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Wilco – A.M. (Album Review)

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Wilco – A.M. (Album Review)

Each time I play A.M. I need to remind myself that this was Wilco’s debut release from 1995 and that it isn’t of the same, highly polished, style that is A Ghost Is Born and Schmilco; two of my favourite Wilco albums. That isn’t to say that A.M. is flawed, as it has some killer tunes and plenty of hidden gems that have stood the test of time, but it is an acknowledgement of their sonic shift on subsequent albums. 

I Must Be High isn’t a bad way to open this alternative country-rock album. A solid song, with a solid rhythm. What more could one ask for? 

Casino Queen has a killer blues-rock meets country rock feel that I swear would be a perfect song for The Rolling Stones to cover. Casino Queen is, without a doubt, one of my favourite songs on A.M. and is one of the best songs Wilco has ever recorded; I also consider it to be one of the very best rock tunes of the 20th Century. 

Box Full Of Letters isn’t the greatest. The musicality is too alternative and too campy. Plus, the rhythm is all over the place, thereby making it difficult to sync in with a particular groove. I also find Jeff Tweedy’s vocal on this song to be lacklustre. The guitar solo is its only saviour.

Shouldn’t Be Ashamed has everything Box Full Of Letters didn’t. It’s a brilliant song that is thoroughly enjoyable and compels me to move my body subconsciously to the rhythm. Perhaps the only flaw in Shouldn’t Be Ashamed is there is a little too much distortion in the guitar tracking. 

Pick Up The Change isn’t a bad toe-tapping song, but it isn’t anything to write home about either. A solid B-Side with some nice blues-based guitar work.

I Thought I Held You is a great tune that incorporates an interesting mix of the banjo with the steel guitar. It works incredibly well and gives the song a level of depth that ensures you become enveloped by the soundstage, especially during the final minute of the song. 

That’s Not The Issue is another chaotic rhythmic mess. It is akin to noise, rather than music. A shame as it breaks up the flow of the album considerably. 

It’s Just That Simple is a thoroughly enjoyable alternative country-rock tune and the creaminess of the instrumental interlude mid-song is absolutely marvellous. 

Should’ve Been In Love is an enjoyable B-side. Nothing more, nothing less. 

Passenger Side is fantastic, with a perfect mix between all sonic elements. I love it!

Dash 7 isn’t a bad B-side, but it is a little left of the centre. That may appeal to you, dear reader, or it may result in a confusing musical piece of art that will make you question if the song is good, bad, or merely adequate. 

Blue Eyed Soul is a song I adore. The tempo and progression of the song are perfect. I must admit, I do like Wilco’s slower rhythms as they suit the band perfectly.

Too Far Apart is an excellent track to close the album on with a rhythm and blues-based influence that will appeal to anyone interested in this style of music. There is no doubt in my mind that Too Far Apart is the perfect song to encourage me to play the album again and stay within Wilco’s catalogue of music. While an expanded Deluxe Edition has also been released, I’ve never felt the urge to listen to it as I feel the original 13-track, 45 minute, release is perfect for enjoying A.M. and I must be honest when I say that if a song didn’t make it to the original album, then it likely wasn’t good enough in the first place. Of course, your opinion may differ and if so, please let us know in the comments what song from the Deluxe Edition makes it a compelling alternative. 

Overall, A.M. is an excellent debut with some obvious flaws. The flaws, however, don’t detract from the album thereby ensuring that fans will appreciate this release along with newcomers who are after a somewhat raw country-rock sound with an alternative twist. 

A.M. is available on Vinyl, CD, and the iTunes Store

The Deluxe Edition of A.M. is available on Vinyl, CD, iTunes, and Apple Music

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Slash - Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Slash - Self-Titled (Album Review)

Slash really needs no introduction. Widely recognised as one of the greatest guitarists in rock and roll, Slash has played with a who’s who of the music industry and in 2009, it was only fitting that peers and idols collaborated with Slash on his first solo, non-band, outing entitled Slash. While the album is, of course, self-titled, I like to refer to it by its visual cover art moniker: R&FN’R.

The idea of Slash & Friends admittedly sounded campy from the outset as that style of album has been released ad nauseam, across various genres, and has a reputation that isn’t far removed from the cliche and utterly pointless Christmas album. However, Slash didn’t disappoint on this release, writing and co-writing the entire album of completely original recordings. Perhaps this is where other artists have come unstuck as they have a tendency to simply re-record their classics, with their friends, resulting in a less than stellar release.

Released in March, 2010, Slash would once again catapult the guitarist to international fame resulting in a World Tour with the incredibly talented Myles Kennedy on vocals – a match made in heaven and one that continues to exist to this very day when Kennedy isn’t busy with Alter Bridge and Slash isn’t touring with Guns N’ Roses. For this Self-Titled release, however, Kennedy would only perform two songs, Back From Cali and Starlight; both are exceptional and an indication of what was to come.

Ghost (feat. Ian Astbury) gets the album off to a rocking rhythmic start and is superb from start to finish. Astbury has an incredible vocal that is perfect for the tonality of Ghost. Such an incredible start to the album.

Crucify The Dead (feat. Ozzy Osbourne) flows seamlessly from Ghost and showcases Osbourne’s vocal prowess perfectly. I don’t know about you dear reader, but I like the slower, more methodical, Ozzy songs. Sure his fast and heavy stuff is good too, but the tempo of Crucify The Dead is absolutely perfect.

Beautiful Dangerous (feat. Fergie) is one of the greatest songs on the album and one of the most unexpected. Seriously, most of us know Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas and while her contribution to the Black Eyed Peas was extraordinary, she takes her skills as a vocalist to another level on this song. She really should be fronting a rock and roll band, if not undertaking her own solo hard rock album and associated tour. I’d buy tickets for that! The groove and guitar licks used here are sensational and I could literally listen to Beautiful Dangerous on repeat indefinitely. It is so good!

The music video is also quite entertaining with a well thought out story and connection with the song’s lyrical meaning. It is, however, let down when you see Slash taking a shot and then drinking a Monster Energy Drink. Talk about product placement! Truth-be-told, Monster probably paid for the music video, especially considering a Monster Energy Drink Edition, of this Self-Titled release, was released with the bonus track, Chains And Shackles (feat. Nick Oliveri).

Back From Cali (feat. Myles Kennedy) is the first of two masterful Myles Kennedy additions to this incredible Self-Titled album. Music doesn’t get much better than this!

The music video for Back To Cali is your classic interwoven scenes from a variety of live performances and random backstage and location shots. It works. It’s R&FN’R, but once you’ve seen it a couple of times, you’ll likely forget about it and simply enjoy the song.

Promise (feat. Chris Cornell) is sensational. I’ve adored Cornell’s vocals ever since I first heard Soundgarden’s Superunknown and Promise only intensifies my admiration.

By The Sword (feat. Andrew Stockdale) is a great tune. That semi-acoustic element is off-the-charts good! Plus, Stockdale’s vocal is so unique that I can’t help but be drawn in. It happened when I first heard Wolfmother’s Self-Titled debut and it continues here on this masterful performance.

Gotten (feat. Adam Levine) is a lovely tune and perfectly suited to the album. To be completely honest, I don’t know much about Levine, or his band Maroon 5, as they have remained off my radar over the years. Trust me, it isn’t intentional, there are just so many hours in the day and only so many albums I can listen to. Subsequently, some artists will naturally fall through the cracks. Given how good Levine is on this song, perhaps I should check out his other creative works. Nevertheless, Gotten is thoroughly enjoyable and if this is the only song of his I ever listen to, I can be satisfied.

Doctor Alibi (feat. Lemmy Kilmister) is hard and fast with an addictive rhythm that is perfect for Kilmister’s vocal prowess.

Watch This (feat. Dave Grohl and Duff McKagan) is the only instrumental track on the album and while Grohl and McKagan are legends that I admire, I feel this song is a little lacklustre and nothing more than filler. Given Grohl’s history as frontman for the Foo Fighters, one would have thought that a killer rock and roll tune with him on vocals and Duff on backing vocals would have been the perfect combination. Nevertheless, it wasn’t to be and while Watch This isn’t fundamentally bad, it feels like a missed opportunity to me.

I Hold On (feat. Kid Rock) is a solid song and as much as I enjoy anything that Kid Rock releases, I really feel that I Hold On could have been written and recorded with a harder rock element. Yes, it is in line with much of Rock’s catalogue, but for this particular collaboration, I would have been interested to see something heavier come out of the recording session. That isn’t to say that I dislike the song, or the performance, just that if I were sitting in the producer’s chair, I’d likely suggest trying a different style.

Nothing To Say (feat. M. Shadows) is perfectly suited to Shadows’ vocal style and is a much better collaboration than his inclusion on Device’s song Haze. It is reminiscent, to my ears, of Avenged Sevenfold’s Self-Titled 2007 release. Subsequently, I love this addition to the album.

Starlight (feat. Myles Kennedy) is incredible. It is one of the best songs on the album and you’d be hard pressed to find a song that Kennedy does any better than Starlight. You really need to turn the volume up on this one, you’ll thank me later. Superb!

Saint Is A Sinner Too (feat. Rocco DeLuca) is a lovely track with an acoustic approach that is not only perfectly suited to the album but fits masterfully into the tracking of the record.

We’re All Gonna Die (feat. Iggy Pop) is a song that only Iggy Pop could have sung. It’s the perfect way to close out the CD and Vinyl release of Slash’s eponymous album and one can’t help but agree with the sentiment expressed in We’re All Gonna Die; it’s priceless!

Bonus iTunes/Apple Music Track:

Paradise City (feat. Cypress Hill & Fergie) is a great mashup tune and it’s great to see it included on the streaming version of the album. It certainly pays homage to the original and while I adore the original edition on Appetite For Destruction, this is an incredible cover that will likely appeal to fans of this classic song.

Songs Not Included On Mainstream Releases:

As is often the case, different regions get an exclusive bonus song or edition of the album. The Japanese market got Sahara (feat. Koshi Inaba), a very different rock tune that upon reflection doesn’t match the rest of the music released on this eponymous release. It merely sounds disjointed as if the vocal element has been taken from another song and overlaid on an instrumental track. It isn’t inherently bad, but I am glad it didn’t make the final cut for the international release.

The now out-of-print Australian Deluxe edition includes an acoustic version of Back From Cali. As much as I love the integration of acoustic elements in the original studio recording, the acoustic version feels a tad lifeless by comparison and subsequently I’m glad a little more production was added to it. It is interesting to ponder, however, what my opinion would have been if the acoustic version was the only one ever released. Would I have loved it, loathed it, or been ambivalent towards it? We may never know, but the right version was selected for the international CD release.

Also on the Australian Deluxe edition is an acoustic version of Sweet Child Of Mine with Myles Kennedy on vocals and Izzy Stradlin on guitar, side-by-side with Slash once again. It is a beautiful rendition and I truly wish that I didn’t have to listen to it on YouTube, for it is unavailable physically, via digital downloads, or streaming services in Australia. Such a shame considering how good it is.

While we’re on the topic of Australian editions, those that pre-ordered the album on iTunes received the bonus track Chains And Shackles (feat. Nick Oliveri). It’s a killer rock and roll song and it’s ridiculous to think that it isn’t currently available for fans who didn’t pre-order.

Mother Maria (feat. Beth Hart), is an iTunes exclusive song that is not available to the Australian market. It’s your blues meets country meets rock song that is appealing if you enjoy Fleetwood Mac. I do, hence I like it, but it’s style is quite different from the entire album and wouldn’t have suited the international release.

I bet by now you’re thinking that I’ve covered all the bases. Well, there are several more editions that I won’t bore you with, other than to say the song, Baby Can’t Drive (feat. Alice Cooper, Nicole Scherzinger, Steven Adler, and Flea) is fantastic and should have never been excluded from the international standard release of the album.

Overall, Slash is the epitome of R&FN’R. While the CD generally sounds good, at lower volumes, due to a low dynamic range, it doesn’t scale well and subsequently can be disappointing. While I don’t have the vinyl release, a regret that has haunted me for years, I’d suggest looking for a copy as the dynamic range is certainly greater on the format and would likely result in a broader soundstage with greater separation throughout. Streamers, while getting the same mastering as the CD, will be happy to know that this eponymousrelease sounds excellent via Apple Music and Apple’s AirPods. It is quite frankly my preferred way to listen to this album as my main stereo setup is less forgiving when brickwalling is concerned. Either way, Slash is one album that just about every rock and roll fan will enjoy.

Slash (Self-Titled) is available to own on Vinyl, CD and iTunes.

Click here to read other Slash reviews by Subjective Sounds. 

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Slash (feat. Miles Kennedy) – Made In Stoke 24/7/11 (Live Album Review)

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Slash (feat. Miles Kennedy) – Made In Stoke 24/7/11 (Live Album Review)

Following the highly successful Self-Titled Slash album, from 2010, Slash hit the road with Myles Kennedy as lead vocalist. Kennedy certainly has the vocal chops to deliver a wide range of styles and subsequently was the perfect choice as vocalist. Also joining them on this outing was Bobby Schneck on Rhythm Guitar, Todd Kerns on Bass, Backing Vocals, and Lead Vocal on Doctor Alibi, and Brent Fitz on drums. Kerns and Fitz have remained with Slash and Kennedy through their subsequent albums and touring schedule, being dubbed as The Conspirators. It’s certainly a solid lineup and as you listen to the performance, you get a sense of energy and cohesion that is usually reserved for bands that are at the apex of their careers. Yet, here, on an early outing, this is no garage band wannabe stadium headliner that was thrown together merely to capitalise on the success of the eponymous album and Slash’s back catalogue. Of course, this album was recorded in front of a modest audience of 1,500 at Victoria Hall in Stoke-on-Trent in England. Nevertheless, you don’t get a substandard performance and while it may sound different to that of a stadium-sized concert, the intimate location results in audible audience interaction that goes beyond the standard concert screaming and cheering as you can easily hear the audience singing along to many of the songs and chorus lines. It adds to the performance and the intimate feeling of being there vicariously.

While I obviously wasn’t in attendance, I am fortunate enough to have the 3LP Green Vinyl edition that looks as amazing as it sounds. The records aren’t your standard 180-gram releases; probably 140-gram, but this is never a negative aspect for 180-gram is more about marketing than quality. You can have a paper thin record and it can smoke a thick behemoth any day of the week if the mastering and pressing process was handled with respect. 

The tri-fold gatefold is stunning and when you hold this record sleeve in your hand, you know exactly why you’re a vinyl collector for no digital counterpart can ever be this immersive. iTunes LP tried, but the listeners didn’t care, nor did the record labels or the artists; the end result is a feature that is no longer being supported. It’s a missed opportunity, but if I were working for Apple or one of the record labels, I’m sure I’d sink countless millions into things like iTunes LP, whether it made financial sense or not. It’s a shame though, that the dollar value must dictate what music lovers receive. Nevertheless, Slash’s Made In Stoke 24/7/11 is one vinyl release you should own if you’re a fan of the artist/band. The records themselves are quiet, flat, and well pressed and mastered. No, this is not going to sound as good as a highly produced studio album, but it certainly gives the feeling of a live performance better than many other live albums I own. For that aspect alone, I applaud this release and while I don’t find myself gravitating to it on a regular basis, when I do, I thoroughly enjoy the experience and ponder if I should pick up the concert Blu-ray release to go along with it. 

Interestingly, in my younger years, I used to love watching recorded live performances. As I’ve aged, however, I find myself less compelled to sit and watch, preferring to relax and listen. It’s a strange dichotomy that I can’t explain and perhaps I’ll have to give some live performances a chance again to see if I can reinvigorate the interest in watching the performances. Perhaps I’ll start with The Rolling Stones’ From The Vault: No Security San Jose 1999 as the Stones have made the concert available on Apple Music. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I wish Slash and all other artists and record labels would offer this kind of value-added proposition. Of course, I’m not sure if I’d watch them all, but I know many people who would find significant value from such an inclusion. While I’d love to be able to at least rent Made In Stoke 24/7/11 from iTunes, unfortunately, the only Slash concert available to the Australian market, on iTunes, is the 2014 performance Live At The Roxy. Hey, you never know, I may just review that someday as well. Until then, let’s get back to the review of Made In Stoke.

LP 1 – Side A

Been There Lately was a really strange song to commence the performance with. It was never the strongest song from Slash’s Snakepit and it’s therefore unexpected. That isn’t to say that this live rendition isn’t good as it’s arguably better than the original, but there are many stronger songs from that era that I would have selected. Speed Parade would have been perfect as the opening song, in my opinion. Perhaps, even, Dime Store Rock would have been a better choice.  

Nightrain is an absolute classic and a personal favourite. This live rendition doesn’t shift far from the original, and that’s a good thing, but it has its own personality and is thoroughly enjoyable. I have to say, Kennedy does a wonderful job, on vocals, with all the classic Guns N’ Roses songs. 

Ghost has a killer rhythm and is textbook Slash. Kennedy does a good job with the song that was originally recorded with Ian Astbury. While I can understand the unwillingness to open the live performance with Ghost, given it was the opening track for Slash’s eponymous album, it would have been ideal and would have flowed perfectly into Nightrain. Although, Ghost also flows smoothly into the Snakepit original Mean Bone.

Mean Bone isn’t a bad rock and roll track. It has a classic vibe to it but fails to stand out and subsequently doesn’t offer much to write home about. Nevertheless, it works well for the live performance and is a value-added proposition for those of you that may have not been exposed to the Snakepit era. 

Back From Cali is Kennedy’s song and it’s astonishingly good. While not intended to be, Back From Cali is the perfect song to close out side one, ensuring that the live performance is full of energy and the listener feels compelled to keep listening to a live performance that simply gets better as the show goes on.

LP 1 – Side B

Rocket Queen is a favourite of mine, but that could be said about all songs from the Appetite For Destruction era. They haven’t aged and remain as relevant today as they were when recorded. A sign of good music? Yes, I believe so! 

Civil War is an incredible song and the band performs it stunningly with Kennedy doing a solid job of interpreting the song for his vocal style, but as much as I enjoy Civil War, I would have much preferred to hear the band perform November Rain. Of course, Slash didn’t co-write November Rain, as it was a Rose-only composition, and subsequently, it makes sense that it hasn’t made an appearance. Although, that closing guitar riff is spectacular.

Nothing To Say is brilliant and Kennedy really nails this interpretation, resulting in a song that leaves me divided because I equally enjoy this rendition and the original version featuring M. Shadows on vocals. It’s a great fast-riffed rock and roll tune. Yes, some may suggest that Slash’s style is better suited to his core blues-based rock and roll riffs. While I wouldn’t completely disagree with that point of view, the man is a legend and can certainly shred without issue. 

LP 2 – Side A

Starlight is beyond belief good! It honestly leaves me speechless as it’s nothing short of a masterpiece. Just sit back, turn the volume up, sing along, and enjoy. I know I do!

Promise is an incredible song and while Chris Cornell was the perfect choice for the original studio recording, Kennedy performs it perfectly, showing yet again just how talented he is as a vocalist. Yes, it could be argued that he is merely singing a variety of blues-based rock and roll songs and therefore the shift isn’t that dramatic, but one must remember that the original songs were written with and for other vocalists and vocal styles. The result is Kennedy pays tribute to the original vocalists, makes the song his own, resulting in pure perfection. I dare say there are very few vocalists who could adapt to so many varied styles in a live performance and absolutely nail them all.

Doctor Alibi was a killer Lemmy Kilmister song and Kerns has covered it perfectly. Seriously, if Motörhead ever wanted to tour again, following the unfortunate passing of Kilmister, they should pick up the phone and call Kerns. No, he’s not a Kilmister imitator, but his vocal prowess is most certainly appropriate for the Motörhead sound. Either way, Doctor Alibi is a killer rock and roll tune. 

Speed Parade is your classic meat and potatoes rock and roll song. Full of attitude with a riff and rhythm that is addictive and appealing to the rock and roller within.

Watch This was lacklustre on the eponymous Slash album and I was a little worried about it being included in the live performance. However, the worry was largely unnecessary as the live performance adds a little grit to the instrumental that wasn’t present on the studio recording. That said, it still isn’t exceptional and is quite frankly nothing to write home about, but this rendition is, at the very least, a better interpretation of the original composition. 

LP 2 – Side B

Beggars & Hangers On is one of the greatest songs Slash has ever written and recorded. I’ve always loved it. Eric Dover did a fantastic job with the original and as much as I enjoy Kennedy’s vocal prowess, I really feel that Dover’s is superior as the song just isn’t quite as strong with Kennedy at the helm. That isn’t to say he did a bad interpretation, it’s awesome, it just isn’t up to the same standard of the original and I wonder what Kerns would have sounded like performing this song as he nailed the gruffer vocal delivery on Doctor Alibi. 

Patience is a truly lovely song and this is a beautiful rendition of the Guns N’ Roses classic. 

Godfather Solo flows perfectly from Patience and has arguably become a Slash trademark. Having performed it for years, I dare say there isn’t another guitarist, in the world, that can express the song as elegantly as Slash does; on an electric guitar that is. Absolutely sensational! That said, I would suggest that Slash has become a little self-indulgent regarding the length of this solo. Certainly, he has earned the egotistical right to play that guitar for as long as he likes, I’m just wondering how captivated the fans remain throughout. 

LP 3 – Side A

Sweet Child Of Mine is another seamless transition, especially if you listen to the album via CD or Apple Music. Unfortunately, if you’ve got the vinyl release, you’re not going to notice this continuity. Nevertheless, Sweet Child Of Mine is exceptional and Kennedy can belt this classic out just as well as Rose has over the years. This is the type of song where Kennedy’s unique vocal style really shines. 

Slither is a favourite from the Velvet Revolver era and while I’ll always associate this song with Scott Weiland, Kennedy pays homage to the original and makes it his own. Yes, I should stop comparing the efforts of Kennedy to the vocalists that came before him, as I’m not doing that for the other musicians, but the vocal element, as an instrument, is so pertinent in music that it is difficult to separate the memory in one’s mind to the performance one is currently listening to. Perhaps that is why I dislike cover bands as I feel, despite their best efforts, they are subpar compared to the memory of the classic songs they sing. That said, I am the first to admit that not all covers and cover bands are bad, some can be better than the original, but it is the exception rather than the rule. 

LP 3 – Side B

By The Sword is epic and Kennedy absolutely nails it. 

Mr. Brownstone is one of my all-time favourite Guns N’ Roses songs. The beat is tribal and the rhythm addictive. I love it! 

Paradise City rounds out this live performance and while it would have been nice to see the album end with one of the songs from Slash’s eponymous album, Paradise City is a showstopper and one of the very best songs ever written and recorded. That riff, those lyrics, and that rhythm are sensational. If you need a textbook example of a perfect rock and roll song, I dare say this is it. Without a doubt, Paradise City leaves me compelled to listen to Made In Stoke 24/7/11 again and stay within Slash’s back catalogue.

Overall, Made In Stoke 24/7/11 is a sensational live performance that any fan of Slash and his musical cohorts should check out, if not own, as it is most certainly worth your time. Including music from Guns N’ Roses, Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver, and Slash’s iconic eponymous release, longtime fans, such as myself, will undoubtedly find something to love about Made In Stoke 24/7/11

Made In Stoke 24/7/11 is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes

Click here to read other Slash reviews by Subjective Sounds. 

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Diana Ah Naid – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Diana Ah Naid – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Sonically positioned somewhere between Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette is Australia's own, Diana Ah Naid. Ian McFarlane describes this 1997 independent, self-funded, release as a restless, funky brand of acoustic guitar folk with urgently charged vocals backed by an emotional, primal energy – Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop. I don't know about you, dear reader, but McFarlane is spot on and no amount of pondering on my behalf could come up with a more precise review of this thoroughly satisfying Self-Titled release. That said, join me as I take a look at the individual songs and how I subjectively feel about them and the entire album.

I Go Off is a musical wonderland with nothing more than a vocal and guitar track filling the soundstage. While both are beautifully presented and recorded, Ah Nard's vocal prowess is simply astonishing. How she isn't a household name, is an absolute mystery.

If You Insist has a beautiful introduction. That guitar tuning is stunning and provides the perfect backing to the song. In some ways, it is a little too similar to I Go Off, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing as it develops a sound that allows the listener to identify and connect with the artist.

Fill Me Up has a good rhythm and a very alternative vocal presentation that is perfect for the style of music. The added brass instrumentation really builds a sonically pleasurable soundstage that ensures Fill Me Up is memorable and ready to be played on repeat. If you enjoy World Music, you'll love Fill Me Up.

See Through is an interesting composition that is a little scattered in places, but the hook is catchy. A solid addition to the album, but nothing to write home about.

Make It Begin is sonic gold. That musical introduction is magical as the piano is beautifully recorded. You really need to listen for yourself to appreciate just how amazing it is. Make It Begin may be mellow, but it’s one of the best songs on the album, if not the best. Absolutely stunning!

Wrapped Around My Head is a lovely tune but fails to fully captivate my senses. I find my mind wandering when listening to the song.

Ruok? is short, but spectacular!

Get Yourself Lost is a little too erratic and subsequently, I find it difficult to connect with a specific rhythm.

Leaving The Country is a gorgeous tune. Ah Naid's vocal presentation is mind-blowingly good. It is as if an angel is singing to you, and only you.

Flowers is a B-side that I simply can't get into.

K9 is musically impressive, but I have to be honest and say I would much prefer for it to have been an instrumental interlude as the vocal distracts the listener from the musicality.

Freaky Animals is an interesting tune that I enjoy, but I also have reservations with the child vocal inclusion towards the end as I'm not sure it suits the song. There is also an error on the Apple Music stream whereby this song continues in silence for a further minute and a half. It's a shame as the error makes you think the album has concluded, but there is one more song to be played as the original CD release had a hidden 13th untitled track. That track is now listed in Apple Music as Schlork Your S*****g. Subsequently, it looks as though the album has been uploaded directly from the CD and it infuriates me when this happens. I've never liked bonus hidden tracks, and this is further proof that they should be abolished. Albums that include this common CD-feature should, at the very least, be re-tracked when uploaded to streaming music services. 

Despite my above complaint, Schlork Your S*****g is an interesting track to conclude the album with. The chorus does drive me mad, but I appreciate the artistic intent and the verses are strong enough to hold the song together ensuring I’ll play the album again and continue to explore Ah Naid's catalogue. Speaking of that, it is important to note that all post-2004 releases by Diana Ah Naid are released as Diane Anaid

Overall, Diana Ah Naid's Self-Titled debut is thoroughly enjoyable and while I have some reservations, as detailed above, all songs work extremely well in the album format.

Diana Ah Naid's Self-Titled debut is available for purchase on iTunes, or if you prefer streaming, the album is available on Apple Music.

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David Bowie – 1. Outside (Album Review)

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David Bowie – 1. Outside (Album Review)

David Bowie has always been an enigma to me. A brilliant, but arguably eccentric, sonic experimentalist. Some of his work I hate, some of it not so much, then there are releases like 1. Outside that make me think about his brilliance, ignoring all my ignorant misconceptions. Much like Shakespeare is dissected still to this day, Bowie's music will not only live on but will surely be studied, for context, by future generations.

The self-portrait cover art of 1. Outside is stunning and deserves to be held on vinyl as one enjoys this lengthy but sonically rewarding album. At present, I have to settle for the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition and its counterpart streamed from Apple Music. While both are largely indistinguishable from each other, the atmospheric brilliance of Bowie, combined with Brian Eno’s talent, really shines on the lossless stream with a greater three-dimensional soundstage.

Leon Take Us Outside is an interesting musical and spoken word introduction that flows seamlessly into Outside, making me wonder why it’s a separate track at all.

Outside is an incredibly detailed track that is masterfully composed. The rhythm will connect with your soul, causing involuntary body movements. No, this isn't a song you'll likely sing-along to, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and is a fantastic way to commence the album.

The Hearts Filthy Lesson is a fantastic song. While there is a radio edit, available on the exceptional career perspective, Nothing Has Changed, I find myself drawn to the full length original as it is a more substantial version of the song.

A Small Plot Of Land has a near jazz-fusion introduction that I thoroughly enjoy. Although, A Small Plot Of Land loses its lustre for me when Bowie joins the mix as I don't feel his vocals on this track are a good mix with the musical style. However, A Small Plot Of Land would be sensational as a purely instrumental track.

(Segue) – Baby Grace [A Horrid Cassette] is musically interesting. I'm still not sold on the spoken word segue’s throughout, but this one grows on you.

Hallo Spaceboy is EPIC! You'll want to turn the volume up on this track. The Pet Shop Boys remix is featured on Nothing Has Changed, but to be completely frank, I hate it! It adds nothing to the original and makes the song sound weak. It’s amazing that the remix made the cut on Bowie's career perspective release as I believe the original release is incomparable and one of Bowie's greatest recordings.

The Motel is musically beautiful, although it takes close to half the duration of the song before coming into its own. Subsequently, I feel the introduction was a little too drawn out and the song could have evolved faster had the composition been reconsidered. Of course, my subjective opinion is rather irrelevant as it is a piece of Bowie’s sonic artwork and subsequently is created with his vision in mind.

I Have Not Been To Oxford Town has a sensational rhythmic undertone and Bowie's vocal delivery is perfectly suited to the musicality.

No Control is a solid, albeit a little disjointed, song with regards to the shifts in lyrical delivery. That said, I do find No Control to be rather compelling.

(Segue) – Algeria Touchshriek doesn't sonically work well with the album, but as a segue, one can forgive this aspect as the concept album must, by definition, tell a story that, at times, requires segueing.

The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) is, from my perspective, a garbled mess.

(Segue) – Ramona A. Stone / I Am With Name doesn't add much to the album. It is more of a distraction than a beneficial addition. Of course, I’m less interested in the underlying story arc than I am the musicality of the album.

Wishful Beginnings, while an interesting composition, fails to excite.

We Prick You sounds more like an 80s tune than one composed in the 90s. It isn't bad, but it's a B-side.

(Segue) – Nathan Adler, Pt. 1 is, as many of these segues are, a distractive element to an otherwise free-flowing album.

I'm Deranged is meh!

Thru' These Architects Eyes is a B-side at best and one can't help but wonder, by this stage, when this album will end as there is considerable self-indulgent filler throughout.

(Segue) – Nathan Adler, Pt. 2 makes me question if any of these segues were really necessary. I'm honestly not sure they were.

Strangers When We Meet, as heard on 1. Outside is a re-recording of the song which was first released on Bowie's The Buddha Of Suburbia. I much prefer this re-recording as it is more aligned with Bowie’s vocal delivery and overall style. It’s also the perfect song to conclude 1. Outside on and encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Bowie's catalogue.

Despite a few songs failing to impress, 1. Outside is a solid album from start to finish. Although, I don't feel I’m missing out by only having it in my streaming library and while I maintain an interest in holding the album artwork, the album itself, much like John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy, is a little too disjointed for me to appreciate on vinyl. Nevertheless, there are some exceptional Bowie songs to be heard here. Thankfully, a few of them are on my regularly spun Nothing Has Changed career perspective release.

1. Outside is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 1. Outside is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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The Script – #3 (Album Review)

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The Script – #3 (Album Review)

Released in 2012, #3 is the third album from the Irish band, The Script. Most surprisingly, however, is that this album has been in my TIDAL Hi-Fi collection for years, yet I've never purchased a copy. I say surprisingly because even though The Script's style of music has a tendency to be somewhat campy, I thoroughly enjoy it. Nevertheless, I guess when you have CD-quality streaming, it isn't always necessary to have the physical counterpart.

Before we take a look at the songs, please note this review is based on the standard release of the album and while I’ve heard the Deluxe Edition, and enjoy the additional tracks, I feel they are superfluous to the album and are only truly necessary for dedicated fans and completists.

Good Ol' Days is a killer pop-rock song. It’s a sensational start to the album with a mix that is absolutely perfect. Although, I do feel this song, and the entire album, is mastered a little hot. It isn't necessarily detrimental to the enjoyment of the recording, but as I've said many times before, I know where the volume knob is.

Six Degrees Of Separation was the second single from #3 and has a beautiful introduction and vocal presentation. While it’s certainly single-ready, the composition is somewhat predictable. Despite that, I enjoy the constant reinterpretations of AC/DC’s trademark style, therefore I can tolerate and appreciate the safe approach The Script took with this song.

Hall Of Fame is the star of the album and was the obvious lead single from #3. It is inspirational, easy to sing-a-long to, and will.i.am's inclusion is essential to the song's success as a composition, in my opinion, despite him having minimal production input. Hall Of Fame should be in everyone's Inspirational Playlist.

If You Could See Me Now is a fantastic mix of pop-rock and hip-hop styling. It’s a head bopper and toe topper that is thoroughly enjoyable.

Glowing takes a while to get going. However, after the first minute, Glowing comes into its own and is one of the best songs on the album with an exceptional rhythm. Although, the loudness of the mix squashes the musicality of the song. It's still a great song, of course, but it could have been even better with an expanded dynamic range.

Give The Love Around is a B-side. Not a bad one as it certainly fits the overall style of the album, but it isn't as strong as the previous songs. There is also a little sibilance in the chorus that is rather distracting, especially when listening via headphones.

Broken Arrow has an interesting, and compelling, interweaving vocal. The mix is great, I love it!

Kaleidoscope is a stadium-filling song that reminds me, in styling, of U2.

No Words is a beautiful song that I could listen to for hours. However, there is some distortion in the harmonic elements that I find distracting. As usual, this is amplified when listening via headphones, but it is something to be aware of, especially given how much of our modern music listening is being done with headphones. I can, however, confirm that the distortion is still present on speakers, but it is less distracting.

Millionaires is a great song, with plenty of energy, to conclude the album with, ensuring I'll listen to #3 again and stay within The Script's catalogue.

Overall, #3 is an incredible album and one that should be in everyone's collection. Yes, there are some things I would have done differently, in relation to the mixing, mastering, and overall production of the album, but they are minor quibbles that would likely make the album different, not better.

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

If you prefer streaming, #3 is also available on Apple Music.

A Deluxe Edition is also available on all aforementioned formats with the exception of the vinyl release which has the same tracking as the Standard Edition.

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Reverend And The Makers – @reverend_Makers (Album Review)

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Reverend And The Makers – @reverend_Makers (Album Review)

While considered to be an Independent Rock act, Reverend And The Makers are arguably closer aligned to the Electronica spectrum. Nevertheless, if you were to put @reverend_Makers on at any party, it would go down extremely well.

This review is not based on the @BonusDisk edition of the album. I find the core 30-minute runtime to be more than adequate as I don't tire of the record, wanting to listen to it over and over again. However, the @BonusDisk edition is just a little too long for my personal tastes and I do start to become distracted approximately three-quarters of the way through. However, that shouldn't deter you, dear reader, as you may subjectively enjoy the longer runtime. Regardless, I applaud the band for giving fans the option, thereby allowing the more casual listener, such as myself, the opportunity to be captivated by the music in a sample-sized portion.

Bassline opens the album boldly. Let the escapism begin! I do hope you're reading this on your smartphone as you listen to the album as you'll be on your feet and dancing around in no time. Bassline is a sensational track that is masterfully mixed and recorded. Although, that could be said about all the songs on @reverend_Makers.

Don't sit down because Out Of The Shadows continues with a rhythm worthy of any dance floor. Sensational, absolutely sensational!

Shine The Light is a great rock track that you can dance to. Yes, (Was) Not Was declared that White People Can't Dance, but this white dude is giving it his best effort. I love it!

Depth Charge is a solid, albeit, predictable tune that works well in the album format but arguably isn't a standout track.

Warts N All has a toe tapping and head bopping beat, but I'm not sold on the vocal presentation in the chorus. It isn’t bad but sounds a little repetitive and whiny. That acoustic shift, mid-song, is absolutely marvellous, however. Overall, a great song.

Yes You Do slows the album down a little, to a near-ballad pace, but I absolutely love Yes You Do and I feel it fits beautifully into the album tracking.

The Wrestler picks up the pace and is easily one of my favourite songs on the album.

1+0 isn't inherently bad, but it is a B-side. Of course, that contradicts my Instagram micro review of the album whereby I stated there is not a single B-side to be found. Well, that was almost a year ago and I don't know about you, but I like the fact that my subjectivity can shift over time, based on further reflection and comparison against other music. It would, after all, be a sad state of affairs if our music likes and dislikes remained stagnant.

Noisy Neighbour is a killer rhythmic rock song and a rather humorous one at that.

What Goes Around has a terrible beginning, but the song comes into its own after the first minute and is extremely addictive in the final minute, compelling me to listen to the album again and stay within Reverend And The Makers catalogue.

Sonically, the TIDAL Hi-Fi stream is beyond reproach, but I dare say a vinyl release would add a little something to an already extraordinary album. That said, @reverend_Makers has only been made available on CD from a physical media standpoint. Disappointing, but you never know when a re-issue will be forthcoming.

@reverend_Makers is currently available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, @reverend_Makers is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Should you be interested in the @BonusDisk edition, simply look for the slightly varied album name: @Reverend_Makers.

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Magnetic - Miriam Clancy (Album Review)

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Magnetic - Miriam Clancy (Album Review)

Miriam Clancy at Mighty Mighty, 7 July 2011. Copyright © A Jenks 2011

Miriam Clancy at Mighty Mighty, 7 July 2011.
Copyright © A Jenks 2011

I don’t go to live music gigs. I’m a huge fan of well produced, polished music, presented in a crisp package, that I can enjoy in my own time and space. I have, however, been to one live gig. One artist I cared enough to see live and to meet.

This is a difficult review for me to write because the album is a very dear one to me, but my review of the gig was not taken well by the artist. While I don’t think I was unfair or inaccurate, I do regret the effect it had. If you know where to look, you can find that original review, but I am going to try to forget that history (and not draw it out again here) to do this review justice.

Magnetic is Miriam Clancy’s second album, released three years after her debut album, Lucky One. The two albums could not be much more different and yet both are unmistakably Miriam. Magnetic marked a new phase for Miriam, as she transitioned out of what she herself called “GarageBand-ville.” With an accomplished producer, Miriam has taken her fantastic range and applied it to a variety of styles with layers of panache and polish.

The Best is the first track on Magnetic. Proverbially, one is supposed to save the best to last, but is it the best track on the album? I’d say it’s a handy second place. Straight away the listener is introduced to the careful layering of instruments that is a strong feature of many tracks on this album. The song begins with what I feel as a restrained energy. From the first bar there is something pent up and, sure enough, it is eventually let loose in a classic Clancy crescendo. Miriam likes “light and shade” in a song and this one delivers that contrast in spades.

This track is one of a handful in my entire music collection that invokes chills down my spine, as Miriam hits that crescendo with a powerful delivery that she is so, so good at.

When I Do switches styles to a plucky pop number and was released as a single. While the energy doesn’t reach the levels of The Best, the tempo starts and remains high and the tone almost frivolous. Miriam’s vocals are almost… cheeky. Like all good singles, the chorus is catchy and leaps out of the surrounding verses. Miriam once again manages a diverse vocal delivery to fit the phase of the song, including her, perhaps trademark, breathy style.

If you thought there would be a distinct style to this album, you’d be disavowed of that notion by the time Join the Chorus begins, as yet another vibe is invoked.

It would be wrong to call this an acoustic track but I believe it would translate well to a simple vocal and guitar. A strong illustration of the layering approach, this track builds from a few plucky instruments to a rich tapestry of many more traditional ‘mainstream’ sounds, while the melody evokes a church singalong.

You Ain't the Worst Mistake I Made is another plucky number not unlike the early part of Join the Chorus but with a much evener delivery and some definite sass, as you might expect from the title. This track is, I think, one of the best showcases for Miriam’s voice, as she walks those vocals all over the map, bringing each line, each phrase, the tone it deserves.

Southern Cross is the song that, for me, beats out The Best for the actual accolade of the best song on the album. Perhaps you have to be a Kiwi (the person, not the bird^) to capture the full feeling of this song. I asked Miriam if she was away and homesick when it was written. In fact, she was at home and contemplating her move to New York. That fact makes the longing lyrics and sad timbre seem all the more poignant. I also asked if she had offered it to Air New Zealand as an anthem. Apparently, I was not the first to ask. I still think it’s perfect for them.

If I had to pick a single word to describe this song, it would be “stirring.” It makes me proud to be a Kiwi… and proud that someone as talented as Miriam is a Kiwi, too.

The liner track listing for Only Lonely One includes the words “For Dad.” I asked Miriam about this and all she said was that she included it so he would know it is about him (she didn’t think he realised at the time) and so that everyone else wouldn’t think it was “just another break-up song.”

This is a very personal story set to a simple guitar, though with some atmospheric backing and a noticeable echo on the vocals. There is probably no better example of the singer-songwriter art on this album. Although I make it sound simple, Miriam’s delivery and a catchy vocal melody make it very enjoyable.

Real Love brings back the higher tempo and layering in abundance. This is another song that makes use of vocal echo to good effect. Although it has an interesting arrangement, the structure of the track is quite straightforward with just a little escalation toward the end. Just not in the same magnitude of The Best.

The premise of Mixtape is cute, but not cutesy. Another simple arrangement, it explores various aspects of the love that goes into things you make for a loved one — that the love that goes into it should outweigh any less than perfect execution. Mixtapes, pictures, and poems that come from the heart are beautiful for what they mean, not what they are. This is, perhaps, the track that sits closest to the style of the previous album, Lucky One.

The title track of the album, Magnetic, is a great piece of pop art. While starting like a typical Clancy track, with those gorgeous and largely unchallenged vocals, the break after the second verse leads to a change in tone and that other Clancy classic tool — the escalation of energy (and noise levels). Magnetic, however, does not have a crescendo, instead holding the energy before an uncharacteristic fade-out.

If you’ve ever wondered about life in a semi-rural New Zealand town at a time when cities were starting to take the shine off the country lifestyle, then be sure to listen to Ghost Town, for it is about Miriam’s hometown. Home to Foxton Fries and (originally) Foxton Fizz, these days it is more known as a marker on one’s journey north from Wellington. Indeed, for those who like a good drive, the “Foxton straights” may eclipse them all.

If I have painted an unflattering picture of Foxton, Miriam isn’t going to up the ante. A simple song, Ghost Town has an energy level to match the subject, playing out like a story, in fact a documentary, set to music more than an epic song. As if some memory test, be sure to note how many boyfriends were had!

Another track to receive the full production treatment is Baby Blues, a song about Clancy’s son. The song tells of how having a son changed her life. Part introspective, part love story, this low tempo song is another that would translate well to acoustic despite a plethora of sounds being added in this version.

Another song that harks back, somewhat, to the style of Lucky OneThe Knife has some of the most alluring, and interesting, vocals backed with minimal instruments.

Once again, Miriam returns to a familiar formula with My Heart is a Traitor. Beginning with a quiet vocal over a simple piano line, the track slowly builds. Drums are added in the third verse, along with a bass, before the tempo picks up a little another couple of verses in and the vocals gain some extra punch. Before long, the vocals strain against the crescendo of instruments before both fade to an acoustic finish. Classic Miriam.

As an album, Magnetic is in many respects a clear progression from Lucky One, but there are a handful of standout tracks that really deserve attention: The BestMagnetic, and When I Do should be elevated as important markers in Miriam's career. Southern Cross... well... deserves a place alongside Hello Sailor's Gutter Black as a New Zealand anthem.

Magnetic is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Magnetic is also available on TIDAL Hi-FiSpotify, and Apple Music.


For Americans reading this, “Kiwi” is properly attributed to either a New Zealander, or the flightless bird of the ratite family. It is not correctly applied to a fruit, which is trademarked as “Kiwifruit.”

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Kaleo - A/B (Album Review)

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Kaleo - A/B (Album Review)

When released in 2016, Kaleo's A/B left listeners in shock and awe as they proved, as many artists do, that good music is still being made that pushes the envelope of what has come before while remaining uniquely unique.

If you like Folk music, with a splash of Blues, and some killer Rock & Roll riffs, then you are going to love this album. It is so good that I give you permission to stop reading this review while you check out one of the best albums of 2016 and what would be one of my all-time favourite albums in the aforementioned genres.

No Good is already a classic in my mind. It sets the tone for the album and has some killer riffs, beats, and a solid vocal delivery perfectly suited to the song. Yes, this song is your meat and potatoes Rock & Roll but it would work equally well in the local pub as well as a major stadium. No wonder Kaleo opened for The Rolling Stones when they toured Hamburg in 2017.

Way Down We Go slows the album down a little, but it is simply gorgeous! The vocal delivery is off the charts and the bass and drum beats will have you in Rhythm & Blues heaven. This is one song you may have heard before as it has been featured in a number of high profile television shows and films.

Broken Bones is sublime!

Glass House returns the tempo to a higher pace. It is classic Blues-based Rock & Roll and there is nothing wrong with that!

Hot Blood is a great rock tune. It is rock solid, pun intended!

All The Pretty Girls is a slower tune that has a very interesting vocal presentation, in comparison to the other songs on the album. That said, it works extremely well. It just goes to show the level of musicality that is present within the band, even at this early stage in their career.

Automobile is an incredibly catchy tune. I love it!

Vor í Vaglaskógi is sonic perfection! While it is the only non-English song on the album, the vocal delivery is velvety smooth and is an absolute pleasure to listen to. The musicality is equally off the charts. It’s such a beautiful song and I do hope that Kaleo will one day release an entire album in their native Icelandic tongue.

Save Yourself is a lovely song. Nothing to write home about, but solid nonetheless. The album wouldn't be the same without it.

I Can't Go On Without You closes the album beautifully. It is an incredible song that makes me want to listen to the album again.

From start to finish, Kaleo’s A/B is nothing short of pure perfection. The album plays better than many greatest hits releases, yet it is a debut. There truly isn't a bad song on this album. It is so good that I have already ordered my Vinyl copy from mataurecords.com.au.

This review was based on listening to the 16/44.1 kHz CD-quality FLAC release on TIDAL Hi-Fi. I also listened to the 24/88.2kHz MQA version and while I found it to be a little tighter in the bass region, I didn't find the difference to be significant enough to recommend it over the standard CD-quality offering. That isn't a bad thing, it just proves that if a CD is mastered well it can sound just as good as any high-res source. In fact, I prefer the CD equivalent as the bass, while more refined in the MQA edition, is too clean and lacks the grit that I feel should be present in this style of music.

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

If you prefer streaming, A/B is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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