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Aerosmith – Aerosmith (Record Store Day 2013 Vinyl) Review

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Aerosmith – Aerosmith (Record Store Day 2013 Vinyl) Review

Prior to Get Your Wings, Aerosmith released their self-titled debut that saw Steven Tyler approach the song line-up with a faux blues vocal style. This style is extremely subjective and while Tyler would return to his normal singing voice for the 1974 follow-up, Get Your Wings, I must say that I enjoyed his vocal style on the debut. In-fact, I have always liked Tyler’s vocals regardless of tonal shifts. Needless to say that this album remains a very unique element in Aerosmith’s history.

With hits such as Dream On, Mama Kin, and Make It, Aerosmith was destined for success, albeit moderate success for this debut album. That said, Dream On is arguably in everyone’s top 100 songs of all time list. Dream On is an Aerosmith staple like Janie’s Got A Gun, Love In An Elevator, and Livin’ On The Edge. It has been covered countless times and performed live by the band on almost every tour and live album. It is a power ballad to end all power ballads. Actually, it would also be one of the very first power ballads. When I look at rock and roll bands, I tend think of the power ballad as being an 80s phenomenon. That said, I’m reminded of Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven, Skynyrd's Free Bird, and Love Hurts by Nazareth. All exceptional bands with ballads recorded and released well before the 80s. Okay, it has to be said, they just don’t make music like that anymore.

The first time I heard Dream On was in the mid-90s when Aerosmith re-released Sweet Emotion as a single in 1994. The single of course featured Sweet Emotion and Dream On, along with Draw The Line and Walk This Way. You really couldn’t ask for a better collection of tracks to showcase Aerosmith in the 70s.

I currently have two copies of the self-titled Aerosmith album. One is the 1993 remastered CD by mastering engineer Vic Anesini, while the other is the Record Store Day 2013 vinyl remaster by mastering engineer Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. Without a doubt, I prefer the 2013 remaster. While the ’93 mastering isn’t bad, it just sounds a little too robotic (digital) for my liking. Yes, I’m sure you’re reading this and saying, but Mark this was digitally remastered. While that is true, there is no reason that the soul, present on the original tape, can not be replicated adequately on the CD. I’ve heard many CDs that simply sound amazing, regardless of digital processing, so it is not a factor of the format. I have also played the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, which is also the ’93 remaster, and it is understandably identical in dynamics to the aforementioned CD. I guess, in this case as in so many others, it comes down to subjective opinion and mine is that Aerosmith’s debut album is best heard on vinyl, followed by CD/TIDAL Hi-Fi. Whatever you do, don’t touch the HD Tracks version as it has an average dynamic range of 09, whereas the vinyl is 12 and the CD/TIDAL Hi-Fi version is 11 out of 20.

I should also note my vinyl edition of Aerosmith is numbered. I have is number 1978 of 5000. Oh, if only it would have been number 1973, I would have been in Aerosmith heaven. Although, given the impressive quality of the pressing, I think I’m already there as there isn’t a bad song on the album. While the numbered pressings are increasingly hard to come by, standard editions have been re-issued with the same exceptional sound.

Aerosmith were always destined to Make It, and this song is raw to the bone with enough guitar twang to last a lifetime. It isn’t my favourite song on the album, but it is certainly an excellent introduction of things to come.

Somebody continues the twang that reminds me of a country song with a rock influence. Maybe rockabilly is a more appropriate genre for this track. Either way, it is an enjoyable song and the first time we hear the Aerosmith trademark cowbell. While Aerosmith doesn’t overuse the cow bell in this song, or in their other songs that feature it, it matches their music style perfectly. It is like when Steven Tyler uses the harmonica. Pure brilliance!

Dream On. It doesn’t get any better than this, yet it didn’t chart well upon the initial release. Despite that, it is perhaps one of the best rock ballads ever written and has been covered and sampled extensively. Speaking of interpretations, you have to check out the incredible performance Aerosmith (Tyler and Perry only) did with the Southern California Children’s Chorus that was performed as part of the Boston Marathon Bombing Tribute. It is an incredibly haunting semi-acoustic edition of the song. You can also listen to this edition of the song on TIDAL Hi-Fi, or watch the performance below.  

One Way Street introduces that trademark harmonica. Simply awesome! The song has a great foot tapping beat and Tyler’s faux vocals crack like an adolescent schoolboy. It certainly has some very special elements that make it enjoyable to listen to.

Mama Kin kicks the album up a notch with a killer guitar riff. It is blues rock and roll at its best. I’ve always enjoyed this song and have felt the urge to sing-a-long and play my famous air guitar. The temporary pauses throughout the song are perfectly placed and add to the overall pace of the song, without slowing it down.

Write Me is a solid rock and roll song. Nothing to write home about, but as with all the songs on this album, they complement each other perfectly.

Movin’ Out starts off with yet another Perry classic guitar riff that sets the tone for the song. It is one of my favourite tracks on the album with a chorus that belongs in rock and roll heaven. That said, you can tell the band is still finding their sound on this track. I’d love to have them re-record this song to see what they could do with it, given their lifetime of knowledge. It reminds me somewhat of a demo tape release, but an exceptional one!

Walkin’ The Dog is an awesome bluesy rock and roll tune. The introduction may confuse you a little with the use of the Wood Flute, but stick with the song as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. The song ends the album like all good final tracks should, with me wanting to put the record on again.

Aerosmith’s debut album is a must own for any Aerosmith fan, but if you’re interested in blues inspired rock and roll, from the late 60s and early to mid-70s period, then you are going to love this album. 

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AFI – Burials (Vinyl) Review

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AFI – Burials (Vinyl) Review

A couple of weeks ago, I took a look at AFI’s evolving sound with Sing The Sorrow. While the band has released the incredible Decemberunderground and Crash Love in the interim years, I wanted to take a look at their latest album, released a decade after Sing The Sorrow, to see just how far the band’s sound had developed. I also couldn’t wait to take the wrapping off this album as I was able to source a reasonably priced vinyl copy of Burials from Sydney’s iconic Red Eye Records.

The vinyl edition comes with the standard lossy MP3 download code for the album, although it did not include the complete album. The songs missing are the two final tracks Anxious and The Face Beneath The Waves. What is bizarre is these songs are not bonus tracks and therefore should have been included in the download. This isn’t necessarily uncommon as I have come across variations in downloaded albums that have been supplied with records in the past. Usually it comes down to licensing agreements, or region specific bonus tracks. Truth be told, with my ever increasing use of TIDAL Hi-Fi, the lossy MP3 codes are of little value to me personally, plus I can always do a higher quality needle drop with my Pro-ject Debut Carbon turntable. Hence, I think in future I may just give away, via Subjective Sounds, the MP3 download codes to readers. Regardless, I would much prefer the record labels give consumers the option to download either the MP3, or a higher quality FLAC or ALAC 16/44 copy that matches the quality of CD. Some record labels do this, but I’m sure most consider the addition of a download code, or CD, to be nothing but a loss leader to encourage the purchase of the record.

Speaking of the record, rather than being presented in a gatefold release, this double album is presented in a slipcase that accommodates both records. While I don’t mind either design decision, gatefolds are just awesome. However, they can be challenging to slip the record in and out at times. Tri-folds are worse, but that is a story for another day. There is also no additional inner liner notes as the record sleeves double as the liner notes. I have mixed feelings on this. Most of the time I prefer archival sleeves and in many cases I purchase them when they are not included. As a result, I can ensure the liner sleeves remain in pristine condition, free of ring wear, seam splits, and additional dust in those precious grooves. Personally, I would recommend all record buyers spend the extra money to get archival sleeves. There are a number of different brands available, but I have always found Mobile Fidelity sleeves to be of the very highest quality. I get mine from Goldmine Records. The reason why I raise this issue, is the record arrived with small seam splits and I need to change out the inner sleeves to prevent further deterioration. It wasn’t the fault of the record label, or Red Eye Records, as it was packed impeccably. It was most likely caused by my reckless mailman who believes it is appropriate to Frisbee throw my records onto the front porch from two meters away. Plus, when the better half works for the postal service, you hear so many horror stories that it is a wonder more parcels are not damaged by Australia Post.  

An interesting side note: When I order CDs online, if I order them from Australian companies then they always turn up with a cracked case. Yet, if I import them from the US or UK, they always turn up perfect. It drives me insane, but what can you do?

Despite the above mentioned issues, I am very happy with the vinyl release and The Sinking Night sets the tone for the album with what has almost become a signature introduction style for AFI, where methodical, rhythmic, and atmospheric sounds are mixed with a ballad-styled vocal delivery. It is exceptional!

I Hope You Suffer has such a demonically evil beat. It is moody, broody, but perfect for when you’re angered by the actions of someone of the events of a particular day. I don’t know about you, but I certainly use this style of music to deal with feelings of anger and frustration.   

A Deep Slow Panic is almost pop-punk. This evaluation is neither good or bad, but I feel that this song doesn’t present AFI at their best. The magic is lacking and it feels like filler. While I can enjoy the song in the album tracking, I would likely skip over it when listening on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

No Resurrection has magical guitar riffs that simply highlight the song and makes you want to hear more of that incredible twang. It is air guitar worthy, despite the song being a slow rock tune. It is strange to hear AFI slow down this much, especially with their punk background, but it certainly suits their sound and they have been able to capture their origins while also breaking new ground.

17 Crimes is a song that exists for the chorus. Throughout the versus, you just can’t wait to get to that chorus. I’ve experienced this a number of times in the past, but I must say that recently it is the exception, rather than the rule. Maybe it's because a significant amount of modern music is all chorus and the poor verse is minimised. Song writing is arguably not what it used to be. Anyway, 17 Crimes is an excellent song that suits the album and the band’s style.

The Conductor is my favourite track on the album, and it may even be my favourite of all AFI tracks. While No Resurrection had magical guitar riffs, The Conductor takes that statement to a completely new level. The guitar has a rhythm, a soul, and its own chorus. I just love the tuning of it, it is the epitome of an epic rock and roll song. I can only imagine how awesome this song would be when performed live.

Heart Stops begins intriguingly and beautifully, but as it reaches the chorus it is too reminiscent of other alternative music that has come before. This song is really for those of you who enjoy the verse as the chorus reminds me of any number of bad teenage movie soundtracks. AFI can do better than this. It had potential, but the chorus let it down.

Rewind isn’t one of my favourite songs. It is too whiny in vocal delivery for my liking.  

The Embrace has a unique bass track, but I would have loved to have heard it with a little more dynamic range as the bass becomes hidden very quickly once the rest of the band kicks into action. The Embrace is also the type of song that slows down during the verse and speeds up during the chorus. It works, but it really is a B-side, or in this case a C side. In fact, all three songs on side C could probably have been left off the album.

Wild is the final song on side C and therefore is included in my previous statement, but I do like elements of this song. The electronic elements present a sonic signature that is reminiscent of a video game soundtrack. Every time I listen to the song, I think it would have made a perfect addition to Adam Sandler’s Pixels film. Bottom line: it is a fun song.

Greater Than 84 has horrid dynamic range. Listen to the symbols and high-hats. They are compressed to hell and back again. When you listen to the introduction you think that this could be as bold in instrumentation as any Dire Straits album, but the ‘loudness wars’ has killed that hope. It is a shame because it is a solid song, but I just don’t enjoy the over compressed sonic quality. I know it is the ‘modern’ sound, but it is exhausting to listen to.

Anxious pays homage to AFI’s origins, especially in vocal style. It is a solid song, but nothing to write home about.

The Face Beneath The Waves closes the album out with a song that is enjoyable but again lacking in dynamic range. It truly could have been an epic end to the album, but compression in the studio just makes you want to put the album away after this song, rather than play the album again. Such a shame!

Overall, Burials is an excellent album and I am incredibly happy that it is part of my collection as the vinyl pressing is superb. That said, the dynamic range is lacklustre at best and destroys the hard work that the band has put in behind the scenes. If I can’t clearly hear the separation between drum beats, guitar licks, bass tracks, and vocals, then something is wrong and I know it isn’t my playback equipment or my ears. I would love nothing more than for AFI and all other bands who have accepted the industry practice of brick walling to turn around and re-issue the full studio originals. Not remaster, just the original master. If what I’m hearing is the original master, then maybe they should just go back and record the album again. 

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Iron Maiden – Purgatory (7-inch 45RPM Single)

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Iron Maiden – Purgatory (7-inch 45RPM Single)

As I’ve likely mentioned before, the artwork that Iron Maiden uses for their albums and singles are nothing short of spectacular. Seriously, just look at it for a minute. Eddie, their infamous mascot, has lost his face to the devil within as Eddie remains in Purgatory, never to be reconnected with his beloved, as shown on the 7-inch Twilight Zone cover.

The additional story that is told through art is incredible. Derek Riggs is one of the most iconic contemporary artists as a result of his life-long work with Iron Maiden, among many others. I’ve always wondered what was in the twisted mind of Stephen King, but Derek Riggs has some serious cool stuff in that brain of his. The man needs to be entered into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Although, Maiden should be added first, but that is an argument for another day.

Speaking of artwork, I have only just noticed that the centre spindle on these 7-inch releases acts as a street light thereby illuminating Eddie as a creature of the night. It’s these small elements that streaming services just can’t offer. While I love my TIDAL Hi-Fi subscription, they’ve yet to figure out how to present artwork, beyond the cover art, in the digital era. Isn’t the technological era supposed to make everything easier and give us access to content that surpasses the analogue version? Apple had a novel idea with iTunes LP, but they dropped the ball as it was only ever functional within iTunes on a Mac or PC. Yes, iTunes is a lossy source, but as a collector I would buy the iTunes LP version as well because the artwork is often animated and uniquely different to all other releases. Even videos such as the making of the album and interviews were included in this iTunes LP format. Admittedly, the artist/record label would need to fund this additional content development, but I still declare that if Apple had allowed iTunes LP to merge to iPhone/iPad/Apple TV, then it could have been a major success. I’d pay twice as much for TIDAL if they could provide me with an exact replica of the liner notes for all albums. They do offer the basics, but it is nothing more than a listing of the production personnel and a short bio.

While no streaming service offers the kind of granularity I’m after, Roon comes close with TIDAL Hi-Fi support built directly into the application, thereby allowing your own music and your streamed music to live in perfect synchronisation. Check out John H. Darko’s exceptional Roon Reviews Part 1, Part 1b, Part 2, and Part 2b.

Getting back to the music, Purgatory was the final single released from the 1981 Killers album. Despite being a sonic wonderland, with an amazing mix of lead and rhythm guitars, the single failed to break the top 50 in the UK upon release. How is that even possible? Okay, UK friends, what were you listening to in June 1981?

For what it’s worth, I believe Purgatory is stronger song than their previous single, Twilight Zone. Purgatory just has that special signature Maiden sound. As much as I enjoy Twilight Zone, it just isn’t in the same league as Purgatory.

Genghis Khan is the B-side and one of the most exceptional instrumental tracks in heavy metal history. Honesty, I can play this song on repeat for hours and never tire of it (after a half dozen times on the turntable, I turn to TIDAL Hi-Fi. Playing 7-inch 45rpm vinyl is fun, but it is also a lot of work). I have often wondered what would have happened if Maiden released this song as a single? That has me thinking, has there ever been an instrumental track reach the number 1 position on the charts? According to the ‘always reliable’ Wikipedia, there have been quite a few in the UK, but they are few and far between. During the decades spanning the 50s, 60s, and early 70s there had been quite a few instrumental number ones, but in the past four decades only three instrumental songs have reached that highly sought-after position. As someone who doesn’t tend to listen to lyrics, I find this shift fascinating. Now I just need to see if the recording of instrumental music has also decreased following the 70s.

You simply can’t go wrong with Purgatory. Featuring two of the best tracks from Killers, my advice is to pick up a copy of the limited edition 7-inch release while it is still available. The mastering is incredible and the artwork…seriously, just get it for the artwork.

If you would prefer to access the songs on the Killers album, they are available on post 1998 CD and Vinyl editions. Killers is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi for those of you who prefer to stream.

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Aerosmith – Get Your Wings (Record Store Day 2013 Vinyl)

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Aerosmith – Get Your Wings (Record Store Day 2013 Vinyl)

Get Your Wings was Aerosmith’s second album and it took the rawness of their self titled debut album and polished the edges. Gone are Steven Tyler’s faux vocals, in favour of his natural voice. While I didn’t dislike his style on Aerosmith’s debut, I certainly appreciate his lyrical style on Get Your Wings as it helped create the band’s unique sound.

Perhaps this sound can be somewhat attributed to the influence Jack Douglas brought to the band in his role as producer. Douglas would go on to produce Aerosmith throughout most of the 70s, only being removed by Columbia Records when it came time to record Night In The Ruts. The collaboration of Douglas and Aerosmith was nothing short of successful, despite sales in later years indicating different results. For a moment, let’s be honest, sales don’t depict quality. Yes, it provides success and the ability to go on to do greater things, but music needs to be seen as something more than a popularity contest. It’s about art, emotion, and it is subjective. I often reflect on jazz, especially live performances, and ponder if that style of music is the purity of subjectivity, emotion, and art. After all, much of it improvised and unless you’re an artist that can bridge traditional jazz with a mainstream audience, sales are going to be low while the quality of the creativity is high. That said, it is my belief that the producer should always be chosen by the artist, not the record label. Yes, the record label is funding the album, in the traditional sense, but there are many cases where artists, when forced to work with a certain producer, will release substandard work because the process is no longer organic, but contrived.  

I have two editions of Get Your Wings. The first is the 1993 CD [cat no: CK 57361] that was remastered by Vic Anesini. The mastering is treated respectfully and as it was done prior to the ‘loudness wars’ the dynamic range is in the vicinity of 12 out of 20. TIDAL Hi-Fi offers the same mastered edition as the CD but whatever you do, don’t touch the 2012 remastering that is available on HD Tracks. Despite being released in Audiophile 96kHz/24bit, it has an average dynamic range of 09. Seriously, I’m all for audiophile releases, but low dynamic range isn’t fit for anyone, let alone an audiophile consumer. In this case the only benefit you get is a larger file size and an increased bitrate that does nothing to improve the sonic qualities of the album. There is little doubt that the 1993 remastered CD is the pinnacle for Get Your Wings when obtaining a digital copy.

The other edition I own is the RSD 13 (Record Store Day 2013) vinyl [cat no: KC 32847/ 88765486151] that was mastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. The mastering on this record is amazing. While it is noticeably better than the 1993 CD it isn’t a radical shift. The vinyl pays homage to the ‘93 mastering while remaining true to the music that was available on the original tapes. While I much prefer the vinyl release due to its instrument separation and depth, especially in the low end, you would honestly be pleased with either release; just not the HD Tracks version. HD Tracks isn’t at fault, as they have been supplied with the terrible mastering, but the sale of such an inferior product does little to help the Hi-Res audio debate.

I should also note the vinyl release I have is a limited numbered release. I have number 4839 of (I believe) 5000. The remasters that were made specifically for the RSD release, are still available, they are just no longer numbered and come with a different sticker on the outer seal.

Same Old Song And Dance has a great beat and rhythm to it, but I have always felt that the drum track is lacking in this song. The kick drum just doesn’t sound right. I’m not sure how else to describe it, but I feel It lacks depth. It is almost like the skin tension was off on the drum thereby resulting in a sound that is slightly off key. Similarly, the cymbals sound a little squashed. I should note that these issues are heard across all the above mentioned formats, so it isn’t a factor of the remastering process.

As Lord Of The Thighs begins, the drum track is noticeably better and remains this way throughout the rest of the album. Lord Of The Thighs is an exceptional song that has a true blues influence throughout.

Spaced starts with low audible atmospheric sounds. I love it when rock and roll songs start this way. It sets the scene for a more mellow track, but there is so much complexity to the song that I never tire of it. The percussion elements are perfectly added for impact, not just because they are available. This musical self-control has been an Aerosmith trademark since their inception. It would be nice to see more artists follow this direction.

Woman Of The World starts with a lonely drum beat that reminds me of a drummer’s click track that ensures speed throughout the song remains constant. In a similar way, this beat ensures your toe tapping doesn’t miss a beat either.

S.O.S. (Too Bad) has nothing to do with save our souls, although that may have seemed appropriate for the band as they were always on the precipice of destruction. It in-fact stands for Same Old Shit and that is an adage that I’m sure we can all get behind. S.O.S. (Too Bad) is simply a fantastic bluesy rock and roll song that has a beautiful intermingling of bass and guitar with a drum beat that holds the song together.

Train Kept A Rollin’ is arguably the most successful song from the album. While it was released as a single, it did not chart at the time. However, The Yardbirds cover would become an Aerosmith staple as they often include this legendary song in their live set list. The song has been covered by a who’s who of the music industry, but I still declare that Aerosmith owns this song. They may not have written it, or performed it initially, but they mastered it. It has also appeared on most of their live album releases and an exceptional live performance, with Johnny Depp, was included on the DVD that accompanied the deluxe edition of Music From Another Dimension!

Seasons Of Wither begins with almost a minute of wind sounds in an attempt to set the seasonal stage. While it sets the scene, the song stands on its own with some absolutely gorgeous guitar work. I love songs where the subtle aspects of the guitar are present, but don’t overshadow the rest of the performance. This song proves that a great song can include elements from the entire band.  

I would like to see Pandora’s Box re-tracked to appear before Seasons Of Wither. It isn’t a bad song; it just doesn’t flow well after the soothing Seasons Of Wither. The long held guitar riff and drum outro on Seasons Of Wither are a perfect end to the album. Although, I guess when tracking the album, the decision was made to close on a song that depicts the mainstream sound Aerosmith was aiming for. Pandora’s Box certainly is that song.

Get Your Wings is a must own for any fan of Aerosmith or 70s rock and roll. It is one of those albums that I listen to and just can’t believe that it was made before I was even born in ’79. It is exceptional and has stood the test of time. The two common remasters showcase the album with a faithful sound that will be appreciated for generations to come.

Now that I have the vinyl release, I think I will give the CD to my son so that he can get his wings!

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AFI – Sing The Sorrow (CD)

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AFI – Sing The Sorrow (CD)

AFI is an incredibly unique band. To pigeonhole them would be a grave injustice as their music spans punk rock and alternative rock genres. In essence, they are an exceptional rock and roll band that have continually refined their sound from serious punk rock, to a more mainstream rock approach. Some bands fail miserably when they shift their style, but AFI is certainly not one of them. Each album continues to be better than the one before; reminding me somewhat of Avenged Sevenfold.

Sing The Sorrow was released in 2003 and was arguably their largest shift in style when compared to their previous five albums. While I do have their previous albums in my collection, and enjoy them, their post-2003 work is exceptional and if you’re not punk inclined, you will likely prefer this latter body of work. That said, their punk style is still present within the music, it is just minimised.

My only disappointment with Sing The Sorrow is the low dynamic range of 06 out of 20. Yes, you can hear that it is overly compressed. A number of minor elements are just screaming to be heard, yet they sound so muted and distant that one would wonder why they are even included. Despite this, Sing The Sorrow is still a thoroughly enjoyable album and the low dynamic range doesn’t prevent me from enjoying it, but I would love to hear a remaster with a dynamic range closer to the original recording, if that exists.

The artwork and presentation is superb. Every millimetre of the liner notes booklet has been used. Even the graphic on the back of the CD case represents a reflective look at where the band have come from and where they are now. The window into another world, that is the size of the CD center spindle hole, showcases their fourth studio album Black Sails In The Sunset. It is the little details like this that can’t be overlooked and is still the reason to collect albums on CD or vinyl. The specific edition I have is the UK release with two bonus tracks [cat: 450 448-2(A)].

As regular readers would note, I’m not generally interested in lyrics and song meanings. I enjoy music without knowing the specific meaning. That said, I love vocals as an instrument. Davey Havok’s vocal range is exceptional as he not only has a great punk style, but he can hold some pretty serious notes. His occasional spoken word lyrical style is also nothing short of hypnotic.

The album starts with Miseria Cantare - The Beginning. Miseria Cantare meaning Sing The Sorrow. The song starts off with atmospheric noise and a deep beat with vocal overtures. It is exceptionally complex and lovely to listen to. It truly sets the scene for the rest of the album.

The Leaving Song Pt. 2 appears second in the track listing, but you may be wondering where Pt. 1 is. Well, that is located later in the album at track 11. The opening guitar work before the song begins, and then throughout and before the chorus, is beautiful.

Bleed Black is truly reminiscent of a slowed down punk song. If punk music gives you the same amount of notes, in half the time, then this 4m 15sec track could quite easily fit the average two-minute punk song length. That said, the song shifts in the final minute to be closer to an acoustic rock song, before speeding up for the finale. It is simply captivating and my mind and body don’t know how to digest it, but it works.

Silver And Cold is a beautiful song that begins with rain and piano keys, before proceeding into the rock track. It is mellow for AFI, but simply incredible. It is one of those songs where I change my views on lyrics as I want to understand the message and sing along.

Dancing Through Sunday is punk infused and a welcome addition to the album. It shows AFI still has it, but isn’t afraid to expand beyond their origins.

Girl’s Not Grey really needs additional dynamic range. The poor drummer sounds like he has a single drum that offers no depth or tonality. In-fact, the song is a musical muddiness that is monotone in presentation. Yet, you can tell there is more to the song, it just isn’t on this release. Such a shame!

Death Of Seasons is a song with an awesome beat, that even goes into dance territory, and exhibits some beautiful guitar and vocal work.

The Great Disappointment thankfully isn’t a disappointment. Instrument separation is present and the soundstage is nicely placed across the stereo field. When I suggest that vocals are akin to an instrument, this song highlights what I’m referring to. Davey’s vocals are beautiful and are perfectly suited to the song and style of music.

Paper Airplanes (Makeshift Wings) isn’t one of my favourite tracks. There is nothing wrong with it, I just don’t gel with the song. The cymbal work on the drums is just too compressed for my liking and I find the vocals are too whiny. It really sounds distorted! A little more spit and polish and I believe this song could have been exceptional. Additional detail may well be in the studio master, but we may never know.

This Celluloid Dream is most certainly a rock and roll track, but sporadically merged with punk. It works and the vocals appear as the lead instrument, or driving force, in this song.

The Leaving Song has an amazing vocal and (I think) acoustic guitar tune. It is punk length, but it is most certainly a ballad. It would have to be one of my favourite songs from the album.

…But Home Is Nowhere is an okay song. It is neither good or bad, but I truly don’t know what to say about it other than it fits into the track listing of the album. I can only think that it is too similar to the other songs and therefore doesn’t have a unique quality to explore.

Synthesthesia is the first UK exclusive track, followed by Now The World. Both UK exclusives are perfectly acceptable and are two songs that I feel work well within the tracking of the album. These songs were also available as a download for US audiences, from a link provided with the original album. That said, the site that was delivering the download is no longer operational and thus you will need to pick up the UK edition to get these additional songs.

The final unlisted, and therefore hidden, track is This Time Imperfect. It is a ten-minute epic that is exceptional and is my favourite song from the album. It is AFI at their very best! On the CD release, you will need to listen to Now The World before the hidden track will play, as it not a separate track. Whereas, on TIDAL Hi-Fi, you can listen to the track independent of the album.

Sing The Sorrow is an album of change. It is not a farewell to punk, but an evolution of sound that appeals to a greater audience while showing a new level of maturity and musicianship amongst the band. It is truly disappointing that much of the album is noticeably brickwalled, but that shouldn’t deter your interest in the album. It is worthy of any rock and roll, or punk rock collection. 

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The Transformers: The Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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The Transformers: The Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

As a child of the 80s, The Transformers was one of the most amazing franchises that a young boy could be exposed to. In a classic good versus evil story arc, The Transformers transformed our minds and defined what was possible with animation techniques in the early to mid 80s.

I remember as a child receiving an Optimus Prime action figure, complete with his transforming trailer. I was in heaven and despite the toy being primitive by today’s standards, it was truly revolutionary at the time.

Also during that time, the original television series of The Transformers began to air and a couple of years later, Transformers The Movie would be released. I remember being captivated by the film, although I wouldn’t see it until it received commercial television rights in Australia some years later. Interestingly, I don’t recall the soundtrack from the film, but when I saw that Music on Vinyl was getting set to re-issue a limited edition pressing on vinyl, I ordered the soundtrack without being aware of the track listing. It was the collector in me. The artwork is exquisite and being a numbered collectable, well I just had to have that for my collection. Music on Vinyl pressed 1000 numbered editions on transparent blue vinyl. I have number 899 and I believe the other numbered editions are now sold out, although you can still get the re-issue on standard black vinyl.

Streamers will be happy to know the soundtrack is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. It also contains four additional tracks, although one is not currently licensed for streaming. The licensing is such a major problem for soundtracks when they are added to streaming services. The music industry really needs to work on a solution to this problem. All you have to do is look how many songs are missing from Pulp Fiction, to see what the problem is. Seriously, if you can’t put all the tracks on, then perhaps it is best to not release the album on streaming services until agreements are made. Interestingly, in the case of Pulp Fiction, all songs are still permitted for vinyl and CD replication worldwide. Similarly, all tracks are available for sale on iTunes. As a music fan, it is simply frustrating. I wonder if the music executives know that you can stream all the songs, from the soundtrack, on YouTube for free. That’s an argument for another day, but at least in the case of The Transformers soundtrack, all of the songs bar one are included in the streaming option.

I must admit that I love writing these posts, but it is costing me an arm and a leg. In doing some background research I just found that the soundtrack was also re-released for Black Friday – Record Store Day 2015 on a new coloured, and etched, vinyl release that is limited to 5,000 pressings. If I wasn’t such a huge Transformers fan, I might overlook this release, but I must have it. Yes, I’ve already emailed Ben at Goldmine Records to see if he can get it for me. He is ordering a few copies, so get in touch with him If you want a copy.

Over the last couple of years my son has become equally engrossed in The Transformers. Perhaps this is a result of my influence, but it could also be attributed to the release of new films and the exceptional Transformers Prime animated series. It is wonderful to be able to share this passion with him and when the record arrived he was as blown away as I was. As much as I enjoy the album, I think he enjoys it more. We will often sit down in front of the stereo and build Lego together while the album is spinning. It is a father/son moment to be cherished.

The vinyl pressing is exceptional, as are all Music on Vinyl releases. I’ve yet to acquire one that I’m disappointed in. From the outer sleeve to the record itself, it is truly representative of quality and the sonic aspect of the album is exceptional. Similarly, TIDAL Hi-Fi’s edition sounds full and complete while matching the mastering found on the vinyl release. Hence, you simply can’t go wrong with this album. That is unless you’re not an 80s hair metal fan.

Yes, the soundtrack is primarily infused with hairspray and gel, but there is a small part of my heart that loves the 80s hair metal scene. Many of you will likely feel it is corny, and perhaps it is, but the power ballad is a sing-a-long marvel that permits usage of the air guitar. How can that be a bad thing?

Now you may recall, before my ramblings got out of control, that when I ordered the album I had no idea what type of music was on it. I purchased it for the franchise and for the cover artwork. I know many collectors who do the same thing. The artwork looks cool, so I’ll buy it. I must admit I haven’t done that for a while, but surprisingly you tend to become interested in the music if you like the artwork.

The first song The Touch is performed by Stan Bush. It isn’t a bad rock song, but it is just a little too ‘campy’ for my liking.

Instruments Of Destruction is grungy, without being grunge in style. It has a magnificent beat and the guitar elements are exceptionally controlled despite being the type of song where the guitar solo could easily become paramount. However, I love N.R.G.’s vocalist, Les Brown, and the range he has on his voice. He reminds me of Ronnie James Dio.

Death Of Optimus Prime is a somber and classically infused instrumental track that is simply beautiful. While remaining classical, it doesn’t feel out of place on the album. There are certainly symphonic elements that reflect the overall feel of the album thereby encouraging flow.

Dare is another song by Stan Bush. It is thoroughly enjoyable, with a fast beat, but I think Stan Bush has to be the king of ‘campy’ songs.

Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way by Spectre General is an enjoyable song throughout the versus, but the chorus is just too repetitive. That said, it suits the film and franchise perfectly.

The Transformers Theme ROCKS!

Escape is another instrumental track, by Vince DiCola, that despite starting slowly picks up pace with the rest of the album and is the musical equivalent of watching the action depicted in the film.

Hunger is another track from Spectre General and has some killer guitar riffs and guttural vocal tones.

Autobot/Decepticon Battle is self explanatory. It is of course instrumental and works exceptionally well with the album tracking and the film.

The final track on the album is by Weird Al Yankovic and is titled Dare To Be Stupid. I must admit that it took me a few listens to get used to, and enjoy, this track. Nevertheless, if you hear a song often enough, it has the ability to grow on you. This one certainly has! It is a fun track, albeit a little different to the other songs on the album, but not so different that it detracts from the album experience.

While that is the entire track listing on the vinyl re-issue, the TIDAL Hi-Fi version has three additional instrumental tracks. All are relevant to the film, but I am glad they weren’t included on the vinyl re-issue as they would have been out of place with the selection chosen. That said, they are enjoyable to listen to via streaming.

I’d recommend this soundtrack to anyone who enjoys the transformers franchise, or the 80s hair metal rock and roll era. As a compilation it works surprisingly well, with no track that is so lacklustre it prevents enjoyment. 

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The Never Ending Story – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Composers: Klaus Doldinger And Giorgio Moroder)

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The Never Ending Story – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Composers: Klaus Doldinger And Giorgio Moroder)

The Never Ending Story is one feature film from my childhood that has stood the test of time. I have thoroughly enjoyed introducing it to my children as it has such a positive message about reading and the subsequent fantasy worlds that can be created by that very act.

Not only do I have the film, and of course the associated soundtrack, but I have the book and have read it a number of times. It simply captivates me and I strongly suggest sourcing a copy if you’re an avid reader.

Despite my appreciation of the franchise, I never thought to purchase the soundtrack. This is a strange omission as I thoroughly enjoy the music from the film and generally gravitate to soundtracks of films I like. It was actually my son who asked, upon seeing the film for the first time, if we could get the soundtrack.

While I definitely wanted to pick up the soundtrack on CD, I also wanted my children to be able to experience the soundtrack immediately, in order to secure their excitement in the franchise. Subsequently, I turned to iTunes/Apple Music and noted that they had the soundtrack available. However, when I began streaming the album, it lacked significantly in dynamic range and was certainly inferior to the average dynamic range of 11 that is found on the CD. It was just flat and lifeless. However, streamers will find that the TIDAL Hi-Fi version sonically matches the CD. That said, it is the same mastering across all variants, so there should be no difference. Perhaps this difference in tonality is due to the use of an inferior codec from when the album was first encoded and released for sale on iTunes. I should note that this iTunes/Apple Music edition is not a Mastered for iTunes release.

Also of note, as a general observation, is the superior audio quality of the film’s Blu-Ray DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track when compared to the CD. Yes, I acknowledge the variation between the formats, but it is significant enough to mention. While the CD is superb, I’d love to get my hands on the soundtrack used in the film.

One of the disappointments I have with the soundtrack is the track listing. The songs are presented out-of-order, in comparison to when they appeared in the film. I’ve no idea why this tracking was chosen, but it certainly requires me to program the CD player, or TIDAL Hi-Fi playlist, to ensure the tracks are presented in the order that best mimics the film. If you have never seen the film, then this is of little concern.

Another concern I have is the naming convention of the soundtrack. The CD soundtrack is presented as The Never Ending Story, but the film is presented, depending on region, as either The Neverending Story with the alternative being The NeverEnding Story. Yet, the book that started it all is simply The Neverending Story. Yes, it confuses me as well. Personally, I don’t have an issue or preference with any of these titling methods, but I would love to see consistency across the franchise. I specifically mention this deviation as it took me a while to find the soundtrack on TIDAL Hi-Fi because they have it listed as The Never Ending Story. TIDAL’s search engine likely needs an overhaul, as iTunes easily found the variant, but it wouldn’t have been an issue if all related elements had the same naming convention.

Despite these small frustrations, the soundtrack offers an enchanting series of instrumental songs that are inspirational and moving. The one vocal track on the album is the Never Ending Story that is sung by Limahl, best known as lead singer of the band Kajagoogoo. The song at its core is pop-synth, truly resonating with the 80s sound of the time. Yes, it is clichéd, but it is still thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. Interestingly, the song really doesn’t sound as dated as many other pop-synth recordings. Although, perhaps it is just nostalgia that keeps this song fresh in my mind.

Proceeding through the track listing and Swamps Of Sadness certainly lives up to its title as the song is demure but bold and uplifting at the same time. Without a doubt it is one of my most favourite tracks, from the soundtrack, as it is moving and the corresponding scenes in the film amplify my connection with the song.

The Ivory Tower is an epic song, but there is a major problem with the edition that is available on the soundtrack. It is not the same edition as the one found in the film. The film showcases the song in a beautiful symphonic presentation that could be appreciated by any classical music fan. Yet, the soundtrack has swapped out this performance for a lacklustre pop-synth edition of the song. Disappointing to say the least! Below are the two different renditions. The first is the original that was presented in the film, while the second video is representative of the edition found on the soundtrack. 

Ruined Landscape is a delightfully sombre piece of music that not only applies to the film, but could be viewed in reflection of many beautiful landscapes that have been destroyed by man’s incessant need for natural resources.

Sleepy Dragon is much more uplifting and the guitar work in this song is exceptionally refined and not overpowering. That said, it is one of the weaker songs on the album and I think it is mainly due to its repetitious style.

Bastian’s Happy Flight is an instrumental song that is simply fun. It truly draws me back into the film, but without that connection I’m not sure the song is strong enough to stand on its own as a classical piece of music.

Fantasia is short but rather atmospheric. While it links in with the film, I would love to have seen an expanded rendition on the album.

Atreju’s Quest is elegant and and strong throughout and is beautifully performed. It is a slow climb and then builds to the ultimate climax, making it one of those songs that could easily be added to any classical movie theme collection.

Theme Of Sadness isn’t so much sad as it is thought provoking. The flute (I believe) is just stunning in its subtleness throughout this song.

Atreju Meets Falkor is a lovely song that gives you the impression of flying, although, that is likely symbolic of the film scene that accompanies it. I could also see this song being perfect for a country drive as the landscape is passing by and you are looking forward to what life holds ahead of you.

Mirrorgate – Southern Oracle is eerie, but captivating. It certainly links well with the associated film scenes, but it doesn’t feel out of place as an instrumental track on its own. Actually, it somewhat reminds me of the style of music that Jean Michel Jarre performs.

Gmork truly could have been left off the album. With a runtime of less than 30 seconds, it is merely present because it applies to a single dramatic scene in the film. If you haven’t seen the movie, you won’t enjoy it.

Moonchild is probably another one that I would say doesn’t add much to the soundtrack, although it is pivotal in the film.  

The Auryn is simply magical. While it isn’t lyrically based, the backing harmonic choir performs the tonal range of the song exceptionally well.

Happy Flight is really a shorter version of Bastian’s Happy Flight. There is certainly nothing wrong with this repetition and I feel it closes the album out nicely.

There is really no reason to omit this album from your collection, but it will likely appeal to those of you who enjoy the film, or are primarily interested in classical and instrumental scores. That said, if you can’t stand continuous shifts in instrumental music styles, then this album may not be for you. However, there are certainly a number of standout tracks that simply must be heard. 

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Neil Sedaka – The Very Best Of (CD)

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Neil Sedaka – The Very Best Of (CD)

One of my earliest memories of car journeys was hearing a Neil Sedaka cassette my father owned. Unfortunately, just before turning six, my parents would separate and the Sedaka music would cease, so I’m unsure of which album I was specifically listening to. Although, I do believe that it was a compilation as a number of Sedaka’s greatest hits would frequent the hour-long drive, to the Hawkesbury River, in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan Area.   

As a result of these journeys, Sedaka’s unique vocal delivery would remain ever-present in my mind. As I listened to songs such as Love Will Keep Us Together, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, and Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, I vividly recall being in the backseat of the car looking at either the picturesque landscape passing by, or the stereo cassette player in the car. It had so many buttons, I just wanted to press them all. Thankfully, I’ve never found myself in a recording studio, otherwise I would have likely found a different career path. Buttons, knobs, and dials, they never get old, do they?

While on the surface it may appear upsetting that these songs have negative connotations, relating to the separation of my parents, the music actually doesn’t upset me at all. If anything, it provides a positive memory to that period in time and as I can not recall many occasions when the family was together, this music becomes even more important.

While I love Neil Sedaka’s work, The Very Best Of is the first album of his that I have purchased. There are a plethora of Best Of and Greatest Hits et al releases for Sedaka. So many that I would suggest they would outnumber his still-in-print studio albums. Hence, it can be incredibly difficult to select one that accurately covers his career. I had initially thought that this one did, having looked at the track listing, however the track listing online failed to mention the final seven tracks are compiled into a Live Medley performance that was recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1974. While the performance is enjoyable, I would have much preferred to have these classics songs presented in their original studio recorded format as the medley included: Oh! Carol, Stairway To Heaven, Little Devil, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Next Door To An Angel, and Calendar Girl.

Oh well, I will just have to purchase another collection and see if I can get the originals. I would consider purchasing Sedaka’s individual albums, but collecting his back catalogue is incredibly difficult. Seriously, try and find some officially released Sedaka albums. Certainly in Australia it is near impossible. Even shopping online doesn’t solve the problem as a couple of Sedaka’s releases never saw an official CD release anywhere in the world. The majority of those that did are now out-of-print. Anyway, for now it is a matter of streaming the songs and albums I’m interested in, then buying when possible.

The songs below are a small selection from The Very Best Of Neil Sedaka that I feel highlight his career. I have omitted those songs included in the Medley, despite many of them being amongst my favourites. Although, a couple of the Medley (Live) tracks are also present individually on the CD.

Standing On The Inside highlights Sedaka’s unique vocal style, like no other song in his catalogue.

Love Will Keep Us Together is a song that I just love singing along to. It has a really upbeat style and makes you believe that love is the answer to keeping relationships together. This meaning reminds me of The Beatles song All You Need Is Love.

Solitaire is a magical song that Sedaka portrays wonderfully, although I think I will always consider The Carpenters rendition to be the benchmark for this song.

(I’m A Song) Sing Me is amazing. Not only is Sedaka’s vocal range and tempo fantastic, but I just love the idea that the song is singing a song. That in my opinion is epitome of good song writing.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do is a classic. I love the jovial approach to the introduction of the song that is reminiscent of the 60s style, but the actual song is one of the greatest vocal ballads ever written and recorded in my opinion.

Laughter In The Rain is epic. This style of music I could listen to for hours and never tire. The song just encourages you to sing. Plus, who can forget the magic of that perfectly played saxophone. It truly enhances the song.

The Hungry Years is a terrible song name, but it a beautiful song that you must listen to.

Unfortunately, this CD release isn’t available on any streaming services, but a quick search for Neil Sedaka will help you find a plethora of other releases. I should also add that the before mentioned Medley (Live) is also not available on streaming services and only on this particular release.

If you are interested in picking up this CD, please note the track listing is strange. As mentioned earlier, online websites don't indicate some of his greatest songs are part of the Medley (Live) track. Also, there are at least two other songs on this compilation that are live recordings, but not noted as such.

The liner notes provide a little background on Sedaka’s career, but the booklet is printed on substandard stock and the photographs look like bad scans from the mid-90s. Plus what have they done with the photograph of Neil on the back of the album? It is terribly distorted and there is a heap of space that was never used.

As so many compilations are poorly produced, I really shouldn't be surprised by these issues. All I know is, if I were Neil Sedaka, I would not be pleased with my work being presented in this manner.

The sound quality is acceptable, but the purist in me would like to be able to listen to the original recordings as some of the songs I know so well, have a slightly different tonality to the way I remember them. That said, I may simply be evaluating quality, in this case, by my very own psychoacoustics.

Overall, this album is one that I am glad to own. That said, I wouldn’t recommend it as the best compilation highlighting Sedaka’s career. 

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Iron Maiden – Twilight Zone/Wrathchild (7-inch 45rpm Single)

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Iron Maiden – Twilight Zone/Wrathchild (7-inch 45rpm Single)

Following Women In Uniform, Iron Maiden would release their fourth single, but it would take the form of a Double A-Side. For those unaware of the concept, a Double A-Side is where an artist will release a single that contains two album based songs, rather than a B-side which is often a live performance or song that didn’t make the album cut. It is a practice that has sadly died out over the last couple of decades and while not all B-sides are great, I feel we are missing out on some hidden treasures.

In this case however, Twilight Zone was initially a non-album single in the UK, although it was released on the US edition of Killers in 1981, and would be added to world-wide distribution of the album when the enhanced re-issue edition of Killers was released in 1998. That said, not all post 1998 editions have the song. Most notably the 2014 vinyl re-issues and the 2015 Mastered for iTunes release omit this classic song, amongst other editions.  

The subsequent cover of the 7-inch release targeted the song Twilight Zone for inspiration as it showed Eddie, Maiden’s mascot, returning to his beloved girlfriend. Twilight Zone is in-fact a love song from beyond the grave as it appears that England’s then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, did revoke Eddie’s license to live, as insinuated on the cover of Women In Uniform.

Speaking of covers, Iron Maiden would once again be criticized in the media for having a cover that depicted sexism and the stalking of a young girl. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see either of those elements. Anyone who read the lyrics, or listened to the song, would understand that the artwork is a representation of the song as it depicts Eddie’s attempt to reach his beloved from his imprisonment in the Twilight Zone. Eddie’s photo is even presented on the dresser, thereby indicating a connection to the ghostly figure.

All I can say is sometimes ‘political correctness’ goes a little too far. While I don’t condone gratuitous sex or violence, within art and music, a little common sense and research goes a long way. That said, I acknowledge cultural perceptions in 1981 were quite different to how we perceive this cover today.

With this in mind, I can’t help but wonder what kafuffle was made of the original Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction cover. While that artwork is still included in the liner notes, retailers refused to stock it with the original cover, hence it was restricted in most regions and I believe on all formats other than vinyl.

As we take a look beyond the artwork, it is immediately clear that Twilight Zone and Wrathchild are both very much A-Side tracks. I absolutely love the guitar and bass introduction of Wrathchild. It is hard hitting and I feel is one of the first times we see Iron Maiden as not just a heavy metal band, but a band which can turn their music into a theatrical rock opera.

Similarly, Twilight Zone also fits into the style I have mentioned above. The initial guitar riff and drum beats set the tone, but I find I actually care more for the lyrical component of Twilight Zone as it has a story that has been enhanced in importance through the cover art design. This is why I collect vinyl as it enhances the experience.

For those interested, you can still get the limited edition 7-inch release. It is well worth owning as the presentation and mastering is superb.

If you would prefer to purchase both songs on other formats, they are of course available on some of the post 1998 Killers editions that are available on CD and Vinyl.

Killers is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music for those of you who prefer to stream.

While all these options are great, the version I would recommend, for Killers, is the vinyl edition. This is because the CD, TIDAL Hi-Fi, and iTunes/Apple Music (Mastered For iTunes) releases all have low dynamic ranges that average 07 out of 20. The vinyl by comparison is 12 out of 20. For more information on these scores, please click here. That said, many of the vinyl re-issues omit Twilight Zone, so please make sure you check the track listing before purchasing.

Despite this, I still enjoy listening to my 1998 edition of Killers on CD, but it is sonically compromised when compared directly with the vinyl edition. That said, they never really did master turntables in cars, did they? 

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