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Agnetha Fältskog – A (Album Review)

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Agnetha Fältskog – A (Album Review)

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

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

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

SIDE A

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

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

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

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

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

SIDE B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Barbra Streisand – One Voice (Live Album Review)

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Barbra Streisand – One Voice (Live Album Review)

Barbra Streisand needs no introduction and by anyone's standards is one of the greatest musicians to have ever sung a single note. No more is that more apparent than on One Voice; a long-awaited live performance captured September 6, 1986. While Streisand has, in recent years, released a few additional live performances, One Voice remains at the pinnacle of Streisand’s career and is, in my subjective opinion, the greatest live performance of her career. There isn’t a single B-side to be heard on this flawless recording. The mix and master are equally compelling and while One Voice is a live album, it would also have to be placed amongst Streisand’s greatest releases. 

I was fortunate enough, many years ago, to own this release on both cassette and CD, but as one who initially thought the MP3 was the ultimate solution for the music lover, I digitized the CD and subsequently sold both copies. What a fool! Nevertheless, thanks to TIDAL's CD-quality Hi-Fi stream, I can access the album whenever in the mood. To be completely honest, I'd love to see One Voice reissued on vinyl as it was originally recorded using an analog system and would be nothing but pure joy to appreciate on that format, especially if the vinyl pressing process was an all analog affair. Still, the TIDAL Hi-Fi stream is perfectly transparent to my memories of the CD and is thoroughly enjoyable. The Apple Music stream is equally compelling, even if tad concealed by comparison.

Somewhere (Live) starts off slowly with a lovely atmospheric introduction. The first notes Streisand sings are magical, and you can immediately tell just how extraordinary this performance is going to be.

Evergreen (Love Theme From "A Star Is Born”) (Live) is, while very similar, a much better rendition than the studio counterpart. Streisand's vocal soars and compels me to turn the volume up, resulting in a musical experience unlike any other. Simply amazing!

Something's Coming (Live) is a great song, but the synthetic elements irritate me. I'd love to hear this song with an orchestra backing instead.

People (Live) is one of the greatest songs of all time. Streisand’s presentation here is absolutely flawless and her words at the beginning of the song are as relevant today as they have always been. I absolutely adore this song!

Send In The Clowns (Live) is beautiful!

Over The Rainbow (Live) is absolutely magical. Seriously, listening to Streisand perform this song makes one question how the human voice is capable of such beauty and that final note is held with so much control, it leaves me speechless every time I hear it.

Guilty (Live Duet With Barry Gibb) has always been one of my most favourite songs from Streisand's catalogue and, as with Evergreen, I much prefer this live performance to the studio edition.

What Kind of Fool (Live Duet With Barry Gibb) is another astonishingly good song. The duelling vocals are so perfectly suited that they not only complement each other, but they amplify the song to greater heights. No-one else could have performed this song with Streisand as well as Gibb has. Of course, as a Bee Gees fan, I’m likely a little biased. 

Papa, Can You Hear Me (Live) is such a delicate song but Streisand performs it masterfully. While I haven't listened to every cover of this song, thus far, Streisand’s is superior to all I have heard, even the rendition recorded by the incomparable Nina Simone.

The Way We Were (Live) is one of my favourite Streisand films, second only to The Mirror Has Two Faces. Subsequently, I absolutely adore this song. It is one of Streisand's greatest. 

It's A New World (Live) is a lovely ballad with a beautiful meaning.

Happy Days Are Here Again (Live) is a beautiful song. It’s timeless, although that could easily be said about the entire performance.

America The Beautiful (Live) is sung so stunningly that one can only sit and admire it. America The Beautiful closes the recording nicely, ensuring I'll listen to the live performance again and stay within Streisand’s extensive catalogue of music.

Overall, One Voice is one of the greatest live performances of all time. That it was captured for us to appreciate is a wonderful blessing and gift to the human race.

One Voice is currently available on CD, the TIDAL Hi-Fi (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

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

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Aaron Neville – Warm Your Heart (Album Review)

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Aaron Neville – Warm Your Heart (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With You In Mind is astonishingly good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Carpenters - Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Carpenters - Self-Titled (Album Review)

Is it just me, or are re-issues of the Carpenters’ albums well overdue? No, I'm not just talking about hastily thrown together anniversary deluxe editions. I'm referring to the record label and copyright holders going back to the master tapes and creating a respectful remaster that would be the definitive releases of their studio albums. I say this because, as much as I appreciate my Carpenters CD collection, none compare to the sonic brilliance heard on the vinyl release of The Singles 1969-1973. It is truly wonderful but, every time I play their third Self-Titled album, I am left wanting more. Especially considering a few songs from this album are present on the aforementioned compilation.

Unfortunately, I find the CD exhibits a very clinical digital harshness in tonality. Yes, it is a digital transport method, but it is fatiguing to listen to. Perhaps it could be suggested that my Pro-ject Debut Carbon (fitted with an Ortofon OM20 needle) is more musical than my Oppo BDP-103. I would, however, have to disagree with that as I get exceptional sound from the Oppo, provided the music is mastered correctly. Comparatively, I have some terrible vinyl pressings that no turntable could present favourably. As always, it really comes down to how the album was mastered. I'm sure some of you may think I am overstating the variances, but I can assure you the difference is night and day. Now that isn't to say that vinyl is incomparable, but it is closer to how I believe the Carpenters should sound and there is no listening fatigue.

I have also listened to the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi and, despite being different releases, similar sonic limitations are present and I would go as far as saying the TIDAL Hi-Fi version is noticeably inferior when compared to the CD, using the same DAC and overall settings. Surprisingly, the CD has a warmer and more pleasing tone than its TIDAL counterpart.

If you have an original, unmolested, vinyl release of this album I am truly envious and can only assume it sounds incredible. It is important to note that some people are less than impressed with the vinyl re-issue of The Singles 1969-1973. Apparently, it is a shadow of its former self and how the original sounded. I have no doubt, but it is still the best sounding Carpenters album I own.

Also, while I'm criticising things, let’s talk about the CD artwork and overall packaging. Housed in a standard jewel case, you get a rather bland CD and liner notes are non-existent, unless you call the reprinting of the rear cover a liner note. Surely, they could have included printed lyrics, but alas it is about as barebones as you can get. No wonder streaming music has taken off so quickly. Convenience is, of course, one key element, but I have numerous albums, on a variety of formats, that are simply not worth owning because their presentation offers no value-added proposition for the consumer. I also find it hilarious that the CD lists the tracks as being on either Side One or Side Two. Yes, double-sided optical discs do exist, but with a runtime of 31 minutes, it isn't even utilising half the capacity of the CD. This is just pure laziness. If I worked for a record company, pumping out substandard products such as this, I would be ashamed. While I understand re-issuing is all about financial return, it is my belief that an album shouldn’t be remastered, or re-issued, unless it is going to be done properly and with the respect it deserves. As music lovers, we really shouldn’t have to put up with such variations in quality,

Okay, so now that I have had my little rant and got all the depressing aspects out of the way, join me as I take a listen to the most important element; the music!

Rainy Days And Mondays is simply gorgeous. While I prefer listening to the song on the aforementioned vinyl compilation, I would listen to, and enjoy, this song on almost any speaker known to man. It is addictive and my mind plays it over and over as if it were a broken record.

Saturday is a campy B-side. I simply do not get any enjoyment from this attempt-to-be-funky tune.

Let Me Be The One thankfully brings Karen Carpenter back to the microphone. I'm sorry, but while Richard Carpenter is incredibly talented, I listen to the Carpenters primarily to hear that gorgeous vocal. Karen Carpenter was one of the greatest female vocalists in history and Let Me Be The One is an exceptional Carpenters tune that validates that opinion.

(A Place To) Hideaway is a beautiful song and one of the best on the album. Despite my complaints about sonic quality, this song is simply magical.

For All We Know is another lovely song, perfectly suited to the Carpenters’ style, but the sonic quality of this particular song sounds concealed. Still, as with their other songs, I can sometimes get past the substandard mastering as their songs are incredibly relaxing and a pleasure to listen to. Although, the aluminium foil sounding hi-hat cymbals, throughout For All We Know, is challenging to look past.

Superstar is one of my all-time favourite songs. This song on vinyl is beyond amazing. That said, other than being a little shrill on the CD, it sounds darn impressive.

Druscilla Penny isn’t a bad song and I certainly appreciate the upbeat approach as it suits Richard Carpenter's vocal style. However, what is with that beat that sounds strangely like a speck of dust on a vinyl record? It doesn't sound out of place, it just sounds wrong.

One Love is sensational. It is the definition of Easy Listening as my eyes subconsciously close, when this song is played, as I visualise the performance.

Bacharach/David Medley: A: Knowing When To Leave, B: Make It Easy On Yourself, C: (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me, D: I'll Never Fall In Love Again, E: Walk On By, F: Do You Know The Way To Jose is a fantastic medley that I simply adore. Some of you may be wondering what the song transition is like. Well, it can be summed up in a single word: masterful.

Sometimes is a lovely song, but I feel it is unbalanced as the instrumentation is featured for too long before the lyrical element begins. Subsequently, the lyrical delivery, while beautiful, is over too soon. I also don't like the ending of the song as I feel it concludes abruptly. It doesn't leave me compelled to listen to the album again or stay within the Carpenters' catalogue. If the medley was the final track on the album, I dare say my opinion would be vastly different.

Overall, the Carpenters’ Self-Titled album is an exceptional release from a musicality perspective. If I have been overly tough on the mastering of the CD, it is only because I’m aware of how incredible their music can sound and I truly hope someone is working on an archival project that will bring us closer to the original master tapes.

This review is based on listening to the Australian issued Karussell (PolyGram/A&M) release; cat: 550 063 2.

The Carpenters’ Self-Titled third album is available for purchase on CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Crosby, Stills & Nash - CSN (Album Review)

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Crosby, Stills & Nash - CSN (Album Review)

Most people would already know if they are a CSN (Crosby, Stills & Nash) fan, but for those of you who are not aware of the 70s rock band, specialising in folk while dabbling in country, then the album CSN is the perfect introduction to a band that demands respect from music fans the world over.

From a sonic perspective, think America, Genesis, and Neil Young. Yes, Young would join CSN throughout their career and those performances would be under the moniker, CSNY (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young). Other sonic similarities include, but are certainly not limited to the Eagles and Bread. It is my opinion that if you enjoy these artists, you will love CSN.

The album cover really appeals to me for some reason. Perhaps it is the happiness expressed by the band members and the feeling that they are ordinary guys like you and I. Whatever it is, I class this cover as one of the most iconic for the era and I dare say it is the best cover art from their career.

While they may appear, on face value, to be three ordinary guys, the incredible soundstage and overall sonic presentation is anything but ordinary. Sit back, relax, and join me as we experience the sonic wonderland that is CSN.

Shadow Captain really highlights the musical style of CSN. I absolutely adore the rhythm and depth of the soundstage. The drum beat is exceptional and full of energy. The continuous hi-hat element is recorded beautifully as the sound tapers off gently into the next note. While it adds a little treble to the mix, it doesn’t detract from an otherwise smooth sound.

See The Changes has an exceptional vocal harmony. The acoustic musicality is a basic composition but is performed remarkably well. Sometimes less really is more and I couldn't imagine this song with more complex sonic elements. See The Changes is nothing short of pure perfection.

Carried Away is beautiful!

Fair Game has a Caribbean feel. It’s a good song but it isn't a favourite of mine.

Anything At All is a lovely song that will captivate you from the very first note. 

Cathedral immediately reminds me of Genesis. I don't know about you, but I love it when a song reminds me of another artist. It is like my mind has a built-in discovery algorithm. Anyway, getting back to the song, I absolutely adore Cathedral! From the slow beginning to the increased tempo mid song, it is absolutely perfect and one of the best songs CSN ever recorded.

Dark Star is a really enjoyable song, yet I find that I don't connect with it on an emotional level.

Just A Song Before I Go is another song that has a perfect match of vocal harmony and instrumentation. It is a gorgeous song that has been recorded, mixed, and mastered impeccably well.

Run From Tears has a killer guitar riff that, along with Stephen Stills' lead vocal, really takes a B-side and turns it into an A-side.

Cold Rain has a delightful piano introduction as it builds to yet another gorgeous vocal harmony. Cold Rain is sonically beautiful and an absolute pleasure to listen to. Your ears will thank you for listening to this track.

In My Dreams is textbook Easy Listening.

I Give You Give Blind has an introduction that I'm not fond of, but once the song begins I tend to enjoy it. As the final track, it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within the CSN and CSNY catalogues. That said, there is part of me that would have liked to have seen Just A Song Before I Go as the final track. Yes, I know it would have been corny, but I also think it would have been perfect.

Overall, CSN is one of the greatest albums ever recorded. Even the couple of songs that I don’t connect with are worthy when listening to the entire album as a single body of work.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Master/MQA edition at 24/96 kHz. It is important to note that this was only the first software unfold, carried out by Audirvana Plus 3, as I’ve yet to invest in an MQA compatible DAC. Unfortunately, Oppo has yet to announce their intentions regarding support for MQA. If you have a DAC that is MQA compatible, you will be able to listen to CSN at the full 24/192 kHz resolution. That said, the 24/96 has a full-bodied sound with perfect mastering. Yes, I am aware that Steve Hoffman worked his mastering magic on CSN in 2013, however, I have not heard that edition and subsequently can not comment on the sonic qualities of that release. The MQA edition lists mastering, remastering, and digital mastering as being undertaken by Joe Gastwirt. Regardless, I can honestly say that if I were only able to listen to the MQA edition, I would consider it an absolute privilege to enjoy such a high-quality production. When compared to the 16/44.1 kHz CD-quality edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi, there is a noticeable difference and I find the CD-quality edition to be rather fatiguing as the dynamics and overall soundstage is simply not as smooth as that presented by MQA, despite being the work of the same mastering engineer. I know many of you have yet to test MQA, but I have consistently been blown away by the quality since TIDAL began streaming it in January 2017. More information about TIDAL Masters/MQA can be found here.

CSN is available on Vinyl, CD, 24 Karat Gold CD from Audio Fidelity, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes). If you prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Andrea Bocelli – Cinema (Deluxe Edition CD Review)

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Andrea Bocelli – Cinema (Deluxe Edition CD Review)

Every now and then an album comes along that is the pinnacle of perfection. Cinema is just that as it blew my mind the first time I listened to it. While I am well aware of Bocelli’s work, having been a fan since his Romanza album in 1994, I wasn’t prepared for the quality of his latest work Cinema. There is little doubt regarding Bocelli’s exceptional talent, but I feel that recent albums, such as Passione, didn’t showcase his true potential. That said, I appreciate films and their associated scores, hence it could very well be my own subjectivity that passes judgement against this recent work. Regardless, the song selection and tracking on Cinema is perfect. The songs not only bring out the best in Bocelli, but many of these interpretations surpass their original compositions.

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The Deluxe Edition CD is housed in a beautiful tri-fold digipak with full featured liner notes. The booklet is presented so well that I can honestly say it is one of the most detailed I have seen in recent years. It describes not only the inspiration and history of the songs, but all production elements are meticulously added. This level of detail is what audiophiles ask for but rarely get. It is wonderful to see this level of production, given the CD format has been faltering in sales recently.

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There is a vinyl edition of Cinema, but I won’t be adding it to my collection. The CD offers one of the best masterings in my collection. If you want a CD that is reference quality, for auditioning new hardware, just use this one. This is how digital music should sound and proves that CD is a truly capable medium that has, more often than not, never been utilised to its full potential. Subsequently, I see no justification for higher resolution editions of this album, especially considering the audiophile 96kHz/24bit edition from HDtracks features exactly the same dynamic range as that available on the CD. While I have yet to see dynamic range numbers for the vinyl release, I think we could confidently assume that it would have been created from the same Hi-res master used for both HDtracks and the CD, therefore resulting in no improved dynamic range. The only benefit may be the analogue sound that some listeners may prefer. Although, as much as I love vinyl, I prefer listening to classical music in a high-quality digital format as the organic surface noise of vinyl can be distracting in low volume passages.

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Maria (from “West Side Story”) is simply a gorgeous song that is perfectly suited for the tenor voice. While I’m not sure it is the best interpretation of the song, it is amongst the best and is thoroughly pleasing.

La Chanson De Lara (from “Doctor Zhivago”) is incredibly moving. It encourages the man with two left feet to dance with his significant other. It also reminds me of how exceptional the film Doctor Zhivago is. In fact, Doctor Zhivago is my second favourite film of all time, second only to Casablanca.

Moon River (from “Breakfast At Tiffany’s) is beautiful. When I think of this song, it is with Frank Sinatra in mind as I have always preferred his version. However, Bocelli has made this song his own while paying homage to the classical renditions by Sinatra and many others. It is sensational!

E Pit Ti Penso [duet with Ariana Grande] (from “Once Upon A Time In America”) is a song that I’m unfamiliar with, but I love it when Bocelli does duets as the intermingling vocals are always respectfully done and in cohesion. It is a beautiful song and worthy of inclusion on Cinema. I certainly look forward to hearing it many more times over the coming years.

Be My Love (from “The Toast Of New Orleans”) is another song I am unfamiliar with, yet it sounds somewhat familiar. Regardless, Bocelli delivers another stunning performance that works perfectly with his vocal register.

The Music Of The Night (from “Phantom Of The Opera”) is one of the most recognisable pieces of music in the world. Personally, I consider Michael Crawford’s interpretation to be the one to beat. No-one else has ever come close in my opinion. That said, I’m extremely impressed with Bocelli’s rendition and I have a feeling that even Michael Crawford would acknowledge this as nothing short of a stellar performance. If you haven’t already got your stereo turned up to ear-bleeding levels, you will definitely want to turn that volume knob to the right. Bocelli is absolutely amazing!

Brucia La Terra (from “The Godfather”) is one of my favourite film-based songs. I’ve been a fan of The Godfather series for decades and while the original song is superb, it is nothing like this. Bocelli has left me speechless and all I can say is: Wow!

Por Una Cabeza (from “Scent Of A Woman”) picks up the pace a little from the solemn notes of Brucia La Terra, but it doesn’t feel out of place. Personally, I feel it was a wise tracking choice as there is a similar vocal tonality throughout this song, despite the obvious shift in tempo.

No Llores Por Mi Argentina [duet with Nicole Scherzinger] (from “Evita”) reminds me vividly of the exceptional Elaine Paige version. However, I feel Bocelli and Scherzinger have done an exceptional job with this song. I can’t help but wonder if they also recorded the English version. That said, the utilisation of foreign tongue in music doesn’t concern me, especially when the performing artists are so incredibly talented and blessed with voices that instrumentalise emotion more succinctly than any instrument is capable of.

L’Amore E Una Cosa Meravigliosa (from “Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing”) is a beautiful song that I am not familiar with. That said, I truly appreciate a compilation-styled album such as this because it expands one’s musical appreciation into a series of songs that one may otherwise have never heard. It still amazes me how much beautiful music exists in the world and I can only imagine how much I have yet to experience.

Mi Mancherai (from “Il Postino: The Postman”) takes you on a musical journey that is simply exquisite.

Cheek To Cheek [duet with Veronica Berti] (from “Top Hat”) is an incredible song and while it has been played and interpreted numerous times, it never gets old. My personal favourite rendition, however, is the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recording from their 1956 album Ella And Louis. As good as the Bocelli/Berti version is, no one does it better than Fitzgerald and Armstrong in my opinion. That said, I would love to see Bocelli do more jazz-inspired songs as his vocal capabilities are perfectly suited to that style of music.

Sorridi Amore Vai (from “Life Is Beautiful”) is a beautiful song. As I listen, I remain amazed at the restraint that Bocelli has on his vocal performance. Many artists tend to reach too high and it sounds forced. As far as I can recall, I have never heard Bocelli extend his vocal beyond the requirements of a song. It is this professionalism that makes him one of the best vocalists in the world.

Historian De Amor (from “Love Story”) is a song I absolutely adore and I don’t recall ever hearing a bad rendition of it. Bocelli's interpretation carries on that trend and is an absolute pleasure to listen to.

Ol’ Man River (from “Show Boat”) is a song that I’m not overly familiar with and is probably the one song that I feel doesn’t fit well on the album. Bocelli’s vocals just don’t seem well suited to this song. That isn’t to say it is bad, but it doesn’t reach me on an emotional level.

Nelle Tue Mani [Now We Are Free] (from “Gladiator”) is one of the most stunning songs on the album and in any film that I can recall. It is moving and emotionally engaging. While I felt the film was lacklustre, this song is completely opposite as it empowers the listener and creates a sonic visualisation that is incredibly vivid. Bocelli’s performance is simply flawless. We, as music lovers, are truly blessed to have such sonic perfection in our lives. It literally brings me to tears.

Mere words can not explain just how moving this album is and how perfect the performance and production is from start to finish. While Bocelli is most certainly the star attraction and performs flawlessly, this album has an A-list of who’s who in the musical and studio production world. While this review would never end if I mentioned them all, all I can say is a sincere thank you to everyone involved in the making of Cinema.

Music simply doesn’t get any better than this and while Cinema is available on Vinyl, the Deluxe Edition CD is all you will ever need to truly enjoy this masterpiece. Plus, if you play albums as I do, you will wear out the vinyl edition from the inability to put the record back on the shelf. It really is that good!

For those of you who are interested in streaming, the Deluxe Edition is unavailable. However, both the Standard 13-track and 19-track Special Edition of Cinema are currently available on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

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Agnetha Fältskog – My Colouring Book (CD Review)

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Agnetha Fältskog – My Colouring Book (CD Review)

My Colouring Book is Agnetha’s homage to the music that subjectively held a very special place in her heart. While the album lacks any original content, Agnetha takes a series of classics and makes them her own.

Agnetha is one of the greatest female vocalists of our time. While this album was almost two decades in the making, with A following nine years later in 2013, Agnetha’s recordings are certainly worth with the wait for any fan. Her solo work is not merely an attempt to rekindle the style and success she had with Abba, but that is also a good thing as I dare say that her vocal capabilities were often wasted in Abba. Personally, I place Agnetha in the same category of vocal performer as Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Adele, and Karen Carpenter. Capable, restrained, and soothing comes to mind when I consider all these exceptional performers. Agnetha brings those same qualities to My Colouring Book.

Sonically, this is one of the most beautiful albums in my collection. It has been mastered perfectly within the limitations of the compact disc format. Mastering Engineer Christopher Stannow, from Cosmos Mastering, should be congratulated on a job well done, especially during a period of time where loudness took priority over an energetic dynamic range.

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The edition of the album that I own is the WEA European release – cat no: 5050467-3122-2-7. Besides the incredible sonic performance of this release, the liner notes are presented on high-quality non-glossy paper stock that has a texture akin to artistic paper. This linking of the tactile experience to the album name is just a small, but very important, aspect of album experience. No matter how good streaming becomes, it will always deliver less of the artist’s vision than the physical product.

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The overall design is beautifully presented in a series of pastels with all song lyrics presented throughout. As you know, I’m not a big advocate of lyrical meaning, but I do appreciate that this information is included. Similarly, there is a lovely short letter, penned by Agnetha, that details the concept behind the album. I truly wish more artists would include a section like this, rather than a thank you to everyone they’ve ever known.

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Let’s take a look at the songs:

My Colouring Book is a beautifully atmospheric song with exceptional acoustic elements that intertwine with Agnetha’s vocals and amplifies her presence. It is a perfect song to commence the album with as it sets the tone for the songs that are to come. My Colouring Book has been recorded by a number of well known artists including Barbra Streisand, Andy Williams, Dusty Springfield, and Aretha Franklin to name a few. Agnetha’s version is certainly on par with these before mentioned artists.  

When You Walk In The Room begins with some lovely classical elements before proceeding into a pop rendition of the song that is Abba-esque, due to the music styling and vocal presentation. This song was originally written and recorded by Jackie DeShannon and additionally covered by The Searchers, Bruce Springsteen, and Status Quo amongst others.

If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind was originally recorded by Cillia Black, but Agnetha takes this song to a whole new level while remaining true to the original. This song also served as the first single from My Colouring Book. A music video with Agnetha performing the song, in a studio setting, was also produced for the single release.

Sealed With A Kiss, first recorded by The Four Voices has been covered numerous times, but I will always associate this song with Jason Donovan. That’s because it is the version I remember from my own childhood. That doesn’t mean it is a good association. Agnetha easily outperforms Donovan’s rendition, and that performed by The Four Voices, as it was a perfect song to match her vocal delivery style.

Love Me With All Of Your Heart is simply a beautiful song. Agnetha has once again selected a song and made it her own. What an exceptional talent!

Fly Me To The Moon is Frank’s song. Nobody does it better. Sinatra simply nailed it and while there have been exceptional renditions of this song from some of the world’s greatest jazz vocalists, I will always associate this song with Sinatra. That isn’t to say that Agnetha’s rendition is subpar, anything but. She performs the song beautifully and has the smoothness in vocal range to truly do the song justice. She has also recorded it at a slower pace, thereby creating a little more of a relaxed atmosphere when compared to Sinatra’s upbeat version.

Past, Present And Future is simply gorgeous. I love the spoken word lyrical delivery that intertwines with piano and string instruments.

A Fool Am I is a song that I play LOUD. The symphonic instrumentation and Agnetha’s vocals are exceptional. When you listen to it, close your eyes and the song will transport you to the stage where you can live vicariously. In that moment you are not you, yet you are not truly Agnetha. You are but a figment of your imagination as you sing at the top of your lungs before a loving audience. Yes, I am a dreamer, but that is why I love music. It gives so much, yet expects so little in return.

I Can’t Reach Your Heart is a lovely song that works well with the flow of the album. 

Sometimes When I’m Dreaming was originally recorded by the great Art Garfunkel. Agnetha’s vocal reach on this song is second-to-none. When I hear her sing, like she does on this song, I know her talent was wasted with Abba.

The End Of The World is a fantastic song, but I associate it strongly with The Carpenters. While Agnetha performs the song gallantly, I just don’t feel she delivered an exceptional performance.

Remember Me is lovely, until the beginning of the chorus. I find Agnetha’s vocals come across rather shrill and are not as polished as that found on the rest of the album. It is a minor disappointment in an otherwise exceptional album.

What Now My Love is a fantastic song to close the album on. I love the drum beat used throughout this rendition and the overall musical accompaniment gives the song a unique soft rock edge. It has been covered extensively but Agentha’s rendition is certainly on par, albeit different, with Shirley Bassey’s exceptional recording.

This album is a must have for any collection. If you’re a fan of Abba, you’ll love it. If you’re a fan of easy listening or jazz music you will thoroughly enjoy it. In-fact, the only people that may not like it are those who dislike Abba, the song selection, or those who are very genre specific.

Without a doubt, My Colouring Book is one of my most prized possessions. I only wish it was released on vinyl, but as I mentioned earlier the sonic quality of this CD is extraordinary and the packaging proves that the humble CD can be produced to the highest of standards.

My Colouring Book is available on CD and TIDAL Hi-Fi

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Neil Sedaka – The Very Best Of (CD)

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Neil Sedaka – The Very Best Of (CD)

One of my earliest memories of car journeys was hearing a Neil Sedaka cassette my father owned. Unfortunately, just before turning six, my parents would separate and the Sedaka music would cease, so I’m unsure of which album I was specifically listening to. Although, I do believe that it was a compilation as a number of Sedaka’s greatest hits would frequent the hour-long drive, to the Hawkesbury River, in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan Area.   

As a result of these journeys, Sedaka’s unique vocal delivery would remain ever-present in my mind. As I listened to songs such as Love Will Keep Us Together, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, and Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, I vividly recall being in the backseat of the car looking at either the picturesque landscape passing by, or the stereo cassette player in the car. It had so many buttons, I just wanted to press them all. Thankfully, I’ve never found myself in a recording studio, otherwise I would have likely found a different career path. Buttons, knobs, and dials, they never get old, do they?

While on the surface it may appear upsetting that these songs have negative connotations, relating to the separation of my parents, the music actually doesn’t upset me at all. If anything, it provides a positive memory to that period in time and as I can not recall many occasions when the family was together, this music becomes even more important.

While I love Neil Sedaka’s work, The Very Best Of is the first album of his that I have purchased. There are a plethora of Best Of and Greatest Hits et al releases for Sedaka. So many that I would suggest they would outnumber his still-in-print studio albums. Hence, it can be incredibly difficult to select one that accurately covers his career. I had initially thought that this one did, having looked at the track listing, however the track listing online failed to mention the final seven tracks are compiled into a Live Medley performance that was recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1974. While the performance is enjoyable, I would have much preferred to have these classics songs presented in their original studio recorded format as the medley included: Oh! Carol, Stairway To Heaven, Little Devil, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Next Door To An Angel, and Calendar Girl.

Oh well, I will just have to purchase another collection and see if I can get the originals. I would consider purchasing Sedaka’s individual albums, but collecting his back catalogue is incredibly difficult. Seriously, try and find some officially released Sedaka albums. Certainly in Australia it is near impossible. Even shopping online doesn’t solve the problem as a couple of Sedaka’s releases never saw an official CD release anywhere in the world. The majority of those that did are now out-of-print. Anyway, for now it is a matter of streaming the songs and albums I’m interested in, then buying when possible.

The songs below are a small selection from The Very Best Of Neil Sedaka that I feel highlight his career. I have omitted those songs included in the Medley, despite many of them being amongst my favourites. Although, a couple of the Medley (Live) tracks are also present individually on the CD.

Standing On The Inside highlights Sedaka’s unique vocal style, like no other song in his catalogue.

Love Will Keep Us Together is a song that I just love singing along to. It has a really upbeat style and makes you believe that love is the answer to keeping relationships together. This meaning reminds me of The Beatles song All You Need Is Love.

Solitaire is a magical song that Sedaka portrays wonderfully, although I think I will always consider The Carpenters rendition to be the benchmark for this song.

(I’m A Song) Sing Me is amazing. Not only is Sedaka’s vocal range and tempo fantastic, but I just love the idea that the song is singing a song. That in my opinion is epitome of good song writing.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do is a classic. I love the jovial approach to the introduction of the song that is reminiscent of the 60s style, but the actual song is one of the greatest vocal ballads ever written and recorded in my opinion.

Laughter In The Rain is epic. This style of music I could listen to for hours and never tire. The song just encourages you to sing. Plus, who can forget the magic of that perfectly played saxophone. It truly enhances the song.

The Hungry Years is a terrible song name, but it a beautiful song that you must listen to.

Unfortunately, this CD release isn’t available on any streaming services, but a quick search for Neil Sedaka will help you find a plethora of other releases. I should also add that the before mentioned Medley (Live) is also not available on streaming services and only on this particular release.

If you are interested in picking up this CD, please note the track listing is strange. As mentioned earlier, online websites don't indicate some of his greatest songs are part of the Medley (Live) track. Also, there are at least two other songs on this compilation that are live recordings, but not noted as such.

The liner notes provide a little background on Sedaka’s career, but the booklet is printed on substandard stock and the photographs look like bad scans from the mid-90s. Plus what have they done with the photograph of Neil on the back of the album? It is terribly distorted and there is a heap of space that was never used.

As so many compilations are poorly produced, I really shouldn't be surprised by these issues. All I know is, if I were Neil Sedaka, I would not be pleased with my work being presented in this manner.

The sound quality is acceptable, but the purist in me would like to be able to listen to the original recordings as some of the songs I know so well, have a slightly different tonality to the way I remember them. That said, I may simply be evaluating quality, in this case, by my very own psychoacoustics.

Overall, this album is one that I am glad to own. That said, I wouldn’t recommend it as the best compilation highlighting Sedaka’s career. 

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