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Diesel – Singled Out (Album Review)

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Diesel – Singled Out (Album Review)

Diesel (the performance name of Mark Lizotte) may have been born stateside, but us Australian’s call him one of our own. He is for all intents and purposes an Aussie; one of our greatest. I must acknowledge, however, that despite being very familiar with his work, I haven’t owned any of his records. Yes, you read that correctly. Perhaps it was that he was everywhere, constantly on the radio and television, that I didn’t feel the need to collect his albums. Regardless, as I listen to Singled Out, a compilation more so than an album, I’m finding myself singing along, knowing every beat, and reflecting on how these songs sound against their original counterparts. 

Singled Out isn’t your standard compilation, hence why I’ve classed this review as an album review. It is, in fact, an unplugged release with intermingled live tracks from Diesel’s 2004 tour schedule. On paper, that is perhaps a little perplexing as one may wonder how the variation between live and studio reinterpretations impact the flow of the album. Well, it quite frankly doesn’t. The mixing and mastering, as well as the recording of the performances, is superb and therefore ensures the live elements, while present, aren’t overly distractive, resulting in a seamless flow of spectacular music.  

Released only on CD, Singled Out was also re-issued as Greatest Hits Acoustic with a godawful cover. The original cover was perfect and I honestly have no idea why the record label thought it was a good idea to change it. Okay, so perhaps they wanted to boost sales. I get that. But at least put something relating to Diesel on the cover. It is so nondescript that it borders on the mundane and wouldn’t be welcome in any music collection if it weren’t for the exceptional music contained within. Thankfully, when it comes to streaming, Apple Music has the original artwork. Let’s hope that someone at label deleted or burned the alternate 2012 artwork. If they haven’t, and if they’re reading this, do the Australian Music Industry a favour and make sure that the reissued cover never, ever, sees the light of day again. 

Don’t Need Love was the first single from Johnny Diesel And The Injectors (yes, Johnny Diesel is Diesel) and Don’t Need Love is simply a killer tune. The original is brilliant, released in 1988 and achieving top 10 chart success in Australia and New Zealand, but there is something very special about this acoustic rendition that just sounds right. Even if you adore the pop/rock styling of the original, I dare say you’ll be blown away by this rendition. It’s bloody brilliant! 

She Won’t Need Words is absolutely beautiful. 

Everybody’s Talkin’ is a cover of the classic Fred Neil song and while it has been covered by a who’s who of the music industry, Diesel pays homage to the original, all the covers that have come before it, while also ensuring that his interpretation is original and well suited to his musical style. It’s a great song and a really good cover.

Would I Want You has a sensation country twang that I simply adore. It’s one of the best songs on the album and all I can suggest is that you turn the lights down, the volume up, and allow yourself to be consumed by this instrumental masterpiece. 

Tip Of My Tongue was another top 10 hit and I swear every Aussie knows the lyrics to this song. Released originally on Diesel’s debut solo album, Hepfidelity, in 1992 it would go on to become a trademark song and one can understand why as the hook is sensational and the rhythm simply connects perfectly with the soul. As should be clear by now, most of Diesel’s music had an acoustic undertone to begin with so the shift from straight rock to an unplugged sound isn’t a fundamental shift ensuring that Tip Of My Tongue, and all the songs on Singled Out simply feel right. 

One More Time is a great song, but I feel the mix is slightly off with this particular recording as Diesel’s vocal is a little concealed in the mix. There’s also a little too much audience interaction present in the mix and while it’s good to hear the fans enjoying the performance, it does impact the recording and I feel that the song would have been significantly stronger without this element. Nevertheless, it is what it is and it’s still a great song but I much prefer the original album release. There is, however, another acoustic version of the album that was issued in 1993 on Diesel’s The Lobbyist. I like that version better and if you compare it to the interpretation on Singled Out, you’ll notice the earlier acoustic recording has a much better mix.   

Soul Revival is a great song and this rendition is superb; much better than the original in my opinion. 

15 Feet Of Snow is an amazing song and while similar in tempo to Tip Of My Tongue, Diesel takes this acoustic rendition to another level of brilliance. I love the original studio release, but the transition to an acoustic song is remarkable as is Diesel’s vocal presentation. Absolutely amazing and thoroughly captivating.   

Come Around is a great song, perhaps nothing to write home about, but great nonetheless. 

All Come Together is one of my favourite Diesel songs and this unplugged edition is utterly brilliant. 

Darling Of The Universe is a solid song, but if there is a B-side to be found on this release, it is Darling Of The Universe. 

Come To Me is a fantastic song, but I can’t help but feel that there is a little too much ‘fancy’ guitar playing on this acoustic edition that subsequently takes away from the vocal performance. Yes, the original is multilayered, hence requiring ‘fancy’ acoustical elements, but perhaps it was simply one song that didn’t translate well to the unplugged nature of this album. 

Faith And Gasoline is so good. Such a beautiful song. I love it! It’s a shame that the song closes out rather suddenly. Subsequently, I’d have to say that I prefer the original studio recording available on Hear as the ending isn’t quite as abrupt, allowing me to savour the song before the next song begins.

Cry In Shame is arguably Diesel’s most well-known song, released under the Johnny Diesel And The Injectors moniker. Of course, it’s also Diesel’s most confusing vocal for those of us who enjoy karaoke. Seriously, listen to the song and sing along, then try not to sing crying shame, but cry in shame. It’s a challenge! Nevertheless, it is absolutely brilliant and a perfect choice for the closing song on this release as it encourages me to listen to the album again and delve deeper into Diesel’s extensive catalogue. 

Overall, Singled Out is one exceptional release that really showcases just how talented Diesel is when the musicality is stripped back to its bare essentials. It’s quite remarkable to reflect on just how many exceptional songs Diesel has released throughout his career and while he has recorded new music continuously since this release, there is little doubt that this compilation represents some of his very best works. It really is worthy of every music lover’s collection; just make sure you pick up a copy with the original artwork.

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Diana Ah Naid – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Diana Ah Naid – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Sonically positioned somewhere between Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette is Australia's own, Diana Ah Naid. Ian McFarlane describes this 1997 independent, self-funded, release as a restless, funky brand of acoustic guitar folk with urgently charged vocals backed by an emotional, primal energy – Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop. I don't know about you, dear reader, but McFarlane is spot on and no amount of pondering on my behalf could come up with a more precise review of this thoroughly satisfying Self-Titled release. That said, join me as I take a look at the individual songs and how I subjectively feel about them and the entire album.

I Go Off is a musical wonderland with nothing more than a vocal and guitar track filling the soundstage. While both are beautifully presented and recorded, Ah Nard's vocal prowess is simply astonishing. How she isn't a household name, is an absolute mystery.

If You Insist has a beautiful introduction. That guitar tuning is stunning and provides the perfect backing to the song. In some ways, it is a little too similar to I Go Off, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing as it develops a sound that allows the listener to identify and connect with the artist.

Fill Me Up has a good rhythm and a very alternative vocal presentation that is perfect for the style of music. The added brass instrumentation really builds a sonically pleasurable soundstage that ensures Fill Me Up is memorable and ready to be played on repeat. If you enjoy World Music, you'll love Fill Me Up.

See Through is an interesting composition that is a little scattered in places, but the hook is catchy. A solid addition to the album, but nothing to write home about.

Make It Begin is sonic gold. That musical introduction is magical as the piano is beautifully recorded. You really need to listen for yourself to appreciate just how amazing it is. Make It Begin may be mellow, but it’s one of the best songs on the album, if not the best. Absolutely stunning!

Wrapped Around My Head is a lovely tune but fails to fully captivate my senses. I find my mind wandering when listening to the song.

Ruok? is short, but spectacular!

Get Yourself Lost is a little too erratic and subsequently, I find it difficult to connect with a specific rhythm.

Leaving The Country is a gorgeous tune. Ah Naid's vocal presentation is mind-blowingly good. It is as if an angel is singing to you, and only you.

Flowers is a B-side that I simply can't get into.

K9 is musically impressive, but I have to be honest and say I would much prefer for it to have been an instrumental interlude as the vocal distracts the listener from the musicality.

Freaky Animals is an interesting tune that I enjoy, but I also have reservations with the child vocal inclusion towards the end as I'm not sure it suits the song. There is also an error on the Apple Music stream whereby this song continues in silence for a further minute and a half. It's a shame as the error makes you think the album has concluded, but there is one more song to be played as the original CD release had a hidden 13th untitled track. That track is now listed in Apple Music as Schlork Your S*****g. Subsequently, it looks as though the album has been uploaded directly from the CD and it infuriates me when this happens. I've never liked bonus hidden tracks, and this is further proof that they should be abolished. Albums that include this common CD-feature should, at the very least, be re-tracked when uploaded to streaming music services. 

Despite my above complaint, Schlork Your S*****g is an interesting track to conclude the album with. The chorus does drive me mad, but I appreciate the artistic intent and the verses are strong enough to hold the song together ensuring I’ll play the album again and continue to explore Ah Naid's catalogue. Speaking of that, it is important to note that all post-2004 releases by Diana Ah Naid are released as Diane Anaid

Overall, Diana Ah Naid's Self-Titled debut is thoroughly enjoyable and while I have some reservations, as detailed above, all songs work extremely well in the album format.

Diana Ah Naid's Self-Titled debut is available for purchase on iTunes, or if you prefer streaming, the album is available on Apple Music.

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Angus & Julia Stone – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Angus & Julia Stone – Self-Titled (Album Review)

To listen to Angus & Julia Stone is to experience nirvana. The Australian sibling duo is astonishingly good, pumping out songs in the keys of indie-pop and folk rock while maintaining an acoustic-based singer-songwriter style that will leave you in pure amazement.

Teaming up with superstar producer, Rick Rubin, I was initially concerned that this Self-Titled release might be compromised as Rubin is known for his involvement in the loudness wars, producing low dynamic range albums such as Metallica's Death Magnetic and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Californication. While one has to acknowledge that this Self-Titled release is right on the border, sonically this level of compression and distortion works incredibly well with the style of music and the Stone siblings’, often lower chord, vocal presentation. That said, the soundstage is rather expansive, allowing all sonic elements space, in the mix, to breathe.

As I’ve listened to the Self-Titled Angus & Julia Stone release on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music, I can say conclusively that there is no sonic difference between the two as the lossy Apple Music stream matches the lossless CD-quality streamed via TIDAL Hi-Fi. This is yet another example that validates that if the master is the same, there is little-to-no perceivable difference.

A Heartbreak sets the tone of the album and you'll clearly hear the distortion on this song just teetering into the red. It would have been nice to have the master reduced by a couple of decibels as the song is louder than the following tracks. Nevertheless, it's a great song to commence the album on.

My Word For It has a killer psychedelic sound signature that is simply addictive. Julia's smooth vocal is absolutely captivating on this song as she's right there in the room with you. A fantastic mix!

Grizzly Bear has an offbeat beginning, but once the musicality picks up, the rhythm will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping uncontrollably. An absolutely beautiful song!

Heart Beats Slow is a great song that I’d love to hear Stevie Nicks cover with Neil Finn.

Wherever You Are has a stunning acoustic introduction that builds progressively with a beat that will connect with your inner soul. While there are a number of vocal shifts throughout, that may deter some listeners, I feel it works extremely well given this song is largely stripped down from a production standpoint.

Get Home is lovely!

Death Defying Acts is moody and I love it! One of the best songs on the album and that is difficult to declare as the entire album is a masterpiece. If there were one criticism to be made, it would be the drum track is not as spacious as I would like in some sections. That said, it does work with the darker tone of the song.

Little Whiskey has a fantastically compelling beat, but it is very much a song that is on the alternative side of the siblings’ offerings. That may not appeal to all listeners, but I feel it flows perfectly with the surrounding tracks.

From The Stalls is a great song. May I suggest you sit in a relaxing chair, with your eyes closed, and allow the musicality to involuntarily take control of your muscles as you'll be toe-tapping and swaying in no time.

Other Things shouldn’t work musically, as it is a little left of the centre, yet it absolutely does.

Please You is such a mellow song. Beautiful!

Main Street is pure sonic gold and in many ways leaves me speechless. Therefore, I feel it is only right to suggest you experience it for yourself.

Crash And Burn, as Ian McFarlane rightly suggests in The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop, invokes a memory of the sonic signature often associated with Neil Young and Crazy Horse. That is, of course, a compliment. Crash And Burn is the perfect song to close the album on as it encourages me to listen to this Self-Titled release again and stay within Angus & Julia Stone's catalogue.

This Self-Titled album is a masterpiece. Nothing more really needs to be said other than it’s worth the hour to just sit and listen. I'm sure you won't regret it, I know I haven’t.

Angus & Julia Stone's Self-Titled album is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Angus & Julia Stone's Self-Titled album is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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