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Agnetha Fältskog – I Stand Alone (Album Review)

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Agnetha Fältskog – I Stand Alone (Album Review)

Have you ever wondered what one part Chicago plus one part Abba would sound like? Well, I hadn’t but when I listen to I Stand Alone, I hear a correlation. Peter Cetera, former Chicago frontman and bassist, would produce this exceptional release, selecting the songs that he felt would be perfect for Fältskog’s uniquely smooth vocal delivery. Whilst there are a couple of misses, I Stand Alone is a thoroughly enjoyable release from start to finish and while ABBA’s success may always overshadow Fältskog’s solo career, you’d be foolish to overlook this 1987 release as it is arguably one of Fältskog’s greatest solo releases and success was only hindered by Fältskog’s lack of post-release promotion.

This review will largely be based on listening to, and appreciating, the CD release I’m fortunate enough to own. Sadly, the cover art has faded over the years but sonically the CD sounds marvellous. That said, I did lament that the vinyl reissues of Fältskog’s earlier solo releases in 2017 didn’t include this one. Of course, those reissues were originally released on Polar Music while Fältskog’s later recordings would be released on WEA Records. It may be a minor and somewhat insignificant aspect, from a music lover’s perspective, but WEA Records have yet to do anything with Fältskog’s back catalogue, meaning there is no vinyl reissue on the horizon. At least they haven’t issued a remastered brickwalled disaster as the original mastering is quite lovely with plenty of headroom allowing you the opportunity to turn the volume up according to your tastes.

The Last Time is a fantastic tune to launch I Stand Alone. Yes, it has that 80s feel to it, but that is part of the allure. While a little slow to start, the tempo kicks in after the first minute and reminds me fondly of Elton John’s Victim Of Love. This is one song that you’ll most certainly want to turn the volume up on and get the air guitar out for, for that guitar solo, while predictable, is perfect. 

Little White Secrets shifts the tempo a little too much for my liking. It has an almost Caribbean feel and is a B-side. I simply don’t feel the song suits Fältskog’s vocal style and the mix and subsequent soundstage are a little too centre focused.

I Wasn’t The One (Who Said Goodbye) [Duet with Peter Cetera] is pure gold and is one of the greatest duets of the 80s. Seriously, this is Chicago meets ABBA turned up to 11. It is flawless and I could listen to it on repeat for eternity. 

Love In A World Gone Mad is badly tracked. It’s a solid song, but coming directly after I Wasn’t The One (Who Said Goodbye) was a mistake in my opinion. Subsequently, it takes a while for the mind to adapt to the varied tempo and musicality, resulting in a love/hate relationship with the song, especially if you listen, as I do, to music in the original album format. All that said, if I’m to be completely honest, Love In A World Gone Mad is a little too campy for my liking. 

Maybe It Was Magic is a magnificent ballad that is perfectly suited to Fältskog. 

Let It Shine is a solid song but should have been tracked with Love In A World Gone Made and Little White Secrets as it again shifts the flow of the album a little too much. Truth-be-told, if I had my way, I would have tracked the ballad-styled tunes on Side A and the more 80s pop-driven songs on Side B. Thankfully, your mind does adjust, but it shouldn’t need to in my opinion.

We Got A Way is a solid upbeat pop-rock tune that flows perfectly from Let It Shine. 

I Stand Alone is a great song. The musicality is incredible with a beautifully sized and positioned soundstage ensuring that the more detailed your playback system, the more involving the music will become and you’ll hear elements that you may not have heard on a more modest system.

Are You Gonna Throw It All Away is magical. I adore Fältskog’s vocal delivery on this song and the musicality, especially the saxophone elements, makes this song nothing but a pure pleasure to listen to. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I turn the volume up and sing along. 

If You Need Somebody Tonight is a beautiful song to conclude I Stand Alone on ensuring that I’ll play the album again and stay within Fältskog’s incredible catalogue of music.

I Stand Alone is a hidden gem and if you’re a fan of ABBA or have any interest at all in 80s pop music, you’re bound to love I Stand Alone; I know I do. 

I Stand Alone is available on CD and iTunes.

Click here to read other Agnetha Fältskog reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Warren Haynes – Ashes & Dust (feat. Railroad Earth) [Album Review]

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Warren Haynes – Ashes & Dust (feat. Railroad Earth) [Album Review]

If you’re at all familiar with the Allman Brother’s Band or Gov’t Mule, then you’ll no doubt be aware of Warren Haynes and his incredibly smooth vocals and guitar playing that is simply out-of-this-world. Calling him an exceptional musician would be an understatement and an insult. There are few as masterful as Haynes and his musical prowess comes across clearly in his third solo album Ashes & Dust.

Full of recordings that are instant classics, Ashes & Dust is a cornucopia of Blues, Folk, Country, and Rock music, I have a sneaking suspicion that you’re going to love this album, I know I do!

Is It Me Or You eases you into the album. It is absolutely beautiful and while I’m not always a fan of the Banjo, it has been recorded and mixed masterfully. The string element is equally as compelling and the rhythm just makes you move to the groove subconsciously. You’ll most certainly be head-bopping and toe-tapping along to this song. 

Coal Tattoo is blues 101 and is arguably the best song on the album. Sensational! 

Blue Maiden’s Tale is more Folk/Country-based when compared to the preceding songs. That isn’t a bad thing, however, as Blue Maiden’s Tale fits in perfectly to the album and the interweaving tempos that may initially sound a little disjointed, really come together in a very enjoyable piece of music. 

Company Man is a fantastic meat and potatoes Country Rock song. It’s perfect for a sing-along and is another great head-bopping and toe-tapping song. 

New Year’s Eve is a little pedestrian and campy for my liking, but Haynes performs it beautifully nonetheless. 

Stranded In Self-Pity is a solid blues track that I like to close my eyes to as I move to the groove. 

Glory Road is a fantastic tune, but the instrumental opening is too long for the style of song in my opinion. Otherwise, it’s spectacular! As I listen to it, I’d love to hear Rod Stewart cover it as I feel it would also suit his style of vocal perfectly. 

Gold Dust Woman (feat. Grace Potter) is a killer Fleetwood Mac song and this cover is exceptional. Could it be better than the original? Well, it’s certainly on par with it. Grace Potter is a perfect addition to the song but I’d argue that Fleetwood Mac nailed the intermingling duet vocals a little better than Haynes and Potter did here.

Beat Down The Dust is nothing to write home about, but a great song nonetheless.

Wanderlust is simply gorgeous and that guitar tracking is exquisite. 

Spots Of Time has an incredible drum track with a soundstage that is thoroughly immersive. 

Hallelujah Boulevard is beautiful, but as with Glory Road, I feel as though the introduction is too long, ultimately taking the focus away from the song itself. A shame considering just how stunning it is. 

Word On The Wind is a sensational closing track with a guitar solo, and overall rhythm, that I simply adore. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to listen to Word On The Wind again. Forget playing it on repeat, however, for it is worth going back to Is It Me Or You in order to listen to this entire masterpiece again.

Sonically, the entire recording, mix, and mastering is nothing short of perfection and will really push your audio playback system to its limits. Sensational! 

Overall, Ashes & Dust is absolutely flawless and is one of the best blues-based albums I’ve ever heard. When I listen to an album this good, I am reminded of why I adore music as much as I do and that the gift of music from a master musician, such as Haynes, to the listener, is priceless. 

Although, if you’d like to put a price on it and own a copy for yourself, Ashes & Dust is available on Vinyl, CD, or the iTunes Store

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Lionel Ritchie – Dancing On The Ceiling (Album Review)

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Lionel Ritchie – Dancing On The Ceiling (Album Review)

The 80s were in full swing by the time Lionel Richie’s third solo album, following his exceptional Can’t Slow Down, was released in 1986, yet nothing about Dancing On The Ceiling sounds locked to the era as the album remains as fresh today as the day it was released. 

Dancing On The Ceiling is a great opener, although I would have preferred it without the non-musical intro as the song gets straight into the synthesised beat that is incredibly addictive. Without a doubt, you’ll find me dancing and singing along to this track when no one is watching. If only I could somehow manage to dance on the ceiling! 

Released as the first single from the album, Dancing On The Ceiling performed well in the charts, reaching the Top 10 in most regions, and while the music video is delivered in a classic cringeworthy 80s-style, there’s something strangely compelling about it that makes you want to watch it over and over again. 

Se La has a killer reggae style and you would be forgiven if you hear a little Bob Marley in this track. That said, it is perfectly suited to Richie and is a very enjoyable song to listen to, especially if you enjoy reggae music. It’s certainly one of my favourite songs on the album.

Ballerina Girl is one of Richie’s most beautiful songs. Penned by himself, for his adopted daughter Nicole, you can’t help but be moved as you listen to Richie’s smooth tones and the love he has in his heart. This is one time when the literal meaning of a song comes to the forefront of consciousness and captivates my soul. It’s one of my favourite Lionel Richie songs by far. I’d love to see him do a concert with a symphony orchestra backing as this song, in particular, would be extraordinary. 

Don’t Stop has a great rhythm, once you get over the shock from the smooth and relaxing Ballerina Girl of course. Seriously, it is perhaps one of the worst cases of bad tracking I’ve ever come across. Especially considering it is the last song on Side A of the vinyl release. All I can think is that Deep River Woman would have been the perfect closer for the first side and would have flowed beautifully from Ballerina Girl. While Don’t Stop isn’t necessarily bad, it isn’t good either as it’s too long and just doesn’t fit, sonically, well on Dancing On The Ceiling. As a song on its own, I can see the appeal. Perhaps it should have been a B-side to one of the singles or left off the album completely. Nevertheless, it is part of the album and while I have mixed feelings about it, I also acknowledge that Dancing On The Ceiling wouldn’t sound the same without it. 

Deep River Woman is a gorgeous tune that really strips down the musicality and allows Richie’s extraordinary vocal presentation to be the focus of the song. I also find the inclusion of the country and southern rock band, Alabama, on backing vocals is the ultimate addition to the album and truly makes the song something greater than the sum of its parts. Similar, in many cases, to the interweaving harmony that made the Eagles so successful. Sadly, however, Deep River Woman failed to chart successfully. That, alone, perplexes me and makes me think that I’ll never truly understand the likes and dislikes of mainstream music audiences. 

Richie would later re-record the song with Little Big Town on his reimagined country-styled compilation album Tuskegee. It’s a great rendition, but nothing beats the original in my opinion.   

Love Will Conquer All is an incredible song. That intermingling vocal harmony in the chorus. That rhythm. It really is the complete package and Marva King takes Love Will Conquer All to another level with some absolutely gorgeous backing vocals. Absolutely brilliant!

Tonight Will Be Alright is a solid B-side. Nothing to write home about, but enjoyable. I would like to have heard this sung in a Neil Diamond style; in fact, I’d love to hear Neil Diamond cover it. That said, I just feel it needed a little more spit and polish in order to really blow my mind.  

Say You, Say Me is the song. It needs no introduction and nothing really needs to be said about it other than it’s utterly perfect. 

The reimagined version, as found on Tuskegee, doesn’t have the vocal or musical prowess as heard in the original and while it is good, the original is beyond reproach. 

Night Train (Smooth Alligator) gives me a feeling of déjà vu. Oh, that’s right, Side A had a questionable closing song as well. That said, the original vinyl releases omitted this song with it only appearing on the cassette and CD releases. Unfortunately, the latest vinyl reissues do include this ninth song and it has ruined the ending of Dancing On The Ceiling in my opinion. Hence, as much as I’d like to pick up a vinyl reissue of the album, I won’t be as long as they continue putting Night Train (Smooth Alligator) on the vinyl pressing. Look, it isn’t a bad song but Say You, Say Me was the perfect closer and if this song was to be included, it should have been done so before Say You, Say Me. Unfortunately, adding additional tracks was a thing that was done at the time. The only time I’ve come across a bonus track, that I wished was on the original cassette or vinyl release, was Michael Jackson’s Leave Me Alone; a song only initially available on the CD release of Bad

Despite this questionable closer, Dancing On The Ceiling is, without a doubt, one of the greatest R&B/Soul/Pop albums of the 80s and is arguably the very best work of Richie’s career. Yes, I love Can’t Slow Down as well, but I find Dancing On The Ceiling to be more fulfilling as a piece of musical art. I also find that I gravitate towards it more frequently and when I play Dancing On The Ceiling, it’s guaranteed to be played on repeat for hours.

Dancing On The Ceiling thankfully remains easily accessible, being available on Apple Music (Original | 2003 Reissue) and the iTunes Store (Original | 2003 Reissue). If you prefer physical media, you can pick up the 2003 extended reissue on CD or the standard nine-track vinyl reissue.

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Mötley Crüe – Dr. Feelgood (Album Review)

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Mötley Crüe – Dr. Feelgood (Album Review)

Without a doubt, Dr. Feelgood is one of the greatest hard rock albums of the 80s. With sales exceeding 6 million units, fans were obviously drawn to it, as I was, roughly three decades ago. As soon as I heard the intro to Dr. Feelgood, I was hooked and a fan for life. While Mötley Crüe can fill numerous greatest hits releases with their extensive back catalogue, Dr. Feelgood is an album that plays like a compilation of the very best the band has to offer and should be in every hard rock collection. It’s arguably perfect! 

The vinyl release I’m fortunate enough to own is the 2008 Eleven Seven Music/Mötley Records reissue (cat: ESM/MR 342). The artwork is reprinted adequately, although there is a mottling effect that appears throughout when looking closely as if the artwork had been scanned for the reissue. It’s not a major issue, but one that collectors may wish to look out for. The inner-sleeve liner notes are presented clearly, for those of us interested in seeing who contributed to Dr. Feelgood from a production standpoint. The lyrics are also reprinted beautifully and while I’m not overly focused on lyrical meaning, it’s great that they’re reprinted here for those of you who are interested in singing along. 

The record label is simple, but that is really all you need. The record itself is flat but my edition is a little noisy in between tracks, with a couple of small dropouts in Slice Of Your Pie. That’s just something that you have to deal with when collecting vinyl, but the noise element isn’t an issue, of course, when the music kicks in. 

Mastering wise, it sounds great. The pressing has a truly analogue feel, even though I believe the album was recorded digitally. The soundstage is massive with a clear separation between all instrumental elements and vocals. If you’re interested in a rock and roll album that highlights each member of the band, then look no further for this is the album for you. For bass fans, you’ll also be pleasantly surprised. Given many of the hard rock/metal albums of the 80s lack a decent low end, Dr. Feelgood makes up for all those that sound too shrill with a drum and bass beat that will send you to heaven as the masterful Mick Mars riffs the hell out of his guitar. Subsequently, if you can track down a copy of this 2008 reissue, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I know I’m not. For comparison, albeit it not an ideal example, the Apple Music (non-Mastered for iTunes) release can’t even compare to the vinyl release. It sounds so flat and lifeless that I almost don’t like listening to it, but you can’t easily take vinyl everywhere with you; unless you’re into creating needle drops that is. It’s a time-consuming exercise, but one that purists swear by and yes the analogue-nature of vinyl does transfer to a digital file.  

It is important to note before venturing into the review of the individual songs, that the only editions available on Apple Music are the 20th Anniversary Expanded Edition and a standard 16-track reissue that I have no information about at all. Let’s just say that while the additional songs from the 16-track release may appeal to some fans, I find demos to be trivial additions and given that I feel the original 11-track lineup is approaching, if not reaching, pure perfection, I intend to ignore these additional tracks for this review and am thankful that I can exclude these additional demos when adding Dr. Feelgood to my digital library.  

SIDE ONE

T.n T. (Terror ‘n Tinseltown) is a great starter track. Short, to the point, but opens the album beautifully and is the perfect non-musical introduction for Dr. Feelgood. 

Dr. Feelgood needs no introduction. It is the reason I’m here and likely why you are too. Pump the volume and rock out to the incredibly rhythmic and catchy tune that is one of the very best songs Mötley Crüe has ever recorded.

While I suggested dismissing the additional demos, on the digital releases, Dr. Feelgood is one song that you may wish to take a listen to as the demo is sung from the doctor’s point-of-view. It isn’t great, but it isn’t bad either. It’s intriguing, but I’m glad it never made it to the original tracking of the album. 

The music video is a solid release but is arguably out-of-sync with the musicality and really all I want to see when I watch this music video is the band rocking out. We never really see Mick Mars do his thing properly. A shame considering what a magnificent guitarist he is. Think Slash’s solos in the Guns N’ Roses music videos, well, you aren’t getting that here. Despite that, the music video appealed to the audience of the era. I know it drew me in as I would wait patiently for it to come on TV. 

Slice Of Your Pie slows things down a little but is a great blues-based rock and roll song. Plus, if you’re a Beatles fan you may appreciate the closing elements that pay homage to I Want You (She’s So Heavy); one of my favourite Beatles tracks. Slice Of Your Pie is an all-round excellent song that is so multi-layered it needs to be heard to be believed. 

Rattlesnake Shake is hard and fast with a little rhythm thrown in for good measure; just the way I like it. 

Kickstart My Heart has another killer intro and the moment you hear it, you know exactly what you’re going to get. Perfect? I think so! 

The music video is rather solid and the intermingled adrenaline-based scenes shown while the band is playing is a nice effect but it would be an epileptic’s nightmare. Plus, the opening where the band are arriving for their own gig is simply lame.  

Without You is a beautiful power-ballad. The music video is, however, truly cringeworthy, but so few music videos from that era are timeless.

SIDE TWO

Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S) is the perfect song to open side two with. What an incredible beat and rhythm. Rock and roll doesn’t get much better than this, does it? 

The music video is essentially a live tribute to the fans. I love it. It’s absolutely perfect and shows Mötley Crüe at arguably their very best, theatrics and all. It’s well edited and if you watch this music video sitting down, you’re watching it wrong. 

Sticky Sweet is a superb song and perfectly suited for Mötley Crüe. It may not be a song you’d write home about, but Dr. Feelgood wouldn’t be the same without it. Although, that ending is a little too sudden, especially if you’re rocking out to the groove. 

She Goes Down is a fun song and is another one that doesn’t let you take a breath as you rock out to this album. That drum and bass intertwining rhythm is off-the-charts. 

Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) is a great blues-based near-ballad tune with, again, some killer musicality. 

The music video attempts to tell a story but fails miserably in my opinion. It just isn’t good and only gets better when the band reach the rehearsal space and Mars shreds it up as only he can. 

Time For Change is epic and is one of the greatest closers of any rock and roll album in my collection. It absolutely encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Mötley Crüe’s back catalogue. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but Time For Change would have been a perfect Beatles hit, or even a Lennon masterpiece; it is that good!

Nothing more really needs to be said other than if you don’t already have a copy, in your collection, you should go and pick one up. You won’t regret it, but your neighbours might as this is one album that you’ll want to pump the volume on.

Dr. Feelgood is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (16-Track | 20th Anniversary Expanded Edition). 

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Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – If I Can Dream (Album Review)

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Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – If I Can Dream (Album Review)

It never ceases to amaze me just how many different ways the music industry can repackage the music we know and love. While I was underwhelmed by the Carpenters With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra release, I was blown away by the Elvis Presley album. 

The song selection is superb, but I do question if Burning Love was the best song to get the Philharmonic treatment and open the album with. Of course, that is only one song, and the rest of the album is beyond reproach with a very tasteful orchestral inclusion to Presley’s timeless classics. 

Of course, this 2015 compilation wouldn’t be the only release to merge the classical with the rock and roll legend, but to be completely honest, I haven’t taken the time to listen to the followup, The Wonder Of You, as I fear it was released following the overwhelming success of If I Can Dream and history has taught me to be wary of additional instalments as they can, but rarely do, exceed the expectations of the original highly successful release. Of course, the Helene Fischer duet on The Wonder Of You is, to say the least, compelling as she has a divine voice. Never say never, dear reader, for one day you may just see a review of The Wonder Of You pop up on Subjective Sounds; just don’t hold your breath for a review of Christmas With Elvis And The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The release of If I Can Dream that I’m fortunate enough to own is the standard 14-track CD release. Sonically, it’s beautiful and that is of course, in part, due to the masterful arrangements and mixing that ensures Elvis has never sounded better. The mastering is beyond reproach and shows just how good CD can sound, thanks in part to Vic Anesini at Battery Studios in New York. Of course, as with all standard releases, there is also a Deluxe Edition that I’ve lusted over for some time, but I have to remind myself that I am thoroughly happy with the track selection that is featured on the standard CD release and while I may be missing out on Anything That’s Part Of You, What Now My Love, and Heartbreak Hotel, I much prefer the artwork on the standard release as it is less pompous than the Deluxe Edition. Although, and this may be confusing, the Apple Music/iTunes (Mastered for iTunes) edition uses the alternative artwork even though the additional tracks are not present. Nevertheless, I love the classic photographs that appear throughout the liner notes as they pay homage to the era; something that I feel all reissues should do henceforth as a true representation of the artist.

Also included in the liner notes is a lovely reflection by Priscilla Presley, giving us some insight into Elvis’ mindset following his recording sessions whereby he longed for a fuller sound, one that can really only be achieved with the assistance of an orchestra. I can’t argue with that opinion, for I too love the fullness of an orchestral body of work and when I listen to some of the legacy Elvis recordings, I would appreciate a fuller sound. Well, now we have it and it is fair to say that if you take the time to listen to, and appreciate, If I Can Dream, you’ll hear these classics as you’ve never heard them before and you’ll likely, as I have, fall in love with them all over again. 

Just a final note on the liner notes, I can’t begin to express just how appreciative I am to the team behind this release. They have gone above and beyond, nothing has been missed, and it is a pleasure to sit, flick between the pages, and enjoy as I sit back and listen to this masterpiece. I’d like to say this is common, but I have so many CD releases that seem as though they’ve just been thrown together on a whim, with no real thought or care put in place, especially in the modern era where streaming is now dominant. Subsequently, it is refreshing to see that some record labels and releases still go that extra step to ensure fans are rewarded with albums that can really be wonderful experiences that extend beyond the sonic pleasures of the release. 

Burning Love is a great song, but I’m a little conflicted about the decision to use it as the opener as the other songs included on this compilation release are a little less rock and roll. That isn’t to say that Burning Love doesn’t work with an orchestra approach, or that I dislike the song, nothing could be further from the truth. It simply means that out of all the songs selected, I feel this is the least appealing, but I can understand why it was chosen. Regardless of my subjective thoughts, fans will likely be in awe and will thoroughly enjoy this rendition. 

It’s Now Or Never is a lovely song and sets the tone and overall tempo for the rest of the album. 

Love Me Tender is one of the most beautiful songs ever written and recorded and while the original is beyond reproach, this melding of styles takes the song to a completely new level. One that will allow you to experience it as if it were the first time all over again. This song is the very reason why I love music as much as I do. 

Fever (feat. Michael Bublé) is a great song and while I was initially skeptical of Bublé’s inclusion, it works so well. However, if there is one element that doesn’t sit well with me, it is the vocal tracking. There is a difference between the Presley and Bublé vocal tracks, resulting in a little echo, most likely due to the tracks being recorded in two different studios, at two different time periods. You don’t notice it when listening to the songs with Presley on his own, but it is a minor irritation in this song. Not that it deters me from enjoying it, for I love it, but this slight variation is especially apparent when listening via headphones so music lovers who are sensitive to such small deviations may be best advised to listen to the album via loudspeakers. 

Bridge Over Troubled Water is an absolute classic and while I love the Simon & Garfunkel original, Presley’s rendition has always been incredible, one of the very best ever recorded, and this orchestral rendition takes the song to another level of listening pleasure. Truth-be-told, I’ve never heard a bad interpretation of this masterpiece, but I do have a soft spot for this version and I suggest you turn the volume up, sit back with a glass of wine, and enjoy. It’s absolutely spectacular!

And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind is a song where you can really hear Neil Diamond. Arguably, I feel the Neil Diamond original is the better version and as I think about it, I can’t help but wonder just how incredible Diamond’s entire catalogue would be with an orchestral mix. Nevertheless, this is a lovely rendition and a perfect addition to the album. 

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling is another absolute classic and while I enjoy Presley’s rendition, I feel the mix with the original recording and the orchestral backing is a little rough in places, especially in the backing vocal elements that I feel detract from the orchestral element as they are simply too prominent in the mix.

There’s Always Me is one of the songs on the album that I’m not overly familiar with. Yes, I adore Presley’s entire catalogue, but even the most devout fan will likely be unfamiliar with a few songs here and there. Nevertheless, There’s Always Me is a lovely addition to the album and doesn’t feel out-of-place.

Can’t Help Falling In Love is another Presley classic that requires no introduction or commentary. The original is a masterpiece and this orchestral version has merely enhanced the song. Stunning!

In The Ghetto is one of my all-time favourite Elvis songs. Without a doubt, the production team behind this release really chose well, considering just how many exceptional songs Presley recorded in his life. I can only imagine the discussions surrounding the selection process. It certainly wouldn’t have been easy and perhaps that is why additional releases have been forthcoming because the mixture of Elvis and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is a match made in heaven.

How Great Thou Art is a lovely hymn and on first listen doesn’t seem like a good song to select for this compilation, but I’m happy to say that I stand corrected for I couldn’t imagine this release without this song. 

Steamroller Blues is moody and brooding and absolutely perfect. 

An American Trilogy is a lovely song that is enhanced beautifully with the orchestral overtures. 

If I Can Dream is the perfect song to close the album on as it bookends the album nicely with the style of Burning Love as the opener, ensuring that I will listen to the album again and stay within Presley’s extensive catalogue of music. 

Overall, If I Can Dream is, truly, a dream come true for any Elvis fan. Elvis is in the room with you, as is the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and arguably has never sounded better. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I couldn’t imagine a better homage to such a sensational talent. We are truly fortunate to have Elvis’ music, but we are even more fortunate to have such a respectful modernisation of some of his greatest hits. 

If I Can Dream is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes)

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Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell (Album Review)

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Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell (Album Review)

Some albums become instant classics, not requiring the usual time + nostalgia equation. Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell was most certainly an instant classic as there isn’t a bad song to be heard on this 1993 release while paying homage to the original Bat Out Of Hell album from 1977.

While one may suggest it was mere nostalgia that contributed to the success of this release, we have to remember that Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose was less than a stellar release and ultimately failed to captivate music lovers as Bat II did. Yes, there are many reasons for this, such as Jim Steinman’s absence during the album’s creation, even though a number of his songs were used. Of course, the legal dispute between Steinman and Meat Loaf, regarding the phrase Bat Out Of Hell, certainly didn’t help and one has to wonder how much of Bat III was really about closing out the trilogy and how much was driven by the obvious capitalisation of the brand. While I’d like to suggest the latter is not a factor, if there is money to be made, sadly the powers that be will milk a franchise for all it’s worth until they destroy it. As such, Bat III just doesn’t have the soul of the original album, nor Bat II; even though the second instalment is an album that I consider to be the pinnacle of Meat Loaf’s career and one which is, in my subjective opinion, better than the original masterpiece.

Yes, I acknowledge my aforementioned declaration of love for Bat II is likely to ruffle some feathers, but one must remember that Bat II was my first exposure to Meat Loaf and the moment I saw the music video for I’ll Do Anything For Love, (But I Won’t Do That), with its epic motorcycle revving introduction and the lustful Dana Patrick, I was hooked.

Of course, I’d go on to own Meat Loaf’s entire catalogue. Yes, even those albums that I’m sure Meat Loaf would regret having recorded and released. I am a collector, after all. Nevertheless, when I wanted my Meat Loaf fix, throughout the 90s, I’d turn to Bat II as it is a killer album from start to finish without a single B-Side to be found. Yes, Wasted Youth and Back Into Hell are minor distractions, but they ultimately suit the album’s styling adequately enough that they don’t feel too out-of-place.

Speaking of things being out-of-place, I even tried to woo a girl with this album as the teenage mind believed that music could be a great icebreaker. Well, it kind of was but truth is often stranger than fiction and this particular girl asked if she could borrow the CD after hearing me casually discuss it with another friend at the time. I said sure and took the CD from the portable CD player, placed it back into its case, and handed it across.

The golden brown locks and those hazel eyes captivated me and like many testosterone-driven teenage boys, I was sure this was going to be my foot in the door.

A couple of days later, I got the shock of my life, as she returned the CD to me and merely said thank you. Of course, being a massive music nerd, I couldn’t leave it at that, I had to enter the interrogation mode and find out what she thought of it. I quickly found out she didn’t even listen to it. Her father was a huge Meat Loaf fan and didn’t yet have the album. Of course, I was assured that he liked the album.

Yes, dear reader, I was rejected and my heart was broken and life as I knew it would never be the same again. Okay, maybe that is a little overdramatic, but it is truly amazing how rejection, for any reason, can impact the psyche of the teenage mind.

Of course, a quarter of a century later, I no longer feel rejected by it. In fact, I find it hilarious that I could have even pondered such a notion, although not much as changed as I’m fast approaching 40, getting ready for my midlife crisis, only imagining the ludicrous stories I will be able to tell you upon reflection in the years to come. That, however, is another lifetime away and until then, let’s take a look at the songs that make up Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell.

I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) has an exceptional opening that is simply unmistakable. While some may lament the extensive radio play that this song has received, I still find that it’s fresh and the intro, if nothing else, is one of the greatest in the history of rock and roll. Nevertheless, I put I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) in the same category as Paradise By The Dashboard Light; it is pure perfection and should be part of everyone’s power ballad playlist.

While, obviously, this is primarily a Meat Loaf review, credit must be given to Lorraine Crosby for the incredible vocal prowess she delivered on this track. Meat Loaf is good, but with Crosby, he and I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) is great!

I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) also won a Grammy Award for the Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo in 1994 at the 36th Annual Grammy Awards, beating out Peter Gabriel’s Steam, Sting’s Demolition Man, Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower, and perhaps most surprisingly Lenny Kravitz’s Are You Gonna Go My Way.

If you’d like to cross into an alternate reality, the symphonic metal band Xandria recorded an exceptional cover of I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).

While I haven’t viewed the music video for a couple of decades, it’s still rather compelling. Although, I don’t find it as captivating and mystical as I did in my teenage years. Isn’t it interesting how as we age, our viewpoints change? In its heyday, I recall watching the music video back to back for hours at a time; that poor VHS tape. Of course, if I’m to be completely honest, I was most probably more captivated by the beauty of Dana Patrick than any other aspect of the music video. Nevertheless, it’s still worth checking out and hasn’t really aged despite drastic changes in filmmaking during the last couple of decades. Perhaps we could put that down to the vision of Michael Bay who directed all Meat Loaf’s music videos during this era. Of course, the music video, and associated radio mix is truncated as the original song is a 12-minute epic. It’s a shame as the shift is noticeable in the music video, especially if you’re familiar with the original album release.

Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back is my all-time favourite Meat Loaf song. It is rock and roll 101 and the poetic delivery, mixed with the sarcastic and ironic has always appealed to my slightly left-of-the-centre mindset. I love it!

Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through is a great tune, but it has aged significantly and no longer feels as fresh as it once did. Nevertheless, it is one of my favourite songs on the album but may not appeal to modern fans of Meat Loaf.

Of course, you may be familiar with the Jim Steinman original, released on his 1981 release, Bad For Good and sung by Rory Dodd. Dodd is no Meat Loaf, from a vocal perspective, but I thoroughly enjoy this original and in this case, I consider it to be a published demo. There’s a music video for this original and it’s so bad that it’s good! Dodd doesn’t appear in the music video as Steinman delivers lead vocals via lip syncing that is surprisingly convincing.

The Meat Loaf music video isn’t bad, but it isn’t the greatest either. Of course, at the time, I thought it was wonderful. Hey, come on, it featured Angelina Jolie; what else was I to do as my teenage mind took control of my likes and dislikes. I know you’ve been there too, dear reader, there’s no use denying it.

It Just Won’t Quit shifts the flow of the album and while musically It Just Won’t Quit is glorious, I find the flow of the album is adversely affected by this song. Of course, once the song gets going, things start to pick up and therefore it has me wondering if we really needed the slow, near-acoustic, introduction or if the song could have started more promptly. Although, I do thoroughly enjoy the closing element that bookends the song in the same manner as the introduction, so you can’t necessarily have one without the other. Perhaps you could, but it wouldn’t be the same and there is certainly a balance that works with this edition.

It Just Won’t Quit is another cover for Meat Loaf as it was originally recorded and released by Pandora’s Box on their 1989 release, Original Sin. The Pandora’s Box original isn’t bad, but I do prefer Meat Loaf’s cover.

Out Of The Frying Pan (And Into The Fire) has a killer guitar track. Yes, dear reader, get your air guitar ready, you’re going to need it. In fact, the entire song is fantastic and one of the best on the album and in Meat Loaf’s catalogue.

Jim Steinman originally released Out of the Frying Pan (And into the Fire) on Bad For Good. Steinman’s version isn’t appealing, but one can certainly see the origins of what the song would become.

Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are is a beautiful song from start to finish. While I enjoy Meat Loaf’s louder, more rock-driven songs, the guy has an incredible vocal prowess that works brilliantly with Steinman’s near-symphonic songwriting style.

…and yes, every time I look at the bottom of the rear view mirrors on my car, and notice the safety message, I’m reminded that I should put this album on and rock out to Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are.

The music video is, as the song is, a rollercoaster ride of emotions that is true to the song and visually appealing. Yes, dear reader, once again as I was a teenager when this album and the subsequent video clip was released, the scene depicting an older woman teaching the younger man about the mystery and the muscle of love was likely at the forefront of my experience with this song. In fact, in my own life, I would gravitate to a beautiful woman some nine years older than myself. Well, will you look at that, life really does imitate art!

Wasted Youth is one track that I have a love/hate relationship with. I’m not sure I would call it a song. Although, if viewed in similar styling to Lou Reed’s work, then perhaps it could be classed as a song. That said, it isn’t a bad parable and flows well into Everything Louder Than Everything Else, but one must question if it adds any intrinsic value to the album.

Everything Louder Than Everything Else is a solid riff-driven rock and roll song that was never going to set the world on fire but is thoroughly enjoyable when it comes on. Of course, it could just be a welcome inclusion following Steinman’s spoken word Wasted Youth. Okay, maybe I’m being a little too harsh on Wasted Youth, it really isn’t that bad, but it does break the flow of the album.

Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere) is jazzy rock and roll. I love it! Seriously, what’s not to like? Turn the volume up and enjoy!

As with It Just Won’t Quit, Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere) is another Pandora’s Box cover. The original is solid, reminding me of many Bonnie Tyler songs. Yes, Meat Loaf’s version is the one to beat, but Pandora’s Box really recorded an exceptional original. Released as a single, the Pandora’s Box version also had a music video made which is rather good but seriously dated to the time. Seriously, check it out and you’ll see what I mean.

Back Into Hell is an interesting instrumental track that works well on its own, but does it really work well in the album format? Over the last couple of decades I’ve become familiar with it, so removing it now would not be an option. However, as with Wasted Youth, one can’t deny that it shifts the flow of the album.

Lost Boys And Golden Girls is pure Meat Loaf. His vocal tracking on Lost Boys And Golden Girls is superb and the song is a perfect classical-styled rock song, ensuring I remain in Meat Loaf’s catalogue and listen to the album again. In fact, as I think about it further, I would say Lost Boys And Golden Girls is the one song that links Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell to the original Bat Out Of Hell.

Lost Boys And Golden Girls was also originally recorded and released on Steinman’s Bad For Good. As much as I love Meat Loaf’s rendition, Steinman performs it masterfully.

Overall, Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell is one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time. Yes, I know that praise is often given to the original Bat Out Of Hell, but the collaboration between Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman on this second instalment is beyond reproach. Rock and roll, truly, doesn’t get much better than this!

This review was based on listening to the Apple Music stream and the CD release. Sonically, both are sensational and you won’t be disappointed with the mastering on this release; a stark contrast to the original Bat Out Of Hell. However, sadly, the CD copy I own has very faded artwork that makes me wonder how it got past quality control checks. It’s tragic considering just how beautiful Michael Whelan’s artwork is.

I’m also fortunate enough to have a double cassette release of Bat II that was issued when Meat Loaf toured Australia. Unfortunately, I haven’t got a cassette deck anymore, so it sits staring at me in hope that the cassette revival will reach critical mass and I will come back to a format that I adore and grew up with. If money were no object, I’d likely buy a good Hi-Fi cassette deck on the secondhand market; cause I’ve gotta have the best hardware possible to play the four cassette tapes remaining in my collection. Nevertheless, will you just look at that cover. I thought the original cover was spectacular, but I love the darker, hell-inspired cover art of the limited edition release.

The cassette, of course, includes the entire album on Cassette 1, while the second cassette includes live editions of Bat Out Of Hell, You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, and Everything Louder Than Everything Else; repeated on both sides. Liner notes, however, are not included, which is a shame, but not entirely unexpected given the change in format and limited nature of the release. I seem to recall there was also an outer cardboard slipcase when I first got the album, but if that were the case, the slipcase is long gone and likely would have got battered up from the various moves I’ve done throughout my life.

Speaking of the varied formats, I really need to pick up a copy of the 25th Anniversary vinyl re-issue. Let’s just hope it isn’t as flawed as my release of Bat Out Of Hell was.

Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes.

Click here to read other Meat Loaf reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Metallica – Ride The Lightning (Album Review)

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Metallica – Ride The Lightning (Album Review)

For as long as I can remember, Ride The Lightning has been one of my favourite Metallica albums and despite their long legacy that continues to amaze some and disappoint others, Ride The Lightning remains timeless and is just as compelling now as the first time I heard it when I purchased the CD in the 90s.

Yes, those of you older than I would likely have memories dating back to the album’s release in 1984, on vinyl, but alas at the age of 5, Metallica was yet to appear on my radar for no one in my family would have even heard of the band and even if they had, it is highly doubtful that they would have approved for my beloved Guns N’ Roses collection, that I accumulated in the 90s, was banned in my home and I was forced to sell all their albums. One day I’ll tell you that story, dear reader, but despite the passage of three decades, the pain is still with me, even though as an adult I have replaced the records. Nevertheless, later on, as the #MP3isawesome era took off, I stupidly ripped my copy of Ride The Lightning (the 1996 reissue on Vertigo/Mercury - Cat: 838 140-2) and sold it on eBay. I honestly can’t recall the sound quality of that CD, but I recall fondly of listening to it on repeat for hours; Ride The Lightning really is that good!

Fast forward a couple of decades and as I started to rebuild my physical library, I picked up a copy of Ride The Lightning on vinyl; it’s the Blackened Recordings release from 2014, remastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound. Despite the legacy of the band and Marino’s mastering work, I was sure that I would enjoy this release and in some ways I do, but the pressing just isn’t a strong performer. Yes, the thrash elements come through loud and clear and everything is where it should be in the mix but it is very concealed; almost as though a blanket is covering the speakers. It really lacks from both soundstage and depth perspectives as the sound emanates from the speakers, rather than the speakers disappearing as the studio layout is virtually and sonically presented in the room. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change when listening via headphones and I can say, without a doubt, that mono recordings have a greater sense of scope than this vinyl pressing does.

Interestingly, the 2016 remaster that is available as a Mastered for iTunes edition, on both iTunes and Apple Music, is exceptional. To say I am smitten by this stream would be an understatement. It sounds exactly how it should; ultimately delivering a captivating performance that the vinyl release simply can’t achieve. Yes, as with my other early Metallica records, I will need to look into replacing the 2014 editions with the post-2016 counterparts; a shame considering I paid good money for a lacklustre pressing and selling them will yield next to no return. Of course, I could just stick with the Apple Music stream as it doesn’t disappoint. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Metallica should be ashamed of the 2014 vinyl pressings on their own label, Blackened Recordings, as the sound quality just isn’t there and those cheap rice paper sleeves infuriate me as they do little to protect the record and add scuff marks to the surface.

Despite the lacklustre audio performance of the 2014 record, the artwork and liner notes are beautifully replicated, even if my edition got a little banged up in the shipping of the record, thanks to an overzealous postie who used my record for frisbee practice.

Side One

Fight Fire With Fire is a killer intro. That acoustic-styled introduction never gets old and as it builds to the crescendo, you know you’re in for a treat. This is thrash metal 101 and I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I love it.

Ride The Lightning flows beautifully from the explosion that closed Fight Fire With Fire. That guitar riff is absolutely amazing. Get your air guitars out, ladies and gentlemen, for you will need them. That mid-song shift is off-the-charts and while the vinyl record doesn’t present the drum tracking well, the Apple Music stream sure does and the depth is mesmerising. Metallica’s music doesn’t get much better than this and the final elements of the song are so good that there really are no words to adequately describe the experience for you really need to experience it for yourself.

For Whom The Bell Tolls is EPIC!

Fade To Black has an interesting country twang to it, that is before the electric guitar riff takes the song to a completely different level. Although, as long-time listeners of this album would note, the song returns to the semi-acoustic element throughout. It’s a masterful composition and Fade To Black is one song, on Ride The Lightning, that truly showcases the dexterity of not only Metallica’s musicality but Hetfield’s vocal capabilities. Fade To Black is the perfect song to close out Side One of the vinyl record as you’re left wanting more. 

Side Two

Trapped Under Ice launches Side Two in a similar manner as Fight Fire With Fire opened the album. While not as strong as the leading track, this is no filler B-Side but I do find the soundstage is a little concealed and the guitar elements aren’t as prominent as they should be thereby preventing the mind from attaching itself to a single groove and rocking out. This is relevant for the Apple Music stream as well. Yes, perhaps I should focus on the bass and drum elements, but there is a guitar riff that is screaming to take centre stage but isn’t strong enough to invoke the air guitar within the listener.

Escape is a song that some may class as a filler track, but when you’ve got such songs as Ride The Lightning, For Whom The Bell Tolls, and Fade To Black on the same record, one or two tracks have to take a backseat. Without those aforementioned tracks, however, this would be a AAA song and I thoroughly enjoy it. That escape siren towards the end of the song is a nice touch!

Creeping Death is fantastic and constantly evolving. Every element is perfect and it’s one of the best songs on the album.

The Call Of Ktulu is pure gold and is one of the greatest songs Metallica, or anyone, has ever recorded. I love it, but the best rendition I’ve ever heard is the live performance from their legendary S & M concert.

Overall, Ride The Lightning is one of the greatest thrash metal records ever released and hasn’t aged at all. There isn’t a B-Side to be heard and while I’d recommend you steer clear of the 2014 vinyl reissue, later reissues tend to be favoured by fans. That said, I can’t help but wonder if it’s a case of once bitten twice shy as I’m not breaking any speed records to obtain another edition of this album as the Apple Music stream is, honestly, extraordinary. I’d hate to have finally found a version I love, only to be disappointed if the vinyl release didn’t at least match the performance of the stream. Of course, I’ve been disappointed before with Metallica’s reissues, but I do have to say that all the album pressings following the eponymous Metallica album sound superb, it is only the early records, predominantly the thrash metal era reissues, that have been disappointing. Nevertheless, if you can find a good, non-2014, copy on vinyl, grab a drink, dim the lights, and ride the lightning for the experience of this album is profound.

Ride The Lightning is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes). Deluxe Box Set editions are also available.

Click here to read other Metallica reviews by Subjective Sounds.  

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Jon English - Wine Dark Sea (Album Review)

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Jon English - Wine Dark Sea (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wine Dark Sea is currently available to own on iTunes.

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Slash - Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Slash - Self-Titled (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus iTunes/Apple Music Track:

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

Songs Not Included On Mainstream Releases:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read other Slash reviews by Subjective Sounds. 

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