Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind (Album Review)

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Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind (Album Review)

When I saw Slipknot perform Unsainted, on Jimmy Kimmel Live, I have to admit that I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t connect with the song as I hoped I would and Taylor’s new mask made me question the direction Slipknot was taking. Thankfully, I don’t have to look at #8 when listening to We Are Not Your Kind and therefore Unsainted and the entire album is simply stunning.

Yes, that mask. It’s the worst in Slipknot history, making me think of Meat Loaf and what he’d look like if his face melted from too much cosmetic surgery. It shouldn’t taint the music, but unfortunately, it does when you see them perform live. It will be interesting to see if Taylor keeps dawning the same mask on tour, or if he makes minor adjustments to it as I don’t think it will appeal to many fans; what do you think about the mask, dear reader? 

After two decades since their eponymous debut, Slipknot has largely become part of the social consciousness and it is difficult for me to recall a time when the band weren’t part of the music scene. Perhaps I’m just getting old, but it is amazing to think We Are Not Your Kind is only their sixth studio release as it feels as though they’ve been around forever. Nevertheless, I’m thoroughly enjoying this release and can say without a doubt that it is amongst their very best work and is one of the greatest albums of 2019. 

Insert Coin is a killer tune to introduce the album and flows magically into Unsainted. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t have asked for a better, slow-burn, introduction. I love it!

Unsainted is EPIC! The choral introduction merged with the musicality and Taylor’s vocal is something very special indeed as it builds up to the tempo we’re used to hearing from Slipknot, then downshifts as the chorus kicks in. Brilliant! 

I hope you’ve already pumped that volume to 11, for this is not one album you want to play at low levels. The Apple Music stream sounds excellent, but I dare say the vinyl release would trump it. That is certainly the version I hope to pick up, sooner rather than later. 

Birth Of The Cruel has a seriously good rhythm and Taylor’s firing lyrical delivery is right on par with what we’ve come to expect from Slipknot over the years. Taylor is a vocal maestro and while I could listen to Slipknot’s musicality for countless hours, it is Taylor that makes it worthwhile for me and it shows in Birth Of The Cruel. This will be one killer song for them to perform live. 

Dead Because Of Death is an interesting interlude that refreshes the pallet in preparation for Nero Forte. I thoroughly enjoy it, but I can’t help but wonder what an expansion of this song would have sounded like. Nevertheless, I love it!

Nero Forte has a killer guitar riff and rhythm that is Slipknot 101 with a vocal growl that only Taylor can deliver with absolute precision. Nero Forte is going to be mosh pit gold. 

Critical Darling, as with many of the songs on We Are Not Your Kind, has an incredible introduction that draws you in from the very first note. Critical Darling is a great tune, but the chorus is a little weak, from a musical perspective, in my opinion. In many ways, when I listen to Critical Darling, it sounds as though it would have fit perfectly on All Hope Is Gone. That isn’t a criticism for I adore their 2008 release, but just a noticeable correlation. The final minute is also intriguing as it sounds like it’s the start of a new song, or another interlude, but it isn’t. I’d love to know what the thought process was with regards to the outro on Critical Darling. That said, it does flow beautifully into A Liar’s Funeral.

A Liar’s Funeral is incredible! The slow and bright tempo, mixed with the demonic, is a perfect mix and Taylor absolutely nails the vocal in both styles. Without a doubt, A Liar’s Funeral is one of the best songs on the album and one of the best in Slipknot’s extensive catalogue. While I’m not sure if A Liar’s Funeral has the potential to be a fan favourite, when played live, I adore the studio recording. 

Red Flag is old school Slipknot! What’s not to like?

What’s Next has a terrible xylophone-styled interlude that admittedly introduces Spiders well, but is largely superfluous to the album, other than being an indicator of shifting gears. 

Spiders is a great song with a great rhythm but I’m not convinced by the Horror-movie styled backing. It works, but I can’t help but think that after repeat listens that I may grow tired of it. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Nevertheless, Spiders is thoroughly enjoyable but a remix wouldn’t go astray. 

Orphan is a great song, but it takes a little too long to get into the core of the song in my opinion. I also wish the chorus was more pronounced as it is incredible. I could, honestly, listen to the chorus of Orphan on repeat indefinitely. 

My Pain is, interesting! Even after multiple listens, I’m not sure it fits the album too well. That said, as a song on its own, the layers of musicality are intense and the soundstage will compel and envelop you. My Pain is a song that you’re going to have to listen to multiple times to really connect with it. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it allows for greater appreciation of the song and album, but I’d love to know what the thought process was in the studio when it came to not only recording My Pain but including it on We Are Not Your Kind.

Not Long For This World is a stellar track. The slow-burn intro once again compels me and the rhythmic undertone ticks all the boxes. However, as much as I enjoy it, it needs a little less treble and a little more bass. It doesn’t sound flat and from the sounds of it, the style is intentional, but I really do like Slipknot’s music when the rhythm reaches into your soul and takes you on a visceral journey where you feel the music rather than hear it. Not Long For This World just misses the mark when it comes to the complete sensory experience that I associate with Slipknot; yet the outro gets the low end pumping as it merges into Solway Firth. 

Solway Firth is a killer closing track that will compel you to listen to the album again and stay within Slipknot’s catalogue. 

Overall, We Are Not Your Kind is an incredible release. As an album, it is a cohesive experience that you would be advised to sit and listen to from start to finish. I’d also say that We Are Not Your Kind is one of Slipknot’s most accessible albums as it will appeal to hardcore fans and newcomers alike. Slipknot, like a good bottle of wine, gets better and better; the future looks good for us maggots!

We Are Not Your Kind is available on Vinyl, CD, and the iTunes Store.  

Click here to read other Slipknot reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Cosmonauts – A-Ok! (Album Review)

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Cosmonauts – A-Ok! (Album Review)

Have you ever had that moment when you look at your record collection, be it digital or physical, and can not recall why an album exists or a single song from it? 

Well, I have, and A-Ok! is one album that falls under that category. 

In order to write this review, I had to re-listen to the album. I had initially only decided to listen once because if I could find no compelling reason to pen a review, or keep it in my Apple Music library, then I was determined to delete it. Nevertheless, after the first playthrough, I found myself captivated and played it several more times. 

While the Cosmonauts are garage punk at their core, A-Ok! is different. Yes, there are punk elements, but much of the album has a smooth overture that is soothing and allows your mind to drift away. If anything, perhaps it would be correct to class A-Ok! as pop-punk. Regardless, music doesn’t always have to be assigned a specific genre, so join me as I take a look at the album and explain the reasons why A-Ok! will be remaining in my Apple Music library.

A-Ok! opens the album with plenty of energy and you may understand from the get-go why I class A-Ok! as pop-punk. It’s a great song and offers an interesting contrast as the vocal presentation is very much punk-inspired while the musicality is arguably pop-driven. That said, it works, really well! 

Doom Generation has a killer introduction. In some respects, I would have loved to have heard Doom Generation open the album, but it flows perfectly from A-Ok! Doom Generation reminds me somewhat of Babylon Zoo; a compliment as Doom Generation is thoroughly enjoyable and gets me moving to the rhythm.

Party At Sunday is the first mellow tune on the album and I absolutely adore it. Sit, turn the volume up, and close your eyes, you won’t regret it as the soundstage will envelop you and hold you there until the very last note.

Be-Bop-A-Loser picks up the tempo significantly from Party At Sunday, but at no time do you feel a jolt to the senses. Be-Bop-A-Loser isn’t overall a bad song, it’s most certainly on the punk side of the album, but it doesn’t necessarily offer anything to write home about. A B-side? Perhaps, but it is A-Side worthy, just not a standout!

Short Wave Communication, however, is a B-Side and a sonic mess.  

Heavenspeak is a killer song with an incredible rhythmic presentation; the total opposite of Short Wave Communication. 

Good Lucky Blessing is a song that reminds me of U2 and David Bowie. Yes, I know, sometimes my music correlations can be a little left-of-the-centre, but I do love how within a song, or album, I can hear a similarity even if it is completely unintended by the artist. When this happens, I often find myself heading across and listening to the other artist’s catalogue which makes exploring music an incredible experience. All that aside, Good Lucky Blessing is a solid track that works well within the context of the album.

Cruisin’ is a solid song, but you really have to lock in to that backbeat if you’re going to enjoy it as the chorus and overlapping vocals can be a little distracting, thereby temporarily removing you from the experience that is Cruisin’. 

Discophilia is probably my favourite song on the album. It is a mellow, guitar-riffing, wonderland with a perfect lyrical presentation and drum track. I could listen to it on repeat indefinitely. 

Graffiti is a solid song to close the album on with a killer fade-out that compels me to listen to the album again and explore more of the Cosmonauts growing catalogue of music. 

Overall, A-Ok! Is a thoroughly enjoyable album from start to finish and while I will most certainly be keeping it in my digital library, I don’t feel the need to own a copy physically. That isn’t a reflection on the album but more a realisation that I need to cull my physical library a little and ensure that I don’t get every album my heart desires; it can be quite an expensive hobby, can’t it? Plus, the Apple Music edition of the album sounds superb and therefore from a sonic perspective, I’m not looking for anything more. Of course, you never know, I have been known to be fickle and A-Ok! is most certainly good enough that if I came across it while crate digging, I’d likely pick it up. 

A-Ok! is available on bandcamp, Burger Records (Vinyl), and the iTunes Store

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Ozzy Osbourne – Under Cover (Album Review)

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Ozzy Osbourne – Under Cover (Album Review)

Ozzy Osbourne is a living legend and while is work in Black Sabbath and his solo career has been spectacular, was a covers album really what fans were looking for from his ninth studio album? The song selection, focusing on rock and roll from the 60s and 70s, is fantastic and it’s unlikely you’ll hear a song that you’ve never heard before. Of course, the biggest question is if these songs suit Osbourne’s vocal and musical styles or is Under Cover largely a self-indulgent release and homage to Osbourne’s musical idols?

Rocky Mountain Way is a Joe Walsh classic and Osbourne performs it admirably, mixing a little of his own style while paying homage to the original. If you like Joe Walsh’s recording of this song but want it to feature a little more hard rock, perhaps a touch of metal, then you’re going to love this cover.

In My Life (Radio Edit) is a beautiful song and was one of the best songs from The Beatles’ Rubber Soul; although there are so many! One of the things I’ve always found fascinating about Osbourne is that despite his hard rocker persona, he can sing ballads exceptionally well and I’d even argue that he is a better ballad singer than he is a heavy metal vocalist. That may irritate some, but I’m blown away with his performance of In My Life. It is so good that as much as I adore The Beatles original, I enjoy Osbourne’s better; partially due to the darker style and the slower tempo. Regardless, both are exceptional and Osbourne has done himself proud on In My Life.  

Mississippi Queen is a killer rock and roll tune that is styled very similarly to the original Mountain classic. Do I have a preferred version? Not really, they’re both exceptional but if you’re looking for a little more hard rock, then Osbourne’s rendition is the one to listen to. 

Go Now is one song that I would have never imagined Osbourne covering. It’s a great song and while you may be familiar with The Moody Blues version, the Bessie Banks original is the one to beat and Osbourne has done just that. An exceptional cover with a gorgeous musical interlude that includes a piano and guitar solo. I love it!

Woman is one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded. It doesn’t matter how good this rendition is, nothing and nobody will ever beat John Lennon’s original. That said, Osbourne covers it superbly, paying homage to the original while also putting his own spin on this classic.

21 Century Schizoid Man is a classic late 60s masterpiece that Osbourne has turned up to 11. 

All The Young Dudes is a killer tune. A David Bowie original composition, Bowie’s recording has always been exceptional, as was the original recording of the song by Mott the Hoople, but Osbourne takes All The Young Dudes to another level completely. Sensational!

For What It’s Worth is an incredible cover. I love the Buffalo Springfield original and it is that version that we’re arguably most familiar with. However, if you’re looking for a modern interpretation that infuses the original with hard rock elements, then look no further for this is utterly perfect.  

Good Times is a song I’ve never been fond of. The Animals original isn’t fundamentally bad, but it never grabbed my attention. While there is nothing wrong with Osbourne’s interpretation, it doesn’t change my thoughts on the song as a whole.

Sunshine Of Your Love is one of the greatest songs from the 60s. The distortion in the original Cream version is stunningly good and while you can’t beat the original, Osbourne pays homage to it and adds a little of a harder rock edge to the song that I find to be thoroughly enjoyable. A killer song no matter who performs it!

Fire is a really interesting psychedelic rock tune from 1968. The Arthur Brown original isn’t bad, but Osbourne has made Fire his own and I much prefer this interpretation. 

Working Class Hero is another John Lennon classic. Again, Osbourne doesn’t disappoint. Admittedly, he doesn’t stray too far from the original in his interpretation, but Osbourne’s approach breathes new life into Working Class Hero and is arguably perfectly suited to his vocal and musical style. 

Sympathy For The Devil is a killer song. The Rolling Stones are the ultimate masters and arguably nobody has done it better. Yes, Guns N’ Roses covered it incredibly well, but the original is beyond reproach. Nevertheless, Osbourne’s rendition is enjoyable and is a great closer for this collection of covers ensuring that I’ll likely listen to the album again, stay within Osbourne’s catalogue, or explore the original artists he’s covered. Yes, on some editions of the album, the Black Sabbath song, Changes (with Kelly Osbourne), is included but that isn’t the case with the Apple Music release which sticks to the original 13-track lineup. 

As far as cover albums go, this is one of the most enjoyable I’ve come across. Yes, I would have preferred to have more original Osbourne music, but he has given fans a look at some of his favourite tunes and has covered them with the respect they deserve. Under Cover, however, isn’t an album I go to when I think of Osbourne, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it when listening to his entire catalogue. 

Under Cover is available on CD and iTunes.

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Ash Grunwald – Live At The Fly By Night (Live Album Review)

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Ash Grunwald – Live At The Fly By Night (Live Album Review)

As I listen to Live At The Fly By Night, I find myself captivated by the non-stop groove of Grunwald. This man certainly has bucket loads of rhythm to go along with what Ian McFarlane rightly claimed as a guttural resonant vocal styled somewhat after Tom Waits, Howling Wolf, Elmore James, and Robert Johnson. I couldn’t have described Grunwald’s musicality better myself and if you haven’t got a copy, you’ll find a wealth of information in McFarlane’s opus The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop.

Normally when I think of live albums, I have mixed emotions. Many are excellent, others are average at best. It really is a mixed bag. However, Live At The Fly By Night is one of the best live recordings I’ve ever heard. The mix, the dynamics, and the correct levelling of audience interaction make for a compelling listen that I’m certain you’ll love. While I can’t say for certain that some studio mastery hasn’t been applied here, I don’t care because the mastering is utterly perfect and showcases just how good music can sound if recorded, mixed, and mastered with care. 

Sadly, this release has never been issued on vinyl, but to be completely honest, the Apple Music stream, which this review is based on, is stunning with an incredible soundstage and tonality that gets you as close to vinyl as digital ever will. I can only imagine how good the CD sounds but I can assure you that you’re not missing a thing if you choose to listen to Live At The Fly By Night via Apple Music.

Intro helps to set the tone of the performance and while I’m not overly enthralled by the audience inclusion here, there is little doubt that the mix is perfect. The musical elements, and overall soundstage, really put you in a prime position to thoroughly enjoy the performance. If that rhythm doesn’t get you going, I don’t know what will. It is stunningly hypnotic and flows masterfully into Can You Find A Way.

Can You Find A Way is toe-tapping and head-bopping gold, with a guitar riff that will make you want to pick up the instrument. The distorted vocal is equally compelling and while other artists are unable to pull it off, Grunwald delivers it in a non-offensive manner that ensures it enhances the song and overall musicality. 

Skywriter is a great tune. The upbeat tempo and distorted guitar is simply stunning. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I love singing along to the chorus of Skywriter and playing my air guitar during that killer solo. 

Mojo is one of Grunwald’s best. Turn that volume up to 11; you can thank me later! 

Rosie has a brilliant vocal mix and flows perfectly in the live lineup. 

Fish Out Of Water is a moody track with a killer rhythm. I love it!

The Devil Called Me A Liar has a killer introduction but I find the song loses a little of its magic as it progresses. It isn’t bad, but if there is a B-side to be heard on Live At The Fly By Night, then The Devil Called Me A Liar is most certainly it.

1976 Coaster Van reminds me fondly of Chris Isaak’s Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing from Forever Blue; especially in the intro. 1976 Coaster Van is a solid track but I feel the spoken word element in the middle of the song detracts from the experience and the tempo speed-up makes it near impossible for the listener to stay locked into the groove. 

Just Be Yourself starts with a magical guitar introduction and continues with a fat bass track that is as relaxing as it is compelling. It doesn’t matter how still I try to make myself, the rhythm gets into your bones and your body will move even if you’re intent not to. Also, the tempo increase here, unlike 1976 Coaster Van, is perfect, ensuring that I don’t lose track of the rhythm. Returning to the slower tempo towards the end of the song is equally smooth and Just Be Yourself is arguably one of my favourite songs from the album; yes, even with the audience singing along towards the end. Again, the mix is spot on.

Money / Breakout has a magical intro. The killer rhythm will get you as will the lyrical style that is easy to sing along to. Money / Breakout is, without a doubt, an audible experience that you have to hear to believe. A stunning merging of two songs and this is without a doubt one of Grunwald’s greatest live performances and is arguably a fan favourite whenever played live. My only criticism is the slowing tempo at the end as it feels unnecessary.

Give Signs / Serious as the final track on Live At The Fly By Night certainly compels me to listen to the album again and stay within Grunwald’s growing catalogue of music. Sensational!

From start to finish, Live At The Fly By Night is nothing short of pure perfection. There isn’t a dull moment and as far as live releases go, this is up there with the very best that I’ve heard and as happy as I am with the Apple Music stream, I really want a vinyl release to add to the collection because that cover art deserves to be seen and held on the larger canvas. I love it!

Live At The Fly By Night is available on CD and iTunes.

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The Rolling Stones – August 1, 2019 – MetLife Stadium East Rutherford, NJ (Concert Review)

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The Rolling Stones – August 1, 2019 – MetLife Stadium East Rutherford, NJ (Concert Review)

One day in early May 2015 my second son (aka my Favorite Second Son) called me on Skype just before dinner. My husband and I were getting ready for a trip to Italy, with his siblings, so I wouldn’t be home for Mother’s Day. My son told me he wanted to show me my present and held up a piece of paper. I leaned in to my iPad screen and did a double-take, turned to my husband, who was smiling, then back to the screen. My son bought he and I tickets to see the Rolling Stones in Raleigh, NC later that summer. THE ROLLING STONES!! Whose music I’ve listened to since, well, forever! I’ve never had a bucket list of any kind, but if I did, seeing the Stones in concert would have definitely been at the top.

On July 1, 2015, I flew to Raleigh. That evening my son and I experienced a concert we will never forget. We were thrilled to be able to say, “I went to a Rolling Stones concert.” We never thought we’d be able to say it again.

But we both did. My son saw the Stones at their Washington, DC stop. For me, it was MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. This time I went with my husband and some friends.

As any Rolling Stone fan knows, their catalog is deep, varied, and rich. Limiting each show to 19 or 20 songs is a difficult task at best. But their song choices kept the crowd rocking and singing along for two hours of pure energy. 

Mick Jagger didn’t waste any time pumping up the volume with the lead-off song, “Street Fighting Man.” You’d never know Mick turned 76 years old in July or had heart valve replacement surgery in April as he danced and sang his way through the show. Keith Richards took over lead vocals for “Slipping Away,” which quite honestly, wasn’t his best performance. He made up for it with “Before They Make Me Run,” a cut from the 1978 album Some Girls and one of my favorites off that record.

The Stones don't limit themselves to one specific musical genre; their songs encompass country, rock, disco, blues. All were represented, sounding almost as good as the originals. See below for the complete playlist.

Click on the photo above to get the Apple Music playlist

Click on the photo above to get the Apple Music playlist

My favorite Rolling Stones track, and one of my favorite songs ever, is “Gimme Shelter,” which began the two song encore. “Shelter” always has a sense of excitement and danger; MetLife Stadium was no exception. Coincidentally as I write these words, “Gimme Shelter” from the Hot Rocks album is playing on my turntable. Time to crank it up!

Mick Jagger continually thanked the audience for being there that night and throughout their career. And what a career it’s been. Some people I know laughed when I said I was seeing the Stones. Why would I want to spend money and time on a concert with some washed-up old men? True, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood are a combined age of 301 years. But they still have it! They put on a show that left fans wanting more. While it wasn’t quite as good as my first Stones concert, it was still worth every penny. Would I see the Rolling Stones again if they tour in the future? In a heartbeat.

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Dan Fogelberg – Windows And Walls (Album Review)

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Dan Fogelberg – Windows And Walls (Album Review)

There are hidden gems and then there is Windows And Walls; arguably a contender for the very best singer-songwriter album of the 80s. 

Yes, Windows and Walls is that good! There isn’t a bad song to be heard, not even a B-Side. Fogelberg had a magical formula. His songwriting and musicianship were simply astonishing and while you’ll find Windows And Walls has an 80s feel, it is true to the era and I adore it. 

George Marino mastered it beautifully and while I’d love to see Windows And Walls reissued on vinyl, I’m elated that Sony/Epic records haven’t remastered the album for I don’t believe it is necessary as the soundstage is wide and enveloping to the listener with next-to-no compression. 

It isn’t only the musicianship and mastering that is beyond reproach; the cover art is magnificent. The multidimensional aspect captivates me and it’s ultimately one reason why I’d love to see Windows And Walls reissued on vinyl for the cover art deserves to be seen on the larger canvas. 

This review is based on listening to the Apple Music stream and while I long to have a copy in my physical library, I can say with absolute certainty that you won’t be disappointed with the streaming edition of Windows and Walls. 

The Language Of Love is a toe-tapping, head-bopping, pop-rock tune that is the perfect opener for the album, bookending the album nicely with Gone Too Far.  

Windows And Walls is incredibly beautiful. Fogelberg’s vocal presentation and musicality is captivating from the first note with a stunning orchestral backing that surrounds you with an exceptionally wide, deep, and dynamic soundstage. It is this soundstage that would likely be ruined should the album ever be remastered for any additional compression would only eliminate these breathtaking sonic aspects. 

The Loving Cup is a sensational multi-tempo song. Like many of the songs on Windows And Walls, when The Loving Cup comes on I just want to turn the volume up. Music doesn’t get much better than this, does it? Yes, the outro is a little abrupt, but I love it and it ultimately flows masterfully into Tucson, Arizona (Gazette).

Tucson, Arizona (Gazette) is stunning. That guitar tracking is incredible and again, as with many of the songs, you’ll find yourself in awe of the incredible soundstage that is akin to having Fogelberg in the room with you for a private performance. 

Let Her Go returns the album to the 80s pop-rock styling that is similar to the album’s opening The Language Of Love. I love it and I can’t listen to Let Her Go without head-bopping and toe-tapping, or dancing if I’m on my feet. Oh, I forgot to mention that you’ll need your air guitar for that creamy guitar solo throughout and towards the end. Sensational!

Sweet Magnolia And The Travelling Salesman is an absolute masterpiece. 

Believe In Me is magnificent. I simply adore Fogelberg’s smooth and delicate vocal presentation on this song. He took his vocal right to the edge but didn’t force it, thereby making Believe In Me extremely compelling and lovely to listen to. 

Gone Too Far is the perfect closing track with an 80s rock-style that will get your body moving and will encourage you to listen to the album again. 

Windows And Walls ultimately reminds me how much I love music every time I play the album. The only problem is it is so good that I tend to play it on repeat for hours as I never tire of Fogelberg’s remarkable musicality. 

The album is tracked incredibly well, meaning the flow between songs is exceptional. With a runtime of ~40 minutes, I’m left wanting more and that is a sign of a good album in my opinion. 

There is little doubt that this is one very special album that should be in every music lover’s collection.

Windows And Walls is available on CD and iTunes.

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Agnetha Fältskog – I Stand Alone (Album Review)

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Agnetha Fältskog – I Stand Alone (Album Review)

Have you ever wondered what one part Chicago plus one part Abba would sound like? Well, I hadn’t but when I listen to I Stand Alone, I hear a correlation. Peter Cetera, former Chicago frontman and bassist, would produce this exceptional release, selecting the songs that he felt would be perfect for Fältskog’s uniquely smooth vocal delivery. Whilst there are a couple of misses, I Stand Alone is a thoroughly enjoyable release from start to finish and while ABBA’s success may always overshadow Fältskog’s solo career, you’d be foolish to overlook this 1987 release as it is arguably one of Fältskog’s greatest solo releases and success was only hindered by Fältskog’s lack of post-release promotion.

This review will largely be based on listening to, and appreciating, the CD release I’m fortunate enough to own. Sadly, the cover art has faded over the years but sonically the CD sounds marvellous. That said, I did lament that the vinyl reissues of Fältskog’s earlier solo releases in 2017 didn’t include this one. Of course, those reissues were originally released on Polar Music while Fältskog’s later recordings would be released on WEA Records. It may be a minor and somewhat insignificant aspect, from a music lover’s perspective, but WEA Records have yet to do anything with Fältskog’s back catalogue, meaning there is no vinyl reissue on the horizon. At least they haven’t issued a remastered brickwalled disaster as the original mastering is quite lovely with plenty of headroom allowing you the opportunity to turn the volume up according to your tastes.

The Last Time is a fantastic tune to launch I Stand Alone. Yes, it has that 80s feel to it, but that is part of the allure. While a little slow to start, the tempo kicks in after the first minute and reminds me fondly of Elton John’s Victim Of Love. This is one song that you’ll most certainly want to turn the volume up on and get the air guitar out for, for that guitar solo, while predictable, is perfect. 

Little White Secrets shifts the tempo a little too much for my liking. It has an almost Caribbean feel and is a B-side. I simply don’t feel the song suits Fältskog’s vocal style and the mix and subsequent soundstage are a little too centre focused.

I Wasn’t The One (Who Said Goodbye) [Duet with Peter Cetera] is pure gold and is one of the greatest duets of the 80s. Seriously, this is Chicago meets ABBA turned up to 11. It is flawless and I could listen to it on repeat for eternity. 

Love In A World Gone Mad is badly tracked. It’s a solid song, but coming directly after I Wasn’t The One (Who Said Goodbye) was a mistake in my opinion. Subsequently, it takes a while for the mind to adapt to the varied tempo and musicality, resulting in a love/hate relationship with the song, especially if you listen, as I do, to music in the original album format. All that said, if I’m to be completely honest, Love In A World Gone Mad is a little too campy for my liking. 

Maybe It Was Magic is a magnificent ballad that is perfectly suited to Fältskog. 

Let It Shine is a solid song but should have been tracked with Love In A World Gone Made and Little White Secrets as it again shifts the flow of the album a little too much. Truth-be-told, if I had my way, I would have tracked the ballad-styled tunes on Side A and the more 80s pop-driven songs on Side B. Thankfully, your mind does adjust, but it shouldn’t need to in my opinion.

We Got A Way is a solid upbeat pop-rock tune that flows perfectly from Let It Shine. 

I Stand Alone is a great song. The musicality is incredible with a beautifully sized and positioned soundstage ensuring that the more detailed your playback system, the more involving the music will become and you’ll hear elements that you may not have heard on a more modest system.

Are You Gonna Throw It All Away is magical. I adore Fältskog’s vocal delivery on this song and the musicality, especially the saxophone elements, makes this song nothing but a pure pleasure to listen to. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I turn the volume up and sing along. 

If You Need Somebody Tonight is a beautiful song to conclude I Stand Alone on ensuring that I’ll play the album again and stay within Fältskog’s incredible catalogue of music.

I Stand Alone is a hidden gem and if you’re a fan of ABBA or have any interest at all in 80s pop music, you’re bound to love I Stand Alone; I know I do. 

I Stand Alone is available on CD and iTunes.

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

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Warren Haynes – Ashes & Dust (feat. Railroad Earth) [Album Review]

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Warren Haynes – Ashes & Dust (feat. Railroad Earth) [Album Review]

If you’re at all familiar with the Allman Brother’s Band or Gov’t Mule, then you’ll no doubt be aware of Warren Haynes and his incredibly smooth vocals and guitar playing that is simply out-of-this-world. Calling him an exceptional musician would be an understatement and an insult. There are few as masterful as Haynes and his musical prowess comes across clearly in his third solo album Ashes & Dust.

Full of recordings that are instant classics, Ashes & Dust is a cornucopia of Blues, Folk, Country, and Rock music, I have a sneaking suspicion that you’re going to love this album, I know I do!

Is It Me Or You eases you into the album. It is absolutely beautiful and while I’m not always a fan of the Banjo, it has been recorded and mixed masterfully. The string element is equally as compelling and the rhythm just makes you move to the groove subconsciously. You’ll most certainly be head-bopping and toe-tapping along to this song. 

Coal Tattoo is blues 101 and is arguably the best song on the album. Sensational! 

Blue Maiden’s Tale is more Folk/Country-based when compared to the preceding songs. That isn’t a bad thing, however, as Blue Maiden’s Tale fits in perfectly to the album and the interweaving tempos that may initially sound a little disjointed, really come together in a very enjoyable piece of music. 

Company Man is a fantastic meat and potatoes Country Rock song. It’s perfect for a sing-along and is another great head-bopping and toe-tapping song. 

New Year’s Eve is a little pedestrian and campy for my liking, but Haynes performs it beautifully nonetheless. 

Stranded In Self-Pity is a solid blues track that I like to close my eyes to as I move to the groove. 

Glory Road is a fantastic tune, but the instrumental opening is too long for the style of song in my opinion. Otherwise, it’s spectacular! As I listen to it, I’d love to hear Rod Stewart cover it as I feel it would also suit his style of vocal perfectly. 

Gold Dust Woman (feat. Grace Potter) is a killer Fleetwood Mac song and this cover is exceptional. Could it be better than the original? Well, it’s certainly on par with it. Grace Potter is a perfect addition to the song but I’d argue that Fleetwood Mac nailed the intermingling duet vocals a little better than Haynes and Potter did here.

Beat Down The Dust is nothing to write home about, but a great song nonetheless.

Wanderlust is simply gorgeous and that guitar tracking is exquisite. 

Spots Of Time has an incredible drum track with a soundstage that is thoroughly immersive. 

Hallelujah Boulevard is beautiful, but as with Glory Road, I feel as though the introduction is too long, ultimately taking the focus away from the song itself. A shame considering just how stunning it is. 

Word On The Wind is a sensational closing track with a guitar solo, and overall rhythm, that I simply adore. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to listen to Word On The Wind again. Forget playing it on repeat, however, for it is worth going back to Is It Me Or You in order to listen to this entire masterpiece again.

Sonically, the entire recording, mix, and mastering is nothing short of perfection and will really push your audio playback system to its limits. Sensational! 

Overall, Ashes & Dust is absolutely flawless and is one of the best blues-based albums I’ve ever heard. When I listen to an album this good, I am reminded of why I adore music as much as I do and that the gift of music from a master musician, such as Haynes, to the listener, is priceless. 

Although, if you’d like to put a price on it and own a copy for yourself, Ashes & Dust is available on Vinyl, CD, or the iTunes Store

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A-F-R-O & Marco Polo – A-F-R-O Polo (Album Review)

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A-F-R-O & Marco Polo – A-F-R-O Polo (Album Review)

The world of Hip Hop is in a constant state of flux and there is little doubt that it is one genre of music that is constantly evolving, building upon itself, as up and coming artist push beyond the status quo. 

A-F-R-O is one such revolutionary artist, having paired with fellow Hip Hop producer, Marko Polo for this debut release A-F-R-O Polo. If you’ve ever enjoyed Hip Hop/Rap music, you’re going to love this release. 

I do however wish to advise that the Explicit tag is here for a reason, especially when it comes to the song Sunshine And Flowers. For those of you that would prefer a ‘clean’ edition of the album, there, unfortunately, isn’t one available. However, and in a stroke of genius, there’s an Instrumentals album that gets you 95% of the way there without the editing blips or spaces that generally ruin the songs. When my kids are around, I can listen to the Instrumentals release and thoroughly enjoy and then when listening privately, I can appreciate the lyrical component even though I generally don’t look for literal lyrical interpretation, instead preferring to consider vocals to be akin to another instrument.  

It is important to note that while I have referenced the Instrumentals release, if you’re interested in picking up A-F-R-O Polo physically, the Instrumentals release is digital only, being available on iTunes and Apple Music

While available on both Vinyl and CD, it is a little disappointing that the vinyl cover art is different from the cat-head cover of the CD/Digital releases. It’s a shame as it would have looked incredible on the larger canvas and I can only hope that one day a future pressing of the vinyl release will be done with the core album cover.

Some of you may be wondering if A-F-R-O Polo can really be classed as an album, rather than an EP. Well, it is right on the edge with a runtime of 25 minutes, but it does have eight tracks so I consider it to be an album. To be completely honest, I love shorter albums. Long gone are the double albums from the 90s; thank god! Seriously, how many were truly great? 

From a sonic perspective, A-F-R-O Polo is magnificent with a soundstage that grows as you increase the volume and doesn’t distort. The separation between elements is also superb and the complete opposite to the disposable pop music in the modern era where there is little to no separation and depth in the soundstage, instead aiming for a wall of sound. A-F-R-O Polo is incredibly dynamic and while I love the music, I’d listen to this album just merely for the mix which I consider is beyond reproach on all but one song. 

Long Time Coming (feat. Shylow) is brilliant! What an incredible opening for a Hip Hop/Rap album. The lyrical delivery shoots fast and hard, while simultaneously ensuring the sampling and mix is the definition of pure perfection. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I can’t stop moving to this song. I love it!

Nightmare On Fro Street flows on beautifully and while rhythmically different, doesn’t sound out-of-place with the overall musical style of A-F-R-O Polo. I would, however, and this is a very personal perspective, prefer a more rhythmic approach to the vocal delivery as the spoken word, while a trademark of this style of music, feels a little too separated from the sampling and overall musical mix. That said, I’m sure there are many of you who would love it and consider it to be perfect. I certainly don’t dislike it, I’d just like a slightly different vocal presentation. 

Swarm (feat. Pharoahe Monch) has a great beat and overall rhythm. Sometimes that is all you need! 

Sunshine And Flowers is one of the best songs on the album, if not the best. That rhythm, beat, and lyrical delivery is off-the-charts good; a perfect mix! Yes, the lyrics are controversial and will absolutely offend some people but, while I can’t confirm this, I don’t believe the lyrics are meant to be taken seriously. Sunshine And Flowers very much reminds me of the exaggerated style of the comedic glam metal band, Steel Panther. Nevertheless, if the lyrics bother you, remember there is always the Instrumentals edition to enjoy.  

Fro Armstrong continues perfectly from Sunshine And Flowers and has some great sampling and an incredible mix. A great tune!

Use These Blues (feat. Eamon) slows things down a little but is utterly brilliant. Although, is it just me or has the faux record surface noise been overdone at this stage? Either way, it’s a beautiful song with a soundstage that is full but not compressed thereby allowing every element the space it needs to breathe. 

Lair Of The Black Worm is in similar styling to Nightmare On Fro Street, but I find the vocal presentation on Lair Of The Black Worm is much better suited and positioned to the overall musicality. It may not be the strongest song on this release, but I thoroughly enjoy it when listening to the album.

Joe Jackson has a perfect mid-tempo rhythm that will hypnotise you and Joe Jackson is one song that I wish would never end for I’d love the musicality to be repeated indefinitely. What I find is when I decide not to listen to the album again, that Joe Jackson continues on as a welcome earworm that thereby encourages me to return to A-F-R-O Polo and listen once again to what can only be considered a brilliant addition to my continuously growing library of Hip Hop/Rap music. 

Overall, A-F-R-O Polo was one of the greatest Hip Hop/Rap releases of 2016, and in recent history is only bested by Kanye West’s incredible ye. Yes, it is that good, and I can’t wait for more new albums to emerge. 

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Hayley Westenra – River Of Dreams: The Very Best Of (Compilation Review)

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Hayley Westenra – River Of Dreams: The Very Best Of (Compilation Review)

Australian music lovers are often criticised for adopting New Zealand artists as their own. Well, in our defence, there is only the very slightest of water-filled ditches between our great nations so you can see how the distinction can be blurred. After all, the great city of Auckland is closer to my home on the east coast of Australia than the city of Perth is on Australia’s western coast. Despite this physical closeness, we don’t know everything that is happening across the pond and as such, I had no idea that Hayley Westenra was a New Zealander when I first heard the Westenra/Bocelli duet of Dell’Amore Non Si Sa. 

As per usual, I digress, only to raise Westenra’s heritage, however, as I was recently researching a song called Pokarekare; a beautiful unofficial national anthem for New Zealand and the correlation hit me. Naturally, I decided to delve deeper into Westenra’s back catalogue and upon listening to this compilation, I was so impressed that I had to immediately pen this review. It isn’t often that I feel so compelled, therefore, dear reader, I ask that you join me as I explore what can arguably be considered one of the greatest career perspective releases I have ever come across. 

Pokarekare Ana is simply stunning. The song itself is remarkable and Westenra performs it beautifully. An absolutely sensational choice to open this compilation with. It is so revered in New Zealand that many consider it, just as Australians consider Icehouse’s Great Southern Land, to be an unofficial national anthem. Pokarekare Ana is, at its core, an adorable song that has stood the test of time.

River Of Dreams (Adapted From “The Four Seasons: Winter, RV 297”) is a beautiful song and while I’ve never heard a poor rendition of this classic, there is no doubt that Westenra’s interpretation is one of the very best I’ve heard. Her vocal is so delicate as it soars above the musicality. Absolutely incredible! 

Dell’Amore Non Si Sa (feat. Andrea Bocelli) is incredible and I love Bocelli’s vocal inclusion but I can’t help but wonder if the mix could have been better. While I don’t know the history of this specific recording, it almost sounds in places as though the vocals were recorded in different recording studios and mixed at a later date; not an uncommon occurrence, of course, but one that can be disconcerting at times if not done well. Regardless, it’s still a lovely song and one that most certainly deserves its place on this career perspective release.

Shenandoah is a beautiful song that really showcases Westenra’s sensational soprano vocal. 

The Water Is Wide is incredibly relaxing and really demands one sit and listen for this is most certainly not background music. Music, really, doesn’t get much better than this. Stunning!

Songbird is one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded. Christine McVie certainly wrote a timeless classic and while I absolutely adore the Fleetwood Mac original, Westenra has performed it masterfully ensuring respect is paid to the original while simultaneously making it her own. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I think I enjoy Westenra’s interpretation more than I do the original. 

Both Sides Now is a great Joni Mitchell song. Mitchell’s version is timeless, but again Westenra takes a classic to another level and makes it her own. Given so many of the world’s greatest musicians have recorded this classic it is difficult to stand out from the pack, but Westenra’s interpretation would most certainly be in my top 10 recordings of this song. 

Ave Maria blows me away every time I hear it, regardless of who’s singing it, but this is one very special interpretation that reaches into your soul and takes you on a musical journey. It is one of the finest interpretations of this timeless classic. 

Benedictus is an incredibly beautiful song, leaving me somewhat speechless each time I listen to it. 

Amazing Grace is one of those songs that I have heard too many times and it no longer sounds amazing to me. That said, Westenra’s vocal presentation is spot on with this interpretation.

Danny Boy, in a similar way to Amazing Grace, has been overplayed and I’m sure the Irish will be bitterly disappointed when I say that I’ve never found the song appealing. That said, Westenra’s interpretation is one of the best I have ever heard. 

Summer Rain shifts the tempo and while the jolt to the system can be distracting at first, Summer Rain is a solid original pop-inspired crossover written by Westenra and Jeffrey B Franzel. I do, however, feel Westenra’s vocal gets lost in the musicality. Nevertheless, it’s a great song that is truly worthy of inclusion on this compilation; although a remix, with a small decibel reduction in the instrumental elements, would be appreciated. 

Never Say Goodbye (Adapted From “Pavane, M. 19”) is magnificent!

Grannies Schicchi: O mio babbling caro is a timeless soprano classic and Westenra’s is a solid addition to the lineup of interpretations. However, I feel that Westenra doesn’t quite hit the high notes as well as I’ve heard from other artists. That isn’t to say that this rendition is bad, just that I feel it could have been better. 

May It Be/Fellowship Of The Ring is an Enya masterpiece and it really takes courage to cover Enya for her musical prowess is incomparable. Well, Westenra not only covered it, but she covered it incredibly well. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I still prefer the Enya original, but as I listen to Westenra’s interpretation, I don’t find myself wishing that I was listening to Enya. That, in itself, speaks volumes. 

Ave Maria is beautiful. A favourite of mine and while this is the second interpretation of Ave Maria, on this compilation, Westenra doesn’t disappoint as she hits all the high notes, those that I feel she missed on Grannies Schicchi: O mio babbling caro, perfectly.

Now Is The Hour (Po Atarau/Haere Ra) is a song I’m not overly familiar with and while I would have preferred Ave Maria to be the closing track on this compilation, Now Is The Hour is lovely and encourages me to not only listen to The Very Best Of Hayley Westenra again, but also explore her remarkably diverse and enjoyable catalogue of music. 

Overall, Westenra’s River Of Dreams - The Very Best Of is just that; the very best of Hayley Westenra. The recordings, the mixes, the mastering, all leave me in pure amazement as to how a sound so pure can be reproduced with such perfection. Sonically, it is amongst some of the best recordings I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to and it isn’t far-fetched for me to say that I could listen to this masterpiece on repeat indefinitely.

Of course, you too can enjoy this masterful release, if not via the exquisite Apple Music stream, then via the iTunes Store. Alternatively, River Of Dreams: The Very Best Of Hayley Westenra is available on CD.

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