Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (Album Review)

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Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (Album Review)

Bat Out Of Hell is an absolute classic and while there are few that would dismiss its importance to the history of recorded music, most of us would agree that it is a landmark album. It's a shame then that the sonic quality has never really lived up to the hype, but more on that later.

In 1993, Meat Loaf had once again exploded on the world's stage with Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell and the monumentally popular lead single I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). Both would herald my first experiences of Meat Loaf and I was immediately hooked. So much so that the acquisition of the album that started it all was all but guaranteed.

As I played the Bat Out Of Hell cassette, I remember being surprised that an album would have fewer than ten songs. You must remember that this was at the height the CD era when artists and record labels had a tendency to fill the capacity of the CD for no other reason than because they could. Sure, there were some exceptional albums that went for the 74-minute duration, but they were often the exception, rather than the rule. Despite this, I quickly learnt that the song limitations on Bat Out Of Hell were due to the approximate 44-minute runtime of the vinyl LP and the fact that Meat Loaf often defied the radio-friendly runtime. 

Sadly, the cassette no longer exists in my collection. It became a casualty of the MP3 era. Yes, dear reader, I was a bloody idiot! The most unfortunate aspect of this move to digital convenience was that I’ve never been able to find a comparable copy, on any format. While I acknowledge the placebo effect in relation to my memories of how the cassette sounded, I have found that many of the currently available editions lack midrange with excessive treble. It is frustrating and reminds me of my beloved ABBA collection. Some releases are excellent, most are substandard, usually due to varied masters and master tape quality.

A few years ago, I decided to pick up a vinyl release as much for the artwork as the promised return to analog sound. Well, let's just say the CD-quality edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi is significantly better. That's putting it mildly as Lucifer himself wouldn't allow the Simply Vinyl pressing to enter hell. It truly is that bad!

The catalogue number for the aforementioned atrocity is SVLP 0086/82419. Simply Vinyl even had the audacity to claim that it was pressed on Virgin Vinyl, a fact that is a completely inaccurate as the surface noise alone is off the charts. Even recycled vinyl can sound adequate if the record has been mastered and pressed with respect to the limitations of the medium and the original recording. Besides the poor sonic quality, the Simply Vinyl release is pressed so poorly that the lead song, Bat Out Of Hell, starts about a second later than it should.

I could go on and on about how pathetic the pressing is and how much extraneous treble is present. I could also detail how the record lacks soul, drive, and emphasis, not to mention musicality, but I think you get the idea. Simply avoid this pressing at all costs.

As a result, I won’t be using the Simply Vinyl release for this review as it would tarnish my thoughts on the songs themselves. I will subsequently be using the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition as the basis for this review. It still isn’t what I would consider as perfect, but it offers a decent quality that allows me to enjoy Bat Out Of Hell.

Bat Out Of Hell is a killer track to commence the album with. It is the epitome pop/rock opera, along with Paradise By The Dashboard Light of course, and I simply adore it.

You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) has the classic Jim Steinman spoken intro that works well with the song, but I find the musicality in this track to be too campy and rather dated. That is not to say that I dislike it, but this song could have easily come from Abba's catalogue, especially with the backing vocal style. Regardless, once the song gets going, I find it captivating and feel the need to sing-a-long.

Heaven Can Wait is simply gorgeous!

All Revved Up With No Place To Go is a little too jazzy for my liking. Despite that, I don’t dislike the song and will once again belt out every chorus and verse. 

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad is pure Meat Loaf. Just like Heaven Can Wait, I thoroughly enjoy songs that highlight Meat Loaf's vocal presentation. While he’s been criticised in recent years for poor live performances, there is no shame on this track. He knocked it out of the park with Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad; one of my all-time favourites.

Paradise By The Dashboard Light has a reputation that needs no introduction, Pure perfection from a songwriting and musical perspective. It's a shame it lacks midrange while also needing a little boost in the low end. Regardless, it would be in my Top 100 songs of all-time, if I had such a list.

For Crying Out Loud is another of those exceptional vocal-driven tunes that are perfect for Meat Loaf. While we all likely gravitate to the well-known, face-paced, rock tunes on the album, I personally adore this song and the gradual build-up is pure gold. Just as Bat Out Of Hell was the perfect song to begin the album with, For Crying Out Loud is the ultimate closer, encouraging me to listen to the album again and stay within Meat Loaf's catalogue for the rest of the day.

Bat Out Of Hell is one of the greatest albums ever recorded; even if not from a sonic standpoint. While Meat Loaf gets most of the credit, Jim Steinman needs to be remembered as the silent but extremely talented writer that was as important to Meat Loaf’s success as Bernie Taupin was to Elton John. Yes, both Meat Loaf and Elton John have worked with other songwriters, but it could be argued that their best work occurred when working with these key contributors.

Without doubt, I need to source a better original for my physical music collection. I have been considering the Analogue Spark SACD release as it is reported to be very good and amongst the best masterings of the album. However, as I was finalising this review, I noticed that Friday Music has just re-issued the album as a 40th Anniversary Edition on red vinyl. Yes, I’m sceptical of another vinyl edition as well. However, it is important to note that this edition has been mastered by Joe Reagoso and Kevin Gray at RTI. Those names alone are akin to royalty in audiophile circles and based on my prior experience with Friday Music pressings, I’m almost tempted to order a copy.

Do you have a preferred edition of this classic? If so, please let us know in the comments. 

Bat Out Of Hell is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Bat Out Of Hell is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Elton John - Don't Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player (Album Review)

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Elton John - Don't Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player (Album Review)

As far as album titles go, this is one of my favourites as it conjures up a variety of thoughts that not only apply to the literal inference of the statement, but the showmanship element portrayed via the cover art.

From a musical perspective, there is much to like here as many of the songs have gone on to become staples in the Elton John catalogue. However, sonically I find the album challenging to enjoy as it sounds rather concealed. For reference, the edition that this review is based on is the 1995 Mercury remaster available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. It simply lacks a lively approach and also sounds incredibly flat by comparison to John's other records from this era. It simply isn't mastered well, yet the classic tunes that I know well, and have repeatedly heard on various compilations, sound incredible on John's various best of/greatest hits releases. With this in mind, I feel confident in saying that the remaster didn’t enhance the album. It’s a shame really, considering the calibre of songs found on Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player.

Daniel is a gorgeous ballad that truly showcases the smooth, yet gruff, elements that are part of John's vocal presentation. Musically, it is also lovely, it’s just disappointing that the remaster is not stronger as there is a greater performance hidden from the listener’s ears. Regardless, Daniel is thoroughly enjoyable.

Teacher I Need You is EPIC! It’s a fun song that works extremely well for John's style; similar to Crocodile Rock in that regard. Sadly, the percussion elements lack the depth I believe they should have, resulting in a lacklustre backbeat.

Elderberry Wine is a great song, but again let down by what can only be described as 'mushy' drums.

Blues For My Baby And Me is a simply gorgeous song. As I listen to it, I can't help but wonder if Billy Joel has ever covered this song in one of their double-billed live performances as it would be perfectly suited to his style. Perhaps it is just me, but the way John sings this song is similar to Joel's own vocal dexterity. Subsequently, the casual listener could be forgiven for assuming Blues For My Baby And Me is a Billy Joel song, rather than an Elton John classic.

Midnight Creeper is a solid song, with a catchy melody, but it isn't anything to write home about.

Have Mercy On The Criminal is an incredible song, one of the best on the album. Quite frankly, it is one of John's greatest recordings.

I'm Gonna Be A Teenage Idol has a fantastic groove that ensures your body will be moving throughout. Turn the volume up and enjoy. I love it!

Texas Love Song is an enjoyable tune that grows on you the more you listen to the album.

Crocodile Rock is one of my all-time favourites. It’s simply a fun song and sometimes that is all you need.

High Flying Bird is a classic B-side, but it is beautiful in its own right and is one of the best songs on the album.

Screw You (Young Man's Blues) is another fun song. I'd love to see the Foo Fighters cover this song as I can only imagine Dave Grohl’s vocal presentation, especially in the chorus, would be priceless.

Jack Rabbit (Single Version) is a bonus song that was left off the core album and should have been left off the remaster. It simply doesn’t add any substance to the album or John's career.

Whenever You're Ready (We'll Go Steady Again) isn’t the strongest song in the lineup either. Sometimes I find bonus tracks detract from the core album experience and that is certainly the case in this instance. It would be nice to have these tracks separate, perhaps on a second CD. Unfortunately, streaming services have yet to come up with an adequate way to handle such a problem. Yes, they often include the standard album release with the Deluxe Edition but this remaster was never separated as such in the CD era, hence the good, the bad, and the ugly are mashed together. Vinyl collectors can, however, rejoice as the 2017 reissue has the original album track listing.

Skyline Pigeon (Piano Version) is gorgeous and while this is my preferred version, the original that is available on Empty Sky has a rawer production that works equally well.

Don't Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player is another incredible album by Elton John, but in comparison to his other recordings, it is sonically inferior. Perhaps it could be partially contributed to the original recording style, but I still feel it was the remaster that has tarnished the musical brilliance. That said, I've never heard an original pressing of this album and I may be in error with the above statement. Although, I can’t ignore the fact that many of John’s compilations present the songs in a far more pleasing manner with a larger soundstage and overall presence. Interestingly, Don't Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player was never mastered to SACD and to my knowledge there has never been a high-resolution edition released. I only mention this as many of John's other albums from this era have received the high-res treatment and I wonder if the original recording is lacking or if the tapes from the original recording/mastering sessions are beyond repair. If anyone has any knowledge in this area, I’d love to hear from you. Regardless, I’ll certainly be interested to listen to the album again once it is available in MQA via TIDAL Hi-Fi.

In the meantime, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Big Star - Radio City (Remastered) [Album Review]

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Big Star - Radio City (Remastered) [Album Review]

Radio City is one album I have a love/hate relationship with as I find that, unlike their #1 Record, Radio City demands the listener's attention. Occasionally, I'll want to listen while performing some mundane task, yet I find myself underwhelmed and bored. Yet if I sit, with no other distractions, with my eyes closed, I am blown away by the musicality present on Radio City. Yes, it is a bizarre dichotomy that I am at a loss to fully explain. Perhaps one could point to the fact that in the 70s you would sit and listen, therefore it could be said that the music from this era presents a more complex composition, thereby demanding one’s attention. While there is certainly some validity in this aforementioned statement, one could also suggest the songs are too similar, thereby causing them to blend into a wall-of-sound rather than distinctly unique songs. I may never get to the bottom of my love/hate relationship with Radio City, but I do love that it continues to challenge my thoughts and appreciation of music.

O My Soul is a great song that sets the tone of the album. You will feel the need to move as your soul will intertwine with a song that is beautifully recorded and mixed. There is a lot to love here, and this is only the first song on the album. Amazing!

Life Is White has a fantastic rhythm. Sometimes that is all you need for a great song.

Way Out West is one of my favourite Big Star songs. Actually, it would be in my Top 100 songs from the 70s if I had such a list. Way Out West is musical perfection in every sense of the word and is the true definition of power pop.

What's Going Ahn is a rather melancholy composition and it is only after dedicated, repeat listens, that the song comes into its own and can be seen as truly revolutionary. It’s stunningly beautiful and one of the best songs of the 70s.

You Get What You Deserve has a gorgeous musical twang. I love it!

Mod Lang has a grungy feel that works well as an independent song, but I feel is not suited to the album. It is, however, a solid B-side.

Back Of A Car returns us to a style that I feel is more characteristic of Big Star. It reminds me of the tonality and rhythm that would be adopted by many bands such as Crowded House. You can also hear a little of The Beatles in this song. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love the influence musicians have on each other, regardless of era.

Daisy Glaze is stunningly beautiful, due in part to the slow tempo throughout much of the song. Yet as the tempo increases, the incredible performance does not falter and frankly only gets better. Absolutely amazing!

She's A Mover has a great rhythm. You'll be toe tapping and head bopping from the first note. The song is raw in its musicality, but that style was very common in the era and reminds one of numerous Beatles and Rolling Stones tunes.

September Gurls is a solid song. Nothing to write home about, but not all songs have to be noteworthy in order to create an exceptional album experience.

Morpha Too is short, unique, and intriguing. I adore it, but I can't explain why. Take a listen and see what you think. Does it leave you speechless?

I'm In Love With A Girl is gorgeous. A perfect love song!

O My Soul (Single Mix) is excellent as it drastically shortens the album version. However, it isn't that the length of the original was problematic, I just feel the condensed version enhances the song. Interestingly, this edition has some major clipping issues as if it has been pushed too far. It’s a shame considering this isn't present in the original mix. Regardless, I'm glad this edition exists as it does compel me to listen to the album again and stay within Big Star’s catalogue. For reference, the re-issued vinyl release maintains the original tracking and I feel I’m In Love With A Girl would also close the album out perfectly.

For this review, I listened to the 2009 remaster on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Sonically, it was beautiful, despite the clipping on the final song. As a result, I look forward to ordering a vinyl copy from mataurecords.com.au. That said, I wasn't overly pleased with the vinyl re-issue of the #1 Record as I referenced in my January 2017 review. Alas, the collector within will likely find a way to justify the acquisition as Radio City is worth adding to my collection – especially for dedicated vinyl listening sessions.

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

If you prefer streaming, Radio City is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Other Big Star reviews by Subjective Sounds:

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Elton John - Honky Château (Album Review)

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Elton John - Honky Château (Album Review)

Is it just me or was Elton John's classic era superior to anything that he would do post the 70s? While I'm obviously being frivolous, I'm constantly astonished by just how incredible his music was throughout the 70s. Hence, if it amazes me in 2018, I can only imagine how people would have felt listening to Honky Château when released in 1972.

Honky Cat needs no introduction with its funk tonality. I don't know about you, but I simply adore turning the volume up when this song starts. It is masterfully recorded and mixed, subsequently resulting in a song that is catchy, but not campy. You will likely, as I do, find yourself singing along. In fact, it is so catchy that once heard, it plays like a broken record in your subconscious. It's absolutely brilliant!

Mellow as the title suggests, slows the album down a little. Normally this type of shift doesn't work well, but Honky Cat is so upbeat that you almost need a downbeat to rebalance the senses. Nevertheless, Mellow is a gorgeous song that can be experienced enjoyably on its own, or as part of the album experience. However, the final note at the end of the song sounds prematurely cut on my 1995 remastered CD. I've tried it various CD players and the same effect is preset upon each play. It is akin to a vinyl dropout. Interestingly, it is not present on the TIDAL Hi-Fi equivalent. I find these variations intriguing and can only suggest it was a pressing fault with the CD I have. My edition was pressed in the UK and I wonder if the dropout is also present on the US edition. If anyone has any thoughts about this, l'd love to hear from you.

I Think I'm Going To Kill Myself is pure vocal gold. John’s vocals shift pitch seamlessly and you can't help but move rhythmically when this song comes on. Utilising a similar upbeat funk as Honky Cat, I Think I'm Going To Kill Myself is addictive and is one of the best songs on the album. While the lyrical content and tongue-in-cheek approach may detract some listeners, especially with its somewhat irreverent comic approach, one must remember the different era in which the song was written and recorded. Regardless, you can't please everyone and if you're offended by the song then I can only suggest you don't listen to it.

Susie (Dramas) has a compelling rhythm that will get you toe-tapping, but it isn’t a standout song on the album.

Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time) is the quintessential Elton John song. While I could ramble on about just how exceptional this song is, all I really need to say is music doesn't get much better than this.

Salvation is simply beautiful.

This version of Slave is the more relaxed rendition that was, of course, included on the original album with the later version appearing only on digital editions post the 1995 remastering sessions. At this tempo it has a real Rolling Stones feel to it and I must admit that I prefer this version to the alternative edition.

Amy is a B-side with an incredible sound stage and musicality. You can certainly hear the influence of Mick Jagger in John's vocal performance. It is a unique merging that I find absolutely appealing. I especially enjoy the ending as the instrumental timbre rings out beautifully.

Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters is one of my all-time favourite songs. The first time I heard it was on John's 1989 compilation, The Collection. I subsequently became immersed with Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters and would place it on repeat for hours on end. It is really that good!

Hercules is a little more upbeat, but I can't help but think that Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters would have been a better choice for the final track on the original album. It isn't that Hercules is bad, the musicality is off the chart and that drum beat alone is incredible. It is just that Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters is so relaxing, by comparison, that it would have been nice to allow the mind to sit for a moment at the end of the record. Nevertheless, it wasn't meant to be and the 1995 remaster would extend the album with the Alternative Version of Slave.

Slave (Alternative Version), as I mentioned earlier, isn't my favourite rendition. The tempo shift is interesting, but John sounds about two beats short of a chipmunk. I'm sure some of you would love it, but I find the tempo is simply too fast.

Overall, Honky Château is a compelling album that I can easily listen to for hours. While it is true that that statement could be made regarding most of John’s albums, Honky Château has enough variety, in tempo alone, to never allow the listener to become distracted or wish they were listening to something else.

This review is based on listening to the 1995 remastered CD. An SACD version, with a multi-track surround sound mix, is also available, but I don't feel overly compelled to grab a copy as the mastering of this edition is beautiful and really showcases just how good the standard Redbook CD format can be.

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

If you prefer streaming, Honky Château is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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MIA - AlM (Deluxe) [Album Review]

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MIA - AlM (Deluxe) [Album Review]

I'm always on the prowl for new music and while I find a plethora of albums that are worthy of reviewing, time is finite and I prefer to discuss those that reach me on a deeper level. For my thoughts on the albums that didn’t quite qualify for a long-form review, check out the Subjective Sounds Micro Reviews on Instagram.

AIM is the fifth studio release from MIA (the stage name for Mathangi Arulpragasam) and to be completely frank, I had never heard of her before listening to this album. I dare say without the ability to stream music, I would have remained naïve of her musical prowess.

The album cover is largely nondescript and prior to listening to the album, I didn't even know it was a Hip-Hop record. Personally, I like not knowing when I'm in discovery mode as I prefer the music to speak for itself. Yes, Hip-Hop is often reliant on sampling other great tracks, but that is part of the appeal of the genre. How the music is sampled and how is it integrated and developed into a song and album experience. It is a layering technique that I find fascinating and musically pleasing.

The introduction to Borders is superb as the song slowly builds. The vocal delivery and distortion levels are perfect, as is the oriental feel that traverses the song and much of the album. It is a sound signature that is unique and thoroughly addictive. You will want to turn up the volume and move your body to the beat. It is this subconscious response to the music that draws me in and captivates my soul.

Go Off continues the oriental sound signature with an interesting vocal layering technique that creates the core of the song. While the lyrical aspects of this song are mostly non-English, like good Opera, a beautiful vocal delivery is sometimes all that is needed.

Bird Song (Blaqstarr Remix) is exceptional! The sampling of llaiyaraaja's “Oru Kili Uruguthu” is done with respect and is simply gorgeous.

Jump In is a vocal interlude that isn't the greatest. Personally, I would have left it off the album as it doesn't add substantially to the musicality of the album.

Freedun (featuring Zayn) is a solid track but I feel it is a B-side, despite being issued as a single.

Foreign Friend (featuring Dexter Daps) is an incredible mellow song. I love it! Dexter Daps certainly adds value and the song wouldn't be the same without the inclusion of his smooth, yet gritty, vocal presentation.

Finally isn't a bad song but it is let down by too much vocal and bass distortion.

A.M.P (All My People) re-introduces the oriental sounds, but I don't like the song as I feel it is overproduced.

Ali r u ok? is sonically pleasing, although I find the soundstage to be a little too compressed.

Visa isn't the strongest song on the album. Although, I thoroughly enjoy it as it reminds me of the musicality Grace Jones is known for.

Fly Pirate is sonically disturbing. Seriously, listen on headphones and you have moments where the music doesn't only create a widening soundstage, but you feel as though the music is moving through your skull. It is an interesting technique and I like it.

Survivor is a lovely song, but there is a little too much distortion and reliance on Autotune.

Bird Song (Diplo Remix) doesn't compare to the brilliance heard on the Blaqstarr Remix.

The New International Sound Pt. 2 (featuring GENER8I0N) is sonically incredible! This song has a massive soundstage and while it still overuses Autotune, it suits the song perfectly.

Swords has some incredible musical elements, but I am not sure it works as a song. Then again, the more I listen, the more I feel it works. It is one of those songs that will likely grow on you.

Talk is brilliant. I love it!

Platforms is musically beautiful and the perfect song to end the album with as it makes me want to listen again or continue to explore MIA's catalogue.

While AIM may not appeal to everyone, I find that I am drawn to the album as it is musically unique and offers something off the beaten path of both the Hip-Hop and Rap scenes. For me, this style of music is much like my appreciation of classical music. I know I like it, yet I find it difficult to describe the how and why. Of course, it is plausible to like music for no quantifiable reason.

For this review, I listened to the 16/44.1kHz FLAC and 24/88.2kHz MQA edition, both via TIDAL Hi-Fi. Both editions are beautifully mastered, but the MQA edition sounds more refined and accurate, resulting in a slightly larger soundstage and better bass presentation with less distortion. While I preferred the MQA edition, I certainly wouldn't be disappointed with the 16/44.1kHz CD-quality FLAC edition.

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

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

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Elton John - Madman Across The Water (Album Review)

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Elton John - Madman Across The Water (Album Review)

Madman Across The Water is an unequivocally exceptional album from start to finish. Having listened to the 24/96kHz MQA edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi, there is only one word that can fully describe the album and that would be immersive. The soundstage, performance, and presence of the band is incredible and you really get a sense of being in the studio while the album was being recorded. I have also listened to the CD-quality FLAC on TIDAL Hi-Fi, but it sounds rather flat and uninspiring by comparison. Yes, the MQA edition is really that good! That said, one must remember that MQA is not a cure and a poor sounding master will still sound poor. Sometimes there is little to no difference as readers would have seen in my review of Kalio’s sensational album A/B. It all depends on how the album was mastered. If the same mastering was used then the difference between a well-mastered CD and MQA, or high-res, is minimal at best. However, there are so many poorly mastered CDs that I dare say MQA looks more appealing as it isn’t based upon the CD master, but the original studio mastering that hopefully, in most cases, is not compressed to hell and back. For more information about MQA, check out MQA.co.uk.

Tiny Dancer is an absolute classic and John's vocals are perfectly placed in the mix. Close your eyes and you will swear John and his band are in the room with you. The timbre of the instruments and John's vocals are simply astounding.

Levon is an incredible performance. The vocal build to the choral climax is to die for. It is sonically beautiful and one of John's greatest recordings.

Razor Face is a solid song, but it isn't anything to write home about.

Madman Across The Water is incredible, but as mentioned in my review of Tumbleweed Connection, I do prefer the original over this re-recording. As this is the version most people would be familiar with, I encourage you to check out the original. You won't regret it!

Indian Sunset has an impressive level of musicality. So good, in fact, that it almost steals the thunder from John's vocal delivery which is astonishing in its own right. I specifically love the near acoustic vocal delivery and the gradual layering of musical components, resulting in a more realised composition that will knock your socks off. Music is seldom this good and while I adore my Elton John compilations, Indian Sunset doesn’t feature on any of them. This song is yet one more point of validation that proves John and Taupin are musical geniuses and a collaborative team like no other.

Holiday Inn feels as though it should have been included on Tumbleweed Connection as it sounds a little disjointed with the rest of the songs on Madman Across The Water. As a song on its own, it has some exceptional musical shifts that I simply adore, but overall the song is somewhat forgettable as I don't feel the lyrical delivery is as polished as it could be. Of course, I could merely have this view because it follows the exceptional Indian Sunset.

Rotten Peaches is a B-side. It flows well within the album tracking, but it is pure filler.

All The Nasties is my favourite song from the album. It astonishes me that this song hasn't made any of his career perspective compilations. Elton John is clearly greater than a single compilation will allow. Thankfully in the modern era of the playlist, the individual listener can compile their own quasi-compilation. By the way, the drum depth throughout this song is pure gold. All The Nasties is truly exceptional and will captivate you from the first note.

Goodbye is short but beautiful. It follows on perfectly from All The Nasties and compels me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue.

Overall, Madman Across The Water is an incredibly recorded, mixed, and mastered performance that is simply unforgettable. While I adore the sonic presentation that the MQA edition delivers, the collector in me is compelled to pick up the SACD release as it contains the 2004 Greg Penny 5.I Surround Sound Mix that can only improve upon the immersion provided by MQA. Interestingly, the surround sound version reportedly contains the external version of Razor Face on the surround sound mix. That said, it wasn't my favourite song on the album so I'm unsure if it’s truly of interest. Nevertheless, it is good to know a variant exists, even if it’s only a longer rendition.

Madman Across The Water is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Madman Across The Water on Spotify or Apple Music.

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Kaleo - A/B (Album Review)

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Kaleo - A/B (Album Review)

When released in 2016, Kaleo's A/B left listeners in shock and awe as they proved, as many artists do, that good music is still being made that pushes the envelope of what has come before while remaining uniquely unique.

If you like Folk music, with a splash of Blues, and some killer Rock & Roll riffs, then you are going to love this album. It is so good that I give you permission to stop reading this review while you check out one of the best albums of 2016 and what would be one of my all-time favourite albums in the aforementioned genres.

No Good is already a classic in my mind. It sets the tone for the album and has some killer riffs, beats, and a solid vocal delivery perfectly suited to the song. Yes, this song is your meat and potatoes Rock & Roll but it would work equally well in the local pub as well as a major stadium. No wonder Kaleo opened for The Rolling Stones when they toured Hamburg in 2017.

Way Down We Go slows the album down a little, but it is simply gorgeous! The vocal delivery is off the charts and the bass and drum beats will have you in Rhythm & Blues heaven. This is one song you may have heard before as it has been featured in a number of high profile television shows and films.

Broken Bones is sublime!

Glass House returns the tempo to a higher pace. It is classic Blues-based Rock & Roll and there is nothing wrong with that!

Hot Blood is a great rock tune. It is rock solid, pun intended!

All The Pretty Girls is a slower tune that has a very interesting vocal presentation, in comparison to the other songs on the album. That said, it works extremely well. It just goes to show the level of musicality that is present within the band, even at this early stage in their career.

Automobile is an incredibly catchy tune. I love it!

Vor í Vaglaskógi is sonic perfection! While it is the only non-English song on the album, the vocal delivery is velvety smooth and is an absolute pleasure to listen to. The musicality is equally off the charts. It’s such a beautiful song and I do hope that Kaleo will one day release an entire album in their native Icelandic tongue.

Save Yourself is a lovely song. Nothing to write home about, but solid nonetheless. The album wouldn't be the same without it.

I Can't Go On Without You closes the album beautifully. It is an incredible song that makes me want to listen to the album again.

From start to finish, Kaleo’s A/B is nothing short of pure perfection. The album plays better than many greatest hits releases, yet it is a debut. There truly isn't a bad song on this album. It is so good that I have already ordered my Vinyl copy from mataurecords.com.au.

This review was based on listening to the 16/44.1 kHz CD-quality FLAC release on TIDAL Hi-Fi. I also listened to the 24/88.2kHz MQA version and while I found it to be a little tighter in the bass region, I didn't find the difference to be significant enough to recommend it over the standard CD-quality offering. That isn't a bad thing, it just proves that if a CD is mastered well it can sound just as good as any high-res source. In fact, I prefer the CD equivalent as the bass, while more refined in the MQA edition, is too clean and lacks the grit that I feel should be present in this style of music.

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

If you prefer streaming, A/B is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection (Album Review)

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Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection (Album Review)

You'd think that following the Pop/Rock success of John's self-titled album, Elton John, the last thing on his mind would have been a change of style. Well the country-infused concept album, Tumbleweed Connection, cemented the musical skill of not only John but Bernie Taupin. While it isn't Nashville Country Music, it is appealing to a broader demographic with its Roots, Blues, and Country Rock musicality. That said, Tumbleweed Connection is more the merging of the genres, rather than highlighting one in particular. It is unique, compelling, and is classic Elton John.

The artwork for this album is legendary, but you wouldn't know that looking at the basic artwork shown on all streaming services. As numerous albums from the vinyl era do, their cover continues to the rear, thereby creating a captivating landscape. While I don't yet have a physical copy of this album, the website Discogs is a wonderful place to explore all the editions and associated design choices.

While I have Tumbleweed Connection on my Discogs wish list, I aim to pick up the 2004 SACD edition, rather than the Vinyl release as it contains the surround sound mix by Greg Penny. These mixes are generally highly regarded and if my Blu-ray High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) 5.I Surround Sound copy of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is any indication, then I am in for an experience that has to be heard to be believed. By comparison, my Vinyl copy, and all other stereo editions of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sound flat and lifeless by comparison. Yes, I acknowledge the mastering variations of a surround sound mix versus a stereo mix, but the difference is quite profound and more enjoyable. Regardless, when I pick up the SACD release, I'll post a review for those of you who may be interested. In the meantime, this review is based on the 1995 remaster available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Overall, it is a very relaxed and enjoyable remaster that pre-dates the horrors of remastering for loudness alone.

Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun is now a staple in John's catalogue, but as catchy as it is, I just can't get into the tempo as it has always sounded a little too offbeat for my liking.

Come Down In Time is simply gorgeous. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and one of the best songs Elton John ever recorded.

County Comfort is an absolute classic that has been covered numerous times. Of the mainstream covers, I don't believe Rod Stewart did a great job of it on Gasoline Alley. Whereas, I thoroughly enjoy Keith Urban’s rendition on Be Here as I feel it pays homage to the original while being simultaneously modern and perfectly suited to Urban's style. That said, the original is, as most originals are, beyond reproach. John's version is so compelling that I could listen to it repeatedly without tiring of the song.

Son Of Your Father isn't great. Musically it’s interesting, but the lyrical delivery is disjointed until the chorus kicks in, then the song starts to become a little more compelling. Sadly, it isn't enough for me to be captivated and hence I put this song into the B-side category.

My Father's Gun is fantastic. That chorus is really appealing and the overall musically of the song is top notch in my opinion.

Where To Now St. Peter? is really enjoyable. Yet it is somewhat offbeat and shouldn't really work, but it does and systematically showcases the incredible understanding of music and its associated composition by John and Taupin.

Love Song works in well within the album construct. However, as a song on its own, I don't find it compelling. The background real-life sounds also detract from the music, although I am interested to see how these elements will be placed in the surround sound mix.

Amoreena is a B-side for me. It isn't bad, but it isn't a standout either.

Talking Old Soldiers is lovely in its simplicity. A simply amazing performance. Sonic perfection!

Burn Down The Mission is a solid B-side. Musically, there is much to like here, but I find the mix conceals the vocals a little too much.

Into The Old Man's Shoes is a great song that, once again, fits in perfectly with the album and overall style of the recording.

Madman Across The Water is epic! I never tire of this song and I really love this original version. It has such an immersive soundstage, you really need to turn the volume up on this one and be enveloped with sound. The re-recording on the similarly titled album, Madman Across The Water, is also compelling, but I find it to be overproduced and lacking some of the rawness that made this original so special.

Overall, Tumbleweed Connection is a masterful release that adds intrinsic value to Elton John's early era in the recording industry.

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

A Deluxe Edition is also available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Tumbleweed Connection is also available on Spotify (Standard / Deluxe Edition) and Apple Music (Standard / Deluxe Edition).

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Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend: The Best Of (Deluxe Edition) [Compilation Review]

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Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend: The Best Of (Deluxe Edition) [Compilation Review]

In November of 2016, I reviewed the 30th Anniversary Tri-Coloured Vinyl Re-issue of this classic compilation. While I adore that edition, I was also intrigued by the Deluxe Edition that expands the original release with a series of alternative versions. Hence, I thought it would be interesting to review Volume 2 while contrasting how the songs compared to the core mixes that we all know and love. Subsequently, if you're interested in reading my thoughts about the music contained within Volume 1, then please check out the aforementioned link.

Volume 2

One Love / People Get Ready (Extended Version) is considerably longer than the version on Volume 1. Despite the obvious repetition of rhythm, with minor musical shifts, I find that I thoroughly enjoy this extended version. The core, radio-friendly, release is nice, but the extended runtime truly adds to the sonic presentation of the song. So, do I have a preferred version? Not really. Both are exceptional and I could listen happily to either version. Although, you can clearly hear a different mastering between the two editions. The extended version has a smoother presentation that I personally prefer and therefore from a sonic standpoint alone, I would choose the extended edition.

Waiting In Vain (12" Single Version) takes an already beautiful song and makes it divine. The extended musicality, especially three-quarters through the track, really appeals to me and I, therefore, find the 12" Single Version offers a significant improvement over the mainstream release. Truth-be-told, l've never really liked the idea of radio-friendly tracks, limited in length and artistry by the demands of terrestrial radio stations. While I often prefer extended versions, there are always exceptions and not all songs should have extended versions. Thankfully, this version of Waiting In Vain doesn’t fall into that category. Perhaps it is the groovy, somewhat hypnotic, Reggae sound that melds beautifully with the soundstage, captivating my soul. Regardless, the 12” Single Version is glorious.

Jamming (12" Single Version) pales in comparison to the mainstream edition on Volume 1. It simply tries to do too much, failing to add substance to the song. I feel the core groove has been lost due to the longer presentation and additional musical elements. I don't know about you, but I would have been quite happy if this 12" Single Version had never been released.

Three Little Birds (12" Mix (Dub Version)) adds a nice guitar element that isn't heard in the core song, but while I feel this and other musical elements add qualitatively to the song, I still prefer the succinctness of the version available on Volume 1.

Could You Be Loved (12" Mix) offers an excellent expansion to an already exceptional song. However, the original was so good that I question the need for an extended edition. Nevertheless, we are truly fortunate to have both editions.

No Woman No Cry is the studio recording, whereas the edition found on Volume 1 is the live 1975 performance in London. When I reviewed the tri-coloured vinyl release, I had the following to say: "the studio edition is arguably not as strong as the live performance, but neither is 100% perfect." I still stand by that statement after listening to both editions, again, for this review.

Coming In From The Cold (1984 12” Single) didn’t make the original Legend tracklisting. It isn't a bad song, but one can see why it wasn't included. The rhythm, while familiar, is quite different tonally from the other songs found on Legend. That said, I'm really glad it was included in the Deluxe Edition for those who would not necessarily collect the individual albums, but want a career perspective. If there was one song that would convince me to purchase the Deluxe Edition, it would be the inclusion of Coming In From The Cold. The more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it!

Buffalo Soldier is a significantly different remix and doesn't come close to being comparable to the original. This version is overproduced in what can only be seen as an attempt to reach a wider demographic. The sound lacks that loveable Reggae sound and introduced too much synthetic musicality that destroys the song. I simply don't like it.

Jamming (US Version) is much better than the 12" Single Version and is basically on par with the excellence heard on the core song.

Waiting In Vain (US Version) is a great song and while this is the third version found on the Deluxe Edition, the differences are subtle enough that it sounds fresh and thankfully doesn't deviate from the core essence of the song too much.

Exodus, this time around, offers us a remix of the legendary song but doesn't damage the original. It does, however, offer a different perspective. Think of it as akin to the Director's Cut of a film. It offers more and some will like that while others are content with the original release. This is another song where I am glad we have both options to choose from.

Lively Up Yourself is another song that wasn't featured on the original Legend compilation. As with Coming In From The Cold, one could argue that the tonality of the song doesn’t match the overall musicality of the album. As a song on its own, however, I really enjoy the Reggae and Jazz mix. It is bold and appealing to me as I thoroughly appreciate both genres. Lively Up Yourself is another excellent reason to pick up the Deluxe Edition. Yeah, like I really needed a justification to purchase this album again!

One Love / People Get Ready (Dub Version – 1984 12” Remix) is a different mix that incorporates A cappella elements. I like it, although, it’s not my favourite mix as I feel it comes across slightly disjointed. Despite this, I'm glad that this edition exists and as the final track on the Deluxe Edition, it encourages me to listen to the core compilation and this bonus content again.

The Deluxe Edition of Legend is an astonishing compilation from Bob Marley And The Wailers. While many of my peers are frustrated by the fact that they have to repurchase the same music over and over again, this album never disappoints and the varied mixes on Volume 2 are certainly a value-added proposition for diehard and casual fans alike.

This review was based on listening to the 16/44.1 kHz CD-quality FLAC edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi. For the most part, I found the additional mixes to be sonically on par with the master releases. I mention this primarily because bonus volumes have a tendency to have varied sonic properties that can impact one’s appreciation of the music and the artist. Thankfully, that isn't the case in this instance.

Bob Marley And The Wailers – Legend: The Best Of (Deluxe Edition) is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Legend: The Best Of (Deluxe Edition) on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Elton John – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Elton John – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Elton John has no shortage of classic albums that can be seen as both revolutionary and standing the test of time, but this self-titled second album sees John return to the studio with an even more polished production than was heard on Empty Sky. While I adore Empty Sky, Elton John has that recognisable Elton John sound signature and it is more realised in both sonic and lyrical terms.

Released in April of 1970, Elton John features his breakthrough and likely most recognisable song, Your Song. As the first song on the album, the piano introduction, with the vocal accompaniment, builds into an incredible song that is simply one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. If you don't feel the need to sing-a-long to this song, you're not listening correctly? It is gorgeous from the first note and I never tire of it.

I Need You To Turn To is an incredible pop ballad. When I hear music this pure, I wonder if John and Taupin, along with the musicians, and the production team, were aware of the incredible music they were creating. Wouldn’t it be a shame if they considered some of these classics as nothing more than B-sides?

On that note, I find it fascinating that producer, Gus Dudgeon, has stated in a 2002 MIX interview that the album was never intended to launch John's career as the aim was to present a series of polished demos for other artists to record. If you’re interested in the evolution of a song, the 2008 Deluxe Edition contains more stripped down piano demos of many of the tracks. It is interesting to listen to these early demos, but I tend to always prefer the final album release.

Take Me To The Pilot has a raw acoustic introduction that I find very appealing. While it’s far from being the best song on the album, it has an addictive rhythm that draws me in every time I listen to the album.

No Shoe Strings On Louise has a nice country music twang to it, but I've never been convinced that style was perfectly suited to John, despite his later successes. I also feel this song is mimicking Mick Jagger’s style a little too much. You would honestly be forgiven if, upon hearing this song on the radio, you assumed it was a Rolling Stones or Mick Jagger solo recording. That said, it is still enjoyable and works well within the structure of the album.

First Episode At Hienton is sonically beautiful. While it is a song you will never sing-a-long to, you will find yourself turning the volume up in order to be enveloped in the immersive soundstage.

Sixty Years On begins with the sonic equivalent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. That shouldn’t be seen as a negative comment as you immediately get the impression that this is going to be a music experience like no other. Musically, Sixty Years On is pure perfection. The classical overtures are most certainly the highlight of the song, but John’s vocal delivery is also off-the-charts.

Border Song is a perfect composition. I simply love every aspect of this song.

The Greatest Discovery is magical!

The Cage has a great groove and rhythm. Think New Orleans Jazz meets Rock and Roll.

The King Must Die has a ridiculously good drum and bass beat throughout. You can feel it in your soul, just as you can picture the piano and John in the room with you as you close your eyes and turn up the volume. It is as close to a personal concert with Elton John as you will ever likely get.

Bad Side Of The Moon isn't a bad song, but it is a B-side. Plus, that little bump in volume towards the end is really annoying. I've come across that before, in other recordings, but I’ve always felt it ultimately detracts from the song. I wonder if it is a technique or a flaw in the original analogue recording? If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear from you.

Grey Seal is a fun tune, although I much prefer the recording of the song that made it on John’s legendary Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Rock And Roll Madonna is my least favourite song on the album. It certainly doesn't leave me with an overwhelming urge to listen to the album again as I find the composition is overly complex, especially when John's vocal kicks in. There simply isn't enough instrument separation and the song doesn’t have enough room to breathe. The result is an assault on the senses that ultimately would have been better left off the album.

Overall, Elton John is one of the greatest recordings in Rock/Pop history. Yes, we will all point to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as being John’s pinnacle, but there is much to love about this self-titled release.

When I set out to review this album, I was aware of the various releases and masterings that exist. While I haven't heard the 2004 Multichannel SACD or the SHM SACD from Japan, I’m informed the Japanese release is subtly better. Although, as with everything, better is a subjective term. Subsequently, I based this review on the 24/96 kHz MQA edition streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Yes, I also listened to the remastered 16/44.1 kHz CD edition, also on TIDAL Hi-Fi, and the differences were significant. The standard remastered CD lacked emphasis, soundstage, and felt flat when compared directly to the MQA edition. Hence, I’m intrigued to hear how good the SACD versions are by comparison. One problem, however, is the Japanese release is twice the price of the standard SACD and lacks the multichannel mix. Most normal music fans would say just enjoy the MQA version. Truth be told, the average fan would be content with the standard CD or MP3 equivalent. I wish I could say that I could be satisfied with whichever release comes down the pipeline, but once you have heard how different, different masterings can be, you tend to not settle for a lesser option be it MP3 or high-res, for both can produce substandard results if the mastering was done in haste. Of course, the problem is that I, like most people, don’t have an endless supply of cash and l'm also limited by the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor). I have to be honest, the amount my beloved has allowed me to spend on music is significant and I can't thank her enough for allowing me to partake in this hobby. But, whatever you do dear reader, don't tell her that!

The ultimate truth is that I can be completely content with the MQA version as it is the best rendition of the album I have ever heard. While I still question just how much better the album could be on SACD, or even Vinyl, I’m not left wanting more from the MQA edition.

Elton John is available on Vinyl, SACD (Stereo and Multichannel), SMH-SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered For iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Elton John on Spotify and Apple Music.

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