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Paul Kelly – The A To Z Recordings (Compilation Review)

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Paul Kelly – The A To Z Recordings (Compilation Review)

While I’ve often considered Paul Kelly’s Greatest Hits – Songs From The South, Vols. 1 & 2 to be amongst the finest compilation for any music lover’s collection, could the epic 105 song, 6-hour, A To Z Recordings eclipse it? 

Yes, I believe so. Of course, I’m a fan of the man who is rightfully regarded by many as one of Australia’s greatest singer-songwriters The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop.

I guess the real question we must ask ourselves, dear reader, is if there is such a thing as too much Paul Kelly? 

No, I don’t believe so!

Often when we think of albums, even compilations and live performances, incredible care has been taken when selecting tracks and their placement in order to make a coherent piece of audible art. However, Kelly has thrown the playbook out the window and between 2004 and 2010 was performing a four-part live performance, over four nights, that lined up much of his back catalog in alphabetical order. The concept is basic, yet extraordinary. Now, I know you may be wondering about the flow, given the songs are from different eras of Kelly’s celebrated career, but you need not be concerned for the flow of music is so compelling that you won’t want to stop listening until you reach the final song. Even then, I find myself playing the compilation again. It is astonishingly good.

The live performances, even though they were recorded in various locations, over several years, are perfectly matched sonically and are mixed and mastered beautifully. Kelly is incredible in the studio, but you really feel as though you’re experiencing the performance live on these recordings and thankfully the audience interaction has been kept to a minimum, thereby enhancing Kelly’s performance. 

My only criticism is the cover art. Seriously, I couldn’t think of a worse cover for such an incredible compilation and artist. Actually, no, I can, but that is hardly the point as it fails to convey the musicality of this master musician, unlike Post, Wanted Man, or Greatest Hits – Songs From The South, Vols. 1 & 2 does.

Adelaide is a great song and even though this collection is presented in alphabetical order, Adelaide is a fantastic opening song that sets the tone for the entire compilation. 

After The Show has a fantastic rhythm. I love it!

Anastasia Changes Her Mind isn’t fundamentally bad, but I have a love/hate relationship with semi-spoken word songs. That said, there are elements here, where Kelly begins to sing the lyrics, that are really enjoyable, but it isn’t enough to fully captivate me. 

Be Careful What You Pray For is a killer moody tune. 

Beautiful Promise is, pardon the pun, beautiful!

Before Too Long is one of Kelly’s most recognisable songs and is always sensational. 

Beggar On The Street Of Love is a great song, but I feel the mix isn’t quite right as Kelly’s vocal is just a little too forward for my liking. A shame, considering how much I genuinely love this song.

Behind The Bowler’s Arm is toe-tapping, head-bopping, gold. Magnificent!

Big Fine Girl has an incredible rhythm that will get your entire body moving. 

Blues For Skip is an incredible lo-fi tune, from a musical perspective, that allows Kelly’s vocal to shine.  

Bradman isn’t a bad homage to the legendary Australian cricketer. As a song, however, I have mixed feelings. It works, really well, but isn’t necessarily a song from Kelly’s catalog that I would seek out.

(The) Cake And The Candle is an incredible song and comes through with such transparency that you’d swear Kelly was in the same room as you. Music, especially live performances, that reach this sense of realism are difficult to find but are well worth it as your stereo system will never sound better.

Careless is an incredible song and this is one stunning performance. 

Change Your Mind is incredible!

Charlie Owen’s Slide Guitar is a solid tune, perhaps nothing to write home about, but enjoyable nevertheless.

Cities Of Texas is, for lack of a better term, a B-side. It works well in the flow of The A To Z Recordings, but as a song on its own, somewhat misses the mark. 

Coma is smooth, yet rough and ready. The contrast makes the song compelling and is a toe-tapper’s delight.  

Cradle Of Love is simply beautiful. 

Deeper Water is a good song, but I feel there are too many musical layers in this particular recording and, as such, my mind finds it difficult to connect with a specific rhythm. 

Desdemona is absolutely brilliant. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’d love to hear Neil Young cover this classic. 

Difficult Woman is magnificently moody. One of Kelly’s best without a doubt. 

Don’t Explain is fantastic. 

Don’t Harm The Messenger is a solid song and really comes into its own during the chorus and the final minute of the song. 

Don’t Stand So Close To The Window is a catchy tune that is thoroughly enjoyable.

Don’t Start Me Talking isn’t bad, but it isn’t a standout song either. 

Down To My Soul is utterly amazing and a hidden gem.

Dumb Things is one of my all-time favourite Paul Kelly songs. I first heard it when I saw the Yahoo Serious film Young Einstein and I haven’t forgotten it since. A great Aussie film with an exceptional soundtrack. This rendition retains everything that made the studio recording perfect and is beyond reproach.   

Emotional is simply stunning! 

Every F*****g City is average at best, but if this is a low in Kelly’s catalog, then he has absolutely nothing to worry about.

Everybody Wants To Touch Me is mediocre and it’s a shame because I’d enjoy the song more if the musicality was presented in a lower register. 

Everything’s Turning To White is another song in Kelly’s catalog that I’m not a fan of. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, of course, just that it doesn’t appeal to me and that I wouldn’t seek it out to listen to independently.

(The) Foggy Fields Of France is a fun little toe-tapping song. 

Foggy Highway is utterly brilliant with a great, but simple, rhythm that allows the music lover to immediately connect with the song. 

Forty Miles To Saturday Night is enjoyable but I feel the mix is a little out as I would have liked the instrumental elements to be boosted, perhaps by a decibel, as it almost sounds as though two different songs are struggling for the attention of the listener. 

Forty-Eight Angels has a compelling vocal delivery that I’ve always adored. Such a great tune!

From Little Things Big Things Grow is a song that everyone in Australia has heard, even if they didn’t know it was a Paul Kelly tune, for the song was used for a major marketing campaign for Industry Superfunds Australia (ISA). Subsequently, as much as I love this protest song, sometimes I am reminded of the advertisement; the aim of the marketing campaign of course, but I would much prefer to simply enjoy the song and reflect on the initial intent of the song. It’s interesting that Kelly gave ISA permission to use the song as I perceive no correlation. Nevertheless, if it brings about greater awareness, then one can suggest it isn’t a bad thing and even if you don’t listen to music for its literal interpretation, From Little Things Big Things Grow is one of the greatest songs ever written, by anyone, anywhere in the world. 

From St Kilda To Kings Cross is beautiful. 

Gathering Storm is short and sweet; so very sweet. I love it!

God Told Me To has an incredible twang but unlike Forty Miles To Saturday Night, I feel the instrumental element is a little too loud thereby taking away from Kelly’s incredible vocal delivery. 

(The) Gift That Keeps On Giving could have been the perfect title for this compilation. As a song on its own, (The) Gift That Keeps On Giving is an excellent composition and is thoroughly enjoyable.

Glory Be To God is sonically splendid. I could listen to Glory Be To God on repeat for an eternity. 

Going About My Father’s Business is yet another great song. There really isn’t a bad song in Kelly’s catalog, just ones that I connect with more than others.

How To Make Gravy is an excellent song that reminds me of Bob Dylan. Yes, there are many correlations between the two artists, but this is the one song that Kelly performs that instantly reminds me of Dylan. Not a bad thing, just an observation. 

I Can’t Believe We Were Married is a great tune.

I Close My Eyes And Think Of You is one of the most beautiful songs Kelly has ever penned and sung. No wonder he is a legend! 

I Don’t Know Anything Anymore is hypnotic. What’s not to like? I Don’t Know Anything Anymore Is one of the most relaxing songs you’ll ever listen to and my only complaint is that it is too short; although it’s perfect!

I Keep On Coming Back For More will get your body moving as the groove and vocal delivery is spectacular.

I’d Rather Go Blind is utterly brilliant and an absolute favourite of mine. 

If I Could Start Today Again is a lovely song that has flowed incredibly well, despite the alphabetical order, from the previous several songs proving just how consistently good Paul Kelly is as a songwriter and musician. 

I Wasted Time is solid, but isn’t anything to write home about. 

I Won’t Be Your Dog is stunning. You’ll want to turn up the volume and close your eyes while listening to this song. The slight echo in Kelly’s vocal really sets the song apart from the others on this compilation and while it is most likely unintentional and a result of the recording space, I find it adds a sense of depth that makes you sit up and take notice. 

Jandamarra/Pigeon is okay, but is ultimately a B-side from my perspective. 

Jump To Love is a great tune. Another one to play continuously on repeat? I think so!

Just About The Break is such a low, smooth, delicate song that it’s simply beautiful. 

King Of Fools is a solid song, but is nothing to write home about. 

Lately has a swing to it that could have easily come out of the 1930s or 1940s. It’s a great tune. 

Leaps And Bounds is a sonic wonderland. 

Little Boy, Don’t Lose Your Balls is a great song with a wit that is brilliant.

Love Is The Law is a little too campy for my liking. As with all other songs on this compilation, it isn’t bad, but if it were not part of this collection, I wouldn’t play it as a song on its own. 

Love Never Runs On Time has a killer harmonica and is overall a good tune. Nothing spectacular, but nothing offensive either. 

Luck is a solid tune. 

Maralinga (Rainy Land) is one of Kelly’s greatest songs. Sensational!

Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air is an a cappella song and is beautiful.

Midnight Rain has an incredible instrumental backing that enhances Kelly’s vocal perfectly.

My Way Is To You compels me to close my eyes as the musicality and Kelly’s vocal takes me on a sonic journey that has to be experienced to be fully understood. 

No You offers nothing to write home about, but isn’t fundamentally bad. No You just doesn’t stand out from the crowd, which is an issue in a compilation as broad as The A To Z Recordings.

Nothing But A Dream is an incredible song and that higher-pitched choral approach is so enjoyable and makes me think that this is a Paul Kelly song that would be perfect for Crowded House or Neil Finn, in particular, to cover. 

(The) Oldest Story In The Book has a catchy tune and chorus line that ensures it’s memorable. It’s another song that is amongst Kelly’s greatest. 

One More Tune is lovely. 

Other People’s Houses is a great song. Even though I’m not an overzealous fan of spoken word lyrics, Other People’s Houses is perfectly balanced and simply sounds right. I couldn’t imagine this song any other way and I’m glad it exists as it does. My only problem is that I can’t decide if I prefer this edition or the original studio release. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter as both are exceptional!

Our Sunshine has an old-west feel with a country twang. I love it!

Please Myself has a stellar vocal shift and distortion throughout. Add a simple rhythm and Please Myself most certainly pleases this fan. 

Pretty Place is a solid tune, but ultimately a B-side. 

(The Ballad Of) Queenie And Rover is, as Pretty Place is, a B-side for this listener. 

Rally Round The Drum is a great, meat and potatoes, tune. Sometimes that is all you need. 

Randwick Bells is a solid track, but nothing to write home about. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I have a love/hate relationship with semi-spoken songs. I find them compelling but then at the same time, I’d much prefer to have a little more rhythm to toe-tap and head-bop to as well as sing along to. That said, the closing minute largely negates this thought.

Saturday Night And Sunday Morning is a great tune. It’s time to get that acoustic air guitar out, for I adore that guitar strumming and the tuning of the instrument on this track.  

Shane Warne is largely unforgettable but is a rather cool and humorous homage to the Australian cricketer. 

Smoke Under The Bridge is a lovely, hypnotic, tune. It is, as many of Kelly’s songs are, incredibly relaxing. 

Somebody’s Forgetting Somebody is a solid song, but not a standout. Although, that harmonica is a pure pleasure to listen to. 

Somewhere In The City is magnificent!

South Of Germany as a vocal-only song is spectacular and showcases just how incredible Kelly’s vocal prowess is and how much control he has over it. 

Standing On The Street Of Early Sorrows is a song that I wouldn’t necessarily gravitate towards when thinking of Paul Kelly, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it every time I hear it as the vocal delivery and backing is glorious. 

Stolen Apples is a great tune and while Crowded House write their own songs, I’d love to hear them cover this one.  

Stories Of Me is an incredible, multi-layered, acoustic tune.

Stupid Song is anything but stupid. I love it! 

Summer Rain is average at best. Yes, it works well within the compilation but as a song on its own, I just don’t find it compelling. 

Sweet Guy is incredible and Kelly’s vocal delivery is the definition of perfection.  

Sydney From A 747 isn’t bad, but it isn’t anything to write home about. Although, the intermingling guitars make this one enjoyable song. 

They Thought I Was Asleep is an incredible story-based song. 

Thoughts In The Middle Of The Night is stunning. The music will envelop you and Kelly is most certainly in the room with you when you listen to this track. An exceptional song and a stunning recording. 

To Her Door is a well-known masterpiece. One of Kelly’s most recognisable recordings and arguably one of his very best. 

Until Death Do Them Part isn’t bad, but it isn’t great. It simply exists and sometimes that is good enough. I wouldn’t, however, hold up Until Death Do Them Part as a defining moment in Kelly’s recording career. 

When I First Met Your Ma is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish and is, in my opinion, a hidden gem. I love it!

Winter Coat is a great tune. I adore Kelly’s vocal on this recording and his control over his vocal is most certainly impressive. 

Won’t You Come Around? has a great rhythm that will get your body moving and once again that harmonica steals the stage. 

Would You Be My Friend? is astonishingly good and sounds as though Kelly is singing to you, in a private concert. Sensational!

You Broke A Beautiful Thing is, pun intended, a beautiful thing! 

You Can Put Your Shoes Under My Bed isn’t a bad song, but it isn’t anything to write home about either. 

You Can’t Take It With You is such a good song with a sensational rhythm and a fantastic lyrical meaning. 

Your Little Sister Is A Big Girl Now has a killer intermingling guitar track; such an enjoyable song! 

Young Lovers is one of Kelly’s most beautiful songs. It isn’t necessarily the story he tells via the song, but it is the way he performs it that makes Young Lovers one very special song indeed.

You’re 39, You’re Beautiful And You’re Mine is a lovely tune. 

Your Loving Is On My Mind has always been one of my favourite Paul Kelly tracks and leaves me somewhat speechless; it is that good! 

Zoe is a solid song and while it may have taken over 6 hours to get to this stage, if you’re like me, you’re likely going to go back to Adelaide and listen to this masterpiece again. 

Whether you’re going on a road trip, going about your daily routine, or sitting intently absorbing every element of Kelly’s performances, you’re bound to adore this collection of songs for it is some of the finest singer-songwriter music you’re ever likely to hear, anywhere, by anyone.  

If you’d be more content with an abridged version, a Best Of The A To Z Recordings (2LP vinyl release) is available. 

A Deluxe Edition including Kelly’s memoir, How To Make Gravy, is also available as well as the standard 8-CD release, and a digital release on iTunes

If you’re remotely interested in Paul Kelly, then this compilation is a must-own. While it isn’t as concise as Greatest Hits – Songs From The South, Vols. 1 & 2, it will give you hours of bliss and a deeper view into the wonder that is Paul Kelly.  

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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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Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

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Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

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

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

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

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

Lost In Love is beautiful!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll Never Get Enough Of You is exceptional! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Midnight Oil - Redneck Wonderland (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Redneck Wonderland (Album Review)

While it may not have been commercially successful, Redneck Wonderland is captivating and can be seen as an artistic success. The more I listen to Redneck Wonderland, the more I come to appreciate the merging of the new and old Midnight Oil musical styles. Warne Livesey, producer of Diesel And Dust and Blue Sky Mining, makes a welcome return, ensuring a result that will appeal to longtime Midnight Oil fans and newcomers alike.

I also have to say, before we dig into the musicality of the album, the cover of Redneck Wonderland is stunning. It is rough, raw, and clear in relation to relevance and meaning. This album cover, alone, is enough justification to buy the Midnight Oil vinyl box set; especially considering Redneck Wonderland was never released on vinyl.

Redneck Wonderland sounds as though it was conceived in a rhythm-based distorted heaven. The musicality is immediately recognisable as Midnight Oil have gone back to their roots. It is an exceptional song and should be included on every compilation and live set list.

Concrete continues the stripped-down raw rock sound that arguably hadn't been heard since Blue Sky Mining almost a decade earlier. It is a killer rock song and, as with Redneck Wonderland, the instrumental rhythm will have you moving unconsciously. It’s wonderful to see Midnight Oil return to form, following the lacklustre Earth And Sun And Moon and their previous album Breathe.

Cemetery In My Mind slows the pace of the album, but that isn't a bad thing as it is an exceptional song. The musical introduction, that is featured throughout, creates a worthy bridge that ensures the song is thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end.

Comfortable Place On The Couch has a promising start, but the musicality behind Garrett's vocal is distracting, rather than being complementary. That said, once the electric guitar and chorus come into play, the song kicks into high gear. It isn't a bad song, but it is only half a song in my opinion as the verse is akin to a demo recording.

Safety Chain Blues has a killer bass and piano introduction. This musicality continues throughout and while I feel Garrett’s vocal delivery is concealed in the soundstage, Safety Chain Blues should be considered a B-side with the promise of an A-side should a different mix be permitted. I understand Midnight Oil were aiming for a particular style, I just don't feel it was well executed. Interestingly, the song sounds superior on headphones. The vocals become more present and are less distant in the mix. That is somewhat understandable as headphones bring the music closer to the ear. It is an interesting dichotomy, but I also feel that a well recorded, mixed, and mastered song should not exhibit these variances.

Return To Sender is a groovy pop-rock song, but it does sound out-of-place with the style of the album thus far. It isn't inherently flawed, it just isn't deserving of its place on Redneck Wonderland.

Blot returns us to the raw alternative rock and roll sound Midnight Oil is renowned for. However, Blot is a mismatched mess as the mind is unable to connect with the varying backbeat. It sounds as though Blot is the culmination of three songs that really don't belong together. It is a shame because I do love that guitar riff.

The Great Gibber Plain is a B-side, but I still find it enjoyable.

Seeing Is Believing is a song that will blow you away as it is not only one of the best tracks on the album, but one of the best songs Midnight Oil has ever written and recorded.

White Skin Black Heart is exceptional! While I have always felt it was a little too shrill, I wouldn't want it changed at all.

What Goes On is an energetic song. I love it! I can't wait to hear it on vinyl as I feel it would amplify all elements and I’ll be interested to hear how the distortion transfers, particular from the drums.

Drop In The Ocean is a lovely ballad to close the album on. While it is sonically worlds apart from What Goes On, I feel compelled to listen to the album again and stay within Midnight Oil's catalogue.

Redneck Wonderland really should have been the follow-up to Blue Sky Mining, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Regardless, we have it now and that’s all that matters. It still amazes me that Redneck Wonderland was not more commercially successful, but it just goes to show how fickle us fans can be. That said, you can’t really blame fans for not having faith in a new album, following Midnight Oil’s mediocre mid-90s releases. That said, if you did miss out on hearing this album in the past, I implore you to give it a listen as it really is an excellent release.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi 16/44.1 kHz edition and found the mastering to be perfect for Midnight Oil’s musicality. However, it was mastered a little too hot but I didn't find that to be detrimental to the overall listening experience.

Redneck Wonderland is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Midnight Oil – Breathe (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil – Breathe (Album Review)

Compared to Earth And Sun And Moon, Breathe is a transitional album that sees Midnight Oil return to their signature sound. While Breathe is still no Blue Sky Mining or Diesel And Dust, there are some exceptional songs to be heard on the album. That is, of course, if you can get past the grotesque album artwork. Yes, it is relevant to the album, but it is one cover that I don’t feel compelled to own on vinyl.

Underwater is an exceptional track. The distorted musical introduction merged with a crystal clear vocal is very enjoyable. As the elements of the song build, the rhythm really takes form and you will find yourself toe tapping and head bopping throughout.

Surf's Up Tonight isn’t a bad song. I remember first hearing it on 20,000 Watt R.S.L. and it surprised me as I never felt it was worthy of a greatest hits album. Yes, it has a great groove and is one of the best songs on Breathe, but I also feel the chorus lyric, 'surf's up tonight', is too repetitive.

Common Ground is a gorgeous composition. I absolutely love this song! That said, I feel the mix of the track is slightly off, particularly in the chorus as the instrumentation is too busy, thereby resulting in mental confusion and increased treble. Most likely this shallow soundstage could be corrected in a remastering, but given how bad many remasters are, it could simply make things worse.

Time To Heal is a perfect Midnight Oil song as every element shows just how skilled they were as musicians and songwriters.

Sins Of Omission has a decent groove, but I'm not a fan of the introduction and the continuous hi-hat beat is a little grating on the senses. Sins Of Omission is most definitely a B-side, but I have heard worse from Midnight Oil.

One Too Many Times is a great song, but I don't feel it is a great song for Midnight Oil. It is too folky for their style of music. Yes, experimenting with musical styles is a good thing when it works. However, in this instance, I don't feel it does.

Star Of Hope is AWESOME! The Neil Young inspired sound is perfectly suited to Midnight Oil. See, I really don't mind sonic experimentation when it works.

In The Rain is a short track that proves sometimes less is more. I adore this track for that very reason.

Bring On The Change is a disjointed mess and that hi-hat beat once again distracts the listener.

Home is a duet and I think it is a first for Midnight Oil. For those of you wondering who the vocalist is, it is the great Emmylou Harris. She is such an incredible vocalist and merged with Garrett's vocal style, it is a sonic match made in heaven. Home is exceptional and the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it.

E-Beat is a B-side.

Barest Degree has a nice rhythm and vocal presentation, but it is most certainly another B-side.

Gravelrash gets the cymbal sound right for the first time on the album as it is not jarring and simmers into the next note perfectly. As an instrumental track, I like it. However, Midnight Oil is as much about Peter Garrett as it is his musical counterparts. Hence, it is the perfect song to close the album on, but it is also missing that identifying frontman. If I had heard this song, absent from the album, I don't believe I would connect this instrumental track with Midnight Oil.

Breathe, overall, is an exceptional album and sees Midnight Oil come one step closer to their renowned sonic signature following their quizzical Earth And Sun And Moon album. Despite a couple of B-sides, the album experience is solid. I tend to be someone who listens to albums, rather than songs. I have considered writing song reviews, especially for those that have been heavily covered, but the simple fact is that I don't enjoy music one song at a time. Long live the album experience!

For this review, I listened to the 1996 mastering on TIDAL Hi-Fi. The mastering itself is adequate, but I feel it is a disjointed effort as some tracks are more refined than others. Of course, it is important to note that these variances could quite as easily be the result of varied recording styles or mixing decisions. My criticism in this respect shouldn't be considered negative, as the album is very good, but I believe it could have been significantly better.

Breathe is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, Breathe is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Midnight Oil - Earth And Sun And Moon (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Earth And Sun And Moon (Album Review)

Following their career defining albums, Earth And Sun And Moon had a lot to live up to. At this stage of their career, Midnight Oil not only had the punk rock pub fan from their early days, but they also had the newer and commercially valuable mainstream rock audience. Earth And Sun And Moon interestingly presents a shift in style for the band and it is fair to say that both fan bases would have approached this album with scepticism. While the themes remained controversial, the musicality would shift towards the pop rock genre and, subsequently, the album sounds different to everything that came before it.

This type of shift is far from exclusive to Midnight Oil. Another iconic Australian band, Icehouse, followed their incredibly successful Man Of Colours album with the industrial and unconventional album Big Wheel. While Big Wheel is an exceptional album, it was no Man Of Colours. Perhaps there is a stage in every musical career when a pinnacle has been reached and subsequent albums, while good on their own, don't necessarily add to the artist’s body of work.

Despite the sonic shift, the cover art of Earth And Sun And Moon is extraordinary. It is inspired by indigenous artwork and, I don't know about you but, I find this form of art to be very pleasing as there is always a story to be told and a lesson to be learnt. Let's just hope the artwork isn’t the only highlight of Earth And Sun And Moon.

Feeding Frenzy has an interesting and very familiar tempo. Think Deep Purple meets Midnight Oil. The shifts in rhythm seem out-of-place, but you quickly come to appreciate the genius behind this composition. While Feeding Frenzy is not your standard Midnight Oil track, it does offer some enjoyment, especially if you listen to it numerous times.

My Country is certainly not their strongest song. It is a B-side at best. That said, as with Feeding Frenzy, I find that I appreciate it more, the more I listen to it.

Renaissance Man lacks the energy Midnight Oil is known for. There are certain elements that work, but it is not a true Midnight Oil song. It's too campy for my liking.  

Earth And Sun And Moon is an overproduced mess. As with Renaissance Man, it is another example of Midnight Oil going for a campy sound. While Earth And Sun And Moon is a cool album name, the song should have been left in the studio.

Truganini is textbook Midnight Oil. It's about time! However, it provides such a shift in musicality that one can only imagine, with bemusement, why the previous songs even exist and where they fit into the Midnight Oil legacy.

Bushfire isn't bad in places, but it fails to impress overall.

Drums Of Heaven is a song that leaves me speechless. Not because it is good, but because of how bad it is. Drums Of Heaven ironically lacks a killer drum beat. Seriously, other than an excellent distorted guitar element, there is nothing to praise here. Normally, I hate being so negative in reviews, but I have to call a spade a spade.

Outbreak Of Love is sonically incredible. I love it! Yes, it is soft rock, but it is done well.

In The Valley isn't a bad soft rock song, but it still doesn't sound like the Midnight Oil we know and love.

Tell Me The Truth has a killer groove that will get you moving. I absolutely love it!

Now Or Neverland has a fantastic bass beat. I love the lead and rhythm guitar, but the bass guitar is one of the most underappreciated instruments in history. While it's present in every song, it is rarely highlighted. I certainly would like to hear more bass in all recordings. No, I'm not talking about doof doof bass, I'm referring to actually hearing the strums and reverberation of the real instrument. It resonates with my soul and I love the instrument.

Sadly, Earth And Sun And Moon is not the follow-up to Blue Sky Mining that many fans would have been expecting. There is certainly an EP worth of quality material here, but it honestly surprises me that the record label didn’t block the release of the album. I also feel it was shortsighted of Midnight Oil to choose Nick Launay over Diesel And Dust and Blue Sky Mining collaborative producer Warne Livesey. Thankfully, Midnight Oil would record Redneck Wonderland and Capricornia with Livesey and while my review of those albums will be published in the coming days, let's just say they sound like Midnight Oil.

For this review, I listened to the 1993 mastering on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Despite not connecting with the album, I can say that it wasn't due to poor mastering. Some things were done really well on this album, but it is the mediocre elements and shift in musicality that resulted in a less than pleasing experience.

Earth And Sun And Moon is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Midnight Oil - Diesel And Dust (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Diesel And Dust (Album Review)

Ian McFarlane's Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop references Diesel And Dust as groundbreaking and one of the greatest Australian albums of all time. I dare anyone to challenge that claim as Diesel And Dust is the quintessential album Midnight Oil should be remembered for.

John O'Donnell, Toby Creswell, and Craig Mathieson also thought so highly of Diesel And Dust that it was awarded the No.1 Australian album in their book, The 100 Best Australian Albums. O'Donnell, Creswell, and Mathieson go on to say: in the process of reinventing themselves, Midnight Oil has crafted an album of brilliant, passionate, and intelligent songs that carry a message.

Truthfully, any additional commentary I add in this review would be seemingly superfluous. That said, join me on my own subjective journey of Diesel And Dust.

Beds Are Burning is incredible! I have always adored this song and find that when I want to listen to Midnight Oil, this is the song that comes to mind. The lyrical delivery is clear, unlike some of their earlier albums, and that beat and musicality are simply unmatched. It is as good as Australian rock and roll gets.

Put Down That Weapon is anthemic. It’s sonically gorgeous!

Dreamworld is a song I've always had mixed feelings about. I simply find it to be another Midnight Oil song that is on the shrill end of the spectrum. Although, it is a bloody good song. It is just disappointing that, in contrast to the previous tracks, I find it too jarring.

Arctic World slows the album down considerably, but sonically I love the musicality and it is a song that showcases Peter Garrett's vocal capabilities. While it isn't my favourite song on the album, it is perfectly suited to the themes and style of Diesel And Dust.

Warakurna flows beautifully from Arctic world with rhythmic perfection. It is one of my all-time favourite Midnight Oil songs.

The Dead Heart is another exceptional song that I have always enjoyed. Seriously, Diesel And Dust plays like a greatest hits album. It really is that good! Part of the appeal is the catchy, sing-a-long style of the songs. While some may point, rightly so, to the message portrayed in these songs, long time readers would note that lyrical meaning is often lost on me. While that isn't the case with Midnight Oil, I strongly believe their music can be appreciated without specific background knowledge or political loyalties. This is music for everybody; similar in that regard to the recordings of Yothu Yindi.

Whoah is sonically beautiful. Close your eyes, relax, and enjoy.

Bullroarer picks up the pace with a hard hitting rock song that mergers their punk roots with their new rock style. You will want to turn this song up to 11. I love it! The chorus is amongst the best ever written and recorded.

Don't touch that volume knob as Sell My Soul is one killer song.

Sometimes is a song that I find to be tedious, that is until the chorus kicks in for the first time. After that, the song blows me away.

Gunbarrel Highway interestingly wasn't included on vinyl and cassette releases of the album. It was only sporadically included on CD as some regions had it while others were excluded. This process was and still is, rather common. It sends us music collectors slowly insane as we try to get hold of the various editions. Thankfully, it is far easier now, than it was in 1987, thanks to the Internet, streaming services, and the continuous stream of re-issues. I raise this point because one must ask if Gunbarrel Highway is the best song to conclude Diesel And Dust on. Subjectively, I believe it is, it encourages me to listen to the album again.

I truly don't believe there is a word in the English language that can fully describe the brilliance of Diesel And Dust. Therefore, all I will say in conclusion is that you must listen to this album.

For this review, I listened to the 2007 remaster on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Sonically, that remaster is a pleasure to listen to. Despite Red Sails In The Sunset being a remastering nightmare, Diesel And Dust has not only been recorded beautifully, but it has been remastered, in this instance, with kid gloves.

Diesel And Dust is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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