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Dan Fogelberg – Windows And Walls (Album Review)

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Dan Fogelberg – Windows And Walls (Album Review)

There are hidden gems and then there is Windows And Walls; arguably a contender for the very best singer-songwriter album of the 80s. 

Yes, Windows and Walls is that good! There isn’t a bad song to be heard, not even a B-Side. Fogelberg had a magical formula. His songwriting and musicianship were simply astonishing and while you’ll find Windows And Walls has an 80s feel, it is true to the era and I adore it. 

George Marino mastered it beautifully and while I’d love to see Windows And Walls reissued on vinyl, I’m elated that Sony/Epic records haven’t remastered the album for I don’t believe it is necessary as the soundstage is wide and enveloping to the listener with next-to-no compression. 

It isn’t only the musicianship and mastering that is beyond reproach; the cover art is magnificent. The multidimensional aspect captivates me and it’s ultimately one reason why I’d love to see Windows And Walls reissued on vinyl for the cover art deserves to be seen on the larger canvas. 

This review is based on listening to the Apple Music stream and while I long to have a copy in my physical library, I can say with absolute certainty that you won’t be disappointed with the streaming edition of Windows and Walls. 

The Language Of Love is a toe-tapping, head-bopping, pop-rock tune that is the perfect opener for the album, bookending the album nicely with Gone Too Far.  

Windows And Walls is incredibly beautiful. Fogelberg’s vocal presentation and musicality is captivating from the first note with a stunning orchestral backing that surrounds you with an exceptionally wide, deep, and dynamic soundstage. It is this soundstage that would likely be ruined should the album ever be remastered for any additional compression would only eliminate these breathtaking sonic aspects. 

The Loving Cup is a sensational multi-tempo song. Like many of the songs on Windows And Walls, when The Loving Cup comes on I just want to turn the volume up. Music doesn’t get much better than this, does it? Yes, the outro is a little abrupt, but I love it and it ultimately flows masterfully into Tucson, Arizona (Gazette).

Tucson, Arizona (Gazette) is stunning. That guitar tracking is incredible and again, as with many of the songs, you’ll find yourself in awe of the incredible soundstage that is akin to having Fogelberg in the room with you for a private performance. 

Let Her Go returns the album to the 80s pop-rock styling that is similar to the album’s opening The Language Of Love. I love it and I can’t listen to Let Her Go without head-bopping and toe-tapping, or dancing if I’m on my feet. Oh, I forgot to mention that you’ll need your air guitar for that creamy guitar solo throughout and towards the end. Sensational!

Sweet Magnolia And The Travelling Salesman is an absolute masterpiece. 

Believe In Me is magnificent. I simply adore Fogelberg’s smooth and delicate vocal presentation on this song. He took his vocal right to the edge but didn’t force it, thereby making Believe In Me extremely compelling and lovely to listen to. 

Gone Too Far is the perfect closing track with an 80s rock-style that will get your body moving and will encourage you to listen to the album again. 

Windows And Walls ultimately reminds me how much I love music every time I play the album. The only problem is it is so good that I tend to play it on repeat for hours as I never tire of Fogelberg’s remarkable musicality. 

The album is tracked incredibly well, meaning the flow between songs is exceptional. With a runtime of ~40 minutes, I’m left wanting more and that is a sign of a good album in my opinion. 

There is little doubt that this is one very special album that should be in every music lover’s collection.

Windows And Walls is available on CD and iTunes.

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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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Morgan James – Hunter (Album Review)

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Morgan James – Hunter (Album Review)

Who is Morgan James? I didn’t have a clue until the Apple Music algorithm suggested the album, Hunter, following a listening session that included Prince’s incredible ART OFFICIAL AGE. Yes, I was captivated by the cover art, but I was ultimately drawn into the musicality and vocal prowess of Morgan James. 

With regards to the cover art, the album artwork presented in this review is from the reissued release as the original CD pressings featured James in a striking black and white pose. Despite this variation, both covers are beautiful and it’s a shame that Hunter has only ever been released on CD as its design is screaming to be seen on a larger canvas. I should also mention that while the digital non-Mastered for iTunes edition sounds remarkably good, I can only imagine just how good Hunter would sound on vinyl. While digital music can sound warm and full, it’s unfortunately not always the case as it can also sound cold and shrill. Thankfully, this is one recording that takes sonic reproduction to another level. You’ll feel compelled to turn the volume up and at no time does the soundstage distort or sound hollow. It’s recorded, mixed, and mastered perfectly and the musical performance is simply exceptional, as is James’ vocal prowess; a vocalist that blows my mind.

Call My Name gives you an insight as to what to expect from the entire album. The rhythm is beautifully recorded and James’ silky vocal will captivate your soul. Of course, Call My Name is a cover of the Prince original, and as much as I adore Prince’s version, I’m left speechless by this interpretation. This is one song, and album, where I would strongly suggest turning the lights down and the volume up as you experience your own personal mind-blowing performance as James and the band are transported directly to your lounge room. Absolutely amazing!

The music video doesn’t, in my opinion, suit the musicality and style of the song. It’s a missed opportunity and unless you enjoy music via music videos, you’ll likely watch it a single time and never watch it again as it’s largely forgettable. A shame considering just how enjoyable the song is.

Hunter continues the captivating Jazz meets Soul meets R&B sound; a style that I truly adore and reminds me fondly of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. Hunter is sensational and while I was unsure of the album being named after this song, there is little wonder why as the song is off-the-charts and it’s a recording that you simply have to hear to believe. 

Heart Shake continues the upbeat nature often associated with soul music. Heart Shake has a killer hook and if you’re not moving to the rhythm and singing along after the first listen, you’re listening to the album wrong. 

Bring Yourself To Me maintains the tempo, but isn’t quite as strong as the previous tracks on the album. That said, Bring Yourself To Me is what I would class as classic R&B and if you’re partial to that style of music, you’re going to love this song. As for me, I’d likely refer to this song as a B-side. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

I Want You has an exceptionally deep bass element that will reach directly into your soul. While some may consider it to be bass heavy, I prefer a little bass in my music and therefore I consider it to be absolutely perfect as there is no distortion to be heard and James’ beautiful vocal can be heard clearly as the soundstage hasn’t been completely crushed in the mastering process. That said, some of the musical elements do get a little lost in the mix, but it is nothing compared to most modern recordings that have this music lover scratching his head trying to figure out what, if any, musical instrument was used in the recording of a song. That aside, just listen to that fade out. They don’t make them like that anymore. I love it!

I Don’t Speak You maintains a relatively deep bass element, but I must admit that I find it a little distracting and it would be nice if it was dialled back a couple of decibels as I really want to hear James’ vocal unrestricted by the instrumentation. A solid song, nevertheless. 

You Never Lied is absolutely beautiful. 

Say The Words really focuses on James’ vocal and the term magnificent simply doesn’t begin to describe just how incredible this recording is. Seriously, take a listen, you’ll be blown away. James has, without doubt, one of the most beautiful female vocals I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear.  

The Sweetest Sound really showcases James’ vocal dexterity. Absolutely magical! Although, the ending is too abrupt, it really needed to be faded out rather than ending suddenly. Drown, therefore, takes a little adjustment to get used to as it starts very closely to the end of The Sweetest Sound and the mind is initially unsure how to handle the change. Once the jolt is past and the mind settles into the music, Drown is quite enjoyable. 

Fed Up On You picks up the pace with a jazzy original tune that reminds me of Aretha Franklin. Subsequently, I thoroughly enjoy it and the rhythm is sure to get you moving. 

She’s Gone is an incredible composition with a sound stage that is so dynamic that upon each listen, you’ll be hearing elements that you had never heard before. A great song!

Dancing In The Dark is a cover of the Springsteen classic and while nobody does it better than The Boss, James comes hauntingly close as her rendition is a magnificent homage to the original while ensuring it sounds unique; not an easy task considering how popular Dancing In The Dark has been for Springsteen. It takes courage to cover a song like this on a debut and James should be applauded for not only attempting it, but nailing it. 

Let Me Keep You (feat. Robert Glasper) is an incredible closing song. It compels me to listen to Hunter again and explore James’ growing catalogue. That said, to be completely honest, I’ve yet to listen to any of her other albums. I was so captivated by Hunter that I felt compelled to immediately pen a review. That doesn’t happen often, but when it does you know you’re listening to something very special. Let Me Keep You is most certainly one of those rare special songs and if you had any doubts while listening to Hunter, with regards to James’ musical ability, Let Me Keep You will silence those doubts for it is one of the greatest songs on the album and fades out so elegantly that you’ll likely be lost for words. It, really, is that good!

Overall, Hunter is an album that goes beyond the status of a debut. Yes, James released a live homage to Nina Simone some two years earlier, Morgan James Live, From Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola – A Celebration Of Nina Simone, but this remains the first studio album with a mix of original and cover songs that will captivate you from the very first note to the very last. Yes, Hunter may have been released in 2014, but it is thus far the best album that I’ve heard this year. Absolutely exceptional!

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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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Fleetwood Mac – Concert Review

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Fleetwood Mac – Concert Review

When I was in high school, Fleetwood Mac released their seminal album, “Rumors.” Every song was a gem, and everyone I knew owned a copy. Everyone. It won a Grammy in 1978 for album of the year. Over 40 years later, Fleetwood Mac is still performing many songs from that album, but with a slightly different group lineup. Recently they were appearing in my neck of the woods, so of course I had to be there!

Lindsey Buckingham was unceremoniously fired from the band in early 2018 and was replaced by Neil Finn, of Split Enz and Crowded House, and Mike Campbell, guitarist extraordinaire from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch. I was worried that even though Finn and Campbell are talented musicians, would they be able to replace what Buckingham brought to the group. By the end of the evening my answer was no, not totally.

Let’s start with the overall concert. For just over two hours, Fleetwood Mac gave fans everything they had, singing hit after hit to an adoring crowd. Singalongs were common throughout the evening. One of my favorites, “The Chain” started off the show and set the tone for the rest of the night: a mutual lovefest between artist and fans.

Neil Finn took over Buckingham's vocals, with mixed success. He was enthusiastic and animated, but his voice doesn’t have Buckingham’s strength. Finn’s best performance was a duet with Stevie Nicks, “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” Finn’s hit with Crowded House. As for Mike Campbell, he gives Lindsey Buckingham a run for his money in the “shredding guitar” department. If you’ve seen Campbell perform with Tom Petty you know what I mean.

The highlight of the evening was Stevie Nicks singing “Landslide” while Neil Finn played acoustic guitar. Nicks dedicated the song to a young girl in the front row, telling her she can do anything she sets her mind to. Cell phone flashlights were prominent as the audience swayed and sang.

Another highlight for me was my all-time favorite Fleetwood Mac song, “Gypsy.” Stevie Nicks, dressed in black and with plenty of flowing scarves, twirled and spun as she did in the magical videos played on MTV and VH1. (Remember when those stations used to play music videos? Now they’re just sweet memories…)

Christine McVie sang lead on “Little Lies,” “Say You Love Me,” “Everywhere,” and “You Make Loving Fun.” While her piano skills are there her vocal skills are not. I saw Fleetwood Mac in 2017 and thought so then. McVie’s voice has no strength and wasn’t always on key.

The last song of the set was “Go Your Own Way.” It started out rough on the vocals, but they brought it home in the second half of the song.

The three-song encore began with a beautiful tribute to Tom Petty. Photos of Petty were shown on the video screen at the back of the stage while the band performed an emotional version of “Free Fallin.” It was sad and glorious at the same time. As a huge Tom Petty fan, those photos brought tears to my eyes.

Is it time for Fleetwood Mac to hang up their instruments and call it quits? That’s hard to say. I’ve seen the band three times, all with different iterations of members. The first time was without Christine McVie. This time there was no Lindsey Buckingham. My favorite Fleetwood Mac concert was the second one I saw, with all the members most of us know: Stevie Nicks on vocals, Christine McVie on vocals and keyboards, Lindsey Buckingham on vocals and guitar, John McVie on bass guitar, and Mick Fleetwood on drums. That’s the Fleetwood Mac of my youth, the Fleetwood Mac I sang along with, the Fleetwood Mac I remember. If you’ve never seen them in concert, I would say go, as they may not tour again. It will be worth it.

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Elton John – Farewell Yellow Brick Road (Concert Review)

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Elton John – Farewell Yellow Brick Road (Concert Review)

I recently had the privilege of seeing Elton John in concert for the fourth time. This tour, called “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” is world-wide and goes through 2021. If you ever had any intentions of seeing Elton John live in concert, do it now, as he is retiring from live performances after this tour. A list of tour stops can be found here

I’ve been a huge Elton John fan since (ahem) 1973, with the release of the album “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player,” which gave the world the classic songs, “Daniel” and “Crocodile Rock.” Both songs were performed, as well as 22 more for a rocking and energetic evening of classic Elton John.

Opening the show was “Bennie and the Jets,” which set the tone for the entire evening: the fans went wild and were singing along from the first note. “Bennie” was followed by deep cut “All The Young Girls Love Alice,” exciting for me as it comes from one of my top ten albums of all time, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

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One thing I love about Elton John: he appreciates his audience. He thanked the fans throughout the show, noting that if it weren’t for them, he wouldn’t be there. He also explained the stories behind some of his songs. “Border Song” was covered by Aretha Franklin, which made Elton and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin feel like they would be taken seriously as musicians. “Believe” was important to his work with his AIDS foundation. He also spoke of his hitting rock bottom with drugs, alcohol, and overall bad attitude, and how saying three little words-“I need help”-made all the difference in his life. Again, he expressed appreciation for those people who helped and supported him during his difficult time, and for his fans that have bought his music, merchandise, and most importantly, came to his shows.

Behind Elton was a screen that played videos during some of the songs. I could have done without that, as most of them made no sense and didn’t add anything to the performance. That is, until he played “I’m Still Standing.” Those clips were fun to watch: Elton on the “Muppet Show,” “Simpsons,” and “South Park,” old MTV videos, footage of concerts from the 1970s.

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If you want to hear the hits, Elton has you covered. “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” “Candle In The Wind,” “Bitch Is Back,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” all showcased Elton’s piano skills. As for his vocal skills, he still has it. At almost 72 years old Elton still brings everything he has to his performance.

I remember wanting the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album sooooo bad! Back then the double album cost $6. It took weeks of saving my allowance to have the money to finally buy it. I played it on constant loop; there’s not a bad song on the album. To hear Elton perform “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” was such a thrill for me, as it’s one of my favorites on the album.

During the concert I uploaded some videos to Facebook. A junior high/high school friend of mine was a HUGE Elton John fan, as in, she was a fanatic! I knew those videos would give her a thrill, and her responses to them made it all worthwhile: “OMGGGGGGGG!!” “Are you kidding me?!? He sang that too?!?” “Thank you for posting these!!”

I go to a lot of concerts, and many of the artists or bands I see are in their 60s or 70s. I’ve been asked why I bother seeing someone “so old,” what’s the point when they’ve already reached the pinnacle of their success. The reason is simple: I grew up with those artists. Yes, they’re older, and sometimes they can't hit the high notes like they used to. But they still have it! They bring their talent, charisma, and artistry to their performances. If they didn’t, no one would be paying good money for tickets. I’m afraid that in a few short years my concert going will be limited, as so many of my favorites are retiring. I forget that we all are much older than I think we are!

In just under 3 hours, Elton John sang 24 songs, with the crowd wanting more. There are so many I would have loved to hear: “Empty Garden,” “High Flying Bird,” “Harmony,” “Teacher I Need You,” and “Blues For Baby and Me” for starters. I’m sure if you asked each person in attendance, what they would like to hear, Elton’s entire catalogue would have been covered. Obviously that’s not possible. But if you like Elton John’s hits, you will NOT be disappointed with this show. Check Elton’s website for a show near you, and get tickets as soon as they go on sale. I promise it will be worth your while.

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

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Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

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Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

Who doesn't like a good ballad? Yes, you in the corner, I see you rolling your eyes, not willing to admit you're a ballad junkie. That's okay, it can be difficult for some of us to acknowledge our emotions, but Air Supply's ballads are just so addictive and easy to sing-along to that even the most emotionally guarded individual will feel compelled to join in, especially when no-one else is watching. It's a great feeling, isn't it? Don't worry, dear reader, this will be just between us, for the magic would be lost if anyone knew our little secret.

Few artists do ballads as well as British–Australian soft rock group Air Supply, but it would be naive to pigeonhole them into that category for their orchestral soft rock styling is so expansive that their peers are a who's who of soft rock culture from the last four decades. While their prime is arguably behind them, their songs, including those written by others, remain timeless and recognisable. Perhaps that is why I'm drawn to The Ultimate Collection because, as the title suggests, it really is the epitome of their creativity.

Love And Other Bruises is an interesting song to commence this career perspective release on as it isn't necessarily one of their best or most popular tunes. Nevertheless, the musicality is there, resulting in an enjoyable beginning to an exceptional collection of songs.

Bring Out The Magic is the reason I suggested it naive to class Air Supply as a ballads-only band. This is soft rock at its finest.

Lost In Love is beautiful!

All Out Of Love is a stunning composition and one of the greatest ballads ever written and recorded.

Every Woman In The World is another stunner. Absolutely sensational!

Just Another Woman offers an interesting shift into the disco-era and immediately reminds me of Elton John's Victim Of Love as the two were somewhat unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable. Just Another Woman is fantastic and despite the shifting style, the song is absolutely worthy of inclusion.

Chances returns the compilation to its ballad-based roots and is thoroughly enjoyable with a vocal presentation that is off-the-charts. The slow build works exceptionally well, and Chances is simply amazing to listen to.

The One That You Love is sonic gold! It may sound like a cliché, but they don't write songs like this anymore. Plus, that drum track is amongst my favourites of all time, only bested by Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight and Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing.

Here I Am is badly placed as the lyrics of The One That You Love also includes the phrase, here I am, throughout. Nevertheless, Here I Am is a lovely ballad that I never tire of. The soundstage and sonic depth of Here I Am is exceptional with a drum track that I adore. 

Sweet Dreams is epic! My recommendation is you turn the volume up when this song comes on, you'll thank me later. Sweet Dreams is one of the best songs ever recorded and that guitar solo and vocal interlude is absolutely incredible.

I’ll Never Get Enough Of You is exceptional! 

This Heart Belongs To Me has a great dual tempo that allows the listener to experience this song in a non-traditional manner, thereby making it truly subjective. This is yet another Air Supply song where the drum tracking is superb. I love it!

Keeping The Love Alive is, as this entire compilation is, exceptional!

Even The Nights Are Better is a song that reminds me of the Carpenters, especially with the vocal styling. That's, of course, a positive reflection as I adore Karen Carpenter's vocal.

Now And Forever is musical perfection. This truly is the ultimate Air Supply collection.

Two Less Lonely People In The World is remarkably good and sounds as fresh today as it did when first released on Air Supply's 1982 release, Now And Forever.

Making Love (Out Of Nothing At All) is a Jim Steinman classic power ballad and is an incredible Air Supply song. I find that I’m torn between this original recording and Bonnie Tyler’s rendition as both are exceptional. 

Young Love is a lovely song and that dual vocal presentation is simply amazing, as is the entire musicality of the song. 

Come What May is a great tune with an incredible soundstage and presence that fills the room. If all music was recorded and mixed this well, we'd never stop listening. As the closing track on The Ultimate Collection, it certainly compels me to listen to the compilation again and stay within Air Supply's back catalogue.

There is little doubt regarding my love of Air Supply and The Ultimate Collection release. It is so good that everyone should have a copy in their collection. Unfortunately, it has yet to receive a vinyl release and while I'm not opposed to picking it up on CD, the TIDAL Hi-Fi CD-quality stream is more than adequate.

The Ultimate Collection is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, The Ultimate Collection is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music

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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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Elton John – Leather Jackets (Album Review)

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Elton John – Leather Jackets (Album Review)

Leather Jackets failed to set the world on fire from both sales and critical review perspectives, but was Leather Jackets just a quick-to-market money-spinning effort, with leftover songs from the Ice On Fire recording sessions, or are there a few hidden gems to be heard? Let's find out!

Leather Jackets is your classic bad 80s pop song, but it's so bad that it's good!

Hoop Of Fire changes the tempo of the album significantly, but it’s a beautiful song.

Don't Trust That Woman has a toe-tapping tempo and a rather compelling chorus, but the Caribbean styling is a little too subdued and I feel the song could have been stronger if it had focused more on that sonic signature.

Go It Alone is another song, that I thoroughly enjoy, with a stellar rhythm. Yes, it is lacking a little spit and polish, but that is strangely appealing for this song.

Gypsy Heart is, as many of the songs are on Leather Jackets, a B-side. However, it’s a lovely song that is worthy of inclusion in John's back catalogue.

Slow Rivers could have been exceptional, especially with the combined talents of John, Bernie Taupin, and Cliff Richard. Sadly, it’s a missed opportunity and a lacklustre song.

Heartache All Over The World is average at best, and that is being generous. It's just bad and when Johns sings Girls, Girls, Girls, all I think of is Mötley Crüe's Girls, Girls, Girls; an infinitely better song.

Angeline has a terrible opening and the song sadly doesn't get any better as it progresses.

Memory Of Love isn't bad if it was a demo. There is a beautiful song hidden here, it's just a shame John wasn’t in the right headspace when recording this album.

Paris is musically and lyrically boring. One of the worst songs on the album and one of John's most disappointing recordings. It’s unstructured and from a composition standpoint is a convoluted nightmare.

I Fall Apart is adequate to close the album with, but it doesn't compel me to listen to Leather Jackets again or stay within John's catalogue. That said, there are some exceptional songs, as referenced throughout this review, to be heard on this album.

Without a doubt, Leather Jackets is the perfect album for the streaming era as one can add songs of interest to a playlist. While I remain a fan of the album format, I can't help but be envious of the younger generations and their digital playlists, for us old-timers would have had to buy an entire album to get maybe one or two worthwhile tracks. I'd like to say that didn't happen very often, but I have many albums with only one killer song. Perhaps that is why I have become increasingly interested in compilation releases as well as favouring streaming.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi (CD-quality FLAC) edition and the Apple Music stream. The difference was negligible as the mastering is a little concealed and arguably muffled on both platforms. Hence, any improvement the lossless TIDAL stream may have had over Apple Music becomes irrelevant. Leather Jackets really needs to be remastered, but that would do little to make this album more compelling. While it's a shame that Leather Jackets isn’t a stronger album, there is enough enjoyable music here to listen to the album from time to time.

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

If you prefer streaming, and for this album, you should, Leather Jackets is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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

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