The B-52’s – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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The B-52’s – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Released the year I was born, The B-52’s wouldn’t appear on my radar for a number of years, but Cosmic Thing and the addictive Love Shack would have a lasting impression on me as by 1989, my love of music exploration was already developing and I simply devoured their rock meets dance meets classic pop styling. However, it wasn’t until Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MOFI) reissued The B-52’s, Wild Planet, and Cosmic Thing on vinyl, via their Silver Label, that I once again paid serious attention to the new wave Artpop band and their entire back catalogue. 

One may wonder what I think of the B-52’s MOFI releases. Well, I’ve yet to pick any of them up as I have mixed emotions about MOFI’s silver label pressings. Of the two I own, Dead Can Dance’s Spiritchaser is remarkably good while Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July has just never sounded quite right, despite the pressing being perfect. Yes, dear reader, the mastering is key here and the style differences between the aforementioned records also need to be taken into consideration. That said, I’m once bitten, twice shy! Despite this, these B-52’s records remain on my lengthy wish list and we’ll just have to wait and see if/when I acquire them. If I do pick up these releases, you’ll be able to read about it here on Subjective Sounds. For the moment, however, the Mastered for iTunes edition, as streamed via Apple Music, is thoroughly enjoyable with a presentation that isn’t fatiguing or jarring on the senses. 

Planet Claire has an atmospheric start that is akin to any spy film you’ve likely seen from the era. As a fan of such films, this entrance captures my attention and is one of the very best songs to have ever led a debut album. I love it!

52 Girls, by comparison, is rather raw and underproduced. It isn’t fundamentally bad, but it really needed a little more spit and polish as the mix makes it sound like a demo, rather than a fully fleshed out recording. No more apparent is this than in the vocal tracking whereby it sounds distant and concealed in the mix. A B-side at best. 

Dance This Mess Around is a little left of the centre, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just takes a little getting used to. 

Rock Lobster is responsible for the mess and masterpiece that is John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy. I’m not a fan of Ono’s tracks on that album and while Lennon heard a similarity between Rock Lobster and Ono’s music, I don’t as I find Rock Lobster is musically and lyrically compelling. I could listen to it on repeat indefinitely. Whereas, I struggle to listen to Double Fantasy in a linear manner. Regardless, Rock Lobster is an absolute classic. 

Lava is one of my all-time favourite B-52 songs. I love the double entendre and the blues-based rock styling. That said, does anyone else hear a little Stevie Nicks influence in the vocal on this song?

There’s A Moon In The Sky (Called The Moon) is fantastic and logically witty. While it isn’t the strongest song on the album, I thoroughly enjoy it.

Hero Worship is a solid B-Side, but there is a better song hidden here just waiting to be revealed. While I don’t agree with artists re-recording their songs, in an attempt to change the mistakes based on years of reflection, there are songs, such as Hero Worship, that I would love to see The B-52’s re-record. 

6060-842 has a catchy rhythm and lyric. Yet, just like 52 Girls and Hero Worship, it sounds underproduced and is subsequently a B-Side that offers nothing to write home about.

Downtown is a cover of the classic made famous by Petula Clark. Honestly, it isn’t a great cover and it subsequently doesn’t compel me to listen to the album again. A shame considering the rest of the album, even the B-Sides, do encourage me to listen to the album on repeat. 

Overall, The B-52’s is an incredible and thoroughly enjoyable debut that is mostly polished with the sonic cues that would ultimately catapult The B-52’s to increased popularity as they further refined their sound. Is it worth owning? Well, to be completely honest, I’m unsure. There are some truly exceptional songs on this release with a few B-Sides interspersed. It is these B-Sides that cause conflict in my mind, although I will acknowledge that the more you listen to the album, the more it grows on you. Therefore, it is possible that I’ll grab a vinyl reissue at some stage, but the price would need to be right.

If you’d like to own The B-52’s Self-Titled debut, it is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10,000 BC – Original Music By Harald Kloser And Thomas Wander (Soundtrack Review)

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10,000 BC – Original Music By Harald Kloser And Thomas Wander (Soundtrack Review)

Allow me to paint a picture for you. A book inspires a film and the film inspires a soundtrack. Yes, dear reader, I am one of those people that explores every element surrounding something that interests me. 

10,000 BC, despite receiving mediocre reviews, remains one of my most beloved films. Sure, I could talk about the technical and historical inaccuracies along with the quizzical hypothesis, but I’d much prefer to be drawn into the mystique, a mystique which opens my mind and allows me to explore other possibilities than those expressed in the mainstream history books. Yes, you could probably call me a little gullible, but to be honest no one really knows exactly what happened all those millennia ago and subsequently there are a lot of educated guesses. Hence, I like to remain broad-minded and after watching 10,000 BC, I wanted to know more. 

Thanks to the ever-accurate Wikipedia, I found out that director extraordinaire Roland Emmerich based the film partially off Graham Hancock’s exceptional Fingerprints Of The Gods. So, I had to read the book. The film captivated me and I needed to know more. It’s a stellar read and one that I highly recommend if you are interested in Pseudoarchaeology. No, dear reader, I’m not a crackpot, I just like to keep an open mind. Plus, it makes for great dinner conversation!

Anyway, I have a tendency to listen to music as I read. While reading a music biography will have me going through the entire works of a particular artist, other non-music related non-fiction or fiction books are generally accompanied by whatever I feel in the mood to listen to. Well, in this case, I thought I’d try the soundtrack to 10,000 BC and while it’s logically disconnected from the book, it kept the interest in the book and the subject paramount in my mind. That said, the book is a page-turner, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little encouragement along the way.

The problem is, when I finished reading Fingerprints Of The Gods, I also stopped listening to the soundtrack and while I have watched the film numerous times since, I can’t recall if I actually liked the soundtrack on its own, or if it was the connectivity of media that compelled my interest so many years ago. Therefore, I’d like you, dear reader, to join me on a journey of re-exploration as I take a look at the soundtrack and decide whether or not it can be appreciated on its own, outside of the influence of the film and Fingerprints Of The Gods.

Opening is, for lack of a better term, cinematic. It is the kind of audible introduction that ensures the filmgoer knows they are about to experience something special, something captivating, and something that will encapsulate them in sound and transport their senses to another world. I love it!

Mountain Of The Gods started out bold but the vocal incorporation that is included in the film detracts from the musicality. A shame in one way, but as a soundtrack it is somewhat understandable. 

Speech is simply stunning. It is one of my favourite tracks on the soundtrack and is glorious when presented in the film. Yes, I hear a little influence from the Transformers soundtrack and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it shifts my focus. 

Evolet is a beautifully relaxing and uplifting composition. If only all music could be this good!

Mannak Hunt radically shifts the styling of the soundtrack, but it is, of course, in line with the film’s chronology. Mannak Hunt isn’t inherently bad, but I feel it was somewhat unsuitable for the film’s scene as I felt it didn’t accurately capture the hunting aspect of early man. Of course, I’d recommend you check out the film and ascertain this for yourself as it is highly subjective. 

Celebration simply exists. Nothing to write home about and while applicable to the film does little for allowing the soundtrack to be experienced independently. 

I Was Not Brave returns the soundtrack to a more relaxing, perhaps sombre, tone. It is this style that I thoroughly enjoy.

Night Of The Tiger is a fantastic score for the associated scene. While the random listener may not be able to appreciate it, the scene in the film, with the musical accompaniment, is edge-of-your-seat entertainment. 

Lead Them is a lovely composition and one that is inspirational. Although, I feel it could have been even bolder than it is as I feel it was being held back a little. 

Terror Birds has a terrifying entrance. This soundtrack really is a collection of sonic elements that are complementary when viewing the film, but are seriously disjointed when listening to the soundtrack in the film’s running order. Yes, that is how soundtracks are generally made, but it would be nice to see a soundtrack go down a less linear route, thereby allowing it to be appreciated as a piece of standalone musical art. 

Wounded Hunter is a sombre, but uplifting, piece of music that is simply beautiful. 

Food has a very nice vocal element that will appeal to individuals who appreciate World Music. Musically, however, it is limited and likely won’t appeal to the classical-minded listener. 

Goodbyes was another sonic element that worked perfectly in the film but doesn’t sit well on its own here.  

Sea Of Sand is epic! 

Wise Man is elegant but sombre. Perfect for the film.

He Was My Father is another composition that merely exists and is nothing to write home about. 

Mark Of The Hunter is a perfect score for the film but does nothing to evoke emotion within the listener. 

Free The Mannaks was a great scene in the film, but the epic nature of it fails to reach the listener of this soundtrack. Nevertheless, perhaps that is what a good score is all about, enhancing the film and not standing alone as a composition on its own. It would be nice if it could be both though.

Not A God portrays the same thought as Free The Mannaks.  

You Came For Me is stunning and connects with Evolet in tonality and purpose. I love this composition. 

The End follows on beautifully from You Came For Me. It is compositions like this that make this soundtrack so appealing, if only it had been presented in a non-linear manner. 

10,000 BC/End Credits closes the soundtrack out nicely, reminding me just how much I enjoy the film and encouraging me to go and watch it. While I don’t necessarily feel captivated to listen to the soundtrack again, there are some compositions here that are simply out of this world and perhaps the best approach for me moving forward would be to create a playlist of the songs I wish to hear, in the order that I wish to hear them. 

Overall, the 10,000 BC soundtrack is very much a soundtrack and unlike Dances With Wolves is not likely to be appreciated as a piece of classical-inspired music on its own. However, fans of the film or the works of Kloser and Wander will undoubtedly be captivated. There are certainly high and low points to be found throughout, but the music is captured so elegantly that you’d be hard pressed to be disappointed as it is sonically beautiful. While I’ll likely always keep this soundtrack in my digital library, never seeking out a physical copy, it will be appreciated whenever I simply want to audibly reflect on the film or read the follow up to Fingerprints Of The Gods; Magicians Of The Gods: The Forgotten Wisdom Of Earth’s Lost Civilisation

The soundtrack for 10,000 BC is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 10,000 BC is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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Icehouse – In Concert (Live Album Review)

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Icehouse – In Concert (Live Album Review)

Have you ever purchased an album by an artist you love, yet disliked it upon the first play? Well, I have, and this release was one that I just couldn’t get into. It didn’t matter that I had both the vinyl and CD editions, as well as an autographed placard of the album cover. I just didn’t connect with the live performance as I had hoped I would. Subsequently, both releases remained unplayed in my collection since their release in 2015. That, of course, changed when my son asked if he could have the CD edition for his own collection.

As I thought more about my son’s request, I found myself at an interesting crossroads regarding my love of collecting the music that brings me joy. Not only have I acknowledged that I’ll never be able to own all the albums I desire in my own personal collection, but I also acknowledge that it is somewhat foolish to have multiple copies of the same album as I find little joy in trying to decide which edition of an album I should listen to. It is the old Vinyl vs CD argument and rather than enjoying the music I find myself focusing on the formats; a rather tedious and often soul-destroying process that yields no enjoyment. A great example of this predicament is Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms of which I have two copies; one vinyl, the other the 20th Anniversary SACD release featuring not only the standard CD edition but the HDCD, SACD stereo mix, and SACD 5.1 surround sound mix on a single disc. The vinyl edition is the incredible Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab release. Yes, all this jargon will likely drive non-audiophiles to the hills, with those remaining wanting to declare me insane; quite frankly I couldn’t blame them. It is insane and given I can only listen to one album at a time, I think it is time to cull down my collection and select the edition that brings me the most pleasure. After all, there is no point in listening to one version of the album only to wonder how a song would sound on another format. 

Of course, the big winner in all of this is my son. He was always going to inherit an incredible music collection, but I can start giving him some of my duplicates, knowing that he will enjoy them. Also, selfishly on my part, I get to see the excitement in his eyes and truth-be-told that is the greatest gift of all. Although, I didn’t quite say that when he woke up the entire household singing along to Electric Blue from the In Concert album, I had given him the night before. Still, I had a grin from ear to ear because I’m sure I did exactly the same thing when I first heard Electric Blue so many years ago. 

As I no longer have the CD release, my son will have to write that review, this review will be based solely on the vinyl release that is nothing short of spectacular now that I am no longer comparing it to the digital counterpart. 

Spread across three records and six sides, the entire near two-hour performance is presented on the most beautiful black vinyl you’ve ever seen. The label itself is gorgeous and while some may think of it a simple, I appreciate how it connects back to the ultra-successful Man Of Colours era; a theme that remains consistent throughout the artwork.  

Photographs and typography are simply gorgeous and the message from Icehouse front man and founder, Iva Davies, is a welcome addition. His acknowledgement of the work bassist Steve Bull put into making this release a reality is one of those rare moments in the music industry where credit is given where credit is due. Similarly, Davies also informs us through the liner notes that while this live album is not from a singular show, it matches the setlists that were performed throughout late 2014 and the subsequent best versions of each song were selected with no overdubbing or re-recording. The result is exceptional and it’s utterly flawless as the songs flow so smoothly you’d swear they were recorded on a single night in the same concert hall. 

Perhaps the only element that is a little disappointing for the vinyl release is the rice paper record sleeves as they have a tendency to scuff records and deposit additional pop and click inducing fibres into the grooves. Thankfully, my Pro-ject anti-static record cleaning brush solves that problem as does replacing the sleeves with anti-static inner sleeves; admittedly an additional cost, but one that I thoroughly recommend to all vinyl music lovers.  

The noise floor of the records, however, is incredibly low. You’ll be hard pressed to hear any surface noise, even when pumping the volume to ear-bleeding concert levels. The records have also been cut with audible quality in mind as there is no chance of inner grove distortion as each record ends before the dreaded inner grooves can become an issue. Yes, you’ve got to get up and turn the record over more frequently, but it is worth it for the additional sonic benefits. Plus, who doesn’t like a 3LP set? You really feel like you own something with a package that large and it reminds me fondly of my six-sided Wings Over America; another truly exceptional concert that I have on both CD and vinyl and will have to decide which edition truly brings me joy, gifting the other to my son. 

Anyway, without further ado, let’s take a look at the songs that make up Icehouse’s In Concert

SIDE ONE

Walls was an interesting choice to open the live performance. I’m unsure if I agree with the helicopter introduction. Yes, it works well, but how does it apply itself to the music? Given many of Icehouse’s recent live performances have been in theatres, I’m struggling to see the relevance. Nevertheless, Walls is an excellent song that has always been a favourite of mine since first being released on Icehouse and this live performance maintains the energy of the original, ensuring the listener knows exactly what to expect from the entire live album.

Mr Big has a sensational rhythm, but that chorus-driven drum element is a little too shallow for my liking. It isn’t bad, it’s just different to the way the original studio release sounds and my preferred live performance of this song can be found on Live From The Ritz, available on the 25th Anniversary CD+DVD release of Man Of Colours.

Love In Motion is sensational and while the Chrissy Amphlett duet was off-the-charts good; sadly Amphlett is no longer with us, but her legacy with the Divinyls lives on as does her spirit, captured on the 1992 re-recording of Love In Motion for the compilation album Masterfile. While Masterfile is long out-of-print, you can find this exceptional version of Love In Motion on White Heat: 30 Hits.Yes, Love In Motion was written and recorded well before the Amphlett/Icehouse collaboration, but she really added something special to the song and while I don’t think there was a ever a live performance of the song with Amphlett, she is remembered fondly when listening to this live rendition.

Crazy has one of my all-time favourite guitar hooks. So good! The live performance is perfect as it is reminiscent of the original studio recording, while being unique in its own right.    

SIDE TWO

Hey, Little Girl is a song that I have a love/hate relationship with. That’s a subjective viewpoint and not indicative of the song itself, but sometimes I feel this song is simply too campy and other times I thoroughly enjoy it. The live performance is excellent, minus the spoken word elements before the start of the song. However, if you really like this song, you’ll definitely want to track down a copy of the Hey Little Girl (’97 Remixes) as the remixes are seriously good on that long out-of-print maxi single. It also has one of the most unique CD designs I’ve ever seen as the CD is partially clear. 

Electric Blue is iconic; such an 80s song! It’s one of my favourites and you may remember earlier that my son woke up the household singing Electric Blue as it is also one of his favourites. Electric Blue makes you want to sing and while my son still gets some of the lyrics wrong, he’s giving it his all, not worried about how he sounds and how much taunting his sister dishes out to him. It would be a proud moment for this music-loving father if he did something music related when he grows up. If not as a career, certainly as a hobby. I’m thinking about an Icehouse cover band, what do you think, dear reader? 

Baby, You’re So Strange is a fun song and I love the live rendition on In Concert as it really takes the song to another level of moody and brooding musicality. 

SIDE THREE

Heartbreak Kid is lovely. Davies decision to talk about the history of the song, prior to commencing the performance, is invaluable as it’s fascinating to hear about the origins of the tune and see just how smoothly Davies transitions from a Bob Dylan impersonator to Iva Davies. Exceptional!

Dusty Pages has always been a favourite song of mine. It’s the best song off Sidewalk with the exception of Don’t Believe Anymore. This acoustic-based rendition is absolutely lovely and complements the original perfectly.  

Street Café had a great music video when first released in 1982. No, it wasn’t quite as epic as Great Southern Land, but this live interpretation is. It’s magnificent and a pleasure to listen to, as are all the acoustic-based songs on side three of the vinyl collection. 

Man Of Colours is Davies’ song, so I was quite surprised to find that Michael Paynter was the lead vocalist on Man Of Colours. His performance is absolutely stunning, but I still miss Davies performing this masterpiece. Sure, Davies is there in a backing vocal capacity, also allowing him to play the Oboe while Paynter vocalises the song, but it isn’t quite the same. That, of course, shouldn’t take anything away from Paynter as he is incredible, and I look forward to following his career in the years to come. He really did pay homage to the original while making it his own. 

SIDE FOUR

Miss Divine is one of the best songs off Code Blue and I have always thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I’m torn over this live performance as I feel it’s a little disjointed in the vocal department and that acoustic guitar strum is too forward in the mix. Of course, loving the original as much as I do, I could simply prefer the studio recording which I believe is impeccable. Subsequently, this live performance just doesn’t do it for me. 

Don’t Believe Anymore would have to be my all-time favourite Icehouse song. Okay, perhaps I have a few that that could be said about, but the saxophone element in both this live performance and the original studio release is nothing short of spectacular as it captivates me beyond belief. 

Great Southern Land is the quintessential Icehouse song and requires no hyperbole. 

SIDE FIVE

Can’t Help Myself has an addictive beat, but it’s one Icehouse song that I neither love nor hate. It merely exists. It isn’t a bad live recording, but it isn’t great either. 

Nothing Too Serious is one of Icehouse’s best and is certainly a highlight from Man Of Colours. It’s a great live performance but the tuning on those cymbals sound a little off as they’re very shrill. I’d love to say it is only on the vinyl edition, but I’ve heard it both on the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams.

We Can Get Together is another fantastic song from Icehouse and I’m consistently amazed as to just how good the debut, by Flowers at the time, really was. This live performance is incredible and has all the energy that one would expect from the song. Incredibly, while it may be over three decades old, We Can Get Together remains timeless.

SIDE SIX / FIRST ENCORE

Icehouse, of course, became the band’s name following the shift from Flowers to Icehouse in 1981. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’ve never heard a better version of Icehouse than that which appears on In Concert. Exceptional!

Cross The Border is another of my all-time favourites. It has a sensational rhythm and is the best song from Measure For MeasureThis live performance isn’t bad either. It doesn’t stray far from the original composition, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when the song was perfect to begin with. 

/ SECOND ENCORE

Sister closes the live album nicely with the energy that has always existed in this song. It, without a doubt, encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Icehouse’s extensive catalogue of music. 

In Concert is an exceptional live album with a selection of songs that cover the greatest eras of the band. However, it’s a little disappointing that nothing from Big Wheel or The Berlin Tapes was included. Satellite would have worked well before or after Nothing Too Serious. Heroes, the David Bowie song that Davies performs immaculately well, would have been perfectly suited to appear after Man Of Colours. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, these songs were excluded and while they are missed, it doesn’t detract from the astonishing performance and album that is In Concert. 

In Concert is available on VinylCD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

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

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Benny Andersson – Piano (Album Review)

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Benny Andersson – Piano (Album Review)

The Piano is one of the world’s most beautiful instruments, provided it is played by a virtuoso. It is fair to say that Benny Andersson fits that description as his musical prowess is legendary, well beyond the limitations of Abba. This is also the first time that I think I have been so drawn to a solo piano performance. Sometimes they can be shrill and fail to portray that intended emotion of the composer and the musician. Where Andersson’s Piano differs, however, is that the songs played are composed either solely by Andersson or in conjunction with other exceptional composers. Subsequently, what you get here is a life’s work, reworked for the piano, and it is nothing short of spectacular. 

For the purposes of this review, I will be listening to both the TIDAL Masters (MQA) edition of Piano as well as the Apple Music (Mastered for iTunes) release. Both are exceptional with the TIDAL Master’s edition bringing Andersson and his piano into the room in a more realistic, and less concealed, manner than the Apple Music counterpart. Ideally, as a fan of Andersson’s work, I’d like to have a copy on vinyl but, I feel compelled to write this review sooner, rather than later, as I can’t seem to stop playing the album. Yes, Piano is addictive and the vinyl release is on my wish list. Some may find, as I do, that this album is most captivating when sitting and listening intently, as the performance will bring you to tears. Others, however, may find that applying it as background music to a romantic dinner may be the ideal situation and while a dinner with the family, kids included, is far from ideal, I can attest to the relaxing nature of the album in the background as one shares their time, a good meal, and conversation with significant others. As good as that experience is, however, this is one album that really demands the attention of the listener for you will inevitably have a much more fulfilled experience should you take the time to appreciate the music in the manner in which Andersson intended you to. 

I Let The Music Speak is beautiful. While I love the original from Abba’s The Visitors, this rendition is incredible in that it is familiar yet completely unique. It amazes me just how diverse a single composition can be. 

You And I takes you on a magical ride whereby if you let it, the music will elevate your soul and take you to that very special place within your consciousness that only you know about. Music like this is the epitome of subjectivity and is incredibly relaxing. The playing and tuning of the piano on You And I simply blows my mind and is without a doubt one of the best songs on the album. 

Aldrig is a lovely song, but I feel it is tracked badly as it is musically different to You And I and doesn’t really fit in with Thank You For The Music. That said, having listened to the album numerous times, I’m unsure of where it would have been better placed. It reminds me of my love/hate relationship with soundtracks as depending on how they are presented, they can either be magnificent or an incongruent selection of songs.

Thank You For The Music is legendary, but this track in particular sounds as though it could have been played in any piano bar around the world. It isn’t the performance, but the initial composition. Plus, subjectively, I’ve never been a major fan of the Abba song as I find it is a little campy; a shame really considering that I adore The Album

Stockholm By Night is a beautiful song.

Chess is a modern-day masterpiece. Astonishing! How can music be this good? 

The Day Before You Came was an interesting choice from Abba’s catalogue and is perfectly suited to the solo nature of Andersson and his piano, but it likely wouldn’t have been a song I would have selected for this album. The performance is flawless, and the recording is captured immaculately, as it is on the entire album. The soundstage on this particular song is very special and has to be heard to be believed as the piano fills the room and captivates you from the very first note to the last.  

Someone Else’s Story is another beautiful selection from Chess. This album just keeps getting better and better.  

Midnattsdans is a lovely interpretation from BAO!, the second album from the Benny Anderssons Orkester

Målarskolan is brilliant with its slightly faster tempo when compared to the other songs on the album. 

I Wonder (Departure) is magnificent, both the original Abba recording and this interpretation. Although, I’d go as far as saying this rendition greatly improves on the masterpiece that was already present on The Album

Embassy Lament is, for lack of a better term, a B-Side. It’s enjoyable but isn’t to the same standard as the rest of the songs on Piano.

Anthem is lovely!

My Love, My Life is one of my all-time favourite Abba songs, from my all-time favourite Abba album Arrival. This rendition only enhances my feelings about this song. Absolutely spectacular!

Mountain Duet is quite an interesting composition. It sounds fully developed, yet it also feels incomplete. I know that makes no sense, but there are multiple ways one could appreciate this song and despite having heard it many times, I’m not really sure how, or if, I connect with Mountain Duet. 

Flickornas Rum is a great tune that I thoroughly enjoy. 

Efter Regnet has me closing my eyes as I picture Andersson playing a private performance for me, and only me. The recording is that transparent that you too will experience that feeling. 

Tröstevisa is an absolutely beautiful song.

En Skrift I Snön is, as Tröstevisa is, a beautiful song.

Happy New Year was a lovely song when released by Abba on Super Trouper, but I much prefer this rendition to the original. 

I Gott Bevar is the perfect song to close the album on. It’s absolutely magical and encourages me to listen to the entire album again and stay within Andersson’s extensive body of work. 

Overall, Piano is one of the greatest pieces of music Andersson has ever released and deserves a place in everyone’s collection. 

Piano is available on VinylCD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Piano is available on TIDAL Masters (MQA) and Apple Music.

Update April 15, 2019

While I had considered picking up Piano on vinyl, I came across an incredible deal, for the CD, at one of my local music stores that I simply couldn’t pass up.

The CD release is presented in a foldout digipak, not unlike a vinyl gatefold, but instead of having incredibly tight slits at the spine end of the packaging for the booklet and CD to be slid into, it has pockets where the CD and the associated liner notes sit beautifully. 

The only concern I have is the dust factor. No, my house is not a dusty mess. Vinyl collectors know just how diligent we must be and even though the CD format is more robust in that regard, dust can still be transferred from the CD to the laser and cause additional reading errors, resulting in the need for more error correction, thereby reducing the purity of the sound. Dust also has the ability to clog the internals of a CD player thereby, gradually over time, reducing the life expectancy and performance. If care is taken, however, this shouldn’t be an issue and in many respects, I welcome this type of design as I truly dislike the scratching that a CD receives when sliding it into the tight slits of a cardboard digipak.

All that aside, the liner notes are beautifully presented with photographs from Andersson’s history as a young accordion playing boy, to a live performance with his pop band the Hep Stars, and of course Abba. That isn’t all, however, as there are photographs depicting his work with the London Symphony Orchestra as they were presenting Chess in 1984 and the Benny Anderssons Orkester (BAO!) amongst many others. While brief, this visual walkthrough of some of the most pivotal moments in Andersson’s life is a beautiful collection for any fan to have. In many respects, Andersson said it best in his liner notes submission when he inferred that Piano represents a memoir of his life. 

Piano is certainly a memoir, but it is much more than that and as I suggested in my original review, Piano really is one of Andersson’s greatest releases and I’ll now go one step further and proclaim it as his greatest release of all-time. Nothing comes close!

The CD itself is simple and elegant, from a design standpoint, and the sonic quality is beyond reproach. Yes, I was impressed with the MQA stream, in my initial review, but the CD is equal to the task and sounds a little less treble focused when compared to the MQA counterpart. That may deter some listeners, but there really is no wrong way to appreciate Piano. Ultimately, it comes down to your own subjective tastes and stereo setup as to deciding which is the best version for you. For me, it is the 16/44.1kHz CD release.

The CD release of Piano that I’m fortunate enough to own is the Australian Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music release (Cat: 479 8143).

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Air – 10 000 Hz Legend (Album Review)

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Air – 10 000 Hz Legend (Album Review)

I remain, as I was in 2017, naïve about Air. What I do know, however, is that Air is a musical duo that is unlike any other I’ve ever encountered. While I’m curious to know more, I’m not sure I really want to know the individuals behind the music, for if I look behind the curtain will the magic that is Air, dissipate?

Perhaps I’m being a little melodramatic, but long-time readers will likely note that I tend to avoid discussing the artists directly and focus on their creative output instead. There are a number of reasons for this. Perhaps if I knew more about their personal lives, such knowledge would deter me from appreciating their art. Similarly, if I know the artist’s meaning behind a song, can I then make it my own? I think there is a case-by-case argument to be made here that would provide validation to that thought process. Most importantly, however, I don’t know why I love music, I just do. Subjective Sounds allows me to explore the reasons why, but I’m also terrified of knowing the answer for when you know why you love something you can subsequently fall out of love with it. Hence, naivety is a blessing, rather than a curse, and with that in mind let’s allow our minds to explore the sonic wonderland provided by Air on their second album 10 000 Hz Legend.

Electronic Performer is a perfect song to commence the album with. The overall styling can be heard throughout the entire album, so it sets the listener up perfectly for what they’re about to experience. Yes, there are shifting segments in the song that may seem out-of-place once you have settled into a groove, but it isn’t disjointed enough that it feels like another, completely unique, song. 

How Does It Make You Feel? is a fantastic song. I adore that musicality as it is deep and moody. The spoken vocal overlay can be a little distracting, but Pink Floyd fans will appreciate the linkage between How Does It Make You Feel? and Keep Talking. While Pink Floyd acknowledged using samples of Stephen Hawking’s electronic voice, there is no detail in the digital liner notes relating to this aspect of the song. If anyone knows if they used samples or computer-generated sampling, I’d love to know as even a Google search yielded no specific information and the lack of knowledge has subsequently left me intrigued. 

Radio Number 1 gets the body moving to a beat that is welcome after the mellower tone of How Does It Make You Feel?. It’s a great song and while I may be critical of the vocal repetition, I find it thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, even the dramatic vocal shift throughout the second half of the song. Radio Number 1 is a little left-of-the-centre but perfectly suited to the type of music Air creates. 

The Vagabond is exceptional, and Beck truly takes this song to another level, not only with his written and sung vocals but with that harmonica that is amongst the greatest I’ve ever heard that little instrument played. If you enjoy this song, you should check out Beck’s 2002 Sea Change, as it’s almost an evolution from The Vagabond, albeit it with a more sombre tone. 

Radian reaches you internally. It’s a weird sensation when you feel the music infiltrating your body, rather than your ears and consciousness. Yes, it is the low tone that vibrates at a frequency that gives the body this response, one that is akin to goose bumps, but one that is thoroughly enjoyable. Seriously, sometimes words can’t describe the feeling, but I suggest turning the volume up because the first half of the song will affect you in a way that is near indescribable before morphing into a song that will encapsulate you in the soundstage and allow you to unwind following that internal body sensation. No, I’m not nuts, dear reader, this music is just that good!

Lucky And Unhappy isn’t a bad song, but it isn’t great either. A solid B-side and one which I feel could have been better with more focus on the vocal as the backing musicality becomes too repetitive. That said, there are some atmospheric elements in the soundstage, around the middle of the song, that builds throughout the second half and makes me wonder if this song shouldn’t have been an instrumental track. I guess I feel that I’m listening to two different songs here, both wonderful in their own right, but maybe not perfectly suited together. 

Sex Born Poison is exceptional! The musicality and vocal are initially presented so low, in a muted state, that it is spectacular. The shift in styling builds the soundstage dramatically and fills the room with sound whereby the speakers disappear, and you are taken on a sonic journey that paints an audible picture before returning you to the muted state. It is astonishingly good. 

People In The City is another fantastic song. I hope you’ve turned up the volume, it will help you enjoy this track thoroughly. When listening to this song I can’t help but wonder what Grace Jones could do with this song; obviously with a more vigorous rhythm. Nevertheless, People In The City is perfect just the way it is and is one of the best songs on the album. 

Wonder Milky Bitch has a killer twang and eerie soundstage that makes you sit up and take notice. Like all music, we too often listen to it in the background. May I suggest you buck the trend with Wonder Milky Bitch and the entire 10 000 Hz Legend album. You won’t regret it as this is one album that demands the listener’s attention as too much will be lost if you fail to focus.  

Don’t Be Light is a song that has elements I love and loathe. The introduction isn’t to my liking, but it then morphs into a style that I appreciate, followed again by a style that just doesn’t work. It is most certainly on the experimental side and while I’ve listened to the song numerous times, I still find that I’m not connecting with it in a manner that I would like. It’s far from a bad recording, but subjectively isn’t suited to me. How about you, dear reader, have you found a connection with Don’t Be Light?

Caramel Prisoner is the perfect song to close the album on as it’s reflective while also being inspirational. It certainly encourages me to listen to 10 000 Hz Legend again and stay within Air’s catalogue of music. 

Overall, 10 000 Hz Legend is a magical record that draws you in from the moment it commences. The soundstage, mix, and mastering are extraordinary and in my subjective opinion, Air is the modern-day equivalent of a Pink Floyd, a David Bowie, or a Brian Eno; experimenting with sound and making sometimes nonsensical elements meld together beautifully. Yes, there are other modern peers, specifically Beck, but he appears on 10 000 Hz Legend lyrically and vocally on The Vagabond and in a vocal capacity on Don’t Be Light, hence that comparison is rather evident. Nevertheless, if you enjoy the aforementioned artists or are interested in the genres of Space Rock, Experimental Music, Progressive Rock, or Electronic Music, you’re going to love 10 000 Hz Legend

For this review, I listened to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi (CD-quality) and Apple Music streams. Both present the album superbly with TIDAL having a slightly greater depth and separation between elements. That said, if you’re not comparing the streams side-by-side, you’d be thoroughly happy with either offering. Although, I do feel the vinyl release would trump all others as the analogue nature of the format would further enhance the sonic prowess of 10 000 Hz Legend. Plus, that stunning artwork really demands a larger canvas. 

10 000 Hz Legend is available on VinylCD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 10 000 Hz Legend is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.  

Click here to read other Air reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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New Kids On The Block – 10 (Album Review)

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New Kids On The Block – 10 (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 is available on CD and iTunes.

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

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Metallica – Kill ‘Em All (Album Review)

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Metallica – Kill ‘Em All (Album Review)

For quite a while I’ve been wondering if I should pick up the Deluxe Box Set of Kill ‘Em All, but as with the other deluxe releases in Metallica’s back catalogue, I haven’t found a compelling reason to do so. That isn’t to say that the box sets aren’t magnificent. They’re certainly worth the money for the most dedicated of fans and while I’ve always thought of myself in that regard, I am starting to question my dedication to the band that helped get me through the tumultuous teenage years. The 90s, not the 80s. Yes, I came to be a fan of Metallica following their 1991 Self-Titled Black Album and while I also enjoy the Load and Reload era, I respect that a divide exists between fans. That said, I find myself thoroughly enjoying both Metallica’s early thrash albums and their mainstream 90s style that makes so many fans accuse the band of selling out. Hence, I don’t really have a favourite album, they’re all great. Well, maybe not that LuLu collaboration with Lou Reed, but I’m sure we can forgive Metallica for that deviation, can’t we? 

What I would like to see, however, is a box set encompassing all the studio albums, with a lovely hardcovered book detailing Metallica’s career. See, I’m an album guy and while some of the additional content, in the Deluxe Box Sets are interesting, I find that when it comes down to it, I just want to listen to the album as it was originally released rather than listening to everything that was ever recorded. I’ve stayed away from the recent Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction Super Deluxe Edition for that same reason. That said, I would love that 5.1 surround sound High Fidelity Blu-Ray Audio disc to be released separately. I’d buy it in a second. Of course, that isn’t the way the music business wants consumers to consume. They will re-issue Ad nauseam, encouraging us to get the latest edition because it has a new demo that has never been heard before. Look, I’m the first to fall for these gimmicks and truth be told I thoroughly enjoy them, but there’s no denying that being a music lover and a collector is one very expensive hobby. Thankfully, I don’t go to concerts so the money that would have otherwise be allocated to that experience can be repurposed for every new re-issue that I simply must have. Yes, dear reader, it is an addiction. 

While I haven’t made a final decision about the Kill ‘Em All Deluxe Box Set, I’ll probably pick up the 2016 vinyl re-issue as the 2014 Blackened vinyl pressing I own is far from the greatest pressing and is sonically lacklustre. Basically, it just doesn’t sound right. One may wonder what turntable and needle I’m using and if that could be a factor. Well, I can assure you it isn’t. My Pro-ject Debut Carbon is fitted with an Ortofon OM20 needle that otherwise sounds marvellous. Unfortunately, not all vinyl is created equal and this release reminds me of my copy of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell. The music may be there, but the emotive energy isn’t. I swear terrestrial radio would have more life in it than these two pressings. 

What I find even more disappointing is that these were released via Metallica’s own record label and I seriously question how they got the sound so wrong. The sound is so concealed that it sounds as though thick sheets are covering the speakers. Even if you pump the volume, the entire soundstage is lost and the elemental aspects of the recording, that are present on the TIDAL Hi-Fi stream, are sadly absent from this pressing. That all said, reviews of the 2016 remastering sounds promising, hence my thought of upgrading the edition I own.  

The visual presentation of the 2014 re-issue is a little more appealing, however, but the record is housed in the lousiest rice paper sleeve that could ever be used. I had a similar complaint when I reviewed …And Justice For All. Yes, they are both from the same re-issue era, but it is infuriating to love an album and a band this much and be disappointed by what they are prepared to issue to the fans. Sadly, they’re not the first to allow substandard products to be released and they certainly will not be the last. 

All my quibbles aside, the music is of paramount importance and subsequently as my vinyl edition is flawed, I’ll be basing the rest of the review on the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music (Mastered for iTunes) streams as both sound incredibly good. Yes, the TIDAL Hi-Fi CD-quality stream sounds more dynamic with greater midrange and bass definition in comparison to the Apple Music stream, but both are significantly better than the 2014 vinyl counterpart. 

SIDE 1

Hit The Lights has that wonderful live feel to it and is the perfect song to open the album with. The revolving drum beat is spacious, and the soundstage is impressive and thoroughly enjoyable. The intensity of the thrashing guitars never lets up and Hetfield’s vocal cords must have been bleeding following this performance. Exceptional!

The Four Horsemen has an incredibly good grinding guitar rhythm that I’ve always enjoyed. While the song is exceptional, I really wish it was an instrumental-only track as I feel Hetfield’s vocal, while superb, gets in the way of the musicality and is too forward in the mix, thereby masking elements of the soundstage that captivate me when his vocal isn’t present. Regardless, The Four Horsemen is one of my all-time favourite Metallica songs and that mid-song tempo shift is masterfully done with a beautiful bass track and a guitar solo that just sings. Spectacular!

Motorbreath isn’t a bad song but I’d class it as a B-side as it lacks rhythmic impact. Yes, it is a quintessential thrash song, but it feels more like a demo and less evolved than many of the other songs on Kill ‘Em All

Jump In The Fire is another favourite of mine. Grab your air guitar if you haven’t already, you’re going to need it. Interestingly, I often mistakenly associate Jump In The Fire with Ride The Lightning. Perhaps there is an underlying correlation between this song and those which appear on Ride the Lightning, but I’ve always found this connection fascinating as this incongruity doesn’t happen with any other Metallica tracks.  

(Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth is a solid tune but one that I wouldn’t generally listen to outside of the album format. I think, in many respects, this song has had more relevance to fans following Cliff Burton’s passing. That isn’t to diminish the song itself, but if I’m to be completely honest, (Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth doesn’t add any intrinsic value to Kill ‘Em All. If anything, it acts as an intermission that may have been better suited as the final track on Side One or the opening song on Side Two.

Whiplash is a killer song. That drum beat and bass tracking are superbly deep and the perfect accompaniment to the higher pitched vocal and guitar tuning. While I don’t intend to harp on about the 2014 vinyl re-issue, the aforementioned praise is sadly missing from that release. Thankfully, the TIDAL Hi-Fi CD-quality stream more than adequately makes up for the absence of depth and dynamics.  

SIDE 2

Phantom Lord is sensational. From the very first note, you know you’re in for something special. From my perspective, Phantom Lord has a Motörhead vibe that I truly appreciate. Whether intentional or not, it works extremely well and is one of the most memorable songs on Kill ‘Em All. Plus, that mid-song slowdown is remarkably appealing, as is the guitar solo and hook. What a great song!

No Remorse is a rhythmic powerhouse. I love it! BTW: Am I the only one that hears the influence of Iron Maiden? Think Killers.  

Seek & Destroy is one of the greatest thrash metal songs of all time. Enough said! 

Metal Militia is a solid speed metal song to conclude the album with, but I think I would have preferred it if Seek & Destroy was the final song on the album as Metal Militia plays like a B-side by comparison and while it leaves me wanting more, it just isn’t as good as Seek & Destroy.  

Overall, Kill ‘Em All is a must-own album, just not the 2014 vinyl reissue. The 2016 reissues, however, are well reviewed and if the TIDAL Hi-Fi CD-quality edition is anything to go by, they’re likely the ones to own. Kill ‘Em All, as an album, is non-compromising and rhythmically perfect thrash metal. As far as debuts go, this one Kills ‘Em All! 

Kill ‘Em All is available on VinylCD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Kill ‘Em All is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music

The Deluxe Editions are also available via all the aforementioned formats. 

Click here to read other Metallica reviews by Subjective Sounds.  

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Agnetha Fältskog – A (Album Review)

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Agnetha Fältskog – A (Album Review)

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

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

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

SIDE A

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

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

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

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

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

SIDE B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eagles – Desperado (Album Review)

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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.

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