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Midnight Oil

Midnight Oil - Redneck Wonderland (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Redneck Wonderland (Album Review)

While it may not have been commercially successful, Redneck Wonderland is captivating and can be seen as an artistic success. The more I listen to Redneck Wonderland, the more I come to appreciate the merging of the new and old Midnight Oil musical styles. Warne Livesey, producer of Diesel And Dust and Blue Sky Mining, makes a welcome return, ensuring a result that will appeal to longtime Midnight Oil fans and newcomers alike.

I also have to say, before we dig into the musicality of the album, the cover of Redneck Wonderland is stunning. It is rough, raw, and clear in relation to relevance and meaning. This album cover, alone, is enough justification to buy the Midnight Oil vinyl box set; especially considering Redneck Wonderland was never released on vinyl.

Redneck Wonderland sounds as though it was conceived in a rhythm-based distorted heaven. The musicality is immediately recognisable as Midnight Oil have gone back to their roots. It is an exceptional song and should be included on every compilation and live set list.

Concrete continues the stripped-down raw rock sound that arguably hadn't been heard since Blue Sky Mining almost a decade earlier. It is a killer rock song and, as with Redneck Wonderland, the instrumental rhythm will have you moving unconsciously. It’s wonderful to see Midnight Oil return to form, following the lacklustre Earth And Sun And Moon and their previous album Breathe.

Cemetery In My Mind slows the pace of the album, but that isn't a bad thing as it is an exceptional song. The musical introduction, that is featured throughout, creates a worthy bridge that ensures the song is thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end.

Comfortable Place On The Couch has a promising start, but the musicality behind Garrett's vocal is distracting, rather than being complementary. That said, once the electric guitar and chorus come into play, the song kicks into high gear. It isn't a bad song, but it is only half a song in my opinion as the verse is akin to a demo recording.

Safety Chain Blues has a killer bass and piano introduction. This musicality continues throughout and while I feel Garrett’s vocal delivery is concealed in the soundstage, Safety Chain Blues should be considered a B-side with the promise of an A-side should a different mix be permitted. I understand Midnight Oil were aiming for a particular style, I just don't feel it was well executed. Interestingly, the song sounds superior on headphones. The vocals become more present and are less distant in the mix. That is somewhat understandable as headphones bring the music closer to the ear. It is an interesting dichotomy, but I also feel that a well recorded, mixed, and mastered song should not exhibit these variances.

Return To Sender is a groovy pop-rock song, but it does sound out-of-place with the style of the album thus far. It isn't inherently flawed, it just isn't deserving of its place on Redneck Wonderland.

Blot returns us to the raw alternative rock and roll sound Midnight Oil is renowned for. However, Blot is a mismatched mess as the mind is unable to connect with the varying backbeat. It sounds as though Blot is the culmination of three songs that really don't belong together. It is a shame because I do love that guitar riff.

The Great Gibber Plain is a B-side, but I still find it enjoyable.

Seeing Is Believing is a song that will blow you away as it is not only one of the best tracks on the album, but one of the best songs Midnight Oil has ever written and recorded.

White Skin Black Heart is exceptional! While I have always felt it was a little too shrill, I wouldn't want it changed at all.

What Goes On is an energetic song. I love it! I can't wait to hear it on vinyl as I feel it would amplify all elements and I’ll be interested to hear how the distortion transfers, particular from the drums.

Drop In The Ocean is a lovely ballad to close the album on. While it is sonically worlds apart from What Goes On, I feel compelled to listen to the album again and stay within Midnight Oil's catalogue.

Redneck Wonderland really should have been the follow-up to Blue Sky Mining, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Regardless, we have it now and that’s all that matters. It still amazes me that Redneck Wonderland was not more commercially successful, but it just goes to show how fickle us fans can be. That said, you can’t really blame fans for not having faith in a new album, following Midnight Oil’s mediocre mid-90s releases. That said, if you did miss out on hearing this album in the past, I implore you to give it a listen as it really is an excellent release.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi 16/44.1 kHz edition and found the mastering to be perfect for Midnight Oil’s musicality. However, it was mastered a little too hot but I didn't find that to be detrimental to the overall listening experience.

Redneck Wonderland is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Midnight Oil – Breathe (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil – Breathe (Album Review)

Compared to Earth And Sun And Moon, Breathe is a transitional album that sees Midnight Oil return to their signature sound. While Breathe is still no Blue Sky Mining or Diesel And Dust, there are some exceptional songs to be heard on the album. That is, of course, if you can get past the grotesque album artwork. Yes, it is relevant to the album, but it is one cover that I don’t feel compelled to own on vinyl.

Underwater is an exceptional track. The distorted musical introduction merged with a crystal clear vocal is very enjoyable. As the elements of the song build, the rhythm really takes form and you will find yourself toe tapping and head bopping throughout.

Surf's Up Tonight isn’t a bad song. I remember first hearing it on 20,000 Watt R.S.L. and it surprised me as I never felt it was worthy of a greatest hits album. Yes, it has a great groove and is one of the best songs on Breathe, but I also feel the chorus lyric, 'surf's up tonight', is too repetitive.

Common Ground is a gorgeous composition. I absolutely love this song! That said, I feel the mix of the track is slightly off, particularly in the chorus as the instrumentation is too busy, thereby resulting in mental confusion and increased treble. Most likely this shallow soundstage could be corrected in a remastering, but given how bad many remasters are, it could simply make things worse.

Time To Heal is a perfect Midnight Oil song as every element shows just how skilled they were as musicians and songwriters.

Sins Of Omission has a decent groove, but I'm not a fan of the introduction and the continuous hi-hat beat is a little grating on the senses. Sins Of Omission is most definitely a B-side, but I have heard worse from Midnight Oil.

One Too Many Times is a great song, but I don't feel it is a great song for Midnight Oil. It is too folky for their style of music. Yes, experimenting with musical styles is a good thing when it works. However, in this instance, I don't feel it does.

Star Of Hope is AWESOME! The Neil Young inspired sound is perfectly suited to Midnight Oil. See, I really don't mind sonic experimentation when it works.

In The Rain is a short track that proves sometimes less is more. I adore this track for that very reason.

Bring On The Change is a disjointed mess and that hi-hat beat once again distracts the listener.

Home is a duet and I think it is a first for Midnight Oil. For those of you wondering who the vocalist is, it is the great Emmylou Harris. She is such an incredible vocalist and merged with Garrett's vocal style, it is a sonic match made in heaven. Home is exceptional and the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it.

E-Beat is a B-side.

Barest Degree has a nice rhythm and vocal presentation, but it is most certainly another B-side.

Gravelrash gets the cymbal sound right for the first time on the album as it is not jarring and simmers into the next note perfectly. As an instrumental track, I like it. However, Midnight Oil is as much about Peter Garrett as it is his musical counterparts. Hence, it is the perfect song to close the album on, but it is also missing that identifying frontman. If I had heard this song, absent from the album, I don't believe I would connect this instrumental track with Midnight Oil.

Breathe, overall, is an exceptional album and sees Midnight Oil come one step closer to their renowned sonic signature following their quizzical Earth And Sun And Moon album. Despite a couple of B-sides, the album experience is solid. I tend to be someone who listens to albums, rather than songs. I have considered writing song reviews, especially for those that have been heavily covered, but the simple fact is that I don't enjoy music one song at a time. Long live the album experience!

For this review, I listened to the 1996 mastering on TIDAL Hi-Fi. The mastering itself is adequate, but I feel it is a disjointed effort as some tracks are more refined than others. Of course, it is important to note that these variances could quite as easily be the result of varied recording styles or mixing decisions. My criticism in this respect shouldn't be considered negative, as the album is very good, but I believe it could have been significantly better.

Breathe is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, Breathe is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Midnight Oil - Earth And Sun And Moon (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Earth And Sun And Moon (Album Review)

Following their career defining albums, Earth And Sun And Moon had a lot to live up to. At this stage of their career, Midnight Oil not only had the punk rock pub fan from their early days, but they also had the newer and commercially valuable mainstream rock audience. Earth And Sun And Moon interestingly presents a shift in style for the band and it is fair to say that both fan bases would have approached this album with scepticism. While the themes remained controversial, the musicality would shift towards the pop rock genre and, subsequently, the album sounds different to everything that came before it.

This type of shift is far from exclusive to Midnight Oil. Another iconic Australian band, Icehouse, followed their incredibly successful Man Of Colours album with the industrial and unconventional album Big Wheel. While Big Wheel is an exceptional album, it was no Man Of Colours. Perhaps there is a stage in every musical career when a pinnacle has been reached and subsequent albums, while good on their own, don't necessarily add to the artist’s body of work.

Despite the sonic shift, the cover art of Earth And Sun And Moon is extraordinary. It is inspired by indigenous artwork and, I don't know about you but, I find this form of art to be very pleasing as there is always a story to be told and a lesson to be learnt. Let's just hope the artwork isn’t the only highlight of Earth And Sun And Moon.

Feeding Frenzy has an interesting and very familiar tempo. Think Deep Purple meets Midnight Oil. The shifts in rhythm seem out-of-place, but you quickly come to appreciate the genius behind this composition. While Feeding Frenzy is not your standard Midnight Oil track, it does offer some enjoyment, especially if you listen to it numerous times.

My Country is certainly not their strongest song. It is a B-side at best. That said, as with Feeding Frenzy, I find that I appreciate it more, the more I listen to it.

Renaissance Man lacks the energy Midnight Oil is known for. There are certain elements that work, but it is not a true Midnight Oil song. It's too campy for my liking.  

Earth And Sun And Moon is an overproduced mess. As with Renaissance Man, it is another example of Midnight Oil going for a campy sound. While Earth And Sun And Moon is a cool album name, the song should have been left in the studio.

Truganini is textbook Midnight Oil. It's about time! However, it provides such a shift in musicality that one can only imagine, with bemusement, why the previous songs even exist and where they fit into the Midnight Oil legacy.

Bushfire isn't bad in places, but it fails to impress overall.

Drums Of Heaven is a song that leaves me speechless. Not because it is good, but because of how bad it is. Drums Of Heaven ironically lacks a killer drum beat. Seriously, other than an excellent distorted guitar element, there is nothing to praise here. Normally, I hate being so negative in reviews, but I have to call a spade a spade.

Outbreak Of Love is sonically incredible. I love it! Yes, it is soft rock, but it is done well.

In The Valley isn't a bad soft rock song, but it still doesn't sound like the Midnight Oil we know and love.

Tell Me The Truth has a killer groove that will get you moving. I absolutely love it!

Now Or Neverland has a fantastic bass beat. I love the lead and rhythm guitar, but the bass guitar is one of the most underappreciated instruments in history. While it's present in every song, it is rarely highlighted. I certainly would like to hear more bass in all recordings. No, I'm not talking about doof doof bass, I'm referring to actually hearing the strums and reverberation of the real instrument. It resonates with my soul and I love the instrument.

Sadly, Earth And Sun And Moon is not the follow-up to Blue Sky Mining that many fans would have been expecting. There is certainly an EP worth of quality material here, but it honestly surprises me that the record label didn’t block the release of the album. I also feel it was shortsighted of Midnight Oil to choose Nick Launay over Diesel And Dust and Blue Sky Mining collaborative producer Warne Livesey. Thankfully, Midnight Oil would record Redneck Wonderland and Capricornia with Livesey and while my review of those albums will be published in the coming days, let's just say they sound like Midnight Oil.

For this review, I listened to the 1993 mastering on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Despite not connecting with the album, I can say that it wasn't due to poor mastering. Some things were done really well on this album, but it is the mediocre elements and shift in musicality that resulted in a less than pleasing experience.

Earth And Sun And Moon is available 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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Midnight Oil - Blue Sky Mining (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Blue Sky Mining (Album Review)

Following a masterpiece is no easy task. Subsequent albums will always be evaluated in direct comparison; in this case, can Blue Sky Mining match the performance captured on Diesel And Dust?

Truthfully, I find it difficult to compare both albums against each other as both are exceptional in their own right. However, Blue Sky Mining was awarded the Best Album of 1990 by the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA). Regardless, both albums cover a prolific era in Midnight Oil’s history and would arguably be the two albums that most listeners are familiar with. Interestingly, Blue Sky Mining would also be the album that would introduce me to one of Australia's greatest rock bands. While I never owned the album, I did borrow the cassette from a friend and I may, or may not, have made a copy of it on a good old TDK D90 cassette tape. 

Blue Sky Mine is an exceptional song that is perfectly balanced, but it easily could have been over produced. Thankfully, synthetic instrumentation was kept to a minimum, ensuring the song doesn't become dated. Throughout the song, there are small elemental aspects that I simply adore. It is a sonic wonderland!

Stars Of Warburton is a solid rhythmic rock song, but it takes a while to get going. However, as soon as the chorus enters the song, the vocal harmony solidifies Stars Of Warburton as an exceptionally memorable track.

Bedlam Bridge has a somewhat chaotic introduction, but I do appreciate the spoken lyrics. Garrett's vocals are incredibly clear, unlike his earlier punk-based days. In one way, I also hear a little Billy Idol in this lyrical delivery, especially Billy’s later career vocal style. As with Stars of Warburton, the vocal harmony takes this song from a B-side to a master track. That said, I dislike the street sounds that close the song, they are distracting and take you away from the relaxed tone of Bedlam Bridge. Yes, I acknowledge the segue between Bedlam Bridge and Forgotten Years, but I feel the outro is just too long. However, the three-second introduction to Forgotten Years is, in my opinion, the perfect duration.

Forgotten Years is an excellent song that I have always enjoyed. 

Mountains Of Burma is one of the greatest songs Midnight Oil ever recorded. I absolutely love it!

King Of The Mountain has one of the most enjoyable rhythms in rock and roll history. Yes, it is meat and potatoes blues rock but, it is rock and roll done night. An exceptional track!

River Runs Red has a somewhat Crowded House feel, but that is not a bad thing. Sonically, River Runs Red is gorgeous. The entire composition is incredible. You will want to turn this song up to 11. The vocal harmony, as heard throughout Blue Sky Mining, is perfect and makes this one song that should appear on every compilation and live set. Not only is it one of the best songs on the album, but it is one of the best of their career.

Shakers And Movers is a solid song, but I would class it as a B-side. However, a B-side for Midnight Oil, at this point in their career, would be akin to an A-side for any other band.

One Country is an exceptional acoustic-based song. The rhythm is enveloping and while it is a ballad-styled tune, it is the very definition of what could be known as Easy Listening Rock And Roll. It is simply a gorgeous song!

Antarctica has an interesting composition with interweaving vocals throughout. I have to say that I don't enjoy this song because of this vocal effect. It causes the song to feel over produced and I feel it is sonically out-of-tune with the entire album. While it doesn't prevent me from listening to the album again, One County should have concluded Blue Sky Mining.

Blue Sky Mining may not be Diesel And Dust, but it is still one of the best albums Midnight Oil has ever released. As I listen to Blue Sky Mining, the increased production level is evident but, thankfully it doesn’t feel overproduced. However, fans of their earlier works may be less than impressed with the new direction and polish Midnight Oil have applied to their recordings; you simply can’t please everyone!

I have always been captivated by the cover art of Blue Sky Mining. There is little doubt in my mind that this is one key element pushing me towards purchasing the vinyl re-issue box set. Until then, I will have to be content with listening to the 2011 remaster on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Don't feel sorry for me though, the 2011 remaster is exceptional. There is a little more loudness than I would like, but there is no brickwall compression to be heard as the entire remaster is smooth and dynamic. 

Blue Sky Mining is available 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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Midnight Oil - Red Sails In The Sunset (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Red Sails In The Sunset (Album Review)

As I’m currently reviewing Midnight Oil's catalogue in chronological order, some of you may wonder why 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 has been overlooked. The good news is, I reviewed 10 to 1 in 2015 and you can read that review here. The subjective opinions expressed in that review remain relevant.

I should also add that the Midnight Oil box sets have arrived in record stores. I had a chance to look at the Full Tank CD collection, it’s rather impressive. It is certainly a unique collectable that will have fans drooling. I didn’t, however, get a chance to see the vinyl box set and I still think I would prefer that edition. Yes, dear reader, I have yet to place my order, but it is on my to-do list. Although, I will have to wait for the second pressing as the first pressings have already sold out. Some retailers may still have stock. However, it may be best to wait as there has been a pressing error on the first batch of releases, Stars Of Warburton appears twice on Side A of Blue Sky Mining. Please see the announcement for more information. Perhaps this is why the set is appearing to be sold out. I guess if you really want an edition with the error, you better go crate digging ASAP. Either way, it also gives me time to check out some reviews and see what other fans think, before placing the final order. Perhaps I am procrastinating too much, but either option isn’t cheap, so this music loving fan must ensure it is worth the investment.

Red Sails In The Sunset has a particularly disturbing cover of my hometown being destroyed in nuclear warfare that resembles the desolate craters on Mars. That said, I do appreciate the art style. I just hope, as I'm sure many Sydneysiders do, that our beautiful city is never exposed to such devastation.

Midnight Oil hit a home run with Red Sails In The Sunset as it would be their first album to reach No.1 in Australia and would go on to be certified 4x Platinum. Interestingly, the album would only produce two singles, When The Generals Talk and Best Of Both Worlds. I mention this because success in 1984 was still determined largely by successful charting of numerous singles and associated music videos.

When The Generals Talk is an incredible rock song that is immediately addictive. The various vocal techniques build character and you will be singing along to the chorus in no time. The song is reminiscent of the 80’s sound, but I don't feel it is dated to that period. It is, without a doubt, one of their best songs.

Best Of Both Worlds is a song that I have a love/hate relationship with. I detest the introduction and shrill musicality that accompanies it. However, once the song gets going, I actually don't mind it. It seems to be a trend that I generally dislike many fan favourites. I can assure you, it is not intentional.

Sleep is an incredible song with an acoustic introduction that I adore. It is a slower composition than we generally expect from Midnight Oil, yet it is perfectly suited to their style of music. The backing vocals and musicality heard on When The Generals Talk is applicable here and I would have preferred Sleep to be the second track on the album. Regardless, it is a must listen and should be on every compilation they release.

Minutes To Midnight is a little too disjointed for my liking. I simply feel the song never truly arrives and it sounds like a studio demo. Despite that, I still hear promise amongst the chaos. I’m not always a fan of remixes, but a remix of this song would likely yield fantastic results.

Jimmy Sharman's Boxers is an incredible sonic composition. I love it!

Bakerman is a fun instrumental interlude.

Who Can Stand In The Way is a song I neither like or dislike. As I listen to this song, my mind becomes lost as there is more than one rhythm present in the track. Such confusion, unfortunately, prevents a pleasurable listening experience.

Kosciusko thankfully returns the rhythm to the pleasure centre of the brain. This is a song I have always enjoyed, yet I feel from a musical perspective that it is a little too shrill, but it is my hope that the vinyl limitations, with the new re-issues, will correct this problem. That said, to change the tonality of the song, one would also destroy the composition. Any shift represents an extremely fine line to walk and this is arguably a key reason why I believe that tone and bass controls, along with manual equalisers, are still essential.

Helps Me Helps You is another scattered song that I simply don't connect with. Although, I do love the didgeridoo at the beginning of the song.

Harrisburg slows the pace of the album, but it offers no competition to Sleep as Harrisburg is rather erratic in places. It is very experimental, but the results are less than favourable. Remove the sonic experimentation and what remains is a solid B-side.

Bells And Horns In The Back Of Beyond is a solid B-side but is nothing to write home about. Although, I truly enjoy the instrumental aspects of this song.

Shipyards Of New Zealand is not a bad song, but it follows a number of disjointed experimental compositions that has resulted in a mediocre album, with some absolutely exceptional moments. Unfortunately, as a final song on the album, it doesn't compel me to listen to the album again or stay within the Midnight Oil catalogue.

For this review, I listened to the 1988 master on Tidal Hi-Fi. This edition is most likely the same master that would have been used for the original 1985 CD.

I also listened to the 2008 remaster on TIDAL Hi-Fi, but it was too loud, and subsequently too shrill, to adequately enjoy. I literally had to turn my stereo down by 5-10% and that sadly didn't help the sonic destruction that had occurred in this remaster.

Interestingly, I had to turn the 1988 edition up by 10%. It reminded me of vinyl in that respect, but most importantly, I was in charge of the loudness being reproduced. Subsequently, there was no disintegration of sound or brickwalling when listening to this digital master.

Red Sails In The Sunset 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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Midnight Oil - Place Without A Postcard (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Place Without A Postcard (Album Review)

Thus far, in my cycle of reviews to determine if I will pick up the soon-to-be-released Midnight Oil vinyl box set, I have determined that it would be a worthwhile addition to my collection. That said, Place Without A Postcard leaves me with mixed feelings as the band experimented with their tried and tested formula by introducing more pop elements into their songs.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with power pop, the shift in musical direction simply lacks the energy heard on their self-titled debut Midnight Oil and sophomore album Head Injuries.

Don't Wanna Be The One is a song that I have a love/hate relationship with. Yes, dear reader, I am once again questioning how a Midnight Oil song becomes a fan favourite. Okay, so there’s a good backbeat and there is nothing wrong with Garrett's vocal delivery, but I find the song to be too shrill in places. I also don’t connect with the song on an emotional level. I hear it, but I don't listen to it! I can assure you I have tried. I have listened to the original 1981, 1997 (as heard on 20,000 Watt R.S.L.), and 2008 masters and despite their different tonalities, none talk to me.

Brave Faces, by comparison, is a stronger song. It has an addictive rhythm and I just adore the instrumental backing to Garrett's vocals. Brave Faces should have been the album opener in my opinion.

Armistice Day is exceptional! It is arguably the best song on the album and one of the best in their catalogue. From the electric guitar introduction to the solid beat and Garrett's near A cappella vocal, it is nothing short of a perfect rock and roll song.

Someone Else To Blame, unfortunately, fails to maintain the high standard that can be heard on Armistice Day. It is filler! Nothing more, nothing less.

Basement Flat is a mixed bag as the vocal introduction and chorus are superb, along with the mid-song guitar solo. Yet, I find the verse to be rather irritating as I don't feel it helps the song progress either in literary terms or musically. That said, I do feel there is more good here than bad and subsequently Basement Flat is enjoyable to listen to.

Written In The Heart is a great song that, while pop/rock based, also pays homage to the punk origins of the band. As with many of their songs, the strength here is absolutely heard in the self-indulgent musicality.

I absolutely love the introduction of Burnie. Unfortunately, as the track progresses past the first minute, it becomes apparent that the song isn't as tight as it should be. It really sounds as though a demo tape was used to fill in the blanks of an otherwise exceptional performance.

Quinella Holiday isn't a bad song, but it isn't exceptional either.

Loves On Sale has a beautiful instrumental and vocal introduction but falls apart as the speed of the song and Garrett's vocals reach punk pace. While it isn't a bad song, it could have been so much better.

If Ned Kelly Was King should have never made it past the demo stage. It has some nice instrumental work, but no other aspect of the song appeals to me.

Lucky Country, as the final track on the album, does not encourage me to listen to the album again or stay within the Midnight Oil catalogue. I’d like to say something nice about it, but anything positive would be disingenuous. That said, perhaps we need substandard songs to ensure we fully appreciate the exceptional songs that Midnight Oil has given us over the years.

While Place Without A Postcard lacks the focus of their earlier albums. I'm not going to let a few B- sides prevent me from buying the re-issued vinyl collection when it is released. After all, the same scenario didn’t stop me buying Queen’s Studio Collection.

This review was based on listening to the 2008 remaster on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Interestingly, the original 1981 master is also available on TIDAL, but upon listening to it, I found it to be sonically concealed by comparison. That said, you may prefer it and therefore I suggest you listen to the edition that you subjectively prefer.

Place Without A Postcard 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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Midnight Oil – Head Injuries (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil – Head Injuries (Album Review)

Head Injuries has to have one of the most recognisable Australian album covers in existence that truly captures the energy of the entire album and band. It certainly is an improvement over the visual absence of their debut album Midnight Oil, although many bands over the years have successfully adopted this simple design element that is as compelling as it is confusing.

As much as I adore the music from their debut album, it is fair to say that as a follow-up, Head Injuries takes their music to an entirely new level that is more reminiscent of the production qualities found in their later works. However, the shift between albums is more evolutionary than revolutionary; unlike Queen’s transition from their early albums.

Cold Cold Change has, in my opinion, one of the greatest guitar-driven introductions in rock music history. You can’t help but get your air guitar out and bounce across the room. It may just be the remastering of this song, but the hi-hats sound mashed to pieces. To me, the musicality of the piece just sounds a little hollow, as though too much treble has been dialled in. That, of course, doesn’t prevent me from thoroughly enjoying this ripper rock and roll track, but it is one aspect that I hope is addressed in the upcoming reissues. Thinking about vinyl production for a moment, this is one track that I’m sure would benefit from vinyl mastering and playback limitations.

Section 5 (Bus To Bondi) returns the band to their punk roots and reminds me of a band that were at their peak during the same era: 999 (Nine Nine Nine). Section 5 (Bus To Bondi) is fun and full of energy. While not my favourite song on the album, it does grow on you. Yes, even the self-serving guitar solo midway through the song.

Naked Flame has an incredible rhythm and I absolutely love Garrett’s high-pitched vocal introduction. I will probably get crucified for this comment, but songs like this make me immediately ponder if Midnight Oil was Australia’s answer to Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones. That isn’t to say any copy-cat action was taking place, just that it is interesting to ponder the thoughts of the mind as one is enjoying the music. I should also add that I don’t subscribe to the theory that Aerosmith is a carbon copy of The Rolling Stones. Yes, I can see the similarities, but claiming this to be the case undermines the longevity and success that Aerosmith has had. Despite all this, Naked Flame is an incredible song with some simply gorgeous guitar work and backing vocals. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and in their entire catalogue. In fact, this song is much more worthy of being included on a greatest hits album than Back On The Borderline.

Back On The Borderline is a good song, but I feel it is overrated. I know it is a Midnight Oil staple, but it has always been one of their songs that I have to be in the mood to listen to.

Koala Spirit has a Lou Reed vocal style that works extremely well for not only Garrett but the entire song. The composition while erratic is utterly perfect. Koala Spirit is both mellow and heavy hitting with an incredible level of musicality from the band. I absolutely adore the musical chorus throughout. It simply has the goods and delivers an exceptional performance in every meaning of the word. Unlike the poor mastering that is present in Cold Cold Change, Koala Spirit is simply magnificent. As I’m writing this review and listening to the album countless times, I am drawn to my own subjective thoughts regarding the songs that I would place on a Greatest Hits album by Midnight Oil. I dare say it would be significantly different to all that have come before.

No Reaction is the perfect song for you headbangers out there. It will get you moving and if you only ever listen to music to toe tap and head bop, then you should simply move on to the next song as this one is not for you. It is Australian rock and roll at its best.

Stand In Line has a Skyhooks vibe and I absolutely love the depth of the drums and the forward nature of the bass guitar throughout the song. As I listen to the song, I can understand exactly where Garrett's dishevelled dance moves come from. Your body simply relaxes and you move without conscious thought as you become one with the music. It is exceptionally enjoyable!

Profiteers slows the album down somewhat. The first minute or so of the song is a confused mess, but then the song comes into its own. It isn’t the greatest song on the album, but it isn’t filler either. Although, it is more instrumentally focused than the other songs on the album and that may put some listeners off. Personally, I enjoy rock and roll albums that have an instrumental focus.

Is It Now? has a very familiar guitar riff, yet I can’t place it. Perhaps the riffs have been mimicked over the years, hence the familiarity. However, Is It Now? suffers from the bad mastering that was present at the beginning of the album. If all songs, on this remaster, were done by the same mastering engineer then this discrepancy shouldn’t be present. I can’t help but wonder if the songs that suffer from the mashed percussions weren’t the result of variances in the recording sessions. Regardless, Is It Now? is still a memorable song and as the final track on the album, it does encourage me to listen to the album once again.

Head Injuries is currently available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. Streamers can listen to the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music. For those of you interested in the vinyl release, you will have to wait until the release of the Deluxe Box Set as there has been no news about this album being re-issued separately. As mentioned in my Midnight Oil review, depending on how successful the re-issues are, I would assume it is likely that these albums will also be released separately, in order to capitalise on the 2017 concerts, just don't quote me on it!

This review was based on listening to the 2008 remastered edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Other than the mastering variances, throughout the album, it is an exceptional release that should be part of any collection or playlist. As far as I am concerned, it sits amongst some of the best Australian rock albums and would certainly be included in my top 100 of all time.

There is little doubt, knowing Midnight Oil’s later works, that I will be picking up one of the new collections when they are released. Based on listening to Head Injuries, I have a feeling that I will order the box set through Matau Records as I have no doubt the Head Injuries album cover would look exceptional in the vinyl format. I’m also sincerely hoping the mastering artefacts, that I have heard on the existing remasters, are removed from the vinyl mastering process. I guess time will tell and it will all depend on which masters they decided to use for the project.

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Midnight Oil - Self-Titled Debut Album Review

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Midnight Oil - Self-Titled Debut Album Review

On May 5th, Midnight Oil is set to re-issue their entire catalogue in a Deluxe Vinyl Box Set, along with The Full Tank and The Over Flow Tank CD-based collections that are sure to appeal to many Midnight Oil fans.

While I do consider myself to be a fan of this iconic Australian band, I must admit that I have never really focused my attention toward their albums. Various singles and compilations have always given me my Midnight Oil fix. However, with the re-issues on the horizon, I thought it would be a good idea to review their catalogue of albums in order to ascertain if these new releases are worthy of inclusion in my collection.

I'm not currently sold on the vinyl box set as it is rather plain, especially when compared to the Tank editions. However, one of the key issues to be considered is the cost. At AU$299 for each Tank edition and AU$499 for the vinyl box set, one must truly appreciate the majority of their work, not just the singles and compilations as I have in the past.

I find it interesting that the CD collection is AU$200 cheaper than the vinyl release. Some of you may point out the differences in artwork and sonic representation and that would be totally valid. Although I believe Steve Smart of Studios 301 in Sydney remastered both sets of releases from the original tapes, hence there will be some consistency in the mastering and quite frankly mastering efficiency trumps format comparisons. Plus, if I want the previously unreleased material, then that is only available with The Over Flow Tank release.

Throughout the coming weeks I will be reviewing each album from their catalogue while discussing my thoughts and the decision making process, ultimately culminating in declaring my final purchase decision when I review the final Midnight Oil album Capricornia. Until then, let's take a look at their 1978 self-titled release, Midnight Oil.

Midnight Oil while their first release under that moniker, was not the origin of the band as prior to this release they were known on the Sydney pub scene as Farm. Farm was originally formed in 1972 and while this self-titled release is significantly different in style and composition to their later albums, such as Diesel and Dust or Blue Sky Mining, there is a certain level of polish and musicality that comes through in this Punk/Progressive Rock release, proving that the many nights spent traversing the Sydney pubs certainly provided a worthy training ground. As I listen to this debut album, I can't help but feel the energy that the band must have had when performing live. To say that this is one of the greatest debut albums wouldn't be an understatement, but I know many who would disagree with my subjective opinion.

Recorded in the September of 1978, Midnight Oil heralded a singular single, Run By Night. While I don't feel that it is the strongest song on the album, especially in an era when radio play was an essential element separating success from obscurity, it is a solid punk-inspired rock tune that highlights the recognisable tonality of Garrett's vocal delivery.

Opening Midnight Oil, Powderworks is erratic, yet organised in composition. You immediately get the sense that this is a band that is very familiar with playing in garages and pubs. I adore the guitar soloing mid-song and while the song is rough around the edges, it isn't a bad entry for the album. That said, in the era of music streaming you would be forgiven if you gave the album a miss based on this introduction track. Perhaps I am being overly harsh as the song would be genuinely enjoyable for fans of the band, but I fear new listeners may not feel the same way. 

Head Over Heels begins with a lovely guitar introduction that continues throughout much of the song. One element you will notice on Midnight Oil is the extended soloing. While some may not appreciate this showmanship, I find it to be suited to the songs and the overall sound of the album. Also of note is the layered instrumental backing. While it does force Garrett's vocals to be somewhat hidden in the soundstage, it is perfectly executed and my subjective feeling is that Head Over Heels is one of the strongest songs on the album.

Dust is a really interesting song. It is punk rock meets jazz. I know that sounds strange, but when you listen to it, you will understand what I mean. There is a distinct jazz fusion inspired feel to the song that is strangely compelling. The album wouldn't be complete without it and it is another highlight from this self-titled release. 

Used And Abused speeds the album back up to punk rock speed. Musically I thoroughly enjoy this song, but I don't feel Garrett's vocals were well executed on this song. As a result, I honestly feel that it could have been left as an awesome instrumental only track as the electric guitar work is once again glorious.

Surfing With A Spoon is a gorgeous track with a beautiful minute-long introduction. As I reflect on this song, I have to admit that the entire composition is a masterpiece that certainly merges punk-rock/pop with progressive rock elements. It is not only one of the best songs on the album, but one of their greatest.

While I have already discussed the album's only single, Run By Night, I feel it is important to note how well this song fits into the tracking of the album. There really isn't a song out of place on the entire album and Run By Night certainly grows on you the more you listen to it.

Nothing Lost - Nothing Gained is a sonic masterpiece that compels you to listen to the album again. In my opinion, it is the best song on the album with a perfect beat and gorgeous electric guitar riffs. It doesn't get much better than this as Garrett's vocal delivery is also perfectly suited for this song.

Midnight Oil is an exceptional debut release that should be in everyone's collection. It is currently available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. Streamers can listen to the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music. For those of you interested in the vinyl release, you will have to wait until the release of the Deluxe Box Set as there has been no news about this album being re-issued separately. Depending on how successful the re-issues are, I would assume it is likely that these albums will also be released separately, in order to capitalise on the 2017 concerts, just don't quote me on it!

This review was based on listening to the remastered edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. While I have never heard the original release, sonically Midnight Oil is appealing and doesn't cause listener fatigue when listening on speakers. Headphones, by comparison, will bring you closer to the recording, but it does tend to present a shallower soundstage that is a little more jarring. This is most likely a result of the remastering process rather than the original recording. That said, I find Midnight Oil to be one of the few rock-based albums that can be enjoyed at any volume level. Seriously, try to listen to AC/DC at any volume below 60%. Yes, it's doable, but the experience is lacklustre. That certainly isn't the case with 'The Oils' debut release.

Overall, I find that I am enamoured with Midnight Oil and if this album is any indication, the box sets are going to be well worth the investment.

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Midnight Oil – 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 (Remastered)

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Midnight Oil – 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 (Remastered)

The Oils are an Australian pub icon, but to be honest many of the Australian bands from the 70s and 80s could lay claim to that statement, but Midnight Oil did release one of my favorite greatest hits albums, 20,000 watt R.S.L. So, for now, they are the Australian pub icon.

For those of you unaware of Australian vernacular, R.S.L. is an abbreviation for Returned and Services League of Australia. It is a support organisation, with a variety of clubs (pubs), that supports the men and women of Australia who are currently serving, and those who previously served, in the Australian Defence Force.  

20,000 watt R.S.L doesn’t let up and I would recommend that if you are unfamiliar with Midnight Oil, that you should take a listen. While the band have released additional greatest hits albums, in subsequent years, I believe this compilation best represents their body of work.

While I don’t necessarily listen to songs for their lyrical meaning, Midnight Oil does make you sit up and take note. Their songs are infused with elements of political statements that often relate to the environment and indigenous issues. This may be off-putting to some of you, but don’t let it be. Their songs can honestly be enjoyed with ignorance of the topic.

Personally, I’m glad that bands like Midnight Oil choose to talk about issues they deem to be important through their music. Perhaps it was then inevitable that lead singer Peter Garrett would merge into politics and away from music.

As a result of this shift, the band went on indefinite hiatus in 2002. They have played the occasional gig, throughout the past thirteen years, although there is no sign of a true reformation or new album.

While we always want new music, from the bands and artists we love, it is still enjoyable to re-visit their past works. 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 is one of those albums that when you play it, you honestly think you are playing a band’s greatest hits compilation.

It has been at least a decade since I heard this album from start to finish, yet despite being released in 1982, the music hasn’t dated. Unfortunately, many of the messages depicted in the songs haven’t changed either. I guess you could say that while Midnight Oil presented topics that were applicable to the time, until society learns from mistakes of years gone by, the songs will always remain somewhat relevant, even if only to acknowledge humanities shortcomings.

Outside World, Short Memory, Read About It, US Forces, and Power And The Passion are some of the best tracks off the album that you really must listen to. You will literally be dancing in uncoordinated motion, resembling Garrett’s on stage performances, as this album encourages you to move. Seriously, Garrett never stops moving but, his energy amplifies the performance and is one of those unique elements that make Midnight Oil a memorable band.

The only two tracks that I find difficult to appreciate are Scream In Blue and Somebody’s Trying To Tell Me Something.

Scream In Blue is just a muddled mess when it comes to the introduction. It doesn’t suit the flow of the album and runs for just over two minutes before radically shifting to a song that seems to have no relevance to the instrumental introduction. It isn’t a bad song once the vocals kick in, but I have no idea why the introduction was used or deemed necessary.

In a similar way, Somebody’s Trying To Tell Me Something is a nice song, but the final 30 seconds is an attempt to simulate the run out groove from the vinyl release. I do love run out groove hidden segments, but for a CD/streaming re-issue it should have been excluded, thereby remaining unique to the original vinyl release.

10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 (Remastered) is available on CD, TIDAL Hi-Fi, iTunes, and Apple Music. There is no Mastered for iTunes version available, but the same mastering is found across all platforms, so I would recommend you just enjoy the album on the service that you prefer as there are negligible variations in sonic quality for this particular recording. 

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