Viewing entries in
Blue-Eyed Soul

Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (Album Review)

Comment

Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (Album Review)

Billy Joel has an exceptional back catalogue that would be the envy of many musicians. While Storm Front will always be my personal favourite, An Innocent Man, not unlike Joel's sensational Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2, is about as close to perfection as you can get. Yes, dear reader, An Innocent Man plays like a greatest hits release and should be in all serious music collections.

While it has never made it to my physical collection, I have promised myself the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) double LP release that has been mastered from the original master tapes using MOFI’s patented GAIN 2™ technology. While all the acronyms look impressive, I have a number of these releases and they are simply astonishing and make CD-quality streaming services, like TIDAL Hi-Fi, sound lifeless and flat by comparison. Speaking of TIDAL Hi-Fi, this review is based on listening to and enjoying that edition. I’ve also taken the time to appreciate An Innocent Man on Apple Music and have found the two streaming services are comparable to each other as they are derived from the same master. However, the Apple Music stream, for An Innocent Man, is about five percent louder. The additional loudness could be due to any number of production reasons, but louder volumes do give the faux perception of better quality. Now, I'm not suggesting this is the case, but it would be naive to ignore the possibility. Of course, if the volume is extended too far, the sound will degrade as a result of increased distortion; a key problem in the loudness wars. Correct management of volume, particularly in the recording, mixing, and mastering stages, is a fine line that has sadly been crossed far too often. That all said, both streams sound exceptional, but when an album is of this calibre, it will sound good regardless of lossy or lossless compression algorithms.

Without doubt, An Innocent Man, is one of the greatest albums from the 80s, but the launch window would result in a disappointing result for Joel as Michael Jackson's Thriller won the Grammy for Album Of The Year over An Innocent Man. While Jackson's Thriller is a landmark album, one I thoroughly enjoy, I'd argue that Joel’s An Innocent Man is a better album and has also stood the test of time much better than Thriller which, in my subjective opinion, is starting to sound a little dated. Perhaps An Innocent Man avoided the dreaded dating of its sound as Joel based the writing of the album on his beloved, and arguably timeless, 50s and 60s music styles. The continuous lighthearted Be-bop, Soul, and R&B styling is addictive and remarkably well suited to Joel.

Easy Money has a sensational beat – thank you Liberty DeVito! It’s a fun little song to start the album with, but the chorus isn't compelling as I find it a little distracting with it’s downbeat shift. Nevertheless, Easy Money is a great song that sets the listener up for the music they’re about to hear on the album.

An Innocent Man slows the pace of the album a little, but the transition never sounds out-of-place. When listening to An Innocent Man, you really begin to comprehend what a sensational vocalist Joel is. Joel has incredible control of his vocal and takes it right to the edge, ensuring the presentation is nothing short of a pleasure to listen to. I could listen to this song indefinitely, it is that good.

The Longest Time is, as Uptown Girl is, one of the most enjoyable songs to sing along to. Seriously, tell me you can sit and listen without singing along to this classic. Even if only in your mind, it’s addictive. I love it!

This Night really opens up throughout the chorus. Yes, the whole song is fantastic, but as a Ludwig van Beethoven fan, I really appreciate how Joel merged his vision with that of Beethoven’s. The result is a sonic interpretation that is absolutely timeless. A masterpiece!

Tell Her About It has a fantastic upbeat tempo that will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping from the very first note.

Uptown Girl is my song. It, along with Starship's We Built This City, is responsible for my love of music. Absolutely brilliant!

Careless Talk shifts the style of the album and can sound a little out-of-place following the upbeat sound of Tell Her About It and Uptown Girl. However, as a song on its own, it’s a solid recording, but if there were a B-side on An Innocent Man, it would be Careless Talk.

Christie Lee is a sensational rock tune with an exceptional saxophone element. I love it! You’ll most certainly want to turn the volume up on this song.

Leave A Tender Moment Alone is a stunningly beautiful ballad.

Keeping The Faith is a song I’ve always enjoyed, but it’s a strange song to conclude the album with as it’s somewhat different to the songs that came before it. It sounds too modern for the album’s style, but as a song on its own, it's extraordinary!

Overall, An Innocent Man is an astonishingly good album and one of Joel's best, if not his best. If you want to listen to a flawless album, that is also timeless, then this is the album for you. Pure perfection!

An Innocent Man is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, An Innocent Man is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

Comment

Bee Gees' 1st (Album Review)

Comment

Bee Gees' 1st (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

One Minute Woman is a lovely song.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please Read Me is a solid B-side.

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

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

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

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

Comment

Rod Stewart – The Best Of Rod Stewart (Album Review)

Comment

Rod Stewart – The Best Of Rod Stewart (Album Review)

Despite owning this compilation, I have never considered myself to be a major fan of Rod Stewart’s music and while I own Every Picture Tells A Story and Time, the desire to research and collect his entire catalog is simply not as strong as it is with the other artists that I collect. As good as his studio albums are, when I think of Rod Stewart, I think of the decades of incredible music, spread amongst no fewer than 30 albums. It is that kind of back catalog that compels one to appreciate the succinctness of compilation-based albums.

While I would love to embed the album from TIDAL et al, this compilation isn't available on any streaming service. It isn’t even available for purchase on iTunes. However, let’s not be discouraged as I have painstakingly constructed a playlist of the songs. TIDAL will, of course, be embedded below, but I have also made the playlist available for Spotify users.

Maggie May really needs no introduction, yet it is the perfect song to commence any Rod Stewart compilation with.

You Wear It Well instantly reminds me of numerous Neil Young recordings. That is, of course, until Stewart's raspy vocal kicks in. While I enjoy this song, I find that I get the most enjoyment from the instrumentation as I feel Stewart's vocal is somewhat lost in the soundstage. It results in a muddiness that is distracting.

Baby Jane is a catchy tune. I love it as it gets my body moving.

Da Ya Think I'm Sexy is one of the greatest Disco-era tunes ever recorded. It is addictive and there is little doubt that you will sing that addictive chorus to your significant other at some point in time. If you do, I just hope the following song, in your playlist, is not (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones.

I Was Only Joking is a lovely semi-acoustic ballad that really highlights Stewart's unique vocal style. The song is soothing and while directly opposite in tempo to Da Ya Think I'm Sexy, the transition doesn't feel out of place. Actually, I would say the tracking of this compilation is well thought out, which sadly is a rarity amongst career perspective compilations.

This Old Heart Of Mine is a solid song that I thoroughly enjoy, but it is nothing to write home about.

Sailing is pure perfection. It doesn't get any better than this!

I Don't Want To Talk About It is another Rod Stewart classic. What an incredible artist! This song is so delicate and could have been over-performed, but Stewart reaches deep while remaining restrained in a true showcase of professionalism.

You're In My Heart has a gorgeous acoustic introduction that gradually builds as the song plays. You may not sing-a-long to the verse, but the chorus compels you to do so. Not only is it catchy, but the use of backing singers, in the chorus, is ideal for the composition of the song. You're In My Heart is a classic song that will continue to stand the test of time; provided love prevails of course.

Young Turks is a faster-paced tune that reminds me of Dire Straits. While I should love it, I just feel there is something missing and the click track beat is a little monotonous. It isn't a bad song, but is it worthy of a Best Of compilation?

What Am I Gonna Do (I'm So In Love With You) is campy and whiny. I'm sorry to those of you that enjoy this song, but this is one song that I would skip over if given the chance. I feel it is overproduced with a lackluster performance.

The First Cut Is The Deepest is gorgeous!

The Killing Of Georgie (Part I And II) is sonic heaven and nothing short of a masterpiece. I love it!

Tonight's The Night has an incredible rhythm and I adore Stewart's vocal delivery on this track.

Every Beat Of My Heart is one of the best songs Stewart ever recorded. Every aspect of this song is perfect and Bob Ezrin certainly pushed Stewart to, and beyond, the limit with the production of this song. Sometimes a producer is as important as the artist and Ezrin rarely disappoints. His work with Alice Cooper, alone, is legendary. Ezrin is one of the greatest producers in the history of recorded music. If you see his name attached to an album, buy it!

Downtown Train is the first Rod Stewart song that I recall hearing. For that reason alone, it has a very special place in my heart. It is a perfect way to end this compilation and while Stewart continues to record new and engaging music, this 1989 release, in a similar way to Elton John's The Very Best Of, highlights the most well-known tracks from the pinnacle of Stewart's success.

I don't know about you, but I feel like listening to this album again. The collection, overall, is exceptional and is one of my prized possessions.

For this review, I listened to the Warner Bros. (7599-26034-2) CD. Overall the mastering was good but uneven in places. It is honestly difficult to find a compilation that doesn't suffer from this problem as songs are recorded in different studios, with different producers, and varied artistic abilities, depending on when the song was written and recorded. A perfect example of this, that springs to mind, would be if a Michael Jackson compilation featured both Ben and Man In The Mirror. Both are great songs in their own right, but from an artistic and musicality standpoint, they are worlds apart.

A fold-out CD booklet is included but it’s barebones, including only a single additional photograph. The only other detail included, in the liner notes, is a replication of the production information that is plastered on the rear cover. Yes, I have seen far worse album layouts, especially for compilations, but it is tedious to find that one song you really want to listen to. Seriously, who thought a rear album artwork layout, with production information, was a good idea? I’m certainly a proponent of including full production notes, but that is what liner notes are for.

The Best Of Rod Stewart is currently available on CD. Unfortunately, it remains absent from all streaming services and digital download stores.

Comment