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Elton John – Farewell Yellow Brick Road (Concert Review)

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Elton John – Farewell Yellow Brick Road (Concert Review)

I recently had the privilege of seeing Elton John in concert for the fourth time. This tour, called “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” is world-wide and goes through 2021. If you ever had any intentions of seeing Elton John live in concert, do it now, as he is retiring from live performances after this tour. A list of tour stops can be found here

I’ve been a huge Elton John fan since (ahem) 1973, with the release of the album “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player,” which gave the world the classic songs, “Daniel” and “Crocodile Rock.” Both songs were performed, as well as 22 more for a rocking and energetic evening of classic Elton John.

Opening the show was “Bennie and the Jets,” which set the tone for the entire evening: the fans went wild and were singing along from the first note. “Bennie” was followed by deep cut “All The Young Girls Love Alice,” exciting for me as it comes from one of my top ten albums of all time, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

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One thing I love about Elton John: he appreciates his audience. He thanked the fans throughout the show, noting that if it weren’t for them, he wouldn’t be there. He also explained the stories behind some of his songs. “Border Song” was covered by Aretha Franklin, which made Elton and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin feel like they would be taken seriously as musicians. “Believe” was important to his work with his AIDS foundation. He also spoke of his hitting rock bottom with drugs, alcohol, and overall bad attitude, and how saying three little words-“I need help”-made all the difference in his life. Again, he expressed appreciation for those people who helped and supported him during his difficult time, and for his fans that have bought his music, merchandise, and most importantly, came to his shows.

Behind Elton was a screen that played videos during some of the songs. I could have done without that, as most of them made no sense and didn’t add anything to the performance. That is, until he played “I’m Still Standing.” Those clips were fun to watch: Elton on the “Muppet Show,” “Simpsons,” and “South Park,” old MTV videos, footage of concerts from the 1970s.

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If you want to hear the hits, Elton has you covered. “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” “Candle In The Wind,” “Bitch Is Back,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” all showcased Elton’s piano skills. As for his vocal skills, he still has it. At almost 72 years old Elton still brings everything he has to his performance.

I remember wanting the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album sooooo bad! Back then the double album cost $6. It took weeks of saving my allowance to have the money to finally buy it. I played it on constant loop; there’s not a bad song on the album. To hear Elton perform “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” was such a thrill for me, as it’s one of my favorites on the album.

During the concert I uploaded some videos to Facebook. A junior high/high school friend of mine was a HUGE Elton John fan, as in, she was a fanatic! I knew those videos would give her a thrill, and her responses to them made it all worthwhile: “OMGGGGGGGG!!” “Are you kidding me?!? He sang that too?!?” “Thank you for posting these!!”

I go to a lot of concerts, and many of the artists or bands I see are in their 60s or 70s. I’ve been asked why I bother seeing someone “so old,” what’s the point when they’ve already reached the pinnacle of their success. The reason is simple: I grew up with those artists. Yes, they’re older, and sometimes they can't hit the high notes like they used to. But they still have it! They bring their talent, charisma, and artistry to their performances. If they didn’t, no one would be paying good money for tickets. I’m afraid that in a few short years my concert going will be limited, as so many of my favorites are retiring. I forget that we all are much older than I think we are!

In just under 3 hours, Elton John sang 24 songs, with the crowd wanting more. There are so many I would have loved to hear: “Empty Garden,” “High Flying Bird,” “Harmony,” “Teacher I Need You,” and “Blues For Baby and Me” for starters. I’m sure if you asked each person in attendance, what they would like to hear, Elton’s entire catalogue would have been covered. Obviously that’s not possible. But if you like Elton John’s hits, you will NOT be disappointed with this show. Check Elton’s website for a show near you, and get tickets as soon as they go on sale. I promise it will be worth your while.

Click here to read other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds. 

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Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (Album Review)

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Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (Album Review)

Despite being an album focused on juvenile sexual innuendos, Muscle Of Love is one of the greatest Alice Cooper albums to ever be released. This would also be the last album featuring the original Alice Cooper band lineup and would not include the master, Bob Ezrin, in the Producer's chair. Nevertheless, Jack Douglas and Jack Richardson did a wonderful job of guiding the album, while allowing creative artistry to flourish.

Yes, many of the songs on Muscle Of Love have never been part of Cooper's live set, at least for many years, but I've always found that with Alice Cooper, the best albums, songs, and performances are not the compilation filling or concert played fan favourites. Therefore, I implore you to give Muscle Of Love, as an album, a shot. I have a feeling you won't regret it.

I know I haven't regretted picking up the Friday Music vinyl re-issue from 2013. While the reissue isn't a perfect replica, sonically it is beautiful with a full analogue sound that will impress even the most hardened critic. I have listened to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams and I have to be completely frank when I say the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition makes me want to cancel my subscription. It sounds incredibly flat and shrill, much like really early CD pressings did, and perhaps TIDAL is using the same master that has yet to be remastered. Yes, Steve Hoffman and Stephen Marsh worked their mastering magic on the Audio Fidelity quadraphonic reissued SACD, but that mastering is not available outside the now increasingly rare and costly SACD pressing. Truth-be-told, I've lusted over that SACD release for some time, as it also includes a standard stereo mix for both SACD and CD layers from the aforementioned mastering engineers, but I get so much enjoyment from the Friday Music vinyl release that I don't feel the need to check it out. While I may have daggers out for the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, the Apple Music stream is beautiful, with a similar mastering to the vinyl record. If there is a difference to report, it would be that the Apple Music stream sounds a little concealed by direct comparison to the vinyl release. What it does show, however, is just because something is portrayed as being lossless, and at CD-quality, that doesn't automatically mean it will be better. Mastering really makes a far more significant difference than higher resolutions.

SIDE I

Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo) not only has a great groove, but that psychedelic undertone is superb. I dare you to sit still, without moving a muscle, during this song, I can't do it. The guitar tracking is divine and the inclusion of the violins perfectly suits the song. Plus, that outro = extraordinary!

Never Been Sold Before is your meat and potatoes rock and roll track. I love it! If I had one complaint, it would be that I'd like to hear a 1 to 2-decibel increase in the bass guitar. Just as the addition of strings to Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo) enhanced that song, the horn element in Never Been Sold Before is fantastic and has a similar effect.

Hard Hearted Alice is a song that slowly builds with a beautiful atmospheric introduction. This is one song where the quadraphonic mix would likely be astonishing, but the vinyl counterpart is no slouch with a soundstage that removes the speakers, creating a spacious sound that has to be heard to be believed.

Crazy Little Child is a fun song. I absolutely adore the piano element and I love the overall New Orleans Jazz feel. I'd love to see Cooper do an entire jazz album, even one full of standards would do. He certainly has the vocal chops for it.

SIDE II

Working Up A Sweat continues the lighthearted approach to the overall theme of the album. It's a solid song, but not one to write home about as I find Cooper’s vocals are a little distant in the mix, although, the music has an addictive and thoroughly enjoyable rhythm.

Muscle Of Love is a killer tune. The guitar intro and drum beat is superb and I find myself playing the air guitar and drums for hours after listening to this song. Exceptional!

Man With The Golden Gun was originally written and recorded for the associated James Bond film but was sadly never used. When you listen to the song, armed with that knowledge, you can immediately hear the James Bond undertones and one can only wonder how the Man With The Golden Gun’s introduction would have differed with this song. Nevertheless, it’s a solid addition to Muscle Of Love and I'm just glad it was released and not shelved as it really is quite enjoyable, even if it’s not the strongest song on the album.

Teenage Lament '74 has remained somewhat of a fan favourite and while I thoroughly enjoy the song, I feel bemused as to its popularity. I guess it just proves that I should never be asked by an artist, or record label, which songs should be released as a single or be played live.

Woman Machine is an interesting song to close the album on. Yes, it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Cooper's catalogue, but I find Woman Machine to be a little repetitive and the outro is a little too much, in my opinion, although I can see the approach Cooper and the band were going for.

Overall, Muscle Of Love is exceptional and is truly one of the best Alice Cooper albums ever recorded. Yes, it helps to have a good mastering of an album and this Friday Music release, that is a prized possession of mine, is said to have been mastered from the original Warner Bros. tapes by Joe Reagoso. After hearing it countless times, I have no reason to doubt Friday Music's claims. It really is THAT good!

Muscle Of Love is available on Vinyl, Quadraphonic SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC) and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Muscle Of Love is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

Click here to read other Alice Cooper reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Album Review)

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Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Album Review)

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road needs no introduction as it is arguably Elton John's greatest commercial achievement. Although, I remain hesitant to call it his greatest recording as I feel that undermines the other incredible recordings he has made throughout his career. It also arbitrarily limits his musical influence to a particular era. Nevertheless, it is one of the greatest albums ever recorded and while I love the 2014 vinyl re-issue, I'm going to be using Greg Penny’s astonishingly good 5.1 Surround Sound DTS-HD Master Audio 24/96kHz edition for this review. The stereo versions of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, are incredible, but they simply can't compare and sound flat by comparison to the surround sound options. My advice is that if you have a good surround sound setup, consider purchasing either the SACD or Blu-ray Audio (High Fidelity Pure Audio – HFPA) release. You won’t regret it!

Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding has to be one of the greatest lead-in songs of any album ever recorded. I absolutely love it and from a surround sound perspective, I’m enveloped in the atmosphere that introduces the song. Exceptional! The soundstage completely surrounds you and each beat is felt with every aspect of your soul. The band is certainly present with you in the room, with John front and center. You will probably get tired of hearing me praise the surround sound mix, but you’ve really never experienced Goodbye Yellow Brick Road until you've been able to listen to it in surround sound. A bold statement, yes, but a true indication of how exceptional this recording and Greg Penny's surround mix is.

Candle In The Wind is pure gold. That piano, that drum beat, that vocal – it leaves me speechless! Even the 1997 version, altered lyrically for Princess Diana's funeral, is beyond reproach. It is a song made in heaven by two extremely talented men. Thank you, Elton and Bernie!

Bennie And The Jets is an awesome song, but I’ve never enjoyed the faux live audience element. However, it is less apparent in the surround sound mix as the audience noise is better positioned, slightly outside the soundstage and in the distance.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is sensational regardless of how you listen to it. The surround sound mix has a significant boost in the drums, resulting in an atmosphere where you can visualise the exact drum or cymbal being hit in the soundstage. In fact, all musical elements are perfectly placed in the soundstage. Pure perfection!

This Song Has No Title follows Goodbye Yellow Brick Road beautifully. It’s a rather raw recording, with no noticeable fanfare, but when you have a vocalist like John, sometimes you don't need much more than a piano and a minor musical accompaniment.

Grey Seal has a fantastic introduction, but I must confess that I’ve never really enjoyed the song. I find it is too shrill and it’s a little all-over-the-place from a composition standpoint.

Similarly, I've never developed a liking for Jamaica Jerk-Off. I won't skip the song, as the album wouldn't be the same without it, I just don't feel reggae and John go well together. Jamaica Jerk-Off sounds as though it was left over from another recording session, rather than being part of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sessions. Unfortunately, it doesn't grow on me the more I listen to it either.

I've Seen That Movie Too is a welcome change and depicts the style and tonality that I identify as being the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album. It's a beautiful ballad, with an incredible soundstage, that thankfully isn't filled with unnecessary elements.

Sweet Painted Lady is a lovely song!

The Ballad Of Danny Bailey (1909-34) isn't my favourite song on the album, but I especially like it in surround sound as it sounds less sonically compressed, allowing the musical elements space to breathe. It has a great rhythm, but on vinyl, or even the high-res stereo mix, it doesn’t work for me. I only mention this as I find it to be an interesting variance that while I can explain my thoughts, I can’t fully comprehend how it is significantly different enough to allow me to appreciate the song.

Dirty Little Girl is an excellent rock song. As I’m listening, I keep thinking how I'd love to hear the Foo Fighters cover this song.

All The Girls Love Alice is a killer rock tune. Maybe the Foo should cover this one! Regardless, it is one of the best songs on the album and one of John’s best.

Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n Roll) is a fun little tune and leads the listener beautifully into one of the greatest songs in rock and roll history; Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.

Roy Rogers slows the album down again and sounds as though it would have been perfectly suited to Tumbleweed Connection. However, it doesn't sound out-of-place on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as it’s a lovely song that relaxes you following the intense pace of Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.

Social Disease is a great pop/rock song with an incredible country music twang. I love it!

Harmony closes the album beautifully, ensuring I’m still interested in listening to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road again. However, with a runtime exceeding 70 minutes, this double album, like all doubles, is difficult to listen to again in quick succession. Honestly, I think the 33.3rpm vinyl record got it right with a total runtime in the vicinity of 44 minutes. Long enough to enjoy, but not too long to tire of.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road deserves the praise it gets, although I maintain that it shouldn’t be singled out as John's major success for his greatness exceeds a single album.

By now, I'm sure stereo aficionados have plenty to say, but having listened to this album in stereo for years, in various formats, the surround sound version is the one that trumps all others. That isn't to say the stereo mix isn't extraordinary, just that the multichannel mix takes the album to another level of appreciation.

Some purists may even question if the artist intended for it to be heard in surround sound. From my perspective, that matters less than the fact that I enjoy the album more due to the multichannel mix. That said, there are times when I much prefer to listen on headphones and the stereo mix is perfectly immersive during those times.

For reference, the stereo mix I prefer on the High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) Blu-ray release is the DTS-HD Master Audio 24/96kHz. The reason for this preference over the Linear PCM (LPCM 24/96kHz) option is due to the fuller low end that is often associated with DTS. However, if I listen to the PCM version, it’s transparent with the vinyl reissue. Both are from the same 2014 remastering sessions, so it is good to see the only core difference is the slight shift in noise between the digital and analogue formats.

The 24/96kHz DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is, however, from the 2003 mastering sessions, making it of course different. While I certainly prefer this mix, as I believe it is the best rendition of the album I have ever heard, don't let that deter your interest in the stereo mixes. Honestly, if I had never purchased the HFPA Blu-ray edition, I would have been extremely happy with my vinyl copy.

While the artwork is beautifully replicated on the HFPA Blu-ray release, it is nothing like holding that trifold release in your hands. I often find myself telling my significant other that I’ll likely sell the vinyl as I prefer the Blu-ray release, but I'm lying to both of us as the artwork is equally important and I can't imagine parting with it.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is available on Vinyl, High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) Blu-ray, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered For iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, you can also enjoy Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on TIDAL Masters (24/96kHz MQA), Spotify and Apple Music.

There are also additional 40th Anniversary releases of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Deluxe Edition/Super Deluxe Edition) that are available to purchase and/or stream.

Click here to read other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (Album Review)

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Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (Album Review)

Bat Out Of Hell is an absolute classic and while there are few that would dismiss its importance to the history of recorded music, most of us would agree that it is a landmark album. It's a shame then that the sonic quality has never really lived up to the hype, but more on that later.

In 1993, Meat Loaf had once again exploded on the world's stage with Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell and the monumentally popular lead single I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). Both would herald my first experiences of Meat Loaf and I was immediately hooked. So much so that the acquisition of the album that started it all was all but guaranteed.

As I played the Bat Out Of Hell cassette, I remember being surprised that an album would have fewer than ten songs. You must remember that this was at the height the CD era when artists and record labels had a tendency to fill the capacity of the CD for no other reason than because they could. Sure, there were some exceptional albums that went for the 74-minute duration, but they were often the exception, rather than the rule. Despite this, I quickly learnt that the song limitations on Bat Out Of Hell were due to the approximate 44-minute runtime of the vinyl LP and the fact that Meat Loaf often defied the radio-friendly runtime. 

Sadly, the cassette no longer exists in my collection. It became a casualty of the MP3 era. Yes, dear reader, I was a bloody idiot! The most unfortunate aspect of this move to digital convenience was that I’ve never been able to find a comparable copy, on any format. While I acknowledge the placebo effect in relation to my memories of how the cassette sounded, I have found that many of the currently available editions lack midrange with excessive treble. It is frustrating and reminds me of my beloved ABBA collection. Some releases are excellent, most are substandard, usually due to varied masters and master tape quality.

A few years ago, I decided to pick up a vinyl release as much for the artwork as the promised return to analog sound. Well, let's just say the CD-quality edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi is significantly better. That's putting it mildly as Lucifer himself wouldn't allow the Simply Vinyl pressing to enter hell. It truly is that bad!

The catalogue number for the aforementioned atrocity is SVLP 0086/82419. Simply Vinyl even had the audacity to claim that it was pressed on Virgin Vinyl, a fact that is a completely inaccurate as the surface noise alone is off the charts. Even recycled vinyl can sound adequate if the record has been mastered and pressed with respect to the limitations of the medium and the original recording. Besides the poor sonic quality, the Simply Vinyl release is pressed so poorly that the lead song, Bat Out Of Hell, starts about a second later than it should.

I could go on and on about how pathetic the pressing is and how much extraneous treble is present. I could also detail how the record lacks soul, drive, and emphasis, not to mention musicality, but I think you get the idea. Simply avoid this pressing at all costs.

As a result, I won’t be using the Simply Vinyl release for this review as it would tarnish my thoughts on the songs themselves. I will subsequently be using the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition as the basis for this review. It still isn’t what I would consider as perfect, but it offers a decent quality that allows me to enjoy Bat Out Of Hell.

Bat Out Of Hell is a killer track to commence the album with. It is the epitome pop/rock opera, along with Paradise By The Dashboard Light of course, and I simply adore it.

You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) has the classic Jim Steinman spoken intro that works well with the song, but I find the musicality in this track to be too campy and rather dated. That is not to say that I dislike it, but this song could have easily come from Abba's catalogue, especially with the backing vocal style. Regardless, once the song gets going, I find it captivating and feel the need to sing-a-long.

Heaven Can Wait is simply gorgeous!

All Revved Up With No Place To Go is a little too jazzy for my liking. Despite that, I don’t dislike the song and will once again belt out every chorus and verse. 

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad is pure Meat Loaf. Just like Heaven Can Wait, I thoroughly enjoy songs that highlight Meat Loaf's vocal presentation. While he’s been criticised in recent years for poor live performances, there is no shame on this track. He knocked it out of the park with Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad; one of my all-time favourites.

Paradise By The Dashboard Light has a reputation that needs no introduction, Pure perfection from a songwriting and musical perspective. It's a shame it lacks midrange while also needing a little boost in the low end. Regardless, it would be in my Top 100 songs of all-time, if I had such a list.

For Crying Out Loud is another of those exceptional vocal-driven tunes that are perfect for Meat Loaf. While we all likely gravitate to the well-known, face-paced, rock tunes on the album, I personally adore this song and the gradual build-up is pure gold. Just as Bat Out Of Hell was the perfect song to begin the album with, For Crying Out Loud is the ultimate closer, encouraging me to listen to the album again and stay within Meat Loaf's catalogue for the rest of the day.

Bat Out Of Hell is one of the greatest albums ever recorded; even if not from a sonic standpoint. While Meat Loaf gets most of the credit, Jim Steinman needs to be remembered as the silent but extremely talented writer that was as important to Meat Loaf’s success as Bernie Taupin was to Elton John. Yes, both Meat Loaf and Elton John have worked with other songwriters, but it could be argued that their best work occurred when working with these key contributors.

Without doubt, I need to source a better original for my physical music collection. I have been considering the Analogue Spark SACD release as it is reported to be very good and amongst the best masterings of the album. However, as I was finalising this review, I noticed that Friday Music has just re-issued the album as a 40th Anniversary Edition on red vinyl. Yes, I’m sceptical of another vinyl edition as well. However, it is important to note that this edition has been mastered by Joe Reagoso and Kevin Gray at RTI. Those names alone are akin to royalty in audiophile circles and based on my prior experience with Friday Music pressings, I’m almost tempted to order a copy.

Do you have a preferred edition of this classic? If so, please let us know in the comments. 

Bat Out Of Hell is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Bat Out Of Hell is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Click here to read other Meat Loaf reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Alice Cooper – Constrictor (Album Review)

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Alice Cooper – Constrictor (Album Review)

Alice Cooper is a musical genius and one of my all-time favourite musicians. As such, I have spent the last couple of years tracking down some of his albums that are harder to come by, certainly in Australia; Constrictor being one of them.

While I would become a life-long Cooper fan following Trash, and the mainstream popularity of the album’s lead single Poison, my mother forbade me from having Alice Cooper in the house. At one stage, when I wanted the Trash album, she called it trash and asked why I would want that kind of trash. She thought it was a clever play on words, I thought it was ridiculous! Thankfully as the rebellious teenage years approached, I had a job and was able to start collecting some of the greatest rock and roll music in history. At no time did I consider these albums to be bad influences and quite frankly I was so captivated by the music that I spent every last cent buying records, rather than spending that same money on illicit substances like so many of my peers.

Subsequently, I encourage my children to have the same passion for music as I do. I also encourage them to never buy a 'clean' version of an album as it is not what the artist intended. I teach them about artistic license and encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experiences. That said, I don't let them listen to Steel Panther (yet), but I won't stop playing one of their records when they enter the room as I believe it encourages unhealthy taboos that can affect their lives. I've come to this conclusion based on years of psychological damage that an overprotective mother imposed on me. Thus far, it has worked wonderfully and my children understand and respect that some music is not yet appropriate for their maturity level. However, it is important to note that just because Katy Perry and Taylor Swift may both have a girl-next-door persona, it doesn’t mean that their songs are any less provocative than that of Alice Cooper and his peers. My children also know there is no such thing as trash music as it is all subjective and one's opinion does not need to meet with the approval of another.

With that in mind, join me as I give you my opinion of Alice Cooper's Constrictor. I'd love to read your own subjective opinions, so feel free to use the comments section below.

Teenage Frankenstein has some gorgeous guitar work. The overall rhythm is addictive as is the catchy lyrical delivery. Let the head-bopping, toe-tapping, and out-of-tune karaoke begin.

Give It Up is an excellent rock and roll song with a vocal presentation that I absolutely adore. The musicality is riff driven and every time I listen to Give It Up, I enter musical heaven.

Thrill My Gorilla keeps the album rocking with a rock/pop sound that is most definitely a byproduct of the 80s. I grew up through the 80s, so I love it! That era of music is very groove based and I’m so happy that Rob Zombie has taken this style, made it his own, and continues the groove-infused rock and roll sound.

Life And Death Of The Party is exceptional! It is one of Cooper's greatest songs, yet you will not see it on any of Cooper's compilations or live recordings (except for the 1989 live album Prince of Darkness). Such a shame, as it really is that good!

Simple Disobedience is awesome!

The World Needs Guts is riff and rhythm heaven. I find myself singing along to this song every time it plays. Yes, I also warm up my air guitar and dance around the house. The World Needs Guts is another exceptional Alice Cooper performance. However, the cymbals are a little concealed in the soundstage and I would prefer them to be more present in the mix.

Trick Bag is a good song, but it’s most certainly a B-side.

Crawlin' returns the album to the overall rhythmic feel heard prior to Trick Bag. It isn't the strongest song on the album, but I couldn't imagine Constrictor without it.

The Great American Success Story has a promising start, but turns the rock and roll down from 11 to 7 as it enters the chorus. It isn't a bad song, but the chorus irritates me. It is simply too campy!

He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask) [Theme from the Motion Picture, "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives") is excellent and a perfect song to close the album with.

I could, and have, listened to Constrictor on repeat for hours on end. While there are a couple of B-sides, I feel Constructor is a very underrated Alice Cooper album and, as such, I hope you will give it a listen as I truly believe it is worth your time.

For this review, I listened to the MCA Records (MCAD-5761) CD. The mastering is a bit of a mixed bag. I like it as it has that warm and fuzzy analogue 80's tape sound, but CD normally has a more clinical tonality. It simply messes with your mind as the analogue and digital streams are being crossed. Personally, I don't mind either tonality, but it is something to note when listening to the album.

From an artwork perspective, I love the cover art. Even with CD-sized graphics, the snake still looks fake! It is frankly comical that way and certainly reminiscent of the Alice Cooper character. What I can't fathom, however, is the use of pink on the rear cover and spine of the CD. I guess all one needs to do is look back at glam rock and professional wrestling in the 80s to remember that pink was the in-colour for hardasses. How fashion and times changed! The liner notes are also printed on an equally questionable yellow, but at least the complete lyrics and production notes are present. It isn’t bothersome, but it just isn't a colour scheme that I have come to expect from Alice Cooper albums. Although, Pretties For You makes me think twice about that statement! Regardless, it is a prized possession in my CD collection and I love it as much for the musicality as I do for the interesting artwork style that beckons me to recall a bygone era of towel hats, short shorts, and long socks, held high with elastic, while wearing sandals. Yes, there are pictures of me from this era, but trust me when I say that nobody needs to see that fashion era again. Nostalgia be damned!

Constrictor is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, you can check out Alice Cooper's Constrictor on Spotify and Apple Music.

Click here to read other Alice Cooper reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Elton John - The Very Best Of Elton John (Compilation Review)

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Elton John - The Very Best Of Elton John (Compilation Review)

Exploring new music can become tiresome. While I have a blast listening to tunes delivered by TIDAL Hi-Fi, I have a respectable physical library and I felt it was about time to get the platter spinning and re-experience the music I know and love with every aspect of my soul.

The Very Best Of Elton John is one album that I have had a love affair with for the last quarter century. Despite the elapsed time, I can still recall the independent music store my mother took me to, when I was about 10, in order to purchase the album. At the time my weekly chore was to vacuum the floors (otherwise known as hovering to our British counterparts). Anyway, I would get two dollars each week and upon saving enough money I would be taken to the Sydney suburb of Beecroft, where in a dark and dingy shopping complex, the music store was located. The name of the store escapes my memory, but it was either so packed or so small, that no more than four people could fit in the store at any given time. Despite that, I knew exactly what I wanted as I had seen advertisements for Elton John's 1990 career perspective compilation, The Very Best Of Elton John, on television.

The record store, thankfully, had a copy of the double cassette and I was blown away, for I had never previously seen a double cassette case. I guess you never forget your first! Back then, even the double CD releases came in the fat double-jewel case. Now, you get the flimsy flip insert that has a tendency to break. They also feel less substantial, for a double cassette or CD was once a valued possession and hefty enough to be a value added proposition for a fan; even if it were all a figment of the imagination.

While I'm not entirely sure what lead me to this compilation and an appreciation of Elton John, I do recall enjoying the song Sacrifice, from John's 1989 album Sleeping With The Past. While I also wanted that cassette, my mother likely pushed me towards the compilation as it not only included Sacrifice, but a selection of the very best songs Elton John ever recorded. Regardless, I wasn’t dissatisfied as The Very Best Of Elton John would receive regular airplay at the Greentree house.

Music has always been an escape for me and it has always been my constant companion. I know many people would roll their eyes at that statement, but music lovers know exactly what I’m talking about. If you give music a chance, it will guide you through a tumultuous and unpredictable life. I truly believe one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is music. Buy them a CD or a vinyl record and let them connect with the music. The other greatest gift is books. Yes, the younger generation primarily streams music, but actually owning music takes the appreciation to another level. Perhaps I’m just becoming an old fool, but I still adore holding the CD or vinyl record as I have an emotional connection with each album in my collection. Okay, so I have an emotional connection to TIDAL Hi-Fi, but only to the service, not really the albums contained within my virtual library. When I truly want to appreciate the album, I buy the CD or vinyl record. Look at it this way, would you be content with an air guitar, or would you prefer to own a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard?

I loved the Elton John compilation so much that my Grandmother ended up buying me the accompanying music video release that would allow me to become even more attached to John and his music. As I’ve mentioned here many times before, my grandmother would often be the one that would encourage my music collection. I assume she saw the solace it gave me and I will be forever grateful. Yes, my mother may have taken me to buy The Very Best Of Elton John, but one day I will tell you the story of how I was banned from listening to Guns N’ Roses and how she forced me to sell not only my beloved Guns N’ Roses collection but my entire music collection.

Unfortunately, both my double cassette and VHS edition of the album had to be sold. While I got reasonable prices for the collection, it never matched the true value I placed on them. All was not lost, however, as I did digitise the double cassette to an MP3 file before sending it on its way. I still have that MP3 file. While the sound is well below par of the quality I generally aim for, it was the only way I could listen to this exceptional release as it had been long out-of-print by the time I could afford to repurchase my collection.

I'm sure some of you are wondering why I never picked up a secondhand edition of the compilation. Well, I'm not a fan of buying secondhand music as it fails to support the music industry and the artist. I also like that new feel and as I am overly protective of my music collection, even the slightest blemish is enough for me to not make a purchase, or return the album for a replacement. Plus, when you see Australia's JB Hi-Fi placing The Beatles In Mono vinyl box set on the store floor, to get kicked repeatedly, you know that many people don't truly care about collecting and appreciating a music collection, certainly not to the same level I do. Honestly, I have never had a scratched CD. The disc goes in the player, then is put straight back into the case. Hold on a second, that isn’t entirely true. I did lend my copy of Linkin Park’s Meteora to a family member that was staying with us for a few weeks. Well, when I got that CD back, it was fucked! Scratches everywhere and jumped on every CD player I owned. I was devastated and I’m still pissed off about it to this day as it was never replaced, nor was an apology ever issued. As a result, I no longer lend out my music. While I can respect that not everyone is as manic as I, these examples are all the justification I need to stay clear of buying secondhand music.

Anyway, some 15 years after losing the compilation of my youth, my significant other surprised me on my birthday with the vinyl re-issue of The Very Best Of Elton John. To say there were tears would be an understatement. Even as I write this paragraph, I can’t control my emotions and the tears are flowing uncontrollably. It is moments like this that remind me why I don't do YouTube reviews. While I have many prized possessions, very few of them impact me in this manner. I’m not generally the type of person to show my emotions, but this album and music, in general, has the tendency to bring my emotions to the surface. Interestingly, I like that person within myself that cries over music, or at the end of a partiality moving film or book. I tend to push him away, but by doing so I am robbing myself of a strangely pleasurable emotive experience.

People are often amazed that I don’t sing out loud to music. Well, I do, just not in the company of others. I like to connect with the music in my own way, but I can assure you I’m on stage and singing my heart out, even if you can’t see it. That said, this is the only album I can think of that has me singing for the entire two hours. I know every lyric and never miss a beat. It is an exceptional release and if I could say only one thing to Elton John it would be: you're a bloody legend! THANK YOU!

I also can’t thank Universal enough for reissuing one of the greatest compilations in history. Yes, John has released a number of other compilations, but I truly love his pre-1990 work the best and while he is still one of the world’s greatest musicians, I can be satisfied with this compilation. Plus, I think we could all agree that John’s pre-1990 songwriting collaboration with Bernie Taupin is unmatched.

Anyway, let’s get to the actual review. 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.

SIDE ONE

Your Song is a superb song to commence this compilation on. While there really isn't a bad song on this release, the easy listening musicality of Your Song is lovely. It’s a basic composition, but one of pure perfection. As is to be expected, John's vocal is beyond reproach. Your Song truly is exceptional!

Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long Long Time) is such an amazing song. My kids love this song, primarily because it was featured in The Big Bang Theory episode “The Friendship Contraction”. Personally, I've always enjoyed this song and felt it is a fundamental foundation of John's classic rock era. This song, on its own, would be exceptional for any artist's career, yet it is just one of many exceptional recordings combining the skills of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Honky Cat is such a fun tune. The rhythm is addictive and the horn elements of the song are perfectly placed. I simply couldn't imagine this compilation without it.

Crocodile Rock has always been a favourite of mine. I simply can't stop singing along to this song. Yes, it’s showing it's age, but good music is good music.

Daniel slows the compilation down a little, never feels out-of-place. Daniel is a beautiful vocal ballad that simply could not have been sung by anyone else.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is an absolute classic!

Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting) is the perfect song to conclude the first side on. It’s energetic and is immediately the type of song that springs to mind when I think of classic rock and roll. I dare you to listen and not sing-a-long, I find it impossible!

SIDE TWO

Candle In The Wind is one of the most beautiful songs ever written and recorded. While the '97 rendition is the original's equal, I tend to come back to this release as my preferred edition. Regardless, as fans, we are very fortunate to have both versions. Thank you, Bernie and Elton!

Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me is a fantastic song. Much like Billy Joel's music, the central focus of the piano is ideal. I truly wish we'd see another true piano-inspired artist in the modern recording era. Perhaps it is simply a case that no-one is able to compete with these exceptional artists, but I feel it has more to do with the production and recording styles of modern music.

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds was an exception Beatles track, but I truly believe John made it his own and subsequently I feel his rendition is superior in all aspects. The comment section is now open for your rebukes.

Philadelphia Freedom is EPIC!

Someone Saved My Life Tonight is one of my all-time favourite Elton John songs. It is a lovely vocal ballad with a perfect balance and overall composition. I absolutely love the sonic build up and John's vocals are simply gorgeous. Songs like this remind me why I love music so much.

SIDE THREE

Don't Go Breaking My Heart is a good duet with Kiki Dee, but I can't help but wonder what the song would have sounded like with Dusty Springfield on vocals. We will likely never know as that version was rejected. Regardless, Don't Go Breaking My Heart is a fun song and a fan favourite.

Bennie And The Jets has an incredible soundstage and is a stellar performance, although John's vocal isn’t as clear on this song as it is on the other tracks. Despite this, the song works incredibly well and is always a pleasure to listen to.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word is nothing short of the literal truth. It is a beautiful song and I dare say many of us have utilised this song when things with our significant others aren’t going to plan. John's vocal performance is beyond reproach. Absolutely magnificent!

Song For Guy is a lovely instrumental-based song. Unfortunately, my vinyl record has a pressing fault that results in a dropout upon each rotation. It’s a shame, but that is simply one of the issues you must learn to live with when collecting and appreciating vinyl. Other than that, the pressing is superb and I've yet to hear anyone else raise it as an issue, so it may just be my copy. Yes, I can confirm my record is clean. I'm kind of anal about that stuff.

Part Time Love is a great song and the dropout that plagued Song For Guy is gone. Part Time Love has aged musically, but it is still fun with plenty of energy. I love it!

Blue Eyes sees John sing in a much lower register than normal. While it works extremely well, I'm glad it wasn't his chosen vocal style for all songs.

I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues is simply fantastic!

SIDE FOUR

I’m Still Standing is one of my daughter's favourite songs as it was covered by Taron Egerton in the film Sing. As I’m writing this review, she has been listening to the original all day. Thank you, Universal for including the MP3 download code! That said, I'm Still Standing is a song I don't tire of, although the tiny speakers in my daughter’s iMac are starting to drive me nuts. Yes, I’ve given her better speakers, but she never uses them. Truth-be-told, I remember playing this song over and over and over and over…you get the idea. It is addictive and truly awesome!

Kiss The Bride is one of the greatest songs ever recorded!

Sad Songs (Say So Much) is a groovy song that isn't sad at all. I Love it!

Whispers was a bit of a shock when I first listened to the record as the tracking of the Australian release had Passengers in its place. Whispers is a great song, but Passengers just feels right. Given the number of times I heard the cassette, I don't know if I will ever get used to hearing Whispers after Sad Songs (Say So Much). That said, it really is a great song and is worthy of inclusion on this compilation.

Nikita has always been a favourite of mine, yet I've always been at a loss to explain why it is so compelling. I just know I enjoy it. Sometimes that is all you need.

Sacrifice is one of my favourite Elton John songs. The vocal delivery, musicality, and overall performance make this song a memorable experience.

You Gotta Love Someone is the perfect song to conclude the album with. It is uplifting and compels me to listen to the compilation again; two hours of Elton John is simply not enough!

Without a doubt, The Very Best Of Elton John is just that. It doesn't get any better than this!

Unfortunately, the re-issued vinyl compilation is difficult to pick up new, but if you don't mind buying secondhand, there are a few available on Discogs. At the time of publication, there are also a couple of copies that are listed as new and sealed.

Click here to read other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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