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The James Valentine Quartet – As I Live And Breathe (Album Review)

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The James Valentine Quartet – As I Live And Breathe (Album Review)

Nothing pleases me more than sitting down with a good book, a coffee, and some smooth jazz playing in the background. While the coffee was black and the book was Yuval Noah Harari’s exceptional 21 Lessons For The 21st Century, the musical accompaniment was provided by The James Valentine Quarter’s As I Live And Breathe

As I Live And Breathe is an interesting addition to jazz music in general, but also the Australian Jazz scene, as James Valentine and his jazzy cohorts don’t merely interpret the jazz classics of yesteryear, they reinterpret many popular modern songs that results in an extremely compelling recording that all jazz lovers should not only adore but should have in their collection. 

Released by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)/Universal Music Australia in 2014, international readers may find it difficult to locate a copy as it wasn’t released physically outside of Australia. However, thanks to the modern era of streaming, As I Live And Breathe is available just about everywhere. Of course, if you’d prefer to own the album, rather than stream it, iTunes has you covered. For me, however, the Apple Music stream is simply beautiful. Join me as we explore the individual song selections and interpretations that make up The James Valentine Quarter’s As I Live And Breathe.

Both Sides Now is a lovely interpretation of the Joni Mitchell song and is a perfect opener for As I Live And Breathe. However, I can’t help but feel that this interpretation is a little too clinical and I would have liked to have heard a little more improvisation throughout, along with a slightly more immersive soundstage. While it is lovely, it just sounds a little too polite.

Wonderwall will get you toe-tapping and moving to the rhythm. A great song when originally released by Oasis in 1995 and this interpretation is magnificent.

Great Southern Land is an Australian classic and is one of my all-time favourite songs, by a band that I have been a fan of for well over three decades. The critical bar is subsequently set high, but it need not have been as this rendition is absolutely stunning from start to finish. Vilma Sanzone does an amazing job on vocals and subsequently, this rendition becomes one of the greatest songs on the album and one of the greatest jazz interpretations I have ever heard. Fantastic!

Something is, and always has been, a beautiful song. It is amazing how well it translates to a jazz styling and perhaps that is the sign of a good song; one that can go beyond its initial musical genre and sound as though it was originally composed with the new genre in mind. All I have left to say about Something is turn up the volume and be immersed in an absolutely incredible jazz interpretation that will leave you speechless. 

That’s Where It’s At is a great tune and while I associate it with Sam Cooke, this rendition modernises the song and Robert Susz does an incredible job on vocals. The musicality is equally compelling, paying homage to the original, while also making it more appealing than the original in my opinion. 

Tear Drop is an amazing piece. The depth of the soundstage is massive. I absolutely adore the song and this reinterpretation of the Massive Attack original is beyond reproach. 

Checking On My Baby is a song, originally recorded by Sonny Boy Williamson, that I’m not overly familiar with, although it’s worthy of inclusion and As I Live And Breathe wouldn’t be the same without it. Still, I can’t help but wonder about the song’s placement in the album structure as it is a rather sharp shift following Tear Drop, which can be, at least initially, a little jarring on the senses. 

Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover is a solid tune and interpretation, from the Paul Simon original, but is arguably nothing to write home about. 

Something So Strong is a Crowded House masterpiece and while this re-interpretation is lovely, it doesn’t come close to the original. That said, it isn’t bad. It’s just that the original is so good!

Rocket Man, as I’ve mentioned before, was foundational to Elton John’s classic era and it’s a song that everyone knows. You’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard it. Regardless, this reinterpretation is quite different in places, while remaining true to the original John/Taupin collaboration. It is fresh, yet different enough that in parts you can’t hear a direct correlation between this rendition and the original. It is, interesting!

Is This Love is a love song to Bob Marley & The Wailers. It’s absolutely beautiful. Reminiscent of the original, yet completely unique. Is This Love is a perfect way to close the album and without a doubt, it encourages me to listen to As I Live And Breathe again. 

Overall, As I Live And Breathe is an exceptional release and my only criticism is that the interpretations, on a couple of the songs, sounded a little too perfect and less jam-based than I would like. For me, jazz is about interpretation, which The James Valentine Quartet nails, and the unpredictable jam session that shifts organically throughout the various movements. Well, there are times when I feel The James Valentine Quartet practiced a little too much and the organic human element is subsequently lost. Of course, the upside is that if you enjoy jazz, but don’t like the chaotic shifting characteristics of the genre, this is most certainly an album for you. Regardless, there is something here for every jazz, rock, and pop devotee to enjoy. 

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Morgan James – Hunter (Album Review)

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Morgan James – Hunter (Album Review)

Who is Morgan James? I didn’t have a clue until the Apple Music algorithm suggested the album, Hunter, following a listening session that included Prince’s incredible ART OFFICIAL AGE. Yes, I was captivated by the cover art, but I was ultimately drawn into the musicality and vocal prowess of Morgan James. 

With regards to the cover art, the album artwork presented in this review is from the reissued release as the original CD pressings featured James in a striking black and white pose. Despite this variation, both covers are beautiful and it’s a shame that Hunter has only ever been released on CD as its design is screaming to be seen on a larger canvas. I should also mention that while the digital non-Mastered for iTunes edition sounds remarkably good, I can only imagine just how good Hunter would sound on vinyl. While digital music can sound warm and full, it’s unfortunately not always the case as it can also sound cold and shrill. Thankfully, this is one recording that takes sonic reproduction to another level. You’ll feel compelled to turn the volume up and at no time does the soundstage distort or sound hollow. It’s recorded, mixed, and mastered perfectly and the musical performance is simply exceptional, as is James’ vocal prowess; a vocalist that blows my mind.

Call My Name gives you an insight as to what to expect from the entire album. The rhythm is beautifully recorded and James’ silky vocal will captivate your soul. Of course, Call My Name is a cover of the Prince original, and as much as I adore Prince’s version, I’m left speechless by this interpretation. This is one song, and album, where I would strongly suggest turning the lights down and the volume up as you experience your own personal mind-blowing performance as James and the band are transported directly to your lounge room. Absolutely amazing!

The music video doesn’t, in my opinion, suit the musicality and style of the song. It’s a missed opportunity and unless you enjoy music via music videos, you’ll likely watch it a single time and never watch it again as it’s largely forgettable. A shame considering just how enjoyable the song is.

Hunter continues the captivating Jazz meets Soul meets R&B sound; a style that I truly adore and reminds me fondly of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. Hunter is sensational and while I was unsure of the album being named after this song, there is little wonder why as the song is off-the-charts and it’s a recording that you simply have to hear to believe. 

Heart Shake continues the upbeat nature often associated with soul music. Heart Shake has a killer hook and if you’re not moving to the rhythm and singing along after the first listen, you’re listening to the album wrong. 

Bring Yourself To Me maintains the tempo, but isn’t quite as strong as the previous tracks on the album. That said, Bring Yourself To Me is what I would class as classic R&B and if you’re partial to that style of music, you’re going to love this song. As for me, I’d likely refer to this song as a B-side. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

I Want You has an exceptionally deep bass element that will reach directly into your soul. While some may consider it to be bass heavy, I prefer a little bass in my music and therefore I consider it to be absolutely perfect as there is no distortion to be heard and James’ beautiful vocal can be heard clearly as the soundstage hasn’t been completely crushed in the mastering process. That said, some of the musical elements do get a little lost in the mix, but it is nothing compared to most modern recordings that have this music lover scratching his head trying to figure out what, if any, musical instrument was used in the recording of a song. That aside, just listen to that fade out. They don’t make them like that anymore. I love it!

I Don’t Speak You maintains a relatively deep bass element, but I must admit that I find it a little distracting and it would be nice if it was dialled back a couple of decibels as I really want to hear James’ vocal unrestricted by the instrumentation. A solid song, nevertheless. 

You Never Lied is absolutely beautiful. 

Say The Words really focuses on James’ vocal and the term magnificent simply doesn’t begin to describe just how incredible this recording is. Seriously, take a listen, you’ll be blown away. James has, without doubt, one of the most beautiful female vocals I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear.  

The Sweetest Sound really showcases James’ vocal dexterity. Absolutely magical! Although, the ending is too abrupt, it really needed to be faded out rather than ending suddenly. Drown, therefore, takes a little adjustment to get used to as it starts very closely to the end of The Sweetest Sound and the mind is initially unsure how to handle the change. Once the jolt is past and the mind settles into the music, Drown is quite enjoyable. 

Fed Up On You picks up the pace with a jazzy original tune that reminds me of Aretha Franklin. Subsequently, I thoroughly enjoy it and the rhythm is sure to get you moving. 

She’s Gone is an incredible composition with a sound stage that is so dynamic that upon each listen, you’ll be hearing elements that you had never heard before. A great song!

Dancing In The Dark is a cover of the Springsteen classic and while nobody does it better than The Boss, James comes hauntingly close as her rendition is a magnificent homage to the original while ensuring it sounds unique; not an easy task considering how popular Dancing In The Dark has been for Springsteen. It takes courage to cover a song like this on a debut and James should be applauded for not only attempting it, but nailing it. 

Let Me Keep You (feat. Robert Glasper) is an incredible closing song. It compels me to listen to Hunter again and explore James’ growing catalogue. That said, to be completely honest, I’ve yet to listen to any of her other albums. I was so captivated by Hunter that I felt compelled to immediately pen a review. That doesn’t happen often, but when it does you know you’re listening to something very special. Let Me Keep You is most certainly one of those rare special songs and if you had any doubts while listening to Hunter, with regards to James’ musical ability, Let Me Keep You will silence those doubts for it is one of the greatest songs on the album and fades out so elegantly that you’ll likely be lost for words. It, really, is that good!

Overall, Hunter is an album that goes beyond the status of a debut. Yes, James released a live homage to Nina Simone some two years earlier, Morgan James Live, From Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola – A Celebration Of Nina Simone, but this remains the first studio album with a mix of original and cover songs that will captivate you from the very first note to the very last. Yes, Hunter may have been released in 2014, but it is thus far the best album that I’ve heard this year. Absolutely exceptional!

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Glenn Frey – After Hours (Album Review)

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Glenn Frey – After Hours (Album Review)

Friday night comes, following a busy week, and all you feel like doing is pouring yourself a drink, sitting back, and relaxing with music; well, at least that is what appeals to me. I started out listening to Frank Sinatra’s extraordinary Come Fly With Me, twice, and as I was perusing my record collection, I noticed Glenn Frey’s After Hours. Acknowledging that I hadn’t played it for quite some time and that it is similarly relaxing to Sinatra’s 1958 opus, I took the record out of the sleeve, placed it on the platter, gave the needle a clean and got the carbon fibre brush in order to remove any dust artefacts that may have been present. It is a labour of love. Then it was time. Time to drop the needle, sit back, and enjoy. 

Yes, purists will argue that Frey is nowhere near as soulful and smooth as Sinatra, but the way I look at it is that they are different, not only from a vocal dexterity point-of-view but also from the perspective that After Hours is a stereo production whereas my copy of Come Fly With Me is the mono release. The difference between mono and stereo was ultimately the greatest shift to endure but that soon past within moments as For Sentimental Reasons rang out and opened After Hours. 

As I grew up with stereo sound, the concept of mono has sometimes seemed counterproductive but there is just something about the mono sound that is strangely compelling. It is similar to the difference between digitally delivered music and vinyl. Neither is necessarily better or worse, they are just different and some people vehemently support one format over another. For me, it just has to sound right and the two aforementioned albums certainly do. What I do find, however, is that mono recordings tend to fill the room far better. You still get an incredibly evolved soundstage but there are no audible holes in the soundstage to speak of. Whereas, a couple of times, when listening to After Hours I notice that when Frey isn’t on vocals, the soundstage sounds as though something is missing where he should be. Well, you don’t get that with mono, or certainly not in my experience. That said, it could simply have been an issue with the chosen mix for After Hours; as it only happened a couple of times, it’s not detrimental to the enjoyment of the album and overall After Hours has been recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully.

The vinyl release is quite exquisite. Housed in a gatefold sleeve, the cover art is perhaps a little pedestrian, but it certainly invokes the nighttime street view associated with countless jazz clubs. Therefore, this minimal approach is perfectly suited for the style of music but is unlikely to be memorable or displayed. It’s no Surrender; an incredible jazz album from Victor Cajiao and Joe Cristina that really needs a vinyl release to showcase the gorgeous artwork. Regardless, when you open the gatefold, you’re met with liner notes and a series of absolutely magnificent photos, presented in sepia, to once again connect the artwork to the style and era of the music contained within. 

The record label is beautifully simple and again works with the style Frey was aiming for, on what would sadly be his last album. The record is flat and quiet, with only a small amount of noise noticeable between tracks. It really is a nice vinyl mastering and pressing job. 

While not a disappointment for me, as I will explain later, some may lament the inclusion of only 11 of the 14 available tracks on the vinyl release. Yes, this is another case of the Deluxe Edition blues for those that wish for the vinyl counterpart to have the same tracking as the digital release. Let’s be honest, this is a further attempt to make fans, like you and I, purchase multiple copies. It works, but not on this occasion. Plus, with streaming services now being so varied and readily available, those specific tracks that are on a Deluxe Edition can be streamed if and when it suits me. 

Another reason for not including so many tracks on a vinyl release is that it is a doubled edged sword. On one hand, you want everything, preferably not on multiple records, but the sonic quality suffers the closer grooves are placed together and the dreaded inner-groove distortion is a real problem when a recorded has been mastered and pressed with a focus on filling all available space. It may work perfectly well on the compact disc, but vinyl needs a little more tolerance and while upgrading your needle does help with inner-groove distortion, many people will not go to those extents so it is nice to see that After Hours is mastered in such a way that inner-grove distortion isn’t present; certainly not at an audible level. 

While the three additional songs will be reviewed on their own merit towards the end of this review, I find they’re not compelling enough to buy the Deluxe Edition CD as out of the three, only one is truly worthy of inclusion and even then it doesn’t offer the listener additional value. Of course, that is my subjective opinion and you may feel the additional tracks are excellent. If that is the case, then I would strongly suggest you look at picking up the CD release. 

Another reason why I’m not compelled to pick up the Deluxe Edition to go with my vinyl release is that the tracking is different as these omitted songs are placed throughout the album, thereby changing the flow of the album that I know and love. If those additional songs were included at the end of the Deluxe Edition, as done with Barry Gibb’s In The Now I would have been more inclined to pick up the CD as well. I’m sure you know what it’s like, dear reader, for your beloved album has been remastered and it suddenly has an outtake, demo, or god-forbid an interview at the end of the CD. It is infuriating and while I like additional content, I wish the record labels would add it to an additional disc and leave the master tracking of the album alone. 

Nevertheless, as streaming allows me access to these tracks, I’ll simply add them to my virtual library to enjoy when and if the mood strikes me. On the topic of streaming, I have listened to the album on both Apple Music (Mastered for iTunes) and TIDAL Masters (MQA) and unfortunately, neither stream holds a candle to the vinyl release. That isn’t to say that neither is good, because they are both superb, but I find them very clinical in their presentation and for this style of music I honestly feel the vinyl record is a much better delivery method. Hence, if you can, and if you’re interested, may I suggest you track down a copy of After Hours on vinyl; it really is that good!

SIDE ONE

For Sentimental Reasons is a lovely song and the perfect opener for After Hours. The musicality is spot on as is Frey’s vocal. The light backing vocal element, not often heard on modern recordings, is mixed in perfectly. The end result is a rendition of a classic that is stunning and prepares the listener for the songs that are about to come throughout the rest of the album.

My Buddy is campy, has always been campy, but I love it! That drumming is off-the-charts good and Frey once again is front and centre, as if his spirit is in the room with you, as you enjoy the smoothness of My Buddy.

Route 66 picks up the tempo a little, but Route 66 is one of the greatest classics to have ever been composed and this interpretation is no exception. It isn’t fundamentally different and doesn’t necessarily take the song to a new level of enjoyment, but it doesn’t detract from the origins of the song and pays homage to the history of the most common renditions. 

The Shadow Of Your Smile is a lovely song that would be perfect as the background of any dinner or post-dinner rendezvous. Actually, this entire album could be used in that romantic context. That said, the music-lover within doesn’t want this song to be merely heard as background music, therefore for me and my significant other it may not be the best album to have playing as I would constantly be commenting on just how good it is. Yes, dear reader, I do do that; much to the frustration of my better half. Thankfully, she understands my love of music and while she doesn’t necessarily share it, she lets me harp on about it ad nauseam; yep, she’s a keeper!

Here’s To Life is one of the most beautiful songs on the album. It is the perfect way to close out Side One and absolutely encourages me to listen to Side Two. This is one song that I would have loved to have heard George Michael perform on his spectacular Symphonica release as I believe it would have suited his style and vocal capability. That said, Frey performs Here’s To Life absolutely flawlessly and I would say it is one of his greatest vocal recordings, even surpassing that of his younger years in the Eagles. That’s saying a lot considering how much I adore the Eagles and have always been blown away by Frey’s vocal prowess. Music really doesn’t get much better than this!

SIDE TWO

It’s Too Soon To Know is a beautifully smooth tune. 

Caroline, No is one of my favourite songs and Frey knocks it out-of-the-park. 

The Look Of Love is a brilliant song but nobody does it better than Diana Krall. This rendition is enjoyable, but when I hear it I just want to put on Krall’s edition

I’m Getting Old Before My Time has an incredible bass track. It’s really prominent and for lack of a better term is perfect! The song itself isn’t bad, but to be completely honest I’m not overly familiar with it, hence your opinion may be vastly different to my own. 

Same Girl is stunning! 

After Hours is a lovely song to conclude the album with, but I would have preferred Same Girl to be the closing track as I felt it relaxed the mind to such a state that it would have been the ultimate closer. Nevertheless, After Hours is no slouch in that department and it encourages me to flip the album and listen again. It’s also important to note that this is the only original composition from Frey on the album. Writing with Jack Tempchin, the result is incredible and doesn’t feel out-of-place with the other standards featured on this release. That’s no easy task, even if you are as skilled as these gentlemen. Standards are standards for a reason and After Hours is a modern-day offering. 

Additional Deluxe Edition Tracks:

The Good Life is a lovely song that offers a nice flow from My Buddy in the Deluxe Edition version and leads well into Route 66’s upbeat as it has a little faster tempo than My Buddy. However, as good as it is, I don’t find that I miss it on the vinyl release. It is very short and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the song’s over before it started.

Worried Mind has a country twang to it and while Frey and the supporting musicians perform it incredibly well, it doesn’t suit the rest of the songs on the album and therefore I am very happy that it is only on the Deluxe Edition of After Hours.

I Wanna Be Around is lovely and while it could have been included on the vinyl release, I honestly don’t feel After Hours needed this additional track as I don’t feel the 11-track release is lacking in substance.

There is little doubt that After Hours represents Glenn Frey at his very best. Yes, his Eagles work is beyond reproach, but After Hours is his greatest solo release and is an album that should be in everyone’s collection. It really is that good!

After Hours is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes). A Deluxe Edition is also available on CD and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes)

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Barbra Streisand – One Voice (Live Album Review)

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Barbra Streisand – One Voice (Live Album Review)

Barbra Streisand needs no introduction and by anyone's standards is one of the greatest musicians to have ever sung a single note. No more is that more apparent than on One Voice; a long-awaited live performance captured September 6, 1986. While Streisand has, in recent years, released a few additional live performances, One Voice remains at the pinnacle of Streisand’s career and is, in my subjective opinion, the greatest live performance of her career. There isn’t a single B-side to be heard on this flawless recording. The mix and master are equally compelling and while One Voice is a live album, it would also have to be placed amongst Streisand’s greatest releases. 

I was fortunate enough, many years ago, to own this release on both cassette and CD, but as one who initially thought the MP3 was the ultimate solution for the music lover, I digitized the CD and subsequently sold both copies. What a fool! Nevertheless, thanks to TIDAL's CD-quality Hi-Fi stream, I can access the album whenever in the mood. To be completely honest, I'd love to see One Voice reissued on vinyl as it was originally recorded using an analog system and would be nothing but pure joy to appreciate on that format, especially if the vinyl pressing process was an all analog affair. Still, the TIDAL Hi-Fi stream is perfectly transparent to my memories of the CD and is thoroughly enjoyable. The Apple Music stream is equally compelling, even if tad concealed by comparison.

Somewhere (Live) starts off slowly with a lovely atmospheric introduction. The first notes Streisand sings are magical, and you can immediately tell just how extraordinary this performance is going to be.

Evergreen (Love Theme From "A Star Is Born”) (Live) is, while very similar, a much better rendition than the studio counterpart. Streisand's vocal soars and compels me to turn the volume up, resulting in a musical experience unlike any other. Simply amazing!

Something's Coming (Live) is a great song, but the synthetic elements irritate me. I'd love to hear this song with an orchestra backing instead.

People (Live) is one of the greatest songs of all time. Streisand’s presentation here is absolutely flawless and her words at the beginning of the song are as relevant today as they have always been. I absolutely adore this song!

Send In The Clowns (Live) is beautiful!

Over The Rainbow (Live) is absolutely magical. Seriously, listening to Streisand perform this song makes one question how the human voice is capable of such beauty and that final note is held with so much control, it leaves me speechless every time I hear it.

Guilty (Live Duet With Barry Gibb) has always been one of my most favourite songs from Streisand's catalogue and, as with Evergreen, I much prefer this live performance to the studio edition.

What Kind of Fool (Live Duet With Barry Gibb) is another astonishingly good song. The duelling vocals are so perfectly suited that they not only complement each other, but they amplify the song to greater heights. No-one else could have performed this song with Streisand as well as Gibb has. Of course, as a Bee Gees fan, I’m likely a little biased. 

Papa, Can You Hear Me (Live) is such a delicate song but Streisand performs it masterfully. While I haven't listened to every cover of this song, thus far, Streisand’s is superior to all I have heard, even the rendition recorded by the incomparable Nina Simone.

The Way We Were (Live) is one of my favourite Streisand films, second only to The Mirror Has Two Faces. Subsequently, I absolutely adore this song. It is one of Streisand's greatest. 

It's A New World (Live) is a lovely ballad with a beautiful meaning.

Happy Days Are Here Again (Live) is a beautiful song. It’s timeless, although that could easily be said about the entire performance.

America The Beautiful (Live) is sung so stunningly that one can only sit and admire it. America The Beautiful closes the recording nicely, ensuring I'll listen to the live performance again and stay within Streisand’s extensive catalogue of music.

Overall, One Voice is one of the greatest live performances of all time. That it was captured for us to appreciate is a wonderful blessing and gift to the human race.

One Voice is currently available on CD, the TIDAL Hi-Fi (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, One Voice is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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Sophia Pfister – Birdcage (Album Review)

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Sophia Pfister – Birdcage (Album Review)

In 2016 I declared that the world needed a complete Sophia Pfister album as her Self-Titled EP was so captivating, due in part to Pfister's sultry vocals and the production quality, that I simply wanted more. During the last couple of years, I've seen sporadic updates of the recording process and in August, Pfister dropped her first full-length album, on vinyl first and then a later on digital stores and streaming services.

At the time of the album's release, I was busy moving home and subsequently delayed ordering the vinyl edition. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that I’ve still yet to place my order, however, just as I did with Pfister's debut EP, I can review the streaming edition and compare the vinyl release at a later date. Pfister is actually the perfect artist to do this with as she is a proponent of the vinyl format and I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever see Birdcage on the various digital platforms. While I applaud her commitment to the vinyl format, especially considering she remains independent and these releases are completely self-funded, I feel it is far more important for independent artists to focus on attention, rather than the delivery method. With that in mind, I don’t feel streaming and other digital delivery methods challenge artistic intent, for the physical counterpart should always offer a value-added proposition to the music lover. It is also important to remember that no matter how much we champion the vinyl format, there will always be those amongst us who dislike or are not interested in the format and that is okay. Yes, one could argue that exclusivity towards formats should be viewed in the same manner as attending an art gallery, or concert venue, where the consumer needs to go where the artist feels their work is best represented. If I were reviewing Beyoncé’s exceptional Lemonade, and the associated initial exclusivity with TIDAL, I’d agree with my aforementioned statement, but with one caveat – Beyoncé is a household name and therefore can afford to lose the attention of the casual fans as her rabid fan base will follow her to whatever platform or venue she decides to release her music via. While I’ve no doubt Pfister can reach similar heights throughout her career, it takes time to develop an audience and that audience needs access to Pfister without restrictions at this stage in her career. 

Birdcage (Feat. White Buffalo Stands) offers a seamless transition from Pfister's Self-Titled EP. If you loved that release, as I did, you'll feel right at home as it’s a beautiful way to start the album. The backing indigenous-styled vocals towards the end of the song are beautiful and show a skilled layering of musicality that has evolved since Pfister's Self-Titled EP.

The Wheel is a rather complex composition, with a variety of musical elements and styles throughout. While on paper it shouldn't work, it absolutely does and it's one of those songs that offer the listener something unique upon each listen.

Drifting is a beautiful vocal-focused tune. It’s thoroughly relaxing and that Banjo element, that I claimed was too prominent on Pfister's song, Sugardaddy, I find is perfectly mixed here and is simply stunning. In fact, the entire soundstage and musical depth of Drifting is nothing short of spectacular. Yes, dear reader, this is sonically how good music should sound. Exceptional!

Loved By Strangers has a very familiar rhythm that picks up the pace of the album. The composition, again, is rather complex, but you feel as though you are encapsulated by musical elements as the soundstage is perfectly presented with incredible instrument separation. Another great tune!

Bad Decisions is the greatest song Pfister has written and recorded thus far. As I listen to this masterpiece, I’m reminded of Adele, on stage, singing Hello. Yes, it is that good and this song is stadium ready and a massive hit just waiting to be discovered.

Ride The Wave isn't a bad song, but I feel there are elements within that have been borrowed too heavily from Pfister's Self-Titled EP. Of course, following Bad Decisions was always going to be a challenging task. That said, if there is a B-side to be heard, it is Ride The Wave.

Separate Ways (Feat. Dave Alvin) is second only to Bad Decision. It’s bloody brilliant and an exceptional duet. I love it! If I had one criticism, it would be that the electric guitar tracking should have been a couple of decibels louder, especially towards the end of the song.

Living In The Grey is a thoroughly enjoyable closing track that ensures I'll listen to the album again and stay within Pfister's small, but growing, catalogue of music.

Birdcage is an absolutely stunning debut album and, by any standards, is world-class. When you compare it to some of the big name mainstream releases, you can only wonder how they have received recording contracts while Pfister remains independent. Of course, Pfister may decide to remain independent, but she has the musical talent to be one of the leading ladies in the music industry and while the industry is changing, record labels and solid management and promotional teams remain vital to achieving such heights, especially at the beginning of one’s career as a musician.

I can, without doubt, confirm that Birdcage is both sonically beautiful on Apple Music and TIDAL Hi-Fi. Yes, TIDAL's CD-quality stream offers a little more depth but the core performance is transparent, regardless of the delivery platform, meaning that the recording, mixing, and mastering is absolutely perfect. With that in mind, and knowing just how good Pfister’s debut vinyl EP sounded, I can't wait to get the vinyl release of Birdcage. Speaking of which, I better go and order myself a copy before they sellout.

Birdcage is available on Vinyl, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), iTunes, and Bandcamp.

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

Click here to read other Sophia Pfister reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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

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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.

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Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass - !!Going Places!! (Album Review)

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Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass - !!Going Places!! (Album Review)

Have you ever had that experience where you know a piece of music so well, yet you have no idea who the artist is? Well, last night as l was randomly looking for some new music, I came across Herb Alpert's !!Going Places!! and hadn't the foggiest idea of what to expect. My absent-mindedness wasn't to last long, however, as within the first few notes of Tijuana Taxi, I immediately knew the tune and could recall it being featured in a random television show or film that I have long since forgotten. Regardless, I was off and running and would also listen to Alpert's The Beat Of The Brass and What Now My Love. Both are exceptional albums and well worth your time checking out. As I listened, I couldn't believe that I had never known, or collected, the music arguably made famous by Herb Alpert. I guess it is better late than never!

I hope you have experienced Herb Alpert before, but either way, join me as we explore the exceptional Latin Jazz album that is !!Going Places!!.

Tjiuana Taxi is an incredible tune that has my entire body moving to the rhythm. Absolutely brilliant!

I’m Getting Sentimental Over You transitions beautifully from Tijuana Taxi. While it is a little more mellow, by comparison, it is equally addictive and a lovely song to listen to.

More And More Amor slows the album down to a romantic pace. I absolutely adore it! The musicality is incredible and when I hear music recorded, mixed, and mastered this well, I can't understand where we went wrong with the loudness wars. I could listen to More And More Amor for hours without suffering fatigue.

Spanish Flea is another tune I recognised the moment I heard it. It is nothing short of perfection. Wow!

Mae is like a slow waltz for the sonic senses. It is very enjoyable and fits perfectly with the style of the album.

3rd Man Theme gets my body moving again. The guitar strumming throughout this song is exceptional. Although, every sonic element of 3rd Man Theme is nothing short of pure perfection. It is one of the best songs on the album and is an absolute pleasure to be able to listen to. We are truly blessed to have music this good.

Walk, Don't Run is another exceptional tune that I'm sure we’ve all heard before. It is as rock and roll as jazz can get and certainly fits within the Jazz Fusion ethos.

Felicia is a beautifully mellow song. What I continue to be amazed at is how well these songs, with quite different rhythms, coexist in the album format. It is a diverse, yet similar, collection of songs that never feel out-of-place. I mention this as it is a rare occurrence. In the age of the single song attention span, additional tracks on albums are increasingly B-sides and that is a shame as I feel the album format, as a piece of recorded performance art, is still an essential element to the music appreciation process. Sure, you can enjoy a song on its own, but there is nothing quite like a cohesive album experience.

And The Angels Sing is beautiful!

Cinco De Mayo is a good song, but it is a B-side. Subsequently, I find myself not connecting with it as much as I would like. That said, it does work well in the album format.

A Walk in The Black Forest is a fantastic little tune. I love it!

Zorba The Greek is an incredible final track that is musically dynamic. It encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Alpert's catalogue.

!!Going Places!! may only have a relatively short runtime of just over 29 minutes, but when music is this good, I will take quality over quantity any day of the week.

The cover art is similarly compelling and well thought out. I dare say, a vinyl edition would look stunning.

While I do intend to pick up the 2016 vinyl reissue, I can honestly say that the MQA 24/88.2 kHz TIDAL Masters edition is superb and likely the best way to experience this album; certainly from a sonic perspective. I also listened to the 16/44.1 kHz TIDAL Hi-Fi edition and while I would also be very happy listening to that edition, the soundstage is a little shallower and sonic elements that are present on the MQA edition are somewhat concealed on the standard 16/44.1 kHz version. These differences, however, are only truly apparent when comparing releases. Once the music plays, you will be captivated with either option. It is simply that good!

However, I would stay clear of the 2005 reissue of the album as it is harsh and lacks the subtle nuances that make the 2015 remasters so appealing. Also, it is important to note, if you are a headphone listener you may find the bass in the left channel to be a little muffled on some songs. One example of this can be heard on Walk, Don’t Run. Having listened to the various masterings I conclude that the bass is soggy across the entire lineup thereby indicating that it is present on the original recording. Even if I turn off the Bass+ feature on my Oppo HA-2, the bass still sounds loose. It far from a major problem, but one that needed to be noted. I didn’t experience this issue at all playing on loud speakers, using the same DAC/AMP, hence your experience may differ. 

!!Going Places!! is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes). If you prefer streaming, !!Going Places!! is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Lucy, Racquel And Me (Self-Titled Debut Album Review)

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Lucy, Racquel And Me (Self-Titled Debut Album Review)

One of the greatest pleasures I have in publishing Subjective Sounds is the numerous review requests I receive from independent artists. I consider myself very fortunate to get to listen to a number of unique and fresh performances, that I would otherwise be unaware of. Plus, as an independent publisher, I feel a connection with these individuals who are forging their own path. That said, I get the most satisfaction from hitting the publish button, thereby sharing my subjective thoughts with you, my dear readers.

Now that I have pressed that publish button, I would like to introduce you to a musical collaboration spanning three continents. Lucy, Racquel And Me is the performance moniker for three incredibly talented musicians. I’ve no doubt you will be left speechless with this debut release, so sit back, relax, and join me as I explore the self-titled debut of Lucy, Racquel and Me.

Hello Sunday is unfortunately not the greatest song to start the album with as it is too campy for my liking. I’m sure some of you will adore it, but I feel that Lucy, Racquel and Me are incredibly more talented than the song portrays. This becomes increasingly apparent as you listen to the entire album.

Children In Bare Feet has a beautiful rhythm. The vocal dexterity in this song is something to behold. It is an incredible composition and the guitar solo is perfectly placed. An exceptional song!

One Day has a killer guitar introduction that is simply out of this world. One Day merges jazz and blues elements into the soundstage and it was this song that compelled me to write this review. You don't often hear songs of this calibre by mainstream artists, let alone independent artists. It is recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully as you truly experience your own private performance with the band. Music like this reaches out, grabs you, and doesn’t let go till the final note is played.

Shattered is equally beautiful. The last three songs have proven to me that my harsh opinion of Hello Sunday was justified. When a band can produce a song as incredible as Shattered, anything less is a compromise they don't need to make.

Untraceably Gone is gorgeous. I’m blown away!

Love Now is an enjoyable song, but it is a B-side.

Gone Baby Gone is a song I absolutely adore. However, it wasn’t until hearing the vocal delivery that I really began to appreciate the musical direction of the song. With that in mind, I do find the instrumentation to be a little busy and I would prefer the vocal to be more present in the soundstage.

What Did We Do Wrong? is a gorgeous acoustic song that includes a Bossa Nova rhythm. Yes, this combination works incredibly well. Personally, I love the Bossa Nova sound and implementing it in this manner is pure perfection.

All True has an incredible sonic presence. Amazing!

Coffee Queen is a little jolty after the relaxed nature of All True, but I do enjoy the rhythm and that bass strum is fantastic.

Silence For Beginners is too close to the easy listening jazz piano bar sound for my liking. That isn't to say it is a bad song, just that as with Hello Sunday, I believe Lucy, Racquel And Me are talented beyond this level of musicality. 

Overall, as a debut album by an independent band, Lucy, Racquel And Me is nothing short of exceptional. The album is recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully. These are indeed three very talented musicians and I’ll be sure to watch their career as they progress, for I believe they have what it takes to go all the way to the top; just not with Hello Sunday.

Lucy, Racquel And Me is available for purchase on the TIDAL Store and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Andrea Bocelli – Cinema (Deluxe Edition CD Review)

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Andrea Bocelli – Cinema (Deluxe Edition CD Review)

Every now and then an album comes along that is the pinnacle of perfection. Cinema is just that as it blew my mind the first time I listened to it. While I am well aware of Bocelli’s work, having been a fan since his Romanza album in 1994, I wasn’t prepared for the quality of his latest work Cinema. There is little doubt regarding Bocelli’s exceptional talent, but I feel that recent albums, such as Passione, didn’t showcase his true potential. That said, I appreciate films and their associated scores, hence it could very well be my own subjectivity that passes judgement against this recent work. Regardless, the song selection and tracking on Cinema is perfect. The songs not only bring out the best in Bocelli, but many of these interpretations surpass their original compositions.

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The Deluxe Edition CD is housed in a beautiful tri-fold digipak with full featured liner notes. The booklet is presented so well that I can honestly say it is one of the most detailed I have seen in recent years. It describes not only the inspiration and history of the songs, but all production elements are meticulously added. This level of detail is what audiophiles ask for but rarely get. It is wonderful to see this level of production, given the CD format has been faltering in sales recently.

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There is a vinyl edition of Cinema, but I won’t be adding it to my collection. The CD offers one of the best masterings in my collection. If you want a CD that is reference quality, for auditioning new hardware, just use this one. This is how digital music should sound and proves that CD is a truly capable medium that has, more often than not, never been utilised to its full potential. Subsequently, I see no justification for higher resolution editions of this album, especially considering the audiophile 96kHz/24bit edition from HDtracks features exactly the same dynamic range as that available on the CD. While I have yet to see dynamic range numbers for the vinyl release, I think we could confidently assume that it would have been created from the same Hi-res master used for both HDtracks and the CD, therefore resulting in no improved dynamic range. The only benefit may be the analogue sound that some listeners may prefer. Although, as much as I love vinyl, I prefer listening to classical music in a high-quality digital format as the organic surface noise of vinyl can be distracting in low volume passages.

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Maria (from “West Side Story”) is simply a gorgeous song that is perfectly suited for the tenor voice. While I’m not sure it is the best interpretation of the song, it is amongst the best and is thoroughly pleasing.

La Chanson De Lara (from “Doctor Zhivago”) is incredibly moving. It encourages the man with two left feet to dance with his significant other. It also reminds me of how exceptional the film Doctor Zhivago is. In fact, Doctor Zhivago is my second favourite film of all time, second only to Casablanca.

Moon River (from “Breakfast At Tiffany’s) is beautiful. When I think of this song, it is with Frank Sinatra in mind as I have always preferred his version. However, Bocelli has made this song his own while paying homage to the classical renditions by Sinatra and many others. It is sensational!

E Pit Ti Penso [duet with Ariana Grande] (from “Once Upon A Time In America”) is a song that I’m unfamiliar with, but I love it when Bocelli does duets as the intermingling vocals are always respectfully done and in cohesion. It is a beautiful song and worthy of inclusion on Cinema. I certainly look forward to hearing it many more times over the coming years.

Be My Love (from “The Toast Of New Orleans”) is another song I am unfamiliar with, yet it sounds somewhat familiar. Regardless, Bocelli delivers another stunning performance that works perfectly with his vocal register.

The Music Of The Night (from “Phantom Of The Opera”) is one of the most recognisable pieces of music in the world. Personally, I consider Michael Crawford’s interpretation to be the one to beat. No-one else has ever come close in my opinion. That said, I’m extremely impressed with Bocelli’s rendition and I have a feeling that even Michael Crawford would acknowledge this as nothing short of a stellar performance. If you haven’t already got your stereo turned up to ear-bleeding levels, you will definitely want to turn that volume knob to the right. Bocelli is absolutely amazing!

Brucia La Terra (from “The Godfather”) is one of my favourite film-based songs. I’ve been a fan of The Godfather series for decades and while the original song is superb, it is nothing like this. Bocelli has left me speechless and all I can say is: Wow!

Por Una Cabeza (from “Scent Of A Woman”) picks up the pace a little from the solemn notes of Brucia La Terra, but it doesn’t feel out of place. Personally, I feel it was a wise tracking choice as there is a similar vocal tonality throughout this song, despite the obvious shift in tempo.

No Llores Por Mi Argentina [duet with Nicole Scherzinger] (from “Evita”) reminds me vividly of the exceptional Elaine Paige version. However, I feel Bocelli and Scherzinger have done an exceptional job with this song. I can’t help but wonder if they also recorded the English version. That said, the utilisation of foreign tongue in music doesn’t concern me, especially when the performing artists are so incredibly talented and blessed with voices that instrumentalise emotion more succinctly than any instrument is capable of.

L’Amore E Una Cosa Meravigliosa (from “Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing”) is a beautiful song that I am not familiar with. That said, I truly appreciate a compilation-styled album such as this because it expands one’s musical appreciation into a series of songs that one may otherwise have never heard. It still amazes me how much beautiful music exists in the world and I can only imagine how much I have yet to experience.

Mi Mancherai (from “Il Postino: The Postman”) takes you on a musical journey that is simply exquisite.

Cheek To Cheek [duet with Veronica Berti] (from “Top Hat”) is an incredible song and while it has been played and interpreted numerous times, it never gets old. My personal favourite rendition, however, is the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recording from their 1956 album Ella And Louis. As good as the Bocelli/Berti version is, no one does it better than Fitzgerald and Armstrong in my opinion. That said, I would love to see Bocelli do more jazz-inspired songs as his vocal capabilities are perfectly suited to that style of music.

Sorridi Amore Vai (from “Life Is Beautiful”) is a beautiful song. As I listen, I remain amazed at the restraint that Bocelli has on his vocal performance. Many artists tend to reach too high and it sounds forced. As far as I can recall, I have never heard Bocelli extend his vocal beyond the requirements of a song. It is this professionalism that makes him one of the best vocalists in the world.

Historian De Amor (from “Love Story”) is a song I absolutely adore and I don’t recall ever hearing a bad rendition of it. Bocelli's interpretation carries on that trend and is an absolute pleasure to listen to.

Ol’ Man River (from “Show Boat”) is a song that I’m not overly familiar with and is probably the one song that I feel doesn’t fit well on the album. Bocelli’s vocals just don’t seem well suited to this song. That isn’t to say it is bad, but it doesn’t reach me on an emotional level.

Nelle Tue Mani [Now We Are Free] (from “Gladiator”) is one of the most stunning songs on the album and in any film that I can recall. It is moving and emotionally engaging. While I felt the film was lacklustre, this song is completely opposite as it empowers the listener and creates a sonic visualisation that is incredibly vivid. Bocelli’s performance is simply flawless. We, as music lovers, are truly blessed to have such sonic perfection in our lives. It literally brings me to tears.

Mere words can not explain just how moving this album is and how perfect the performance and production is from start to finish. While Bocelli is most certainly the star attraction and performs flawlessly, this album has an A-list of who’s who in the musical and studio production world. While this review would never end if I mentioned them all, all I can say is a sincere thank you to everyone involved in the making of Cinema.

Music simply doesn’t get any better than this and while Cinema is available on Vinyl, the Deluxe Edition CD is all you will ever need to truly enjoy this masterpiece. Plus, if you play albums as I do, you will wear out the vinyl edition from the inability to put the record back on the shelf. It really is that good!

For those of you who are interested in streaming, the Deluxe Edition is unavailable. However, both the Standard 13-track and 19-track Special Edition of Cinema are currently available on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

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