Viewing entries in
Pop

Stevie Jackson – (I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson [Album Review]

Comment

Stevie Jackson – (I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson [Album Review]

Thanks to the modern era of streaming music, discovery is truly at our fingertips. As such, (I Can Get Me Some) Stevie Jackson, even though I have no idea who he is. Yes, thanks to the “always accurate” Wikipedia, I can see Jackson calls Scotland home and is a singer and guitarist for the Scottish indie band Belle & Sebastian. That's about it, but no-one has ever said that you need to be familiar with an artist to enjoy their creative output. As such, let’s get into the review of Stevie Jackson's first, and only solo album, (I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson.

Pure Of Heart has a gorgeous musical introduction, but Jackson's vocal presentation takes a little getting used to. That said, following repeat listens, it really grows on you and is very relaxing to listen to. The hook, throughout, reminds me fondly of another song, but I'm at a loss as to what it could be. It just sounds familiar. I’m thinking something from John Lennon's catalogue, but I just can't put my finger on it. Regardless, Pure Of Heart is a fantastic song to commence the album with.

Just, Just, So To The Point is a brilliant indie-pop tune. The rhythm is poetry in motion and Jackson's smooth, yet fast, vocals are exquisite. Without a doubt Just, Just, So To The Point is one of my favourite songs on the album.

Try Me shifts the album to a more indie-rock style with a touch of punk. There are sections of Try Me that remind me of Skyhooks. It’s a solid song, with an energised beat. 

Richie Now is a song that could have come straight out of the 50s or 60s. That is a positive viewpoint, by the way, and while Richie Now slows the album down again, it doesn't feel out of place. A beautiful song!

Dead Man's Fall is glorious and reminiscent of Julian Lennon's style on Photograph Smile. I could listen to Dead Man's Fall on repeat for hours. It’s a rather basic composition but is masterfully recorded.

Bird's Eye View reminds me of a lullaby from my childhood. Again, as with Pure Of Heart, I just can't place it. Nevertheless, it is a solid vocal-ballad that will appeal to those interested in that genre. The bicycle sound effects during the song work really well in transporting the listener directly into the song. I mention this as it feels as though these types of techniques are becoming a lost art form. It's good to see some artists are still intent on creating a work of audible art.

Man Of God is a song I haven't been able to get into. It's a B-side and despite fitting adequately into the style of the album, it is just a little too unstructured for my liking.

Kurosawa is addictive, once it gets going. Although, I must admit I dislike the intro.

Where Do All The Good Girls Go? has a definite Beatles’ groove. Not a bad thing as I love that style and this song is what I imagine The Beatles may have sounded like if they stayed together. A fantastic song that is modern yet belongs in another era. I love it!

Telephone Song is a lovely vocal-focused song that is recorded beautifully. Without a doubt, one of the best songs on the album.

Press Send is a rather campy love song. It's not bad, but it's definitely a B-side.

Feel The Morning is a thoroughly relaxing song and that duelling vocal is beautiful. When I hear music of this calibre, I just want to explore everything else the artist has done. However, this album was released in 2011 and there hasn't been a follow-up solo album yet. Such a shame!

If I Can't Help Myself is the perfect way to close the album. It's a beautiful song and compels me to listen to the album again.

(I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson is exceptional from start to finish and despite not connecting with a couple of songs, as a body of work, all songs work extraordinary well with each other.

The recording, mixing, and mastering is beyond reproach. The stream from TIDAL Hi-Fi is all anyone would ever need, but I’d love to get my hands on the vinyl release as it's not only worth owning, but it's worth supporting an artist that is this talented and brings so much joy to my life every time I listen to the album. Plus, I really like the artwork and would love to have it on a larger canvas.

(I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, (I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Comment

Magnetic - Miriam Clancy (Album Review)

Comment

Magnetic - Miriam Clancy (Album Review)

Miriam Clancy at Mighty Mighty, 7 July 2011. Copyright © A Jenks 2011

Miriam Clancy at Mighty Mighty, 7 July 2011.
Copyright © A Jenks 2011

I don’t go to live music gigs. I’m a huge fan of well produced, polished music, presented in a crisp package, that I can enjoy in my own time and space. I have, however, been to one live gig. One artist I cared enough to see live and to meet.

This is a difficult review for me to write because the album is a very dear one to me, but my review of the gig was not taken well by the artist. While I don’t think I was unfair or inaccurate, I do regret the effect it had. If you know where to look, you can find that original review, but I am going to try to forget that history (and not draw it out again here) to do this review justice.

Magnetic is Miriam Clancy’s second album, released three years after her debut album, Lucky One. The two albums could not be much more different and yet both are unmistakably Miriam. Magnetic marked a new phase for Miriam, as she transitioned out of what she herself called “GarageBand-ville.” With an accomplished producer, Miriam has taken her fantastic range and applied it to a variety of styles with layers of panache and polish.

The Best is the first track on Magnetic. Proverbially, one is supposed to save the best to last, but is it the best track on the album? I’d say it’s a handy second place. Straight away the listener is introduced to the careful layering of instruments that is a strong feature of many tracks on this album. The song begins with what I feel as a restrained energy. From the first bar there is something pent up and, sure enough, it is eventually let loose in a classic Clancy crescendo. Miriam likes “light and shade” in a song and this one delivers that contrast in spades.

This track is one of a handful in my entire music collection that invokes chills down my spine, as Miriam hits that crescendo with a powerful delivery that she is so, so good at.

When I Do switches styles to a plucky pop number and was released as a single. While the energy doesn’t reach the levels of The Best, the tempo starts and remains high and the tone almost frivolous. Miriam’s vocals are almost… cheeky. Like all good singles, the chorus is catchy and leaps out of the surrounding verses. Miriam once again manages a diverse vocal delivery to fit the phase of the song, including her, perhaps trademark, breathy style.

If you thought there would be a distinct style to this album, you’d be disavowed of that notion by the time Join the Chorus begins, as yet another vibe is invoked.

It would be wrong to call this an acoustic track but I believe it would translate well to a simple vocal and guitar. A strong illustration of the layering approach, this track builds from a few plucky instruments to a rich tapestry of many more traditional ‘mainstream’ sounds, while the melody evokes a church singalong.

You Ain't the Worst Mistake I Made is another plucky number not unlike the early part of Join the Chorus but with a much evener delivery and some definite sass, as you might expect from the title. This track is, I think, one of the best showcases for Miriam’s voice, as she walks those vocals all over the map, bringing each line, each phrase, the tone it deserves.

Southern Cross is the song that, for me, beats out The Best for the actual accolade of the best song on the album. Perhaps you have to be a Kiwi (the person, not the bird^) to capture the full feeling of this song. I asked Miriam if she was away and homesick when it was written. In fact, she was at home and contemplating her move to New York. That fact makes the longing lyrics and sad timbre seem all the more poignant. I also asked if she had offered it to Air New Zealand as an anthem. Apparently, I was not the first to ask. I still think it’s perfect for them.

If I had to pick a single word to describe this song, it would be “stirring.” It makes me proud to be a Kiwi… and proud that someone as talented as Miriam is a Kiwi, too.

The liner track listing for Only Lonely One includes the words “For Dad.” I asked Miriam about this and all she said was that she included it so he would know it is about him (she didn’t think he realised at the time) and so that everyone else wouldn’t think it was “just another break-up song.”

This is a very personal story set to a simple guitar, though with some atmospheric backing and a noticeable echo on the vocals. There is probably no better example of the singer-songwriter art on this album. Although I make it sound simple, Miriam’s delivery and a catchy vocal melody make it very enjoyable.

Real Love brings back the higher tempo and layering in abundance. This is another song that makes use of vocal echo to good effect. Although it has an interesting arrangement, the structure of the track is quite straightforward with just a little escalation toward the end. Just not in the same magnitude of The Best.

The premise of Mixtape is cute, but not cutesy. Another simple arrangement, it explores various aspects of the love that goes into things you make for a loved one — that the love that goes into it should outweigh any less than perfect execution. Mixtapes, pictures, and poems that come from the heart are beautiful for what they mean, not what they are. This is, perhaps, the track that sits closest to the style of the previous album, Lucky One.

The title track of the album, Magnetic, is a great piece of pop art. While starting like a typical Clancy track, with those gorgeous and largely unchallenged vocals, the break after the second verse leads to a change in tone and that other Clancy classic tool — the escalation of energy (and noise levels). Magnetic, however, does not have a crescendo, instead holding the energy before an uncharacteristic fade-out.

If you’ve ever wondered about life in a semi-rural New Zealand town at a time when cities were starting to take the shine off the country lifestyle, then be sure to listen to Ghost Town, for it is about Miriam’s hometown. Home to Foxton Fries and (originally) Foxton Fizz, these days it is more known as a marker on one’s journey north from Wellington. Indeed, for those who like a good drive, the “Foxton straights” may eclipse them all.

If I have painted an unflattering picture of Foxton, Miriam isn’t going to up the ante. A simple song, Ghost Town has an energy level to match the subject, playing out like a story, in fact a documentary, set to music more than an epic song. As if some memory test, be sure to note how many boyfriends were had!

Another track to receive the full production treatment is Baby Blues, a song about Clancy’s son. The song tells of how having a son changed her life. Part introspective, part love story, this low tempo song is another that would translate well to acoustic despite a plethora of sounds being added in this version.

Another song that harks back, somewhat, to the style of Lucky OneThe Knife has some of the most alluring, and interesting, vocals backed with minimal instruments.

Once again, Miriam returns to a familiar formula with My Heart is a Traitor. Beginning with a quiet vocal over a simple piano line, the track slowly builds. Drums are added in the third verse, along with a bass, before the tempo picks up a little another couple of verses in and the vocals gain some extra punch. Before long, the vocals strain against the crescendo of instruments before both fade to an acoustic finish. Classic Miriam.

As an album, Magnetic is in many respects a clear progression from Lucky One, but there are a handful of standout tracks that really deserve attention: The BestMagnetic, and When I Do should be elevated as important markers in Miriam's career. Southern Cross... well... deserves a place alongside Hello Sailor's Gutter Black as a New Zealand anthem.

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

If you prefer streaming, Magnetic is also available on TIDAL Hi-FiSpotify, and Apple Music.


For Americans reading this, “Kiwi” is properly attributed to either a New Zealander, or the flightless bird of the ratite family. It is not correctly applied to a fruit, which is trademarked as “Kiwifruit.”

Comment

Bee Gees' 1st (Album Review)

Comment

Bee Gees' 1st (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

One Minute Woman is a lovely song.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please Read Me is a solid B-side.

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

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

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

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

Comment

The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs (Album Review)

Comment

The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs (Album Review)

While Bee Gees’ 1st would be their international debut, The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs is actually their first album, recorded in Australia before the harmonising trio relocated to London.

Released in 1965, the album is largely made up of singles that had been released in the years preceding this release. The success of this album was lacklustre and the Bee Gees would only really receive the recognition they deserved, in Australia, at a later stage in their career. Nevertheless, if one was to base their likes and dislikes on album sales, they would miss out on the richness of back catalogues.

The Bee Gees’ back catalogue is full of hidden gems, especially considering many readers would only be familiar with their chart-topping, re-invented, disco-styled music. Nevertheless, these early recordings are beautiful. You’ll hear the influence and similarities to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and The Hollies amongst others. That isn’t to say that the Bee Gees lacked originality, for their harmonious interweaving vocals were as legendary then as they would be throughout the band's career.

Out of the 14 songs, five were new recordings with the lead song, I Was A Lover, A Leader Of Men being released as a single. While the single failed to gain any traction in the charts, the song is exceptional with a sonic signature that would be replicated, albeit with more success, on future albums.

I Don't Think It's Funny is a lovely acoustic-based song with Robin Gibb on lead vocals. His gritty, yet smooth, vocal delivery is absolutely captivating.

How Love Was True is another enjoyable track that is somewhat reminiscent, in my mind, of the harmonious Lennon/McCartney years.

To Be Or Not To Be is definitely inspired by early Beatles recordings. Think Please, Please Me/With The Beatles era. It isn't a bad tune but arguably doesn't suit the Bee Gees.

Timber is short and to the point. It is certainly reminiscent of the late 50s and early 60s. Timber was recorded and released as a single in 1963 and with a runtime of less than two minutes, one can only wonder how tedious playing that 45 would have been.

Claustrophobia is a great 60s pop tune. I love it!

Could It Be I’m In Love With You has an addictive rhythm that will have you toe tapping and head bopping uncontrollably.

And The Children Laughing is a song that reminds me of The Seekers. Unfortunately, it isn't to my taste and while it’s adequate, it’s a B-side.

Wine And Women would be the first Bee Gees single to achieve chart success, no doubt due to the band, their friends, and dedicated fans buying as many copies as possible in the hope radio disc jockeys would notice them. I don't know about you, dear reader, but surely they could have come up with a better song to release as a single. Okay, so it isn't that bad, but it certainly isn't the most compelling song.

Don't Say Goodbye is another B-side. Although, the choral harmonies are very nice.

Peace Of Mind is a great song with a killer guitar solo. Sensational!

Take Hold Of That Star is too slow for the Bee Gees. That said, it is a lovely song, I just don't feel it suits them.

You Wouldn't Know is a great pop/rock tune with an incredible rhythm.

Follow The Wind is a fantastic song to conclude the album with and ensures that I’ll to listen to the album again and stay within the Bee Gees pre-disco era catalogue.

Overall, The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs is a superb collection of their early recordings. While it doesn't necessarily stand out, it certainly shows just how talented these three brothers were at such a young age.

Sonically, one must remember the era these songs were recorded in. However, the 2012 remaster, from TIDAL Hi-Fi, which this review is based upon, is likely the best quality these songs will ever be presented in. It doesn't happen often, but this remaster is lovely and worthy of inclusion in any Bee Gees collection.

The album cover is also exquisite. Yes, it’s reminiscent of the era and the style of music, but it also just works. I’d love to see this re-issued on vinyl. It would be a pre-order for sure! Until then, I will have to be satisfied with the edition available in CD-quality on TIDAL Hi-Fi as a CD release is also unavailable. Nevertheless, if you would like to own a copy of The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs, the album is available on the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC) and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs on Spotify and Apple Music.

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

Comment

Elton John – A Single Man (Album Review)

Comment

Elton John – A Single Man (Album Review)

It could be suggested that A Single Man is a literal interpretation as this 1978 release, John's twelfth studio album, is the first without Bernie Taupin at the collaborative songwriting helm. While the 1998 Mercury reissue, which this review is based upon, features John/Taupin compositions, John's collaboration with Gary Osborne, on the original track listing of A Single Man, shouldn't be dismissed as there are some remarkable songs to be heard.

John's longtime producer, Gus Dudgeon, was also absent with Clive Franks co-producing alongside John. While some may lament these key changes, one has to remember that an artist’s artistry isn't always limited to their renowned style or collaborative partners.

A Single Man is exceptional, despite the key changes in collaborative partners. Yes, again, I am bucking the trend and I implore you to listen to the album more than once as it truly grows on you the more you hear it. In my opinion, that is a sign of a great album.

From the first piano note, Shine On Through is easily identified as a magical Elton John song. The simple composition works incredibly well as all John really needs is a piano and/or classical element in the background. Shine On Through is so good, I'm really surprised it has never made it to one of John’s career perspective albums. Although, if being included on The Complete Thom Bell Sessions counts, although I suggest it doesn't, then I stand corrected. Of course, the latter edition is a different mix with a runtime near doubling that which appears on A Single Man. So, which version do I like best? Well, both of them. The gospel-style backing version on The Complete Thom Bell Sessions suits the song perfectly, but wouldn't have worked with the other songs on A Single Man. Regardless of which version you listen to, Shine On Through is a stellar Elton John tune.

Return To Paradise is an interesting composition. While it works, and I tend to thoroughly enjoy the introduction, the Caribbean-styled elements, while pertinent to the song, seems to distract my attention upon each listen. Yes, Return To Paradise is a B-side, but A Single Man wouldn't be the same without it.

I Don't Care picks up the pace with an addictive beat that will get you toe-tapping and head-bopping in no time. It has a little bit of everything. A little rock, a little pop, a touch of disco, and along with that signature piano, gospel-style backing vocals that work beautifully with the song, although they do sound a little distant in the mix.

Big Dipper starts off slowly, but I absolutely love the jazzy-blues New Orleans-style sound and that addictive chorus.

It Ain't Gonna Be Easy is one of John's greatest recordings. Tim Renwick's guitar work is off-the-charts, as is the entire composition. While the length of this song ensured it wouldn’t be heard on radio, fans of John and music lovers alike missed out on one of the best songs of the 70s. It would, without doubt, make my top 100 if I had such a list. John doesn't get much better than this!

Part Time Love did, however, receive radio airplay as the first single released from A Single Man. It's a great song that is reminiscent of the era, but unlike It Ain't Gonna Be Easy, I don't feel as though it has aged well and subsequently, as much as I enjoy it, it does sound dated. Part Time Love also appeared on The Very Best Of Elton John.

Georgia is a solid B-side. Nothing to write home about, but reminiscent in parts of the style applied throughout Tumbleweed Connection. I also consider this song a precursor to You Gotta Love Someone.

Shooting Star is another B-side and sounds as though it’s still in the demo phase of the recording.

Madness is pure madness and I love it!

Reverie is a short musical interlude. It is just that and nothing more. Although, it does offer a good amount of breathing space between the upbeat Madness and the more reserved Song For Guy.

Song For Guy is intriguing when you consider it’s primarily an instrumental track, yet was released as the second single from A Single Man. I don't know about you, but that continuous drum beat is the perfect backbone on which to hang all other musical elements. It’s superb and is one of John's greatest recordings.

Ego was initially released as a single, but failing chart success was omitted from both Blue Moves and A Single Man. While John has professed his love for the song, perhaps based upon the ego of the rock star that was the focus of the song, I find it mildly entertaining but feel that whistle is incredibly irritating. Nevertheless, it is a solid B-side with an appealing rhythm.

Flintstone Boy is an excellent song. Yes, it is different to John's usual style, but it works extremely well.

I Cry At Night is a beautiful song. The composition is perfect and shows why the John/Taupin collaborations are so celebrated. It’s a shame that it was absent from the core album for two decades. At least, for the last couple of decades, we've been able to enjoy this hidden gem.

Lovesick, similarly, is a fantastic song. Yes, it sounds a little dated, but it’s still worthy of inclusion on A Single Man.

Strangers is a lovely song to close the reissue on and always encourages me to listen to A Single Man again and stay within John's catalogue.

A Single Man is sadly underrated and while it may not have reached the status of his earlier recordings, such as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy, it is fantastic nonetheless and should be in every respectable music collection, especially if you’re an Elton John fan.

The remastering is superb and sounds perfect from start to finish on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Disappointingly, however, A Single Man hasn't been reissued on vinyl. The cover art just begs to be displayed on the larger canvas. Let's hope a pending re-issue is on the horizon, sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, A Single Man is available on CD and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, A Single Man is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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

Comment

Elton John – Blue Moves (Album Review)

5 Comments

Elton John – Blue Moves (Album Review)

Blue Moves is a hidden gem, that is if you give it time to grow on you. Seriously, it wouldn't be far-fetched to claim that Blue Moves is one of John's most disliked albums. However, I'm going to buck the trend and declare it one of his greatest achievements. Sure, the tonality of the album is different from his earlier albums, but from a mere sonic perspective, it’s audible gold!

Volume 1:

Your Starter For... is a short, but pleasant, musical introduction to the album. It has a fantastic rhythm and it’s just a shame the song doesn't go longer, however, I also feel it is the perfect length.

Tonight is symphonically beautiful, with gorgeous piano work. I simply can't help but turn the volume up, in order to be enveloped in the incredible soundstage. Beautifully recorded, mixed, and mastered, this is one song you really need to listen to in a darkened room, with eyes closed, to fully enjoy the complex musicality. Tonight is one of John's greatest recordings!

One Horse Town is a great song with an incredible rhythm, but you have to wait for it as the introduction slowly builds from the more delicate Tonight to the upbeat pace of One Horse Town. I really enjoy John's vocal performance here, especially with those slightly higher notes as he takes his vocal right to the edge before backing off at the last moment. Pure perfection!

Chameleon is gorgeous!

Boogie Pilgrim is a B-side. It works well in the album format, but as an individual song, it’s largely forgettable. That is if you can get the catchy tune out of your mind.

Cage The Songbird returns the album to a style I feel is closer to the overall musicality of Blue Moves. It’s a lovely vocal-driven track. Beautiful!

Crazy Water is a bit of a mixed bag. From a composition standpoint, it works really, really well. I love John's vocal delivery but the musicality sounds a little dated and campy. Nevertheless, it manages to come together and ends up being one of my favourite tracks on the album.

Shoulder Holster is a solid song and a perfect addition to the album. The brass instrumentation certainly makes the song and I dare say without it, Shoulder Holster would be rather bland.

 

Volume 2

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word is, as I've said before, absolutely magnificent!

Out Of The Blue is a musical jolt after the sonic brilliance of Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. It isn't that it is a bad song, just the wrong choice to come after the aforementioned song. Once you get past the musical shift, the song really comes into its own with yet another addictive rhythm.

Between Seventeen And Twenty may sound a little offbeat, but I love it!

The Wide-Eyed And Laughing is quite a different Elton John song. I can understand why some would dislike it, but I find it captivating!

Someone's Final Song is superb. I even detect a little Freddie Mercury as I listen to John's vocal style on this song.

Where's The Shoorah? is lovely and perfectly suited to the album.

If There's A God In Heaven (What's He Waiting For?) is a B-side. Not bad, but certainly nothing to write home about.

Idol is beautiful, although George Michael mastered it on his stunning live album Symphonica.

Theme From A Non-Existent TV Series is another musical interlude that works well, despite the rhythmic shift from Idol. That said, Theme From A Non-Existent TV Series leads brilliantly into the final track.

Bite Your Lip (Get Up And Dance!) gets you moving, although I can't help but think Idol would have been the perfect song to conclude the album on. Nevertheless, Bite Your Lip (Get Up And Dance!) encourages me to play Blue Moves again and stay within John's catalogue.

Blue Moves is, without a doubt, one of the most overlooked albums of all time, I implore you to give it another listen as you will be amazed by just how good this album sounds. Sure, it isn't representative of John's chart hits, but it could be argued that this album was an attempt to do something more bold from an artistic standpoint. If that was the intent, then Blue Moves ticked all the boxes.

For this review, I listened to the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi. The mastering is perfect and while I'll likely pick up the 2017 vinyl reissue, I can't imagine Blue Moves sounding better than it does via TIDAL's CD-quality stream. It is nothing short of absolute perfection!

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

If you prefer streaming, Blue Moves can also be heard on Spotify and Apple Music.

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

5 Comments

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

Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment

Elton John – Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (Album Review)

Comment

Elton John – Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (Album Review)

The mid-1970's was a tsunami of creativity within the music industry. Leading the charge, along with many others, was Elton John with his larger-than-life persona and signature sound. Most impressively, John would release 12 albums during this decade alone. While the quality of the output varied, I feel the shift in recording styles, during this decade has had a longer-lasting impact on the music industry than even the preceding decade. No doubt someone will disagree with my elation of the 70's, but as much as I adore The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who with their 60's sound, Elton John, the Eagles, and Aerosmith would further evolve this raw rock sound, creating sonic signatures that were equally unique and progressive. No, dear reader, I haven't forgotten about the Disco era or the impact of Motown's soul. I merely mention all this insofar as I feel Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy defines the era. Yes, that is a bold statement, but John and Taupin really blended all genres of music to create nothing less than an incredible body of work.

While I’ve always liked Alan Aldridge’s artwork, I do find the cover art to be a little too busy. That said, I’ve never owned this album on vinyl and I have no doubt the artwork would become more immersive on the larger canvas.

For this review, I'm listening to the 24/96kHz MQA edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi. It is exquisite, with a sonic signature that just sounds right. Trust me, I know how vague that sounds, but the soundstage is well presented and no musical elements are concealed, as they are with the 16/44.1kHz CD-quality FLAC edition from the mid-90's mastering sessions. That isn’t to say the standard CD edition is inferior, but you do get a greater sense of transparency with the MQA edition. The drum track, in particular on Curtains, comes alive to such an extent that you can visualise Nigel Olsson’s intensity as well as the tension on each drum. It is simply spectacular!

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy may be an awesome name for an album, but sadly the song is lacklustre. It isn't necessarily bad, it just fails to live up to the Elton John hype and really shouldn’t have been used as the lead song.

Tower Of Babel is a song that grows on you the more you listen to it. I do recall initially disliking it, but as the years have passed, I find it to be an exceptional song that is worthy of more fanfare than I feel it has received over the years.

Bitter Fingers takes a minute or so to get going, but once it does there is no stopping the addictive rhythm. The chorus is off-the-charts and while it is not easy to sing-a-long to, I dare you to sit still while enjoying this song. My advice, turn the volume up when this song comes on.

Tell Me When The Whistle Blows has a Marvin Gaye feel to it. See, this is why I said this album encompasses the musical styles of the decade? While it isn't a bad song, I don't feel it is well-suited to John. That said, the album wouldn’t be the same without it!

Someone Saved My Life Tonight is spectacular! In my review of The Very Best Of Elton John, I said Someone Saved My Life Tonight is a lovely ballad with a perfect balance and overall composition. I certainly stand by that aforementioned statement.

(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket is Elton John meets The Rolling Stones. Needless to say, I love it!

Better Off Dead isn't a bad song and interestingly reminds me of The Who’s music. That's a good thing!

Writing is a little too campy for me with that continuous twang. As I listen to it, I can't help but hear the guitar sound that Mark Knopfler would adapt as the signature Dire Straits sound.

We All Fall In Love Sometimes is beautiful!

Curtains follows on perfectly from We All Fall In Love Sometimes. It is so perfect that you would be forgiven for assuming the songs are not separate, but one exceptional masterpiece. As I mentioned earlier, I simply adore the drum track on this MQA version. In fact, all musical elements are perfectly presented with an impressively wide and immersive soundstage. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds is a Beatles classic, but just as John outperformed The Who on Pinball Wizard, he takes the Beatles tune, surpasses the original, and makes it his own.

One Day At A Time has an interesting panning effect between the left and right channels. I can't say I like it, but it pays homage to the psychedelic era. One Day At A Time is a B-side but remains a worthy addition to the album.

Philadelphia Freedom, along with the two previous songs, were not included in the album tracking until the 1995 remastering sessions. Such a shame considering how excellent the song is. Regardless, it is here now, unless you get the vinyl re-issue of the album that stays loyal to the original track listing. While Curtains is a fantastic track to close the album on, Philadelphia Freedom most certainly encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue.

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy is another exceptional Elton John album. While a couple of the songs may not live up to John's reputation, the album as a body of work is perfect and should be a must-own for every fan.

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

If you're so inclined, there is also a Deluxe Edition (featuring a live performance from 1975 at Wembley Stadium) available on double CD and iTunes. The Deluxe Edition is also available for streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

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

Comment

Elton John – Caribou (Remastered) [Album Review]

2 Comments

Elton John – Caribou (Remastered) [Album Review]

Following an album like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was always going to be a monumental challenge. Of course, it didn’t help that Caribou was recorded in only nine days. As incredible an artist as John is, the lack of time in the recording studio shows, resulting in a mixed bag of songs that often sound like a series of outtakes from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sessions along with some that would have been perfectly suited to his debut album, Empty Sky. Regular readers will recall my love for Empty Sky, hence the aforementioned statement isn't a criticism as such, it is more a realisation of the song selection on Caribou.

The Bitch Is Back is one of the two killer songs on Caribou. It feels polished and is solid Elton John. Pure perfection and one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded!

Pinky has a beautiful tonality, but the shift in style from The Bitch Is Back is jarring to the senses and it takes a minute or so to enjoy Pinky for its own musicality.

Grimsby has an addictive rhythm. You will be toe tapping and head bopping from the first note. The electric guitar riff found throughout is sonic perfection. I love it!

Dixie Lily is a classic B-side. It may have suited Tumbleweed Connection, but it feels out of place on Caribou.

Solar Prestige A Gammon has a strange beginning, but I find myself compelled by the lyrical implementation and overall musicality; even though the song is a little left of the center.

You're So Static is a great song. The addition of brass instrumentation really solidifies the rhythm, making You're So Static a hidden gem.

I’ve Seen The Saucers starts off beautifully with a gorgeous beat and interesting vocal style that is borderline Jazz inspired. However, as the song continues, it builds into a solid pop/rock tune. If only there was a little more spit and polish, I’ve Seen The Saucers could have been a massive hit, but the magic is concealed.

Stinker isn’t a bad song, and while it isn’t my favourite, it works well within the album structure and has some musically pleasing moments.

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me is the second killer song on Caribou. It is simply fantastic!

Ticking is a lovely song. Another hidden gem in my opinion.

Pinball Wizard is exceptional! For me, it beats The Who's original recording in every aspect.

Sick City is another song off Caribou that is enhanced by the addition of brass instrumentation. It has a great rhythm and is a worthy addition to the album.

Cold Highway is an enjoyable song that I wish was the last track on the remastered edition of Caribou as Step Into Christmas would have to be my least favourite Elton John song ever recorded. I generally dislike Christmas music as it has a tendency to be crass. Yes, that may insult some readers, but I absolutely hate it when an artist releases a single Christmas song on an otherwise excellent album as it tarnishes the experience. Artists should put out a dorky Christmas album, instead of polluting a regular release. How John could even be proud of this song, enough to let it see the light of day, is beyond me.

While Step Into Christmas may be complete garbage, Caribou is a solid and enjoyable album that should never be listened to right after Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. On its own, however, it expands John's catalogue with a few incredible tunes that any pop/rock star would be proud of.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition. While I found it to be well-mastered and sonically pleasing, I enjoyed Caribou far more when listening via headphones as I found the loudspeaker playback resulted in a sound that was a little too clinical, especially in the highs. It wasn't that it was a bad presentation, just that this mastering is well suited to those of you that have a nice headphone setup, perhaps connected to a dedicated DAC, such as the Oppo HA-2 that I personally find irresistible.

Before I let you go, dear reader, do you think Steve Urkel's character on the television sitcom Family Matters, was mimicked on John's high pants on the Caribou cover?

In all seriousness, it’s a great cover. Simple, but striking and effective!

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

If you prefer streaming, Caribou is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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

2 Comments

Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Album Review)

Comment

Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Album Review)

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road needs no introduction as it is arguably Elton John's greatest commercial achievement. Although, I remain hesitant to call it his greatest recording as I feel that undermines the other incredible recordings he has made throughout his career. It also arbitrarily limits his musical influence to a particular era. Nevertheless, it is one of the greatest albums ever recorded and while I love the 2014 vinyl re-issue, I'm going to be using Greg Penny’s astonishingly good 5.1 Surround Sound DTS-HD Master Audio 24/96kHz edition for this review. The stereo versions of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, are incredible, but they simply can't compare and sound flat by comparison to the surround sound options. My advice is that if you have a good surround sound setup, consider purchasing either the SACD or Blu-ray Audio (High Fidelity Pure Audio – HFPA) release. You won’t regret it!

Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding has to be one of the greatest lead-in songs of any album ever recorded. I absolutely love it and from a surround sound perspective, I’m enveloped in the atmosphere that introduces the song. Exceptional! The soundstage completely surrounds you and each beat is felt with every aspect of your soul. The band is certainly present with you in the room, with John front and center. You will probably get tired of hearing me praise the surround sound mix, but you’ve really never experienced Goodbye Yellow Brick Road until you've been able to listen to it in surround sound. A bold statement, yes, but a true indication of how exceptional this recording and Greg Penny's surround mix is.

Candle In The Wind is pure gold. That piano, that drum beat, that vocal – it leaves me speechless! Even the 1997 version, altered lyrically for Princess Diana's funeral, is beyond reproach. It is a song made in heaven by two extremely talented men. Thank you, Elton and Bernie!

Bennie And The Jets is an awesome song, but I’ve never enjoyed the faux live audience element. However, it is less apparent in the surround sound mix as the audience noise is better positioned, slightly outside the soundstage and in the distance.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is sensational regardless of how you listen to it. The surround sound mix has a significant boost in the drums, resulting in an atmosphere where you can visualise the exact drum or cymbal being hit in the soundstage. In fact, all musical elements are perfectly placed in the soundstage. Pure perfection!

This Song Has No Title follows Goodbye Yellow Brick Road beautifully. It’s a rather raw recording, with no noticeable fanfare, but when you have a vocalist like John, sometimes you don't need much more than a piano and a minor musical accompaniment.

Grey Seal has a fantastic introduction, but I must confess that I’ve never really enjoyed the song. I find it is too shrill and it’s a little all-over-the-place from a composition standpoint.

Similarly, I've never developed a liking for Jamaica Jerk-Off. I won't skip the song, as the album wouldn't be the same without it, I just don't feel reggae and John go well together. Jamaica Jerk-Off sounds as though it was left over from another recording session, rather than being part of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sessions. Unfortunately, it doesn't grow on me the more I listen to it either.

I've Seen That Movie Too is a welcome change and depicts the style and tonality that I identify as being the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album. It's a beautiful ballad, with an incredible soundstage, that thankfully isn't filled with unnecessary elements.

Sweet Painted Lady is a lovely song!

The Ballad Of Danny Bailey (1909-34) isn't my favourite song on the album, but I especially like it in surround sound as it sounds less sonically compressed, allowing the musical elements space to breathe. It has a great rhythm, but on vinyl, or even the high-res stereo mix, it doesn’t work for me. I only mention this as I find it to be an interesting variance that while I can explain my thoughts, I can’t fully comprehend how it is significantly different enough to allow me to appreciate the song.

Dirty Little Girl is an excellent rock song. As I’m listening, I keep thinking how I'd love to hear the Foo Fighters cover this song.

All The Girls Love Alice is a killer rock tune. Maybe the Foo should cover this one! Regardless, it is one of the best songs on the album and one of John’s best.

Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n Roll) is a fun little tune and leads the listener beautifully into one of the greatest songs in rock and roll history; Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.

Roy Rogers slows the album down again and sounds as though it would have been perfectly suited to Tumbleweed Connection. However, it doesn't sound out-of-place on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as it’s a lovely song that relaxes you following the intense pace of Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.

Social Disease is a great pop/rock song with an incredible country music twang. I love it!

Harmony closes the album beautifully, ensuring I’m still interested in listening to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road again. However, with a runtime exceeding 70 minutes, this double album, like all doubles, is difficult to listen to again in quick succession. Honestly, I think the 33.3rpm vinyl record got it right with a total runtime in the vicinity of 44 minutes. Long enough to enjoy, but not too long to tire of.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road deserves the praise it gets, although I maintain that it shouldn’t be singled out as John's major success for his greatness exceeds a single album.

By now, I'm sure stereo aficionados have plenty to say, but having listened to this album in stereo for years, in various formats, the surround sound version is the one that trumps all others. That isn't to say the stereo mix isn't extraordinary, just that the multichannel mix takes the album to another level of appreciation.

Some purists may even question if the artist intended for it to be heard in surround sound. From my perspective, that matters less than the fact that I enjoy the album more due to the multichannel mix. That said, there are times when I much prefer to listen on headphones and the stereo mix is perfectly immersive during those times.

For reference, the stereo mix I prefer on the High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) Blu-ray release is the DTS-HD Master Audio 24/96kHz. The reason for this preference over the Linear PCM (LPCM 24/96kHz) option is due to the fuller low end that is often associated with DTS. However, if I listen to the PCM version, it’s transparent with the vinyl reissue. Both are from the same 2014 remastering sessions, so it is good to see the only core difference is the slight shift in noise between the digital and analogue formats.

The 24/96kHz DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is, however, from the 2003 mastering sessions, making it of course different. While I certainly prefer this mix, as I believe it is the best rendition of the album I have ever heard, don't let that deter your interest in the stereo mixes. Honestly, if I had never purchased the HFPA Blu-ray edition, I would have been extremely happy with my vinyl copy.

While the artwork is beautifully replicated on the HFPA Blu-ray release, it is nothing like holding that trifold release in your hands. I often find myself telling my significant other that I’ll likely sell the vinyl as I prefer the Blu-ray release, but I'm lying to both of us as the artwork is equally important and I can't imagine parting with it.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is available on Vinyl, High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) Blu-ray, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered For iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, you can also enjoy Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on TIDAL Masters (24/96kHz MQA), Spotify and Apple Music.

There are also additional 40th Anniversary releases of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Deluxe Edition/Super Deluxe Edition) that are available to purchase and/or stream.

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

Comment