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Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney – Egypt Station (Album Review)

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Paul McCartney – Egypt Station (Album Review)

At this stage in his career, Paul McCartney owes the fans nothing. He’s a living legend and while every solo album hasn't been a home run, Egypt Station certainly is. I’d go as far as saying it’s the best album of 2018 and it is certainly one of McCartney's greatest releases, if not the greatest. I say this having listened to the album so many times that I’ve lost count. Seriously, I'm playing it daily and that generally doesn't happen unless it has that inexplicable special element.

Making it even more special is that exquisite cover art. Yes, dear reader, even in the age of streaming, killer artwork is essential. Without a doubt, the cover art alone demands a purchase on vinyl, especially the concertina sleeve edition. Sadly, a purchase will have to wait as I’m in the process of moving house and my beloved vinyl collection is already packed and ready to go. Being a lifelong renter, this isn’t my first move but my record collection is always the one thing that I ensure is packed before anything else. It has to be protected at all costs. I even move it myself, not trusting removalists to handle with care. Yes, I’m overprotective of my music collection, but if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll likely understand why it is so important to me. I do hope, your music collection, be it physical or digital is equally important. I’d be lost without music and I owe my sanity to artists like McCartney.

Despite not being able to listen to this masterpiece on vinyl, I have been enjoying it via the 24/96kHz MQA edition and 16/44.1kHz FLAC edition, both streamed from TIDAL Hi-Fi. The MQA edition has a slightly greater soundstage and depth than the CD-quality FLAC counterpart, but both sound absolutely exquisite. Similarly, streaming the Mastered for iTunes edition from Apple Music presents the album in slightly less fidelity than the aforementioned editions, but the magic is still there and the album sounds fantastic via my main stereo setup as well as via AirPods. Let’s just say that when an album is recorded, mixed, and mastered this well, there is very little difference between versions. Although, I really, really, can’t wait to hear just how good Egypt Station sounds on vinyl.

Opening Station is an ambient sonic introduction that sets up the concept album perfectly. Admittedly, it’s a little left of the centre, but it works and flows beautifully into I Don't Know.

I Don't Know is simply stunning. The musical elements are crystal clear with a slow rhythm that is nothing short of hypnotic. There is so much depth to be explored by the aural senses and the soundstage is well-defined and broad. Exceptional!

Come On To Me shifts the pace a little with a song that is rock focused. It's a great tune, with a pleasing composition that has an eclectic feel. Although, I feel this song, in particular, has been mastered a little too hot. A reduction of a few decibels would have been perfect in my opinion. That said, I’ve no doubt Come On To Me will be a stadium-filling song.

Happy With You shifts the album again to a more acoustic-based style. Truth-be-told, the style shift isn't that noticeable, when listening non-critically, as all songs flow nicely into each other. Happy With You is thoroughly enjoyable and really highlights McCartney's vocal capabilities that are simply astonishing for a man of his years.

Who Cares is an awesome rock and roll song with a fantastic message. I wish I had a song like this during my teenage years. Nevertheless, my sensitive soul has it now. Who Cares has a killer rhythm and in places reminds me of Crowded House‘s sonic signature. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I do enjoy the mystery behind subjective music correlations. 

Fuh You is the only song on the album that doesn’t grab my attention. It’s campy and is over-produced with a mix that makes the drums sound flat. A style, perhaps, but not one that compels me. Thankfully, Fuh You only goes for 3 min 23 seconds! Okay, perhaps I'm over exaggerating. It isn't that bad, but it isn't great either. Although, the musical interlude about two-thirds of the way through the song is thoroughly enjoyable.

Confidante is another acoustic-based song that is simply beautiful.

People Want Peace is short but meaningful. People Want Peace had the potential to be campy, but it isn't. It's an interesting composition that has classic McCartney cues throughout. As I listen, I can’t help but feel that People Want Peace would have been a killer song for The Beatles.

Hand In Hand is absolutely stunning! One of McCartney's greatest songs.

Dominoes is a complex composition, yet my mind knows just how to connect with the song, ensuring involuntary movements as one dances or head-bops and toe-taps throughout the entire song. As I listen to Dominoes, I can't help but hear Julian Lennon's vocal style that’s prominent on his album Photograph Smile. Isn’t it interesting how one song can remind you of another artist?

Back In Brazil is my daughter's favourite song off the album. She enjoys singing and dancing to the song. While I enjoy the track, I don't have the same connection with it as my daughter does, but I'm glad to see that McCartney’s music will appeal to all ages, for various subjective reasons. That said, she wasn’t a McCartney fan before hearing Egypt Station, so here’s hoping this will be the beginning of a lifelong admiration for everything McCartney. My son is already there as he loves The Beatles, but his musical tastes closely follow mine whereas my daughter is far more subjective with her likes and dislikes.

Do It Now is absolutely gorgeous. This is music at its very best. It blows me away every time, it is that good!

Caesar Rock has a really interesting introduction. It’s different, but it works really well. I guess that could be said about the entire song.

Despite Repeated Warnings is one of the longest tracks on the album, at close to 7 minutes, yet it never becomes tiresome as the song is so layered and diverse. Sensational!

Station II seems somewhat superfluous, especially at this late stage in the album, however, it sets up Hunt You Down / Naked / C- Link perfectly.

Hunt You Down / Naked / C-Link is hands down the best song on the album and one of the greatest songs McCartney has ever recorded. The cello tracking is amazing, ensuring the rhythm has the perfect backbeat to build itself on. Every time I listen to this last song, I feel compelled to listen to the album again. It’s a vicious cycle, but one that I’m glad to go through.

Egypt Station reminds me of the era when I used to collect cassettes and I would listen to them until they wore out. Listening to Egypt Station gives me that same level of satisfaction and perhaps it is a good thing that I don’t yet have the vinyl release for I would have worn that out too.

If my former self, the Mixtape Master, were in business today, he'd share this album with all his friends. It subsequently gives me great pleasure to share it with you and I truly hope you find as much pleasure with Egypt Station as I have. It’s an absolute masterpiece!

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

If you prefer streaming, Egypt Station is also available on TIDAL (MQA or CD-Quality FLAC) and Spotify.

Click here to read other Paul McCartney reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Diana Krall – Wallflower (The Complete Sessions)

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Diana Krall – Wallflower (The Complete Sessions)

Diana Krall in synonymous with jazz, but in this latest endeavour she takes that elegantly smooth, but rustic, voice and applies it to some of the most iconic classic rock and pop songs in the music history. The renditions are absolutely beautiful and definitely rival those of the original performers.

Despite being a fan of the jazz genre, I was oblivious to Krall until a couple of years ago when her album, The Look Of Love, was re-issued on the High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-Ray format. To say that album is a masterpiece, is a gross understatement. In my opinion, it is the epitome of jazz in the modern era. Despite having this high-resolution version, of the album, I have just noticed that Original Recordings Group (ORG) has just re-issued the album in a limited, numbered, edition 45RPM pressing that I will have to order.

ORG releases, such as the Dances With Wolves soundtrack, are incredibly well mastered and pressed. While they are expensive, they are highly sought-after by record collectors and their value increases significantly when out of print. While I don’t intend on ever selling my records, I look upon the hobby as an investment that can be passed onto my children. Yes, they are continually told how valuable these records are.

Wallflower is spectacular and Krall manages to apply her own unique style, while remaining true to the originals that are so loved, and appreciated, by millions of listeners throughout the world. It is always difficult to listen to songs that have been re-interpreted when you know the original so well, but this album is not one to fear as you will be blown away by renditions that are, in many cases, superior to the originals. Yes, that is a bold statement, but despite being a massive fan of the Eagles, I have never heard Desperado and I Can’t Tell You Why, performed so magnificently.

Truth be told, I could say the very same thing about every song on the album. All songs that is except for a Paul McCartney written, but never recorded, song called If I Take You Home Tonight. Honestly, the song is incredible. McCartney is a song writing prodigy, but with Krall’s vocal talent, the song goes to places that I don’t think McCartney could have even dreamt of.  

I’ve yet to pick up my own copy of this album, although I have added the vinyl release to my wish list. I have also added the CD of Wallflower: The Complete Sessions to the wish list as the live performances, and selections that didn’t make it to the 12-track vinyl release, are exceptional in their own right and deserve to be owned. Knowing my luck, the Verve Music Group will release an expanded vinyl edition just after I purchase the standard edition.

For now, I will be content listening to Wallflower on TIDAL Hi-Fi. The mastering is exceptional and truly shows off not only how good the album is, but how good a non-lossy streaming service can be. Yes, there is a Mastered for iTunes version available via Apple Music and iTunes, but I haven’t felt compelled to listen via these methods, as the beforementioned service fulfills my needs for this album.

It is also interesting to note that a SACD edition is available for those of you with compatible equipment. While I’m definitely a proponent of high-resolution audio formats, the mastering of this release is so perfect that I don’t feel a great improvement will be heard over the standard CD release. That said, most of Krall’s catalogue has been released on SACD over the years and recently there seems to have been a resurgence of the format. It won’t become mainstream, but I really appreciate that consumers have the ability to choose a format that best suits their requirements.

Working with producer extraordinaire, David Foster, Krall has delivered an album that not only brings her musical direction to a mainstream audience, but showcases how very talented she is as a musician.

You have to hear this album; it really is that good!

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