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Sophia Pfister – Birdcage (Album Review)

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Sophia Pfister – Birdcage (Album Review)

In 2016 I declared that the world needed a complete Sophia Pfister album as her Self-Titled EP was so captivating, due in part to Pfister's sultry vocals and the production quality, that I simply wanted more. During the last couple of years, I've seen sporadic updates of the recording process and in August, Pfister dropped her first full-length album, on vinyl first and then a later on digital stores and streaming services.

At the time of the album's release, I was busy moving home and subsequently delayed ordering the vinyl edition. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that I’ve still yet to place my order, however, just as I did with Pfister's debut EP, I can review the streaming edition and compare the vinyl release at a later date. Pfister is actually the perfect artist to do this with as she is a proponent of the vinyl format and I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever see Birdcage on the various digital platforms. While I applaud her commitment to the vinyl format, especially considering she remains independent and these releases are completely self-funded, I feel it is far more important for independent artists to focus on attention, rather than the delivery method. With that in mind, I don’t feel streaming and other digital delivery methods challenge artistic intent, for the physical counterpart should always offer a value-added proposition to the music lover. It is also important to remember that no matter how much we champion the vinyl format, there will always be those amongst us who dislike or are not interested in the format and that is okay. Yes, one could argue that exclusivity towards formats should be viewed in the same manner as attending an art gallery, or concert venue, where the consumer needs to go where the artist feels their work is best represented. If I were reviewing Beyoncé’s exceptional Lemonade, and the associated initial exclusivity with TIDAL, I’d agree with my aforementioned statement, but with one caveat – Beyoncé is a household name and therefore can afford to lose the attention of the casual fans as her rabid fan base will follow her to whatever platform or venue she decides to release her music via. While I’ve no doubt Pfister can reach similar heights throughout her career, it takes time to develop an audience and that audience needs access to Pfister without restrictions at this stage in her career. 

Birdcage (Feat. White Buffalo Stands) offers a seamless transition from Pfister's Self-Titled EP. If you loved that release, as I did, you'll feel right at home as it’s a beautiful way to start the album. The backing indigenous-styled vocals towards the end of the song are beautiful and show a skilled layering of musicality that has evolved since Pfister's Self-Titled EP.

The Wheel is a rather complex composition, with a variety of musical elements and styles throughout. While on paper it shouldn't work, it absolutely does and it's one of those songs that offer the listener something unique upon each listen.

Drifting is a beautiful vocal-focused tune. It’s thoroughly relaxing and that Banjo element, that I claimed was too prominent on Pfister's song, Sugardaddy, I find is perfectly mixed here and is simply stunning. In fact, the entire soundstage and musical depth of Drifting is nothing short of spectacular. Yes, dear reader, this is sonically how good music should sound. Exceptional!

Loved By Strangers has a very familiar rhythm that picks up the pace of the album. The composition, again, is rather complex, but you feel as though you are encapsulated by musical elements as the soundstage is perfectly presented with incredible instrument separation. Another great tune!

Bad Decisions is the greatest song Pfister has written and recorded thus far. As I listen to this masterpiece, I’m reminded of Adele, on stage, singing Hello. Yes, it is that good and this song is stadium ready and a massive hit just waiting to be discovered.

Ride The Wave isn't a bad song, but I feel there are elements within that have been borrowed too heavily from Pfister's Self-Titled EP. Of course, following Bad Decisions was always going to be a challenging task. That said, if there is a B-side to be heard, it is Ride The Wave.

Separate Ways (Feat. Dave Alvin) is second only to Bad Decision. It’s bloody brilliant and an exceptional duet. I love it! If I had one criticism, it would be that the electric guitar tracking should have been a couple of decibels louder, especially towards the end of the song.

Living In The Grey is a thoroughly enjoyable closing track that ensures I'll listen to the album again and stay within Pfister's small, but growing, catalogue of music.

Birdcage is an absolutely stunning debut album and, by any standards, is world-class. When you compare it to some of the big name mainstream releases, you can only wonder how they have received recording contracts while Pfister remains independent. Of course, Pfister may decide to remain independent, but she has the musical talent to be one of the leading ladies in the music industry and while the industry is changing, record labels and solid management and promotional teams remain vital to achieving such heights, especially at the beginning of one’s career as a musician.

I can, without doubt, confirm that Birdcage is both sonically beautiful on Apple Music and TIDAL Hi-Fi. Yes, TIDAL's CD-quality stream offers a little more depth but the core performance is transparent, regardless of the delivery platform, meaning that the recording, mixing, and mastering is absolutely perfect. With that in mind, and knowing just how good Pfister’s debut vinyl EP sounded, I can't wait to get the vinyl release of Birdcage. Speaking of which, I better go and order myself a copy before they sellout.

Birdcage is available on Vinyl, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), iTunes, and Bandcamp.

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

Click here to read other Sophia Pfister reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You (Album Review)

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Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You (Album Review)

Nina Simone had one of the most distinctive voices in recorded music history. Her skill and control over her vocal delivery showed no bounds and no truer is that statement than when listening to her opus I Put A Spell On You. There is not a bad song to be heard and it really is a case of discussing which of the 12 songs is better than all the others.

Adding to this musical brilliance is the fact that I've been enjoying I Put A Spell On You at 24/96kHz on the High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) Blu-ray format. To call this pressing immaculate would be a gross understatement. I have listened to the counterpart on Apple Music and TIDAL Hi-Fi and while the recording is largely transparent on those services, they lack a level of smoothness and relaxation when compared directly against the HFPA release. Yes, I've also listened to the MQA edition and while nice, it’s still too harsh for my liking. The HFPA release has incredible detail, minus the harshness found via other formats, and sounds extraordinary via both my main stereo set-up and headphones. For those of you who are interested, for this HFPA release, I prefer to listen to the album in the PCM format, rather than my preferred DTS-HD Master Audio format. I simply find that the original recording doesn’t need the additional low end that the DTS-HD Master Audio mix provides.

The HFPA format releases are sourced from the master tapes and this is one release where the tape qualities have been maintained throughout the digitisation process. While a little tape noise and analogue playback artefacts may deter digital purists, I love it as it takes me into the studio. If I close my eyes and focus only on the music, I'm experiencing my own personal concert with Simone and it is an experience that is astonishingly satisfying. That all said, the core performance does translate to the other formats, but the HFPA edition takes the recording to another level, especially if you have stereo equipment capable of taking advantage of high-resolution audio. For those that don't, or aren't interested in going to these lengths, may I suggest the Apple Music edition that is Mastered for iTunes. As I have listened to the album on many of the available formats, that is the one closest to the HFPA sound signature in my opinion.

I Put A Spell On You is as much a Nina Simone song as it is a Screamin' Jay Hawkins’ classic. However, while Hawkins may have recorded the original, I doubt there would be many who would proclaim his rendition as being superior to Simone's. I also love the Creedence Clearwater Revival interpretation as it takes cues from both Hawkins and Simone and if you want to take the song up a notch, on the metal-infused dial, you could always listen to Marilyn Manson's rendition, as featured on Smells Like Children. Regardless of how you wish to appreciate this song, a plethora of musicians have covered the song well, but I always return to Simone's rendition as being the definitive recording of the song. She made it her own and I doubt anyone will ever be able to top it.

Tomorrow Is My Turn is a lovely song. You really get a sense of the vocal control Simone has, especially on the fast, yet clear and soft, lyrical aspects of the song. By the way, is it just me or does this song sound as though it was taken straight out of a 007 James Bond flick?

Ne Me Quitte Pas is spectacular!

Marriage Is For Old Folks is witty and incredibly entertaining to listen to. Seriously, if you don't have a smile on your face when listening to this song, you're taking life too seriously. It’s a fantastic tune and perfectly suited to Simone, especially the doo, doo, dooo, de-doo lyrics.

July Tree is a lovely song that while not a classic, is a beautiful addition to the album.

Gimme Some picks up the pace with an addictive rhythm that will have you head-bopping and toe-tapping from the very first note. Plus, that Little Richard inspired vocal growl, that Simone includes, is incredible.

Feeling Good is astonishingly good! Again, Simone's rendition is arguably the greatest to have ever been recorded, but as I've mentioned before, George Michael did perform it beautifully.

One September Day is a thoroughly relaxing track that again shows the control Simone had over her vocal delivery. Remember, this was recorded in 1965, long before Auto-Tuning vocals was a thing. Yes, dear reader, this is what a truly talented vocalist sounds like.

Blues On Purpose is a fun little song with a solid mix of blues and jazz that will appeal to just about any music lover. While Blues On Purpose is an instrumental track, Simone plays the piano sufficiently, as she did throughout the entire album.

Beautiful Land is an interesting song that I find to be rather compelling, yet I'm unsure if I actually like the song or not. It isn't bad, it's just a little left of the centre.

You've Got To Learn is a beautiful tune.

Take Care Of Business is a superb song to close the album on and ensures I’ll stay within Simone's back catalogue while longing to play I Put A Spell On You again.

I Put A Spell On You is pure perfection from start to finish. If there were a criticism to be made, it would be that the album is too short, with a runtime of approximately 34 minutes. However, that weakness is also its greatest strength for the filler tracks that are known and loathed are nowhere to be seen. It plays like a well-curated greatest hits compilation would.

Nina Simone was one of the greats, and will always be one of them, for the musical skill she possessed is a rare occurrence that even the greatest modern day vocalists can only aspire to. There is little doubt she has put a spell on me, I hope you are equally spellbound by I Put A Spell On You.

I Put A Spell On You is available on Vinyl, High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) Blu-ray, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, I Put A Spell On You is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi (MQA or CD-quality), Apple Music, and Spotify.

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Vintage Trouble – 1 Hopeful Road (Album Review)

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Vintage Trouble – 1 Hopeful Road (Album Review)

Rhythm & Blues with a touch of Rock & Roll = PURE PERFECTION!

Yes, that pure perfection is exactly what you can expect from 1 Hopeful Road, the third studio album from Vintage Trouble. 1 Hopeful Road leaves me somewhat speechless as there’s no accurate way to describe the masterful styling of Vintage Trouble. They must be heard to be believed and if you enjoy the aforementioned musical styles, you're going to love 1 Hopeful Road.

Run Like The River sets the tone of the album with a perfectly distorted guitar intro and beat that is addictive. It’s a killer blues rock and roll track!

From My Arms slows the album's tempo down, but it’s presented so masterfully that it doesn’t feel out-of-place. From My Arms is a beautiful near ballad-acoustic piece that is recorded, mixed, and mastered immaculately well. This is how good music should sound. Where before you would have been toe-tapping and head-bopping to the pace of Run Like The River, you'll be doing the same here but in slow motion. Spectacular!

Doin' What You Were Doin' continues the smooth but determined blues-rock beat. I always feel compelled to sing-along to this song. Of course, I absolutely butcher the beautiful tonality of the song, but it is so good that I simply can't help myself. As I sit and enjoy Doin’ What You Were Doin’, I can’t help but think how happy the executives at Blue Note must be with their decision to distribute Vintage Trouble. The label's legacy and the band’s style are so perfectly suited that I couldn't think of a better match.

Angel City, California kicks the rock element up a notch and in some ways is reminiscent of the Eagles style. A great song with a great tempo. I love it!

Shows What You Know gets rather bluesy, but that’s a good thing. Seriously, listen to that soundstage and the shimmer of the cymbals. If anyone tells you good music doesn't exist in the modern era, point them to this album and this song.

My Heart Won't Fall Again is a thoroughly enjoyable upbeat song. Ty Taylor's vocal delivery is buttery smooth with just the right amount of grit. Taylor is, without a doubt, one of the world's greatest vocalists.

Another Man's Words is one of the best songs on the album, if not the best. The musicality is off-the-charts. Absolutely beautiful!

Strike Your Light (feat. Kamilah Marshall) wakes you up, just in case you slipped into a micro-sleep following the smooth and relaxing Another Man's Words. Despite the musical shift, Strike Your Light is an excellent song, but if there was a single song, on 1 Hopeful Road, that I could point to as being a B-side, it would be this one.

Before The Tear Drops has an incredible vintage sound! Sorry, but I had to go there. It’s the perfect blues club song for toe-tapping over dinner.

If You Loved Me is absolutely fantastic, reminding me of the music from legendary artists such as Bobby Womack, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson.

Another Baby would be a perfect song for Jimmy Barnes to cover on his next soul and blues album. Yes, it is that good, but I'm not sure Another Baby is perfectly suited to Vintage Trouble.

Soul Serenity is a beautiful song to close the album on, reminding me just how stunning the entire album is. There really isn't a bad song to be heard on 1 Hopeful Road as it plays like a greatest hits release of a band who has been around for decades. Let's hope their future albums are just as good, if not better than 1 Hopeful Road, but improving on perfection is not the easiest task.

This review was based on listening to the TIDAL Hi-Fi (CD-quality) stream and the Apple Music counterpart. While the TIDAL version was marginally better, with slightly better instrument separation, the Apple Music edition was no slouch and was sensational to listen to on my AirPods as I went about my daily tasks, away from the confines of my main stereo and headphone setups. Basically, when musicians are this talented and the album is recorded, mixed, and mastered with care, you're going to be presented with a sonically beautiful presentation regardless of lossy or lossless delivery methods. Truth be told, the only way to top the quality of the aforementioned streams would be to pick up 1 Hopeful Road on vinyl as Vintage Trouble’s style would perfectly suit the warmth and broadness often associated with the vinyl format.

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

If you prefer streaming, 1 Hopeful Road is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton – [Compilation Review]

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(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton – [Compilation Review]

Few would argue about the influence of Melbourne's music scene in the 70s, for it was the mecca of the Australian Music Industry at the time. That said, I'm sure my Sydney neighbours would fervently disagree. While I’m Sydney born and bred, good music is good music and (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton validates that point. With a runtime nearing three hours, this compilation is an extensive trip down memory lane, but will also excite those of us that missed out on experiencing this wonderfully vibrant music scene during its heyday.

SkyhooksCarlton (Lygon Street Limbo) is the perfect song to open this compilation. Not only were Skyhooks one of the most successful bands on the scene, at the time, but Carlton (Lygon Street Limbo) incorporates the energy and musicality of the 70s. A sensational song!

The SportsWho Listens To The Radio? (Original 7" Version) is one of my all-time favourite songs, having heard it repeatedly, ironically, on the radio. Yet, until listening to this compilation, I never knew who the artist was. Now I do and I have this compilation and streaming music to thank for bringing me back to one of the coolest songs from the era.

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsSo Young is another sensational song and reminds me, in spirit, of Tom Petty. I love it!

The DotsLowdown is a little rough around the edges, but that adds to the character of the song. However, I’d argue that while Lowdown isn't a standout song, it is thoroughly enjoyable and the compilation wouldn't be the same without it.

StilettoMiddle Of The Bed is a sensational classic with a killer vocal, rhythm, and an intriguing guitar tune.

The Bleeding HeartsHit Single has a disjointed musical style that surprisingly works perfectly. Hit Single is dynamic and never dull. I don't know about you, dear reader, but it’s a hit from my perspective. It also has a slight Skyhooks influence; what's not to like?

Mighty KongHard Drugs (Are Bad For You) is another rhythmic monster. Seriously, you have to listen to this compilation, it is hit after hit. Incredible!

Mondo RockPrimal Park is a solid tune but it has a little too much pop-influence for my liking. However, there are certain elements, such as the chorus, that are spot on and thoroughly enjoyable.

Mark GillespieSuicide Sister is pure perfection!

High Rise BombersFaster Than Light is a great song. That brass section undoubtedly makes the song and I could happily listen to Faster Than Light on repeat for hours.

The ToadsEudil is addictive. Yes, even that interesting near-pop-based backing vocal grows on you; the song would be lost without it.

The Pelaco BrosMechanics In A Relaxed Manner isn't a bad blues-based tune, but I find the mix confuses my mind as the vocal presentation is too forward and slightly offbeat to the rhythm. In some respects, it is as though two songs have morphed into one.

The Relaxed MechanicsTruckin' Casanova is a campy tune, but I can't help but love it. An absolute classic and arguably a song that only an Australian band could have conjured up.

MillionairesGossip has a shifting tempo that takes a little getting used to. It isn't my favourite song from the compilation, but there was bound to be at least one of the tracks that didn't connect with me.

The KevinsOut At Night is a great song. Yes, another campy tongue-in-cheek song, but such is Australian humour.

Martin Armiger & Buzz LeesonNo Reason is a killer classic rock tune.

ParachuteThe Big Beat isn't anything to write home about, but the compilation wouldn't be the same without it.

Spare ChangeLet's Get Rich Together is one of those songs that takes repeat listens to truly enjoy. That said, once the connection is made, you'll be hypnotised by this exceptional song.

The Glory BoysThe Ballad Of Good & Evil is a fantastic song. The rhythm is amazing, but that vocal delivery is off-the-charts. So Good!

Eric Gradman Man And MachineCrime Of Passion is a solid song with an interesting vocal overlay. The sonic shift, mid-song, is also intriguing and while I'm unsure of how I really feel about Crime Of Passion, it suits the compilation perfectly.

Martin ArmigerI Love My Car is certainly reminiscent of the era, but I’d argue that it’s not quite worthy of this collection.

The Bleeding HeartsBoys (Greg Macainsh Demo Version) is a great track. It kinda makes me wonder what the non-demo version sounds like as this edition was already ready for prime-time in my opinion.

StilettoRozalyn is a killer song. The vocal delivery, in particular, is absolutely sensational, making for one of the best songs on the compilation. That said, there is a little sibilance in the vocal that can be distracting, especially when listening via headphones.

The DotsI See Red is rather rough around the edges, reminding me a little of the early Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan recordings. Overall, however, it isn't a bad song but it could have been great with a little more spit and polish.

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsOnly The Lonely Hearted isn’t a song to write home about, but it's a solid addition to this compilation.

The SportsSuddenly is a great song that improves upon each listen. I love the vocal style and Suddenly is perfectly mixed.

Mondo RockTelephone Booth has a great rhythm that is full of energy. I dare say Telephone Booth would have been exceptional when played live.

Daddy CoolSaturday Night (GTK Live) is merely satisfactory as there are much better Daddy Cool songs that could have been selected for this compilation.

SkyhooksHey, What's The Matter? (Steve Hill Demo Version) is awesome! Although, the final master recording is even better. Regardless, it's Skyhooks, what is not to like?

Company CaineBuzzin’ With My Cousin is a little too left of the centre for me. That doesn't mean that you won't like it, but I just don’t connect with it.

Captain Matchbox Whoopee BandRoll That Reefer is different and feels out-of-place, but it’s certainly a compelling tune.

Stephen Cummings & Dave FlettThe Third Degree sounds too much like The Rolling Stones. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the song is excellent, but I do value uniqueness.

Rock GraniteYou Got Me Where You Want Me is a toe-tapper and a head-bopper. Great tune!

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsSomeday It's Gonna Come To You (1976 Demo Version) is far better than the demo tag would make you believe. A sensational song!

Mark GillespieComin' Back For More is thoroughly enjoyable.

AutodriftersLocked Out Of Love is not my type of song, but you may enjoy it; especially if you're a Hank Williams fan.

Fabulous NudesI'll Be A Dag For You, Baby is daggy! It isn't the greatest song and should have been omitted from the compilation.

The Pelaco BrosTruckdrivin' Guru is a solid song, but nothing to write home about and again we have a song that is somewhat influenced by The Rolling Stones. I guess imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery.

Peter Lillie & The LeisuremastersHangin' Round The House is brilliant! An Aussie Classic!

The SportsLive Work & Play (Nightmoves Live) isn't a bad song but I'm more interested in the polish that often accompanies studio recordings. That said, this is a strong live performance with plenty of energy.

High Rise BombersRadio Show is a great song and that jam session mid-song is superb.

Eric Gradman Man & MachineBright Boy has an addictive beat and is overall an exceptional song.

SkyhooksThis Is My City is a great way to close this compilation. It ensures that I'll listen again as Skyhooks can do no wrong in my opinion.

For those of you calculating the track listing, some will wonder why there are only 43 songs reviewed, rather than the 45 included on the album. Sadly, likely due to contractual permissions, Daddy Cool’s Boy You're Paranoid and The Indelible Murtceps' Blue Movies Made Me Cry are missing from streaming services. This discrepancy is yet another reason why owning the CD is a good idea as you're not limited to accessing the music you love by outside influences that are out of your control. Despite this, (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton is an incredible compilation of Australian artists from the 70s and the reputable Melbourne music scene. While there are a couple of songs that don't connect with my soul, the compilation as a whole does. Subsequently, every song, regardless of my subjective viewpoint, is essential.

(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes. It’s important to note that the aforementioned absent songs are available if you purchase the album.

If the omission of those two songs doesn’t worry you, you can also stream (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton on Spotify and Apple Music.

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19-Twenty – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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19-Twenty – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Exceptional music isn’t just the domain of mainstream artists. Independent artists, such as 19-Twenty, are often just as talented, if not superior. Thanks to music streaming, finding these exceptional acts is easier than ever before.

19-Twenty is an Australian-based band with a sound that infuses soft rock, blues, roots, and folk music. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find this blending to be absolutely compelling and addictive to listen to.

The Tavern is a beautiful song, with sensational vocals and overall musicality. It sets the tone of the album and shows just how talented 19-Twenty were at the commencement of their recording career. The Tavern also has an addictive rhythm and the mix, soundstage, and mastering will blow your mind. Exceptional!

Kiama Town is simply stunning!

Lorne picks up the pace in a literal fast-plucking manner. I love it!

Louis Collins distorts and electrifies 19-Twenty's sound beautifully. It reminds me a little of early Rolling Stones and certainly Keith Richards' overall style on his latest solo release, Crosseyed Heart.

45 Degrees is an incredible song. This album just keeps getting better and better.

Wasn't For The Beat, with its frantic guitar strumming isn’t generally an element of acoustic music that I enjoy. Nevertheless, the song grows on you the more you listen to it.

Bucket Of Poison goes the grungy distortion route and interestingly reminds me of Adele’s Rumour Has It. That works for me. A solid 10/10!

1920'S Blues is a B-side and feels a little offbeat when compared to the rest of the album.

16 Hours has a simply stunning vocal presentation. Acoustic-based music doesn't get much better than this!

Slow It Down has a fantastic beat and rhythm that ensures I’ll listen to the album again and stay within 19-Twenty's growing catalogue.

As far as debut albums by Independent artists go, 19-Twenty is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish and the band has proven that a big recording contract, while likely desirable, does not dictate the quality of one's music.

While I would love to own this album on vinyl, I don't believe it was ever pressed to the format. The edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi is sonically perfect, but I’ll be tracking down a copy of the CD as it is certainly worth adding to my permanent physical music library.

19-Twenty can be purchased on CD and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 19-Twenty 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).

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

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Tom Jones - Help Yourself (Album Review)

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Tom Jones - Help Yourself (Album Review)

While Delilah, What's New Pussycat, and It's Not Unusual are permanently etched into my mind, due to their addictive musicality and Jones' textual, but smooth tones, I am constantly amazed by the sheer catalogue of music Tom Jones has recorded over the years.

Help Yourself is, in my opinion, the first album Jones released that truly showed off his musical chops. The recording also has a high-quality production and mastering that still holds up today. Any attempts at remastering this album, beyond the digitisation done by Decca in 1989, would arguably be a mistake as it has an analog tone that is reminiscent of the sound and recording techniques from the era. This is obviously a case of if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

I generally find these classic album covers, highlighting the artist along with a list of songs, to be compelling. Yes, it is a dying art to include this information, but it is so much better than slapping a sticker onto the vinyl outer sleeve, or CD case. Regardless, the streaming versions of Help Yourself omit song titles, but I have noted the original vinyl editions did include this information. I don’t know about you, but I believe that album artwork should be presented in the same manner as the original release. Unless, of course, it is a Deluxe Edition or other variant. Okay, so I guess streaming is a variant and my argument isn’t as sound as I would like it to be, but I trust you understand my inference.

Help Yourself has a beautiful brass introduction that instantly transports my mind to the era. It is upbeat and the accompanying Caribbean presentation is perfectly matched to Jones' baritone vocal in both pitch and octave variation.

I Can't Break The News To Myself is a fun song with an addictive groove. What I love most about this track is the vocal clarity as I find it increasingly difficult to decipher lyrics in modern pop and rock music. When vocals are clear I tend to listen for meaning, when they are over processed or not well defined, I treat the vocal as nothing more than another instrument in the composition. Yes, I could look up the lyrics, but that is not how I enjoy listening to music.

The Bed has a fantastic blues-inspired guitar introduction that immediately reminds me of John Fogerty's musical style. Overall, The Bed is a fantastic song that once again shows why Tom Jones is a superb vocalist.

Isadora is simply gorgeous. A perfect composition. I love it!

Set Me Free is an absolute classic that stands the test of time. It’s a song that is genre blended and anyone with a passing interest in Country, Blues, or Rock music would really enjoy Set Me Free.

I Get Carried Away has a very similar style to another song from the same era, yet I am drawing a complete blank on the name of the song. You will notice the similarity mostly in the introduction and chorus. If anyone can suggest the other song I may be thinking of, I would appreciate you letting me know. Despite the similarity, I thoroughly enjoy I Get Carried Away and find that it is a song I never tire of.

This House (The House Song) is a lovely song and the vocal delivery is buttery smooth.  

So Afraid is an exceptional song!

If I Promise has a hip-gyrating pace that would have been incredible to see live. It is a fun song and I love the brass band sound.

If You Go Away is a gloomy song, but is perfect when considering lyrical context. I thoroughly enjoy this song!

My Girl Maria is another song that would have been incredible when performed live. That said, I feel this recording lacks emotion that arguably would have been more present in a live performance. Nevertheless, it is a lovely song.

All I Can Say Is Goodbye is a solid easy listening tune, but it is nothing to write home about.

Ten Guitars is unfortunately greyed out on TIDAL Hi-Fi; generally, this indicates there is a licensing issue that is yet to be resolved. However, you can cheat and listen to the song on The Legendary Tom Jones - 30th Anniversary Album. Interestingly, if you use Spotify, they automatically switch to the other album for the song that is greyed out. I wish TIDAL would offer that feature, although one must wonder if it is the best approach from the standpoint of contractual obligations. Regardless, Ten Guitars is a twang fest that I have mixed feelings about. It isn’t one of the strongest recordings, definitely a B-side, but it is strangely addictive.

What A Party has a New Orleans sound that many will like. As for me, I find this effort to be merely adequate.

Looking Out My Window is an incredible track. It has energy, rhythm, and is well suited to Jones' vocal style.

Can't Stop Loving You is beautiful.

Let There Be Love is so well suited to Jones; the musicality is spot on. Classic Tom Jones recordings don't get much better than this.

Without Love is a lovely song with a spoken word introduction that brings the meaning of the song to the forefront of the experience. As the song builds, I am blown away by the depth of Jones' vocal. As the final track on the album, it will compel you to listen to the album again, or stay within the Tom Jones catalogue.

Help Yourself is an incredible album that plays like a greatest hits release. While I still believe his best work can be heard on Praise And Blame and Spirit In The Room, Help Yourself is one of his greatest recordings.  

For this review, I listened to the 1989 mastering on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Other than the omitted track, this edition was an absolute pleasure to listen to. Yes, it has a slightly concealed sound, but that is reminiscent of the style applied during the era. It is also important to note that this edition is extended from the original 1968 LP. For reference, the original release ended with All I Can Say Is Goodbye. Despite this, either tracking makes for an exceptional release and the additional tracks blend well, making it a very enjoyable album experience.

Help Yourself is available for purchase on iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, the album is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Lucy, Racquel And Me (Self-Titled Debut Album Review)

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Lucy, Racquel And Me (Self-Titled Debut Album Review)

One of the greatest pleasures I have in publishing Subjective Sounds is the numerous review requests I receive from independent artists. I consider myself very fortunate to get to listen to a number of unique and fresh performances, that I would otherwise be unaware of. Plus, as an independent publisher, I feel a connection with these individuals who are forging their own path. That said, I get the most satisfaction from hitting the publish button, thereby sharing my subjective thoughts with you, my dear readers.

Now that I have pressed that publish button, I would like to introduce you to a musical collaboration spanning three continents. Lucy, Racquel And Me is the performance moniker for three incredibly talented musicians. I’ve no doubt you will be left speechless with this debut release, so sit back, relax, and join me as I explore the self-titled debut of Lucy, Racquel and Me.

Hello Sunday is unfortunately not the greatest song to start the album with as it is too campy for my liking. I’m sure some of you will adore it, but I feel that Lucy, Racquel and Me are incredibly more talented than the song portrays. This becomes increasingly apparent as you listen to the entire album.

Children In Bare Feet has a beautiful rhythm. The vocal dexterity in this song is something to behold. It is an incredible composition and the guitar solo is perfectly placed. An exceptional song!

One Day has a killer guitar introduction that is simply out of this world. One Day merges jazz and blues elements into the soundstage and it was this song that compelled me to write this review. You don't often hear songs of this calibre by mainstream artists, let alone independent artists. It is recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully as you truly experience your own private performance with the band. Music like this reaches out, grabs you, and doesn’t let go till the final note is played.

Shattered is equally beautiful. The last three songs have proven to me that my harsh opinion of Hello Sunday was justified. When a band can produce a song as incredible as Shattered, anything less is a compromise they don't need to make.

Untraceably Gone is gorgeous. I’m blown away!

Love Now is an enjoyable song, but it is a B-side.

Gone Baby Gone is a song I absolutely adore. However, it wasn’t until hearing the vocal delivery that I really began to appreciate the musical direction of the song. With that in mind, I do find the instrumentation to be a little busy and I would prefer the vocal to be more present in the soundstage.

What Did We Do Wrong? is a gorgeous acoustic song that includes a Bossa Nova rhythm. Yes, this combination works incredibly well. Personally, I love the Bossa Nova sound and implementing it in this manner is pure perfection.

All True has an incredible sonic presence. Amazing!

Coffee Queen is a little jolty after the relaxed nature of All True, but I do enjoy the rhythm and that bass strum is fantastic.

Silence For Beginners is too close to the easy listening jazz piano bar sound for my liking. That isn't to say it is a bad song, just that as with Hello Sunday, I believe Lucy, Racquel And Me are talented beyond this level of musicality. 

Overall, as a debut album by an independent band, Lucy, Racquel And Me is nothing short of exceptional. The album is recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully. These are indeed three very talented musicians and I’ll be sure to watch their career as they progress, for I believe they have what it takes to go all the way to the top; just not with Hello Sunday.

Lucy, Racquel And Me is available for purchase on the TIDAL Store and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Tom Jones - Praise And Blame (Album Review)

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Tom Jones - Praise And Blame (Album Review)

I recently read Tom Jones' autobiography, Over The Top And Back. It is an exceptional read, a real page-turner. If you’re remotely interested in the Welshman with soulful tones, then I implore you to pick up a copy.

I tend to listen to corresponding albums when reading musical autobiographies. I feel it brings me closer to the artist and allows me to fully appreciate just how talented they are. While I have always been aware of Tom Jones, it was only as the caricature that the media would often portray him as being. You know, the Vegas resident singer who is known for the plethora of panties thrown in his direction. Sometimes it can be difficult to remove one's longstanding viewpoint, but in reading his life story, and listening to his albums, I have a newfound appreciation for his recordings and artistry. It is with this in mind that I decided to add some of his albums to my collection. Unfortunately, many are out-of-print, but his later works are easily accessible. There are, of course, countless compilations.

Regardless, his last few albums are incredible and he has proven that it’s not unusual to sing more than Delilah, Sex Bomb, or the incredibly kitsch What’s New Pussycat?.

As I went searching for records, I noticed that Praise And Blame was still available for order on vinyl. Increasingly, I find myself using Subjective Sounds as a form of purchase justification. Yes, consumerism is alive and well. The truth is, if I didn't do it this way, I would procrastinate with my own thoughts for days. Anyway, let's take a listen and see if Praise And Blame is worthy of being added to my vinyl collection.

What Good Am I? is Johnny Cash merged with Tom Jones. It is exceptionally moody and the monotone beat perfectly complements Jones' vocal style and the musicality of the song. I dare say, this is one song that would reproduce beautifully on vinyl.

Lord Help shifts the album to a different beat. It is addictive and you will be toe tapping and head bopping from the first note. Despite it being rather different to What Good Am I? the flow and tracking does not feel disjointed. While I feel Jones' vocals are a little hidden in the soundstage, it is an excellent song that showcases his incredible range.

Did Trouble Me slows things down again but, as aforementioned, it doesn't seem out of place or disjointed. I'd go as far as saying this album is a perfect example of how to track an album properly. Jones' vocals are more forward in the soundstage of this song and I simply love it, along with the plucking of that banjo.

Strange Things is a fun song, but I feel Jones over performs on this track. Also, I don’t feel the backing vocals are well suited to the song as they simply feel out of place with the overall style of the album.

Burning Hell is blues-based rock and roll heaven. Burning Hell has to be one of Jones' greatest recordings. I love it!

If I Give My Soul is gorgeous!

Don't Knock is a solid B-side, but I don't feel it blends well with the other songs on the album. Again, I feel the backing vocals simply don’t work. Jones can demand an audience’s attention on his own, hence backing vocalists are largely superfluous unless they add substantially to the song.

Nobody's Fault But Mine is incredible! The mix, the mastering, and most importantly the musicality is off the charts with this song.

Didn't It Rain is another fantastic toe tapping, head bopping song. While Didn't It Rain does have backing vocals, they are in a lower register that works better with the album style and Jones' own deep vocal presentation.

Ain't No Grave is an exceptional B-side.

Run On is a fantastic song to close the album with. It encourages me to not only listen again but stay within the incredible catalogue of music that Tom Jones has given us over the years.

I have to give praise to all the musicians and personnel who made this album possible. It is nothing short of astonishing. I also need to blame those same individuals for giving me no other option than to purchase this incredible recording on vinyl.

Praise And Blame is one of the best albums Tom Jones has ever made, although the follow-up, Spirit In The Room, is hard to beat.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition and sonically it was perfection in every aspect of the word. If I were unable to purchase vinyl release, I would not feel remorse as it is that good.

Praise And Blame is available for purchase on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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