality of the Eagles is on this debut. In many respects, it's good that Jackson Browne was unable to finish the song and required Glenn Frey’s involvement. I simply couldn’t imagine the Eagles debut without Take It Easy. Jackson Browne did, however, record a rendition for his 1973 album, For Everyman, and while it’s a lovely interpretation, that doesn’t stray far from the Eagles’ original, Browne’s interpretation failed to set the world on fire as the Eagles’ version did.

Witchy Woman is a killer track that really showcases just how well the vocal harmonies of the Eagles members flow together. Witchy Women is, in many respects, the perfect classic rock song that encompasses many musical eras and styles. Seriously, I could be here all day just listing them, but let’s just enjoy listening to this absolutely amazing tune, shall we?

Chug All Night is a slow starter but develops into a solid song that is thoroughly enjoyable. While it may not be a fan favourite, the album wouldn’t be the same without the frantic beat and low volume harmonies that are off-the-chart. A great rock song!

Most Of Us Are Sad is sensational! The drum and bass track blow my mind, as does the guitar strumming and vocal harmonies. Music doesn't get much better than this.

Nightingale was almost not included on the album as producer Glyn Johns felt it was substandard. One could hardly argue with him as it is filler, a B-side at best, but the record label, in this case, won and it’s of course included. In reality, it isn’t fundamentally a bad song, it just isn't to the same calibre as the other songs on the album. 

SIDE TWO

Train Leaves Here This Morning is a lovely country-focused tune that has a beautiful soundstage and depth that envelops you in sound.

Take The Devil is one of the best songs on the album, and in the Eagles catalogue, that very few know about as it doesn't make an appearance in live performances or on career perspective releases. The rhythm is seriously addictive, and the musicality of the entire recording is uncompromising. 

Earlybird has a fun little entrance, but it can be equally infuriating if you're not in the mood for those chirpy bird sounds throughout. Nevertheless, while it may be a B-side, it's a solid song that fits well with the style of the album.

Peaceful Easy Feeling is a lovely song, but as I've said before, the guitar twang mid-song is a little too high pitched for my liking and I subsequently find it distracting. A shame considering it is an otherwise exceptional song with yet another beautiful vocal presentation. 

Tryin' is a solid song to close the album with. Nothing to write home about, but a perfect B-side if there ever was one. Tryin' certainly makes me want to listen to the album again and stay within the Eagles’ extensive catalogue.

The debut Self-Titled Eagles album is astonishingly good from start to finish and shows a band with a sound signature that would take others years to develop. It really is one of their greatest albums and even if you're a casual fan, you'll find something to love on this Self-Titled debut.

Eagles – Self-Titled is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Eagles – Self-Titled is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

Comment

Diana Ah Naid – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Comment

Diana Ah Naid – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Sonically positioned somewhere between Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette is Australia's own, Diana Ah Naid. Ian McFarlane describes this 1997 independent, self-funded, release as a restless, funky brand of acoustic guitar folk with urgently charged vocals backed by an emotional, primal energy – Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop. I don't know about you, dear reader, but McFarlane is spot on and no amount of pondering on my behalf could come up with a more precise review of this thoroughly satisfying Self-Titled release. That said, join me as I take a look at the individual songs and how I subjectively feel about them and the entire album.

I Go Off is a musical wonderland with nothing more than a vocal and guitar track filling the soundstage. While both are beautifully presented and recorded, Ah Nard's vocal prowess is simply astonishing. How she isn't a household name, is an absolute mystery.

If You Insist has a beautiful introduction. That guitar tuning is stunning and provides the perfect backing to the song. In some ways, it is a little too similar to I Go Off, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing as it develops a sound that allows the listener to identify and connect with the artist.

Fill Me Up has a good rhythm and a very alternative vocal presentation that is perfect for the style of music. The added brass instrumentation really builds a sonically pleasurable soundstage that ensures Fill Me Up is memorable and ready to be played on repeat. If you enjoy World Music, you'll love Fill Me Up.

See Through is an interesting composition that is a little scattered in places, but the hook is catchy. A solid addition to the album, but nothing to write home about.

Make It Begin is sonic gold. That musical introduction is magical as the piano is beautifully recorded. You really need to listen for yourself to appreciate just how amazing it is. Make It Begin may be mellow, but it’s one of the best songs on the album, if not the best. Absolutely stunning!

Wrapped Around My Head is a lovely tune but fails to fully captivate my senses. I find my mind wandering when listening to the song.

Ruok? is short, but spectacular!

Get Yourself Lost is a little too erratic and subsequently, I find it difficult to connect with a specific rhythm.

Leaving The Country is a gorgeous tune. Ah Naid's vocal presentation is mind-blowingly good. It is as if an angel is singing to you, and only you.

Flowers is a B-side that I simply can't get into.

K9 is musically impressive, but I have to be honest and say I would much prefer for it to have been an instrumental interlude as the vocal distracts the listener from the musicality.

Freaky Animals is an interesting tune that I enjoy, but I also have reservations with the child vocal inclusion towards the end as I'm not sure it suits the song. There is also an error on the Apple Music stream whereby this song continues in silence for a further minute and a half. It's a shame as the error makes you think the album has concluded, but there is one more song to be played as the original CD release had a hidden 13th untitled track. That track is now listed in Apple Music as Schlork Your S*****g. Subsequently, it looks as though the album has been uploaded directly from the CD and it infuriates me when this happens. I've never liked bonus hidden tracks, and this is further proof that they should be abolished. Albums that include this common CD-feature should, at the very least, be re-tracked when uploaded to streaming music services. 

Despite my above complaint, Schlork Your S*****g is an interesting track to conclude the album with. The chorus does drive me mad, but I appreciate the artistic intent and the verses are strong enough to hold the song together ensuring I’ll play the album again and continue to explore Ah Naid's catalogue. Speaking of that, it is important to note that all post-2004 releases by Diana Ah Naid are released as Diane Anaid

Overall, Diana Ah Naid's Self-Titled debut is thoroughly enjoyable and while I have some reservations, as detailed above, all songs work extremely well in the album format.

Diana Ah Naid's Self-Titled debut is available for purchase on iTunes, or if you prefer streaming, the album is available on Apple Music.

Comment

Alice Cooper – Pretties For You (Album Review)

Comment

Alice Cooper – Pretties For You (Album Review)

I doubt anyone would proclaim the Alice Cooper band’s debut release, Pretties For You, as their favourite album, yet it is strangely compelling. The psychedelic styling mixed with a high level of experimentation results in Pretties For You being located somewhere sonically between a garage band jam session and a demo recording. Yes, by conventional standards and that of the later Alice Cooper band records, Pretties For You is just bad, but as an album on its own, it showcases the era and origins of a band that would go on to have a successful career until, of course, Alice Cooper went solo and created an even larger monster, similar to Rob Zombie's move away from White Zombie. While Cooper was no doubt the pioneer, Zombie’s path a couple of decades later was not all that different to his idol’s as the early White Zombie recordings are also very raw and experimental.

Raw is perhaps the best way to describe Pretties For You and the vinyl re-issue I have is so badly mastered and pressed that it sounds like a beaten-up second-hand edition from 1969. That isn't necessarily a bad thing and the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams aren't much better, they just lack the noisy vinyl pressing, one that is also pressed off centre and has audible drift in the first song where one channel of audio is heard in a ghostly manner for the first few rotations of the record. There is even a broken groove on Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio, causing the album to play like a broken record, akin to a repetitive run-out groove. Nevertheless, I have contemplated replacing the 2009 Warner Bros. pressing with the newer 2017 re-issue, but as strange as it may sound, I kind of like the problems this pressing has as it has a character of its own. When the inoperative run-out groove presents itself, the softest of taps on my Pro-jet Debut Carbon’s plinth gets the needle tracking into the correct groove. Yes, it is a ritual, that's one reason why I love vinyl. Needless to say, it’s an imperfect format. Each and every play of an album will yield a different result, not unlike attending a concert where the performance, for any multitude of reasons, cannot be the same as the night before. No doubt some of you by now are questioning my sanity and wondering why I don’t simply get rid of this album considering it isn’t a favourite. Well, I can’t argue with that thought process, but as a life-long Alice Cooper fan, I find that I do enjoy the album, when in the mood, but I also acknowledge its flaws. Yet, I have been known to play the album on repeat for hours on end as it grows on you. 

SIDE ONE

Titanic Overture is a garbled mess but is an interesting start to the album that really goes nowhere until the piano element comes into the mix. That's a shame as I’ve always wondered what would have been if the piano track didn’t fade out. Seems like we’ll never know unless there are unheard recordings floating around that I'm unaware of.

10 Minutes Before The Worm is just weird. Still, it’s interesting but you wouldn't play it outside of the album format. It also is the first time we hear Cooper's vocal and as you may notice he has remained true to that styling throughout the years.

Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio is a great tune with a divine introduction. However, that high pitch vocal, in places, really takes a solid song and turns it into an experience that isn't quite as memorable as one would have hoped for. Nevertheless, it is one of the best songs on the album and one that I would love to see Cooper rerecord. Interestingly, and as a side note, when listening via Apple Music, the high pitch of Cooper's vocal, that I mentioned earlier, is much more reserved and subsequently less ear piercing. It’s interesting because digital music is normally fatiguing, in that regard, not vinyl. It just goes to show that lossy music alternatives do have their place in a music-first audiophile setup. Plus, for those who don’t appreciate the risk of possibly receiving a broken record pressing, the digital counterpart, of course, plays seamlessly.

Today Mueller is similar to Ten Minutes Before The Worm. Weird, yet strangely compelling. I like it!

Living is a solid rock tune from the era and a valued addition to the album.

Fields Of Regret is a song I thoroughly enjoy. However, I’d love to see Cooper rerecord Fields Of Regret with Bob Ezrin, in the production, chair as there is a solid song hidden here, begging to be brought out into the open.  

SIDE TWO

No Longer Umpire is short but enjoyable.

Levity Ball (Live At The Cheetah) is a great song but it's even more sonically compromised, than the rest of the album, as it's a live recording. Yes, dear reader, this is another song I would love to see Cooper rerecord.

B.B. On Mars is pure filler but works well within the album format.

Reflected is brilliant! Yes, the Alice Cooper band would rewrite and rerecord Reflected and release it as Elected on Billion Dollar Babies. However, I must say as much as I enjoy Elected, I prefer Reflected. Yes, there is a fanbase ready to Lynch me for that comment, but Reflected is, in my opinion, the one song that makes Pretties For You worth owning. Seriously, give it a listen.

Apple Bush is a quirky, but enjoyable, song.

Earwigs To Eternity is rather left of the centre but remains compelling and fits the experimental style of the album perfectly.

Changing Arranging is the final song on the album and is good enough to encourage me to listen to the album again and stay within the Alice Cooper catalogue.

Overall, Pretties For You is a solid debut by a band that had yet to find their sound and synergy. But, is it worth owning? For Alice Cooper fans I would say yes, but it isn't a landmark album and therefore will likely only appeal to the most dedicated fans and collectors. Hence, this is one album that you should consider streaming prior to outlaying the cash to buy Pretties For You on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), or iTunes.

You can stream Pretties For You on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

Comment

Barbra Streisand – One Voice (Live Album Review)

Comment

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.

Comment

Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (Album Review)

Comment

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.

Comment

Sophia Pfister – Birdcage (Album Review)

Comment

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.

Comment

Big Scary – Animal (Album Review)

Comment

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.

Comment