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Rob Zombie – Zombie Live (Album Review)

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Rob Zombie – Zombie Live (Album Review)

Rob Zombie is one of those unique enigmas of the music industry that one can’t help but gravitate towards. His legacy and influence is legendary and while he still classes Alice Cooper amongst his idols, Zombie is without a doubt a force to be reckoned with and has arguably matched the success and influence of his idol, if not superseded it. As a serious Cooper fan, I’m glad to see the torch has been passed to the younger shock rocker, but one does have to wonder who will come after Zombie for they broke the mould when they made this monster of rock.

Personally, I’ve been a fan of Zombie’s work since I first heard White Zombie’s More Human Than Human on an episode of the television series Millennium. From that moment on, I was hooked and if Zombie released it, I tried desperately to purchase it if the budget allowed for the expense. Yes, like all good record collections, there are a couple of significant holes in my Zombie-based library, but if I had everything, then there’d be nothing left to look forward to. Trust me, the unfulfilled feeling in this regard is real. I have every AC/DC album in my collection and I feel ambivalent towards it. I want more, yet there is nothing more to get. Rule 1 of music collecting is to always ensure you pass on a release that you know you’ll regret not picking up at a later date. That way, you’ll forevermore search for a copy, or hope for a reissue, and that keeps you going as you explore and expand your collection. Perhaps my greatest regret was not picking up a copy of White Zombie’s Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. Well, I wasn’t going to make that mistake again, as the aforementioned album is now impossible to get on the Australian market for a reasonable price, so I subsequently picked up the incredible It Came From N.Y.C vinyl boxset upon release. Yes, I know Zombie himself had nothing to do with that release and similarly the former White Zombie band members had nothing to do with Let Sleeping Corpses Lie but for this Zombie fan, it was always going to be a value-added proposition that includes a beautifully presented hardcover book with a detailed look at the band from inception to Zombie’s ultimate decision to go solo. Regardless, I’m sure I’ll eventually pick up a copy of Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, but it is fun to pass on copies when they come up. It becomes a talking point and I absolutely love obtaining that hidden gem as much as I enjoy leaving it on the record store shelf for another fan to purchase and add to their own collection.

The same excitement also occurs when I decide if I should pick up the CD or Vinyl release. Generally, in Australia, CD prices are at an all-time low and are always more affordable than the vinyl counterpart. The only problem with that is that as much as I adore the CD format, the mastering is often hit and miss. Not in this case, however, as Zombie Live, while mastered a little on the hotter side, is full of dynamic range and provides a real sense of the concert experience one could expect from a Zombie performance. It is, quite frankly, one of the best recorded, mixed, and mastered live CD’s I’ve ever heard. Thank you Scott Humphrey!; a man as pivotal to Zombie’s success as Bob Ezrin is to Alice Cooper. Of course, Zombie Live would be the last album Humphrey would work on with Zombie and it’s such a shame because their collaboration was off-the-charts good. As usual, I digress, but Humphrey knew how to get the very best out of Zombie and while Zombie continues to amaze, his early-era solo releases still outperform his more recent output in my opinion.

So, we have established that the mastering is perfect on the CD release and quite frankly there isn’t a single element that I would change as it simply sounds right. However, in 2018, Zombie Live was reissued on vinyl, for the first time as the vinyl resurgence wasn’t even a blip on the radar at the time of release in 2007. We were still, inserting CDs into computers, ripping them to our iPods, and accessing bonus material via the connection between the CD and the associated artist website. We’ve certainly come a long way since then and purchasing the vinyl edition would at least remove that ungodly black box of text from the exquisite album artwork. My concern, however, is what if the pressing sucks? The CD sounds right, as I mentioned earlier, and vinyl certainly has it’s own unique sound signature that is neither better or worse than the digital edition, it’s just different. Now, I have plenty of Zombie’s albums on vinyl and his Spookshow International Live is a personal favourite, that while presented on a spectacular picture disc, sounds absolutely incredible; hence it shouldn’t really be an issue but vinyl pressings are as hit and miss as CD masterings. Logic says I should be happy with the CD release, and perhaps I am, but I will always wonder if I should have picked up the vinyl edition. Of course, if I did, I would gift the CD to my son as I no longer collect and hoard both a CD and vinyl copy. It’s excessive and I found that I wasn’t enjoying an album because I got into the bad habit of comparing the CD to the vinyl release upon each play – quite frankly a futile process! 

All that said, I am thoroughly happy with the CD release and while some vinyl releases come with extensive liner notes, many don’t and if there is one thing that I’ve always appreciated about Zombie’s CD releases, it is the attention to detail and providing the music lover with a full-featured booklet to go along with the purchase. Not bad considering Zombie openly acknowledges the end of the album and the fact that no one buys them anymore. Well, Rob, I still purchase them and I thank you for keeping the album format alive, even though it goes against your personal beliefs.

Of course, I know how easy it is to simply listen to music via streaming services, but you should seriously consider picking up, at least, the CD release of Zombie Live as it offers enough additional content to appease any Zombie fan. Okay, so much of the booklet is photographs from various live performances, but they are killer shots that you likely wouldn’t find elsewhere. Unfortunately, while this live recording is Mastered for iTunes, no digital booklet is included with the iTunes purchase. As disappointing as that is, we’re here for the music, so let’s take a look at the 18 thunderous songs that make up Zombie Live.

Sawdust In The Blood, from Educated Horses, offers the perfect backdrop to launch this live performance. A killer instrumental!

American Witch flows seamlessly from Sawdust In The Blood and remains my favourite song from the Educated Horses era. It’s a little heavier than some of Zombie’s other groove-based metal songs, but I love it! Interestingly, given this was the live album that came after Educated Horses, it is somewhat surprising that Foxy Foxy didn’t make an appearance. Nevertheless, American Witch is perfectly suited to the live lineup and the attitude of the performance.

Demon Speeding has a near-symphonic sound signature that reminds me of Metallica’s astonishingly good S&M recording with the San Francisco Symphony. Subsequently, I love it, but I have always loved this song and I may have, in my younger and wilder years, used this song as the soundtrack for a little street racing.

Living Dead Girl is a song I have mixed emotions about. I’m not a fan of the studio recording, nor did I like the music video, but I absolutely love this live rendition as it adds the attitude that I feel the original recording was missing.

More Human Than Human is one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded and this live version is nothing short of pure perfection. Zombie doesn’t get much better than this!

Dead Girl Superstar has never been a favourite of mine, and I consider it to be one of the weakest songs on The Sinister Urge, but I can’t deny just how well it works live. I actually enjoy it within this context.

House Of 1000 Corpses is a personal favourite. The film is already a cult classic and this song has such an addictive mellow groove that it’s hypnotic, drawing you into the crazy psychotic mind of Rob Zombie. What’s not to like?

Let It All Bleed Out is thrash metal meets groove metal with a touch of blues rock and roll. What can I say, it works! Although, I have to admit that it took me a number of listens to fully appreciate the song when I first heard it. Actually, Educated Horses, the album from which Let It All Bleed Out comes from, was so different to Zombie’s previous works that at first, I detested the album. Thankfully it grew on me and it is now one of my favourite Zombie releases. I guess that just goes to prove that one should never be too quick to judge as music can be an acquired taste that needs to develop over time.

Creature Of The Wheel is a killer White Zombie track and is performed flawlessly.

Demonoid Phenomenon is full of energy and attitude and is a sensational live rendition of the Hellbilly Deluxe classic.

Super-Charger Heaven is another song that is sensational live. Some songs just suit live performances; it certainly seems as though Zombie has more than his fair share of songs that fall into that category.

Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy) is an absolute favourite of mine. That said, The Sinister Urge has always been, and likely always will be, my favourite Rob Zombie album as it was a revolutionary shift in his style that linked him to his White Zombie origins but also put him on a new path of exploration as an artist.

Black Sunshine flows seamlessly from Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy), further validating my previous statement about being similar, but revolutionary. It’s a great song and is incredible when played live.

Superbeast is a killer rock and roll tune. I’ll never forget first hearing it while watching the film, End Of Days. If memory serves me well, the music video was also an added DVD special feature. It blew my mind then and still does to this day. This live version is yet another flawless performance on a live album that goes above and beyond all expectations.

The Devil’s Rejects has an incredible twang and is an awesome song that gets about as close to a ballad as Zombie is ever going to get. It’s also surprisingly well-suited for this live performance and doesn’t feel at all out-of-place.

Lords Of Salem isn’t bad, but it isn’t one of my favourite Zombie songs and I’m not entirely sure it is suited to a live performance, despite the obvious approval from the crowd. Hopefully, the cheering wasn’t added in post-production.

Thunder Kiss ‘65 has one of the most recognisable riffs in the history of rock and roll, but I have a love/hate relationship with the song. The rhythm is fantastic and the verses work well, with plenty of groove, but the chorus drives me absolutely mental. Thankfully John 5 gives a masterful solo at the end of the song. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I love John 5’s solo work as well. He’s a master musician if there ever was one and while he receives significant recognition, he is under-appreciated outside the Zombie camp.

Dragula is the perfect song to close the live performance on. It’s one of Zombie’s greatest and I never tire of turning the volume up when this song comes on. Without a doubt, it encourages me to listen to Zombie Live again and stay within Zombie’s extensive catalogue of music.

Overall, Zombie Live is a masterpiece and as polished as Zombie’s studio recordings are, this live recording maintains and amplifies his overall addictive groove and attitude, thereby taking some of Zombie’s greatest hits to another level. Honestly, it isn’t often that live performances can match or exceed their studio counterparts, but this one does.

Without a doubt, this is one album you must own. Call it a Greatest Hits, if you will, it is simply that good and is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

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Alice Cooper – Pretties For You (Album Review)

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Alice Cooper – Pretties For You (Album Review)

I doubt anyone would proclaim the Alice Cooper band’s debut release, Pretties For You, as their favourite album, yet it is strangely compelling. The psychedelic styling mixed with a high level of experimentation results in Pretties For You being located somewhere sonically between a garage band jam session and a demo recording. Yes, by conventional standards and that of the later Alice Cooper band records, Pretties For You is just bad, but as an album on its own, it showcases the era and origins of a band that would go on to have a successful career until, of course, Alice Cooper went solo and created an even larger monster, similar to Rob Zombie's move away from White Zombie. While Cooper was no doubt the pioneer, Zombie’s path a couple of decades later was not all that different to his idol’s as the early White Zombie recordings are also very raw and experimental.

Raw is perhaps the best way to describe Pretties For You and the vinyl re-issue I have is so badly mastered and pressed that it sounds like a beaten-up second-hand edition from 1969. That isn't necessarily a bad thing and the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams aren't much better, they just lack the noisy vinyl pressing, one that is also pressed off centre and has audible drift in the first song where one channel of audio is heard in a ghostly manner for the first few rotations of the record. There is even a broken groove on Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio, causing the album to play like a broken record, akin to a repetitive run-out groove. Nevertheless, I have contemplated replacing the 2009 Warner Bros. pressing with the newer 2017 re-issue, but as strange as it may sound, I kind of like the problems this pressing has as it has a character of its own. When the inoperative run-out groove presents itself, the softest of taps on my Pro-jet Debut Carbon’s plinth gets the needle tracking into the correct groove. Yes, it is a ritual, that's one reason why I love vinyl. Needless to say, it’s an imperfect format. Each and every play of an album will yield a different result, not unlike attending a concert where the performance, for any multitude of reasons, cannot be the same as the night before. No doubt some of you by now are questioning my sanity and wondering why I don’t simply get rid of this album considering it isn’t a favourite. Well, I can’t argue with that thought process, but as a life-long Alice Cooper fan, I find that I do enjoy the album, when in the mood, but I also acknowledge its flaws. Yet, I have been known to play the album on repeat for hours on end as it grows on you. 

SIDE ONE

Titanic Overture is a garbled mess but is an interesting start to the album that really goes nowhere until the piano element comes into the mix. That's a shame as I’ve always wondered what would have been if the piano track didn’t fade out. Seems like we’ll never know unless there are unheard recordings floating around that I'm unaware of.

10 Minutes Before The Worm is just weird. Still, it’s interesting but you wouldn't play it outside of the album format. It also is the first time we hear Cooper's vocal and as you may notice he has remained true to that styling throughout the years.

Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio is a great tune with a divine introduction. However, that high pitch vocal, in places, really takes a solid song and turns it into an experience that isn't quite as memorable as one would have hoped for. Nevertheless, it is one of the best songs on the album and one that I would love to see Cooper rerecord. Interestingly, and as a side note, when listening via Apple Music, the high pitch of Cooper's vocal, that I mentioned earlier, is much more reserved and subsequently less ear piercing. It’s interesting because digital music is normally fatiguing, in that regard, not vinyl. It just goes to show that lossy music alternatives do have their place in a music-first audiophile setup. Plus, for those who don’t appreciate the risk of possibly receiving a broken record pressing, the digital counterpart, of course, plays seamlessly.

Today Mueller is similar to Ten Minutes Before The Worm. Weird, yet strangely compelling. I like it!

Living is a solid rock tune from the era and a valued addition to the album.

Fields Of Regret is a song I thoroughly enjoy. However, I’d love to see Cooper rerecord Fields Of Regret with Bob Ezrin, in the production, chair as there is a solid song hidden here, begging to be brought out into the open.  

SIDE TWO

No Longer Umpire is short but enjoyable.

Levity Ball (Live At The Cheetah) is a great song but it's even more sonically compromised, than the rest of the album, as it's a live recording. Yes, dear reader, this is another song I would love to see Cooper rerecord.

B.B. On Mars is pure filler but works well within the album format.

Reflected is brilliant! Yes, the Alice Cooper band would rewrite and rerecord Reflected and release it as Elected on Billion Dollar Babies. However, I must say as much as I enjoy Elected, I prefer Reflected. Yes, there is a fanbase ready to Lynch me for that comment, but Reflected is, in my opinion, the one song that makes Pretties For You worth owning. Seriously, give it a listen.

Apple Bush is a quirky, but enjoyable, song.

Earwigs To Eternity is rather left of the centre but remains compelling and fits the experimental style of the album perfectly.

Changing Arranging is the final song on the album and is good enough to encourage me to listen to the album again and stay within the Alice Cooper catalogue.

Overall, Pretties For You is a solid debut by a band that had yet to find their sound and synergy. But, is it worth owning? For Alice Cooper fans I would say yes, but it isn't a landmark album and therefore will likely only appeal to the most dedicated fans and collectors. Hence, this is one album that you should consider streaming prior to outlaying the cash to buy Pretties For You on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), or iTunes.

You can stream Pretties For You on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (Album Review)

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Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (Album Review)

Despite being an album focused on juvenile sexual innuendos, Muscle Of Love is one of the greatest Alice Cooper albums to ever be released. This would also be the last album featuring the original Alice Cooper band lineup and would not include the master, Bob Ezrin, in the Producer's chair. Nevertheless, Jack Douglas and Jack Richardson did a wonderful job of guiding the album, while allowing creative artistry to flourish.

Yes, many of the songs on Muscle Of Love have never been part of Cooper's live set, at least for many years, but I've always found that with Alice Cooper, the best albums, songs, and performances are not the compilation filling or concert played fan favourites. Therefore, I implore you to give Muscle Of Love, as an album, a shot. I have a feeling you won't regret it.

I know I haven't regretted picking up the Friday Music vinyl re-issue from 2013. While the reissue isn't a perfect replica, sonically it is beautiful with a full analogue sound that will impress even the most hardened critic. I have listened to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams and I have to be completely frank when I say the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition makes me want to cancel my subscription. It sounds incredibly flat and shrill, much like really early CD pressings did, and perhaps TIDAL is using the same master that has yet to be remastered. Yes, Steve Hoffman and Stephen Marsh worked their mastering magic on the Audio Fidelity quadraphonic reissued SACD, but that mastering is not available outside the now increasingly rare and costly SACD pressing. Truth-be-told, I've lusted over that SACD release for some time, as it also includes a standard stereo mix for both SACD and CD layers from the aforementioned mastering engineers, but I get so much enjoyment from the Friday Music vinyl release that I don't feel the need to check it out. While I may have daggers out for the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, the Apple Music stream is beautiful, with a similar mastering to the vinyl record. If there is a difference to report, it would be that the Apple Music stream sounds a little concealed by direct comparison to the vinyl release. What it does show, however, is just because something is portrayed as being lossless, and at CD-quality, that doesn't automatically mean it will be better. Mastering really makes a far more significant difference than higher resolutions.

SIDE I

Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo) not only has a great groove, but that psychedelic undertone is superb. I dare you to sit still, without moving a muscle, during this song, I can't do it. The guitar tracking is divine and the inclusion of the violins perfectly suits the song. Plus, that outro = extraordinary!

Never Been Sold Before is your meat and potatoes rock and roll track. I love it! If I had one complaint, it would be that I'd like to hear a 1 to 2-decibel increase in the bass guitar. Just as the addition of strings to Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo) enhanced that song, the horn element in Never Been Sold Before is fantastic and has a similar effect.

Hard Hearted Alice is a song that slowly builds with a beautiful atmospheric introduction. This is one song where the quadraphonic mix would likely be astonishing, but the vinyl counterpart is no slouch with a soundstage that removes the speakers, creating a spacious sound that has to be heard to be believed.

Crazy Little Child is a fun song. I absolutely adore the piano element and I love the overall New Orleans Jazz feel. I'd love to see Cooper do an entire jazz album, even one full of standards would do. He certainly has the vocal chops for it.

SIDE II

Working Up A Sweat continues the lighthearted approach to the overall theme of the album. It's a solid song, but not one to write home about as I find Cooper’s vocals are a little distant in the mix, although, the music has an addictive and thoroughly enjoyable rhythm.

Muscle Of Love is a killer tune. The guitar intro and drum beat is superb and I find myself playing the air guitar and drums for hours after listening to this song. Exceptional!

Man With The Golden Gun was originally written and recorded for the associated James Bond film but was sadly never used. When you listen to the song, armed with that knowledge, you can immediately hear the James Bond undertones and one can only wonder how the Man With The Golden Gun’s introduction would have differed with this song. Nevertheless, it’s a solid addition to Muscle Of Love and I'm just glad it was released and not shelved as it really is quite enjoyable, even if it’s not the strongest song on the album.

Teenage Lament '74 has remained somewhat of a fan favourite and while I thoroughly enjoy the song, I feel bemused as to its popularity. I guess it just proves that I should never be asked by an artist, or record label, which songs should be released as a single or be played live.

Woman Machine is an interesting song to close the album on. Yes, it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Cooper's catalogue, but I find Woman Machine to be a little repetitive and the outro is a little too much, in my opinion, although I can see the approach Cooper and the band were going for.

Overall, Muscle Of Love is exceptional and is truly one of the best Alice Cooper albums ever recorded. Yes, it helps to have a good mastering of an album and this Friday Music release, that is a prized possession of mine, is said to have been mastered from the original Warner Bros. tapes by Joe Reagoso. After hearing it countless times, I have no reason to doubt Friday Music's claims. It really is THAT good!

Muscle Of Love is available on Vinyl, Quadraphonic SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC) and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Muscle Of Love is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

Click here to read other Alice Cooper reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton – [Compilation Review]

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(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton – [Compilation Review]

Few would argue about the influence of Melbourne's music scene in the 70s, for it was the mecca of the Australian Music Industry at the time. That said, I'm sure my Sydney neighbours would fervently disagree. While I’m Sydney born and bred, good music is good music and (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton validates that point. With a runtime nearing three hours, this compilation is an extensive trip down memory lane, but will also excite those of us that missed out on experiencing this wonderfully vibrant music scene during its heyday.

SkyhooksCarlton (Lygon Street Limbo) is the perfect song to open this compilation. Not only were Skyhooks one of the most successful bands on the scene, at the time, but Carlton (Lygon Street Limbo) incorporates the energy and musicality of the 70s. A sensational song!

The SportsWho Listens To The Radio? (Original 7" Version) is one of my all-time favourite songs, having heard it repeatedly, ironically, on the radio. Yet, until listening to this compilation, I never knew who the artist was. Now I do and I have this compilation and streaming music to thank for bringing me back to one of the coolest songs from the era.

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsSo Young is another sensational song and reminds me, in spirit, of Tom Petty. I love it!

The DotsLowdown is a little rough around the edges, but that adds to the character of the song. However, I’d argue that while Lowdown isn't a standout song, it is thoroughly enjoyable and the compilation wouldn't be the same without it.

StilettoMiddle Of The Bed is a sensational classic with a killer vocal, rhythm, and an intriguing guitar tune.

The Bleeding HeartsHit Single has a disjointed musical style that surprisingly works perfectly. Hit Single is dynamic and never dull. I don't know about you, dear reader, but it’s a hit from my perspective. It also has a slight Skyhooks influence; what's not to like?

Mighty KongHard Drugs (Are Bad For You) is another rhythmic monster. Seriously, you have to listen to this compilation, it is hit after hit. Incredible!

Mondo RockPrimal Park is a solid tune but it has a little too much pop-influence for my liking. However, there are certain elements, such as the chorus, that are spot on and thoroughly enjoyable.

Mark GillespieSuicide Sister is pure perfection!

High Rise BombersFaster Than Light is a great song. That brass section undoubtedly makes the song and I could happily listen to Faster Than Light on repeat for hours.

The ToadsEudil is addictive. Yes, even that interesting near-pop-based backing vocal grows on you; the song would be lost without it.

The Pelaco BrosMechanics In A Relaxed Manner isn't a bad blues-based tune, but I find the mix confuses my mind as the vocal presentation is too forward and slightly offbeat to the rhythm. In some respects, it is as though two songs have morphed into one.

The Relaxed MechanicsTruckin' Casanova is a campy tune, but I can't help but love it. An absolute classic and arguably a song that only an Australian band could have conjured up.

MillionairesGossip has a shifting tempo that takes a little getting used to. It isn't my favourite song from the compilation, but there was bound to be at least one of the tracks that didn't connect with me.

The KevinsOut At Night is a great song. Yes, another campy tongue-in-cheek song, but such is Australian humour.

Martin Armiger & Buzz LeesonNo Reason is a killer classic rock tune.

ParachuteThe Big Beat isn't anything to write home about, but the compilation wouldn't be the same without it.

Spare ChangeLet's Get Rich Together is one of those songs that takes repeat listens to truly enjoy. That said, once the connection is made, you'll be hypnotised by this exceptional song.

The Glory BoysThe Ballad Of Good & Evil is a fantastic song. The rhythm is amazing, but that vocal delivery is off-the-charts. So Good!

Eric Gradman Man And MachineCrime Of Passion is a solid song with an interesting vocal overlay. The sonic shift, mid-song, is also intriguing and while I'm unsure of how I really feel about Crime Of Passion, it suits the compilation perfectly.

Martin ArmigerI Love My Car is certainly reminiscent of the era, but I’d argue that it’s not quite worthy of this collection.

The Bleeding HeartsBoys (Greg Macainsh Demo Version) is a great track. It kinda makes me wonder what the non-demo version sounds like as this edition was already ready for prime-time in my opinion.

StilettoRozalyn is a killer song. The vocal delivery, in particular, is absolutely sensational, making for one of the best songs on the compilation. That said, there is a little sibilance in the vocal that can be distracting, especially when listening via headphones.

The DotsI See Red is rather rough around the edges, reminding me a little of the early Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan recordings. Overall, however, it isn't a bad song but it could have been great with a little more spit and polish.

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsOnly The Lonely Hearted isn’t a song to write home about, but it's a solid addition to this compilation.

The SportsSuddenly is a great song that improves upon each listen. I love the vocal style and Suddenly is perfectly mixed.

Mondo RockTelephone Booth has a great rhythm that is full of energy. I dare say Telephone Booth would have been exceptional when played live.

Daddy CoolSaturday Night (GTK Live) is merely satisfactory as there are much better Daddy Cool songs that could have been selected for this compilation.

SkyhooksHey, What's The Matter? (Steve Hill Demo Version) is awesome! Although, the final master recording is even better. Regardless, it's Skyhooks, what is not to like?

Company CaineBuzzin’ With My Cousin is a little too left of the centre for me. That doesn't mean that you won't like it, but I just don’t connect with it.

Captain Matchbox Whoopee BandRoll That Reefer is different and feels out-of-place, but it’s certainly a compelling tune.

Stephen Cummings & Dave FlettThe Third Degree sounds too much like The Rolling Stones. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the song is excellent, but I do value uniqueness.

Rock GraniteYou Got Me Where You Want Me is a toe-tapper and a head-bopper. Great tune!

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsSomeday It's Gonna Come To You (1976 Demo Version) is far better than the demo tag would make you believe. A sensational song!

Mark GillespieComin' Back For More is thoroughly enjoyable.

AutodriftersLocked Out Of Love is not my type of song, but you may enjoy it; especially if you're a Hank Williams fan.

Fabulous NudesI'll Be A Dag For You, Baby is daggy! It isn't the greatest song and should have been omitted from the compilation.

The Pelaco BrosTruckdrivin' Guru is a solid song, but nothing to write home about and again we have a song that is somewhat influenced by The Rolling Stones. I guess imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery.

Peter Lillie & The LeisuremastersHangin' Round The House is brilliant! An Aussie Classic!

The SportsLive Work & Play (Nightmoves Live) isn't a bad song but I'm more interested in the polish that often accompanies studio recordings. That said, this is a strong live performance with plenty of energy.

High Rise BombersRadio Show is a great song and that jam session mid-song is superb.

Eric Gradman Man & MachineBright Boy has an addictive beat and is overall an exceptional song.

SkyhooksThis Is My City is a great way to close this compilation. It ensures that I'll listen again as Skyhooks can do no wrong in my opinion.

For those of you calculating the track listing, some will wonder why there are only 43 songs reviewed, rather than the 45 included on the album. Sadly, likely due to contractual permissions, Daddy Cool’s Boy You're Paranoid and The Indelible Murtceps' Blue Movies Made Me Cry are missing from streaming services. This discrepancy is yet another reason why owning the CD is a good idea as you're not limited to accessing the music you love by outside influences that are out of your control. Despite this, (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton is an incredible compilation of Australian artists from the 70s and the reputable Melbourne music scene. While there are a couple of songs that don't connect with my soul, the compilation as a whole does. Subsequently, every song, regardless of my subjective viewpoint, is essential.

(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes. It’s important to note that the aforementioned absent songs are available if you purchase the album.

If the omission of those two songs doesn’t worry you, you can also stream (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Bee Gees' 1st (Album Review)

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Bee Gees' 1st (Album Review)

While the album title may be deceiving, given Bee Gees’ 1st is actually their third album, it would be their first album recorded outside Australia and subsequently available to an international audience.

Recorded and released in 1967, Bee Gees’ 1st was arguably released at the height of the psychedelic era and while that is clearly represented in the album's artwork, the songs also possess that mystical sound signature. That said, the soundscape of Bee Gees’ 1st isn't completely absent of influence from their earlier recordings, but it can be seen as an evolution and ultimately one of their best albums. No, every song isn’t exceptional, but as an album it’s flawless.

Turn Of The Century is an extremely enjoyable song to commence the album with. It’s only a shame that the stereo mix suffers incredibly badly from excessive flutter; especially noticeable when listening via headphones. Thankfully, the mono mix, available on the Deluxe Version, doesn't suffer from this problem. To be quite honest, I’m surprised the sub-standard stereo mix was, and remains, available to the public. Interestingly, while it is distracting, it does add an interesting, almost psychedelic feel to the song. I can listen to and appreciate either mix, although the mono mix, in this case, is beyond reproach. 

Holiday is a lovely song that is not only enhanced by the harmonising vocals but that orchestral backing is superb.

Red Chair, Fade Away is the first Beatle-esque song on the album, although it really doesn't suit the Bee Gees. That said, it would have been intriguing to see what The Beatles and George Martin could have done with this song.

One Minute Woman is a lovely song.

In My Own Time is another song that one could be forgiven for mistaking as a Beatles recording. Nevertheless, it is a solid psychedelic rock tune that works well for the Bee Gees.

Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You is exceptional! The eeriness of the song, thanks in part to the Gregorian chant and the mellotron, is beyond belief. It is one of the best songs of the 60s and one of the best tunes ever recorded by the Bee Gees.

Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy of Arts has to be one of the most obscure song titles I've ever come across. While different in style, to the other songs on the album, it does work, even if one immediately, once again, thinks of The Beatles.

New York Mining Disaster 1941 is another stellar track and would be the first international single for the Bee Gees. While it may not be as eerie as Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You, it isn't too far removed and works remarkably well amongst the other songs on the album.

Cucumber Castle is a solid song. Nothing to write home about, but the album wouldn't be the same without it.

To Love Somebody is 60s pop gold. While the song has been covered by a Who's Who of the recording industry, I dare say the original remains superior to all others. Although, I have always enjoyed Michael Bolton's rendition. Regardless, this is one song that has not aged and will undoubtedly stand the test of time for generations to come.

I Close My Eyes is an interesting song. There is no definitive rhythm for the mind to latch onto, yet it is compellingly addictive. A solid B-side.

I Can't See Nobody is another exceptional song and Robyn's vocal pitch is simply stunning, as is the harmonious backing vocals. This is one song where you’ll likely sing along to the chorus, but allow all other verses to go by as the vocal dexterity required to adequately karaoke this song would be challenging to say the least.

Please Read Me is a solid B-side.

Close Another Door is an interesting song with shifting musical elements throughout. Despite the constant shifts, it is thoroughly enjoyable and ensures I'll play the album again and stay within the Bee Gees' catalogue.

Overall, Bee Gees' 1st is an exceptional album that is a must-own for every Bee Gees fan, especially those interested in the psychedelic 60s. It’s just a shame a reissue hasn’t been delivered to fans in over a decade and the last reissue is now out-of-print. However, if you don’t mind purchasing digital downloads, Bee Gees' 1st is available on the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC) and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Bee Gees' 1st is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Click here to read other Bee Gees reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Elton John - Madman Across The Water (Album Review)

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Elton John - Madman Across The Water (Album Review)

Madman Across The Water is an unequivocally exceptional album from start to finish. Having listened to the 24/96kHz MQA edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi, there is only one word that can fully describe the album and that would be immersive. The soundstage, performance, and presence of the band is incredible and you really get a sense of being in the studio while the album was being recorded. I have also listened to the CD-quality FLAC on TIDAL Hi-Fi, but it sounds rather flat and uninspiring by comparison. Yes, the MQA edition is really that good! That said, one must remember that MQA is not a cure and a poor sounding master will still sound poor. Sometimes there is little to no difference as readers would have seen in my review of Kalio’s sensational album A/B. It all depends on how the album was mastered. If the same mastering was used then the difference between a well-mastered CD and MQA, or high-res, is minimal at best. However, there are so many poorly mastered CDs that I dare say MQA looks more appealing as it isn’t based upon the CD master, but the original studio mastering that hopefully, in most cases, is not compressed to hell and back. For more information about MQA, check out MQA.co.uk.

Tiny Dancer is an absolute classic and John's vocals are perfectly placed in the mix. Close your eyes and you will swear John and his band are in the room with you. The timbre of the instruments and John's vocals are simply astounding.

Levon is an incredible performance. The vocal build to the choral climax is to die for. It is sonically beautiful and one of John's greatest recordings.

Razor Face is a solid song, but it isn't anything to write home about.

Madman Across The Water is incredible, but as mentioned in my review of Tumbleweed Connection, I do prefer the original over this re-recording. As this is the version most people would be familiar with, I encourage you to check out the original. You won't regret it!

Indian Sunset has an impressive level of musicality. So good, in fact, that it almost steals the thunder from John's vocal delivery which is astonishing in its own right. I specifically love the near acoustic vocal delivery and the gradual layering of musical components, resulting in a more realised composition that will knock your socks off. Music is seldom this good and while I adore my Elton John compilations, Indian Sunset doesn’t feature on any of them. This song is yet one more point of validation that proves John and Taupin are musical geniuses and a collaborative team like no other.

Holiday Inn feels as though it should have been included on Tumbleweed Connection as it sounds a little disjointed with the rest of the songs on Madman Across The Water. As a song on its own, it has some exceptional musical shifts that I simply adore, but overall the song is somewhat forgettable as I don't feel the lyrical delivery is as polished as it could be. Of course, I could merely have this view because it follows the exceptional Indian Sunset.

Rotten Peaches is a B-side. It flows well within the album tracking, but it is pure filler.

All The Nasties is my favourite song from the album. It astonishes me that this song hasn't made any of his career perspective compilations. Elton John is clearly greater than a single compilation will allow. Thankfully in the modern era of the playlist, the individual listener can compile their own quasi-compilation. By the way, the drum depth throughout this song is pure gold. All The Nasties is truly exceptional and will captivate you from the first note.

Goodbye is short but beautiful. It follows on perfectly from All The Nasties and compels me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue.

Overall, Madman Across The Water is an incredibly recorded, mixed, and mastered performance that is simply unforgettable. While I adore the sonic presentation that the MQA edition delivers, the collector in me is compelled to pick up the SACD release as it contains the 2004 Greg Penny 5.I Surround Sound Mix that can only improve upon the immersion provided by MQA. Interestingly, the surround sound version reportedly contains the external version of Razor Face on the surround sound mix. That said, it wasn't my favourite song on the album so I'm unsure if it’s truly of interest. Nevertheless, it is good to know a variant exists, even if it’s only a longer rendition.

Madman Across The Water is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Madman Across The Water on Spotify or Apple Music.

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

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Elton John - Empty Sky (Album Review)

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Elton John - Empty Sky (Album Review)

Debut albums are interesting. They can produce one hit wonders, launch long-lasting careers, or be largely forgotten. The later is, of course, what has happened to Elton John's debut Empty Sky. Yes, John would go on to be incredibly successful, but I dare say most people would be unaware of this debut and would likely point to the self-titled Elton John album as his debut. Regardless, if you are reading this then it is not too late to check out Empty Sky and can hear the true origins of one of the greatest musicians in history.

Besides Skyline Pigeon, most people, even casual fans, would not have heard the songs off this album as they seldom appear on John’s live performances or career perspective compilations. It is truly a shame as there is plenty to appreciate here. The album is beautifully recorded and mastered, even though the edition used for this review was the 1995 remaster. We must remember, however, that remaster wasn’t always such a dirty word. It did, initially at least, have noble intentions.

The album artwork is gorgeous and screams of the need to own a copy on vinyl. While it was reissued in September 2017, it is important to note the bonus tracks are not included on the vinyl release. I'm normally a stickler for original track listings, but in this case I feel the bonus tracks add depth to the album and most likely the only reason they were previously omitted was due to vinyl runtime restraints. Fingers crossed there is a download code that will include the bonus tracks, but wouldn’t it be cool if they packaged the original vinyl with a 7 or 10-inch record including those three tracks. Now, that would be a value-added proposition for fans like you and me.

Empty Sky has a great rhythm that sets the tone for the entire album. The instrumental introduction is fantastic and allows the mind to become enveloped in the tempo before John's iconic vocal is introduced. You will be toe tapping and head bopping throughout.

Val-Hala has a very regal sound to it. It is lovely, but there is a little distortion in the recording that I find distracting. I'm not sure if this was intentional, or a result of the recording and mastering techniques of the era. I had considered that it could have been an artefact of the remastering process, but if one is to believe the blurb, this remastered edition used the Sadie Digital System and Prism Super Noise Shaper that is said to only enhanced the recording. Subsequently, my only thought is that it is present on the original, especially as it is also the only song on the album that exhibits the effect. Perhaps it was done with artistic intention.

Western Ford Gateway has an absolutely sensational electric guitar riff! The vocal presentation is reminiscent of John Lennon's Imagine (album) recording style. Of course, Lennon’s album was released well over a decade later, but I find it intriguing to look back on music with present-day thoughts and wonder where the influence originated. When I hear this song I often wonder if Elton John influenced John Lennon, or if Elton took influence from Lennon's recordings with The Beatles. Even if there was no real-world correlation, it is interesting to ponder such blasphemous theories.

Hymn 2000 is an enjoyable song, but I find the flute and other musical elements detract from John's vocal delivery. It simply feels a little too busy, especially when listening on loudspeakers. Headphones, interestingly enough, limit this effect.

Lady What's Tomorrow is a nice song, but it is nothing to write home about. A classic B-side!

Sails has a rhythm rivalling Empty Sky. I love it! When I listen to this song, and so many songs from the album, I can't believe these classics have mostly been omitted from the various live performances and compilations. Granted, when you are as successful as Elton John has been, all songs can't always be revisited, but it would be wonderful to see a little more variety at times.

The Scaffold has a gorgeous tonality and rhythm. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and has an addictive chorus that compels you to sing-a-long. Absolutely Brilliant!

Skyline Pigeon is arguably the most well-known track from John's debut album and was included the exceptional compilation Diamonds (Deluxe CD and streaming editions only). The Piano Version included on Diamonds is the re-recording that was done during the Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player sessions. It certainly has more polish than the original and John's vocals are significantly more prominent, but I do love the rawness of this original recording and if you haven't heard it, I implore you to give it a go. It is more acoustic, by comparison, but thoroughly worthwhile.

Gulliver/It's Hay Chewed (Reprise Version) is an interesting song that closes out the original release. It isn't bad, but the intermingling of songs is somewhat distracting and I feel Skyline Pigeon would have been the perfect song to conclude the album with. That said, the first few minutes of Gulliver/It's Hay Chewed is excellent.

Lady Samantha is a solid bonus track with exceptional musicality. It is a shame it didn't make the core album.

All Across The Havens is most certainly a B-side. Perfectly adequate but I can understand why this song didn't make the initial cut. It has a great rhythm to it, however.

It's Me That You Need has an incredibly gorgeous vocal track. I also love the musical elements and it is yet another track that shows just how successful Elton John was to become.

Just Like Strange Rain isn't bad, but it isn't great either. While I’m glad it’s on the remastered CD/ digital release, it isn't overly compelling and fails to generate the interest I believe is required to listen to the album again. That said, l know how good the rest of the album is and therefore I'm going back for another listen.

Overall, Empty Sky is one Elton John album that you simply must own or have within your streaming music library. It is timeless and will likely always remain that way. 

This review is based on the 1995 remastered CD on TIDAL Hi-Fi. While I remain interested in the vinyl reissue, I find the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi is sonically perfect. That said, the collector in me is already wanting to reach out to Piers (mataurecords.com.au) and ask him to order me a copy.

Elton John's Empty Sky is available to own on Vinyl and CD, or digitally from the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC) or iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, you can check the album out on Spotify or Apple Music.

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

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Deep Purple - Shades Of Deep Purple (Album Review)

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Deep Purple - Shades Of Deep Purple (Album Review)

From the first seconds of And The Address, the iconic, signature, sound of Deep Purple is present, despite Shades Of Deep Purple being the band’s debut album. And The Address may have an annoying cowbell beat throughout, but looking past that one can see a band already at ease with their musical style. I, for one, become thoroughly engrossed with the groove of this song. What an introduction!

Hush is a howling good song and has always been a favourite of mine. I dare you to sit still while enjoying this classic. It is addictive and one of their greatest recordings.

One More Rainy Day doesn’t have one of the most compelling openings. Yes, the thunderstorm effect is a nice addition, but the most distracting element is the first verse. It really sounds out of place with the musicality, but all is not lost as the song develops nicely. It is a B-side, but worthy of inclusion on the album.

Prelude: Happiness/I'm So Glad really shows off the organ talents of Jon Lord. That man could perform an exceptional solo, on the organ, that would rival any guitar solo in music history. Absolutely incredible! Overall, the song is extremely pleasing and while lyrical elements may become a little repetitive, the song is never fatiguing. In many respects, it amazes me that Prelude: Happiness/I'm So Glad is not included on the numerous Deep Purple compilations and live performances. Surely it is popular amongst fans. Prelude: Happiness/I'm So Glad is severely underrated and I implore you to give it a chance. It is that good!

Mandrake Root fits adequately into the tracking of the album, but it is a B-side and offers nothing really compelling. That said, the lower register of the organ is a nice addition and overall, the musicality works. The major failing, in my opinion, is a weak vocal presentation.

Help is simply exceptional! This cover version is significantly better than the original Beatles recording in my opinion.

Love Help Me isn't the greatest song and feels somewhat detached from the other recordings. There are some truly enjoyable elements, but overall I feel the song sounds too shrill and incomplete.

Hey Joe is a great example of the progressive/psychedelic style of Deep Purple. It is a solid tune that encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within the Deep Purple catalogue.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Masters/MQA (24/96 kHz) Stereo Mix. To say it was exceptional would be an understatement. Due to their musical style and remastering with loudness in mind, many Deep Purple recordings have previously been overly shrill. That isn't the case here as MQA has given us a beautiful reproduction that is as close to the master recording as consumers are ever likely to get.

I also listened to the Mono Mix (also TIDAL Masters/MQA [24/96 kHz]) of the album but it didn't appeal to me. Perhaps I'm just used to stereo recordings, but the mono soundstage is just so shallow in comparison to the stereo mix. In a classic what came first, the chicken or the egg? No answer in the mono vs. stereo argument will be agreed upon unanimously. Hence, I will simply say they sound different and I prefer the stereo mix. Truthfully, I'm just glad that we have both mixes available, in MQA, as the listener can select their preferred edition.

Overall, there really isn't a bad thing to say about Shades Of Deep Purple. As far as debuts go, it is one of the better ones in rock and roll and you can clearly hear the origins of what the band would become in the years and decades following this 1968 release.

Shades Of Deep Purple is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (Stereo 16/44.1 kHz FLAC) and (Mono 16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Stereo) and (Mono) (both Mastered For iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Shades Of Deep Purple is also available on Apple Music (Stereo) and (Mono).

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