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Kylie Minogue – Golden (Deluxe Edition) [Album Review]

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Kylie Minogue – Golden (Deluxe Edition) [Album Review]

Kylie Minogue is Madonnic; by which I mean that Australia’s pop princess and one of the country’s most successful musical exports is continually transcending musical trends while remaining familiar and instantly recognisable. Yes, Madonna, has achieved the same level of diversity and evolution, hence the Madonnic association. Nevertheless, Golden sees Minogue adopt a country-pop style that is arguably different from her previous works but works surprisingly well. 

When Golden was released, I took a listen and was captivated enough to add it to my Apple Music library. Revisiting it now, essentially a year later, I want to know if Golden is good enough to add to my physical collection, keep within my digital collection, or remove completely from my music collection with the only recollection of the album being this very review. Between you and I, dear reader, it most certainly isn’t the latter. 

If you’re thinking there is only one edition of Golden, you’d be mistaken. Apple Music may currently only have the Deluxe Edition, but Golden is yet another modern release that has seen too many editions, on too many formats, released too close to each other. There is no doubt that some fans will rejoice with the variety, and it is important to note that my criticism of the multiple editions has nothing to do with the quality of music, but it is frustrating that all bonus tracks don’t make it to the Deluxe Edition. Seriously, shouldn’t a Deluxe Edition contain everything? Clearly, the Deluxe Edition isn’t as deluxe as the record label would like us to believe for the Japanese release includes two additional remixes of Dancing. A streaming edition (not available on Apple Music) features a remix of Stop Me From Falling that features Gente de Zona, while the Collector’s Edition cassette provides a bonus downloadable track, New York City (Live From New York). If that doesn’t cause you enough confusion to run for the hills, a Christmas Collector’s Edition cassette includes the single edition of Music’s Too Sad Without You. Plus, the Christmas Collector’s Edition cassette includes an exclusive Christmas video message from Minogue. 

Okay, so perhaps additional remixes and live tracks aren’t that impressive and rightly should have been left off the Deluxe Edition as I, myself, have often criticised the inclusion of bonus tracks that add little to no value to the listener. That said, it is still my belief that the Deluxe Edition should contain all additional tracks while a standard edition should be readily available for fans who are just interested in what can be assumed to be the very best selection from the Golden recording sessions.

Oh, by the way, in case you were wondering, yes, Golden was also released on vinyl and the cover art on the larger canvas looks incredible; although that format has also seen a variety of options that will send fans broke if they are to try and acquire each and every edition. Golden is not alone in this regard. Many modern releases are designed to part the true fans with their hard-earned money (a phrase I detest, but one that seems appropriate). It’s really disappointing for fans who want to support their beloved artists but need to purchase the album multiple times in order to do so. Yes, I acknowledge that artists, and the record labels, are in the business to make money, but that doesn’t make it right. Certainly, no-one is holding a gun to your head demanding you purchase it, but true completist fans know only too well the desire of collecting. It would be the same as holding an AA meeting in a beer garden and expecting all in attendance to order a lemon squash. Kind of ridiculous, isn’t it? 

Of course, I’m not suggesting that multiple releases should be outlawed, but to release so many editions, so close after the album’s initial release, is what strikes me as opportunistic. Anniversary editions, fine. A simple release schedule of the standard edition available on all formats with a Deluxe Edition (including everything) for the hardcore fans, fine. But the way Golden has been released suggests that for fans to get everything, they need to almost buy one of everything. I guess I just wish that a Deluxe Edition was the defining element for an album’s release and that while exclusives to streaming services have been largely criticised and expunged from said services, the same should apply for physical media thereby allowing the music-lover to purchase the album on the format that they prefer without needing to purchase multiple copies to get questionable bonuses. 

All that said, it’s ultimately the music that matters most. Join me as we take a look at the songs that make up Golden (Deluxe Edition).

Dancing is an incredible song and sets the tone for the entire album. Dancing, is certainly catchy, not far removed from Minogue’s renowned disco-sound, yet with a country vibe that deals with the somewhat sensitive topic of death in a brilliant way that I thoroughly enjoy because I too want to go out dancing!

The music video is excellent and will irritate those who dislike line dancing. Nevertheless, it is well done and mixes perfectly Minogue’s new and old styles while also ensuring the video is familiar to the album artwork that was to come a few months after the single’s initial release. It is, for lack of a better term, the complete package and one of the best modern music videos I’ve seen in a long time. 

Stop Me From Falling flows beautifully from dancing and what better than to contrast the proposition of death with that of falling in love. It’s another stellar song with a very interesting treble-inspired musical approach that works remarkably well. It’s a joy to listen to and I don’t know about you, dear reader, but the rhythm is spot on and I dare you to sit still while Stop Me From Falling is playing. 

The core music video for Stop Me From Falling is a little less story-driven than that for Dancing, but the interlinking of a live performance, behind the scenes elements, and Minogue singing and dancing in solo elements is perfectly edited and is one of those cases where after seeing the music video, the song itself is more profound and even better than when listening to it in the album format.

There is a secondary music video that was shot as well, which is more story driven but is cringeworthy. Even the remix chosen for the song doesn’t appeal to me and I’m glad it wasn’t the edition that appeared on the album. 

Golden has a slightly slower rhythm than the previous tracks, but it’s a lovely song and one that is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. That said, I feel Minogue’s vocal could have been stronger throughout. It isn’t so much the mix as I feel she just didn’t knock it out of the park on this track. 

The Golden music video is relatively basic and while this simplicity is rather common as you proceed to, and pass, the third single, the quality often begins to suffer as the record labels don’t really care about putting too much money into promotion after an initial boost. A shame, but at least it isn’t cringeworthy. It is, however, easily forgotten and you’re unlikely to watch it again unless your preferred way to consume music is via music videos.  

A Lifetime To Repair is really pushing the auto-tune/vocal manipulation a little too far for my liking. I know it is the predominant style of the modern pop era, but I feel there are times when it is overused and I feel that becomes apparent throughout this song. It’s still a great tune though and the musicality and soundstage is magnificent. Seriously, listen to A Lifetime To Repair a couple of times and you’ll immediately notice sonic elements that you had missed the previous time around. This is one song where repeat listens really enhances the experience and that fiddle during the chorus is epic; if only it were more prominent in the mix. 

Sincerely Yours is magnificent. A beautiful song from start to finish!

One Last Kiss is a good song, but arguably the first B-side on the album. I’m not convinced that the nasal approach of Minogue’s vocal suits the song. Yes, it works, but it is this element that makes One Last Kiss a B-Side for me. 

Live A Little is addictively good. I love it!

Shelby ‘68 has an exceptional vocal presentation. I love the styling and the beat, and while slow, is absolutely magnificent. This is one of the best songs on the album and I’d argue it’s one of the best songs Minogue has ever recorded. 

Radio On really brings Minogue’s vocal front and centre. It’s a lovely mix and good to hear her voice so clearly as many of the songs that she is known for are musically dense and we rarely get to hear just how beautiful her voice is, other than in a near-acoustic song, such as this, that is a lovely addition to the album. 

Love isn’t a bad song, a little short for my liking, but it works really well within the album format and Golden wouldn’t be the same without it. 

Raining Glitter is a fun song that is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to but it’s nothing to write home about and doesn’t push the boundaries of what Minogue is capable of. 

Music’s Too Sad Without You (with Jack Savoretti) is the song that closes out the core 12-track standard edition and vinyl releases of the album. It is a perfect closer. However, the additional four tracks on the Deluxe Edition are excellent and therefore I’d strongly recommend you listen to the Deluxe Edition. That said, Music’s Too Sad Without You is a beautiful song and Jack Savoretti fits in perfectly with Minogue’s style. It’s a great duet-styled song and one of the highlights on Golden.

The music video for Music’s Too Sad Without You is exceptionally good. It’s beautifully filmed and edited with only the bare necessities in place. Although, as perfect as it is, the fade out towards the end of the song begins too abruptly for my liking. Nevertheless, it is one blemish on an otherwise perfect production. 

A live duet of Music’s Too Sad Without You was also recorded and released on Savorett’s Singing To Strangers. It isn’t a bad live recording, the musical elements are recorded extremely well, but the vocals, especially Minogue’s, are lacking in strength within the mix and subsequently sound distant. A shame considering just how good this song is. 

Lost Without You is a great song and while I acknowledge it is a little jolting from the smooth and magnificent Music’s Too Sad Without You, it’s a stellar addition to the Deluxe Edition and once the chorus begins, the mind has adjusted to the sonic shift and all is well. 

Every Little Part Of Me is a great dance meets country meets pop song, but it does challenge the mind a little; not that that is a bad thing!

Rollin’ isn’t Limp Bizkit’s Rollin’, but it is perfect for Minogue and is a value-added proposition for fans. 

Low Blow is Lady Gaga meets Kylie Minogue. It isn’t bad, it’s actually really good, but the various stylings are intriguing and while it may not appeal to everyone, I certainly like it. The soundstage and musicality is off-the-charts good and it does what all good closing songs should, it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Minogue’s extensive catalogue. It’s also a song that will induce an earworm for hours and days afterwards. 

Overall, Golden (Deluxe Edition) is an exceptional release that will ultimately appeal to longtime Minogue fans as well as newcomers who appreciate the country-pop style. As an irregular Minogue fan, ever since Locomotion set the charts on fire, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy Golden and plan to pick it up on vinyl as the more I listen to it, the more I become captivated by it. Of course, the problem is deciding which one to get. There is the Limited Edition 180gm Clear Vinyl release, the Limited Edition Super Deluxe Edition (featuring the record, a hardcover book, and the CD – I’ve seen it in person and it looks amazing!). Plus, there is also the standard black vinyl gatefold release and a picture disc edition. Seriously, there are too many versions, aren’t there? Nevertheless, I think I’ve settled on the Super Deluxe Edition as it offers a good balance of everything Golden presents. 

Ultimately, Golden is a fantastic modern country-pop album that is only let down by too many varied editions. 

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(Was) Not Was – (The Woodwork) Squeaks [Compilation Review]

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(Was) Not Was – (The Woodwork) Squeaks [Compilation Review]

Every now and then I'll browse the library of albums that I’ve saved to my TIDAL Hi-Fi collection. Amongst the thousands saved, I'll inevitably come across a few that make me wonder just how they got there. (The Woodwork) Squeaks by (Was) Not Was certainly falls into that category and upon the first listen, I'm still unsure as to why I saved it. However, upon subsequent listens, the compilation has grown on me, so much so that it leaves me feeling compelled to listen to the compilation again and again.

From my perspective, it is interesting that I saved a collection of remixes and B-sides, as (The Woodwork) Squeaks was the first (Was) Not Was album I ever listened to. Generally, I prefer the core studio releases as a starting point. Nevertheless, I'm thoroughly enjoying this compilation and I invite you to put on your boogie shoes for this review as I have a feeling you're going to need them.

Tell Me That I'm Dreaming (Traditional 12" Remix) has a compelling boogie groove that almost instantly gets you into the music, if only the first few seconds were more compelling. You'll notice throughout this review that I won't contrast a remix with the original song. This is done purposely as I’ve not heard the original recordings. In some ways, that can be a good thing as my subjective opinion isn't clouded. Regardless, Tell Me That I'm Dreaming (Traditional 12" Remix) is a great song to commence this compilation with.

Out Come The Freaks (Predominantly Funk Version) is a great, albeit it lengthy, funk-based song. Remixes do have the tendency to drag on but at no time do I feel this remix needs to be shortened. In fact, it's so good that I could listen to it on repeat for hours at a time.

Wheel Me Out (Classic 12" Version) has a sonically rough introduction that doesn't flow on well from Out Come The Freaks (Predominantly Funk Version). That said, there are some elements in this song that I enjoy, but I have to acknowledge, for the most part, that I find this track to be tedious.

(Return To The Valley Of) Out Come The Freaks (Extended Version) is a great song with a sensational tempo. I love it!

Hello Operator (Classic 12" Version) has a glorious horn section that is so pure it sounds as though you were in the studio while the song was being recorded. Hello Operator (Classic 12" Version), besides starting out slow, is a hell of a good song and I adore that lyrical delivery.

Dance Or Die (From Sweet Pea Atkinson Album) is a killer song. You won't be able to stay still while this track is playing, so you have my permission to take a break from reading this review. Get up and boogie, I’m sure you'll thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Tell Me That I’m Dreaming (Souped Up Version) / Out Come The Freaks (Dub Version) is a great track that reminds me of Grace Jones and her style on the Nightclubbing album. That said, the transition between Tell Me I’m Dreaming (Souped Up Version) and Out Come The Freaks (Dub Version) isn't entirely seamless and the songs could very well have remained separate. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoy this track.

Out Come The Freaks (Classic 12" Version) is a great addition to this compilation, but it arguably isn't the greatest version of Out Come The Freaks.

(Stuck Inside Of Detroit With) Out Come The Freaks (Again) has an incredible rhythm that you can really connect with.

As someone with two left feet, White People Can't Dance is certainly the song for me. Although, when no-one is watching, I have "the moves". I love this song and it compels me to listen to the album again and explore the entire (Was) Not Was catalogue.

Sonically, the stream from TIDAL Hi-Fi is beautiful, with every musical element positioned perfectly. It’s really all anyone would need. While (The Woodwork) Squeaks hasn’t been re-issued on any physical media, recently, I feel content with this album being part of my digital streaming collection as it is, subjectively, not quite to the standard where I feel willing to outlay additional cash to pick up a copy. That isn’t a negative reflection on the compilation, just an acknowledgement that I don’t have an endless supply of cash and one has to carefully choose albums, especially considering the often inflated prices of re-issued vinyl. This is, yet, another benefit of music streaming as it allows for exploration and enjoyment without commitment.

(The Woodwork) Squeaks can be purchased on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, (The Woodwork) Squeaks is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Elton John – Victim Of Love (Album Review)

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Elton John – Victim Of Love (Album Review)

Elton John is one of those exceptionally talented artists that have the capacity to reinvent themselves when the need arises. Well, in 1979 the Disco era was arguably at its peak following dance floor successes by the Bee Gees, Chic, and the Village People to name a few. No doubt, John probably felt if he couldn’t beat them, why not join them. Yes, dear reader, Elton John made his first, and only, disco album – Victim Of Love.

I don't know about you, but as I was born in 1979, I was probably conceived to the disco's boogie rhythm which I simply adore to this day. That said, I'm likely one of the few that feel Victim Of Love is an exceptionally brilliant Elton John release, even though he would write no songs, play no instruments, only contributing to lead and backing vocals. Nevertheless, this album wasn't just thrown together on a whim. It is a complete masterpiece, from start to finish, that has stood the test of time. With its seamless tracking, we disco-lovers have an endless piece of music to put on and dance to all night long (on repeat, of course).

An unconventional cover of Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode commences the album. I know it doesn’t sound like it would work but it absolutely does, setting the rhythm for the entire album. John's vocal delivery is also reminiscent of Berry's original which I feel is a lovely tribute to the master musician. Lenny Pickett’s saxophone solo takes the song to a new level, I could listen to him play indefinitely. John's Johnny B. Goode is truly exceptional, blending beautifully into Warm Love In A Cold World.

Warm Love In A Cold World is incredible. While the beat is predictable, a strength for disco, it is John's vocal delivery that I particularly enjoy, especially in the way he delivers the chorus. I love the drumming in particular and saw a familiar name providing the drum beats. Renowned for his production roles on Billy Idol’s exceptional debut and Rebel Yell albums as well as the Australian masterpiece, Icehouse’s Primitive Man, Keith Forsey is legendary.

Another seamless transition and we're dancing to Born Bad. I'm not kidding when I say just how challenging it is to write this review when your body is moving uncontrollably to the beat. Another stellar song, with a killer guitar solo!

Thunder In The Night doesn't offer quite as smooth a transition, most likely due to it being the first song on the second side of the vinyl release. Regardless, it isn't a jolt to the senses either and I class Thunder In The Night as the best song on the album. If only it was released two years earlier, it would have absolutely suited Saturday Night Fever. The rhythm is off-the-charts good! I'm head banging more than I would to any Metallica or AC/DC song. Exceptional!

Spotlight is a B-side and John's vocals come across a little whiny. It doesn't ruin the album, but it isn't as strong as the other songs.

Street Boogie doesn't flow well from Spotlight, but it is such an addictive pop/disco song that you can't help but bounce around as you sing the chorus. Thankfully, the remastered CD release contains the complete lyrics, thereby making karaoke-influenced disco nights all that more interactive.

Victim Of Love was largely unsuccessful when released as a single, but it would make it to John's career perspective, Diamonds. It deserves the inclusion, as does the entire album in John's diverse catalogue. Victim Of Love is the perfect way to close this disco-era album. It makes me want to play the album again and I'm not ashamed to say that I listen to this album on repeat for hours on end. It is that good and is extremely underrated! Perhaps it is too different to John's other albums for mainstream appeal, but all I know is it is a prized possession in my music collection. I will admit it initially takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve stopped comparing it to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road et al, it is exceptional!

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This review is based on listening to the 2003 remastered CD (cat: 077 116-2). While remastering is often considered a dirty word, in music appreciation circles, this remaster is as close to vinyl as the CD format can deliver. It has an incredible soundstage and simply sounds right. You can also pump the volume to dance club levels with no distortion or degradation of sound. Sonically, it is perfect, although I'd still love to see a vinyl reissue.

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The artwork and booklet are reproduced beautifully, with an accompanying reflection written by rock music journalist John Tobler. While Tobler is a little more critical of the album than I am, if you enjoy Elton John and the disco-era, then this is a must own.

Victim Of Love is an album that energises and rejuvenates my soul, reminding me exactly why I love music. Thank you, Elton!

Victim Of Love is available on CD and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Victim Of Love on Spotify and Apple Music.

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

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Elton John – A Single Man (Album Review)

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Elton John – A Single Man (Album Review)

It could be suggested that A Single Man is a literal interpretation as this 1978 release, John's twelfth studio album, is the first without Bernie Taupin at the collaborative songwriting helm. While the 1998 Mercury reissue, which this review is based upon, features John/Taupin compositions, John's collaboration with Gary Osborne, on the original track listing of A Single Man, shouldn't be dismissed as there are some remarkable songs to be heard.

John's longtime producer, Gus Dudgeon, was also absent with Clive Franks co-producing alongside John. While some may lament these key changes, one has to remember that an artist’s artistry isn't always limited to their renowned style or collaborative partners.

A Single Man is exceptional, despite the key changes in collaborative partners. Yes, again, I am bucking the trend and I implore you to listen to the album more than once as it truly grows on you the more you hear it. In my opinion, that is a sign of a great album.

From the first piano note, Shine On Through is easily identified as a magical Elton John song. The simple composition works incredibly well as all John really needs is a piano and/or classical element in the background. Shine On Through is so good, I'm really surprised it has never made it to one of John’s career perspective albums. Although, if being included on The Complete Thom Bell Sessions counts, although I suggest it doesn't, then I stand corrected. Of course, the latter edition is a different mix with a runtime near doubling that which appears on A Single Man. So, which version do I like best? Well, both of them. The gospel-style backing version on The Complete Thom Bell Sessions suits the song perfectly, but wouldn't have worked with the other songs on A Single Man. Regardless of which version you listen to, Shine On Through is a stellar Elton John tune.

Return To Paradise is an interesting composition. While it works, and I tend to thoroughly enjoy the introduction, the Caribbean-styled elements, while pertinent to the song, seems to distract my attention upon each listen. Yes, Return To Paradise is a B-side, but A Single Man wouldn't be the same without it.

I Don't Care picks up the pace with an addictive beat that will get you toe-tapping and head-bopping in no time. It has a little bit of everything. A little rock, a little pop, a touch of disco, and along with that signature piano, gospel-style backing vocals that work beautifully with the song, although they do sound a little distant in the mix.

Big Dipper starts off slowly, but I absolutely love the jazzy-blues New Orleans-style sound and that addictive chorus.

It Ain't Gonna Be Easy is one of John's greatest recordings. Tim Renwick's guitar work is off-the-charts, as is the entire composition. While the length of this song ensured it wouldn’t be heard on radio, fans of John and music lovers alike missed out on one of the best songs of the 70s. It would, without doubt, make my top 100 if I had such a list. John doesn't get much better than this!

Part Time Love did, however, receive radio airplay as the first single released from A Single Man. It's a great song that is reminiscent of the era, but unlike It Ain't Gonna Be Easy, I don't feel as though it has aged well and subsequently, as much as I enjoy it, it does sound dated. Part Time Love also appeared on The Very Best Of Elton John.

Georgia is a solid B-side. Nothing to write home about, but reminiscent in parts of the style applied throughout Tumbleweed Connection. I also consider this song a precursor to You Gotta Love Someone.

Shooting Star is another B-side and sounds as though it’s still in the demo phase of the recording.

Madness is pure madness and I love it!

Reverie is a short musical interlude. It is just that and nothing more. Although, it does offer a good amount of breathing space between the upbeat Madness and the more reserved Song For Guy.

Song For Guy is intriguing when you consider it’s primarily an instrumental track, yet was released as the second single from A Single Man. I don't know about you, but that continuous drum beat is the perfect backbone on which to hang all other musical elements. It’s superb and is one of John's greatest recordings.

Ego was initially released as a single, but failing chart success was omitted from both Blue Moves and A Single Man. While John has professed his love for the song, perhaps based upon the ego of the rock star that was the focus of the song, I find it mildly entertaining but feel that whistle is incredibly irritating. Nevertheless, it is a solid B-side with an appealing rhythm.

Flintstone Boy is an excellent song. Yes, it is different to John's usual style, but it works extremely well.

I Cry At Night is a beautiful song. The composition is perfect and shows why the John/Taupin collaborations are so celebrated. It’s a shame that it was absent from the core album for two decades. At least, for the last couple of decades, we've been able to enjoy this hidden gem.

Lovesick, similarly, is a fantastic song. Yes, it sounds a little dated, but it’s still worthy of inclusion on A Single Man.

Strangers is a lovely song to close the reissue on and always encourages me to listen to A Single Man again and stay within John's catalogue.

A Single Man is sadly underrated and while it may not have reached the status of his earlier recordings, such as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy, it is fantastic nonetheless and should be in every respectable music collection, especially if you’re an Elton John fan.

The remastering is superb and sounds perfect from start to finish on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Disappointingly, however, A Single Man hasn't been reissued on vinyl. The cover art just begs to be displayed on the larger canvas. Let's hope a pending re-issue is on the horizon, sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, A Single Man is available on CD and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, A Single Man is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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

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