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Paul Kelly – The A To Z Recordings (Compilation Review)

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Paul Kelly – The A To Z Recordings (Compilation Review)

While I’ve often considered Paul Kelly’s Greatest Hits – Songs From The South, Vols. 1 & 2 to be amongst the finest compilation for any music lover’s collection, could the epic 105 song, 6-hour, A To Z Recordings eclipse it? 

Yes, I believe so. Of course, I’m a fan of the man who is rightfully regarded by many as one of Australia’s greatest singer-songwriters The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop.

I guess the real question we must ask ourselves, dear reader, is if there is such a thing as too much Paul Kelly? 

No, I don’t believe so!

Often when we think of albums, even compilations and live performances, incredible care has been taken when selecting tracks and their placement in order to make a coherent piece of audible art. However, Kelly has thrown the playbook out the window and between 2004 and 2010 was performing a four-part live performance, over four nights, that lined up much of his back catalog in alphabetical order. The concept is basic, yet extraordinary. Now, I know you may be wondering about the flow, given the songs are from different eras of Kelly’s celebrated career, but you need not be concerned for the flow of music is so compelling that you won’t want to stop listening until you reach the final song. Even then, I find myself playing the compilation again. It is astonishingly good.

The live performances, even though they were recorded in various locations, over several years, are perfectly matched sonically and are mixed and mastered beautifully. Kelly is incredible in the studio, but you really feel as though you’re experiencing the performance live on these recordings and thankfully the audience interaction has been kept to a minimum, thereby enhancing Kelly’s performance. 

My only criticism is the cover art. Seriously, I couldn’t think of a worse cover for such an incredible compilation and artist. Actually, no, I can, but that is hardly the point as it fails to convey the musicality of this master musician, unlike Post, Wanted Man, or Greatest Hits – Songs From The South, Vols. 1 & 2 does.

Adelaide is a great song and even though this collection is presented in alphabetical order, Adelaide is a fantastic opening song that sets the tone for the entire compilation. 

After The Show has a fantastic rhythm. I love it!

Anastasia Changes Her Mind isn’t fundamentally bad, but I have a love/hate relationship with semi-spoken word songs. That said, there are elements here, where Kelly begins to sing the lyrics, that are really enjoyable, but it isn’t enough to fully captivate me. 

Be Careful What You Pray For is a killer moody tune. 

Beautiful Promise is, pardon the pun, beautiful!

Before Too Long is one of Kelly’s most recognisable songs and is always sensational. 

Beggar On The Street Of Love is a great song, but I feel the mix isn’t quite right as Kelly’s vocal is just a little too forward for my liking. A shame, considering how much I genuinely love this song.

Behind The Bowler’s Arm is toe-tapping, head-bopping, gold. Magnificent!

Big Fine Girl has an incredible rhythm that will get your entire body moving. 

Blues For Skip is an incredible lo-fi tune, from a musical perspective, that allows Kelly’s vocal to shine.  

Bradman isn’t a bad homage to the legendary Australian cricketer. As a song, however, I have mixed feelings. It works, really well, but isn’t necessarily a song from Kelly’s catalog that I would seek out.

(The) Cake And The Candle is an incredible song and comes through with such transparency that you’d swear Kelly was in the same room as you. Music, especially live performances, that reach this sense of realism are difficult to find but are well worth it as your stereo system will never sound better.

Careless is an incredible song and this is one stunning performance. 

Change Your Mind is incredible!

Charlie Owen’s Slide Guitar is a solid tune, perhaps nothing to write home about, but enjoyable nevertheless.

Cities Of Texas is, for lack of a better term, a B-side. It works well in the flow of The A To Z Recordings, but as a song on its own, somewhat misses the mark. 

Coma is smooth, yet rough and ready. The contrast makes the song compelling and is a toe-tapper’s delight.  

Cradle Of Love is simply beautiful. 

Deeper Water is a good song, but I feel there are too many musical layers in this particular recording and, as such, my mind finds it difficult to connect with a specific rhythm. 

Desdemona is absolutely brilliant. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’d love to hear Neil Young cover this classic. 

Difficult Woman is magnificently moody. One of Kelly’s best without a doubt. 

Don’t Explain is fantastic. 

Don’t Harm The Messenger is a solid song and really comes into its own during the chorus and the final minute of the song. 

Don’t Stand So Close To The Window is a catchy tune that is thoroughly enjoyable.

Don’t Start Me Talking isn’t bad, but it isn’t a standout song either. 

Down To My Soul is utterly amazing and a hidden gem.

Dumb Things is one of my all-time favourite Paul Kelly songs. I first heard it when I saw the Yahoo Serious film Young Einstein and I haven’t forgotten it since. A great Aussie film with an exceptional soundtrack. This rendition retains everything that made the studio recording perfect and is beyond reproach.   

Emotional is simply stunning! 

Every F*****g City is average at best, but if this is a low in Kelly’s catalog, then he has absolutely nothing to worry about.

Everybody Wants To Touch Me is mediocre and it’s a shame because I’d enjoy the song more if the musicality was presented in a lower register. 

Everything’s Turning To White is another song in Kelly’s catalog that I’m not a fan of. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, of course, just that it doesn’t appeal to me and that I wouldn’t seek it out to listen to independently.

(The) Foggy Fields Of France is a fun little toe-tapping song. 

Foggy Highway is utterly brilliant with a great, but simple, rhythm that allows the music lover to immediately connect with the song. 

Forty Miles To Saturday Night is enjoyable but I feel the mix is a little out as I would have liked the instrumental elements to be boosted, perhaps by a decibel, as it almost sounds as though two different songs are struggling for the attention of the listener. 

Forty-Eight Angels has a compelling vocal delivery that I’ve always adored. Such a great tune!

From Little Things Big Things Grow is a song that everyone in Australia has heard, even if they didn’t know it was a Paul Kelly tune, for the song was used for a major marketing campaign for Industry Superfunds Australia (ISA). Subsequently, as much as I love this protest song, sometimes I am reminded of the advertisement; the aim of the marketing campaign of course, but I would much prefer to simply enjoy the song and reflect on the initial intent of the song. It’s interesting that Kelly gave ISA permission to use the song as I perceive no correlation. Nevertheless, if it brings about greater awareness, then one can suggest it isn’t a bad thing and even if you don’t listen to music for its literal interpretation, From Little Things Big Things Grow is one of the greatest songs ever written, by anyone, anywhere in the world. 

From St Kilda To Kings Cross is beautiful. 

Gathering Storm is short and sweet; so very sweet. I love it!

God Told Me To has an incredible twang but unlike Forty Miles To Saturday Night, I feel the instrumental element is a little too loud thereby taking away from Kelly’s incredible vocal delivery. 

(The) Gift That Keeps On Giving could have been the perfect title for this compilation. As a song on its own, (The) Gift That Keeps On Giving is an excellent composition and is thoroughly enjoyable.

Glory Be To God is sonically splendid. I could listen to Glory Be To God on repeat for an eternity. 

Going About My Father’s Business is yet another great song. There really isn’t a bad song in Kelly’s catalog, just ones that I connect with more than others.

How To Make Gravy is an excellent song that reminds me of Bob Dylan. Yes, there are many correlations between the two artists, but this is the one song that Kelly performs that instantly reminds me of Dylan. Not a bad thing, just an observation. 

I Can’t Believe We Were Married is a great tune.

I Close My Eyes And Think Of You is one of the most beautiful songs Kelly has ever penned and sung. No wonder he is a legend! 

I Don’t Know Anything Anymore is hypnotic. What’s not to like? I Don’t Know Anything Anymore Is one of the most relaxing songs you’ll ever listen to and my only complaint is that it is too short; although it’s perfect!

I Keep On Coming Back For More will get your body moving as the groove and vocal delivery is spectacular.

I’d Rather Go Blind is utterly brilliant and an absolute favourite of mine. 

If I Could Start Today Again is a lovely song that has flowed incredibly well, despite the alphabetical order, from the previous several songs proving just how consistently good Paul Kelly is as a songwriter and musician. 

I Wasted Time is solid, but isn’t anything to write home about. 

I Won’t Be Your Dog is stunning. You’ll want to turn up the volume and close your eyes while listening to this song. The slight echo in Kelly’s vocal really sets the song apart from the others on this compilation and while it is most likely unintentional and a result of the recording space, I find it adds a sense of depth that makes you sit up and take notice. 

Jandamarra/Pigeon is okay, but is ultimately a B-side from my perspective. 

Jump To Love is a great tune. Another one to play continuously on repeat? I think so!

Just About The Break is such a low, smooth, delicate song that it’s simply beautiful. 

King Of Fools is a solid song, but is nothing to write home about. 

Lately has a swing to it that could have easily come out of the 1930s or 1940s. It’s a great tune. 

Leaps And Bounds is a sonic wonderland. 

Little Boy, Don’t Lose Your Balls is a great song with a wit that is brilliant.

Love Is The Law is a little too campy for my liking. As with all other songs on this compilation, it isn’t bad, but if it were not part of this collection, I wouldn’t play it as a song on its own. 

Love Never Runs On Time has a killer harmonica and is overall a good tune. Nothing spectacular, but nothing offensive either. 

Luck is a solid tune. 

Maralinga (Rainy Land) is one of Kelly’s greatest songs. Sensational!

Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air is an a cappella song and is beautiful.

Midnight Rain has an incredible instrumental backing that enhances Kelly’s vocal perfectly.

My Way Is To You compels me to close my eyes as the musicality and Kelly’s vocal takes me on a sonic journey that has to be experienced to be fully understood. 

No You offers nothing to write home about, but isn’t fundamentally bad. No You just doesn’t stand out from the crowd, which is an issue in a compilation as broad as The A To Z Recordings.

Nothing But A Dream is an incredible song and that higher-pitched choral approach is so enjoyable and makes me think that this is a Paul Kelly song that would be perfect for Crowded House or Neil Finn, in particular, to cover. 

(The) Oldest Story In The Book has a catchy tune and chorus line that ensures it’s memorable. It’s another song that is amongst Kelly’s greatest. 

One More Tune is lovely. 

Other People’s Houses is a great song. Even though I’m not an overzealous fan of spoken word lyrics, Other People’s Houses is perfectly balanced and simply sounds right. I couldn’t imagine this song any other way and I’m glad it exists as it does. My only problem is that I can’t decide if I prefer this edition or the original studio release. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter as both are exceptional!

Our Sunshine has an old-west feel with a country twang. I love it!

Please Myself has a stellar vocal shift and distortion throughout. Add a simple rhythm and Please Myself most certainly pleases this fan. 

Pretty Place is a solid tune, but ultimately a B-side. 

(The Ballad Of) Queenie And Rover is, as Pretty Place is, a B-side for this listener. 

Rally Round The Drum is a great, meat and potatoes, tune. Sometimes that is all you need. 

Randwick Bells is a solid track, but nothing to write home about. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I have a love/hate relationship with semi-spoken songs. I find them compelling but then at the same time, I’d much prefer to have a little more rhythm to toe-tap and head-bop to as well as sing along to. That said, the closing minute largely negates this thought.

Saturday Night And Sunday Morning is a great tune. It’s time to get that acoustic air guitar out, for I adore that guitar strumming and the tuning of the instrument on this track.  

Shane Warne is largely unforgettable but is a rather cool and humorous homage to the Australian cricketer. 

Smoke Under The Bridge is a lovely, hypnotic, tune. It is, as many of Kelly’s songs are, incredibly relaxing. 

Somebody’s Forgetting Somebody is a solid song, but not a standout. Although, that harmonica is a pure pleasure to listen to. 

Somewhere In The City is magnificent!

South Of Germany as a vocal-only song is spectacular and showcases just how incredible Kelly’s vocal prowess is and how much control he has over it. 

Standing On The Street Of Early Sorrows is a song that I wouldn’t necessarily gravitate towards when thinking of Paul Kelly, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it every time I hear it as the vocal delivery and backing is glorious. 

Stolen Apples is a great tune and while Crowded House write their own songs, I’d love to hear them cover this one.  

Stories Of Me is an incredible, multi-layered, acoustic tune.

Stupid Song is anything but stupid. I love it! 

Summer Rain is average at best. Yes, it works well within the compilation but as a song on its own, I just don’t find it compelling. 

Sweet Guy is incredible and Kelly’s vocal delivery is the definition of perfection.  

Sydney From A 747 isn’t bad, but it isn’t anything to write home about. Although, the intermingling guitars make this one enjoyable song. 

They Thought I Was Asleep is an incredible story-based song. 

Thoughts In The Middle Of The Night is stunning. The music will envelop you and Kelly is most certainly in the room with you when you listen to this track. An exceptional song and a stunning recording. 

To Her Door is a well-known masterpiece. One of Kelly’s most recognisable recordings and arguably one of his very best. 

Until Death Do Them Part isn’t bad, but it isn’t great. It simply exists and sometimes that is good enough. I wouldn’t, however, hold up Until Death Do Them Part as a defining moment in Kelly’s recording career. 

When I First Met Your Ma is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish and is, in my opinion, a hidden gem. I love it!

Winter Coat is a great tune. I adore Kelly’s vocal on this recording and his control over his vocal is most certainly impressive. 

Won’t You Come Around? has a great rhythm that will get your body moving and once again that harmonica steals the stage. 

Would You Be My Friend? is astonishingly good and sounds as though Kelly is singing to you, in a private concert. Sensational!

You Broke A Beautiful Thing is, pun intended, a beautiful thing! 

You Can Put Your Shoes Under My Bed isn’t a bad song, but it isn’t anything to write home about either. 

You Can’t Take It With You is such a good song with a sensational rhythm and a fantastic lyrical meaning. 

Your Little Sister Is A Big Girl Now has a killer intermingling guitar track; such an enjoyable song! 

Young Lovers is one of Kelly’s most beautiful songs. It isn’t necessarily the story he tells via the song, but it is the way he performs it that makes Young Lovers one very special song indeed.

You’re 39, You’re Beautiful And You’re Mine is a lovely tune. 

Your Loving Is On My Mind has always been one of my favourite Paul Kelly tracks and leaves me somewhat speechless; it is that good! 

Zoe is a solid song and while it may have taken over 6 hours to get to this stage, if you’re like me, you’re likely going to go back to Adelaide and listen to this masterpiece again. 

Whether you’re going on a road trip, going about your daily routine, or sitting intently absorbing every element of Kelly’s performances, you’re bound to adore this collection of songs for it is some of the finest singer-songwriter music you’re ever likely to hear, anywhere, by anyone.  

If you’d be more content with an abridged version, a Best Of The A To Z Recordings (2LP vinyl release) is available. 

A Deluxe Edition including Kelly’s memoir, How To Make Gravy, is also available as well as the standard 8-CD release, and a digital release on iTunes

If you’re remotely interested in Paul Kelly, then this compilation is a must-own. While it isn’t as concise as Greatest Hits – Songs From The South, Vols. 1 & 2, it will give you hours of bliss and a deeper view into the wonder that is Paul Kelly.  

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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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Jon English - Wine Dark Sea (Album Review)

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Jon English - Wine Dark Sea (Album Review)

Jon English was an Australian music legend. However, as a child of the 80s and a teenager of the 90s, his astonishingly good repertoire of music eluded me as I was simply out of time to the era when he was one of the major stars on the Australian Music Scene. Yes, I'd see his appearances on television throughout the years, but it wasn't until his death in 2016 that I started to look at his legacy; the legacy of a rock legend if there ever was one.

Wine Dark Sea is one of the most compelling album titles, for a debut release, that I've ever come across. Similarly appealing is the album artwork that immediately draws you in; artwork that is most certainly perfectly suited to the large canvas of the then dominant vinyl format. In fact, the entire album is a perfect time capsule of early 70s rock. 

While Wine Dark Sea and much of English's catalogue has remained out-of-print for years, streaming services like Apple Music ensure that these hidden gems remain relevant; provided the rights holders continue to licence the music. The Apple Music stream sounds very good with a considerable analogue tonality that harks back to the era but also presents a somewhat concealed presentation. That isn’t a criticism as I find digital music has the tendency to be a little too detailed, resulting in an albeit cleaner presentation but one that is also rather clinical whereas the analogue nature of the sound heard here is more organic and less perfect thereby resulting in what I consider to be a far more enjoyable sound to listen to. Of course, if you like digital clarity, then you may not be impressed by the streaming edition of Wine Dark Sea. I have compared it to the TIDAL Hi-Fi stream, but despite TIDAL Hi-Fi being CD-quality, the edition they have been given by the rights holder is the lossy version, essentially the same as Apple Music, hence there is no difference in the streams. That said, it sounds great and if I remove my audiophile mindset, thereby applying John Darko’s Music-First Audiophile mantra, this is more than good enough. 

Summer Song is a solid pop-rock tune to start the album with. I'd love to hear Jimmy Barnes cover this song as it would be perfect for his vocal style. The musicality is solid and thoroughly enjoyable with a mix that allows all musical elements to be present in the soundstage ensuring a decently presented dynamic range; a pleasure especially considering so many modern recordings are overly compressed.

Sweet Lady Mary is a killer cover song, penned by Ronnie Lane, Rod Stewart, and Ronnie Wood of the Faces. As much as I enjoy the original, this rendition by English takes the song to another level and is, in my opinion, significantly better. Regardless, what I love about Sweet Lady Mary is how the origins of Rod Stewart's solo works can be heard here as well as the influence Ronnie Woods would later bring to The Rolling Stones. It really is an influential tune.

Wine Dark Sea is a beautiful Jon English, original, composition. I could listen to this song on repeat for days on end, it’s that good!

Horsehair And Plastic is another original composition but isn't great. It’s pure filler and sounds completely out-of-place after Wine Dark Sea.

Close Every Door is one of the greatest songs from the musical Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and this rendition from English is, without doubt, one of the very best ever recorded. English's gritty, yet smooth, vocal is perfectly suited to the song.

Monopoly is a fun song that while different in styling to Close Every Door, doesn't nearly give the sudden shock, and out-of-place feel, that occurred with Horsehair And Plastic. Great rhythm!

Handbags And Gladrags is magical. Close your eyes and allow the musicality and vocal prowess of English to take you on a journey. A sensational recording!

Prelude / Tomorrow is another beautiful composition that is perfectly suited to the acoustic style it is recorded in. Music doesn't get much better than this.

Brand New Day is an excellent song and a perfect addition to the album.

Share The End is a solid song to close the album with and while it compels me to listen to the album again and stay within English's back catalogue I find myself drawn to Carly Simon's original as I feel it is better than English's cover.

Overall, Wine Dark Sea is an exceptional album with really only one song that feels out-of-place. As unlikely as it is, I'd love to see this album reissued on vinyl for a new audience to explore and appreciate; with the original cover art of course. 

Seriously, this Rainbow Records repressing cover art is horrible. Who thought this was a good idea?

Seriously, this Rainbow Records repressing cover art is horrible. Who thought this was a good idea?

Wine Dark Sea is currently available to own on iTunes.

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Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

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Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

Who doesn't like a good ballad? Yes, you in the corner, I see you rolling your eyes, not willing to admit you're a ballad junkie. That's okay, it can be difficult for some of us to acknowledge our emotions, but Air Supply's ballads are just so addictive and easy to sing-along to that even the most emotionally guarded individual will feel compelled to join in, especially when no-one else is watching. It's a great feeling, isn't it? Don't worry, dear reader, this will be just between us, for the magic would be lost if anyone knew our little secret.

Few artists do ballads as well as British–Australian soft rock group Air Supply, but it would be naive to pigeonhole them into that category for their orchestral soft rock styling is so expansive that their peers are a who's who of soft rock culture from the last four decades. While their prime is arguably behind them, their songs, including those written by others, remain timeless and recognisable. Perhaps that is why I'm drawn to The Ultimate Collection because, as the title suggests, it really is the epitome of their creativity.

Love And Other Bruises is an interesting song to commence this career perspective release on as it isn't necessarily one of their best or most popular tunes. Nevertheless, the musicality is there, resulting in an enjoyable beginning to an exceptional collection of songs.

Bring Out The Magic is the reason I suggested it naive to class Air Supply as a ballads-only band. This is soft rock at its finest.

Lost In Love is beautiful!

All Out Of Love is a stunning composition and one of the greatest ballads ever written and recorded.

Every Woman In The World is another stunner. Absolutely sensational!

Just Another Woman offers an interesting shift into the disco-era and immediately reminds me of Elton John's Victim Of Love as the two were somewhat unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable. Just Another Woman is fantastic and despite the shifting style, the song is absolutely worthy of inclusion.

Chances returns the compilation to its ballad-based roots and is thoroughly enjoyable with a vocal presentation that is off-the-charts. The slow build works exceptionally well, and Chances is simply amazing to listen to.

The One That You Love is sonic gold! It may sound like a cliché, but they don't write songs like this anymore. Plus, that drum track is amongst my favourites of all time, only bested by Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight and Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing.

Here I Am is badly placed as the lyrics of The One That You Love also includes the phrase, here I am, throughout. Nevertheless, Here I Am is a lovely ballad that I never tire of. The soundstage and sonic depth of Here I Am is exceptional with a drum track that I adore. 

Sweet Dreams is epic! My recommendation is you turn the volume up when this song comes on, you'll thank me later. Sweet Dreams is one of the best songs ever recorded and that guitar solo and vocal interlude is absolutely incredible.

I’ll Never Get Enough Of You is exceptional! 

This Heart Belongs To Me has a great dual tempo that allows the listener to experience this song in a non-traditional manner, thereby making it truly subjective. This is yet another Air Supply song where the drum tracking is superb. I love it!

Keeping The Love Alive is, as this entire compilation is, exceptional!

Even The Nights Are Better is a song that reminds me of the Carpenters, especially with the vocal styling. That's, of course, a positive reflection as I adore Karen Carpenter's vocal.

Now And Forever is musical perfection. This truly is the ultimate Air Supply collection.

Two Less Lonely People In The World is remarkably good and sounds as fresh today as it did when first released on Air Supply's 1982 release, Now And Forever.

Making Love (Out Of Nothing At All) is a Jim Steinman classic power ballad and is an incredible Air Supply song. I find that I’m torn between this original recording and Bonnie Tyler’s rendition as both are exceptional. 

Young Love is a lovely song and that dual vocal presentation is simply amazing, as is the entire musicality of the song. 

Come What May is a great tune with an incredible soundstage and presence that fills the room. If all music was recorded and mixed this well, we'd never stop listening. As the closing track on The Ultimate Collection, it certainly compels me to listen to the compilation again and stay within Air Supply's back catalogue.

There is little doubt regarding my love of Air Supply and The Ultimate Collection release. It is so good that everyone should have a copy in their collection. Unfortunately, it has yet to receive a vinyl release and while I'm not opposed to picking it up on CD, the TIDAL Hi-Fi CD-quality stream is more than adequate.

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

If you prefer streaming, The Ultimate Collection is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music

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Big Scary – Animal (Album Review)

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Big Scary – Animal (Album Review)

What an album cover! I don't know about you, but it drew me in as much as Jane's Addiction's Ritual De Lo Habitual did when released in 1989. In many respects, the cover art is an essential element as an album is often seen before it is heard. In that regard, Animal certainly creates a shock to the nervous system, engraining the imagery in one's subconscious. While the artwork may be a little confronting, it’s representative of only a single aspect of Big Scary; a dynamic Melbourne-based musical duo.

While I know very little about Big Scary, other than adoring Animal, their digital liner notes explain the artistic intent far more thoroughly than I could ever attempt to. However, if I were to summarise their intent, the concept that we can transcend our animal instincts and rise above the animal within is brilliant. Subsequently, Animal takes us on a sonic journey that is philosophically evolutionary.

Animal was also produced with vinyl in mind as each side of the double LP is perceived as its own self-contained entity, to be enjoyed independently or as part of a larger masterpiece. While this review will be based on the Apple Music stream, I'm keenly interested in getting my hands on the vinyl release as this aspect is a value-added proposition for the music lover and collector within. As I think further about this somewhat unique approach, I’m reminded of my beloved Sigur Rós – () album and how they approached the vinyl release in a similar manner. It’s wonderful to see independent artists thinking differently, not only about their musicality but how their music will be delivered to listeners. While part of the artistic intent was to allow the listener to play the album in a non-traditional chronological order, for simplicity, this review will focus on Animal with the same chronological tracking as seen on the following Apple Music stream.

Oxygen opens the album with a very raw drum beat that harks to the core animal status within us all. The electronic rhythm, while sonically dry, is extremely compelling. It's a great start to the album and I was hooked from the very first note.

Organism gets the body moving. The soundstage is diverse and layered, resulting in a song that is larger than the sum of its parts. Every aspect of Organism is perfect and it amazes me that music this good is made by an independent artist. I say that because Organism, and the entire album, sounds better than many big label/artist releases.

Double Darkness continues the somewhat sombre tones, but I love it! That vocal placement and delivery is sublime, reminding me of many Paul McCartney recordings.

Savior Add Vice seamlessly transitions from Double Darkness. Even the shift, a third of the way through, is done masterfully. Although, I don't like the vocal direction as much on this song as I feel the vocal is lost in the mix. That may, of course, have been the intent, and if so then the vocal becomes merely another sonic element in the soundstage.

Lone Bird is a killer song with an absolutely perfect rhythm and composition. This is what good music should sound like!

The Endless Story sees the album becoming increasingly upbeat and I don't know about you, but that rhythm sounds awfully familiar. Regardless, it’s a solid song that is thoroughly enjoyable. The vocal echo, normally a distractive element, works really well here, although the distortion in places is a little more in-your-face than I’d prefer.

Flutism suits the album but isn't really a track I connect with. I can't honestly say why it doesn't resonate with me as it isn't inherently bad, but all I know is it’s a little too left of the center for me.

Up And Up And Up is addictively brilliant!

Breathe Underwater slows the album down considerably. While it may feel a little disjointed to those of us streaming Animal, Breathe Underwater is the first song of the Resting element of the album. The other elements include, for the first four songs, Hunting, the next four, Lurking, and the final two Waking. Nevertheless, Breathe Underwater is a beautifully mellow song.

The Opposite Of Us continues the Resting phase of the album and for some reason, when I listen to this song, I ponder of what a U2/Bono and Alanis Morissette mashup would be like. Yes, dear reader, my mind is subjectively unique and even I have no idea where these correlations come from. Anyway, The Opposite Of Us is a beautiful song and is a perfect fit for the album.

Heaven On Earth is atmospherically stunning. I can only imagine how exceptional it would sound on vinyl, for the Apple Music stream is already magical.

Over Matter has a little too much volume and channel variation that I find to be rather distracting. Even the vocal delivery pace isn’t in harmony with the songs that came before it, resulting in a bit of a garbled mess.

Lamina is a great song to close the album with. The moody tones are reminiscent of the opening tracks and it is so good that I feel compelled to listen to Animal again and delve deeper into the modest back catalogue of Big Scary.

Overall, Animal is a compellingly addictive album that I thoroughly enjoy and will have to pick up on vinyl.

Animal is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Animal is available on Apple Music and Spotify.

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19-Twenty – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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19-Twenty – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Exceptional music isn’t just the domain of mainstream artists. Independent artists, such as 19-Twenty, are often just as talented, if not superior. Thanks to music streaming, finding these exceptional acts is easier than ever before.

19-Twenty is an Australian-based band with a sound that infuses soft rock, blues, roots, and folk music. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find this blending to be absolutely compelling and addictive to listen to.

The Tavern is a beautiful song, with sensational vocals and overall musicality. It sets the tone of the album and shows just how talented 19-Twenty were at the commencement of their recording career. The Tavern also has an addictive rhythm and the mix, soundstage, and mastering will blow your mind. Exceptional!

Kiama Town is simply stunning!

Lorne picks up the pace in a literal fast-plucking manner. I love it!

Louis Collins distorts and electrifies 19-Twenty's sound beautifully. It reminds me a little of early Rolling Stones and certainly Keith Richards' overall style on his latest solo release, Crosseyed Heart.

45 Degrees is an incredible song. This album just keeps getting better and better.

Wasn't For The Beat, with its frantic guitar strumming isn’t generally an element of acoustic music that I enjoy. Nevertheless, the song grows on you the more you listen to it.

Bucket Of Poison goes the grungy distortion route and interestingly reminds me of Adele’s Rumour Has It. That works for me. A solid 10/10!

1920'S Blues is a B-side and feels a little offbeat when compared to the rest of the album.

16 Hours has a simply stunning vocal presentation. Acoustic-based music doesn't get much better than this!

Slow It Down has a fantastic beat and rhythm that ensures I’ll listen to the album again and stay within 19-Twenty's growing catalogue.

As far as debut albums by Independent artists go, 19-Twenty is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish and the band has proven that a big recording contract, while likely desirable, does not dictate the quality of one's music.

While I would love to own this album on vinyl, I don't believe it was ever pressed to the format. The edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi is sonically perfect, but I’ll be tracking down a copy of the CD as it is certainly worth adding to my permanent physical music library.

19-Twenty can be purchased on CD and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 19-Twenty is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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1927 – …ish (Vinyl Review)

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1927 – …ish (Vinyl Review)

Sometimes a debut album can become a smashing success that simply can’t be replicated. Selling in excess of 400,000 copies and winning the 1988 Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Awards for best debut single (That's When I Think of You) and album, 1927 effectively became a household name in Australia overnight. While international success eluded them, that shouldn’t reflect on the wonderful musical experience that is ...ish. Ian McFarlane, in his opus The Encyclopedia Of Australian Rock And Pop, put it perfectly when he wrote ...ish is brimful of stirring, stately pop rock anthems. Yes, dear reader, it is that good!

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SIDE A

To Love Me is a great opener that is truly representative of the Australian music scene during the 80s. It is recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully, as is the entire album.

That’s When I Think Of You has a beat, vocal presentation, and guitar solo that are off the charts. There is no pretentious playing here, it is simply beautiful! This is what good music sounds like, you literally won't be able to stop your body moving to the rhythm. So good!

If I Could is rock ballad heaven. Listen to the song once and you’ll be singing it for the rest of the day. If I Could is simply stunning!

You'll Never Know picks up the tempo, but doesn't feel out of place in the tracking of the album. By this stage, if you haven't already turned the volume up, I suggest you do so. Get that air guitar out and warm up those vocal cords, you're going to need them.

Compulsory Hero is one of the greatest songs ever recorded, by anyone, anywhere in the world. It is an unofficial Australian anthem and not only does it bring me to tears, but it makes me proud to be an Australian. It’s a sonic masterpiece!

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SIDE B

All The People is a great pop/rock tune, but it was always going to be difficult for any song to follow Compulsory Hero. Thankfully, in the minute or so it takes to flip the record, the senses have a chance to reset. Regardless, All The People is a worthy addition to the album.

Nothing In The Universe is a lovely song. While not on par with some of the earlier songs, it is certainly no B-side.

Propaganda Machine has an interesting punk/pop feel to it. I love it!

Give The Kid A Break has a sensational beat and series of guitar riffs. I hope you didn't turn that volume knob down as this song deserves to be heard at ear bleeding levels. While a B-side, no one ever said a B-side couldn't be thoroughly enjoyable.

The Mess, unfortunately, doesn't follow the quality B-side that is Give The Kid A Break. The mess is, for lack of a better term, a mess and sounds like pure filler. That, however, doesn’t deter me from flipping back to Side A and enjoying this sensational album once more.

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...ish is not only one of the greatest albums ever recorded by an Australian band, it is sonically and musically on par with all the greatest bands of the era. In fact, the production quality here is world-class and it truly shows on the 2018 vinyl re-issue. Pressed at the world-renowned Pallas plant in Germany, I’ve never heard this album sound so good…ever! The record is pressed on audiophile quality eco-grade vinyl and is so silent you’ll hear the blood rushing through your veins before you hear any unwanted surface noise. The soundstage is immersive, with incredible depth that proves just how good vinyl can sound if diligence is taken in the mastering and pressing process. Yes, the remastered edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi is excellent, but it pales in comparison to the vinyl release.

I could honestly keep talking about how exceptional this album is, but I suggest you just order a copy and experience it for yourself.

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

If you prefer streaming, ...ish is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

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