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Sound City (Documentary Film Review)


Sound City (Documentary Film Review)

You may know him as the drummer from Nirvana, or the founder and lead singer of the Foo Fighters, but what you may not know is Dave Grohl is equally comfortable behind the lens in the director’s chair. In his debut directorial role, Grohl delivers the endearing documentary film, Sound City.

We are often used to the film star wanting to be a rock star, but seldom does it go the other way. Yes, Rob Zombie has had success in recent years with his Horror flicks, but this isn't your average crossover as Grohl plays to his strengths, producing and directing one of the most intriguing music-themed documentaries in recent times. It also doesn’t hurt to have a Rolodex that includes John Fogerty, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Rick Rubin, Rick Springfield, Corey Taylor, Neil Young, and Paul McCartney.

The documentary itself is told beautifully, by the people who worked at the once great Sound City Studios and the musicians who recorded there. Paul Crowder (also editor of Ron Howard's The Beatles: Eight Days A Week) expertly compiles this intermingling tale that talks about the rise and fall of a highly sort after recording studio as the industry made the transition from tape-based recording methods to digital-based recording systems.

It is difficult to not get carried away with the emotion shown by Grohl and his peers. You will laugh, you will empathise, but you will never look for the remote as the narrative is captivating.

On cursory examination, Sound City is aimed squarely at music lovers, but while it examines the effect that technology has had on the music industry, specifically from a recording standpoint, it speaks to a much larger debate regarding the effect technology has on society and culture. It is this unique approach that will undoubtedly generate interest by music lovers and documentary film buffs alike.

The filming of the documentary is immaculate and for a directorial debut, Grohl will have no detractors.

If you believe a quality soundtrack is of considerable importance, you won’t be disappointed. This is certainly not a film that you will want to watch with only your television speakers. Yes, I believe a film’s sound is fifty percent of the experience and while the film contains samples of some of the most recognisable recordings in history, it also features new and engaging compositions that were also released as a soundtrack album.

Perhaps the only disappointment is the final thirty minutes of the film where the documentary shifts focus to the recording of the soundtrack. It almost feels as though this should have been bonus content, and I can’t help but wonder if it couldn’t have been dispersed more thoroughly throughout the documentary. That said, it is utterly fascinating to see musicians like Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, and Paul McCartney share the studio with the Foo Fighters in a jazz-like jam session.

Overall there isn't a dull moment to be seen here. Even if you’re not a music fan it is an intriguing and entertaining look at a side of the industry that is less star-studded and glamorous, but nevertheless essential. 

Sound City is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and for rental and purchase on iTunes.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Victor Cajiao And Joe Cristina – Surrender (FLAC 16/44.1 Review)

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Victor Cajiao And Joe Cristina – Surrender (FLAC 16/44.1 Review)

Imagine you’re at a big city jazz club. The drinks are flowing. The smell of dinner emanates from the kitchen as you make small talk with your beloved while the band is warming up. There is something special in the air tonight. You surrender yourself to an evening of bliss and know from the first track that you will not come away disappointed.

No, Surrender isn’t a live album, but it is so exceptionally vivid that I swear the musicians are in the room with me. I don’t think I have ever turned up a Jazz record this loud before. Normally, I would sit the volume around 30-35% of max volume, for digital music playback. That produces a sound that I consider full and enveloping on my main system. For this album, however, I pushed that to 50% and had a surreal moment whereby a jazz club oasis appeared before me.

The mastering on Surrender is top notch, hence my ability to push volume levels beyond my normal comfort zone. This is digital done right! While I have mainly listened to, and prefer, the FLAC 16/44.1 files, the mastering quality remains consistent across both the MP3 (320 kbps and VBR) files that are included in the purchase, when you buy the album from CD Baby.

As I listened to the title track Surrender, the first thing that popped into my head was Carlos Santana. It was the vibe, the beat, the electric guitar work merged with an energetic jazz backing track that formed this image. That isn’t to say that the song attempts to be Santana-esk, but if you like Santana, I really believe you will love this track.

11-22 has a Bossa Nova feel to it that reminds me of the Quincy Jones track Se E Tarde Me Pardoa (Forgive Me If I’m Late). I absolutely adore it!

Canto Libre is nothing short of a sonic wonderland. The stereo imaging is amazing. This song is literally one that will encourage you to close your eyes as the music paints a picture in your subconscious. Interestingly, I was initially torn regarding the inclusion of harmonic-styled vocals. While the vocals don’t detract from the song, I felt the song didn’t need them. However, when I listened to the song via headphones, rather than loudspeakers, this perception changed. Music truly tells a story and sometimes the intimate nature of headphones allows that story to be told and appreciated differently.

Dubai Dream has a compelling beat that will get your foot tapping and head swaying from the first note. The saxophone work within this track is gorgeously restrained. I love the saxophone as an instrument but, just like the electric guitar, it can be overemphasised. That is certainly not the case on this track. I could honestly listen to Dubai Dream on repeat for hours.

Manolo is a beautiful track, but I find that the chime elements distract my mind from the music. While they are atmospheric and not harsh, they are sometimes unexpected. I feel my listening mind moving around the soundstage a little too much, not really quite sure of where I should be concentrating. That all said, I find that as they song progresses, this becomes less problematic. 

Light This Candle is a beautiful song, with Christina Clifford on vocals. Clifford has a lovely jazz-style vocal, but I find there is a little sibilance in her vocals. As I’ve mentioned in many of my other reviews, if you’re not familiar with sibilance, ignore this comment and don’t look into it as once you know what to listen for, it can become rather distracting.

If you like the piano and saxophone, then you have to listen to Tu También. It is such a beautiful track and one of my favourites on the album. When I undertake reviews, I generally have a notepad to jot down thoughts as I’m listening. My note for this song was: sax on track 7 = YEAH!

Through The Dark Night/The Lamp is a rather upbeat track and I can’t help but wonder if it shouldn’t have been tracked before Tu También. It is only that Tu También is more mellow and subjectively I feel it would have been the perfect track to end the album on. Nevertheless, Through The Dark Night/The Lamp has some beautiful guitar work and the vocals are lovely. However, I would like the vocals to be a little more forward as there are moments when I feel they get lost in the accompanying musical elements, especially during the verses.

Victor and Joe have put together a jazz album that not only shows a deep appreciation of the genre, but also proves that a lifelong friendship and collaboration can produce an album that will be enjoyed by generations of jazz lovers. It is certainly a valued addition to my own jazz collection.

That said, it would be amiss of me to not acknowledge the remarkable line-up of highly skilled and respected musicians who have appeared on this album. This is a recording that each and every one of them can be proud of.

From a non-musical perspective, Nikki Starwalker’s album artwork, Dream Oty's Memory is exceptional and visually represents the feeling of the album.

Surrender will undoubtedly appeal to any jazz fan, but remains accessible to a wider audience. You can purchase your copy from the following online retailers: CD Baby, TIDAL Store, iTunes, and Amazon.

The album is also available for streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

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Sophia Pfister – Self-Titled EP (Vinyl Review)


Sophia Pfister – Self-Titled EP (Vinyl Review)

Last month I had the privilege of reviewing Sophia Pfister’s debut EP on TIDAL Hi-Fi. While I was blown away with the mastering, nothing could have prepared me for the sonic wonderland that is contained within the grooves of the vinyl record. Well, that isn’t entirely true as Sophia did mention to me that “it sounds way better on vinyl! It's mixed and mastered slightly different, you'll hear!”

You may recall that I wasn’t fond of the Banjo presence, on the track Sugardaddy, as I felt it was too jarring for my sensitive ears. That is no longer the case. The mastering on the vinyl release mixes the Banjo elegantly with other instrumental elements and Sophia’s incredible vocals.

What this proves is that mastering does matter. Sadly, that isn’t always the case as many ‘new’ vinyl releases are simply cut from the same digital source and arguably sound terrible. Hence, I won’t be getting rid of TIDAL Hi-Fi anytime soon as it is simply too compelling to have a CD-store in my home.

The vinyl pressing of Sophia’s EP has a soundstage that is massive, fat, and creamy; just like vinyl should be. Sophia’s vocals are even smoother than on the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition.

How is that even possible?

Yes, vinyl is the king of sonic quality when mastered and pressed to the highest standards. Although, I have to ask myself, when an independent artist can produce a record this good, why can’t the big record labels?

The EP certainly highlights the capabilities of my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon and Ortofon OM20 needle. While my setup and collection is on the modest end of the audiophile spectrum, this EP is right up there with the best pressing in my collection; Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms (Mo-Fi Edition). The pressing, of Sophia’s EP, is about as silent as vinyl can get, with very little of the normal noise that is associated with the medium. Tom Weir of Studio City Sound did an incredible job mastering this EP. I’ll have to watch out for other albums that he has had a role in.

When the record arrived I was ecstatic. In-fact, it nearly didn’t arrive as it was delivered to my neighbour’s home by accident. Thankfully, they are honest people and I can’t thank them enough for ensuring the record was delivered safely.

As I carefully opened the box, the first thing I noticed was a little message of Thank You! written on the inner flap. Record collectors will understand, that’s just cool and something that adds that little special element to one’s collection, especially considering the addressing of the package was also personally written by Sophia. Yes, this slightly crazy collector will be keeping the mailing box!

Taking the record out of the carefully packed bubble wrap outlay, my next surprise was that Sophia had signed the rear album cover. I had a grin from ear to ear as this was such a wonderful surprise. I actually didn’t read that these were signed copies when I made the purchase, hence my surprise. I love collecting signed copies of albums, but what makes this album so special is that not only was the record sleeve signed, but Sophia also wrote a personalized short message on the inner sleeve. Let’s just say I was on cloud number nine.

BTW: if you want your own copy of the vinyl EP, you’d better hurry as there are only 29 left as I publish this article. Given the sonic improvement over the that of TIDAL Hi-Fi, and my love of the EP, I may just have to buy a second copy for myself as I fear this one will be worn out from repeat plays.

If vinyl isn’t your thing, remember that you can purchase the EP in CD-quality FLAC on the TIDAL Store or on iTunes. The EP is also available for streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Official Music Video to "Just Drive" by August Rigo Connect with August Rigo: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: Also available on TIDAL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Frank Sinatra – Songs For Young Lovers (10-inch Vinyl RSD 2015 Review)


Frank Sinatra – Songs For Young Lovers (10-inch Vinyl RSD 2015 Review)

Frank Sinatra had one of the most recognisable voices in recorded music history. He is the epitome of that ‘easy listening’ area, located within most music stores. Plus, when it comes time to turn down the lights, and enjoy a romantic evening with a significant other, there is no one quite like Sinatra to set the tone.

Songs For Young Lovers is Sinatra’s seventh album and is rather short with a running time of just over 21 minutes. Interestingly, there has been a trend over the last few years where albums are being released with a shorter runtime. Two that I can immediately think of are AC/DC’s Rock Or Bust (34:55) and Rob Zombie’s The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser (31:29). I was initially a little perturbed by this shortening of albums again, but it is growing on me and I find that a shorter runtime is keeping the album tight, with no filler to be seen. This is one reason why I adore Songs For Young Lovers as it plays like it should simply be a greatest hits release. In reflection, I feel the CD with its 74–80-minute runtime was just too long for an album. After listening to an album that maxes out of the capacity of CD, I find that I am often tired by the time it concludes. Whereas a 40-minute album, or less, encourages me to listen to the album again. It is an interesting conundrum, but I do hope with the resurgence of vinyl and the refocus on the song, via streaming services, that we will see less filler-filled albums; for a format need no longer be filled, just because it can be.

Anyway, at the time of Record Store Day 2015 ( RSD 15), my better half was in Europe looking for a gift to buy her beloved, that’s me (she doesn’t read my reviews, so I can pad my ego), to say she was thinking of me. She had asked me if there was anything in particular I would like. It was a shame that she wasn’t travelling to the United States as I would have got her to pick up Neil Young’s Pono music player, but I did make it clear that I wasn’t interested in the regular fridge magnet, fancy spoon, or other dust collecting knickknack. Yes, dear reader, I know what I want, and I’m not afraid to ask for it when questioned on the subject. Sure, I like surprises too, and I did get a couple of those, but as much as consumerism may be essential to modern society, I only want to have the goods and services that I will use. Hence, this is one reason why I generally only link to TIDAL Hi-Fi here at Subjective Sounds, despite most of the albums I discuss being available on other streaming platforms. I know some reviewers out there have numerous subscriptions, but I find that TIDAL’s catalogue is sufficient for my diverse interests. For the few albums that aren’t present on the service, I generally have those in my private collection anyway. Interestingly, the biggest holdout for TIDAL Hi-Fi is Metallica. Given that they supported Neil Young’s Pono, with a limited edition signatured edition, I’m quite surprised that they would not be present on a platform that not only pays a higher royalty, but also offers CD-quality streaming to a significant number of countries. Nevertheless, I have their catalogue on vinyl and CD, plus with the addition of iTunes Match for my own private collection, I have my bases covered.

Now will you look at that, I have written close to 500 words about everything other than Frank Sinatra’s album. Fingers crossed I can get back on track, but don’t quote me on it.

One of the things that intrigued me, when my significant other gifted me this album, was that it came as a 10–inch release. In-fact, it was the first 10–inch vinyl in my collection, so to me it was rather unique. It was also the first time that this album had been reissued on vinyl since the mid 80s and the version I have is the stereo release. The RSD reissue was not released in Mono, however, Vinylogy’s DOL label reissued a Mono release in 2015 that includes additional tracks. It is important to note that as Songs For Young Lovers is no longer in copyright in Europe, Vinylogy’s release is most likely cut from a digital source of unknown origin or mastering quality (possibly a CD). It is almost certain that the original tapes would not have been used. Perhaps a first, or second, generation duplication master tape if we’re lucky. That said, these ‘bootleg’ style pressings from DOL, WaxTime, Vinyl Lovers etc, that I have in my collection, all seem to have a pleasurable sound as well as being incredibly quiet with little to no noticeable noise between the tracks, or throughout the lower volume areas within songs. Even some of the highly regarded vinyl labels don’t achieve this. I guess what I am trying to say is that if you are after a Mono release of the album, you should seriously consider the DOL release. Personally, the stereo edition is adequate as I’ve never quite got into Mono recordings. If anyone can suggest a Mono recording that I should check out, that you believe is superior to the stereo mix, please let me know and I will take a look.

While the RSD 15 edition of Songs For Young Lovers was limited to an odd print run of 2,575 copies, none of them are numbered. Yes, I know a number isn’t everything, but it is something to show off and my kids think it’s cool. When it comes to music appreciation, music loving parents really have to fight to have the music heard in the modern era. Yes, the technologies have been wonderful for music discovery, but let’s just say that YouTube et al has eroded more hours of my life than I care to admit.

What I particularly like about this reissue of Songs For Young Lovers, is Universal Records ensured that this release is as close to a replica of the original as possible. Yes, there are a couple of very minor alterations but original information is presented such as how to store the record and a word about high fidelity vinyl reproduction. From a collector’s point-of-view, I love this additional information as it is nostalgic, as well as informative, of the vinyl production, distribution, and playback processes employed in the 1950s. If only they would include this kind of information/marketing speak on modern releases. I love liner notes that give me something more than who sang and played what, along with the lyrics of the song and the random individuals the artist wishes to thank.

I’ve often read that Songs For Young Lovers is considered to be one of the first concept albums, whereby a theme or story arc continued throughout the entire album. While I’m in no position to disagree, I have always enjoyed a concept album and have held Alice Cooper’s concept releases, such as Welcome To My Nightmare, in the highest regard as they tell an overarching story across the entire album, rather than being random songs from the same genre, as Songs For Young Lovers is. That opinion shouldn’t be viewed as negative, just a different view as to what a concept album is.

Songs presented on this album include:

The lovely playful song My Funny Valentine. It immediately shows off Sinatra’s gorgeous vocal delivery. Honestly, the world has so many amazing vocalists, but as soon as I hear Sinatra, I find that I am just in awe and I honestly don’t believe he had, or has, any peers.

The Girl Next Door is a lovely easy-listening track. Perhaps what I love most is the mix of Sinatra’s vocal with the accompanying musical elements. In this case, as with most of Sinatra’s recordings, his vocal delivery takes pride of place and isn’t drowned out by the music; a very common problem I find with modern recordings.

A Foggy Day is a song that I truly enjoy. The song has a number of slow and fast elements that work perfectly together.

Like Someone In Love has that traditional classic tone that is common in recordings of that era. It isn’t my favourite song on the album, but I don’t think I have ever heard a bad Sinatra song.

I Get A Kick Out Of You is an absolute classic Sinatra song. If you’ve never heard the song before, just take a listen. It is one of the best songs Sinatra ever recorded and it would be in a playlist of my top songs of all time. I love how Sinatra holds onto the lyrics, before ending the specific word. It is unique and has a very jazzy feel.

Little Girl Blue is a letdown after I Get A Kick Out Of You, but it is a lovely relaxing song.

They Can’t Take That Away From Me has a very sultry late night jazz sound. I love it! It is a sing-a-long song that makes you move and smile throughout. The one thing that I find fascinating is how short this song is. That said, it is the perfect length at just under two minutes, but it feels like it should be considerably longer.

Violets For Your Furs isn’t my favourite Sinatra song, but as I eluded to earlier, there really isn’t a bad Sinatra song. It should also be noted that Sinatra sang other people’s songs. Hence, not all songs are equally appealing to his vocal style.

So how does the record sound? Absolutely gorgeous. Warm and smooth with no harshness to be seen. I have also listened to this album on TIDAL Hi-Fi and that edition is akin to a facsimile of the record. Not bad by any means, but just not as dynamically engaging as the record. Plus, the record adds an element of nostalgia to a recording that was released when vinyl reigned supreme. As I listen to the vinyl edition, it sounds like Sinatra is is my living room. Hence, as much as I love TIDAL Hi-Fi, if you can get a copy of this album on vinyl, don’t hesitate as it is significantly more appealing.

Overall, this is a great collection of songs that highlight some of Sinatra’s greatest recordings. If you’re looking to add a little romance to your relationship, you can't go wrong by spinning this album, while you share a glass of wine and a cheese platter with your significant other.

Songs For Young Lovers is available on Vinyl and TIDAL Hi-Fi.


Sophia Pfister – Self-Titled EP (Tidal Hi-Fi Review)


Sophia Pfister – Self-Titled EP (Tidal Hi-Fi Review)

Music lovers will appreciate that moment when you find, and add, an exceptional new artist to one’s collection. It is a rare event and is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Well, I may have just found that needle, thanks to Michael Fremer’s Analog Planet post: Meet Sophia Pfister.

Pfister has one of the most remarkable female voices that I have ever had the privilege of hearing. Amazingly, this EP is her first release and to find such control from a debut, especially from an unsigned artist, is quite a rare occurrence.

I have been listening to the 5-song EP on TIDAL Hi-Fi, over the last couple of weeks, and it has rarely been turned off. I have been so impressed that I intend order the vinyl release that is limited to 200 copies, with only 60 left at the time of writing this review. Memo to self: Order this EP, NOW!

Linked directly from Analog Planet's YouTube channel.

As a singer/songwriter/musician, Pfister is incredibly talented and part of the appeal is in the simplicity of her music. That isn’t to suggest that it isn’t evolved, in-fact it is incredibly deep and complex, but what I find makes the best groove, jazz, folk, and country-styled recordings is keeping the musicality at the forefront of the experience, in which this recording certainly does. For instance, you will sway elegantly with Faded Tatto and tap your foot along with Los Angeles. It is truly difficult to sit still when listening to this EP. I have found that it is a perfect album to listen to on my daily walk. This EP is also mastered beautifully and is not taxing to the listener. It sounds perfect on my main setup and with headphones. Bottom line: I just want more. Seriously, Sophia, the world needs a complete album. However, for now, we need to be satisfied with the EP.

Let’s take a look at the songs:

Los Angeles starts off with a moody beat that I simply adore, before Pfister’s incredibly smooth, yet gritty, vocal kicks in. The song is presented in a spoken-word style that reminds me of Johnny Cash or Lou Reed, but naturally smoother. This style really works for Pfister’s vocals and is a reoccurring style throughout the EP. I can honestly listen to this song on repeat, without tiring of it.

Snakes has a lovely jazzy feel and the inclusion of the wind instruments throughout is perfect. Sonically this song is quite busy, but there is nothing I would remove. While regular readers know that I don’t listen to music specifically from the aspect of song meaning, I’m glad to see that Pfister’s vocals are prominent throughout, except on the track Sugardaddy.

New Mexico takes a slight pop/country shift and shows that Pfister can handle a number of different genres with ease. The chorus in this song is slow toe tapping and head bopping bliss. 

Sugardaddy is probably the only song that I’m not smitten over. I have a love/hate relationship with the banjo. To me, the instrument is a little too jarring and while it doesn’t destroy this song, a levelling down of the banjo tracking, especially during the chorus, would have made it more appealing as I feel Pfister’s vocals and other background instruments are simply overpowered by the banjo.

Voice and Lyrics by Sophia Pfister. Guitar by Mark Fontana. Shot by Joseph Pfister. Recorded by Tom Weir.

Faded Tatto is harmoniously gorgeous. I love the background instrumental aspects. Subtle, but sonically appealing. It is a perfect song to end the EP on.

This self-titled EP is incredibly soothing and while much of that is to do with Pfister’s beautiful tones, her talent as a musician and song writer cannot be overlooked. Let’s hope we see a full album release in the not too distant future.

Sophia Pfister’s self-titled EP is available for purchase on vinyl and iTunes. It is also available for streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi.


A Playlist For A Very Long Walk And A Great Cause


A Playlist For A Very Long Walk And A Great Cause

A friend of mine, Graeme Gates, will today, Monday 13th June, commence his walk across the Simpson Desert, on what is known as The Madigan Line.  His 520km (323mi) journey, through one of Australia’s most uninhabitable regions, will be arduous and equally enthralling, but most importantly his walk is nothing short of inspirational.

As part of his walk, Graeme is also raising money for Beyond Blue. Beyond Blue supports individuals who are suffering with anxiety and depression, and are truly inspirational in their own right. If you are able to, please take a moment to donate, in support of Graeme’s walk.

A few months before Graeme set off on this journey, he asked if I would put a playlist of songs together for him. Of course, he had to remind me several times as my mind wanders, but I was progressively putting together a list in my head as I went for my own daily walks. Graeme’s aim is to take a little bit of home, and the people he knows, with him on a journey that would test anyone’s resilience and ability to be content with the thoughts in one’s own mind. My aim, therefore, was to create a playlist that he could use for a day on repeat. I decided that it would be roughly 2 hours in duration, that way ensuring that the entire playlist would be heard about 3-4 times, depending on how many kilometres Graeme walked in a specific day.  

I knew of some of Graeme’s personal tastes when it came to music, but he also wanted a playlist that was representative of the person who created it. Honestly, if I gave him that playlist, he would have the men in white coats coming after me. Yes, dear reader, you know only too well how diverse my musical tastes are. Therefore, I aimed to include music that I enjoy and feel is motivational, energetic, and risqué.

The playlist I created for Graeme includes the following songs:

Queen – It’s A Beautiful Day

This is such an inspirational song. I can imagine as Graeme sets off for his day, that this song will bring brightness and joy for the journey ahead.

Icehouse – Great Southern Land

This song is an unofficial Australian anthem. I’ve often driven throughout outback Australia with this song blaring from the car stereo. Every time it raises goose bumps as it is incredibly moving and meaningful, from an Australian perspective. While I’ve never been as far inland as Graeme will travel, I trust this song will bring further meaning to his journey. 

Men At Work – Down Under

This is another Australian classic that many would say is also an unofficial anthem for the nation. It just had to be included.

Genesis – I Can’t Dance

I can imagine Graeme walking, dancing, and singing along to this song. It is fun, with a great beat, and it flows perfectly into the first stand-up comedy segment of the playlist.

Ray Romano – Bachelor Party

The entire album Live At Carnegie Hall is well worth a listen, but I picked out specific tracks that I felt would offer Graeme the most laughs. The aim was to provide a little relief between musical transitions.

Whitesnake – Here I Go Again ‘87

This was selected to start the heavier rock elements of the playlist that would encourage Graeme to pick up the pace. It is a great motivational song; that is certainly how I perceive it.  

Kenny Loggins – Danger Zone

For most of us, Graeme is most certainly going to the ‘Danger Zone’. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to include this song.

George Thorogood And The Destroyers - Bad To The Bone

I know Graeme is a fan of Thorogood, so I have no doubt he will be singing along. This song is full of attitude that elevates the soul from the limitation of the body.

The Who – Baba O’Riley

Okay, I just included this song for no other reason than I love it.

Blue Öyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper

I wonder if Graeme ever saw the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel ‘The Stand’. I love the way this song was used in that film and frankly, it is a haunting song. Let’s just hope it doesn’t keep him awake at night.

Ray Romano – Forty

As Graeme is in that age group, he will either find this stand-up comedy track hilarious, or traumatising.

Chuck Berry – My Ding A Ling

Ah, the first of the innuendo songs. When a man is in the desert, for a month without his wife, you have to mess with his mind. That’s what friends are for, right?

Green Jelly – Three Little Pigs

This song is an incredible retelling of the classic children’s story, but with a heavy metal approach. I absolutely love this song. It puts a smile on my face every time I hear it.

Icehouse – Nothing To Serious

This is a song that is just fun and will lighten the mood, especially if the day isn’t going as planned.

Meat Loaf – Paradise By The Dashboard Light

Paradise By The Dashboard Light is a classic song that is absolutely filled with innuendo as one sings along. It had to be included.

Tenacious D – Tribute

This is the best song in the world! That is all.

Bloodhound Gang – The Bad Touch

You can’t listen to this song without smiling. Go on, try it, I dare you! I have no doubts that Graeme will be in hysterics with this addition.

Warrant – Cherry Pie

If anyone tells you sexually charged innuendo-based songs are inappropriate, tell them to get a life and have some fun. Cherry Pie is a classic and is a no frills fun song, although it does have a cherry on top. Enjoy!

Ray Romano – Adult Movie

This track is a perfect addition after the last couple of songs.

Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger

Now the innuendos are over, it is time to get down to business and give Graeme a little boost to pick up the pace again. Nothing really needs to be said about Eye Of The Tiger. Yes, it is clichéd to the extreme, but it is very motivational.  

Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way

Let’s hope Graeme doesn’t go Kravitz’s way and have a similar wardrobe malfunction. Although, there is already a hilarious story of Graeme having the wrong underwear.

Metallica – Wherever I May Roam

I love this song for its powerful determination and ability to empower the listener.

Disturbed – Indestructible

This song follows Wherever I May Roam perfectly. Metal-infused songs are perfect for giving us the strength to overcome our human limitations. I certainly know they give me the determination and strength to carry on. Hopefully, they have the same effect for Graeme.  

Ozzy Osbourne – I Don’t Wanna Stop

This is a fantastic Ozzy, not Aussie, song that will hopefully keep Graeme’s fire burning.

Ray Romano – The Duties

This track was selected to remind Graeme of his duties when he gets home.

Aerosmith – Walk This Way

Heading into the last few tracks of the playlist and Walk This Way is a perfect addition. The beat alone applies to any walk I can think of.

Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City

This has to be the most perfect song for Graeme’s walk. I can imagine, with a little humour in my thoughts, that he will come across an oasis of Paradise City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.

Supertramp – Take The Long Way Home

Graeme most certainly is taking the long way home and therefore this final track is perfect to not only close out the playlist, but it also flows perfectly into Queen’s It’s A Beautiful Day, when the playlist is on repeat.

I have had so much fun putting this playlist together and I can’t thank Graeme enough for asking me to contribute to his walk in this way. Let's hope Graeme is having a great time with the playlist and I haven’t messed with his mind too much; but that’s what friends are for.

So what would you have added to the playlist? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments. 


The Songs That Influenced My Lifelong Obsession With Music


The Songs That Influenced My Lifelong Obsession With Music

My children recently asked the question that every music loving parent wants to hear: “What was the first song you heard, that made you love music so much”?

For almost a decade I have waited patiently to answer that question. However, it wasn’t merely one song, but two, that I recall so vividly. Both songs were heard on a battery operated AM/FM radio that I would take everywhere. It was one that had the extendable antenna and black fabric loop for securing around one’s wrist. I also remember the white lettering and red dial, against a black background, that would show the AM/FM numbers which would of course correspond with an associated station. I’ve no idea of what became of that little radio, but it lives within my memories as it would often be seen in one hand, while the other hand grasped my ‘baby bear’. Please note, I was about 5 years old at the time. Somewhere in the family archive is a picture of me, my BMX bike, and the little radio and ‘baby bear’ sitting in the basket at the front of my bike. Unfortunately, as much as I would love to share the photograph with you, I can’t find it anywhere. If/when I do come across it, I will be sure to update this article.

The small radio was so frequently used that batteries were continually being replaced. In-fact, I was proud of that fact. The obsession to burn the batteries out was almost as strong as the determination to listen to, and experience, more music. In some ways, this addictive quality has continued throughout my life as I get a buzz out of working my gear, lovingly, into the ground.

I also recall the fascination of tuning past the static to a station that would play this thing called music. At the time I had no musical influences and I really didn’t have an idea of what music actually was; despite being captivated by it. To this day I can’t recall the radio stations that became my favourites, but I do recall their rough positions on the dial (around the 100-110 FM frequency range).

In my younger years, I also recall sitting and listening to live relays of Australia beating England for the Ashes. Although, the English will likely tell you it was the other way around. Truth be told, I don’t recall the outcome, so they can have the win if they want it. As a result, I found that I wasn’t that fond of the talkback style radio, although my grandmother would continually listen to Sydney’s 2CH (now called Magic 2CH) as she drifted off to sleep. She thoroughly enjoyed all their programming, including their late night talk back.

Yet again, my grandmother proved to be a great influence to my interest in music, as one of her most prized possessions was her battery operated transistor radio. During the 90s, her old radio had started to fail and I purchased her a new one for her birthday. I recall the excitement both of us had, but it was also like she was breaking up with a long-lost lover. She truly missed the radio that she had owned since before I was born in the 70s. It had kept her company, been her confidant, and given her music and a connection with the world beyond her own. While my grandmother is no longer with us, I also place significant emphasis on the physical product, as I share the same admiration for all my audio equipment. While I often want to upgrade, I just can’t let go of a legacy piece of gear until it ceases to function as advertised. It gets even more complicated if my family has gifted me a piece of audio gear. The sentimental value, for me, supersedes the sonic quality. While I won’t use these specific pieces as often, I still try to ensure that they are being used to somehow validate their meaning to me. I’m certainly in a sentimental mood today, aren’t I?

Now, what was this post about again?

That’s right, the two songs that I recall hearing that influenced my lifelong love of music. I really have to stop digressing don’t I? Unfortunately, I thoroughly enjoy this subjective reflection and I hope, as the reader, you are similarly captivated.

The first song I recall hearing on my little transistor radio was Starship’s We Built This City. I still enjoy this song today, mostly because it brings back comforting memories of a childhood that had its fair share of ups and downs. However, it is still a great song that highlights the sound signature of the mid-80s. While it is dated to that era, it isn’t a bad recording. It is a fun soft rock/pop song that can easily be sung along to.

The second song, and one that I absolutely adore, is Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl. The beat is fantastic and while the lyrics were a little beyond the comprehension of an impressionable young boy, the song is just fun. It is easy to sing along to and ensured that I had an appreciation of not only music, but Billy Joel. He is an incredibly talented artist and I wish he was still recording new music, but what he did record is absolutely sensational.

After I mentioned, and played, these songs for my children they wanted to know I ever found my ‘uptown girl’, some twenty years after first hearing Joel’s romantic tones? I’d like to think so, but you will have to ask her if she ever found her ‘downtown man’.