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Lionel Ritchie – Dancing On The Ceiling (Album Review)

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Lionel Ritchie – Dancing On The Ceiling (Album Review)

The 80s were in full swing by the time Lionel Richie’s third solo album, following his exceptional Can’t Slow Down, was released in 1986, yet nothing about Dancing On The Ceiling sounds locked to the era as the album remains as fresh today as the day it was released. 

Dancing On The Ceiling is a great opener, although I would have preferred it without the non-musical intro as the song gets straight into the synthesised beat that is incredibly addictive. Without a doubt, you’ll find me dancing and singing along to this track when no one is watching. If only I could somehow manage to dance on the ceiling! 

Released as the first single from the album, Dancing On The Ceiling performed well in the charts, reaching the Top 10 in most regions, and while the music video is delivered in a classic cringeworthy 80s-style, there’s something strangely compelling about it that makes you want to watch it over and over again. 

Se La has a killer reggae style and you would be forgiven if you hear a little Bob Marley in this track. That said, it is perfectly suited to Richie and is a very enjoyable song to listen to, especially if you enjoy reggae music. It’s certainly one of my favourite songs on the album.

Ballerina Girl is one of Richie’s most beautiful songs. Penned by himself, for his adopted daughter Nicole, you can’t help but be moved as you listen to Richie’s smooth tones and the love he has in his heart. This is one time when the literal meaning of a song comes to the forefront of consciousness and captivates my soul. It’s one of my favourite Lionel Richie songs by far. I’d love to see him do a concert with a symphony orchestra backing as this song, in particular, would be extraordinary. 

Don’t Stop has a great rhythm, once you get over the shock from the smooth and relaxing Ballerina Girl of course. Seriously, it is perhaps one of the worst cases of bad tracking I’ve ever come across. Especially considering it is the last song on Side A of the vinyl release. All I can think is that Deep River Woman would have been the perfect closer for the first side and would have flowed beautifully from Ballerina Girl. While Don’t Stop isn’t necessarily bad, it isn’t good either as it’s too long and just doesn’t fit, sonically, well on Dancing On The Ceiling. As a song on its own, I can see the appeal. Perhaps it should have been a B-side to one of the singles or left off the album completely. Nevertheless, it is part of the album and while I have mixed feelings about it, I also acknowledge that Dancing On The Ceiling wouldn’t sound the same without it. 

Deep River Woman is a gorgeous tune that really strips down the musicality and allows Richie’s extraordinary vocal presentation to be the focus of the song. I also find the inclusion of the country and southern rock band, Alabama, on backing vocals is the ultimate addition to the album and truly makes the song something greater than the sum of its parts. Similar, in many cases, to the interweaving harmony that made the Eagles so successful. Sadly, however, Deep River Woman failed to chart successfully. That, alone, perplexes me and makes me think that I’ll never truly understand the likes and dislikes of mainstream music audiences. 

Richie would later re-record the song with Little Big Town on his reimagined country-styled compilation album Tuskegee. It’s a great rendition, but nothing beats the original in my opinion.   

Love Will Conquer All is an incredible song. That intermingling vocal harmony in the chorus. That rhythm. It really is the complete package and Marva King takes Love Will Conquer All to another level with some absolutely gorgeous backing vocals. Absolutely brilliant!

Tonight Will Be Alright is a solid B-side. Nothing to write home about, but enjoyable. I would like to have heard this sung in a Neil Diamond style; in fact, I’d love to hear Neil Diamond cover it. That said, I just feel it needed a little more spit and polish in order to really blow my mind.  

Say You, Say Me is the song. It needs no introduction and nothing really needs to be said about it other than it’s utterly perfect. 

The reimagined version, as found on Tuskegee, doesn’t have the vocal or musical prowess as heard in the original and while it is good, the original is beyond reproach. 

Night Train (Smooth Alligator) gives me a feeling of déjà vu. Oh, that’s right, Side A had a questionable closing song as well. That said, the original vinyl releases omitted this song with it only appearing on the cassette and CD releases. Unfortunately, the latest vinyl reissues do include this ninth song and it has ruined the ending of Dancing On The Ceiling in my opinion. Hence, as much as I’d like to pick up a vinyl reissue of the album, I won’t be as long as they continue putting Night Train (Smooth Alligator) on the vinyl pressing. Look, it isn’t a bad song but Say You, Say Me was the perfect closer and if this song was to be included, it should have been done so before Say You, Say Me. Unfortunately, adding additional tracks was a thing that was done at the time. The only time I’ve come across a bonus track, that I wished was on the original cassette or vinyl release, was Michael Jackson’s Leave Me Alone; a song only initially available on the CD release of Bad

Despite this questionable closer, Dancing On The Ceiling is, without a doubt, one of the greatest R&B/Soul/Pop albums of the 80s and is arguably the very best work of Richie’s career. Yes, I love Can’t Slow Down as well, but I find Dancing On The Ceiling to be more fulfilling as a piece of musical art. I also find that I gravitate towards it more frequently and when I play Dancing On The Ceiling, it’s guaranteed to be played on repeat for hours.

Dancing On The Ceiling thankfully remains easily accessible, being available on Apple Music (Original | 2003 Reissue) and the iTunes Store (Original | 2003 Reissue). If you prefer physical media, you can pick up the 2003 extended reissue on CD or the standard nine-track vinyl reissue.

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Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You (Album Review)

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Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You (Album Review)

Nina Simone had one of the most distinctive voices in recorded music history. Her skill and control over her vocal delivery showed no bounds and no truer is that statement than when listening to her opus I Put A Spell On You. There is not a bad song to be heard and it really is a case of discussing which of the 12 songs is better than all the others.

Adding to this musical brilliance is the fact that I've been enjoying I Put A Spell On You at 24/96kHz on the High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) Blu-ray format. To call this pressing immaculate would be a gross understatement. I have listened to the counterpart on Apple Music and TIDAL Hi-Fi and while the recording is largely transparent on those services, they lack a level of smoothness and relaxation when compared directly against the HFPA release. Yes, I've also listened to the MQA edition and while nice, it’s still too harsh for my liking. The HFPA release has incredible detail, minus the harshness found via other formats, and sounds extraordinary via both my main stereo set-up and headphones. For those of you who are interested, for this HFPA release, I prefer to listen to the album in the PCM format, rather than my preferred DTS-HD Master Audio format. I simply find that the original recording doesn’t need the additional low end that the DTS-HD Master Audio mix provides.

The HFPA format releases are sourced from the master tapes and this is one release where the tape qualities have been maintained throughout the digitisation process. While a little tape noise and analogue playback artefacts may deter digital purists, I love it as it takes me into the studio. If I close my eyes and focus only on the music, I'm experiencing my own personal concert with Simone and it is an experience that is astonishingly satisfying. That all said, the core performance does translate to the other formats, but the HFPA edition takes the recording to another level, especially if you have stereo equipment capable of taking advantage of high-resolution audio. For those that don't, or aren't interested in going to these lengths, may I suggest the Apple Music edition that is Mastered for iTunes. As I have listened to the album on many of the available formats, that is the one closest to the HFPA sound signature in my opinion.

I Put A Spell On You is as much a Nina Simone song as it is a Screamin' Jay Hawkins’ classic. However, while Hawkins may have recorded the original, I doubt there would be many who would proclaim his rendition as being superior to Simone's. I also love the Creedence Clearwater Revival interpretation as it takes cues from both Hawkins and Simone and if you want to take the song up a notch, on the metal-infused dial, you could always listen to Marilyn Manson's rendition, as featured on Smells Like Children. Regardless of how you wish to appreciate this song, a plethora of musicians have covered the song well, but I always return to Simone's rendition as being the definitive recording of the song. She made it her own and I doubt anyone will ever be able to top it.

Tomorrow Is My Turn is a lovely song. You really get a sense of the vocal control Simone has, especially on the fast, yet clear and soft, lyrical aspects of the song. By the way, is it just me or does this song sound as though it was taken straight out of a 007 James Bond flick?

Ne Me Quitte Pas is spectacular!

Marriage Is For Old Folks is witty and incredibly entertaining to listen to. Seriously, if you don't have a smile on your face when listening to this song, you're taking life too seriously. It’s a fantastic tune and perfectly suited to Simone, especially the doo, doo, dooo, de-doo lyrics.

July Tree is a lovely song that while not a classic, is a beautiful addition to the album.

Gimme Some picks up the pace with an addictive rhythm that will have you head-bopping and toe-tapping from the very first note. Plus, that Little Richard inspired vocal growl, that Simone includes, is incredible.

Feeling Good is astonishingly good! Again, Simone's rendition is arguably the greatest to have ever been recorded, but as I've mentioned before, George Michael did perform it beautifully.

One September Day is a thoroughly relaxing track that again shows the control Simone had over her vocal delivery. Remember, this was recorded in 1965, long before Auto-Tuning vocals was a thing. Yes, dear reader, this is what a truly talented vocalist sounds like.

Blues On Purpose is a fun little song with a solid mix of blues and jazz that will appeal to just about any music lover. While Blues On Purpose is an instrumental track, Simone plays the piano sufficiently, as she did throughout the entire album.

Beautiful Land is an interesting song that I find to be rather compelling, yet I'm unsure if I actually like the song or not. It isn't bad, it's just a little left of the centre.

You've Got To Learn is a beautiful tune.

Take Care Of Business is a superb song to close the album on and ensures I’ll stay within Simone's back catalogue while longing to play I Put A Spell On You again.

I Put A Spell On You is pure perfection from start to finish. If there were a criticism to be made, it would be that the album is too short, with a runtime of approximately 34 minutes. However, that weakness is also its greatest strength for the filler tracks that are known and loathed are nowhere to be seen. It plays like a well-curated greatest hits compilation would.

Nina Simone was one of the greats, and will always be one of them, for the musical skill she possessed is a rare occurrence that even the greatest modern day vocalists can only aspire to. There is little doubt she has put a spell on me, I hope you are equally spellbound by I Put A Spell On You.

I Put A Spell On You is available on Vinyl, High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) Blu-ray, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, I Put A Spell On You is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi (MQA or CD-quality), Apple Music, and Spotify.

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Aaron Neville – Warm Your Heart (Album Review)

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Aaron Neville – Warm Your Heart (Album Review)

At this time of year, my significant other starts to ask me what I'd like for the silly season. While my imagination runs wild, we’ve had a few unexpected expenses in the second half of 2018 and rather than aiming high, I thought it would be great to pick up a couple of SACDs that I’ve been longing for. As I was browsing the available titles at Birdland Records, I came upon an artist I love, but one that I haven't got extensive experience with. The first time Aaron Neville appeared on my radar was following the release of the exceptional Bodyguard soundtrack. Neville’s collaboration with Kenny G, on Even If My Heart Would Break, is nothing short of spectacular. Since then, I've always listened out for Neville's uniquely soulful vocals, but other than enjoying his career perspective releases, I haven't taken the time to listen to his albums in full. That all changed when I saw a hybrid SACD edition of his 1991 release, Warm Your Heart. I just knew I had to check it out, but as the SACD edition is rather expensive, I turned to TIDAL Hi-Fi and was blown away.

Sonically, Warm Your Heart is one of the greatest recorded, mixed, and mastered albums I have ever heard. The original CD pressing is said to have an astonishing dynamic range peaking at 17 out of 20, with an average of 15. While numbers don't always provide an accurate representation of quality, I can say that the soundstage is massive with all elements clearly positioned throughout. Plus, I actually want to turn the volume up, rather than down, as there is no brickwalling of the sound to be heard. The simple fact is, this is digital done right. Even the Apple Music counterpart, played via Apple's AirPods, maintains the sonic brilliance. I also find that I want to just sit and listen, for hours on end. It’s spectacular!

By comparison, yesterday I listened to the Tony Bennett and Diana Krall album, Love Is Here To Stay. I had high hopes, especially as Krall's productions are always beyond reproach, but the album fell flat from both a dynamic and excitement standpoint. It sounded concealed and I found myself distracted throughout. Yes, there were a couple of nice tracks, but it was the lacklustre production values that deterred my interest. Love Is Here To Stay is said to have an average dynamic range of 9 out of a possible 20, with a peak of 11. Again, numbers don't tell the entire story, but they are good for comparison and when you have Bennett and Krall together, you expect something spectacular. I still have to listen to the MQA edition of Love Is Here To Stay to see if the master is any better than the CD, but I’m not going to hold my breath as I feel the overall sound signature and style was decided during the recording and mixing process.

Regardless, you'd be hard pressed to find a better album, from any artist, as Warm Your Heart is nothing short of pure perfection. Of course, your feelings may differ to mine, so let’s examine the songs individually shall we?

Louisiana 1927 is a lovely song and a perfect introduction to the body of work that is Warm Your Heart.

Everybody Plays The Fool has a fantastic mix of soul and funk. When I listen to this song, I'm reminded of Barry Gibb as Neville can get awfully close to Gibb’s falsetto vocal style. I also think of Bob Marley when this song comes on. I adore this song and the correlations with other artists that arise in my mind as I’m listening.

It Feels Like Rain is simply gorgeous. Just listen and you’ll hear incredible musical detail. Every element is transparent and nothing is concealed. This is how music should sound!

Somewhere Somebody has a killer groove that is so perfectly recorded, you can turn off any equaliser settings you may be using and enjoy the song as it was intended to be heard.

Don't Go Please Stay is a beautiful song with a gorgeous classical overlay in both the vocal and instrumental backing.

With You In Mind is astonishingly good.

That's The Way She Loves is one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded, by any artist. It is THAT good!

Angola Bound, despite a 30-second relaxed intro, is a little jolting after That's The Way She Loves. It doesn't take away from the groove and enjoyment of listening to Angola Bound, but if I were doing the album tracking, I’d likely have placed Angola Bound in a different position, perhaps following Everybody Plays The Fool.

Close Your Eyes is a beautiful duet with Linda Ronstadt. Ronstadt was also the producer of the entire album; she did a fantastic job!

La Vie Dansante is a lovely tune, with an exceptional backing vocal track. This combination is beyond reproach as the vocal styles are perfectly complementary, thereby creating a sonic masterpiece.

Warm Your Heart is a solid track, but perhaps not one to write home about. It suits the album well, however.

I Bid You Goodnight is a beautiful vocal-focused ballad.

Ave Maria needs no introduction. It's an absolute classic and Neville pays respect to the song while making it his own. It's one of my all-time favourite songs and I absolutely adore this interpretation.

House On A Hill is a toe-tapping, head-bopping, song that is slightly jolting following the relaxed nature of Ave Maria, but it is so good that I don't mind the shifting style. That said, this is another song that may have benefited from a re-tracking of the album. As the final song on the album, however, it compels me to listen to the album again and stay within Neville's catalogue.

Warm Your Heart is superb from start to finish and should be in every music lovers collection, mine included.

Warm Your Heart is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Warm Your Heart is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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(Was) Not Was – (The Woodwork) Squeaks [Compilation Review]

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(Was) Not Was – (The Woodwork) Squeaks [Compilation Review]

Every now and then I'll browse the library of albums that I’ve saved to my TIDAL Hi-Fi collection. Amongst the thousands saved, I'll inevitably come across a few that make me wonder just how they got there. (The Woodwork) Squeaks by (Was) Not Was certainly falls into that category and upon the first listen, I'm still unsure as to why I saved it. However, upon subsequent listens, the compilation has grown on me, so much so that it leaves me feeling compelled to listen to the compilation again and again.

From my perspective, it is interesting that I saved a collection of remixes and B-sides, as (The Woodwork) Squeaks was the first (Was) Not Was album I ever listened to. Generally, I prefer the core studio releases as a starting point. Nevertheless, I'm thoroughly enjoying this compilation and I invite you to put on your boogie shoes for this review as I have a feeling you're going to need them.

Tell Me That I'm Dreaming (Traditional 12" Remix) has a compelling boogie groove that almost instantly gets you into the music, if only the first few seconds were more compelling. You'll notice throughout this review that I won't contrast a remix with the original song. This is done purposely as I’ve not heard the original recordings. In some ways, that can be a good thing as my subjective opinion isn't clouded. Regardless, Tell Me That I'm Dreaming (Traditional 12" Remix) is a great song to commence this compilation with.

Out Come The Freaks (Predominantly Funk Version) is a great, albeit it lengthy, funk-based song. Remixes do have the tendency to drag on but at no time do I feel this remix needs to be shortened. In fact, it's so good that I could listen to it on repeat for hours at a time.

Wheel Me Out (Classic 12" Version) has a sonically rough introduction that doesn't flow on well from Out Come The Freaks (Predominantly Funk Version). That said, there are some elements in this song that I enjoy, but I have to acknowledge, for the most part, that I find this track to be tedious.

(Return To The Valley Of) Out Come The Freaks (Extended Version) is a great song with a sensational tempo. I love it!

Hello Operator (Classic 12" Version) has a glorious horn section that is so pure it sounds as though you were in the studio while the song was being recorded. Hello Operator (Classic 12" Version), besides starting out slow, is a hell of a good song and I adore that lyrical delivery.

Dance Or Die (From Sweet Pea Atkinson Album) is a killer song. You won't be able to stay still while this track is playing, so you have my permission to take a break from reading this review. Get up and boogie, I’m sure you'll thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Tell Me That I’m Dreaming (Souped Up Version) / Out Come The Freaks (Dub Version) is a great track that reminds me of Grace Jones and her style on the Nightclubbing album. That said, the transition between Tell Me I’m Dreaming (Souped Up Version) and Out Come The Freaks (Dub Version) isn't entirely seamless and the songs could very well have remained separate. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoy this track.

Out Come The Freaks (Classic 12" Version) is a great addition to this compilation, but it arguably isn't the greatest version of Out Come The Freaks.

(Stuck Inside Of Detroit With) Out Come The Freaks (Again) has an incredible rhythm that you can really connect with.

As someone with two left feet, White People Can't Dance is certainly the song for me. Although, when no-one is watching, I have "the moves". I love this song and it compels me to listen to the album again and explore the entire (Was) Not Was catalogue.

Sonically, the stream from TIDAL Hi-Fi is beautiful, with every musical element positioned perfectly. It’s really all anyone would need. While (The Woodwork) Squeaks hasn’t been re-issued on any physical media, recently, I feel content with this album being part of my digital streaming collection as it is, subjectively, not quite to the standard where I feel willing to outlay additional cash to pick up a copy. That isn’t a negative reflection on the compilation, just an acknowledgement that I don’t have an endless supply of cash and one has to carefully choose albums, especially considering the often inflated prices of re-issued vinyl. This is, yet, another benefit of music streaming as it allows for exploration and enjoyment without commitment.

(The Woodwork) Squeaks can be purchased on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, (The Woodwork) Squeaks is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Prince – Batman (Soundtrack Review)

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Prince – Batman (Soundtrack Review)

For as long as I can remember, I have had a love/hate relationship with Prince. Most of his music I appreciate, but not all of it connects with me on an emotional level. However, my opinions began to change as I explored his extensive catalogue. Following his passing, I also found I was listening to more of his work and many of the albums that didn’t appeal to me were fast becoming staples of my Prince collection. For instance, I’m happy to go on record and state that I never really liked Purple Rain. It wasn’t until I heard the 2015 Paisley Park remastered edition, delivered in MQA, that I fell in love with the album. I know how insane it sounds, but this remaster spoke to me and this edition of Purple Rain is now one of my most beloved albums. What this says to me is to keep listening. What you may have disliked years ago, you may love today. Plus, you have my permission to be fickle. I know I am!

I remember a high school friend who was an avid Prince fan and actively encouraged me to take a greater interest. At the time I was heavily invested in Michael Jackson's music and diversification wasn't of key importance. That same friend had a DCC (Digital Compact Cassette) player and the associated Prince albums: Purple Rain and Diamonds And Pearls. I was so jealous as I had desperately wanted a DCC portable cassette player, but that wasn’t to be and the format sadly didn’t last long either. Perhaps it was my envy that prevented me from fully connecting with Prince, although I have always loved Diamonds And Pearls. The other plausible reasoning could be that I once had the philosophy that in order to like Guns N’ Roses, you couldn’t like Nirvana. Similarly, you couldn’t be a fan of The Beatles and Elvis. Hence, if you were a Michael Jackson fan, you couldn’t be a fan of Prince as well. Honestly, what was my teenage mind telling me? While I have no exact answer for my naivety, I dare say growing up below the poverty line would have resulted in these thoughts becoming justifications so that I would not be disappointed in my inability to explore other interesting music. We are truly blessed to have access to so much music at an affordable price. While numerous people complain about the cost of streaming services, Spotify gives a reasonable, albeit sonically inferior, free service. That said, I frankly feel that streaming services don’t charge enough for the incredible catalogue of music we have access to. Most services charge about the same price as Netflix, yet with music you get access to nearly everything ever recorded. Netflix, by comparison, gives us a mere fraction of all of the recorded film and television. Interesting, huh?

While Prince may have been destined to sit on the sidelines of my music appreciation, for a number of decades, I did own Prince's Batman soundtrack on cassette. I don’t recall when, or how, I acquired the cassette, but I remember seeing the 1989 Batman film on my 10th birthday. Actually, I was unable to see it on the actual day as the cinema was completely booked out. Yes, that used to actually happen. You must remember, this was the era before the Internet and on-demand media. At the time it seemed to take years for these films to make it to home video as it had to be aired on television first. While I look back on this period and wonder how we tolerated life at such slow pace, I can't help but admit that I'm a little envious of the past we left behind as I find that I am less excited about films, television shows, books, and music in modern society because everything is available, somewhere, at the click of a button. I often find myself suffering information overload and am intrigued with individuals that go off the Internet grid, even for a short period of time. The Internet, my friends, is both a blessing and a curse.

As always, I digress, but when you think how recent the non-connected era was, in human society, it blows my mind that things have changed so significantly. What hasn't changed, however, is the exceptional album that is Prince's Batman soundtrack.

The Future has an incredible rhythm that is addictive and will get your body moving. The inclusion of spoken film elements link the album to the film, rather than simply being representative of a stand-alone Price album with film branding. The Future, as much of the entire soundtrack, is significantly synth driven. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it works perfectly for the film and recording era. Plus, to be completely honest, I don’t feel this album has aged at all.

Electric Chair is a killer rock song that shows just how diverse Prince was. It is, without a doubt, one of Prince's greatest recordings and his guitar riffing is nothing short of extraordinary!

The Arms Of Orion opens with a sonic signature that instantly reminds me of the haunting score from The Dark Crystal. However, after these first notes have elapsed, the song opens with a beautiful duet with Sheena Easton. The musicality is off-the-charts and I adore the instrumental ending.

Partyman is featured prominently in the film and was perfect for the associated scene. The song is excellent, but I can’t help wonder if I class it in the manner because it evokes the film’s scene in my mind. I guess it really doesn’t matter as I thoroughly enjoy the song. Sometimes it is best to not look too deeply into the reason behind interests.

Vicki Waiting has a great beat and while very enjoyable, is nothing to write home about.

Trust has a fast upbeat pop/rock feel to it that is rather unique. It is indicative of Prince and was also featured in a key film sequence. As I love both the film and the song, this is subjectively an excellent song that I could listen, and sing-a-long to, for hours on end.

Lemon Crush has a rhythm that will ensure your body moves impulsively. As with all the songs on the album, the musicality is excellent and Prince once again proved why he was one of the greatest guitarists and most talented musicians in the world. Exceptional!

Scandalous is one of the most gorgeous songs ever recorded. Prince nailed it!

Batdance is a fun remix-style song that integrates many film elements into the song. However, while the musical elements certainly confirm this to be a Prince song, I have always felt it feels out-of-place with the soundtrack and Prince's overall style. Despite this, I feel compelled to listen to the soundtrack again and stay within Prince's catalogue.

Overall, Prince's Batman soundtrack is one of the best recordings he ever made. If I had such a list, it would be amongst my top 10 soundtracks of all time.

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

Danny Elfman also produced a sensational score for the 1989 Batman film. That album is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes. You can also stream it on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

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Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!” (Album Review)

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Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!” (Album Review)

Video killed the radio star because of the visual connection that one could have with their favourite artist. In a similar manner, the vinyl resurgence has once again shown that imagery is an essential element to the consumption, appreciation, and perceived ownership of music. I refer to this as I came across Childish Gambino's "Awaken, My Love!" in a list of upcoming vinyl releases. I was immediately captivated by the visually stunning artwork and knew that if the music was to my liking, a purchase of the Virtual Reality Limited Vinyl edition would be inevitable.

Me And Your Mama is a glorious song that is beautifully atmospheric, yet the composition is not over-the-top. I also love the Kravitz inspired rock aspects that appear midway through the song. Me And Your Mama is a musical masterpiece that you simply must listen to.

Have Some Love is a song that tracks well in the album format, yet my soul is just not connecting with it. I feel this dichotomy because of the vocal overlapping, resulting in a sonic presentation that sounds a little too campy for my liking.

Boogieman has a very compelling rhythmic core that is sure to get your head bopping and toe tapping. Subjectively, I would like to see more development of the low-end frequencies as I feel it focuses on the midrange a little too heavily. Nevertheless, Boogieman is exceptional and this track alone is all the justification one needs for owning the album. It has a Motown vibe, mixed with a little world music inspiration and a touch of Steve Wonder.

Zombies is an enjoyable song, but it is let down by an underwhelming lyrical performance. That said, the instrumental aspects ensure that Zombies is a valued addition to the album.

Riot reminds me of a style that Lenny Kravitz occasionally adopted. The song is somewhat chaotic as it isn’t sure if it should be in the Rock, Hip Hop, or R&B genre. It is in this confused state that I find a dislike for the song, yet I also find it to be strangely compelling. Let’s just say that it’s not filler, but it isn’t a standout track either.

Redbone has a killer groove and exceptional vocal performance that is presented with a gritty exterior, but a soulful interior. It instantly reminds me of Prince and that isn't a bad thing. Redbone is full of spit and polish that will appeal to any music lover. It is absolutely incredible!

California has way too much vocal distortion; thank you Auto-Tune! I can appreciate the artistic approach, but this song is what I call filler as I don't feel that it adds substantially to the album.

Terrified has numerous stylistic influences, yet it remains fresh and hypnotically addictive. It is yet another exceptional song on a must own album.

Baby Boy has a glorious vocal and instrumental soundstage that reminds me instantly of the “The Motown Sound”, albeit in a modern context.

The Night Me And Your Mama Met has an acoustic and A cappella feel. I Love it! The vocal harmonies are simply gorgeous, as is the inclusion of the electric guitar. On paper, this combination just shouldn't work, but as I listen to this track all that crosses my mind is sonic perfection.

Stand Tall showcases how spectacular Gambino's vocal delivery is and, no, I'm not referring to the artistic elements in the song that clearly have been modified for effect by overusing Auto-Tune. As the final song on the album, it compels me to listen to this masterpiece again and again.

Overall, "Awaken, My Love!" is another album reminding me that exceptional musical performances, in the modern era, is not only a reality but an opportunity to squash naysayers that declare good music ended with the 70s. I say that as one of those very individuals and I can't begin to tell you how elated I am at being proven wrong.

This review was based on listening to the Spotify Premium edition at 320 kbps in the Ogg Vorbis format. The mastering is superb and while I would welcome the release of the album in TIDAL Hi-Fi's CD-quality, I honestly wouldn’t have enjoyed the album any more than I already have.

"Awaken, My Love!" is also available for purchase on Vinyl, CD and iTunes. You can also stream it on Apple Music

Ultimately, the production, recording, and mastering quality of "Awaken, My Love!" encourages me to pick up the Virtual Reality Limited Vinyl edition. Most importantly, however, I truly love the music and feel it is more revolutionary than evolutionary.

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