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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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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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Legs Diamond – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Legs Diamond – Self-Titled (Album Review)

If you’re into rock and roll, especially the sort that came out of the California music scene in the late 70s, then you’re going to love this eponymous debut album from Legs Diamond.

I often sit and wonder why one band is more prominent than the other. How did they connect with the social consciousness of the time? Was a band who didn’t receive the recognition they deserve merely out of time? Well, Legs Diamond failed to set the world on fire but would later gain a dedicated following that would result in them reforming and continuing to tour and record to this day; along with various breakups throughout the years. Subsequently, you can be forgiven for having never heard of the band, but thanks to the modern era of music streaming, we can all explore and enjoy the music that was merely out of time, for Legs Diamond is certainly no diamond in the rough and is one of the greatest 70s hard rock albums I have ever heard. How Legs Diamond is not a household name is beyond comprehension, but join me as we explore their eponymous debut. You can thank me later!

It’s Not The Music kicks the album off with a rhythm that is out of this world. If you’re not head bopping and toe tapping from the first note, you’re listening wrong. With numerous influences, including Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, Legs Diamond’s It’s Not The Music is not only a song that should go down in history as one of the grooviest 70s rock anthems, but it is the perfect song to open the album with. So good!

Stage Fright has a killer guitar riff and flows perfectly from It’s Not The Music. It’s full-on 70s west coast rock and roll that will require you to dust off your air guitar. I love it!

Satin Peacock is your classic blues-based rock and roll tune. Turn that volume up and enjoy, I know I am.

Rock And Roll Man is an epic song that reminds me fondly of Black Sabbath’s Ozzy era. This is one seriously good album!

Deadly Dancer is another great song that is very much inspired by Deep Purple and as a Purple fan, that isn’t a bad thing.

Rat Race is full of groove. Yes, you can again hear the influence of Deep Purple, but Legs Diamond creates a sound that is so unique and perfect that it is only reminiscent of Deep Purple in spirit. Regardless, Rat Race will have you head bopping and toe tapping to the addictive rhythm. 70s hard rock doesn’t get much better than this!

Can’t Find Love is a little over-produced at the beginning of the song and really doesn’t start until almost two minutes have elapsed. However, once the song gets going, it’s a riff and vocal driven masterpiece and is literally one of the best songs on the album.

Come With Me closes the record out with the same energy that has permeated throughout the entire album; although I’m not fond of the fade out as I feel commencing the fade on the vocal was a mistake. Nevertheless, there is absolutely no doubt that I will listen to Legs Diamond again and stay within Legs Diamond’s rather extensive catalogue.

Overall, Legs Diamond is not only an exceptional eponymous debut, but it is one of the greatest 70s hard rock albums to have ever been recorded and released. How I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during these recording sessions as the album is mixed and mastered beautifully. So well, in fact, that I’m blown away by the dynamics and soundstage present via the Apple Music stream. While I’d love to track down a vinyl copy, and likely will at some time, this digital release is absolutely amazing and will showcase the very best your speakers or headphones have to offer. It also provides further validation that lossy music can sound exceptional if it has been recorded, mixed, and mastered properly. An incredible album from start-to-finish!

Legs Diamond is available to own on CD and iTunes.

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Eagles – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Eagles – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Some of the most interesting albums are debuts as they can either make or break an artist. Regardless of the outcome, it’s always interesting to see how the artist evolves over time, especially from a retrospective viewpoint. That said, I don’t believe I’d be wrong in suggesting that the Eagles had already found their sound on this Self-Titled debut and went about refining their talent on each subsequent album.

Album covers in the 70s were probably as unique as they have ever been, with artists and record labels seeing what would work and what wouldn’t on the large vinyl canvas. The Eagles’ debut is no exception as the cover would not only encompass the bands country meets rock musical style perfectly but would fold out to a larger poster that one could hang or admire while listening to the album. Over the years, the Eagles’ Self-Titled release has been reissued numerously and the edition I’m fortunate enough to own is the 2015 vinyl re-issue with the original album artwork. Yes, it looks impressive, but as the record doesn’t sit in a dedicated enclosure, one has to be careful not to pick the record up, out of its outer sleeve, and watch as the record slips from one’s hand across the room. Okay, so perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but if you’re new to vinyl, these unique designs can be a challenge when dealing with the larger format. 

The inner sleeve is plain and somewhat lacklustre if I’m to be honest. The red text on the natural background is incredibly difficult to read and subsequently wasn't really well thought out in my opinion. The label itself is plain but elegant. Yes, even though I use the Audio Technica AT-618 LP Stabilizer, I love looking at the record labels. I even lust over compact discs and in a bygone era, it wasn’t uncommon for me to appreciate the designs of the compact cassette. I'm not sure why it’s such a fascination, but I find it a thoroughly enjoyable part of the record collecting process.

Of course, as impressive as the record looks, it would be for nought if the audio quality wasn't up to par. Well, I think we can all agree as to just how sonically stunning the Eagles are, and this debut is no exception. The record is as black as the ace of spades, perfectly flat, and has no noticeable inner groove distortion or surface noise. While purists may lament that a significant majority of reissues are being sourced from high-resolution digital files, rather than the original master tapes, the pressing of this 2015 reissue is flawless with a full analogue sound that simply has to be heard to be believed. I have compared both the TIDAL Masters (MQA) and Apple Music (Mastered for iTunes) editions against the record and you won’t see me part with this vinyl record anytime soon. Yes, it is that good and for fans of the band, I highly recommend this particular reissue.

SIDE ONE

Take It Easy, as I've mentioned before, is perfect for a country drive. When I hear this Eagles standard, I can only imagine the excitement of fans when they put the record on for the first time in 1972. It must have blown their minds for it still astonishes me to this day as to how developed the musicality of the Eagles is on this debut. In many respects, it's good that Jackson Browne was unable to finish the song and required Glenn Frey’s involvement. I simply couldn’t imagine the Eagles debut without Take It Easy. Jackson Browne did, however, record a rendition for his 1973 album, For Everyman, and while it’s a lovely interpretation, that doesn’t stray far from the Eagles’ original, Browne’s interpretation failed to set the world on fire as the Eagles’ version did.

Witchy Woman is a killer track that really showcases just how well the vocal harmonies of the Eagles members flow together. Witchy Women is, in many respects, the perfect classic rock song that encompasses many musical eras and styles. Seriously, I could be here all day just listing them, but let’s just enjoy listening to this absolutely amazing tune, shall we?

Chug All Night is a slow starter but develops into a solid song that is thoroughly enjoyable. While it may not be a fan favourite, the album wouldn’t be the same without the frantic beat and low volume harmonies that are off-the-chart. A great rock song!

Most Of Us Are Sad is sensational! The drum and bass track blow my mind, as does the guitar strumming and vocal harmonies. Music doesn't get much better than this.

Nightingale was almost not included on the album as producer Glyn Johns felt it was substandard. One could hardly argue with him as it is filler, a B-side at best, but the record label, in this case, won and it’s of course included. In reality, it isn’t fundamentally a bad song, it just isn't to the same calibre as the other songs on the album. 

SIDE TWO

Train Leaves Here This Morning is a lovely country-focused tune that has a beautiful soundstage and depth that envelops you in sound.

Take The Devil is one of the best songs on the album, and in the Eagles catalogue, that very few know about as it doesn't make an appearance in live performances or on career perspective releases. The rhythm is seriously addictive, and the musicality of the entire recording is uncompromising. 

Earlybird has a fun little entrance, but it can be equally infuriating if you're not in the mood for those chirpy bird sounds throughout. Nevertheless, while it may be a B-side, it's a solid song that fits well with the style of the album.

Peaceful Easy Feeling is a lovely song, but as I've said before, the guitar twang mid-song is a little too high pitched for my liking and I subsequently find it distracting. A shame considering it is an otherwise exceptional song with yet another beautiful vocal presentation. 

Tryin' is a solid song to close the album with. Nothing to write home about, but a perfect B-side if there ever was one. Tryin' certainly makes me want to listen to the album again and stay within the Eagles’ extensive catalogue.

The debut Self-Titled Eagles album is astonishingly good from start to finish and shows a band with a sound signature that would take others years to develop. It really is one of their greatest albums and even if you're a casual fan, you'll find something to love on this Self-Titled debut.

Eagles – Self-Titled is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Eagles – Self-Titled is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

Click here to read other Eagles reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (Album Review)

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Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (Album Review)

Billy Joel has an exceptional back catalogue that would be the envy of many musicians. While Storm Front will always be my personal favourite, An Innocent Man, not unlike Joel's sensational Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2, is about as close to perfection as you can get. Yes, dear reader, An Innocent Man plays like a greatest hits release and should be in all serious music collections.

While it has never made it to my physical collection, I have promised myself the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) double LP release that has been mastered from the original master tapes using MOFI’s patented GAIN 2™ technology. While all the acronyms look impressive, I have a number of these releases and they are simply astonishing and make CD-quality streaming services, like TIDAL Hi-Fi, sound lifeless and flat by comparison. Speaking of TIDAL Hi-Fi, this review is based on listening to and enjoying that edition. I’ve also taken the time to appreciate An Innocent Man on Apple Music and have found the two streaming services are comparable to each other as they are derived from the same master. However, the Apple Music stream, for An Innocent Man, is about five percent louder. The additional loudness could be due to any number of production reasons, but louder volumes do give the faux perception of better quality. Now, I'm not suggesting this is the case, but it would be naive to ignore the possibility. Of course, if the volume is extended too far, the sound will degrade as a result of increased distortion; a key problem in the loudness wars. Correct management of volume, particularly in the recording, mixing, and mastering stages, is a fine line that has sadly been crossed far too often. That all said, both streams sound exceptional, but when an album is of this calibre, it will sound good regardless of lossy or lossless compression algorithms.

Without doubt, An Innocent Man, is one of the greatest albums from the 80s, but the launch window would result in a disappointing result for Joel as Michael Jackson's Thriller won the Grammy for Album Of The Year over An Innocent Man. While Jackson's Thriller is a landmark album, one I thoroughly enjoy, I'd argue that Joel’s An Innocent Man is a better album and has also stood the test of time much better than Thriller which, in my subjective opinion, is starting to sound a little dated. Perhaps An Innocent Man avoided the dreaded dating of its sound as Joel based the writing of the album on his beloved, and arguably timeless, 50s and 60s music styles. The continuous lighthearted Be-bop, Soul, and R&B styling is addictive and remarkably well suited to Joel.

Easy Money has a sensational beat – thank you Liberty DeVito! It’s a fun little song to start the album with, but the chorus isn't compelling as I find it a little distracting with it’s downbeat shift. Nevertheless, Easy Money is a great song that sets the listener up for the music they’re about to hear on the album.

An Innocent Man slows the pace of the album a little, but the transition never sounds out-of-place. When listening to An Innocent Man, you really begin to comprehend what a sensational vocalist Joel is. Joel has incredible control of his vocal and takes it right to the edge, ensuring the presentation is nothing short of a pleasure to listen to. I could listen to this song indefinitely, it is that good.

The Longest Time is, as Uptown Girl is, one of the most enjoyable songs to sing along to. Seriously, tell me you can sit and listen without singing along to this classic. Even if only in your mind, it’s addictive. I love it!

This Night really opens up throughout the chorus. Yes, the whole song is fantastic, but as a Ludwig van Beethoven fan, I really appreciate how Joel merged his vision with that of Beethoven’s. The result is a sonic interpretation that is absolutely timeless. A masterpiece!

Tell Her About It has a fantastic upbeat tempo that will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping from the very first note.

Uptown Girl is my song. It, along with Starship's We Built This City, is responsible for my love of music. Absolutely brilliant!

Careless Talk shifts the style of the album and can sound a little out-of-place following the upbeat sound of Tell Her About It and Uptown Girl. However, as a song on its own, it’s a solid recording, but if there were a B-side on An Innocent Man, it would be Careless Talk.

Christie Lee is a sensational rock tune with an exceptional saxophone element. I love it! You’ll most certainly want to turn the volume up on this song.

Leave A Tender Moment Alone is a stunningly beautiful ballad.

Keeping The Faith is a song I’ve always enjoyed, but it’s a strange song to conclude the album with as it’s somewhat different to the songs that came before it. It sounds too modern for the album’s style, but as a song on its own, it's extraordinary!

Overall, An Innocent Man is an astonishingly good album and one of Joel's best, if not his best. If you want to listen to a flawless album, that is also timeless, then this is the album for you. Pure perfection!

An Innocent Man is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, An Innocent Man is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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Vintage Trouble – 1 Hopeful Road (Album Review)

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Vintage Trouble – 1 Hopeful Road (Album Review)

Rhythm & Blues with a touch of Rock & Roll = PURE PERFECTION!

Yes, that pure perfection is exactly what you can expect from 1 Hopeful Road, the third studio album from Vintage Trouble. 1 Hopeful Road leaves me somewhat speechless as there’s no accurate way to describe the masterful styling of Vintage Trouble. They must be heard to be believed and if you enjoy the aforementioned musical styles, you're going to love 1 Hopeful Road.

Run Like The River sets the tone of the album with a perfectly distorted guitar intro and beat that is addictive. It’s a killer blues rock and roll track!

From My Arms slows the album's tempo down, but it’s presented so masterfully that it doesn’t feel out-of-place. From My Arms is a beautiful near ballad-acoustic piece that is recorded, mixed, and mastered immaculately well. This is how good music should sound. Where before you would have been toe-tapping and head-bopping to the pace of Run Like The River, you'll be doing the same here but in slow motion. Spectacular!

Doin' What You Were Doin' continues the smooth but determined blues-rock beat. I always feel compelled to sing-along to this song. Of course, I absolutely butcher the beautiful tonality of the song, but it is so good that I simply can't help myself. As I sit and enjoy Doin’ What You Were Doin’, I can’t help but think how happy the executives at Blue Note must be with their decision to distribute Vintage Trouble. The label's legacy and the band’s style are so perfectly suited that I couldn't think of a better match.

Angel City, California kicks the rock element up a notch and in some ways is reminiscent of the Eagles style. A great song with a great tempo. I love it!

Shows What You Know gets rather bluesy, but that’s a good thing. Seriously, listen to that soundstage and the shimmer of the cymbals. If anyone tells you good music doesn't exist in the modern era, point them to this album and this song.

My Heart Won't Fall Again is a thoroughly enjoyable upbeat song. Ty Taylor's vocal delivery is buttery smooth with just the right amount of grit. Taylor is, without a doubt, one of the world's greatest vocalists.

Another Man's Words is one of the best songs on the album, if not the best. The musicality is off-the-charts. Absolutely beautiful!

Strike Your Light (feat. Kamilah Marshall) wakes you up, just in case you slipped into a micro-sleep following the smooth and relaxing Another Man's Words. Despite the musical shift, Strike Your Light is an excellent song, but if there was a single song, on 1 Hopeful Road, that I could point to as being a B-side, it would be this one.

Before The Tear Drops has an incredible vintage sound! Sorry, but I had to go there. It’s the perfect blues club song for toe-tapping over dinner.

If You Loved Me is absolutely fantastic, reminding me of the music from legendary artists such as Bobby Womack, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson.

Another Baby would be a perfect song for Jimmy Barnes to cover on his next soul and blues album. Yes, it is that good, but I'm not sure Another Baby is perfectly suited to Vintage Trouble.

Soul Serenity is a beautiful song to close the album on, reminding me just how stunning the entire album is. There really isn't a bad song to be heard on 1 Hopeful Road as it plays like a greatest hits release of a band who has been around for decades. Let's hope their future albums are just as good, if not better than 1 Hopeful Road, but improving on perfection is not the easiest task.

This review was based on listening to the TIDAL Hi-Fi (CD-quality) stream and the Apple Music counterpart. While the TIDAL version was marginally better, with slightly better instrument separation, the Apple Music edition was no slouch and was sensational to listen to on my AirPods as I went about my daily tasks, away from the confines of my main stereo and headphone setups. Basically, when musicians are this talented and the album is recorded, mixed, and mastered with care, you're going to be presented with a sonically beautiful presentation regardless of lossy or lossless delivery methods. Truth be told, the only way to top the quality of the aforementioned streams would be to pick up 1 Hopeful Road on vinyl as Vintage Trouble’s style would perfectly suit the warmth and broadness often associated with the vinyl format.

1 Hopeful Road is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, 1 Hopeful Road is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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John Fogerty – Deja Vu All Over Again (Album Review)

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John Fogerty – Deja Vu All Over Again (Album Review)

It can be difficult to think of John Fogerty as a solo artist, for his songwriting, singing, and overall musicality has permanently been linked to Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). However, if you think he did his best work in CCR, you'd be mistaken as Fogerty is nothing short of a living legend. While the solo albums may not sell as well as the CCR back catalogue, Deja Vu All Over Again is impeccably recorded and mastered, showing just how good the red book CD format can sound.

With a short runtime of just over half an hour, there isn't a single B-side to be found. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I love shorter runtimes as artists tend to focus on perfection, rather than filling the available capacity of the format.

It also helps to have a stellar band, including the prolific and exceptional drummer Kenny Aronoff. Mark Knopfler also makes a sonically spectacular appearance on Nobody's Here Anymore; Dire Straits fans will be thoroughly pleased, I know I am!

Fogerty himself arranged and produced the album and as you listen, you can hear the love and devotion that he placed into the entire album. Although, that could be said for all his records dating back to Bayou County in 1969 with CCR. Let's just say the magic of John Fogerty is not often matched.

This review is based on listening to the 2004 Geffen CD release: Cat: 9863468. Deja Vu All Over Again has only ever been released on CD, but that shouldn't be seen as a negative viewpoint as I can't imagine this recording sounding any better on vinyl or high-res digital, it is really that good!

Deja Vu (All Over Again) is the perfect song to commence the album with. The musicality will envelop you as Fogerty's vocal is so clear you feel he is in the room with you. Pure perfection!

Sugar-Sugar (In My Life) has an upbeat sound that reminds me of Hanson's MMMBop. Yes, dear reader, I’m starting to think I listen to too much music. Nevertheless, I love these odd connections. They are often comical and circumstantial, but can also, at times, reveal musical influences.

She's Got Baggage is your classic rock and roll song. It's fun and if your body isn't already moving, it will be by the end of this song. Although, it is borderline campy, but manages to stay clear of being too campy.

Radar sounds like the 60s was reimagined for a modern era. I love it!

Honey Do slows the album to a country-style, but the shift is perfect and not jarring to the listener. I don't know about you, but I always find myself singing along to this spectacular rockabilly song.

Nobody's Here Anymore is sonic gold. Not only is it the best song on the album, but it is up there as one of the best songs Fogerty has ever written and recorded. Lyrically, even though written in 2004, the other dimension Fogerty sings about is still relevant to our modern society. Yes, Knopfler's beautiful guitar work is the icing on the cake!

I Will Walk With You is a beautiful song, highlighting the rhythm of the bass guitar. It works so well and perfectly suits the album.

Rhubarb Pie is a fun little song with a killer slide guitar performance throughout.

Wicked Old Witch is blues/country rock 101. However, while I love this song, I find the introduction to be a mixed bag. I would have much preferred the song to commence with the bass drum beat, rather than the Banjo. That said, I do appreciate the intent, but I feel as though the Banjo is simply too distant and concealed in the soundstage, therefore making it a less than desirable addition.

In The Garden has an incredible drum track that is beautifully mixed with all other musical elements. In The Garden is the perfect way to close the album and it compels me to listen to this short, but perfect, album again.

Deja Vu All Over Again is superb from start to finish and reminds me that despite my admiration for CCR, I do find Fogerty's solo works to be more appealing and addictive. Either way, there can never be too much CCR or John Fogerty.

Deja Vu All Over Again is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Deja Vu All Over Again is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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1927 – …ish (Vinyl Review)

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1927 – …ish (Vinyl Review)

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

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SIDE A

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

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

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

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

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

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SIDE B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SIXX:A.M. – This Is Gonna Hurt (Album Review)

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SIXX:A.M. – This Is Gonna Hurt (Album Review)

One would be forgiven for thinking rock legends of the calibre of Nikki Sixx, Dj Ashba, and James Michael wouldn't have anything inspirational to say, particularly if you consider Sixx's entertainingly sex, drugs, and rock and roll past. That, however, couldn’t be further from the truth as This Is Gonna Hurt is perhaps one of the most positive, heartfelt, and inspiring albums to ever be released in the rock and roll genre.

This Is Gonna Hurt is a stellar hard rock song to commence the album with. I love it!

Lies Of The Beautiful People is fantastic, but I feel it’s sonically compromised as it sounds overly compressed. Ashba's guitar solo is also lost in the overly complex and shallow soundstage. Yes, I recognise this is a style of recording, but when you have musicians as skilled as Ashba and Sixx, you really want them to shine.

Are You With Me is a great tune with a killer semi-solo drum beat that blows my mind. Unfortunately, it’s another track that is sonically compromised due to a shallow soundstage.

Live Forever is superb! Michael's vocal dexterity is perfect for the song and while I don't often listen to lyrics for their literal meaning, preferring to consider lyric delivery as just another musical element, I often find with all Sixx: A.M. records that I gravitate to the vocals. James Michael is clearly not only a marvellous Producer, but he has the unique vocal chops that are needed to stand out from the crowd. Plus, Ashba's solo really stands out on Live Forever. I love it!

Sure Feels Right slows the album down with a mellow, country-inspired, tune. Yes, it may sound a little strange, but when you listen to the song it simply works and surprisingly doesn't feel out-of-place with the rest of the album. It reminds me a little of the shift in rhythm that Kid Rock has applied to some of his music over the years. Exceptional!

Deadlihood is one of my favourite songs on the album. It is a hard-hitting rhythmic wonderland with some very cool vocal distortion.

Smile is an absolutely beautiful recording.

Help Is On The Way is a fun song. One of their best! Yes, it is overly compressed with almost no soundstage to speak of. However, it reminds me of the intense rhythm of Rob Zombie's Sinister Urge album. I don’t know about you but I feel the importance of rhythm in rock and roll is understated. A solid rhythm can make an average song sound exceptional and that is certainly the case for Help Is On The Way. That said, I must admit I also find the song to be a little campy, not that that is always a bad thing!

Oh My God is a song so similar in tonality that the casual listener would be forgiven for thinking it’s a U2 song. That shouldn't be seen as a negative reflection as the song is beautiful in its own right. There’s even a small hint of Bon Jovi’s musical style in Ashba's guitar solo. Regardless, Oh My God is an exceptional song that most listeners will find inspirational.

Goodbye My Friends is a mixed bag. I love the musicality and piano introduction, but I'm not sold on the vocal style throughout the verses. Overall, Goodbye My Friends sounds too busy, causing my brain to struggle to determine which all-important rhythm to connect with.

Skin is brilliant! Amazing! Exceptional! You get the idea. This song should inspire everyone. It is so beautiful and I would go as far as saying it is one of the best songs ever written and recorded.

This Is Gonna Hurt is an incredible album that I have always enjoyed. Although, truth-be-told, I could say that about all of Sixx: A.M.'s music.

This review is based on listening to the CD (cat: 88697749012). While I would love to be able to own a vinyl edition, specifically for the artwork and increased dynamic range, This Is Gonna Hurt was unfortunately never released on vinyl. Hopefully, a reissue will turn up sometime, perhaps for the 10th Anniversary. That said, a unique iTunes edition exists that I’ve owned since the album's release in 2011. It is superb with interactive artwork, a documentary, and music videos. While I may lament the sonic quality of iTunes AAC 256kbps files, the iTunes LP is a value-added proposition. Sadly, despite Apple continually claiming music is in their DNA, iTunes LP releases are not available on the iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. I say sadly because the iTunes LP idea is pure gold for music lovers. It is the missing link in digital music downloads and streaming. Whether it was Apple dropping the ball or the record labels not willing to invest in the concept, l’m not sure. Perhaps consumer demand wasn't there either. I still hold out hope that this will change, especially considering bonus features in films have made their way to iTunes purchases, across all Apple hardware platforms, but I feel it is more likely that Apple will quietly abandon the iTunes LP feature. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but l’ve never understood why higher quality and more elaborate content is rewarded in the film industry but dismissed in the music industry. It simply doesn’t make sense!

Regardless, This Is Gonna Hurt is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), iTunes LP, and as a standard iTunes release.

If you prefer streaming, This Is Gonna Hurt is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Other Sixx: A.M. Reviews By Subjective Sounds

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Rex Brown – Smoke On This... (Album Review)

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Rex Brown – Smoke On This... (Album Review)

You may know him as the bassist from Pantera and Down, but despite his Heavy Metal roots, Brown has delivered an exceptional solo debut filled with killer blues-based hard rock tunes.

Listening to Smoke On This… gives me the impression of an album that while being unique is also influenced at times by Pantera's Cowboys From Hell and the sound signature Slash used for his solo album and further collaborations with Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators. That isn't to say plagiarism of any sort has occurred, but if you appreciate the aforementioned artists, you will thoroughly enjoy this album.

Sonically, the album is nicely mixed and mastered, despite pushing distorted elements to their limit. The one problem I have come across is on Johnny Kelly's drum track whereby the crunching of the cymbals is jarring on the senses. I would have preferred a slightly more open sound, thereby allowing the cymbals space in the soundstage to breathe and shimmer. It would be interesting to see if this same issue is prevalent on the vinyl release, or if due to the restricted vinyl mastering process, this distortion has been limited as the dynamic range most likely wouldn’t be as compressed.

Speaking of vinyl, that cover art is awesome and would look fantastic. I adore black and white photography and while it won't work with all album covers, it works perfectly in this instance as it captures the attitude of both the artist and recording.

Lone Rider gets the album off to an energetic start. The distracting element, however, is the aforementioned crunching cymbals. Otherwise, it’s an incredible song to commence the album with.

Crossing Lines has a great rhythm, but again the shrill sound of the cymbals are a little too forward in the mix and I feel it takes away from an otherwise solid tune.

Buried Alive has an incredible guitar twang introduction that builds into a blues-based rock tune that any musician would be proud of. Brown’s vocal presentation, not only on this track but across the entire album, is exceptional and feels perfectly suited to the associated musicality.

Train Song is amazing! Best song on the album without a doubt. Yes, I can hear the influence of Cowboys From Hell, but I love that song too. I don't know about you, but I enjoy music that offers similarities but has been completely restructured to present something new and evolutionary.

Get Yourself Alright has a mellon collie blues-rock sound. It is an impressive mix and offers incredible depth, reminding me of the work Julian Lennon did with his exceptional Photograph Smile album. Get Yourself Alright pushes the genre limits and is anything but another mere rock tune.

Fault Line is a lovely soft rock tune. Every musical element is perfectly positioned and I simply adore the interweaving vocal along with the gorgeous piano outro.

What Comes Around... is a little campy, especially in the chorus. However, if we call it a B-side, it’s a valued addition to the record.

Grace, while suiting the album, is a classic B-side.

So Into You is a solid rock song. Despite that, the overlapping lead and rhythm guitar confuses the senses as I’m unsure of which groove to connect with.

Best Of Me is a beautiful song! From the elegant beginning to the riff-driven chorus, to the mellow verse; every aspect of this song is perfect. While it may not suit everyone, the musical shifts are incredible and at no time does the song feel disjointed.

One Of These Days is a killer final track. It compels me to listen to the album again and hope that Brown will not only have success with this debut solo release but will continue to record new music.

Overall, Smoke On This... is an exceptional album and while a debut solo performance for Brown, this is one example that showcases how decades of experience can have a profound effect on one’s musicality.

I’m so enamoured by this release that I'm going to order a copy on vinyl; specifically, the limited edition clear version that includes the CD. I like it when vinyl records are shipped with a CD. It is simply a value-added proposition for the consumer.

Smoke On This... is also available as a standalone Vinyl release. Alternatively, you can purchase the album on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, the album can also be heard on Spotify and Apple Music.

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