Elton John – Leather Jackets (Album Review)

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Elton John – Leather Jackets (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you prefer streaming, and for this album, you should, Leather Jackets is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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

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Aaron Neville – Warm Your Heart (Album Review)

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Aaron Neville – Warm Your Heart (Album Review)

At this time of year, my significant other starts to ask me what I'd like for the silly season. While my imagination runs wild, we’ve had a few unexpected expenses in the second half of 2018 and rather than aiming high, I thought it would be great to pick up a couple of SACDs that I’ve been longing for. As I was browsing the available titles at Birdland Records, I came upon an artist I love, but one that I haven't got extensive experience with. The first time Aaron Neville appeared on my radar was following the release of the exceptional Bodyguard soundtrack. Neville’s collaboration with Kenny G, on Even If My Heart Would Break, is nothing short of spectacular. Since then, I've always listened out for Neville's uniquely soulful vocals, but other than enjoying his career perspective releases, I haven't taken the time to listen to his albums in full. That all changed when I saw a hybrid SACD edition of his 1991 release, Warm Your Heart. I just knew I had to check it out, but as the SACD edition is rather expensive, I turned to TIDAL Hi-Fi and was blown away.

Sonically, Warm Your Heart is one of the greatest recorded, mixed, and mastered albums I have ever heard. The original CD pressing is said to have an astonishing dynamic range peaking at 17 out of 20, with an average of 15. While numbers don't always provide an accurate representation of quality, I can say that the soundstage is massive with all elements clearly positioned throughout. Plus, I actually want to turn the volume up, rather than down, as there is no brickwalling of the sound to be heard. The simple fact is, this is digital done right. Even the Apple Music counterpart, played via Apple's AirPods, maintains the sonic brilliance. I also find that I want to just sit and listen, for hours on end. It’s spectacular!

By comparison, yesterday I listened to the Tony Bennett and Diana Krall album, Love Is Here To Stay. I had high hopes, especially as Krall's productions are always beyond reproach, but the album fell flat from both a dynamic and excitement standpoint. It sounded concealed and I found myself distracted throughout. Yes, there were a couple of nice tracks, but it was the lacklustre production values that deterred my interest. Love Is Here To Stay is said to have an average dynamic range of 9 out of a possible 20, with a peak of 11. Again, numbers don't tell the entire story, but they are good for comparison and when you have Bennett and Krall together, you expect something spectacular. I still have to listen to the MQA edition of Love Is Here To Stay to see if the master is any better than the CD, but I’m not going to hold my breath as I feel the overall sound signature and style was decided during the recording and mixing process.

Regardless, you'd be hard pressed to find a better album, from any artist, as Warm Your Heart is nothing short of pure perfection. Of course, your feelings may differ to mine, so let’s examine the songs individually shall we?

Louisiana 1927 is a lovely song and a perfect introduction to the body of work that is Warm Your Heart.

Everybody Plays The Fool has a fantastic mix of soul and funk. When I listen to this song, I'm reminded of Barry Gibb as Neville can get awfully close to Gibb’s falsetto vocal style. I also think of Bob Marley when this song comes on. I adore this song and the correlations with other artists that arise in my mind as I’m listening.

It Feels Like Rain is simply gorgeous. Just listen and you’ll hear incredible musical detail. Every element is transparent and nothing is concealed. This is how music should sound!

Somewhere Somebody has a killer groove that is so perfectly recorded, you can turn off any equaliser settings you may be using and enjoy the song as it was intended to be heard.

Don't Go Please Stay is a beautiful song with a gorgeous classical overlay in both the vocal and instrumental backing.

With You In Mind is astonishingly good.

That's The Way She Loves is one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded, by any artist. It is THAT good!

Angola Bound, despite a 30-second relaxed intro, is a little jolting after That's The Way She Loves. It doesn't take away from the groove and enjoyment of listening to Angola Bound, but if I were doing the album tracking, I’d likely have placed Angola Bound in a different position, perhaps following Everybody Plays The Fool.

Close Your Eyes is a beautiful duet with Linda Ronstadt. Ronstadt was also the producer of the entire album; she did a fantastic job!

La Vie Dansante is a lovely tune, with an exceptional backing vocal track. This combination is beyond reproach as the vocal styles are perfectly complementary, thereby creating a sonic masterpiece.

Warm Your Heart is a solid track, but perhaps not one to write home about. It suits the album well, however.

I Bid You Goodnight is a beautiful vocal-focused ballad.

Ave Maria needs no introduction. It's an absolute classic and Neville pays respect to the song while making it his own. It's one of my all-time favourite songs and I absolutely adore this interpretation.

House On A Hill is a toe-tapping, head-bopping, song that is slightly jolting following the relaxed nature of Ave Maria, but it is so good that I don't mind the shifting style. That said, this is another song that may have benefited from a re-tracking of the album. As the final song on the album, however, it compels me to listen to the album again and stay within Neville's catalogue.

Warm Your Heart is superb from start to finish and should be in every music lovers collection, mine included.

Warm Your Heart is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

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

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Elton John – Ice On Fire (Album Review)

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Elton John – Ice On Fire (Album Review)

Sales and initial impressions may have been lacklustre, but Ice On Fire is, overall, an exceptional Elton John album, albeit with a few B-sides.

Ice On Fire starts off with a song that sounds as though it was leftover from the Victim Of Love recording sessions. Yes, This Town has an upbeat tempo that is reminiscent of the disco era, but one can forgive this inclusion as the song has just enough 80s synth to exist in both time periods. Plus, it is a thoroughly enjoyable and addictive song with some exceptional brass instrumentation.

Cry To Heaven slows the album down significantly with an absolutely gorgeous ballad. Cry To Heaven is one of the best songs on Ice On Fire and, as is often the case, I wonder how this masterpiece has not been more prominent in John's catalogue over the years.

Soul Glove is a great song with a rhythm that will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping in no time.

Nikita, as l've mentioned before, is a compelling song that is a personal favourite. Yes, I still don't know why I like this song so much, but that is okay as sometimes the mystical element is just as important as the subjective meaning. Interestingly, and I only found this out recently, George Michael provided the backing vocals. I had never noticed his inclusion before as his vocal presentation is a little hidden in the mix and quite similar to John’s vocal delivery. That said, now I know, I can absolutely hear and appreciate his input, especially with regards to the higher pitched vocal harmonies towards the end of the song.

Too Young is a solid track, but I find it a little pedestrian, especially considering Queen's John Deacon and Roger Taylor played on the song. For all the talent in the studio, Too Young fails to hit the mark and is, for lack of a better term, a B-side.

Wrap Her Up is awesome, what a sensational song! While it wasn't featured on my beloved The Very Best Of Elton John it did make the VHS video release. I have fond memories of watching that video compilation and listening to this addictive song. I dare you to sit still while listening to Wrap Her Up and try not to sing-along. It can't be done!

Satellite has a killer introduction with a drum beat that I find incredibly satisfying. That said, while I enjoy Satellite, it is a B-side and sounds as though it's a demo waiting for a producer to fully realise its full potential.

Tell Me What The Papers Say is similar to Satellite with regards to sounding like an unrealised demo.

Candy By The Pound is three decades removed from the 80s. It's not a bad song per se, it’s just not suited to John's style or the era. It would have been perfect for any pop performer in the 50s however.

Shoot Down The Moon is another stunning Elton John ballad. However, the ending falls a little flat and could have been better thought out.

The Man Who Never Died (1985 Remix) is sonically beautiful with a wide and deep soundstage. It really is quite special!

Restless (Live At Wembley Stadium 1984), as I've mentioned before, has a good groove, but despite being a live track, the band still isn't jamming and I'd say this is one song that tarnishes the remastered edition of Ice On Fire. Sometimes, bonus tracks just shouldn't be added to an existing album. Although, The Man Who Never Died is an exception to that rule.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Live Version) is another exception. That said, these live tracks would have been perfect if presented on a second CD. Yes, that wouldn't help with modern day streaming, but one must remember, these remasters were done at the pinnacle of the CD era. Unfortunately, during that time, the general consensus was to fill the capacity of the CD, for no other reason than because you could.

I'm Still Standing (Live At Wembley Stadium 1984) closes out the remastered release nicely and ensures I’ll play the album again and stay within John's catalogue. It isn't the best live performance of this epic song, but it could be argued that it is a true representation of the live sound without overdubbing.

Overall, Ice On Fire is one of John's most satisfying 80s albums, with a number of hits to be heard and some hidden gems that are rarely appreciated outside of the album format.

Ice On Fire is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

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

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

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The Adicts – And It Was So! (Album Review)

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The Adicts – And It Was So! (Album Review)

I think I'm a closet punk fan!

Yes, it's true, l've never identified with the punk era, but as I age I find that I’m being drawn towards punk-styled music genres and associated bands. As I reflect on my relationship with music, throughout the years, I’ve come to the realisation that I really have listened to a lot of punk music. Although, and this may be sacrilegious, I would refer to it as Rock and Roll or Alternative music. I know, I know, music lovers and musicians worldwide are rolling their eyes with that admission, but it’s true. Regardless of my own wacky relationship with punk music, I'd never heard of The Adicts, despite their decades in the business, until this last week. The album artwork for And It Was So! drew my attention, as I was browsing Apple Music. Upon hearing Picture The Scene, I was hooked.

Picture The Scene has an Alice Cooper styled entrance that I love. I'm not normally a fan of spoken word elements in songs, but this one is superb. The hook and rhythm of Picture The Scene is incredibly addictive and that guitar work throughout will get any rocker moving. What a great start to the album!

F****d Up World is a solid punk tune. Nothing to write home about, however, but perfectly suited to the album. The outro explosion is a little too lengthy, but I do like the approach they were aiming for.

Talking S**t is an excellent song. No, it's bloody brilliant! When I hear this song, I’m reminded of quite a few people who Talk S**t, even without the influence of mind-altering substances! At any rate, dear reader, you might assume I talk a lot of S**t. You wouldn’t be wrong but that’s okay as Talking S**t is hilarious and is one of my favourite songs on the album.

If You Want It reminds me of a few early Midnight Oil recordings, but this song arguably has a more upbeat rhythm. Regardless, If You Want It is a killer song and will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping in no time at all.

Gospel According To Me is a fun little song.

Gimme Something To Do is a little pedestrian and never really delivers. It's a B-side at best but is still suited to the album.

Love Sick Baby has a killer groove, I love it! It also has an underproduced feel to it that is, in my opinion, perfect for a punk record.

And It Was So is a great song.

Deja Vu follows on perfectly from And It Was So. Seriously, there is a little Deja Vu to be heard. A stellar track!

I Owe You another song! Yes, Adicts, you owe me another song. This one is horrendous and reminds me of songs that made the soundtracks of numerous bad teen flicks. Yes, I watched them in the 90s, but I no longer connect with this style of music.

Wanna Be is fantastic, although any song would be better than I Owe You.

You'll Be The Death Of Me is music gold. Undoubtedly the best song on the album and one of my ultimate favourites. I can listen to this song on repeat for hours and my kids find this song so funny that we have labelled it our family anthem. Geez, I must say You’ll Be The Death Of Me to them a little too often!

And It Was So! that from start to finish, The Adicts have released an album that I enjoy playing on repeat and one that encourages me to check out their entire back catalogue in order to see what I've been missing out on all these years. If this album is any indication, it's a lot!

And It Was So! is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, And It Was So! is available on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Elton John – Breaking Hearts (Album Review)

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Elton John – Breaking Hearts (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking Hearts is available on CD and iTunes.

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

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

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Five Finger Death Punch – And Justice For None (Deluxe Edition Album Review)

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Five Finger Death Punch – And Justice For None (Deluxe Edition Album Review)

There are times when I scratch my head and wonder why it took me so long to check out an artist. Yes, my musical interests are broad and that could be presented as a justification, but I’ve known about Five Finger Death Punch for a number of years and despite being an active fan of their associated genres and counterparts, I've never taken that next step, until now.

And Justice For None is more than just an interesting wordplay on Metallica's ...And Justice For All. From this perspective it reminds me of the Murderdolls calling their last album Women And Children Last; a play on Van Halen's Women And Children First. Both are classics, as is Metallica's ...And Justice For All, but how does Five Finger Death Punch’s And Justice For None stack up? Well, for starters, Five Finger Death Punch didn't turn down the bass!

On a serious note, And Justice For None is one of the greatest metal-infused albums I have ever listened to. There isn't a bad song to be heard and the musicality of the band is off-the-charts.

While you can't judge an album by its cover, I absolutely love the artwork on the Deluxe Edition that is the basis for this review. It's demonic and arguably a cliche, but is perfectly suited to the band and their style of music. The Standard Edition is equally compelling, but I decided to listen to and review the Deluxe Edition as that version is specifically available on vinyl and the album is so good that I'll have to pick up a copy. It’s also important to note there is a slightly different track listing between the editions; most notably Trouble, the lead song on the Deluxe Edition is omitted completely from the Standard Edition. I find this fascinating as Deluxe Editions traditionally dump additional songs at the backend of the album. As exceptional as Fake is, Trouble is a perfectly valid song and sets the tone for the entire album. The rhythm is amazing, as is the quality of the recording, mixing, and mastering. You can't always say that about metal-focused bands as they are either bass heavy and subsequently muffled, or they sound too thin throughout the entire soundstage. Five Finger Death Punch, however, punches you in the face with their sound, preserving the bass while ensuring there's a broad stereo image which is crystal clear.

Fake is bloody brilliant! It’s hard hitting and Corey Taylor inspired. In fact, I'd love to hear Taylor cover it, or perform it live with Five Finger Death Punch. That said, the song is so perfect with Moody's vocal presentation that Taylor could ruin it. Sorry, Corey, I love ya man, but Moody kicks ass on this song. Actually, when I think about it, Rob Zombie would also be perfectly suited to cover this masterpiece.

Top Of The World is rhythmic heaven and yes, I still hear a little Corey Taylor influence on this song, not that that’s a bad thing!

Sham Pain is brilliant. With a little hip-hop, pop-rock ballad tones, and metal-infused elements, this song ticks all the boxes for me. Plus, the play on words and lyrical context is incredible. Although, that guitar solo ends prematurely, despite fading out nicely.

Blue On Black is an absolute classic, entering into the social consciousness in 1997 when recorded by the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. I thought the original was great, but Five Finger Death Punch has mastered it, making it their own. I dare say, besides the original, there isn't an artist on the planet that could cover this song better. Death Punch's version is really that good!

Fire In The Hole has an incredible musical hook that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last note is played.

I Refuse is a stunningly beautiful ballad!

It Doesn't Matter is a great song, one I would label as pop-metal, but that isn’t a criticism as the song is excellent.

When The Seasons Change is a near-acoustic song that initially sounds a little out-of-place, but upon repeat listens, blends beautifully with the body of work that is And Justice For None.

Stuck In My Ways is great, but if there is a B-side to be found, this is it.

Rock Bottom is bordering on scream metal but thankfully backs off just before going over the edge. It’s a solid song, but nothing to write home about.

Gone Away is another exceptional cover. The original Offspring recording is remarkably good, but Five Finger Death Punch has taken it to another level, creating a unique, yet familiar, version of the song.

Bloody is a little pedestrian, but if it was recorded by another band, say Nickelback, I'd suggest it was perfectly suited for their style. It just sounds a little out-of-place for Five Finger Death Punch but it remains a solid B-side with a killer ending.

Will The Sun Ever Rise is simply fantastic!

Bad Seed is a symphonic-styled vocal-driven song that will have you reaching for the volume knob. You’ll really want to pump the volume to get the most out of this song, and the entire album. However, if on headphones, you can do permanent damage to your hearing, so please put it on the stereo and drive your neighbours insane. If they complain, tell them you have my permission!

Save Your Breath is the greatest song on the album. I could listen to it on repeat for eternity. It’s the perfect song to close the album with and encourages me to listen to the album again and explore more of Five Finger Death Punch's back catalogue.

From start to finish, And Justice For None is superb and will, without doubt, become a classic metal album as it ages; although, I’d argue that it has already reached that status.

And Justice For None (Deluxe Edition) is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store 16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, And Justice For None (Deluxe Edition) is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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Mariah Carey – #1 To Infinity (Compilation Review – North American Edition)

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Mariah Carey – #1 To Infinity (Compilation Review – North American Edition)

Throughout the 90s, Mariah Carey’s music was regularly played in my home as I was captivated by Music Box and Daydream, along with Carey’s earlier recordings that I would hear on the radio. I was also a frequent listener of Carey's first Christmas album, Merry Christmas, during the holiday season of course. Yes, longtime readers would undoubtedly remember my dislike of Christmas music, as I seem to reference it every chance I get, yet there was a period in time when this music was important to me. It no longer is, but I don't have any regrets listening to it at the time. Nevertheless, following Daydream, I found myself no longer connecting with Carey's music. Yes, she became increasingly a Diva, but she also shifted styles upon each new album; in my opinion, less successfully than Madonna has done over the years. Mind-blowing ballads such as Hero and Endless Love have become increasingly absent in Carey’s later releases and it's a shame from my perspective as she had the capacity to go head to head with the likes of Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion, but she chose a different creative path. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before she returns to her roots as her vocal range is absolutely incredible and classic ballads will always outlive the current pop trends.

Diva or not, Carey has an incredible back catalogue and as soon as #1 To Infinity was released on vinyl, I had to have it. It's important to note that there are different versions of this compilation; a North American release (the one which this review is based upon), an International version, and a Japanese edition. However, the vinyl edition has only ever featured the North American tracking and subsequently, if you want to enjoy the other editions, from other regions, you’ll have to import a CD as streaming services localise the album to your particular region.

The vinyl release is simply stunning, not only to listen to but to enjoy as a physical counterpart to the music. Presented in a heavy duty gatefold, you get the feeling that much care and thought was put into this production. As you open the gatefold, there is a short message to the fans, from Mariah, which is a nice touch. Carey also pens the inner sleeves, describing a little background of each song prior to the reprinting of the lyrics and production information. It’s wonderful to see this attention to detail as so many career perspective releases are thrown together as nothing more than a sales opportunity by the record label and often without the input of the artist.

Turning our attention to the record cover, I’m not a fan of it. I much prefer the photograph on the rear of the vinyl release as it encapsulates Carey’s innocent era as well as her more provocative era. That said, one can’t argue that the cover is striking and stands out from other records, therefore ensuring it isn’t missed on the shelves of your local record store.

Each record comes in a printed inner-sleeve and while the photographs detail much of Carey’s career, I find it interesting that the selected photographs somewhat conclude with Carey’s Butterfly era, rather than proceeding through to the compilation’s release in 2015. Nevertheless, the selected photographs are fantastic and are a joy to look at while listening to the record.

Vision of Love is the perfect song to commence the compilation on. While I was never fortunate enough to own Carey's self-titled debut album, it was impossible to go for any length of time without hearing Carey's soaring vocals on the radio. It's the kind of song, as many of Carey's classics are, that create the dreaded earworm. Of course, in this case, it’s a song that I'm happy to allow my subconscious to play over and over again as if it were a broken record.

Love Takes Time is a beautiful song and I truly hope Carey will return to her roots, in the future, where her vocal is crystal-clear and front and center. We already have more than enough manufactured and overproduced music. I want these power ballads. Exceptional!

Someday (MTV Unplugged) is a great performance. I would, however, have preferred them to edit the track down to the drumstick count in as the spoken word introduction is cheesy. Carey would probably hate this, but the backing vocalists make this live performance. It’s also a great mix and I don't know about you, but I’ve yet to come across a substandard MTV Unplugged performance, by any artist. While I do question the inclusion of a live track on a greatest hits compilation, Carey explains in the liner notes that she wasn’t completely satisfied with the overproduced version of the studio recording, whereas she found this version more appealing. After comparing both, she’s got a point. The original is substandard when compared to the MTV Unplugged performance. It’s actually difficult to listen to after the live version.

I Don’t Wanna Cry is another exceptional song from Carey's debut album. So well recorded, mixed, and mastered. It’s an incredibly musical song that encourages one to sit back, close their eyes, and turn up the volume.

Emotions has a great beat that compels you to move your body. It’s a little campy, but an absolute classic.

I'll Be There (Feat. Trey Lorenz) is an incredible cover, but I find Carey sings it too similar to the Jackson 5 original, rather than making it her own. Perhaps it was due to the last minute plan to record it for the MTV Unplugged performance that caused Carey to approach the song in this manner. Of course, the similar nature of her version could have been as a direct result of her admiration for the Jackson 5. Regardless, she nails it!

Dreamlover is a great pop song and god only knows how many times I played this song in the 90s, as Music Box was spun repeatedly. It isn't Carey's greatest song, that title goes to Hero, but it’s not far behind and will arguably be present on every Carey career perspective album that will see the light of day.

Hero is the definitive Mariah Carey song. While it has been played ad nauseam, it’s still her greatest recording and I don’t believe she'll ever top it.

Fantasy (Bad Boy Fantasy Feat. O.D.B) is an interesting choice as I've always enjoyed the original studio release, but I must say this remix is compelling and has grown on me the more I have played it. That said, I'm not sure I agree with remixes appearing on compilations. Neil Sedaka's The Very Best Of was somewhat ruined when some of his greatest songs appeared in a medley format. Thankfully I like this version of Fantasy as much as the original album version.

One Sweet Day (Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men) is a beautiful song. Both Carey and Boyz II Men were at their creative peaks when this song was recorded and it shows.

Always Be My Baby has a sensational intro, and while I enjoy the song, I find the verses to be pedestrian. Thankfully the chorus kicks this song into high gear. That said, I'm not sure if this song is compilation worthy. It's good, but is it great?

Honey isn't a bad song, but it’s overproduced and while it isn't dated, give it another couple of decades and the sonic signature will have aged quite badly.

My All is a beautiful ballad and is truly worthy of inclusion on this career perspective compilation. Carey really needs to focus on this style of song, in my opinion. In this category, she has very few peers.

Heartbreaker (Feat. Jay-Z) is fantastic. I don't know about you, but it gets me head-bopping and toe-tapping as I turn the volume up and sing along. Jay-Z really is the spit and polish on this song. His contribution isn't as prominent as I'd like, but it's arguably perfect.

Thank God I Found You (Feat. Joe & 98 Degrees) is a lovely ballad, although I find the tempo to be a little too slow, not dissimilar to the audible slow down on a cassette walkman just as the batteries were beginning to fail.

We Belong Together is a solid pop tune, but I wonder, again, if this song is worthy of a career perspective album.

Don't Forget About Us is in a similar category to We Belong Together. It's good, but perhaps not great.

Touch My Body is one of Carey's newer songs that I truly enjoy. A great song with a great beat.

Infinity is, of course, the only new song to appear on this career perspective release. It isn’t bad and fits in well with the other tracks on the compilation. That said, I feel it’s overproduced and Carey's vocal tracking could have been stronger as her vocal range isn't well represented on this song.

Like many greatest hit albums, length is an issue and I find after the 79-minute duration has elapsed, I'm ready to listen to something else. That said, while listening to #1 To Infinity, I thoroughly enjoy it and don’t for a moment regret picking it up on vinyl.

The song choice for the North American edition is well-considered, but I do miss Without You and that incredible duet with Luther Vandross; Endless Love. Both are included on the International release of the album. At least we didn't get the campy All I Want For Christmas Is You, although it is included on the Japanese edition if you’re a fan of that song.

Sonically, the vinyl pressing is full bodied with a warmth that will appeal to analogue aficionados. If you’re interested in picking up the vinyl release, a download code is also included and the mastering, while not confirmed, sounds identical to the vinyl release, minor the unique analogue sound of course. Overall, the pressing is very quiet, with almost no surface noise, ensuring headphone listening is enjoyable. It’s truly worth owning for fans of Mariah Carey’s music.

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Elton John – Too Low For Zero (Album Review)

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Elton John – Too Low For Zero (Album Review)

A mixed bag! Yes, that’s how I would adequately describe Too Low For Zero. There is little doubt that this album was another successful collaborative effort between John and Taupin, and while it would mark a return to John's original band lineup, from his classic era, Too Low For Zero isn't what I would consider to be a classic album. Don't get me wrong, there are some killer songs to be heard on this album, but not all of them are noteworthy.

I must admit that l've always liked the cover art of Too Low For Zero, but I find it humorous that the hieroglyphs by themselves are not enough, therefore requiring the album name to appear at the bottom of the album artwork. Nevertheless, it is the music we’re here for, so let's check it out.

This review is based on listening to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music remastered editions of the album. Sonically, the difference between the two is negligible, ensuring you’ll enjoy this album regardless of the streaming platform.

Cold As Christmas (In The Middle Of The Year) is musically a good song, but John should have remained mute, allowing the song to be an instrumental composition only. Yes, I'm not a fan of anything Christmas related, as many regular readers would note, but it’s just not suited to John and at best is a B-side. It certainly should have never been the opening track for the album. It's not as bad as Dear John, but it isn't far off either.

I'm Still Standing, as l’ve mentioned before, is addictive and truly awesome!

Too Low For Zero certainly has an 80s sound, but to be completely honest, I find it difficult to connect with this song as I feel the chorus is a little whiny, bordering on campy. Unfortunately, no amount of repeat listens can change my mind. It also sounds very under-produced, one step away from a demo recording. It’s a great album title, but a lacklustre song. Although, that piano solo is thoroughly enjoyable.

Religion isn't a bad song with a toe-tapping rhythm, but it’s also a B-side and offers nothing to write home about.

I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues is such a beautiful song. Well written, recorded, mixed, and mastered. It really is, as I’ve said before, simply fantastic!

Crystal is a great song. The beat is compelling, the backing atmospheric music is captivating, and John's vocal is perfectly presented on this song. One of the best, non-hit, songs on the album!

Kiss The Bride is, as I've mentioned before, one of the greatest songs ever recorded! Seriously, does anything more than that need to be said about this masterpiece?

Whipping Boy just isn't good. When I say Too Low For Zero is a mixed bag, this song validates that viewpoint.

Saint is a solid B-side and a worthy addition to the album.

One More Arrow is a beautiful song that should really be more prominent in John's catalogue. The vocal shifts are incredible and one can only wonder how amazing this song would be if performed live.

Earn While You Learn has an intriguing entrance that sounds like it would have been better suited on Victim Of Love or 21 At 33. It's a solid instrumental track, even if it’s a little self-indulgent.

Dreamboat is the very definition of campy. It isn’t bad, it’s just not great and probably should have been left in the archives.

The Retreat is a solid song to close the remastered edition of Too Low For Zero. It encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue. However, I also have the same opinion of One More Arrow closing out the original non-remastered edition of the album.

Overall, Too Low For Zero is an excellent album, but it is most certainly a mixed bag of extraordinary and mediocre. Hence, it is difficult to recommend this album on vinyl as the skip ability of that track you may not like is not nearly as flexible as digital delivery methods. Regardless, the tracks that are truly worth hearing are the hits and they are available on various compilations. That recommendation, of course, limits some of the better non-hit tracks from being heard, but the songs that are truly bad, are bad enough to mar the album if you're not a truly dedicated fan.

Too Low For Zero is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Too Low For Zero is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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

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Disturbed – Evolution (Album Review)

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Disturbed – Evolution (Album Review)

Sometimes the only way for an artist to remain relevant, and continue to grow creatively, is to evolve. Yes, Disturbed's latest album doesn’t have a meaningless title as they have evolved with a series of songs that will likely divide fans.

There is little doubt that Draiman has the vocal chops to approach most styles, but I can't help but wonder if some of the songs on this album would not have been better utilised for a side project. Think Corey Taylor's Slipknot verse Stone Sour styles and you'll likely understand where I'm coming from. Yes, Disturbed has a reputation for exceptional covers, especially The Sound Of Silence, but Evolution is a mix of Disturbed’s metal roots and their creative acoustic aspirations. It’s familiar, yet different; reminding me somewhat of the disjointed mess that is John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy. That album and this should really have been two separate albums or at the very least expanded and presented in the same manner as The Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness double album.

Are You Ready is the signature stadium-filling song that is pure Disturbed. Its energy and finesse is addictive and will appeal to new and old fans alike. I love it!

No More has a great vibe, with a little Marilyn Manson influence, especially in the opening and hook areas of the song. Donegan's semi-solo guitar tracking is fantastic as is the entire mix.

A Reason To Fight is a stunningly beautiful ballad. Seriously, Disturbed needs to release a pure ballads album or an acoustic record. Think Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York. It would be a superb addition to their repertoire. If you thought their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound Of Silence, from Immortal, was impressive, you'll be blown away with A Reason To Fight. It is arguably the best song on the album and one of the best original songs Disturbed has ever written and recorded.

In Another Time has a lovely slow build up that is required when transitioning from A Reason To Fight. It’s a solid Disturbed tune, but nothing to write home about.

Stronger On Your Own similarly doesn't blow me away. Don't get me wrong, I'll happily accept more Disturbed music any day of the week, but I feel Stronger On Your Own is recorded at the wrong tempo. Plus, again, I hear elements of Marilyn Manson, encouraging me to listen to his catalogue. It's a little Disturbing...pun intended!

Hold On To Memories is another song to get the acoustic treatment. It’s beautiful and Draiman's lyrical delivery is gorgeous. However, I remain steadfast in my recommendation of greater style separation. Besides the aforementioned albums, think Foo Fighters' In Your Honor.

Saviour Of Nothing, unlike Stronger On Your Own, has the perfect tempo. Equally hard-hitting, yet relaxing. The musicality is interesting and the short drum solo, followed by the guitar solo is incredible. A great song!

Watch You Burn is a B-side and I'm hoping it will grow on me, but at the moment I feel it isn't really a Disturbed song as it sounds out-of-place in their catalogue. That said, I adore the symphonic elements and believe they should have been more prominent throughout.

The Best Ones Lie brings us back to the traditional Disturbed sound we all know and love. The Best Ones Lie sounds like it was left over from the Believe sessions. That's a good thing if you were wondering.

Already Gone is another ballad and closes out the album beautifully. Yes, it encourages me to listen to Evolution again and stay within Disturbed's catalogue. I did initially listen to the Deluxe Edition, but I find the standard 10 track version offers the perfect length, especially considering the sonic differences and experimentation between Evolution and Disturbed’s back catalogue.

Overall, Evolution is an excellent album that grows on you the more you listen to it. Given the widespread popularity of The Sound Of Silence, it’s hardly surprising that Disturbed has decided to evolve their sound to include more ballad tones. I do, however, still wish they had separated the styles a little more, but I also acknowledge that the song introductions are well thought-out in relation to the shifting styles and don’t feel overly disjointed. It will be interesting to see how Disturbed take this shift in styling and apply it to future records.

This review has been based on listening to the TIDAL MQA (Masters) and Hi-Fi editions, as well as the Apple Music stream. Subjectively, I found the MQA edition to be a noticeable improvement over the Apple Music stream. However, the variance between the MQA edition and CD-quality Hi-Fi stream was negligible. The MQA edition, however, felt subjectively more musical, compelling me to move and connect better with the music. That all said, when an album is recorded, mixed, and mastered this well, you’ll enjoy it thoroughly regardless of the format.

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

If you prefer streaming, Evolution is available on TIDAL (MQA or Hi-Fi), Apple Music, and Spotify.

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Elton John – Jump Up! (Album Review)

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Elton John – Jump Up! (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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