Viewing entries in
Compilation

ABBA – Gold (Greatest Hits Compilation Vinyl Review)

Comment

ABBA – Gold (Greatest Hits Compilation Vinyl Review)

ABBA’s Gold is without a doubt one of the greatest compilations ever released. I can listen to it continuously without necessarily wanting more as there isn’t a lacklustre song to be heard on this exceptional release. However, that hasn’t stopped the Swedish juggernaut from reissuing the Gold collection countless times and adding to it with More ABBA Gold and a 40th Anniversary Edition that also includes additional B-sides not previously released on the aforementioned titles.

This review, however, will focus on the original ABBA Gold; specifically the 2014 vinyl reissue. However, as a lifelong ABBA fan, I’ll most likely review the additional releases, in the future, so check back regularly. 

When originally released in 1992, I was in awe. I swear I wore that cassette tape out as I played it that much. For me, it was new and fresh as I was only a teenager at the time and Abba Gold would ultimately cement my interest in the band following my admiration of Arrival. It was, therefore, a triumphant moment the reissue was announced and released. Although, something was not quite right. Looking up the history of the album, I was able to find out that he edition of Abba Gold that I had become smitten with was in-fact the Australian release, with three different songs that were hugely popular down under. The 2014 vinyl re-issue was in-fact the International edition of Abba Gold and I would lament the fact that I sold the cassette so many years ago when MP3s were taking the world by storm. Nevertheless, it only took a few spins on the turntable for me to connect with the International tracking of the album and since then I have been content with the varied song selection.  

The records themselves are presented in a slide-out design that I appreciate for its simplicity. A gatefold would have been nice, but I’m sure I’m not alone when I lament the challenges of getting records in and out of gatefolds at times. No, they aren’t a deal-breaker, but they do require a little more fiddling. Nevertheless, the inner sleeves are adorned with photographs and a thoroughly enjoyable essay, penned by British rock music journalist John Tobler.  

The records feature the stunning red Polydor label and are pressed and mastered well, with consistent quality. While I wouldn’t say this or any ABBA release is necessarily audiophile-grade, many of the included songs sound significantly better than they do on ABBA’s other vinyl reissues. That said, this release isn’t perfect and as much as it pains me to admit it, the Apple Music/iTunes (Apple Digital Master) edition of Abba Gold and ABBA’s broader back catalogue, sound remarkably good and arguably better than any ABBA vinyl or CD release I have in my collection. 

Nevertheless, while the records are flat, there is a little more surface noise than I would generally like. It isn’t necessarily distracting unless you find yourself listening to your record collection via headphones. Also, and this is an obvious pressing error, when Dancing Queen starts, you hear the song softly through the left channel before the stereo tracking comes in. It isn’t that the tracks are offset from each other, just that when it was pressed, the left channel was prematurely pressed. Thankfully, once the stereo track kicks in, Dancing Queen plays perfectly with no audible distortion or apparent timing issues. It is a surprising error, given the status and cultural importance of ABBA, but it hasn’t been the first, or last time, that their vinyl pressings have raised eyebrows amongst music lovers. Overall, however, ABBA’s Gold 2014 vinyl reissue sounds very good and is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. 

Side One

Dancing Queen, as mentioned earlier, has a dual-ghosting introduction that, while initially distracting, fades into the song perfectly allowing one to turn up the volume, sing along, and dance to one of ABBA’s very best tunes. 

Knowing Me, Knowing You is sonically beautiful. I’ve always enjoyed audio panning and Knowing Me, Knowing You uses this technique perfectly. Perhaps the most enjoyable element of this song is the tempo. Have you ever noticed how it is a slow song, yet also a fast song? This dichotomy is intriguing and I feel it’s part of the reason why the song is so good as it has an organic sound that is neither perfect or erroneous, but equally both. Sensational!

Take A Chance On Me is another ABBA classic that encourages the body to move to the groove. Seriously, try and sit still when listening to this song, it is almost impossible. 

Mamma Mia is an absolute masterpiece and the karaoke song for the budding amateur singer. Yes, this middle-aged man thoroughly enjoys singing along to Mamma Mia. It is simply, that good! 

Lay All Your Love On Me has quite a bit of noise and a little inner groove distortion, despite the record being cleaned and run on a well balanced Pro-ject Debut Carbon turntable with an Ortofon OM20 needle. A shame considering just how good this song is. Nevertheless, it is a perfect song to close out Side One. 

Side Two

Super Trouper is one of my all-time favourite ABBA songs. The harmonious intertwining of the vocals is pure gold and the musicality is delivered at just the perfect tempo. Pure perfection!

I Have A Dream is a great song, but I’ve never been convinced that it follows on well from Super Trouper. It is, of course, a slower song and I think I would have preferred it to be presented at the beginning of side three. Nevertheless, it is placed where it is and once I get over my objection to its placement, I can thoroughly enjoy this ballad/folk tune that is pure ABBA.

The Winner Takes It All is a beautiful story-driven song. Agnetha‘s vocal is absolutely beautiful but my only criticism is the shrillness of the vocal and piano in the high end as it can be a little jarring if the volume is turned up too loud.

Money, Money, Money is a killer ABBA tune. 

S.O.S is simply magnificent!

Side Three

Chiquitita is beautiful, although when the song enters it’s upbeat tempo, with a substantial volume boost, it can be a little jarring on the senses. 

Fernando is superb and while I don’t have a favourite ABBA song, Fernando for me is only bested by Eagle. Both are so relaxing and sonically pleasing that I could listen to either on repeat for an eternity. 

Voulez-Vous removes me from my relaxed state and wants to get me on the dance floor, singing along, as if it’s the most natural thing to do. The chorus is exceptional as is the rhythm and the vocal harmony. It’s such a great song!

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) is one of my favourite ABBA songs and yes, this heterosexual man sings this song loud and proud. The orchestral introduction is epic and it is arguably the pinnacle of disco-based music, although there are so many sensational examples to choose from. Regardless, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) is one of the greatest disco-based songs of the era and has remained timeless, still feeling fresh in the modern era.

Side Four

Does Your Mother Know has one of the best intros for any ABBA song, doesn’t it? Does Your Mother Know is a killer pop/rock tune that you can sing along to, dance to, and turn the volume up to so that you’ll irritate your neighbours. Surely, ticking all those boxes is the sign of a good song, yes?

One Of Us is an earworm waiting to happen. You’ve been warned! However, I would still recommend it as One Of Us is magnificent; much like most of ABBA’s final studio album, The Visitors, is. 

The Name Of The Game is perhaps the only song on Gold that I question its worthiness for inclusion. Is it a great song? Absolutely. Do I enjoy it when it comes on? You bet. Yet, I still don’t feel it is worthy of this compilation. Instead, if I had selected the tracks to be included on this release, I would have opted for Eagle and would have ensured The Name Of The Game made it to More Abba Gold

Thank You For The Music is a little campy but every time it comes on, it reminds me of how thankful we should be for the music we know and love and even the music that doesn’t appeal to our subjective selves, for it will give joy to another music lover. And, yes, thank you ABBA for the music!

Waterloo is, as I’ve mentioned before, a fun song. I don’t know about you, but I feel it is the perfect closing song for this compilation as it simultaneously encourages me to listen to the album again as well as setting it aside and allowing Waterloo to be a repetitive earworm for the rest of the day. 

Overall, there was no need for More ABBA Gold as this core release covers ABBA’s illustrious career perfectly. I’m certain some may disagree with me, you may be one of them, but I would say that ABBA’s entire catalogue is so strong that it would have been far better for casual or new fans, coming into the ABBA universe post-ABBA Gold, to explore ABBA’s entire back catalogue. I say that because ultimately, ABBA has more gold-worthy songs than any single compilation could ever hope to deliver. 

ABBA’s Gold is worth owning for casual and hardcore fans alike. Often, when I just want to listen to ABBA, but I’m not sure what album I’d like to listen to, I’ll put on ABBA Gold and the desire to listen to one of my all-time favourite bands will be met. Compilations may get a bad wrap, but there are times when quality releases, such as this, remind me just how important an artist-based compilation is. 

ABBA’s Gold is available on Vinyl, CD, and Apple Music.

Comment

Air Supply – The Ultimate Collection (Compilation Review)

Comment

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

Comment

SOIL & “PIMP” SESSIONS – “X” Chronicle Of Soil & “Pimp” Sessions (Compilation Review)

Comment

SOIL & “PIMP” SESSIONS – “X” Chronicle Of Soil & “Pimp” Sessions (Compilation Review)

The more music I listen to and discover, the more naïve I feel as I wouldn't have associated Jazz music with the Japanese music scene, but SOIL & “PIMP” SESSIONS prove just how spectacular the Japanese Jazz (J-Jazz) scene can be and it excites me to look more into this genre.

SOIL & “PIMP” SESSIONS play pure Jazz with a touch of Bebop, Bossa Nova, and Punk Jazz. Combine these elements together and you have a sound that the band refers to as Death Jazz. I can see it now, Jazz purists frantically trying to close this window, but by doing so you'd deny yourself of some of the most musically compelling Jazz music l’ve ever had the privilege of hearing. Yes, SOIL & “PIMP” SESSIONS are that good!

Formed in 2001, SOIL & “PIMP” SESSIONS have been rather prolific, releasing 13 studio albums and a live album. This review, however, is based on their compilation album “X” Chronicle Of Soil & “Pimp” Sessions. The artwork is exquisite in its simplicity, demanding a larger canvas, but sadly a vinyl release has yet to be produced with only a CD release and associated digital download and streaming availability.

Speaking of streaming, the impact and glorious soundstage that is present, in the original master recordings, sound magnificent when streamed via TIDAL Hi-Fi. Yes, I want a vinyl copy, but the CD-quality FLAC from TIDAL is flawless.

First Lady has an interesting intro. I can't place that particular instrument, if anyone knows what it is, could you please let me know. Nevertheless, First Lady quickly establishes itself as a Bossa Nova-styled Jazz track. It is so good that I want to get up and play Quincy Jones' Big Band Bossa Nova as I consider them to be peers. An exceptional song and a superb way to commence the “X” Chronicle Of Soil & “Pimp” Sessions compilation.

Mature continues the bossa nova feel with some exceptional musicality. While the lyrical content, in Japanese of course, may deter some listeners, it would be a mistake to skip this track as it offers a fresh interpretation of the Jazz sound. That bass is played beautifully, as are all other instruments. It’s simply gorgeous! These are some truly talented Jazz musicians that are easily amongst the best in the world.

Suffocation is more freestyle than the previous tracks but one could imagine how the band could change this song up every time they perform it live. It certainly has the improvisation cues that would make for a killer jam session.

Waltz For Goddess slows the album a little but remains jazzy. A sensational track!

No Taboo is a little more frantic than I like my Jazz to be. It isn't a bad song per se, it just isn't in the style that I subjectively prefer.

Crush! is a jazzy song. The Death Jazz element may not be to everyone’s tastes, but I like it as it fits the style of song and doesn’t feel out of place. Plus, I love that piano/sax solo that is positioned at the midpoint of the song. Crush! is an absolutely fantastic composition.

Summer Goddess has similar sonic cues to Waltz For Goddess and while that isn't necessarily a bad thing, it can feel a little repetitive. Nevertheless, as the song progresses, it comes into its own and is a killer Jazz track.

Sahara is a little too free-flowing for my liking. While the song is perfectly adequate and will likely appeal to many people, I find it difficult for my mind to latch onto the rhythm until about midway through the song. That said, cut out the first couple of minutes and the rest of the song is superb.

A.I.E is a brass-driven mid-paced song that I particularly like. The rhythm is addictive and highlights each instrument beautifully. An absolutely gorgeous recording.

マシロケ has a great beat and those hi-hat taps are intoxicating. Actually, every element in this composition is captivating.

Storm is a solid track, but I consider it filler. A B-side at best.

Fantastic Planet is a lovely song. Frantic in places, but that piano element mid-song is pure class. I love it!

Paraiso is a song that I could play on repeat for hours at a time. It’s a solid Jazz number, nothing spectacular, but has just what this Jazz listener is looking for.

My Foolish Heart - Crazy On Earth reminds me of some 1940s big band numbers. As a fan of the Glenn Miller big band style, I love it. The vocalist has an amazingly unique voice with a touch of Amy Winehouse. Sensational!

Pop Korn is a great song with an upbeat melody. This will get you dancing.

Sexual Hungry is too obscure for my liking. As a song on its own, it's tolerable, but it simply doesn't fit well in the tracking of this compilation. Hence, if I were making the decision, I would have left this song off this particular release.

Movin' (feat. Maia Hirasawa) is a solid vocal Jazz track. Nothing to write home about, but a solid B-side nevertheless.

Are You Ready? is another B-side. It sadly doesn't compel me to listen to the compilation again, but thankfully I know just how good the rest of the songs are, so you can be guaranteed this compilation will be frequently played.

Overall, “X” Chronicle Of Soil & “Pimp” Sessions is a sensational Jazz-based album that will appeal to purists as well as those looking for a little more interplay and improvisation. While I rarely attend live performances, SOIL & “PIMP” SESSIONS is one band I would love to see perform live. If the energy and passion present in their studio recordings are even remotely present in their live performance, it would be a memorable evening.

“X” Chronicle Of Soil & “Pimp” Sessions is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC) and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, “X” Chronicle Of Soil & “Pimp” Sessions is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Comment

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend: The Best Of (Deluxe Edition) [Compilation Review]

Comment

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend: The Best Of (Deluxe Edition) [Compilation Review]

In November of 2016, I reviewed the 30th Anniversary Tri-Coloured Vinyl Re-issue of this classic compilation. While I adore that edition, I was also intrigued by the Deluxe Edition that expands the original release with a series of alternative versions. Hence, I thought it would be interesting to review Volume 2 while contrasting how the songs compared to the core mixes that we all know and love. Subsequently, if you're interested in reading my thoughts about the music contained within Volume 1, then please check out the aforementioned link.

Volume 2

One Love / People Get Ready (Extended Version) is considerably longer than the version on Volume 1. Despite the obvious repetition of rhythm, with minor musical shifts, I find that I thoroughly enjoy this extended version. The core, radio-friendly, release is nice, but the extended runtime truly adds to the sonic presentation of the song. So, do I have a preferred version? Not really. Both are exceptional and I could listen happily to either version. Although, you can clearly hear a different mastering between the two editions. The extended version has a smoother presentation that I personally prefer and therefore from a sonic standpoint alone, I would choose the extended edition.

Waiting In Vain (12" Single Version) takes an already beautiful song and makes it divine. The extended musicality, especially three-quarters through the track, really appeals to me and I, therefore, find the 12" Single Version offers a significant improvement over the mainstream release. Truth-be-told, l've never really liked the idea of radio-friendly tracks, limited in length and artistry by the demands of terrestrial radio stations. While I often prefer extended versions, there are always exceptions and not all songs should have extended versions. Thankfully, this version of Waiting In Vain doesn’t fall into that category. Perhaps it is the groovy, somewhat hypnotic, Reggae sound that melds beautifully with the soundstage, captivating my soul. Regardless, the 12” Single Version is glorious.

Jamming (12" Single Version) pales in comparison to the mainstream edition on Volume 1. It simply tries to do too much, failing to add substance to the song. I feel the core groove has been lost due to the longer presentation and additional musical elements. I don't know about you, but I would have been quite happy if this 12" Single Version had never been released.

Three Little Birds (12" Mix (Dub Version)) adds a nice guitar element that isn't heard in the core song, but while I feel this and other musical elements add qualitatively to the song, I still prefer the succinctness of the version available on Volume 1.

Could You Be Loved (12" Mix) offers an excellent expansion to an already exceptional song. However, the original was so good that I question the need for an extended edition. Nevertheless, we are truly fortunate to have both editions.

No Woman No Cry is the studio recording, whereas the edition found on Volume 1 is the live 1975 performance in London. When I reviewed the tri-coloured vinyl release, I had the following to say: "the studio edition is arguably not as strong as the live performance, but neither is 100% perfect." I still stand by that statement after listening to both editions, again, for this review.

Coming In From The Cold (1984 12” Single) didn’t make the original Legend tracklisting. It isn't a bad song, but one can see why it wasn't included. The rhythm, while familiar, is quite different tonally from the other songs found on Legend. That said, I'm really glad it was included in the Deluxe Edition for those who would not necessarily collect the individual albums, but want a career perspective. If there was one song that would convince me to purchase the Deluxe Edition, it would be the inclusion of Coming In From The Cold. The more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it!

Buffalo Soldier is a significantly different remix and doesn't come close to being comparable to the original. This version is overproduced in what can only be seen as an attempt to reach a wider demographic. The sound lacks that loveable Reggae sound and introduced too much synthetic musicality that destroys the song. I simply don't like it.

Jamming (US Version) is much better than the 12" Single Version and is basically on par with the excellence heard on the core song.

Waiting In Vain (US Version) is a great song and while this is the third version found on the Deluxe Edition, the differences are subtle enough that it sounds fresh and thankfully doesn't deviate from the core essence of the song too much.

Exodus, this time around, offers us a remix of the legendary song but doesn't damage the original. It does, however, offer a different perspective. Think of it as akin to the Director's Cut of a film. It offers more and some will like that while others are content with the original release. This is another song where I am glad we have both options to choose from.

Lively Up Yourself is another song that wasn't featured on the original Legend compilation. As with Coming In From The Cold, one could argue that the tonality of the song doesn’t match the overall musicality of the album. As a song on its own, however, I really enjoy the Reggae and Jazz mix. It is bold and appealing to me as I thoroughly appreciate both genres. Lively Up Yourself is another excellent reason to pick up the Deluxe Edition. Yeah, like I really needed a justification to purchase this album again!

One Love / People Get Ready (Dub Version – 1984 12” Remix) is a different mix that incorporates A cappella elements. I like it, although, it’s not my favourite mix as I feel it comes across slightly disjointed. Despite this, I'm glad that this edition exists and as the final track on the Deluxe Edition, it encourages me to listen to the core compilation and this bonus content again.

The Deluxe Edition of Legend is an astonishing compilation from Bob Marley And The Wailers. While many of my peers are frustrated by the fact that they have to repurchase the same music over and over again, this album never disappoints and the varied mixes on Volume 2 are certainly a value-added proposition for diehard and casual fans alike.

This review was based on listening to the 16/44.1 kHz CD-quality FLAC edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi. For the most part, I found the additional mixes to be sonically on par with the master releases. I mention this primarily because bonus volumes have a tendency to have varied sonic properties that can impact one’s appreciation of the music and the artist. Thankfully, that isn't the case in this instance.

Bob Marley And The Wailers – Legend: The Best Of (Deluxe Edition) is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Legend: The Best Of (Deluxe Edition) on Spotify and Apple Music.

Comment

The Transformers: The Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RSD15 – 30th Anniversary Edition Vinyl)

Comment

The Transformers: The Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RSD15 – 30th Anniversary Edition Vinyl)

Last month I reviewed the Music on Vinyl (MOV) release of the 1985 Transformers Movie soundtrack and mentioned at the time that I was attempting to get hold of the 30th Anniversary, Record Store Day 2015 (RSD15), edition. Well, it has arrived and I couldn’t be happier.

The tracking of both albums are identical, but the mastering is slightly different as the MOV release is superior in fidelity when compared against this Sony/Legacy release. They were simply mastered by two different individuals and subsequently they were mastered for personal tastes. I should note that the MOV edition, that I prefer, was mastered by industry legend Bernie Grundman. That isn’t to say that the Maria Triana mastering at Battery Studios is a bad. In-fact, if I had not heard the MOV mastering, I would have have given this RSD15 release an excellent review based on sonic performance. The basic truth is when it comes to mastering, the individual mastering engineer is extremely important. If you look through the albums you like most, and even those you don’t, you will often see the same mastering engineers appear. I know I have come across this variant. 

From an artwork perspective, this edition is simply exquisite. This is certainly a record sleeve that you will need the floor or a table to view it on as it is a quad-panel release. My son was captivated as he kept opening and closing it to see the artwork because one mode presented the ‘good’ Autobots, while the other highlighted the evil ‘Decepticons’. It is simply an amazing design and layout and the etched vinyl really takes it to another level. It made for another wonderful father/son moment that will never be forgotten. This is why I choose vinyl, or any physical format in general, as it connects people in a way that can never be replicated by sharing a playlist.

I ordered my copy from Goldmine Records and I believe Ben has a few more copies of this release, so you may be in luck with securing a copy. 

Don’t forget, you can also read my detailed review of the album and songs by clicking here

Comment

The Transformers: The Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Comment

The Transformers: The Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

As a child of the 80s, The Transformers was one of the most amazing franchises that a young boy could be exposed to. In a classic good versus evil story arc, The Transformers transformed our minds and defined what was possible with animation techniques in the early to mid 80s.

I remember as a child receiving an Optimus Prime action figure, complete with his transforming trailer. I was in heaven and despite the toy being primitive by today’s standards, it was truly revolutionary at the time.

Also during that time, the original television series of The Transformers began to air and a couple of years later, Transformers The Movie would be released. I remember being captivated by the film, although I wouldn’t see it until it received commercial television rights in Australia some years later. Interestingly, I don’t recall the soundtrack from the film, but when I saw that Music on Vinyl was getting set to re-issue a limited edition pressing on vinyl, I ordered the soundtrack without being aware of the track listing. It was the collector in me. The artwork is exquisite and being a numbered collectable, well I just had to have that for my collection. Music on Vinyl pressed 1000 numbered editions on transparent blue vinyl. I have number 899 and I believe the other numbered editions are now sold out, although you can still get the re-issue on standard black vinyl.

Streamers will be happy to know the soundtrack is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. It also contains four additional tracks, although one is not currently licensed for streaming. The licensing is such a major problem for soundtracks when they are added to streaming services. The music industry really needs to work on a solution to this problem. All you have to do is look how many songs are missing from Pulp Fiction, to see what the problem is. Seriously, if you can’t put all the tracks on, then perhaps it is best to not release the album on streaming services until agreements are made. Interestingly, in the case of Pulp Fiction, all songs are still permitted for vinyl and CD replication worldwide. Similarly, all tracks are available for sale on iTunes. As a music fan, it is simply frustrating. I wonder if the music executives know that you can stream all the songs, from the soundtrack, on YouTube for free. That’s an argument for another day, but at least in the case of The Transformers soundtrack, all of the songs bar one are included in the streaming option.

I must admit that I love writing these posts, but it is costing me an arm and a leg. In doing some background research I just found that the soundtrack was also re-released for Black Friday – Record Store Day 2015 on a new coloured, and etched, vinyl release that is limited to 5,000 pressings. If I wasn’t such a huge Transformers fan, I might overlook this release, but I must have it. Yes, I’ve already emailed Ben at Goldmine Records to see if he can get it for me. He is ordering a few copies, so get in touch with him If you want a copy.

Over the last couple of years my son has become equally engrossed in The Transformers. Perhaps this is a result of my influence, but it could also be attributed to the release of new films and the exceptional Transformers Prime animated series. It is wonderful to be able to share this passion with him and when the record arrived he was as blown away as I was. As much as I enjoy the album, I think he enjoys it more. We will often sit down in front of the stereo and build Lego together while the album is spinning. It is a father/son moment to be cherished.

The vinyl pressing is exceptional, as are all Music on Vinyl releases. I’ve yet to acquire one that I’m disappointed in. From the outer sleeve to the record itself, it is truly representative of quality and the sonic aspect of the album is exceptional. Similarly, TIDAL Hi-Fi’s edition sounds full and complete while matching the mastering found on the vinyl release. Hence, you simply can’t go wrong with this album. That is unless you’re not an 80s hair metal fan.

Yes, the soundtrack is primarily infused with hairspray and gel, but there is a small part of my heart that loves the 80s hair metal scene. Many of you will likely feel it is corny, and perhaps it is, but the power ballad is a sing-a-long marvel that permits usage of the air guitar. How can that be a bad thing?

Now you may recall, before my ramblings got out of control, that when I ordered the album I had no idea what type of music was on it. I purchased it for the franchise and for the cover artwork. I know many collectors who do the same thing. The artwork looks cool, so I’ll buy it. I must admit I haven’t done that for a while, but surprisingly you tend to become interested in the music if you like the artwork.

The first song The Touch is performed by Stan Bush. It isn’t a bad rock song, but it is just a little too ‘campy’ for my liking.

Instruments Of Destruction is grungy, without being grunge in style. It has a magnificent beat and the guitar elements are exceptionally controlled despite being the type of song where the guitar solo could easily become paramount. However, I love N.R.G.’s vocalist, Les Brown, and the range he has on his voice. He reminds me of Ronnie James Dio.

Death Of Optimus Prime is a somber and classically infused instrumental track that is simply beautiful. While remaining classical, it doesn’t feel out of place on the album. There are certainly symphonic elements that reflect the overall feel of the album thereby encouraging flow.

Dare is another song by Stan Bush. It is thoroughly enjoyable, with a fast beat, but I think Stan Bush has to be the king of ‘campy’ songs.

Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way by Spectre General is an enjoyable song throughout the versus, but the chorus is just too repetitive. That said, it suits the film and franchise perfectly.

The Transformers Theme ROCKS!

Escape is another instrumental track, by Vince DiCola, that despite starting slowly picks up pace with the rest of the album and is the musical equivalent of watching the action depicted in the film.

Hunger is another track from Spectre General and has some killer guitar riffs and guttural vocal tones.

Autobot/Decepticon Battle is self explanatory. It is of course instrumental and works exceptionally well with the album tracking and the film.

The final track on the album is by Weird Al Yankovic and is titled Dare To Be Stupid. I must admit that it took me a few listens to get used to, and enjoy, this track. Nevertheless, if you hear a song often enough, it has the ability to grow on you. This one certainly has! It is a fun track, albeit a little different to the other songs on the album, but not so different that it detracts from the album experience.

While that is the entire track listing on the vinyl re-issue, the TIDAL Hi-Fi version has three additional instrumental tracks. All are relevant to the film, but I am glad they weren’t included on the vinyl re-issue as they would have been out of place with the selection chosen. That said, they are enjoyable to listen to via streaming.

I’d recommend this soundtrack to anyone who enjoys the transformers franchise, or the 80s hair metal rock and roll era. As a compilation it works surprisingly well, with no track that is so lacklustre it prevents enjoyment. 

Comment

The Never Ending Story – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Composers: Klaus Doldinger And Giorgio Moroder)

1 Comment

The Never Ending Story – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Composers: Klaus Doldinger And Giorgio Moroder)

The Never Ending Story is one feature film from my childhood that has stood the test of time. I have thoroughly enjoyed introducing it to my children as it has such a positive message about reading and the subsequent fantasy worlds that can be created by that very act.

Not only do I have the film, and of course the associated soundtrack, but I have the book and have read it a number of times. It simply captivates me and I strongly suggest sourcing a copy if you’re an avid reader.

Despite my appreciation of the franchise, I never thought to purchase the soundtrack. This is a strange omission as I thoroughly enjoy the music from the film and generally gravitate to soundtracks of films I like. It was actually my son who asked, upon seeing the film for the first time, if we could get the soundtrack.

While I definitely wanted to pick up the soundtrack on CD, I also wanted my children to be able to experience the soundtrack immediately, in order to secure their excitement in the franchise. Subsequently, I turned to iTunes/Apple Music and noted that they had the soundtrack available. However, when I began streaming the album, it lacked significantly in dynamic range and was certainly inferior to the average dynamic range of 11 that is found on the CD. It was just flat and lifeless. However, streamers will find that the TIDAL Hi-Fi version sonically matches the CD. That said, it is the same mastering across all variants, so there should be no difference. Perhaps this difference in tonality is due to the use of an inferior codec from when the album was first encoded and released for sale on iTunes. I should note that this iTunes/Apple Music edition is not a Mastered for iTunes release.

Also of note, as a general observation, is the superior audio quality of the film’s Blu-Ray DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track when compared to the CD. Yes, I acknowledge the variation between the formats, but it is significant enough to mention. While the CD is superb, I’d love to get my hands on the soundtrack used in the film.

One of the disappointments I have with the soundtrack is the track listing. The songs are presented out-of-order, in comparison to when they appeared in the film. I’ve no idea why this tracking was chosen, but it certainly requires me to program the CD player, or TIDAL Hi-Fi playlist, to ensure the tracks are presented in the order that best mimics the film. If you have never seen the film, then this is of little concern.

Another concern I have is the naming convention of the soundtrack. The CD soundtrack is presented as The Never Ending Story, but the film is presented, depending on region, as either The Neverending Story with the alternative being The NeverEnding Story. Yet, the book that started it all is simply The Neverending Story. Yes, it confuses me as well. Personally, I don’t have an issue or preference with any of these titling methods, but I would love to see consistency across the franchise. I specifically mention this deviation as it took me a while to find the soundtrack on TIDAL Hi-Fi because they have it listed as The Never Ending Story. TIDAL’s search engine likely needs an overhaul, as iTunes easily found the variant, but it wouldn’t have been an issue if all related elements had the same naming convention.

Despite these small frustrations, the soundtrack offers an enchanting series of instrumental songs that are inspirational and moving. The one vocal track on the album is the Never Ending Story that is sung by Limahl, best known as lead singer of the band Kajagoogoo. The song at its core is pop-synth, truly resonating with the 80s sound of the time. Yes, it is clichéd, but it is still thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. Interestingly, the song really doesn’t sound as dated as many other pop-synth recordings. Although, perhaps it is just nostalgia that keeps this song fresh in my mind.

Proceeding through the track listing and Swamps Of Sadness certainly lives up to its title as the song is demure but bold and uplifting at the same time. Without a doubt it is one of my most favourite tracks, from the soundtrack, as it is moving and the corresponding scenes in the film amplify my connection with the song.

The Ivory Tower is an epic song, but there is a major problem with the edition that is available on the soundtrack. It is not the same edition as the one found in the film. The film showcases the song in a beautiful symphonic presentation that could be appreciated by any classical music fan. Yet, the soundtrack has swapped out this performance for a lacklustre pop-synth edition of the song. Disappointing to say the least! Below are the two different renditions. The first is the original that was presented in the film, while the second video is representative of the edition found on the soundtrack. 

Ruined Landscape is a delightfully sombre piece of music that not only applies to the film, but could be viewed in reflection of many beautiful landscapes that have been destroyed by man’s incessant need for natural resources.

Sleepy Dragon is much more uplifting and the guitar work in this song is exceptionally refined and not overpowering. That said, it is one of the weaker songs on the album and I think it is mainly due to its repetitious style.

Bastian’s Happy Flight is an instrumental song that is simply fun. It truly draws me back into the film, but without that connection I’m not sure the song is strong enough to stand on its own as a classical piece of music.

Fantasia is short but rather atmospheric. While it links in with the film, I would love to have seen an expanded rendition on the album.

Atreju’s Quest is elegant and and strong throughout and is beautifully performed. It is a slow climb and then builds to the ultimate climax, making it one of those songs that could easily be added to any classical movie theme collection.

Theme Of Sadness isn’t so much sad as it is thought provoking. The flute (I believe) is just stunning in its subtleness throughout this song.

Atreju Meets Falkor is a lovely song that gives you the impression of flying, although, that is likely symbolic of the film scene that accompanies it. I could also see this song being perfect for a country drive as the landscape is passing by and you are looking forward to what life holds ahead of you.

Mirrorgate – Southern Oracle is eerie, but captivating. It certainly links well with the associated film scenes, but it doesn’t feel out of place as an instrumental track on its own. Actually, it somewhat reminds me of the style of music that Jean Michel Jarre performs.

Gmork truly could have been left off the album. With a runtime of less than 30 seconds, it is merely present because it applies to a single dramatic scene in the film. If you haven’t seen the movie, you won’t enjoy it.

Moonchild is probably another one that I would say doesn’t add much to the soundtrack, although it is pivotal in the film.  

The Auryn is simply magical. While it isn’t lyrically based, the backing harmonic choir performs the tonal range of the song exceptionally well.

Happy Flight is really a shorter version of Bastian’s Happy Flight. There is certainly nothing wrong with this repetition and I feel it closes the album out nicely.

There is really no reason to omit this album from your collection, but it will likely appeal to those of you who enjoy the film, or are primarily interested in classical and instrumental scores. That said, if you can’t stand continuous shifts in instrumental music styles, then this album may not be for you. However, there are certainly a number of standout tracks that simply must be heard. 

1 Comment

Neil Sedaka – The Very Best Of (CD)

Comment

Neil Sedaka – The Very Best Of (CD)

One of my earliest memories of car journeys was hearing a Neil Sedaka cassette my father owned. Unfortunately, just before turning six, my parents would separate and the Sedaka music would cease, so I’m unsure of which album I was specifically listening to. Although, I do believe that it was a compilation as a number of Sedaka’s greatest hits would frequent the hour-long drive, to the Hawkesbury River, in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan Area.   

As a result of these journeys, Sedaka’s unique vocal delivery would remain ever-present in my mind. As I listened to songs such as Love Will Keep Us Together, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, and Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, I vividly recall being in the backseat of the car looking at either the picturesque landscape passing by, or the stereo cassette player in the car. It had so many buttons, I just wanted to press them all. Thankfully, I’ve never found myself in a recording studio, otherwise I would have likely found a different career path. Buttons, knobs, and dials, they never get old, do they?

While on the surface it may appear upsetting that these songs have negative connotations, relating to the separation of my parents, the music actually doesn’t upset me at all. If anything, it provides a positive memory to that period in time and as I can not recall many occasions when the family was together, this music becomes even more important.

While I love Neil Sedaka’s work, The Very Best Of is the first album of his that I have purchased. There are a plethora of Best Of and Greatest Hits et al releases for Sedaka. So many that I would suggest they would outnumber his still-in-print studio albums. Hence, it can be incredibly difficult to select one that accurately covers his career. I had initially thought that this one did, having looked at the track listing, however the track listing online failed to mention the final seven tracks are compiled into a Live Medley performance that was recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1974. While the performance is enjoyable, I would have much preferred to have these classics songs presented in their original studio recorded format as the medley included: Oh! Carol, Stairway To Heaven, Little Devil, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Next Door To An Angel, and Calendar Girl.

Oh well, I will just have to purchase another collection and see if I can get the originals. I would consider purchasing Sedaka’s individual albums, but collecting his back catalogue is incredibly difficult. Seriously, try and find some officially released Sedaka albums. Certainly in Australia it is near impossible. Even shopping online doesn’t solve the problem as a couple of Sedaka’s releases never saw an official CD release anywhere in the world. The majority of those that did are now out-of-print. Anyway, for now it is a matter of streaming the songs and albums I’m interested in, then buying when possible.

The songs below are a small selection from The Very Best Of Neil Sedaka that I feel highlight his career. I have omitted those songs included in the Medley, despite many of them being amongst my favourites. Although, a couple of the Medley (Live) tracks are also present individually on the CD.

Standing On The Inside highlights Sedaka’s unique vocal style, like no other song in his catalogue.

Love Will Keep Us Together is a song that I just love singing along to. It has a really upbeat style and makes you believe that love is the answer to keeping relationships together. This meaning reminds me of The Beatles song All You Need Is Love.

Solitaire is a magical song that Sedaka portrays wonderfully, although I think I will always consider The Carpenters rendition to be the benchmark for this song.

(I’m A Song) Sing Me is amazing. Not only is Sedaka’s vocal range and tempo fantastic, but I just love the idea that the song is singing a song. That in my opinion is epitome of good song writing.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do is a classic. I love the jovial approach to the introduction of the song that is reminiscent of the 60s style, but the actual song is one of the greatest vocal ballads ever written and recorded in my opinion.

Laughter In The Rain is epic. This style of music I could listen to for hours and never tire. The song just encourages you to sing. Plus, who can forget the magic of that perfectly played saxophone. It truly enhances the song.

The Hungry Years is a terrible song name, but it a beautiful song that you must listen to.

Unfortunately, this CD release isn’t available on any streaming services, but a quick search for Neil Sedaka will help you find a plethora of other releases. I should also add that the before mentioned Medley (Live) is also not available on streaming services and only on this particular release.

If you are interested in picking up this CD, please note the track listing is strange. As mentioned earlier, online websites don't indicate some of his greatest songs are part of the Medley (Live) track. Also, there are at least two other songs on this compilation that are live recordings, but not noted as such.

The liner notes provide a little background on Sedaka’s career, but the booklet is printed on substandard stock and the photographs look like bad scans from the mid-90s. Plus what have they done with the photograph of Neil on the back of the album? It is terribly distorted and there is a heap of space that was never used.

As so many compilations are poorly produced, I really shouldn't be surprised by these issues. All I know is, if I were Neil Sedaka, I would not be pleased with my work being presented in this manner.

The sound quality is acceptable, but the purist in me would like to be able to listen to the original recordings as some of the songs I know so well, have a slightly different tonality to the way I remember them. That said, I may simply be evaluating quality, in this case, by my very own psychoacoustics.

Overall, this album is one that I am glad to own. That said, I wouldn’t recommend it as the best compilation highlighting Sedaka’s career. 

Comment