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The Never Ending Story – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Composers: Klaus Doldinger And Giorgio Moroder)

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The Never Ending Story – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Composers: Klaus Doldinger And Giorgio Moroder)

The Never Ending Story is one feature film from my childhood that has stood the test of time. I have thoroughly enjoyed introducing it to my children as it has such a positive message about reading and the subsequent fantasy worlds that can be created by that very act.

Not only do I have the film, and of course the associated soundtrack, but I have the book and have read it a number of times. It simply captivates me and I strongly suggest sourcing a copy if you’re an avid reader.

Despite my appreciation of the franchise, I never thought to purchase the soundtrack. This is a strange omission as I thoroughly enjoy the music from the film and generally gravitate to soundtracks of films I like. It was actually my son who asked, upon seeing the film for the first time, if we could get the soundtrack.

While I definitely wanted to pick up the soundtrack on CD, I also wanted my children to be able to experience the soundtrack immediately, in order to secure their excitement in the franchise. Subsequently, I turned to iTunes/Apple Music and noted that they had the soundtrack available. However, when I began streaming the album, it lacked significantly in dynamic range and was certainly inferior to the average dynamic range of 11 that is found on the CD. It was just flat and lifeless. However, streamers will find that the TIDAL Hi-Fi version sonically matches the CD. That said, it is the same mastering across all variants, so there should be no difference. Perhaps this difference in tonality is due to the use of an inferior codec from when the album was first encoded and released for sale on iTunes. I should note that this iTunes/Apple Music edition is not a Mastered for iTunes release.

Also of note, as a general observation, is the superior audio quality of the film’s Blu-Ray DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track when compared to the CD. Yes, I acknowledge the variation between the formats, but it is significant enough to mention. While the CD is superb, I’d love to get my hands on the soundtrack used in the film.

One of the disappointments I have with the soundtrack is the track listing. The songs are presented out-of-order, in comparison to when they appeared in the film. I’ve no idea why this tracking was chosen, but it certainly requires me to program the CD player, or TIDAL Hi-Fi playlist, to ensure the tracks are presented in the order that best mimics the film. If you have never seen the film, then this is of little concern.

Another concern I have is the naming convention of the soundtrack. The CD soundtrack is presented as The Never Ending Story, but the film is presented, depending on region, as either The Neverending Story with the alternative being The NeverEnding Story. Yet, the book that started it all is simply The Neverending Story. Yes, it confuses me as well. Personally, I don’t have an issue or preference with any of these titling methods, but I would love to see consistency across the franchise. I specifically mention this deviation as it took me a while to find the soundtrack on TIDAL Hi-Fi because they have it listed as The Never Ending Story. TIDAL’s search engine likely needs an overhaul, as iTunes easily found the variant, but it wouldn’t have been an issue if all related elements had the same naming convention.

Despite these small frustrations, the soundtrack offers an enchanting series of instrumental songs that are inspirational and moving. The one vocal track on the album is the Never Ending Story that is sung by Limahl, best known as lead singer of the band Kajagoogoo. The song at its core is pop-synth, truly resonating with the 80s sound of the time. Yes, it is clichéd, but it is still thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. Interestingly, the song really doesn’t sound as dated as many other pop-synth recordings. Although, perhaps it is just nostalgia that keeps this song fresh in my mind.

Proceeding through the track listing and Swamps Of Sadness certainly lives up to its title as the song is demure but bold and uplifting at the same time. Without a doubt it is one of my most favourite tracks, from the soundtrack, as it is moving and the corresponding scenes in the film amplify my connection with the song.

The Ivory Tower is an epic song, but there is a major problem with the edition that is available on the soundtrack. It is not the same edition as the one found in the film. The film showcases the song in a beautiful symphonic presentation that could be appreciated by any classical music fan. Yet, the soundtrack has swapped out this performance for a lacklustre pop-synth edition of the song. Disappointing to say the least! Below are the two different renditions. The first is the original that was presented in the film, while the second video is representative of the edition found on the soundtrack. 

Ruined Landscape is a delightfully sombre piece of music that not only applies to the film, but could be viewed in reflection of many beautiful landscapes that have been destroyed by man’s incessant need for natural resources.

Sleepy Dragon is much more uplifting and the guitar work in this song is exceptionally refined and not overpowering. That said, it is one of the weaker songs on the album and I think it is mainly due to its repetitious style.

Bastian’s Happy Flight is an instrumental song that is simply fun. It truly draws me back into the film, but without that connection I’m not sure the song is strong enough to stand on its own as a classical piece of music.

Fantasia is short but rather atmospheric. While it links in with the film, I would love to have seen an expanded rendition on the album.

Atreju’s Quest is elegant and and strong throughout and is beautifully performed. It is a slow climb and then builds to the ultimate climax, making it one of those songs that could easily be added to any classical movie theme collection.

Theme Of Sadness isn’t so much sad as it is thought provoking. The flute (I believe) is just stunning in its subtleness throughout this song.

Atreju Meets Falkor is a lovely song that gives you the impression of flying, although, that is likely symbolic of the film scene that accompanies it. I could also see this song being perfect for a country drive as the landscape is passing by and you are looking forward to what life holds ahead of you.

Mirrorgate – Southern Oracle is eerie, but captivating. It certainly links well with the associated film scenes, but it doesn’t feel out of place as an instrumental track on its own. Actually, it somewhat reminds me of the style of music that Jean Michel Jarre performs.

Gmork truly could have been left off the album. With a runtime of less than 30 seconds, it is merely present because it applies to a single dramatic scene in the film. If you haven’t seen the movie, you won’t enjoy it.

Moonchild is probably another one that I would say doesn’t add much to the soundtrack, although it is pivotal in the film.  

The Auryn is simply magical. While it isn’t lyrically based, the backing harmonic choir performs the tonal range of the song exceptionally well.

Happy Flight is really a shorter version of Bastian’s Happy Flight. There is certainly nothing wrong with this repetition and I feel it closes the album out nicely.

There is really no reason to omit this album from your collection, but it will likely appeal to those of you who enjoy the film, or are primarily interested in classical and instrumental scores. That said, if you can’t stand continuous shifts in instrumental music styles, then this album may not be for you. However, there are certainly a number of standout tracks that simply must be heard. 

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Iron Maiden – Twilight Zone/Wrathchild (7-inch 45rpm Single)

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Iron Maiden – Twilight Zone/Wrathchild (7-inch 45rpm Single)

Following Women In Uniform, Iron Maiden would release their fourth single, but it would take the form of a Double A-Side. For those unaware of the concept, a Double A-Side is where an artist will release a single that contains two album based songs, rather than a B-side which is often a live performance or song that didn’t make the album cut. It is a practice that has sadly died out over the last couple of decades and while not all B-sides are great, I feel we are missing out on some hidden treasures.

In this case however, Twilight Zone was initially a non-album single in the UK, although it was released on the US edition of Killers in 1981, and would be added to world-wide distribution of the album when the enhanced re-issue edition of Killers was released in 1998. That said, not all post 1998 editions have the song. Most notably the 2014 vinyl re-issues and the 2015 Mastered for iTunes release omit this classic song, amongst other editions.  

The subsequent cover of the 7-inch release targeted the song Twilight Zone for inspiration as it showed Eddie, Maiden’s mascot, returning to his beloved girlfriend. Twilight Zone is in-fact a love song from beyond the grave as it appears that England’s then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, did revoke Eddie’s license to live, as insinuated on the cover of Women In Uniform.

Speaking of covers, Iron Maiden would once again be criticized in the media for having a cover that depicted sexism and the stalking of a young girl. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see either of those elements. Anyone who read the lyrics, or listened to the song, would understand that the artwork is a representation of the song as it depicts Eddie’s attempt to reach his beloved from his imprisonment in the Twilight Zone. Eddie’s photo is even presented on the dresser, thereby indicating a connection to the ghostly figure.

All I can say is sometimes ‘political correctness’ goes a little too far. While I don’t condone gratuitous sex or violence, within art and music, a little common sense and research goes a long way. That said, I acknowledge cultural perceptions in 1981 were quite different to how we perceive this cover today.

With this in mind, I can’t help but wonder what kafuffle was made of the original Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction cover. While that artwork is still included in the liner notes, retailers refused to stock it with the original cover, hence it was restricted in most regions and I believe on all formats other than vinyl.

As we take a look beyond the artwork, it is immediately clear that Twilight Zone and Wrathchild are both very much A-Side tracks. I absolutely love the guitar and bass introduction of Wrathchild. It is hard hitting and I feel is one of the first times we see Iron Maiden as not just a heavy metal band, but a band which can turn their music into a theatrical rock opera.

Similarly, Twilight Zone also fits into the style I have mentioned above. The initial guitar riff and drum beats set the tone, but I find I actually care more for the lyrical component of Twilight Zone as it has a story that has been enhanced in importance through the cover art design. This is why I collect vinyl as it enhances the experience.

For those interested, you can still get the limited edition 7-inch release. It is well worth owning as the presentation and mastering is superb.

If you would prefer to purchase both songs on other formats, they are of course available on some of the post 1998 Killers editions that are available on CD and Vinyl.

Killers is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music for those of you who prefer to stream.

While all these options are great, the version I would recommend, for Killers, is the vinyl edition. This is because the CD, TIDAL Hi-Fi, and iTunes/Apple Music (Mastered For iTunes) releases all have low dynamic ranges that average 07 out of 20. The vinyl by comparison is 12 out of 20. For more information on these scores, please click here. That said, many of the vinyl re-issues omit Twilight Zone, so please make sure you check the track listing before purchasing.

Despite this, I still enjoy listening to my 1998 edition of Killers on CD, but it is sonically compromised when compared directly with the vinyl edition. That said, they never really did master turntables in cars, did they? 

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Buddy Holly – Greatest Hits (Vinyl)

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Buddy Holly – Greatest Hits (Vinyl)

Buddy Holly is one of those artists that one must simply have in their collection. As a rock and roll pioneer, Holly forever changed how music was performed. His new sound came at a time when the audience was ready for a shift from the big band vocal jazz and blues performances that had been culturally popular prior to the 1950s. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with those before mentioned styles, Holly was able to adapt his new sound and integrate it with traditional genres. Although, I’ve no doubt that many parents took offence, at the time, to his style and the topics he discussed via song. Perhaps it is simply a generational thing, but that response is still applicable in modern society.

Unfortunately, Holly would die tragically in a plane crash when he was only 22. It still amazes me how much wonderful music he brought to the world in the four short years between 1955 and 1959. I often sit and ponder what could have been if he, and many other musical greats, remained with us longer. Would they have further evolved music into a different art form that would seem foreign to us today? Of course, I don’t have any answer for my own hypothesising, but I can say with certainty that we are extraordinarily lucky to have the collection of songs we have.

Over the years, I had become aware of Holly’s most famous songs, but I never owned any of his albums. In 2007 I decided to change that as I purchased That’ll Be The Day from iTunes. Along with that song, that he recorded with The Crickets, I purchased a variety of 50s and 60s tracks that I didn’t have at the time. I cherish all those songs to this day and will write about them in future posts, but for now I’m busy collecting as much of this music on vinyl as I can.

With that in mind, I had recently picked up Buddy Holly and The Crickets’ album, The Chirping Crickets. It is fantastic! Seriously, get yourself a copy. For streamers, it is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

By now, you’re probably wondering how I came about collecting Buddy Holly’s Greatest Hits. For Christmas my closest friends gave me the book Rockwiz Decades – The Greatest Songs Of Our Time. Within its pages, I came across Buddy Holly’s song True Love Ways. I was captivated by the song’s beauty. It has the perfect mixture of jazz, blues, and orchestral backing music. As a result, I truly believe it is now my favourite song from Buddy Holly’s catalogue. Interestingly, I had never heard the song before and I went in search of obtaining a copy. The album it was originally released on was the posthumous release The Buddy Holly Story, Vol. 2. Unfortunately, that album hasn’t been re-issued on vinyl, so I kept searching and found that it was available on the Greatest Hits vinyl release. I was elated to find my most trusted record dealer, Goldmine Records, had a copy in stock. I was equally excited when the album arrived this morning.

The Vinyl Passion pressing contains a selection of 19 songs and certainly lives up to it’s Greatest Hits moniker. It is also perfectly silent. I’ve never fully researched how the actual DMM (Direct Metal Mastering) Cutting process works, but I have noticed that albums done using this process are always of high quality, while being reasonably priced. Regardless, the sonic mastering of this album is exquisite and matches my expectations.

Unfortunately, this album and the specific track listing, isn’t available on CD or via streaming services. That said, I will discuss some of the songs in further detail and link to the editions that are available for purchase via iTunes. The songs are also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music, so simply copy and paste the song names. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this collection; I know I do.

Peggy Sue reminds me of many of the songs from that era that would be named after an individual known to the writer. This candid biographical style of writing music seems to have diminished in the last couple of decades and I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t a case of avoiding litigation these days. If it is, the world has surely gone crazy. Regardless, the song has a great early rock beat that is easy to sing–along with.

Oh, Boy! is a wonderful song with a speedy tempo that mixes the lead vocal and background harmony so well, you will not be sure which one to sing–along with. I like songs like that. The ones where you are the lead performer during the chorus, but can then sink into the background during the verses.

Maybe Baby is the song that makes me think Buddy Holly is the sing–along king. Seriously, I’m not normally a lyrics kind of guy, but when Buddy is playing, I have to sing. The songs are so catchy, but they are not clichéd. Maybe Baby, along with Holly’s entire catalogue, remain timeless.

Listen To Me is quite a shift in tempo and I feel that is slows down the record a little too much. A simple re-tracking would have solved this problem but I find Listen To Me has a very similar tone to some of the early Beatles songs well over a decade later. I know The Beatles were inspired by 1950s rock and roll, I would love to know if this song had any impact on them.

Rave On is an epic song that sounds more akin to the early 60s style of rock and roll. I certainly don’t believe it would inaccurate to say that Holly was well ahead of his time.

Fool’s Paradise sounds like a lovely place to be. I was there once in my early courting days. If anyone knows how to get back there, please let me know! Fool’s Paradise is just one of those lovely romantic songs.

Early In The Morning is perhaps the only song that I find irritating on the album. It is a good song, but I feel the background vocals are a little too much. Think The Chipettes.

Heartbeat reminds me of the UK television police drama. The show used a cover of Holly’s original, recorded by Nick Berry, as their theme song. I truly like both editions of the song, but sometimes the overcommercialisation of a song can have detrimental effects on one’s recognition.

It Doesn’t Matter Anymore is a song that I recall from my childhood, I just can’t exactly recall why. Not being able to remember is going to drive me nuts. If I ever figure it out, I will update the post.  

Raining In My Heart is a tragic love song, but beautifully executed. Unfortunately, on my copy of the record, there are a couple of dropouts that occur within five rotations of the song commencing. It isn’t the end of the world. This is just one of the limitations of vinyl. It is just a shame given how good the rest of the album is. That said, I still love looking at the record spinning and the needle gliding through the groove. It may be old technology, by today’s standards, but it is still amazing and dare I say it, it sounds better (okay, different!).

Midnight Shift is simply a catchy song that works well in this compilation.

Peggy Sue Got Married is a sequel to the original song Peggy Sue. While it pays homage to the original, it is uniquely different with a more bluesy sound. I have always enjoyed song sequels and their appearance on concept albums. While this song in particular wasn’t part of a concept album, it was likely one of the first songs that was presented in the sequel format. That said, as with movies, the song sequel rarely meets the expectation set by the original. That is certainly true in this case.

Learning The Game isn’t one of my favourite songs as it has too much guitar twang. That said, I recognise how popular the acoustic twang was in that era and I’m sure many of you would enjoy it.

(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care is a fun song. It has also been covered by a who’s who of the music industry including, of course, Buddy Holly. I have Queen’s edition on Hungarian Rhapsody (Live In Budapest 1986). They do it well, but the mimicking vocal style Freddie Mercury applies to the song is a little over-the-top.

Valley Of Tears closes out the album with the haunting pipe organ being used in the backing track. I don’t know about anyone else, but I would love to see the pipe organ used more in modern music. I think it has a undesirable reputation due to its association with churches and associated ceremonies, along with horror medias, but it is a powerful instrument that immediately invokes emotion.

Buddy Holly is an amazing artist with a catalogue of songs that any musician would envy. If you don’t have his music in your collection, you should change that as soon as possible. You will never regret it!

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Iron Maiden – Women In Uniform (7-inch 45rpm Single)

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Iron Maiden – Women In Uniform (7-inch 45rpm Single)

Following the controversy of Sanctuary, Iron Maiden couldn’t help but once again show England’s then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, on the cover of their follow-up single Women In Uniform. Presented in classic Maiden-style artwork, Thatcher is seeking revenge on the beloved, but sinful, Maiden mascot Eddie. As mentioned previously, this type of iconic artwork is all tongue-in-cheek, but it does demonstrate the attitude of the times in which this single was released.

Although, it is important to note that Women In Uniform is not a Maiden original as it was first written and recorded by the Australian band Skyhooks, for their Guilty Until Proven Insane album. While Skyhooks is an Australian rock icon, and certainly a band that I have much respect for, I don’t particularly like their original composition of Women In Uniform. I find the Skyhook’s rendition is a little too pop driven and only truly becomes a rock song during the memorable chorus. It is simply missing that harder edge that I feel Maiden was able to bring to the song. That said, if Maiden hadn’t covered the song, I likely would have been smitten with the Skyhooks original.

While I feel the Maiden version is superior, it is widely regarded by the band, especially founder and bassist Steve Harris, as being a substandard recording due to Tony Platt (producer) mixing the song without the band’s input or approval. As a result, the song was only briefly presented on the original Australian release of Killers. Following the 1998 enhanced re-issue, Women In Uniform was removed from the track listing and subsequently only available hence forth on the 2014 re-issued 7-inch vinyl release. Women In Uniform was also featured on the now out-of-print Best of the 'B' Sides, that was included in Eddie’s Archive Box Set.

Women In Uniform has yet to be released on any streaming service, but the video clip is available for purchase on iTunes as it goes down in history as being their first recorded music video.

Iron Maiden has also made the song available, on their official YouTube channel, for those of you who don’t wish to purchase the 7-inch vinyl edition.

Paul Di’Anno, Maiden’s original vocalist, not only recorded the original but would go on to cover his own cover again in 2006 when he released the re-recorded compilation album The Classics: The Maiden Years. This album is not available for streaming, but you can hear the Di’Anno’s re-recording on TIDAL Hi-Fi or Apple Music as it appears on the The Early Iron Maiden Songbook album from 2010. Di’Anno also released the song on his 2012 release, Wrathchild – The Anthology.

I’m not sure how I really feel about re-recordings. Generally, they are released as a quick cash-grab and opportunity to return to popularity on the coattails of success, in this case Iron Maiden’s. That said, Di’Anno does a wonderful job with Women In Uniform and all other tracks that are presented on the before mentioned albums. They truly are worth seeking out and listening to.  

So, is Di’Anno’s re-recording better than the original he recorded with Iron Maiden in 1980?

Yes, and no! Clearly, Di’Anno’s newer release has a stronger rock edge to it and over the years his vocal delivery has developed, thereby bringing this re-recording inline with modern hard rock and metal recording styles. However, there is just something special about the Maiden original. It has their early raw sound that is reminiscent of a thoroughly pleasing live performance. That said, I don’t think you can wrong with either version.

The B-side on this 7-inch release contains the song Invasion. Unfortunately, the song is not available for those of you interested in streaming, but you can check it out on Maiden’s official YouTube channel below.

The song Invasion was originally released on Maiden’s debut EP, The Soundhouse Tapes. The EP is highly sought after by collectors and is ludicrously expensive, even for the most dedicated Maiden fans. That said, if you have a copy and would like to part with it, please let me know.

Invasion is classic Maiden and I would go as far as saying it was a stronger performance than their cover of Women In Uniform. The drum track and guitar riffs are exquisite and show a band that was well beyond their debut in terms of musicality and cohesion.

For the vinyl collectors out there, the 7-inch edition is still available and well worth owing. The pressing offers one of the best sonic representations of the band to date, although my only comparison for these particular songs is listening via the lossy YouTube quality, hence it is difficult to accurately compare. 

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The Art Of Noise – (Who's Afraid Of?) The Art Of Noise!

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The Art Of Noise – (Who's Afraid Of?) The Art Of Noise!

The time and place for this story may require some explanation for some readers. It was my seventh form year, my final year at college. Depending on time or place, you may be more familiar with "year 13" and "high school." In any case, I was 17 years old, living at home and not earning anything more than pocket money.

It was the year I began to take school less seriously, and it was probably while skipping English class again* that I walked into the seventh form common room to hear some most unusual sounds emanating from the turntable in the corner. Unusual but somehow compelling. When the needle reached the end one of my friends got up to flip it over, after which I asked to see what it was.

Released in 1984, Who's Afraid Of The Art Of Noise was the band's second release, but debut album. I'm not sure I've ever come across a more descriptive band name than Art Of Noise, for that aptly describes their style. Various descriptions label it as new wave, experimental rock, and techno-pop. Without fishing for a single genre, the music makes heavy use of the then emerging Fairlight synthesiser that would mark a lot of early 80s experimental sounds.

What does all that mean in practice? Lots of non-traditional "instruments" including car noises, people talking and various weird and wonderful electronic sounds. But as the band's name implies, from a collection of noises, comes art.

The opening track, A Time For Fear (Who's Afraid) kicks off with Fidel Castro making a speech about the ill-fated Bay of Pigs attack on his nation and later includes what appears to be a radio broadcast message from the (then very recent) 1983 invasion of Grenada. These, of course, are covered with a musical arrangement and this includes electronic 'notes' of some description and heavy percussion. It even includes what sounds like piston engined aircraft passing overhead, but used as a musical element rather than atmospheric sound. The whole track seems to have a military march feel to it – and I don't mean a marching song – but it dips into a most contradictory peace for a while in the middle and again at the end. It is perhaps one of the finest examples of the band's use of 'sound' or 'noise' rather than just pure musical notes. But this isn't the band's whole repertoire by a long shot.

Beat Box (Diversion One), despite it's name, is no mere diversion at 8:33 in length. Punchy, moderately paced, and with an attitude, this song makes use of stereo separation for some strong elements that make it quite fun to listen when you can get that separation in your room (or on headphones). Again, human voice is used heavily, although far more musically in this track. It is one of my favourite Art Of Noise tracks of all.

Snapshot does live up to its name at a mere 1:02 in length and is an odd, happy little tune that serves quite well as a transition to the final track of side one – the track that was the album's single and made a decent climb to number 8 in the UK charts.

Car sounds introduce Close To The Edit before a variety of musical elements including, once again, sampled human voices, build up a musical picture that is a delight at every note. At a similar pace to Beat Box, this track has a "cool" vibe about it that is my second favourite skill of the band after their use of unusual sounds to make music. This same vibe would appear with a vengeance in the Peter Gunn theme a couple of years later. Unlike the preceding tracks, there is actually singing in this one, although not much. But when it appears it is most beautiful and fits with the sound stage. This would have been the song that captured my imagination when I was 17, although I must admit I don't remember that moment clearly.

This video of Close To The Edit performed in 2004 looks to have far more live elements than the original as suggested in the comments. However, it absolutely captures the sound of the original in my opinion. What a joy to watch.

Side two starts with the album's title track which once again delves into the experimental side of the band – lots of vocal noises here including the almost surprising "Hey!" at the start, laughter of adults and children and even whole phrases – "Can I say something?" – are used as musical elements. This track is probably more typical of the band's eclectic side than A Time For Fear but I enjoy this one a little less as a musical whole.

The second track on side 2 is a magnificent piece of art. Once again switching into a completely different type of sound, Moments In Love is one of my favourite tracks in my entire music collection of well over 6,000 songs. Instrumental (well, almost), etherial, smooth, simple, beautiful, and over 10 minutes long, this track doesn't go many places but it is so beautiful I never want it to end. The reason I said it was almost instrumental is that, like Close To The Edit, the title of the song does make an appearance. But only those three words and they are so lilting that I hesitate to call them vocals rather than an important instrument in the song. In fact, for a time, the word "moments" is actually 'spoken' by instrument only, and not by voice, and indeed other 'notes' are clearly human voice but not distinct words – so where do you draw the line? In any case, if you're not relaxed and happy by the end of this track, then I don't know how I can help you.

This is a shorter, but live version of Moments In Love which has extra elements and again, I suspect more live elements than the studio version. It doesn't quite maintain the smoothness of the album version, but is nevertheless mesmerising still.

If you were just about asleep with the dulcet tones of Moments in Love then the thunderstorm and church bells of Momento will likely wake you and the approaching footsteps – which never quite arrive – and creepy church organ music will freak you out slightly, but it's not far to the end of this 2:13 track where you'll be rewarded with birdsong.

How to Kill is again a very experimental track with a lot of human voice elements. This is probably the one track that might annoy anyone other than true fans or those with a completely open mind to what "music" is. The oft-repeated "it stopped" may well be the wish of many listeners! Fortunately for those people this is another track under 3 minutes.

The final track, Realization, leaps back into a similar groove to the opening track but once again is very short at 1:43. There's really not much to say about this track except that I think this really was just an experiment that someone decided to include on the album. There's nothing wrong with it, but I wonder what the point of it is.

With the wide variety of sounds on the album I don't think I would notice if the tracks were out of sequence, as they do not seem to fit a running order, but as a body of work, it is a great sampler of the capabilities of Art Of Noise and remains my favourite album from the band. Other albums have songs I like better, but considering all of the content of each album, Who's Afraid stands out as the most enjoyable overall. The artiness of A Time for Fear and Who's Afraid, the techno-pop of Beat Box and Close to the Edit, and the mesmerising Moments in Love each lend their excellence to this album while the other tracks flirt around the edges.

I first owned this album on cassette but it was one of my earlier CD purchases as well. The band, and this album in particular, are one of a handful that I am proud to own because they are different. Despite a couple of flirts with mainstream success, Art Of Noise were never really "mainstream" but rather a cult following.

All I can say to end is I'm glad I skipped English class.


*   There is an irony in the fact that nearly 30 years after discovering Art Of Noise I am still talking about them and mentioning my skipping of English class. As a result of skipping a LOT of those English classes that year, I was asked why this was the case – I had a near perfect attendance record otherwise. The questioner was the school principal. When I explained that I didn't see any value in studying yet more Shakespeare he said something I will never forget. "What will you do if you're in a social gathering of business people and the conversation turns to Shakespeare? You will be left out of the conversation." As I recall I responded that I didn't think it would be a problem. Very nearly 30 years later... I was right, Mr. Walker.

The album has appeared with two distinct covers. The CD pictures shown above represent what I believe to be a later release, as the vinyl sleeve I saw in 1986 was as pictured here, and as shown now on iTunes.


Allister Jenks is a freelance music reviewer and podcaster. You can listen to him on The Sitting Duck Podcast and find him on Twitter at @zkarj

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Dire Straits – Dire Straits (self titled)

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Dire Straits – Dire Straits (self titled)

‘They don’t make them like that anymore,’ seems appropriate to describe not only Dire Straits, but their self-titled debut Dire Straits. Dire Straits, or more specifically Mark Knopfler in the role of vocalist, lead guitarist, and writer, created a unique sound that would resonate for decades and result in a sound that is truly timeless.

From the magical guitar strumming introduction for Down To The Waterline, you will be captivated with some of the most beautiful atmospheric music you have ever heard. In-fact one element that I truly appreciate Dire Straits for is not over playing the guitar. So many bands turn a guitar lick into an entire song and it just doesn’t work. Dire Straits by comparison gives you just enough guitar twang that you are left wanting more, not less.

Similarly, Water Of Love is the perfect mixture of rock and folk-styled music. It is truly music for relaxing on a lazy sunny afternoon with an appropriate beverage in one’s hand.

While I enjoy the entire album, Setting Me Up is one of the songs that I’m not in love with. I just feel the tempo was too fast, especially being placed in-between the two rhythmic songs Water Of Love and Six Blade Knife.

Southbound Again is just incredibly groovy and when I hear the hit song, Sultans Of Swing, I simply can’t believe this was a debut release. Not only did Dire Straits already have their sound, but they were playing better than bands that had been together for years.

While Knopfler’s vocals are exceptional throughout the entire album, I feel they are strongest on In The Gallery. His voice is perfectly refined and toned for the style of the song. I must admit that I’m also captivated with the guitar licks on this track.

Wild West End and Lions close out the album nicely, although neither are true standouts, but they certainly don’t diminish the album and as Lion concludes, I always want to play the album again.

The Dire Straits edition I have is the Warner Super Bit Mastering CD from 2000 (Cat No: 9 47769-2). This is how a CD should sound. Complex, detailed, and atmospheric. Most importantly it is NOT brickwalled.

While I have the 2014 vinyl re-issue in my wish list, the CD is so good that other than introducing a slightly warmer analogue sound, I don’t feel much can be improved in regards to sonic representation. That said, while the dynamic range of this release is off the charts, it is still less than the vinyl release, hence logic suggests that a slight improvement may be applicable.

For those of you interested in high resolution formats, the SACD matches the Dynamic Range of the Warner Remastered CD from 2000. I’m all for high resolution formats, but they have to introduce advantages in dynamic range and soundstage, otherwise additional 0’s and 1’s is somewhat pointless.

The 2000 Warner Remaster is done by the legendary mastering engineer Bob Ludwig. I honestly don’t think I have a bad mastering in my collection that includes the name Bob Ludwig. While this remaster claims to include the original LP art, it isn’t the exact replica that I would personally like to see. When I look at the way the Japanese market does the replica Mini-LP, that is what I expect and call original LP artwork. Nevertheless, this is a small gripe that is targeted towards the record label.

That aside, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Warner CD Remaster from 2000 as the overall mastering and production is top notch. The album has also recently been reissued on vinyl and all reviews thus far say the Universal Back To Black 2014 re-issue is the one to get. For those of you looking at get the album in high resolution digital formats, it is still available on SACD. Although as mentioned earlier, I don’t believe a significant improvement will be seen over the standard CD release.  

For music streamers, the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition is the 1996 remaster that was done by Gregg Geller. It isn’t a bad mastering, but I find elements such as high-hats and cymbals to be too harsh on this edition. That said, I’m seriously clutching at straws. You’d be more than happy with the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition.

Interestingly, the Apple Music/iTunes edition is the original 1978 mastering and it sounds EPIC. I’m not joking, the Apple Music/iTunes edition isn’t Mastered for iTunes and I’m elated as this is further proof that if an album is mastered well, it need not be remastered. It also provides validity that lossless editions can sound perfect. It is all in the mastering!  

The Apple Music/iTunes edition is done so well that you can even hear tape noise in the background between tracks. Some people may dislike that, but that is how it should sound. My CD release also has tape noise. It indicates that they were able to capture every element from the original source, and did not digitally remove anything which could have caused an adverse change in the tonality of the album.

That makes me wonder why record companies and artists can’t simply agree on a single master. I know it all has to do with encouraging sales of back catalogues, to collectors who have already purchased the album, but as a collector I would much prefer a value-added product, rather than a remastered one. While all the remastering editions of Dire Straits are great, were they really needed when the original was done so well?

The bottom line is, regardless of the version you get, this album is a must have for any collection. 

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Luther Vandross – Songs

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Luther Vandross – Songs

I first became aware of Luther Vandross when I heard, and subsequently purchased, the duet he did with Mariah Carey of Endless Love in 1994. As great as Lionel Richie and Diana Ross are, Carey and Vandross made Endless Love their own in a version that not only payed homage to the original, but in my opinion, surpassed it. Carey’s vocal reach is simply amazing and I hope she eventually returns to the style of music that we heard from her in the early to mid 90s. She very well could have a lasting career that would rival Barbara Streisand’s should she stick with songs like Hero and Endless Love.

While I recall having both the CD single and cassette single, of Endless Love, it is the CD that I recall vividly as it was in its cardboard sleeve that simulated a mini-vinyl sleeve. I would play the CD quite often as it contained an instrumental version of the song, along with three other live, non-album tracks that included Never Too Much, Any Love, and She Won't Talk To Me. To be honest, I can’t recall those additional tracks, but undertaking this post allows me to once again explore music from my past. What I do remember was looking at the back of the sleeve where the cover image of Songs was displayed. I remember telling myself that I must get that album yet, for reasons I cannot recall, the album never came into my possession.

Songs, the album containing Endless Love, has been in my wish list for years. However, the vinyl edition has been out-of-print for 21 years. Yet, I was able to source a brand new, sealed, edition of the record at a reasonable price.

When it arrived by mail this morning, I was filled with tears of joy as I finally had a copy. Adding to the emotion was the knowledge that the copy I had, had been waiting patiently for me to play it some 21 years later. Music collectors will understand the excitement one goes through when we find that album that has eluded us for years.

Yes, you can stream the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi et al, but it isn’t the same and never will be.

As I opened the record, I wasn’t sure what to expect as 21 years is an incredibly long time for a record to be in situ. As I slid the record out of the sleeve, I noticed that the top corner of the inner sleeve was folded over. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this as this is a practice that was used during the 90s and the preceding decades. I’ve yet to come across any recently pressed albums that present the sleeve in this manner, so I can only assume it is no longer standard practice. I am led to believe that the folding of the corner was to facilitate easy packaging of the record into the outer sleeve for distribution.

So how does the record sound?

As good as the day it was pressed! There is a little sibilance on the inner grove, but that is common for vinyl. It is not bad, just noticeable. When I upgrade my Ortofon OM10 stylus to the OM20 in the next few weeks, that issue should resolve itself. Of course, there are some artists, such as George Michael, that have naturally occurring sibilance in their vocals. That said, Vandross isn’t one of them.  

The mastering of Songs is spot on and matches the mastering that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and iTunes. In-fact the quality presented in the Apple Music/iTunes lossy edition is so close to indistinguishable, when compared to TIDAL Hi-Fi and the vinyl edition, that it isn’t funny. Therefore, a Mastered for iTunes edition would be irrelevant as no additional quality can be gained. This also proves that if mastering is done correctly at the studio level, then consistent results should be apparent across all formats. Yes, the vinyl record has the analogue tonality, but seriously the digital editions are remarkably ‘warm’ and inviting with a full sound.    

Thankfully, there has been no remastering carried out on the album and it certainly doesn’t need it. While it is still available on CD, it appears a little more difficult to get hold of as not all retailers have stock, or even the option to order. Hence, I would suggest you pick up a copy sooner, rather than later.

As I was doing some background research for this post, I decided to have a look at Vandross’ discography and I noticed his last album Dance with My Father was released in 2003. Wondering why he had not released an album since then, further research resulted in me learning that that he passed away in 2005 at the age of 54. I was shocked and saddened to learn of his passing. While this may not be news for many of you, it is impossible to keep track of everything related to all artists the one is interested in.

Vandross dedicated his life to his music and subsequently didn’t have a family that his legacy could be left to. Hence, I’m not sure who owns the rights to his music, but while his albums are still available, untouched by greedy corporate music labels, I aim to collect as many as possible before they are gone and the inevitable remastered editions flood the market.

The undeniable truth about Songs is you will hear the classics, made into classics once again, by one of the most talented vocalists in history. Think Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, and Harry Connick Jr. all rolled into one voice and that still doesn’t come close to describing the vocal capabilities of Luther Vandross.

Throughout the hour long album, you will groove, you will sing, and you will want to take your loved one in your arms and dance a private slow dance to the masterpiece that is Endless Love.

Songs like The Impossible Dream are equally magical and while I’m not overly familiar with a number of the tracks presented on side 2, side 1 has Love The One You’re With, Killing Me Softly, Evergreen, Reflections, and Hello; all classic songs that I simply adore. Although, after several plays, songs like Always And Forever, are starting to become classics in my own mind.

Songs simply doesn’t have a b-side. Get a hold of this album and cherish it, I’ve no doubt you will love it. I know I do!  

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Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

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Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

As a dedicated Aerosmith fan, I feel a little embarrassed to admit that Toys In The Attic was not in my own collection until last week. I had previously purchased a few tracks, from the album on iTunes, and I did have many of the songs on various live and greatest hits releases. Anyway, we don’t need to dwell on what I didn’t have in my collection. I’m sure it is void of many other classic albums that I should own.

Originally when I ordered the vinyl edition of Toys In The Attic, I was hoping to get a copy of the 2013 Record Store Day (RSD) edition as they were individually numbered and matched my other Aerosmith records. Unfortunately, I left it too late and none of my suppliers had the RSD numbered editions left. While that was disappointing, it wasn’t the end of the world. The remasters that were made specifically for the RSD release, are still available, they are just no longer numbered and come with a different sticker on the outer seal. All other artwork, including the record label, is identical. I can live with that; it is the music I wanted after all.

Speaking of the music, Toys In The Attic is nothing short of epic. There isn’t a bad song on the album and while Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion have been played to hell and back, I never tire of those songs. They are akin to Queen’s We Will Rock You. They are simply timeless classics that will forever be part of music history.

The first time I heard Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion was in the mid-90s when Aerosmith re-released Sweet Emotion as a single in 1994. The single featured Sweet Emotion, Draw The Line, Walk This Way, and Dream On. If I wasn’t previously hooked on Aerosmith from their Get A Grip album, I certainly was after this four-track release. I even purchased the equivalent cassette single so that I could have those songs when on the move.  

Returning to Toys In The Attic, the double entendre Big Ten Inch Record is just a fun bluesy song. It isn’t an Aerosmith original as Bull Moose Jackson wrote and recorded the original. The original is a fantastic recording, but let’s just say that this song is perfectly suited to Aerosmith and Tyler’s innuendo filled mind.

Another classic song I would love Aerosmith to cover is Dave Bartholomew’s My Ding-a-Ling. The original is great, but I tend to enjoy Chuck Berry’s live performance of the song a little more. Either way, can you imagine Aerosmith not only recording this song, but playing it live. Now that would be show not to miss!

I particularly enjoy the final track, You See Me Crying. Aerosmith has always, in my mind, been the masters of the rock and roll ballad. Although, I could likely say that about many bands, I find Tyler’s vocal pitch to be perfectly suited to ballad-styled rock and roll music. Plus, when you add Orchestral tones to a rock song, you have me hooked.

Sonically Toys In The Attic is superb. It is mastered well originally, but the 2013 mastering for vinyl, done by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound, is exceptional. It is the best mastering I have ever heard of Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion. It is important to note that this latest mastering was done under the supervision of Steve Berkowitz and the original album producer, Jack Douglas.

As usual, not all editions of the album are worthy. The TIDAL Hi-Fi edition is from the 20-bit 1993 remastering sessions. It isn’t bad, but it still doesn’t compare to the latest master. In-fact, all 2013 vinyl remasters are an improvement over the 1993 20-bit remastered Aerosmith albums I have in my collection. That said, I’m not getting rid of those CD’s anytime soon.

The Apple Music/iTunes edition is a specific Mastered for iTunes release from 2012. There is no information available on the mastering for this release, but after a cursory listen, I subjectively didn’t like the sound. It was too muffled and didn’t present a good sound stage, in comparison to the before mentioned masters.

For those of you who are into the high-resolution digital, Toys In The Attic has also been released on a now out of print SACD. It is currently available on HDTracks in both audiophile-grade 96kHz/24bit & DSD 2.8MHz editions. Interestingly, HDTracks claim their editions are from the 2013 remasters Ryan Smith did at Sterling Sound. While I would love to take their word for it, I can’t help but wonder if the information is accurate as the Dynamic Range Database lists both HDTracks’ editions as having 08 and 09 dynamic range scores, versus the vinyl which has an average of 12. Even the 20-bit 1993 remastered CD comes in at 10. If anyone has any information to clarify which version is really being used, I would love to hear from you.

I should add that the 2013 remasterings are so good, that these should be the new benchmark for all future Aerosmith releases in both physical and digital formats.

Anyway, all I can say is go and get yourself a copy of this classic album. You can thank me later!

Now, if you will excuse me, it’s about time I got back to my Big Twelve Inch Record…and to think Tyler thought he had a big record!

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Metallica – St. Anger

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Metallica – St. Anger

Anger was what Metallica caused amongst fans when they released the 2003 album St.Anger. Although, it wouldn’t be the first time their fans would be divided with the musical style they decided to adopt as, their self-titled [The Black Album] was seen as a radical departure and a commercialisation of Metallica’s original sound. It is then appropriate that producer of the Black Album, Bob Rock, would again anger fans with the direction he and Metallica took with St. Anger.

When I first heard St. Anger, in 2003, I didn’t like it. I remember being disappointed and angered that I paid money for it. Despite listening to it several times, it just didn’t grow on me.

However, that was well over a decade ago and as time progressed, I grew strangely fond of the album. I hadn’t played it for years, yet I missed it. I could even recall the lyrics of many of the songs and the style of music that was portrayed throughout the album. All I can think of is it must have registered with my subconscious.

Just prior to the holiday season I was crate digging and came across the Blackened Recordings re-issue pressing for an incredible price. This was one time when I didn’t hesitate to make the purchase. Given my initial distaste of the album, I can’t explain my incessant need to now own the album.

One aspect that did grab me was the visual nirvana of the artwork. This is where vinyl is really the king of all music formats. The artwork alone justified the purchase.

While I lacked time to listen St. Anger during the holiday season, I decided to put it on last night. As the needle lowered, and Frantic began, I knew at that moment that I had underestimated the album and that in retrospect it was truly a heavy metal record that was not only worthy of the Metallica name, but it was worthy of being added to my collection.

As the album progressed, I felt like I was a one-man audience with the band in their garage. I didn’t stop moving for the entire 75-minute epic and I sang along to every lyric. In reflection, I think I matured as a music listener and was listening to the performance differently than I had upon its release in 2003.

The music, while being metal infused and raw to the bone, has a unique dimension about it. I truly love the shifts in tempo within the songs. It is a jolted feeling, but one that works for the entire album. Think for a moment about how you feel when you’re angry. The waves of emotion you experience. Metallica has captured that emotion and portrayed it perfectly in St. Anger.

Overall, St. Anger is reminiscent of Garage Days Re-Revisisted ‘87, Garage Days Revisited ’84, B-sides & One-Offs ’88-’91, and Motorheadache ’95 from the 1998 Garage Inc. album. I’m a big fan of that album and I love the production credit of ‘somewhat produced’. I wish they would have replicated that production credit for the St. Anger release.

St. Anger would also mark the first Metallica album that hadn’t featured long-time bassist Jason Newsted as he left he band following creative differences. In his place, producer Bob Rock would lay down the bass tracks as Metallica had yet to bring Robert Trujillo into the band. Regardless, the bass elements are really amplified in this release, unlike Newsted’s first album with the band …And Justice For All where the bass tracks are minimal at best. While Trujillo, and Newsted before him, were both incredible editions to the Metallica lineup following the death of original bassist Cliff Burton, I have to say that Rock plays some mean bass tracks on St. Anger.  

Now that I have flipped my subjective dislike of the album, into pure appreciation, I should mention that it is not perfect. In my opinion this album could have been a Load/Reload style release. It would have been a perfect 40-minute album that could have been released in two editions.

Perhaps it is just me, but I find that I prefer shorter albums. When AC/DC released Rock Or Bust, I was initially shocked at the 35-minute runtime. In retrospect, I’m glad it is short and hard hitting as it allows me to appreciate the songs a little more as I’m more inclined to spin the album again. 

St. Anger’s main problem with length is excessive song duration. When you think the song is about to end, it picks up again. Invisible Kid is one which could have been cut down, as could the final track All Within My Hands. With six of the eleven tracks being over seven minutes in duration, you can see where this can be a problem. Don’t get me wrong, some longer running tracks are epic, but it should be the exception, not the rule. I’m certainly not one of the fans that demands a band fill the available storage of the CD format for an album release.

Personally, I would like to see shorter albums, released more frequently. I don’t know about anyone else, but I get tired of waiting several years for a new release. Let’s get back to a 60s/70s release schedule, and album length, and I will be a very happy music listener.

At this stage, I feel it is pertinent to suggest that you should never become closed off to a specific artist or musical style. Yes, that even includes Justin Bieber. I was for a while with St. Anger and if I had not given it another chance, I would have remained ignorant to the truly masterful heavy metal album Metallica released.

The musical journey we all go on should not just be about your favourite artist, or musical genre. It should be about exploration and contemplation of musical tastes. What you may like today, you may dislike tomorrow, and vice-versa. Perhaps this bodes well for the Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration LuLu.

You will notice throughout this post that I have neglected to say much about the sonic quality of the album. There is a reason for this omission. The vinyl edition is amazingly detailed and mastered perfectly for the format. The same can not be said for the Apple Music/iTunes edition. While St. Anger is Mastered for iTunes, it is horrible. On Apple Music/iTunes the album becomes a headache inducing nightmare that makes you angry. As with Katy Perry’s Prism, it is akin to listening to two different albums. I am truly disgusted that this quality could be called music. It is noise. It lacks emotion. It lacks depth. It is the reason why I disliked this album for years as the CD is equally brickwalled.

Speaking of being brickwalled, the CD has an average dynamic range of 05. Whereas the vinyl is a slightly more respectable 09. Neither are great, but when you add low-dynamic range and then further compress it down for Apple Music/iTunes, Mastered for iTunes becomes irrelevant. Check out the Dynamic Range Database for more information on St. Anger.

One example is the song Sweet Amber. It has numerous sonic elements that are clearly present on the vinyl, but in no way are they present on the Apple Music/iTunes version. These elements add to the depth and emotive feeling of the song. I truly wish copyright would allow me to record the two versions side-by-side so that I could showcase the difference to you, but alas you will just have to take my word for it.

I wish I could tell you that there was a higher quality digital version available on TIDAL Hi-Fi or HD Tracks, but Metallica has yet to add their music to either of these platforms.

I would truly recommend you pick up St. Anger on vinyl as the visual presentation and sonic quality is incredible. The specific release I have is: Blackened Recordings (BLCKND 016-1) from 2014/15. St. Anger is also available on CD and iTunes

Click here to read other Metallica reviews by Subjective Sounds.  

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Katy Perry – Prism (RSD 2014 Limited Edition Vinyl Picture Disc)

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Katy Perry – Prism (RSD 2014 Limited Edition Vinyl Picture Disc)

Prism is Katy Perry’s fourth solo release and her third within the mainstream popular music genre. Following the success of Teenage Dream it would have been easy to assume that Perry would have peaked creatively, especially considering Teenage Dream was the only other album in history, besides Michael Jackson’s Bad, to achieve five number one singles off a single album. In classic superstardom, Perry didn’t sit on her laurels, instead deciding to head to back into the studio for an album that is arguably a little more serious and one that represents artistic growth. Whatever her motives were, the album is an exceptional addition to not only her catalogue, but the world of popular music.

Before we progress any further with my own thoughts, my daughter who is 9 years old asked if she could write her subjective thoughts about Katy Perry and the Prism album as Perry is one of her favourite musicians. The following is in her own words, with no help or editing.


Hi! I'm Natalia Greentree I'm 9 years old.

I'm the daughter of the Subjective Sounds blogger, Daddy Greentree.

My feelings about KP short for Katy Perry her music makes me feel her inner beauty like she's right there with me and that feeling is in all of us.

What I like is that I feel her emotion though the album. You might think I'm insane but I really feel her happy, loving, caring and her care her songs though her.

I have all her songs from Teenage Dream, Prism and One Of The Boys.

Today my dad and me are going to talk about Katy Perry Prism cd.

My Favourite Songs List

  • Roar: because of the feeling of the beat
  • Birthday: because of makes me like I'm the birthday girl
  • Dark Horse: because of the mysterious song
  • This Is How We Do: because it's a land of no big deals
  • International Smile: because it teaches me the country's names.

Thx for reading my thinking of Katy Perry prism. You will here maybe more about me Natalia Greentree 😄


While I have always enjoyed Katy Perry’s vocal delivery, my first recollection of paying real attention to her was when I saw Katy Perry The Movie: Part of Me. There was just a level of honesty and transparency that she portrayed in this autobiographical film. You can’t view someone at their most vulnerable and not be emotionally impacted. After watching the film, I had an incredible level of respect for the artist that we know as Katy Perry and the woman behind the name who was born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson.

Over the last couple of years, I have been buying Perry’s CD collection for my daughter. She had the CD copy of Prism well before I had the limited edition vinyl picture disc. As good as Perry’s performance is across the album, I was always disappointed in the CD mastering. IT IS LOUD! So loud that I would have to turn the stereo down every time we would go to play the album. The problem is this album should be played loud, but when an album is brickwalled, you simply become fatigued and want to turn the album off, or listen at such low levels that all emphasis is removed and you might as well consider it background music.

Some of you may think that I have lost my mind, but the CD is mastered to a poor dynamic range of 05, whereas the vinyl record is mastered to a 10. These numbers are out of 20, with higher numbers representing a more dynamic soundstage. Seriously, check it out yourself at the Dynamic Range Database.

For those unaware, the dynamic range is representative of sonic separation whereby the difference between the lowest and loudest volumes are measured. What the above numbers prove is that the CD and TIDAL Hi-Fi editions are sonically compromised, despite being lossless sources. I have no idea what the dynamic range of the Mastered for iTunes edition is, but I can honestly say that it is sonically inferior to not only the vinyl edition, but the CD/TIDAL Hi-Fi edition as well.

This process of brickwalling is ridiculous. In my testing, I’m essentially listening to two completely different albums. It is an insult to consumers and it has absolutely nothing to with the music format as CD is technically superior to vinyl and can more than adequately handle a very high dynamic range. Vinyl mastering arguably has less tolerance and is therefore a more stringent process that generally results in a superior product.

Interestingly, the limited edition vinyl picture disc is mastered by the same mastering engineer that worked on the CD, yet it is sonically beautiful. The soundstage is there. The dynamic range, while still not the greatest, is present. I am enveloped by music, not noise. It is incredible.

Now, vinyl collectors reading this will also be wondering how I can praise this release so highly when it is on the picture disc format. Yes, the additional noise of picture discs is there, but I only really notice it at the beginning, end, and in-between the tracks on the album. As the music is playing, it drifts into the background and diminishes itself, even when my main system is playing at a 70% volume level. In-fact, at 70% maximum volume, the vinyl blows me away. I can’t even listen comfortably to the CD, or TIDAL Hi-Fi version of the album, at 40%.

You will likely hear some people saying that picture disc vinyl isn’t for playing, but for displaying. I’m sorry, but I don’t agree. I don’t keep my vinyl on a pedestal. I collect it to enjoy the playing process. Similarly, I’ve never understood the allure of sealed copies either. You can’t take it with you, so you might as well enjoy it while you’re here.

Now, it is important to note that all picture discs are not created equally. I have some, such as this one, that are sonically beautiful. All of Rob Zombie’s picture disc albums are exceptional. Whereas, Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son is one example of how not to make a picture disc. While the mastering of that album has always been up for debate, it is nearly unlistenable on the picture disc vinyl.

As usual, I digress, but only to let you know that all picture discs aren’t bad and in most cases they are just as playable as their traditional non-pictured counterparts.

All that said, if you can find the standard black edition vinyl, then you will be thoroughly pleased with the sonic performance. If you don’t mind the pops and clicks of vinyl, then you will likely be able to tolerate the whooshing sound of picture discs and will be equally happy.

The Prism limited edition picture disc was released for Record Store Day in 2014, and is limited to 5,000 copies, despite not being individually numbered. Regardless of the vinyl edition you decide to pick up, you will be presented with the additional tracks Spiritual, It Takes Two, and Choose Your Battles. The standard edition CD omits these tracks, but despite not being A-side tracks, they do feel like they belong on the album and thus all three are enjoyable to listen to.

In all honesty, there isn’t a bad track on the album. Yes, I have my preferences such as Roar, Legendary Lovers, Walking On Air, This Is How We Do, and Dark Horse, but these are merely the standout songs for me.

Honestly, if you have a turntable, pick up Prism on the standard or picture disc vinyl. The CD is adequate for the car or small stereo system, but for the main stereo and listening room, it is simply too compromised for me to recommend with a clear conscience. My recommendation for digital delivery would be to listen via TIDAL Hi-Fi as it at least matches the CD. Despite the iTunes Store and Apple Music versions being Mastered for iTunes, I find they are not enjoyable to listen to as I feel they are overly compressed, especially in comparison to the non-lossy sources. Add the low dynamic range to the mix and it is just a disappointing experience. If you’ve never heard the vinyl edition then you don’t know what you missing out on, but is it truly like listening to two different albums.

An audiophile-grade edition is also available via HD Tracks in 44.1kHz/24bit. I’ve not heard it, but this is likely an exact digital copy of the master recording that was used to make the vinyl edition.

Let’s hope Katy Perry’s next album is mastered to a higher standard as she is an exceptional artist that deserves to be heard in her natural dynamic range.

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