Mötley Crüe – Dr. Feelgood (Album Review)

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Mötley Crüe – Dr. Feelgood (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

SIDE ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SIDE TWO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Black Eyed Peas – Masters Of The Sun Vol. 1 (Album Review)

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The Black Eyed Peas – Masters Of The Sun Vol. 1 (Album Review)

For many fans, The Black Eyed Peas may seem incomplete without Fergie, but Masters Of The Sun Vol. 1 proves that the trio of will.i.am, all.de.ap, and Taboo is still as relevant as ever and to be completely honest, I like the new approach that the Peas have gone for as it is somewhat a return to old school Black Eyed Peas with a more sophisticated musical style. If you’re expecting the pop-styled dance music that has been their cornerstone since Elephunk,  you’ll likely be disappointed. That said, I subjectively believe they are better than ever!

Masters Of The Sun Vol. 1 sees the trio focus on political hip hop issues that pertain to gun violence, police brutality, race relations, and social media ramifications. While I don’t enjoy hip hop, or any music for that matter, for its lyrical meaning, preferring to enjoy the musical flow allowing the vocal to become another instrument in the soundstage, there are some songs with particular pertinent meanings that I will discuss when we get to the individual songs. There are a few songs, missing from the album, however, even though they were released as promo singles. One of them is Street Livin’; a brilliant song and one that should command empathy within the listener. Get It is different. That isn’t a bad thing but while it was recorded during the same sessions as Masters Of The Sun Vol. 1 it isn’t right that Get It isn’t included on the album for it’s great, but not similar enough, in my opinion, to make a smooth transition within the album format. Nevertheless, the only way for most people to access these songs is via their single additions to streaming services or the iTunes Store. If you are interested in collecting these songs physically, the Japanese Universal Music release (Cat: UICD-1349) features these aforementioned tracks as well as the Constant Pt. 2 (Extended Version). 

At time of writing, a vinyl release is still unavailable and I live in hope that when/if it is finally issued, a Deluxe Edition will accompany it for while the core album is beyond reproach, these additional promo songs are worth the price of admission. Plus, that album artwork is screaming out for the larger vinyl canvas. That said, the back cover of the CD is somewhat lacklustre so I’d hope they redesign the vinyl rear artwork and liner notes prior to releasing the album on additional formats. 

For completists, Masters Of The Sun Vol. 1 is roughly inspired by the Masters Of The Sun – The Zombie Chronicles comic book, published by Marvel Comics. Sometimes I delve even deeper into the creative process, but in this case, I will let you, dear reader, see if the comic book is for you and the relevance it has to the album and your experience of it. If you think I’d benefit from checking it out, let me know. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the songs that make up Masters Of The Sun Vol. 1.

BACK 2 HIPHOP (feat. Nas) is a great start to the album. It is literally, as the song title would suggest, getting back to hip hop styling and culture. Like all good opening songs, it sets the tone of the album from the outset. Yes, this isn’t a song that you’ll chant along to, but I dare you to sit still while listening to BACK 2 HIPHOP. I can’t help but connect with the rhythm. Fantastic! 

BACK 2 HIPHOP’s music video is stylistically incredible. That said, visually it’s modern and appealing but, in my opinion, doesn’t connect the viewer to the song’s context. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time that a music video has looked appealing yet lacked meaning for me.

YES or NO flows seamlessly from BACK 2 HIPHOP and while I don’t go for lyrical interpretation or meaning, as I’ve suggested earlier, YES or NO is vocally brilliant. A great song, although the sampling is a little pedestrian despite being perfectly suited to the song. The little vocal calculation rhythm at the end is brilliant. 

GET READY is one of the greatest songs on Masters Of The Sun Vol. 1. I’d also class it as one of the greatest songs that The Black Eyed Peas has ever recorded; the inclusion of Lauren Evans really pulls the song together. Yes, I love The Jacksons sample from Destiny of That’s What You Get (For Being Polite). Plus, the jazzy Joe Henderson Black Narcissus is superb. GET READY is absolutely brilliant!

4EVER (feat. Esthero) is smooth but I’m not fond of the mix as I feel the instrumental elements and some of the vocals are simply too distant in the soundstage, resulting in a song that your mind wants to turn the volume up on one minute, and down the next. It isn’t bad, but I’d probably class 4EVER as a B-Side.

The music video, however, fixes the aforementioned vocal/mix issues and I feel that is partially due to having visual cues to connect with, thereby reducing the audible confusion that can lead to misinterpretation.   

CONSTANT Pt.1 Pt.2 (feat. Slick Rick) is a great track. I love it!

DOPENESS (feat. CL) flows perfectly from CONSTANT Pt. 1 Pt. 2 and while different, it has a similar rhythmic style that will ensure you feel a flow that keeps your body moving. Another exceptional track and one that, in my opinion, shows why The Black Eyed Peas are one of the most talented musical acts in the world. 

The DOPENESS music video is pure gold! Yes, another bad pun but an accurate description. The styling and editing is spot on and it’s great to see that quality music videos are still being made even if the interest by record labels and viewers have lessened over the years. 

ALL AROUND THE WORLD (feat. Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Posdnuos) is another track the flows beautifully in the album format, reminding us all that while songs are good, the album flow is alive and well. A great addition to Masters Of The Sun Vol. 1.

NEW WAVE is magnificent. Turn that volume up and become immersed in the soundstage. 

VIBRATIONS Pt.1 Pt.2 has a great vibe. However, the music video is cringeworthy. 

WINGS (feat. Nicole Scherzinger) is another absolutely incredible song and Scherzinger’s vocal is perfect for WINGS. WINGS is absolutely flawless!

RING THE ALARM Pt.1 Pt.2 Pt.3 is hypnotic. Pure perfection! That said, the jazzy shift towards the end is great, but it is a little disjointed for my liking.

The music video is compelling and while not groundbreaking certainly explores the lyrical content in a manner that visually depicts the message the Peas are trying to present. Although, that shift is still a little distracting. 

BIG LOVE is a perfect song to close the album with. I love it, and the pertinent message contained within the song needs to be heard by all. 

The Big Love music video is confrontational, and it even includes a warning before it begins, and it needs to be confrontational to get the message across. Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to see this music video. It’s made with love, will bring tears to your eyes, and should make you take stock of your beliefs. 

Yes, The Black Eyed Peas are back and while it is different to their most recent albums, instead focusing on the political and their traditional hip hop roots, this is an incredible release that simply has to be in everyone’s collection. It is in mine and it is so good that I can’t stop playing it. Seriously, it sits on repeat for days and while I really wish there’d be a vinyl release, I’d be flipping that record so many times it wouldn’t be funny and the needle on the turntable would certainly wear out, if the record didn’t wear out first of course – it really is that good! 

Masters Of The Sun Vol. 1 is available on CD and the iTunes Store.

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Kylie Minogue – Golden (Deluxe Edition) [Album Review]

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Kylie Minogue – Golden (Deluxe Edition) [Album Review]

Kylie Minogue is Madonnic; by which I mean that Australia’s pop princess and one of the country’s most successful musical exports is continually transcending musical trends while remaining familiar and instantly recognisable. Yes, Madonna, has achieved the same level of diversity and evolution, hence the Madonnic association. Nevertheless, Golden sees Minogue adopt a country-pop style that is arguably different from her previous works but works surprisingly well. 

When Golden was released, I took a listen and was captivated enough to add it to my Apple Music library. Revisiting it now, essentially a year later, I want to know if Golden is good enough to add to my physical collection, keep within my digital collection, or remove completely from my music collection with the only recollection of the album being this very review. Between you and I, dear reader, it most certainly isn’t the latter. 

If you’re thinking there is only one edition of Golden, you’d be mistaken. Apple Music may currently only have the Deluxe Edition, but Golden is yet another modern release that has seen too many editions, on too many formats, released too close to each other. There is no doubt that some fans will rejoice with the variety, and it is important to note that my criticism of the multiple editions has nothing to do with the quality of music, but it is frustrating that all bonus tracks don’t make it to the Deluxe Edition. Seriously, shouldn’t a Deluxe Edition contain everything? Clearly, the Deluxe Edition isn’t as deluxe as the record label would like us to believe for the Japanese release includes two additional remixes of Dancing. A streaming edition (not available on Apple Music) features a remix of Stop Me From Falling that features Gente de Zona, while the Collector’s Edition cassette provides a bonus downloadable track, New York City (Live From New York). If that doesn’t cause you enough confusion to run for the hills, a Christmas Collector’s Edition cassette includes the single edition of Music’s Too Sad Without You. Plus, the Christmas Collector’s Edition cassette includes an exclusive Christmas video message from Minogue. 

Okay, so perhaps additional remixes and live tracks aren’t that impressive and rightly should have been left off the Deluxe Edition as I, myself, have often criticised the inclusion of bonus tracks that add little to no value to the listener. That said, it is still my belief that the Deluxe Edition should contain all additional tracks while a standard edition should be readily available for fans who are just interested in what can be assumed to be the very best selection from the Golden recording sessions.

Oh, by the way, in case you were wondering, yes, Golden was also released on vinyl and the cover art on the larger canvas looks incredible; although that format has also seen a variety of options that will send fans broke if they are to try and acquire each and every edition. Golden is not alone in this regard. Many modern releases are designed to part the true fans with their hard-earned money (a phrase I detest, but one that seems appropriate). It’s really disappointing for fans who want to support their beloved artists but need to purchase the album multiple times in order to do so. Yes, I acknowledge that artists, and the record labels, are in the business to make money, but that doesn’t make it right. Certainly, no-one is holding a gun to your head demanding you purchase it, but true completist fans know only too well the desire of collecting. It would be the same as holding an AA meeting in a beer garden and expecting all in attendance to order a lemon squash. Kind of ridiculous, isn’t it? 

Of course, I’m not suggesting that multiple releases should be outlawed, but to release so many editions, so close after the album’s initial release, is what strikes me as opportunistic. Anniversary editions, fine. A simple release schedule of the standard edition available on all formats with a Deluxe Edition (including everything) for the hardcore fans, fine. But the way Golden has been released suggests that for fans to get everything, they need to almost buy one of everything. I guess I just wish that a Deluxe Edition was the defining element for an album’s release and that while exclusives to streaming services have been largely criticised and expunged from said services, the same should apply for physical media thereby allowing the music-lover to purchase the album on the format that they prefer without needing to purchase multiple copies to get questionable bonuses. 

All that said, it’s ultimately the music that matters most. Join me as we take a look at the songs that make up Golden (Deluxe Edition).

Dancing is an incredible song and sets the tone for the entire album. Dancing, is certainly catchy, not far removed from Minogue’s renowned disco-sound, yet with a country vibe that deals with the somewhat sensitive topic of death in a brilliant way that I thoroughly enjoy because I too want to go out dancing!

The music video is excellent and will irritate those who dislike line dancing. Nevertheless, it is well done and mixes perfectly Minogue’s new and old styles while also ensuring the video is familiar to the album artwork that was to come a few months after the single’s initial release. It is, for lack of a better term, the complete package and one of the best modern music videos I’ve seen in a long time. 

Stop Me From Falling flows beautifully from dancing and what better than to contrast the proposition of death with that of falling in love. It’s another stellar song with a very interesting treble-inspired musical approach that works remarkably well. It’s a joy to listen to and I don’t know about you, dear reader, but the rhythm is spot on and I dare you to sit still while Stop Me From Falling is playing. 

The core music video for Stop Me From Falling is a little less story-driven than that for Dancing, but the interlinking of a live performance, behind the scenes elements, and Minogue singing and dancing in solo elements is perfectly edited and is one of those cases where after seeing the music video, the song itself is more profound and even better than when listening to it in the album format.

There is a secondary music video that was shot as well, which is more story driven but is cringeworthy. Even the remix chosen for the song doesn’t appeal to me and I’m glad it wasn’t the edition that appeared on the album. 

Golden has a slightly slower rhythm than the previous tracks, but it’s a lovely song and one that is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. That said, I feel Minogue’s vocal could have been stronger throughout. It isn’t so much the mix as I feel she just didn’t knock it out of the park on this track. 

The Golden music video is relatively basic and while this simplicity is rather common as you proceed to, and pass, the third single, the quality often begins to suffer as the record labels don’t really care about putting too much money into promotion after an initial boost. A shame, but at least it isn’t cringeworthy. It is, however, easily forgotten and you’re unlikely to watch it again unless your preferred way to consume music is via music videos.  

A Lifetime To Repair is really pushing the auto-tune/vocal manipulation a little too far for my liking. I know it is the predominant style of the modern pop era, but I feel there are times when it is overused and I feel that becomes apparent throughout this song. It’s still a great tune though and the musicality and soundstage is magnificent. Seriously, listen to A Lifetime To Repair a couple of times and you’ll immediately notice sonic elements that you had missed the previous time around. This is one song where repeat listens really enhances the experience and that fiddle during the chorus is epic; if only it were more prominent in the mix. 

Sincerely Yours is magnificent. A beautiful song from start to finish!

One Last Kiss is a good song, but arguably the first B-side on the album. I’m not convinced that the nasal approach of Minogue’s vocal suits the song. Yes, it works, but it is this element that makes One Last Kiss a B-Side for me. 

Live A Little is addictively good. I love it!

Shelby ‘68 has an exceptional vocal presentation. I love the styling and the beat, and while slow, is absolutely magnificent. This is one of the best songs on the album and I’d argue it’s one of the best songs Minogue has ever recorded. 

Radio On really brings Minogue’s vocal front and centre. It’s a lovely mix and good to hear her voice so clearly as many of the songs that she is known for are musically dense and we rarely get to hear just how beautiful her voice is, other than in a near-acoustic song, such as this, that is a lovely addition to the album. 

Love isn’t a bad song, a little short for my liking, but it works really well within the album format and Golden wouldn’t be the same without it. 

Raining Glitter is a fun song that is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to but it’s nothing to write home about and doesn’t push the boundaries of what Minogue is capable of. 

Music’s Too Sad Without You (with Jack Savoretti) is the song that closes out the core 12-track standard edition and vinyl releases of the album. It is a perfect closer. However, the additional four tracks on the Deluxe Edition are excellent and therefore I’d strongly recommend you listen to the Deluxe Edition. That said, Music’s Too Sad Without You is a beautiful song and Jack Savoretti fits in perfectly with Minogue’s style. It’s a great duet-styled song and one of the highlights on Golden.

The music video for Music’s Too Sad Without You is exceptionally good. It’s beautifully filmed and edited with only the bare necessities in place. Although, as perfect as it is, the fade out towards the end of the song begins too abruptly for my liking. Nevertheless, it is one blemish on an otherwise perfect production. 

A live duet of Music’s Too Sad Without You was also recorded and released on Savorett’s Singing To Strangers. It isn’t a bad live recording, the musical elements are recorded extremely well, but the vocals, especially Minogue’s, are lacking in strength within the mix and subsequently sound distant. A shame considering just how good this song is. 

Lost Without You is a great song and while I acknowledge it is a little jolting from the smooth and magnificent Music’s Too Sad Without You, it’s a stellar addition to the Deluxe Edition and once the chorus begins, the mind has adjusted to the sonic shift and all is well. 

Every Little Part Of Me is a great dance meets country meets pop song, but it does challenge the mind a little; not that that is a bad thing!

Rollin’ isn’t Limp Bizkit’s Rollin’, but it is perfect for Minogue and is a value-added proposition for fans. 

Low Blow is Lady Gaga meets Kylie Minogue. It isn’t bad, it’s actually really good, but the various stylings are intriguing and while it may not appeal to everyone, I certainly like it. The soundstage and musicality is off-the-charts good and it does what all good closing songs should, it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Minogue’s extensive catalogue. It’s also a song that will induce an earworm for hours and days afterwards. 

Overall, Golden (Deluxe Edition) is an exceptional release that will ultimately appeal to longtime Minogue fans as well as newcomers who appreciate the country-pop style. As an irregular Minogue fan, ever since Locomotion set the charts on fire, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy Golden and plan to pick it up on vinyl as the more I listen to it, the more I become captivated by it. Of course, the problem is deciding which one to get. There is the Limited Edition 180gm Clear Vinyl release, the Limited Edition Super Deluxe Edition (featuring the record, a hardcover book, and the CD – I’ve seen it in person and it looks amazing!). Plus, there is also the standard black vinyl gatefold release and a picture disc edition. Seriously, there are too many versions, aren’t there? Nevertheless, I think I’ve settled on the Super Deluxe Edition as it offers a good balance of everything Golden presents. 

Ultimately, Golden is a fantastic modern country-pop album that is only let down by too many varied editions. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steamroller Blues is moody and brooding and absolutely perfect. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Glenn Frey – After Hours (Album Review)

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Glenn Frey – After Hours (Album Review)

Friday night comes, following a busy week, and all you feel like doing is pouring yourself a drink, sitting back, and relaxing with music; well, at least that is what appeals to me. I started out listening to Frank Sinatra’s extraordinary Come Fly With Me, twice, and as I was perusing my record collection, I noticed Glenn Frey’s After Hours. Acknowledging that I hadn’t played it for quite some time and that it is similarly relaxing to Sinatra’s 1958 opus, I took the record out of the sleeve, placed it on the platter, gave the needle a clean and got the carbon fibre brush in order to remove any dust artefacts that may have been present. It is a labour of love. Then it was time. Time to drop the needle, sit back, and enjoy. 

Yes, purists will argue that Frey is nowhere near as soulful and smooth as Sinatra, but the way I look at it is that they are different, not only from a vocal dexterity point-of-view but also from the perspective that After Hours is a stereo production whereas my copy of Come Fly With Me is the mono release. The difference between mono and stereo was ultimately the greatest shift to endure but that soon past within moments as For Sentimental Reasons rang out and opened After Hours. 

As I grew up with stereo sound, the concept of mono has sometimes seemed counterproductive but there is just something about the mono sound that is strangely compelling. It is similar to the difference between digitally delivered music and vinyl. Neither is necessarily better or worse, they are just different and some people vehemently support one format over another. For me, it just has to sound right and the two aforementioned albums certainly do. What I do find, however, is that mono recordings tend to fill the room far better. You still get an incredibly evolved soundstage but there are no audible holes in the soundstage to speak of. Whereas, a couple of times, when listening to After Hours I notice that when Frey isn’t on vocals, the soundstage sounds as though something is missing where he should be. Well, you don’t get that with mono, or certainly not in my experience. That said, it could simply have been an issue with the chosen mix for After Hours; as it only happened a couple of times, it’s not detrimental to the enjoyment of the album and overall After Hours has been recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully.

The vinyl release is quite exquisite. Housed in a gatefold sleeve, the cover art is perhaps a little pedestrian, but it certainly invokes the nighttime street view associated with countless jazz clubs. Therefore, this minimal approach is perfectly suited for the style of music but is unlikely to be memorable or displayed. It’s no Surrender; an incredible jazz album from Victor Cajiao and Joe Cristina that really needs a vinyl release to showcase the gorgeous artwork. Regardless, when you open the gatefold, you’re met with liner notes and a series of absolutely magnificent photos, presented in sepia, to once again connect the artwork to the style and era of the music contained within. 

The record label is beautifully simple and again works with the style Frey was aiming for, on what would sadly be his last album. The record is flat and quiet, with only a small amount of noise noticeable between tracks. It really is a nice vinyl mastering and pressing job. 

While not a disappointment for me, as I will explain later, some may lament the inclusion of only 11 of the 14 available tracks on the vinyl release. Yes, this is another case of the Deluxe Edition blues for those that wish for the vinyl counterpart to have the same tracking as the digital release. Let’s be honest, this is a further attempt to make fans, like you and I, purchase multiple copies. It works, but not on this occasion. Plus, with streaming services now being so varied and readily available, those specific tracks that are on a Deluxe Edition can be streamed if and when it suits me. 

Another reason for not including so many tracks on a vinyl release is that it is a doubled edged sword. On one hand, you want everything, preferably not on multiple records, but the sonic quality suffers the closer grooves are placed together and the dreaded inner-groove distortion is a real problem when a recorded has been mastered and pressed with a focus on filling all available space. It may work perfectly well on the compact disc, but vinyl needs a little more tolerance and while upgrading your needle does help with inner-groove distortion, many people will not go to those extents so it is nice to see that After Hours is mastered in such a way that inner-grove distortion isn’t present; certainly not at an audible level. 

While the three additional songs will be reviewed on their own merit towards the end of this review, I find they’re not compelling enough to buy the Deluxe Edition CD as out of the three, only one is truly worthy of inclusion and even then it doesn’t offer the listener additional value. Of course, that is my subjective opinion and you may feel the additional tracks are excellent. If that is the case, then I would strongly suggest you look at picking up the CD release. 

Another reason why I’m not compelled to pick up the Deluxe Edition to go with my vinyl release is that the tracking is different as these omitted songs are placed throughout the album, thereby changing the flow of the album that I know and love. If those additional songs were included at the end of the Deluxe Edition, as done with Barry Gibb’s In The Now I would have been more inclined to pick up the CD as well. I’m sure you know what it’s like, dear reader, for your beloved album has been remastered and it suddenly has an outtake, demo, or god-forbid an interview at the end of the CD. It is infuriating and while I like additional content, I wish the record labels would add it to an additional disc and leave the master tracking of the album alone. 

Nevertheless, as streaming allows me access to these tracks, I’ll simply add them to my virtual library to enjoy when and if the mood strikes me. On the topic of streaming, I have listened to the album on both Apple Music (Mastered for iTunes) and TIDAL Masters (MQA) and unfortunately, neither stream holds a candle to the vinyl release. That isn’t to say that neither is good, because they are both superb, but I find them very clinical in their presentation and for this style of music I honestly feel the vinyl record is a much better delivery method. Hence, if you can, and if you’re interested, may I suggest you track down a copy of After Hours on vinyl; it really is that good!

SIDE ONE

For Sentimental Reasons is a lovely song and the perfect opener for After Hours. The musicality is spot on as is Frey’s vocal. The light backing vocal element, not often heard on modern recordings, is mixed in perfectly. The end result is a rendition of a classic that is stunning and prepares the listener for the songs that are about to come throughout the rest of the album.

My Buddy is campy, has always been campy, but I love it! That drumming is off-the-charts good and Frey once again is front and centre, as if his spirit is in the room with you, as you enjoy the smoothness of My Buddy.

Route 66 picks up the tempo a little, but Route 66 is one of the greatest classics to have ever been composed and this interpretation is no exception. It isn’t fundamentally different and doesn’t necessarily take the song to a new level of enjoyment, but it doesn’t detract from the origins of the song and pays homage to the history of the most common renditions. 

The Shadow Of Your Smile is a lovely song that would be perfect as the background of any dinner or post-dinner rendezvous. Actually, this entire album could be used in that romantic context. That said, the music-lover within doesn’t want this song to be merely heard as background music, therefore for me and my significant other it may not be the best album to have playing as I would constantly be commenting on just how good it is. Yes, dear reader, I do do that; much to the frustration of my better half. Thankfully, she understands my love of music and while she doesn’t necessarily share it, she lets me harp on about it ad nauseam; yep, she’s a keeper!

Here’s To Life is one of the most beautiful songs on the album. It is the perfect way to close out Side One and absolutely encourages me to listen to Side Two. This is one song that I would have loved to have heard George Michael perform on his spectacular Symphonica release as I believe it would have suited his style and vocal capability. That said, Frey performs Here’s To Life absolutely flawlessly and I would say it is one of his greatest vocal recordings, even surpassing that of his younger years in the Eagles. That’s saying a lot considering how much I adore the Eagles and have always been blown away by Frey’s vocal prowess. Music really doesn’t get much better than this!

SIDE TWO

It’s Too Soon To Know is a beautifully smooth tune. 

Caroline, No is one of my favourite songs and Frey knocks it out-of-the-park. 

The Look Of Love is a brilliant song but nobody does it better than Diana Krall. This rendition is enjoyable, but when I hear it I just want to put on Krall’s edition

I’m Getting Old Before My Time has an incredible bass track. It’s really prominent and for lack of a better term is perfect! The song itself isn’t bad, but to be completely honest I’m not overly familiar with it, hence your opinion may be vastly different to my own. 

Same Girl is stunning! 

After Hours is a lovely song to conclude the album with, but I would have preferred Same Girl to be the closing track as I felt it relaxed the mind to such a state that it would have been the ultimate closer. Nevertheless, After Hours is no slouch in that department and it encourages me to flip the album and listen again. It’s also important to note that this is the only original composition from Frey on the album. Writing with Jack Tempchin, the result is incredible and doesn’t feel out-of-place with the other standards featured on this release. That’s no easy task, even if you are as skilled as these gentlemen. Standards are standards for a reason and After Hours is a modern-day offering. 

Additional Deluxe Edition Tracks:

The Good Life is a lovely song that offers a nice flow from My Buddy in the Deluxe Edition version and leads well into Route 66’s upbeat as it has a little faster tempo than My Buddy. However, as good as it is, I don’t find that I miss it on the vinyl release. It is very short and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the song’s over before it started.

Worried Mind has a country twang to it and while Frey and the supporting musicians perform it incredibly well, it doesn’t suit the rest of the songs on the album and therefore I am very happy that it is only on the Deluxe Edition of After Hours.

I Wanna Be Around is lovely and while it could have been included on the vinyl release, I honestly don’t feel After Hours needed this additional track as I don’t feel the 11-track release is lacking in substance.

There is little doubt that After Hours represents Glenn Frey at his very best. Yes, his Eagles work is beyond reproach, but After Hours is his greatest solo release and is an album that should be in everyone’s collection. It really is that good!

After Hours is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes). A Deluxe Edition is also available on CD and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes)

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Metallica – Ride The Lightning (Album Review)

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Metallica – Ride The Lightning (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

Side One

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

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

For Whom The Bell Tolls is EPIC!

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

Side Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read other Metallica reviews by Subjective Sounds.  

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Jon English - Wine Dark Sea (Album Review)

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Jon English - Wine Dark Sea (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wine Dark Sea is currently available to own on iTunes.

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Fleetwood Mac – Concert Review

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Fleetwood Mac – Concert Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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