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Elton John – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Elton John – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Elton John has no shortage of classic albums that can be seen as both revolutionary and standing the test of time, but this self-titled second album sees John return to the studio with an even more polished production than was heard on Empty Sky. While I adore Empty Sky, Elton John has that recognisable Elton John sound signature and it is more realised in both sonic and lyrical terms.

Released in April of 1970, Elton John features his breakthrough and likely most recognisable song, Your Song. As the first song on the album, the piano introduction, with the vocal accompaniment, builds into an incredible song that is simply one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. If you don't feel the need to sing-a-long to this song, you're not listening correctly? It is gorgeous from the first note and I never tire of it.

I Need You To Turn To is an incredible pop ballad. When I hear music this pure, I wonder if John and Taupin, along with the musicians, and the production team, were aware of the incredible music they were creating. Wouldn’t it be a shame if they considered some of these classics as nothing more than B-sides?

On that note, I find it fascinating that producer, Gus Dudgeon, has stated in a 2002 MIX interview that the album was never intended to launch John's career as the aim was to present a series of polished demos for other artists to record. If you’re interested in the evolution of a song, the 2008 Deluxe Edition contains more stripped down piano demos of many of the tracks. It is interesting to listen to these early demos, but I tend to always prefer the final album release.

Take Me To The Pilot has a raw acoustic introduction that I find very appealing. While it’s far from being the best song on the album, it has an addictive rhythm that draws me in every time I listen to the album.

No Shoe Strings On Louise has a nice country music twang to it, but I've never been convinced that style was perfectly suited to John, despite his later successes. I also feel this song is mimicking Mick Jagger’s style a little too much. You would honestly be forgiven if, upon hearing this song on the radio, you assumed it was a Rolling Stones or Mick Jagger solo recording. That said, it is still enjoyable and works well within the structure of the album.

First Episode At Hienton is sonically beautiful. While it is a song you will never sing-a-long to, you will find yourself turning the volume up in order to be enveloped in the immersive soundstage.

Sixty Years On begins with the sonic equivalent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. That shouldn’t be seen as a negative comment as you immediately get the impression that this is going to be a music experience like no other. Musically, Sixty Years On is pure perfection. The classical overtures are most certainly the highlight of the song, but John’s vocal delivery is also off-the-charts.

Border Song is a perfect composition. I simply love every aspect of this song.

The Greatest Discovery is magical!

The Cage has a great groove and rhythm. Think New Orleans Jazz meets Rock and Roll.

The King Must Die has a ridiculously good drum and bass beat throughout. You can feel it in your soul, just as you can picture the piano and John in the room with you as you close your eyes and turn up the volume. It is as close to a personal concert with Elton John as you will ever likely get.

Bad Side Of The Moon isn't a bad song, but it is a B-side. Plus, that little bump in volume towards the end is really annoying. I've come across that before, in other recordings, but I’ve always felt it ultimately detracts from the song. I wonder if it is a technique or a flaw in the original analogue recording? If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear from you.

Grey Seal is a fun tune, although I much prefer the recording of the song that made it on John’s legendary Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Rock And Roll Madonna is my least favourite song on the album. It certainly doesn't leave me with an overwhelming urge to listen to the album again as I find the composition is overly complex, especially when John's vocal kicks in. There simply isn't enough instrument separation and the song doesn’t have enough room to breathe. The result is an assault on the senses that ultimately would have been better left off the album.

Overall, Elton John is one of the greatest recordings in Rock/Pop history. Yes, we will all point to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as being John’s pinnacle, but there is much to love about this self-titled release.

When I set out to review this album, I was aware of the various releases and masterings that exist. While I haven't heard the 2004 Multichannel SACD or the SHM SACD from Japan, I’m informed the Japanese release is subtly better. Although, as with everything, better is a subjective term. Subsequently, I based this review on the 24/96 kHz MQA edition streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Yes, I also listened to the remastered 16/44.1 kHz CD edition, also on TIDAL Hi-Fi, and the differences were significant. The standard remastered CD lacked emphasis, soundstage, and felt flat when compared directly to the MQA edition. Hence, I’m intrigued to hear how good the SACD versions are by comparison. One problem, however, is the Japanese release is twice the price of the standard SACD and lacks the multichannel mix. Most normal music fans would say just enjoy the MQA version. Truth be told, the average fan would be content with the standard CD or MP3 equivalent. I wish I could say that I could be satisfied with whichever release comes down the pipeline, but once you have heard how different, different masterings can be, you tend to not settle for a lesser option be it MP3 or high-res, for both can produce substandard results if the mastering was done in haste. Of course, the problem is that I, like most people, don’t have an endless supply of cash and l'm also limited by the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor). I have to be honest, the amount my beloved has allowed me to spend on music is significant and I can't thank her enough for allowing me to partake in this hobby. But, whatever you do dear reader, don't tell her that!

The ultimate truth is that I can be completely content with the MQA version as it is the best rendition of the album I have ever heard. While I still question just how much better the album could be on SACD, or even Vinyl, I’m not left wanting more from the MQA edition.

Elton John is available on Vinyl, SACD (Stereo and Multichannel), SMH-SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered For iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Elton John on Spotify and Apple Music.

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

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Rick Price - Heaven Knows (Album Review)

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Rick Price - Heaven Knows (Album Review)

When I think of the very best that the Australian music industry has to offer, Rick Price and his debut album are always at the top of my list. While it has been close to 25 years since I was first exposed to this exceptional album, I can say with complete honesty that it feels as fresh as the day it was released.

If you’re not overly familiar with Price's work, think John Farnham’s rock style and you will have a fair idea of what to expect. That said, Price is no imitation artist and it astonishes me that he didn’t have longer lasting success.

Thankfully, streaming services allow us to not only revisit our past music interests, but it also allows us to share them. As such, it pleases me that my son adores this album, so much so that he asked if he can get the CD. Unfortunately, Heaven Knows has been out of print for a number of years. Fortunately, The Essential Rick Price does contain the best songs from this album, hence, I will get my son for his upcoming birthday. Until then, Heaven Knows is getting played extensively on TIDAL Hi-Fi in our household.

Disappointingly, Heaven Knows is one album I can't simply pass on to my son, despite once owning the double CD edition that featured some amazing rarities. Unfortunately, that edition is not available for streaming and I stupidly sold the CD after digitising it in the new and "revolutionary" MP3 format. To use the Australian vernacular, I was a bloody idiot!

I can beat myself up for making ill-informed decisions, but a lesson can also be learnt from my mistakes. Buy and forever appreciate physical music as digital delivery options are forever changing and sometimes returning to the music that defined you is more complex than merely going to your own record collection.

Speaking for a moment about The Essential Rick Price, I'm pleased to mention that when I stream it on TIDAL Hi-Fi, the mastering is a significant improvement in soundstage and low-end sonics when compared directly against Heaven Knows. I mention this because I always felt the album lacked power and drive, even on the original CD release. Of course, I would love Sony/BMG music to re-issue Heaven Knows with a new mastering, but I fear the demand is just not there to justify this move, despite the album being awarded double platinum status in Australia.

Anyway, enough of my incessant ramblings let’s take a look at the songs that make up Heaven Knows.

What's Wrong With That Girl? is a sensational opening track with a rock-infused/pop-style that can be heard throughout the entire album. It has an addictive rhythm, beautiful guitar work, and Price's vocal will grab you from the first note.

Not A Day Goes By slows the album down to a rock ballad pace and as much as I adore this song, I have always felt the chorus to be too grating in the sonic highs of the song. That isn't to say the song is bad, just that I would have liked the chorus to be sung in a lower register. No doubt a delicate remastering could solve this problem.

A House Divided has an excellent rock-based overture. It suits the album and Price's style. My son absolutely loves this song, but it hasn’t always been my favourite song on the album. However, as I have matured over the past decades, I have grown quite fond of A House Divided.

Walk Away Renee is a fantastic cover of The Left Banke's original 1966 edition. Covers can be hit or miss, but Price's edition is a remarkable improvement over the original and is, in my opinion, the only version worth listening to.

Heaven Knows is simply magnificent and shows just how exceptionally talented Rick Price is as a vocalist.

Church On Fire is the first track on the album that doesn't immediately excite me. However, it becomes more palatable as the song builds towards the chorus. That said, it is still a B-side. Although, I really can't be disappointed by this as Heaven Knows plays like a greatest hits album with one exceptional recording after another.

Life Without You is an enjoyable song that fits perfectly with the tracking and overall style of the album. It has a country/folk/pop style to it that I appreciate.

Foolin’ Myself has a killer guitar intro but fails to compel me. It actually reminds me, style-wise, of another song I have heard over the years, yet I can't put my finger on which song that could be. Perhaps it is a combination of styles that is causing this temporal confusion. Regardless, it is a solid B-side, I just wouldn't play it outside of the album format.

Forever Me And You is exceptional!

Fragile closes out the album beautifully and certainly encourages me to listen to the album again or stay within Price's catalogue.

Overall, Heaven Knows is one of the greatest albums ever released in Australia. It further validates that Australia has much more to offer international music lovers than AC/DC and Kylie Minogue. While these two artists are exceptional in their own right, they are but a minuscule element of the Australian music scene and thanks to Ian McFarlane’s incredibly extensive Encyclopedia Of Australian Rock And Pop, I can make that claim with absolute assurance.

This review was based on listening to the CD-quality edition of the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi. While I still believe a remastering would be appropriate, it is tonality identical to the mastering I recall from the original CD release.

Heaven Knows is also available for purchase on the TIDAL Store and iTunes. For those of you who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Barry Gibb – In The Now (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

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Barry Gibb – In The Now (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

While many individuals who reach their seventh decade on this planet are tending their gardens, musicians such as Barry Gibb are proving that age is not a limiting factor in the creation of their art. While some commentators may be critical of musicians continuing past their prime, I welcome it with open arms. Yes, there are some exceptions and there will always be a selection of artists who should have stayed in retirement, but Barry Gibb is not amongst them.

In The Now is the second solo album by Barry Gibb. I had honestly thought he had released more albums, under his own name, but his last album and therefore his solo debut was released in 1984. That album was Now Voyager.

I can’t help but wonder if my confusion, relating to his solo releases, was due to the incredible Bee Gees compilation Mythology that highlights each Gibb brother in what is perceived to be their best and most notable works. With 81 songs, and a playing time exceeding 5 hours, it is one of the most representative compilations ever released.

Be that as it may, I had no idea that Gibb was writing and recording again. While record stores are still becoming a relic of the past, despite the vinyl revival, it was actually during a visit to my local store that I noticed the new CD was charting. Unfortunately, it wasn’t listed in TIDAL’s new release area, hence my surprise. While I may have an unhealthy addiction to TIDAL Hi-Fi, I’m disappointed by this omission. Yes, I know their browse areas are often skewed to specific genres and artists, that generally represent the interests of TIDAL’s celebrity owners, but for it to not be there is just bad form from TIDAL. TIDAL does, however, have the album listed in the new pop albums area. Still, I’d expect this album to be presented in the main new release area. Interestingly, I couldn’t find it listed in the new releases area of Apple Music either. In fairness to iTunes and Apple Music, both have always been tightly curated and the new release area tends to focus on only the last fortnight of releases; unless a marketing agreement has been reached as we’ve seen in the past with The Beatles and Taylor Swift for instance. Apple’s approach isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the plethora of releases, especially at this time of year, can be overwhelming. However, if you miss checking out the new releases for any given week, you will of course miss a number of exceptional albums that you could add to your collection. Thankfully, Spotify does have In The Now listed in their new release area. Thank you Spotify!  

So what does all of this mean and what is the moral of my story of discovery?

I’d say it means that the traditional bricks and mortar music store isn’t necessarily a bad place to peruse if you’re looking for new music, or music you’ve missed or overlooked. You never know what you will find and crate digging is truly at the heart of every music lover; even if you have only experienced music through iTunes or streaming services.

Speaking of crate digging, I didn’t see the vinyl edition in store despite a pressing being available. Interestingly, the vinyl release of In The Now is being advertised in Australia as a Limited Edition. However, I have been unable to find any additional information relating to why this release is limited, for it appears to be a carbon copy of the standard edition CD and the version available on all streaming services.

With that in mind, I’m beginning to feel that too many vinyl releases are wrongly being classed under the Limited Edition moniker. Seriously, all vinyl releases are limited in some way as labels and pressing plants only print a limited number of copies at a time. However, since the vinyl revival has been in full swing, yearly re-issued pressings are being released to cope with demand. Sure, some completists will want to own a copy of each pressing, however I’m not one of them as I simply want to own the highest quality pressing.

The question has to be asked: How limited is limited?

The Editor of SuperDeluxeEdition, Paul Sinclair, had the following to say in his newsletter dated 17 April 2016:

"RSD is about artificially created rarities"

Let's not kid ourselves, since time immemorial, 'special' items created in limited numbers have been about selling more product and generating more income for record labels.

While Record Store Day (RSD) was the key focus of Paul’s thoughts, I feel that his opinion can be applied to all releases throughout the year. I don’t know about you but I know it is implausible for me to purchase all the releases that I’m interested in. Plus, I have picked up my fair share of Limited Edition releases, to only later have buyer’s remorse. It doesn’t happen often, but often enough that I have to remind myself that I am in control of how I spend my money.

In one way, this Limited Edition fiasco is another reason why I’m turning more and more to TIDAL Hi-Fi as my consumption platform of choice. Yes, you could argue that the streaming services are also being naughty by permitting exclusives on various platforms, but I could arguably subscribe to TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify Premium and not spend the same per month as I would on the Limited Edition vinyl release of In The Now.

Let me give you an example: The Deluxe Edition CD of In The Now retails in Australia for AUD$19.99. The Limited Edition Vinyl release retails for AUD$64.99 at the same retailer. Now, I’m the first to admit that my mathematical talents are not the best, but if we add Tidal Hi-Fi (AUD$23.99), Apple Music (AUD$11.99), and Spotify Premium (AUD$11.99) we should be at AUD$47.97 for monthly subscriptions that include access to the majority of music available to the human race. Honestly, when I look at that, versus the price for one single record, I can understand why I’m not buying as many records as I was this time last year. Plus, the variation between the cost of the Deluxe Edition CD and the vinyl record is nothing short of ludicrous, especially when you consider that the Deluxe Edition includes three extra tracks, Grey Ghost, Daddy’s Little Girl, and Soldier’s Son, that aren’t available on the vinyl release or any of the online digital delivery systems.

The Deluxe Edition CD is readily available and at least it offers you something that you can’t get anywhere else. Ultimately, that should also be the aim of vinyl releases. Yes, the artwork is glorious by comparison and the sound quality is mostly superior, but unless there is something compelling, that makes the release unique, I wouldn’t class it as being limited. I also think that I can speak for everyone when I say that music lovers don’t want or need more limited edition coloured or splatter vinyl; especially when it doesn’t match the stylistic artwork of the album.

This has got me thinking about my Limited Edition release of Rob Zombie’s The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser. I purchased it via Pledge Music as Zombie was signing limited quantities of the new album. I subsequently received the signed-lenticular vinyl edition and while it isn’t my favourite Zombie album, as a long-time fan I simply had to have it. My only regret is that I didn’t order the CD at the same time, but that is a discussion for another time. While one could argue that this release was also artificially limited, I feel Zombie’s involvement in the promotion provided a value added proposition that was worthy of the increased price and Limited Edition status.

Now that we are all suitably distracted, it is about time I got back to the review in question.

While the Bee Gees were one of the most successful family units in the music industry, it pleases me to see that the Gibb family remain instrumental in providing the world with a plethora of music harmonies. In The Now was written with Barry and his sons Stephen and Ashley. Such family unity reminds me of AC/DC bringing in Stevie Young, nephew of Malcolm and Angus, when Malcolm had to retire. While it is sad that AC/DC will never again feature the founders together, and the Bee Gees will never be able to record a new album, In The Now brings hope that the legacy will live on. While In The Now is uniquely independent, I also find it eerily reminiscent of the Bee Gees. 

In The Now immediately shows that Gibb still has, arguably, the most identifiable vocal in the world. The composition is pop driven and predicable, but in a good way as it allows Gibb to be at the forefront of the music. It is a stellar song to commence the album on and proves that age does not limit the soul. I love it!

Grand Illusion is a little more edgy and has a rock beat that is addictive as it builds from the verse to the chorus. This song reminds me of a Bee Gees style composition with interweaving backing vocals. I absolutely love the beat and guitar riff in this song and while it may remind me of the Bee Gees, it is fresh and compelling. This song is an example of why I love music.

Star Crossed Lovers slows the album down a little with a ballad-styled tune that is a lovely easy-listening song. Although, I’m not convinced that this song was a good selection for Gibb as I much prefer his faster tempo songs. Of course, my subjective point of view doesn’t change that fact that it is a lovely song and many people will thoroughly enjoy it.

Blowin’ A Fuse picks up the pace with an erratic intro that continues throughout the entire song. Despite the unpredictable tempo, it will get you toe tapping and head bopping. Personally, I would have preferred to have had this song positioned before Star Crossed Lovers. Blowin’ A Fuse is more similar paced to Grand Illusion and given Side 1 of the vinyl release contains only three tracks, I feel this would have been more appropriate in that third track position. Additionally, the electric guitar solo, about two thirds of the way through the song, is excellent and a welcome surprise as the song pretends to end prematurely. I like music, like this, that makes you sit up and listen.   

Home Truth Song is a modern country-pop styled song that works extremely well with Gibb’s vocal style. It will remind you a little of Bruce Springsteen, although, I can’t imagine anyone else singing this song.

Meaning Of The Word is beautifully mellow. Gibb’s vocals are so delicate in this song. I love the tailing off of notes as his vocal almost breaks up, but remains on key. It is simply amazing to hear such a delicate vocal delivery that is performed as masterfully as any recorded with the Bee Gees. As music fans, we are truly fortunate to have songs and artists that can paint emotions with sound.

Cross To Bear is a lovely composition. I love the acoustic guitar elements, the choral delivery, and the overall twang of the song.

Shadows has a tonality that reminds me fondly of the tone used throughout much of Julian Lennon’s Photograph Smile album. This song has some beautiful instrumental elements and while releasing tracks in their instrumental form is largely superfluous, in the modern era of the digitally streamed single, I would love to hear just the instrumental version as the eclectic Spanish-influenced tone is simply gorgeous.

Amy In Colour is a song that I adore. The verse is so reserved in comparison to the increased beat and tempo that builds with the chorus. It is an interesting dichotomy and one that works exceptionally well.  

The Long Goodbye really highlights Gibb’s unique vocal style. When I hear him sing like this, yet listen to an interview he has done, I am continually amazed at how he can maintain such a varied singing voice to his own spoken voice.

Diamonds is such a dynamic song. The soundstage is so three dimension that closing your eyes will put you in the studio as the song is being recorded. The recording and mastering is absolutely perfect to my ears. In-fact, the entire mastering of the album is nothing short of perfection. Interestingly, HDTracks has the album in Audiophile 44.1kHz/24bit. I mention this because of the ongoing argument relating to the importance of high-fidelity music. I’m not sure if In The Now was recorded and mastered at 44.1kHz/24bit, but generally HDTracks gets the highest bit-rate version available. That said, it is important to acknowledge that higher bit-rates mean nothing if the mastering is not done well. As I listen to TIDAL Hi-Fi’s FLAC stream, running at 44.1kHz/16bit, I can honestly say that there is nothing that would make me long for the 24bit edition. My Oppo HA-2, with the ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018K2M DAC, reproduces TIDAL’s edition so well that there is no need to look for more. Similarly, my Oppo BDP-103 with the Cirrus Logic CS4382A DAC, reproduces the album immaculately. I truly wish all modern albums could be mastered this well. That said, I have been surprised by some of the more recent releases and I pray that we are seeing the back end of the loudness wars.

End Of The Rainbow is a perfect song to conclude the album on. It encourages me to play the album on repeat, and I have certainly done that many times, but more importantly if this is the last song Gibb ever performs, then it is a fitting end to a glorious career that has impacted so many people. That said, I truly hope Gibb records a follow-up to In The Now as he is still an amazing performer. With his sons now by his side, I can only imagine the glorious wonders that are still to come from one of the most talented families in the music industry.

As long time readers would know, lyrics and subsequent song meanings are often lost on me. I review from the standpoint of an emotional perspective regarding how the music makes me feel and the memories it raises in my mind. Thankfully, Gibb has recorded a short video in which he discusses the song meanings much more concisely than any reviewer could hope to achieve.

While I have embedded the official VEVO YouTube video, for compatibility reasons, please remember that if you have a TIDAL subscription, you can also play this video via the following link: tidal.com/video/65653213.

You may recall earlier that I indicated the Deluxe Edition CD would be the best value for money when purchasing In The Now. However, End Of The Rainbow is such a fitting end, that I don’t know if I want to hear the additional tracks. I know that sounds fickle, but there have been many times when I have listened to Deluxe Editions, only to be disappointed because it changed my own subjective relationship with the album. That said, In The Now is truly worthy of owning on vinyl, but the CD is still the best dollar for dollar value. However, for the immediate future, I will be content with the standard edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

Regardless of how you intend to listen to this album, you will be blown away by not only the production, but the musicality. It is reminiscent of the Bee Gees, and fans of the band will love it, but it is also uniquely a Barry Gibb album and should be listened to with reflection, but not comparison. 

In The Now is currently available for purchase on Vinyl, CD, iTunes, and in FLAC from the TIDAL Store.

The album is also available for streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.

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John Farnham – Whispering Jack (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

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John Farnham – Whispering Jack (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

Farnsy, as he is lovingly known to the Australian public, is nothing short of an icon in the pop music industry. That said, many of you will likely be unfamiliar with his work as he never ventured outside of Australia, throughout his highly successful solo career, instead choosing to make Australia his permanent performance home. As a result, he has gained an unprecedented level respect from a country that too often loses its great artists to fame and fortune abroad.

No, we’re not bitter that so much talent is taken from our shores, but I strongly believe our little Aussie band, AC/DC, should still start and end their tours on home turf. Of course, that is now solely dependent on their continuation to record and perform. That said, they’d have to do a better job than their Sydney performance in 2015. Let’s just say that the balance and levelling was way off and what should have been a stellar experience, was somewhat lacklustre. Someone clearly didn’t do a proper sound check for that concert!

I know quite a few people that adore live performances, but the unknown elements are always an aspect that worries me when I pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket. As a result, I don’t go to many live performances; instead I wait for the obligatory live album. That said, Farnham provides one of the greatest live performances that anyone can experience. Unfortunately, he is no longer stadium touring like he used to, but he is doing a series of more intimate concerts in 2017. If you can’t make these performances, I can wholeheartedly recommend his recorded performances Classic Jack (with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) and Chain Reaction. If you can’t get a hold of these in your region, then the album Full House offers an exceptional overview of his power and finesse on stage.

The one thing that I have noticed, and appreciated, over the years is how unique Farnham’s vocal style is. He is arguably without peer, although some correlation could likely be found if I looked hard enough. I guess what I am trying to say is that you can identify the timbre of his voice immediately. With modern ‘manufactured’ pop music, uniqueness is not always a guarantee.

Another key aspect of Farnham’s vocals, that I value, is being able to understand the lyrics he is singing. There is absolutely no need to refer to the liner notes for guidance on Farnham themed karaoke nights. Other artists, by comparison, tend to slur their vocals to an extent that you have no true idea of what they are trying to express. I’m not just talking about death metal music, although I often wonder if that style of music isn’t merely grunts derived from our ape-like ancestors. Perhaps that is a little harsh, but the truth is that many of us fall into the mondegreen trap whereby we misinterpret a lyric we hear. The mondegreen trap is arguably a key reason why I have classed vocals primarily as an instrument, rather than the story telling element of a song.

While Whispering Jack is known as Farnham’s breakout album, it certainly wasn’t his first outing as a performer. Previously, Farnham had been a pop teen idol (the Justin Bieber of his day) and lead singer of the Little River Band in the early 80s. Despite this prior modest success, Whispering Jack would be his most successful album with sales of an incredible 1.68 million copies, as of 2006. Remember, this is superstardom for an Australian artist where the population of the country is just over 24 million (16 million, upon the release of the album, in 1986).

Unbelievably, it has been 30-years since this landmark album was released. To mark this occasion, a 30th Anniversary box set is on the horizon that will feature the album on vinyl and CD, along with a concert DVD from the associated tour. Needless to say, I have pre-ordered this individually numbered (5,000 copies) release as it is associated with some of my earliest memories of music appreciation. The collection will also include a 30-page booklet detailing various, never before seen, content surrounding the recording process. I will certainly undertake a review of the collection, here on Subjective Sounds, when I receive it.

While this review specifically looks at the original 1986 mastered edition that is presented on TIDAL Hi-Fi, I also have the original cassette and to say I wore it out would be an understatement. It has been stretched and warped from years of usage, but it still plays and I loved every moment of it. It was also the first cassette I ever owned that had the clear case so you could see the entire reel of tape. Yes, that was a big deal back in the day when cassette tape was largely hidden from view. I recall sitting for hours, listening and watching intently, as the tape moved from one spool to the other. This simple ‘do nothing’ activity was nothing short of pure bliss. Even as I listen to the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, knowing that it is perfect and as close to that original master as I can currently get, I find that I still recall the exact areas where my cassette tape had stretched, thereby permanently altering the sound. I mention this because every time I hear the song Going, Going, Gone I think that I have to get up and change the side of the tape. No, I haven’t lost my mind, I just listened to that cassette too many times. I also didn’t have a lot of pre-recorded music at the time, so this tape had to work hard.

The truth is I could probably write a complete book about how this album has not only influenced my love of music, but influenced Australian culture. Farnham’s history and the way the album came about is legendary and it would be a perfect candidate for defining the meaning of the ‘Little Aussie Battler’. On that note, it should also be acknowledged that Glenn Wheatley, former bass guitarist for the Masters Apprentices, was responsible for primarily funding the recording of Whispering Jack and without his support, this exceptional recording may have never seen the light of day.

Pressure Down, on TIDAL Hi-Fi, has a very intriguing entrance as it appears to have whispering in the first few seconds of the song. The reason why I am captivated is that I don’t recall having ever heard this before. I should note that it is also on the 20th Anniversary release that is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Yet, it is not on my iTunes Matched edition, nor can I hear it on my original cassette release. Although, that part of the cassette is a little wobbly. Yes, I dug into the archives to get to the bottom of this oddity.

In each case, I put my Oppo HA-2 into high gain mode and listened at ear bleeding levels. Such are the lengths I go to for you, my dedicated readers. Initially I had thought that the spoken word was ‘a restructure of subject or language.’ Of course, Google is our friend and as such directed me to Jane Gazzo’s Herald Sun column (behind a paywall, but Google ‘How Whispering Jack saved John Farnham’ and it appears as the first link). Gazzo details the spoken words as actually being ‘there is no restriction on subject or language.’ Yes, there is an interesting and somewhat humorous story behind this revelation, but I implore you read Gazzo’s piece for the full story. Jane Gazzo has also recently published John Farnham: The Untold Story. I’ve yet to read it, hence this isn’t an endorsement, but I’m looking forward to checking it out as it is the first biography on John Farnham that I can consciously recall.

That said, Pressure Down will take you immediately back to the 80s with a pop-synth sound that was revolutionary at the time and strangely doesn’t feel that detached from modern pop music.

You’re The Voice is perhaps one of the most iconic and emotionally moving songs ever written and recorded. It is arguably more relevant today than it was upon its release, though that could be said of the many famous songs that promote peace over conflict. If you don’t listen to any other song from Farnham’s catalogue, you have to listen to this song. It will inspire and put humanity into perspective with simple, but clearly defined lyrics.

The inclusion of the bagpipes and a guitar solo in the chorus is nothing short of pop/rock gold. The clapping introduction is like a click track for the mind as you are guided through the song. Farnham’s vocals on this song are incredible and simply world-class. Very few performers can sing with such raw honesty and I truly believe Farnham has never sung another song with such passion and conviction, yet it was not a song that he wrote. Chris Thompson, Andy Quanta, Keith Reid, and Maggie Ryder all deserve credit for writing such an incredibly beautiful song. While it has been covered numerous times, it is Farnham’s song and I’ve yet to come across anyone who has done it better.

One Step Away is a song that has never really resonated with me. Perhaps it is simply because it follows one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded. It just feels out of place and I would personally class it as a B-Side.

Overall, One Step Away isn’t a bad pop song, but I only ever listen to it as part of the album experience.

Reasons is a song I love because it was my first introduction to the whiplash sound in music. Yes, this synthetic sound was available before a hundred whiplash apps made it to your smart phone and popular culture. The beat is addictive and the atmospheric backing, especially in the first half of the song, is rather interesting as there are so many elements to listen to, yet the soundstage never feels crowded. Reasons is what pop/rock is all about and you will definitely want to turn the volume up to 11.

Going, Going, Gone has a strange introduction that I feel detracts from the song. While it may appeal to some, it isn’t a personal favourite of mine despite being a solid addition to the album. Interestingly, this song is memorable for me as it would mark the end of Side A. As I didn’t have an auto reverse cassette deck until about 1993, this would require getting up off the couch and flipping the tape over. While the flipping of cassettes and vinyl can become an added task, it is a moment that I truly treasure; along with every bit of deterioration the formats are known for. It essentially adds character to one’s music collection. TIDAL Hi-Fi, and all digital versions (including CD), simply can’t offer these tactile moments. That said, as much as I love the process of playing my analogue collection, I have to be completely honest in saying that the bulk of my listening is now done via TIDAL Hi-Fi. Yes, convenience has somewhat won, but only because of the incredible sound quality that can be had via TIDAL’s Hi-Fi subscription. Seriously, don’t even bother with their premium plan.  

No One Comes Close has a bass guitar intro that I thoroughly enjoy. In my opinion, the bass guitar is one of the most underrated instruments in music. I would love to hear more bass notes in modern recordings and I’m not talking about synthetic bass sounds either.

Overall, No One Comes Close is a fantastic song for the album. While it doesn’t break any new ground, it is enjoyable and ticks all the relevant pop music boxes.

Love To Shine is a smooth 80s pop song that again favours the bass guitar. The beat and groove, as with most of the songs on this album, is addictive and will encourage you sing-a-long in the shower.

As I listen to this song, I am drawn to the analogue sound that has made it through the digitisation process. In-fact, the entire album is very warm and welcoming from a sonic signature standpoint. Yes, these terms are somewhat irrelevant and are dependent on your individual setup. However, they are used to express the feeling I get as I listen to the album and the associated songs.   

Trouble is a pop song that I have enjoyed since I first heard the album some 30 years ago. Yet, I’m still not too sure what the appeal is. What I do know is the backing vocals grab me every time. Not because they are exceptional, but because their introduction makes it feel as though two completely unique songs and artists have been merged to make one killer track.

A Touch Of Paradise is, in my opinion, a sonic masterpiece. It is incredibly soothing, but also encourages you to turn the volume up and sing along to a simply gorgeous chorus. Farnham has sung many incredible ballads, such as You’re The Voice and Burn For You, but there is something special going on with this song and I’m not just talking about the exceptional soundstage and saxophone performance. A Touch Of Paradise truly showcases Farnham’s vocal delivery and proves what a spectacular vocalist he is.  

Let Me Out sets the beat from the get-go in this edgy pop song that is a perfect track to end the album on. It is rock-pop and has a very 80s sound, but don’t let that deter you as some of these 80s songs are becoming as essential to the history of popular music as those styles founded in the preceding decades. Let Me Out, interestingly, also has a jazzy feel with strong emphasis placed on brass instrumental backing. Think Robert Palmer’s Addicted To Love.

Whispering Jack is exceptional and while I would change the tracking slightly, there really are no significant flaws in song selection.

The mastering of this original was excellent with an average 13 out of 20. That said, it wasn’t a perfect mastering and while the 20th Anniversary release in 2006 reduced the dynamic range to an average of 6 out of 20, remastering engineer Martin Pullan certainly respected the original and added emphasis on the mid and low end that may result in a more appealing listen for music lovers. In this instance, mere dynamic range figures don’t tell the complete story and you need to listen and decide for yourself. Personally, I enjoy both versions and I’m glad that they have not removed the original from sale; as is often the standard process when a re-master is released. While I have no information pertaining to mastering used for the upcoming 30th Anniversary collection, I trust that it will stay true to the incredible releases that have come before it. 

Whispering Jack is currently available for purchase on CD, iTunes, and the TIDAL Store.

The album is also available for streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Laura Michelle – Novel With No End (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

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Laura Michelle – Novel With No End (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

Over the past few months, I have once again become captivated by the pop music genre. It encompasses a style of music that was very near, and dear, to my heart throughout my teenage years. Although, as a musical discipline I feel pop music has been overexposed for years with too many substandard performers. I therefore find Laura Michelle’s debut album Novel With No End to be a most intriguing listening experience as she delivers a unique performance.

Laura’s vocals are gorgeous and shows a young artist who has plenty of potential, but I don’t feel the accompanying musical elements were pushed as far as they could have been. For me, some of the songs sounded predictable. That said, there are some standout tracks where the musicality is off the chart.

Novel With No End is an album that crosses both pop and country disciplines, with a touch of rock. Subjectively, I like this cross-styled approach.

As I listen to this album, I find myself recalling Delta Goodrem’s amazing debut album Innocent Eyes. I consider Goodrem to be one of the best female-pop artists in the world today. While Laura Michelle’s style is absolutely unique, her professionalism with the microphone is on par with the performances that Delta Goodrem made on her debut.

For this review I used TIDAL Hi-Fi and found the mastering of the album to be adequate for a pop release, but it has been mastered a little hot and subsequently the stereo imaging is limited and you tend to experience a wall of sound coming from the speakers, rather than being completely immersed in the music. Yes, I know that this is a modern style of mastering, but I really want more dynamic range from modern albums. I just hope that the album has been recorded with a full dynamic range, so that it can be re-issued at a later date. That said, it doesn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying Novel With No End.

Throwaway is a fun track but there is a little sibilance in Laura’s vocal that detracts me. As I always say in my reviews, don’t look for sibilance because once you know what to listen for, you’ll hear it on numerous albums.

Top Of The World has a beat and guitar riff that I absolutely love. It will get you head bopping and toe tapping from the first note. Seriously, turn this track up to 11. It is incredible!

Chameleon has a lovely synth and acoustic guitar introduction that continues throughout the song. It is an element that really appeals to me and one that I feel could be remixed perfectly. I’d love to see what Calvin Harris could do with this song, although it is already exceptional in this current rendition.

Cigarette is a moody song that has a great beat and guitar riff, although it is a little more pop driven, whereas, I feel the song would have made a perfect rock and roll track. Of course, that is just my subjective opinion, but I feel the song doesn’t quite know if it wants to be pop or rock. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoy it and find that I’m turning up the volume and toe tapping along with this song.

Cougar has another great beat and again makes me think that Laura Michelle could quite easily move into rock and roll music like Fergie did with Slash on the song Beautiful Dangerous.

Chuck Norris is a song that I just don’t like. It is too teeny bopper for me. It immediately makes me think of songs that would appear on any coming-of-age film soundtrack.

The Credits returns the album to a song that I feel is reminiscent of the album as a whole and truly respects the quality of Michelle’s vocals. It is a lovely country-pop infused song.

Save Me is another song that truly highlights the remarkable voice of Laura Michelle. While the song has been recorded with a live string section, I would love to hear a version with a full symphony orchestra as I feel this song has untapped potential. Michelle's harmonic overlaps, towards the end of the track, are a perfect addition.

Ain’t Your Home is an enjoyable song that blends well with the entire album, but I feel the performance was held back a little. There is just something missing that I can’t quite explain.

Knocks Me Back isn’t one of my favourite tracks as I feel it is too safe in regards to simply ticking all the relevant pop music boxes.

My Baby Loves Me is a perfectly acceptable song, but I feel like it is a b-side to the album.

Novel With No End is an absolutely gorgeous song. This is the song that specifically reminds me of Delta Goodrem’s vocal style, but it also provides validation to me that Laura Michelle will be a female vocalist to take note of in the coming years as she continues to develop and refine her vocal capabilities.

Boy To Smell is a song that I feel should have been tracked earlier in the album as I feel Novel With No End would have been the perfect song to close the album on as it is, in my opinion, the highlight of the entire album. That said, Boy To Smell isn’t a bad song, it just doesn’t make me want to immediately play the album again.

Overall, for a debut album, Novel With No End is exceptional and I can’t wait to watch what I predict will be a very successful career for Laura Michelle.

Novel With No End is available for purchase on iTunes and the TIDAL Store. However, there is currently no physical release for this album, but the iTunes release does come with a digital booklet, if you're interested in liner notes.

Novel With No End is also available for streaming on Apple Music

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August Rigo – The Fall Out (Tidal Hi-Fi Review)

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August Rigo – The Fall Out (Tidal Hi-Fi Review)

Thanks to TIDAL’s Discovery section, now merged with TIDAL Rising, I came across August Rigo’s album The Fall Out. Seriously, as a music lover, the CD-store in your home is the perfect way to sample new music and artists that I would have previously overlooked.

When I am interested in listening to a new artist, or album, I generally listen to the first three songs. I feel that is where a stellar song will be, if there is going to be one. The first track off The Fall Out, Versions, was all I needed to know that I wanted to hear more.

The Official Video for the New Single Versions from the Upcoming album The Fall Out SummerChild Records 2015 Manhattan Records 2015 (Japan). Also available on TIDAL.

Versions has an acoustic feel to it and the vocal range that Rigo uses reminds me of Michael Jackson’s work on Thriller. Think Human Nature and The Lady In My Life. Yes, Rigo has acknowledge Jackson as a musical influence, but that isn’t to say that Rigo is trying to imitate Jackson. Rigo has his own style that is smooth, but also raw and gritty. I absolutely love the premise of Versions as it is a love song with a dose of reality.

Keep Me In Your Heart has a dual approach to rhythm and I much prefer the slower aspects of the song as I feel they really highlight Rigo’s vocals. That said, I can appreciate the approach Rigo was going for with this song. One issue that I did find on this track was distortion in the piano/keyboard aspects of the track, especially in the first 10 seconds of the song. Interestingly, this distortion wasn’t as apparent when I was listening to the song via speakers, but it is positively jarring on the ears when listening with headphones. I initially thought that it might be my headphones, but upon doing a series of tests across my various components, I found that it is definitely part of the song. I even went as far as selecting the track at a lower resolution on TIDAL to make sure it wasn’t just an encoding error. Then, I hate to say it, but I turned to YouTube and it is definitely part of the song and most likely Rigo’s artistic style. While the distortion doesn’t cause me to dislike the song, I can imagine that when I’m playing the album in future, I will likely proceed to the next song. I’m not against experimenting with sound, or distorting sound, I just don’t feel it was done well in this particular situation.

Ambulance is sonically appealing with many atmospheric layers that I find enhances the song. This broken heart love song is simply excellent and I love the lyrical aspects of the song. Yes, dear long-time reader, I am finally listening to the lyrics. Interestingly, this song makes me smile and I find the song humorous. I’m sure this wasn’t the intended purpose of the song, but this is Subjective Sounds and that is how I subjectively appreciate the song. Just listen to the chorus and you will know what I mean. Either way, it is a really nice mellow song that you just have to listen to.

Easy To Let Go has a fantastic rhythm and Rigo’s vocal capabilities are highlighted in this song. Unfortunately the distortion in the low end, that is baked into the artistry of the song, is a distraction; especially when compared to Rigo’s smooth vocals. Again, this is only really highlighted on headphones. Whenever I review an album, I always listen to it via loudspeakers and headphones (both over-the-ear and in-ear). This allows me to experience the album differently. That isn’t to say that one is better than the other, but there are differences in sound reproduction, even if you’re using the same DAC/Amplifier combination. The simple fact is that headphones are so close to the ear drum, with little to no ambient noise in-between, ensuring sound waves are not interrupted or dropped off by mere distance from the speaker. This often results in hearing more detail if you have a decent set of headphones. This song has a lot of promise, but I would love to see the track remastered with a cleaner bass track and less vocal distortion.

Honest is your run-of-the-mill pop track, but there is nothing wrong with that as it is an enjoyable listen.

The Fall Out is a song that really highlights Rigo’s unique vocal style. The song has a nice twang about it and my immediate thought was it could be a fantastic country song. However, as a slow pop tune, it is thoroughly enjoyable. I should also note that at the end of the song there is a guitar and bass string that are purposely played out of tune to highlight the lyrical content. It is a perfect way to conclude the track and ensure a symbiosis between the lyrics and music.

I find the song, I Wanna Be Loved, to be rather complex, but I love the complexity. There are a lot of influences here and as I listen I can’t help but think of iconic artist influences such Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley, and Michael Jackson merged into a single song. It is one of my favourite songs on the album.

Official Music Video to "Just Drive" by August Rigo Connect with August Rigo: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AugustRigoMusic Twitter: https://twitter.com/augustrigo Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/augamatic. Also available on TIDAL.

Just Drive is a song that ticks all the boxes for me when it comes to pop music. My body moves, the beat is present but not overbearing, and the vocal delivery is superb.

Why Won’t You Dance With Me is in the same category as Just Drive. Perfect. I love it!

A Mother’s Vow is a beautiful song to end the album on. It is arguably the best track on the entire album. The introduction of the electric guitar and drum beat is perfect and not distracting from Rigo’s lyrical approach and song meaning. Distortion, while present in this track, is used respectfully and in this case enhances the song. Interestingly, at the end of the song, the track continues in silence for about 30 seconds. I’ve no idea why this is the case, but if you have the album on repeat, it does allow a reflective moment before going back to the first track. If that was the artist’s intention, then it certainly makes sense.

Overall, August Rigo’s album The Fall Out is exceptional for an artist that is endeavouring to commence a solo career, having previously been a writer/co-writer for artists that include, but are not limited to, Justin Bieber, One Direction, and Chris Brown.

Rigo has an undeniable talent and while the before mentioned artists are not always on my radar, their collective success speaks volumes and proves that Rigo as a song writer and musician is one to watch in the future.

I can’t wait to hear a new album, hopefully with a little less distortion, but until then The Fall Out will be getting many repeat plays on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

The Fall Out is also available for purchase in CD-quality FLAC on the TIDAL Store. The album is also available on the iTunes Store.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

My Favourite Songs List

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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