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Progressive Rock

Legs Diamond – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Legs Diamond – Self-Titled (Album Review)

If you’re into rock and roll, especially the sort that came out of the California music scene in the late 70s, then you’re going to love this eponymous debut album from Legs Diamond.

I often sit and wonder why one band is more prominent than the other. How did they connect with the social consciousness of the time? Was a band who didn’t receive the recognition they deserve merely out of time? Well, Legs Diamond failed to set the world on fire but would later gain a dedicated following that would result in them reforming and continuing to tour and record to this day; along with various breakups throughout the years. Subsequently, you can be forgiven for having never heard of the band, but thanks to the modern era of music streaming, we can all explore and enjoy the music that was merely out of time, for Legs Diamond is certainly no diamond in the rough and is one of the greatest 70s hard rock albums I have ever heard. How Legs Diamond is not a household name is beyond comprehension, but join me as we explore their eponymous debut. You can thank me later!

It’s Not The Music kicks the album off with a rhythm that is out of this world. If you’re not head bopping and toe tapping from the first note, you’re listening wrong. With numerous influences, including Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, Legs Diamond’s It’s Not The Music is not only a song that should go down in history as one of the grooviest 70s rock anthems, but it is the perfect song to open the album with. So good!

Stage Fright has a killer guitar riff and flows perfectly from It’s Not The Music. It’s full-on 70s west coast rock and roll that will require you to dust off your air guitar. I love it!

Satin Peacock is your classic blues-based rock and roll tune. Turn that volume up and enjoy, I know I am.

Rock And Roll Man is an epic song that reminds me fondly of Black Sabbath’s Ozzy era. This is one seriously good album!

Deadly Dancer is another great song that is very much inspired by Deep Purple and as a Purple fan, that isn’t a bad thing.

Rat Race is full of groove. Yes, you can again hear the influence of Deep Purple, but Legs Diamond creates a sound that is so unique and perfect that it is only reminiscent of Deep Purple in spirit. Regardless, Rat Race will have you head bopping and toe tapping to the addictive rhythm. 70s hard rock doesn’t get much better than this!

Can’t Find Love is a little over-produced at the beginning of the song and really doesn’t start until almost two minutes have elapsed. However, once the song gets going, it’s a riff and vocal driven masterpiece and is literally one of the best songs on the album.

Come With Me closes the record out with the same energy that has permeated throughout the entire album; although I’m not fond of the fade out as I feel commencing the fade on the vocal was a mistake. Nevertheless, there is absolutely no doubt that I will listen to Legs Diamond again and stay within Legs Diamond’s rather extensive catalogue.

Overall, Legs Diamond is not only an exceptional eponymous debut, but it is one of the greatest 70s hard rock albums to have ever been recorded and released. How I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during these recording sessions as the album is mixed and mastered beautifully. So well, in fact, that I’m blown away by the dynamics and soundstage present via the Apple Music stream. While I’d love to track down a vinyl copy, and likely will at some time, this digital release is absolutely amazing and will showcase the very best your speakers or headphones have to offer. It also provides further validation that lossy music can sound exceptional if it has been recorded, mixed, and mastered properly. An incredible album from start-to-finish!

Legs Diamond is available to own on CD and iTunes.

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Apocalyptica – 7th Symphony (Album Review)

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Apocalyptica – 7th Symphony (Album Review)

It’s cello-metal time!

Yes, the world has collided and those of you who are die-hard classical music fans may wish to look away. Similarly, the metal heads may also have a difficult time coming to terms with just how perfect metal and classical overtures and instrumentation work together. Certainly, Metallica proved just how well the mix could be applied when they performed their exceptional live concert, S&M, with the San Francisco Symphony, in 1999. It’s a classic performance and one of the best recordings Metallica has ever released. It’s certainly better than their latest live effort, Helping Hands...Live & Acoustic At The Masonic. I love Metallica, but this album is only slightly better than their Lou Reed collaboration, LuLu. Regardless, Metallica has been an inspiration for the Finnish cello-metal band Apocalyptica and you should really check out their 1996 release, Plays Metallica By Four Cellos. It’s exceptional and one can only wonder if upon hearing this album, Metallica decided to test the waters with their own classical interpretation three years later. Whether or not this was the case, S&M is one of the greatest live albums and performances of all time and Apocalyptica has grown beyond covering their idols, becoming a band that has not only stood the test of time but commands the respect of the classical music lover and metal head alike.

Released in 2010, 7th Symphony is Apocalyptica’s seventh studio release and fast became one of my all-time favourite albums. This review is based on the iTunes/Apple Music standard edition as that is the one that I’ve been enjoying for years. Interestingly, however, as much as I adore this album I’ve yet to add it to my physical collection. Given it was released on various formats, it amazes me that I’ve never taken it to the next level. My only reasoning is that I thoroughly enjoy the digital edition that I purchased so many years ago and as such it makes me wonder if obtaining the vinyl release, amongst other possibilities, is really that important. The music collector within says it most certainly is, but the music lover says if you like the way it sounds, don’t buy another copy. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I have countless examples of different formats sounding at odds with each other, as if you’re listening to an entirely different album. Sometimes it is subjectively better, other times it is just different. Yes, I’m aware of how different masterings can sound and that each format has its own unique sonic elements, but that doesn’t always mean that vinyl is better than digital or vice versa. Subsequently, I say, enjoy the music you have and if you’re not grooving with the sound, then perhaps you should look for an alternative format/mastering to see if a subjectively better release is available. Of course, as I say that, I’m looking at the cello-shaped USB edition of the album...I want it! Yes, I know I contradicted myself. It isn’t the first time and it certainly won’t be the last. It is the bane of the music collector and as much as one can enjoy the process, it is an addiction just like any other hobby.

Addicted is certainly one way to describe my love of 7th Symphony. By and large, the album as a coherent piece of musical art is superbly crafted and I welcome you to join me as I take a look at the songs that make up Apocalyptica’s 7th Symphony.

At The Gates Of Manala is a sonic wonderland and is the perfect song to open the album with as you know exactly what to expect from the rest of the album when you listen to this song. That isn’t to say that Apocalyptica repeats themselves, for they are certainly diverse, but what is immediately apparent is that this record, in particular, is going to be a little more on the symphonic heavy side than some may assume. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and there are more mellow tunes throughout 7th Symphony, but At The Gates Of Manala, and the entire album, is one that takes no prisoners and if you’ve never heard anything by Apocalyptica, up until now, I’ve no doubt you’ll be hooked listening to this instrumental song. I certainly was!

End Of Me (feat. Gavin Rossdale) has incredible rhythm and while I’m not overly familiar with Bush, Rossdale performs this song beautifully. However, as good as he sounds, I’d love to hear Corey Taylor on vocals here. Yes, I may well have a man crush on Taylor, but the guy epitomises the lifestyle and genres he performs in. Nevertheless, Rossdale should be congratulated on a stellar performance and the backing musicality is off-the-charts. A great song and a wise choice for the first single from 7th Symphony.

However, Not Strong Enough (feat. Brent Smith), is the best song on the album. Smith has an incredible vocal range that is perfectly suited to the album. Interestingly, however, due to frivolous music industry practices, the Brent Smith original was unable to be released stateside and subsequently another version of the song was recorded with Doug Robb of Hoobastank. To be completely honest, both versions are spectacular but if I had to pick one, it would be the rendition with Brent Smith as I feel his vocal is more suited to the style of the song and backing musicality. Either way, Not Strong Enough is one of the greatest songs in Apocalyptica’s catalogue and I can only recommend you turn the volume up and enjoy. It has an attitude that will make you feel invincible; a positive confidence building element that is exclusive to the listening and appreciation of music.

2010 (feat. Dave Lombardo) is another killer instrumental and Lombardo delivers an exceptional drum track. Its speed metal meets rhythmic metal but performed with symphonic overtones. What’s not to like?

Beautiful is certainly more mellow but is absolutely stunning. I hope you haven’t turned the volume down for Beautiful needs to be heard as loud as you can play it without causing hearing damage or inducing audible distortion.

Broken Pieces (feat. Lacey Sturm) is a lovely song and Sturm delivers an exceptional vocal performance that in some ways reminds me of Avril Lavigne. Perhaps the only disappointment I have when listening to Broken Pieces is the crushed percussion elements as a result of brickwalling. This is quite a shame as all other songs sound dynamic with a broad soundstage, despite the album’s overall low dynamic range. That said, according to the Dynamic Range Database, Broken Pieces has the greater dynamic range in comparison to the rest of the album, almost double the other songs, yet when you listen to it, you wouldn’t agree with that finding

On The Rooftop With Quasimodo begins in a mellow tone, but that doesn’t last as this instrumental track grows in boldness before returning to its original mellow state mid-song, then returning to a heavier symphonic sound. The sonic shifts are done extraordinarily well and you won’t feel they’re disjointed as they blend masterfully together resulting in a song that tells a story through instrumentation alone.

Bring Them To Light (feat. Joseph Duplantier) picks up the pace and it’s a killer scream/speed metal track. The rhythm on Bring Them To Light really directs the song beautifully and Duplantier’s vocals are spot on. A sensational track!

Sacra is absolutely mind-blowing. The moodiness of the cello certainly comes out in this song and I couldn’t imagine a metal-infused cello track being more textbook accurate than this one. If you want to let someone here just what symphonic metal and the cello can sound like, this is most certainly the song to play for them. Perfect would be an understatement as Sacra really is beyond adequate description and has to be heard to be believed. Although, I’m not fond of how it transitions into Rage Of Poseidon.

Rage Of Poseidon has an opening that doesn’t compel me, but as the song progresses, the grinding rhythm takes hold and it becomes a valued addition to the album, ensuring that I’ll certainly play thestandard 10-track edition of 7th Symphony again and stay within Apocalyptica’s diverse and extensive catalogue.

Overall, 7th Symphony is an album that should be in everyone’s collection, be it digital or physical. It is compelling and while on the surface it may seem a little mismatched to the newcomer, it is absolutely perfect to those of us who believe the merging of musical genres is not only a good thing but is an essential element in the continuous evolution of music as a form of art.

As for the tracks not included on the standard edition, but present on varied releases in different regions, I have this to say:

Return Game is simply stunning and brings the cello right to the front of the mix, an element that I thoroughly appreciate. I really wish this song was included on the standard 10-track album.

Through Paris In A Sportscar is a solid tune. Nothing to write home about, but adequate nonetheless.

The Shadow Of Venus is a lovely song, but it does have the tendency to sound a little repetitive.

Spiral Architect is a Black Sabbath cover, first appearing on Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath from 1973. Let me be completely honest, just listen to the original Sabbath version of the song.

These additional four tracks, along with a DVD featuring performances from the Sibelius Academy, are all included on the Deluxe Edition. Thankfully, this additional content has also been made available on iTunes, as well as Apple Music, for those who wish to download or stream the content. The additional performances included are for the songs Beautiful, Not Strong Enough, End Of Me (if you’d like to see the official music video (feat. Gavin Rossdale), click here), I Don’t Care (an incredible song originally released on Apocalyptica’s 2007 release, Worlds Collide), Sacra, and Bittersweet. Yes, these additional elements can often be seen as bonus material that you’re unlikely to consume more than once, but I would encourage you to check it out as the songs are performed in an acoustic manner, showcasing just how seriously talented these musicians are. Tipe Johnson of the Finnish rock band, Leningrad Cowboys, provides the vocals on these acoustic performances and does a simply incredible job.

Apocalyptica’s 7th Symphony is available to own on CD and iTunes. A Deluxe Edition is also available on CD/DVD and iTunes.

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Alice Cooper – Pretties For You (Album Review)

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Alice Cooper – Pretties For You (Album Review)

I doubt anyone would proclaim the Alice Cooper band’s debut release, Pretties For You, as their favourite album, yet it is strangely compelling. The psychedelic styling mixed with a high level of experimentation results in Pretties For You being located somewhere sonically between a garage band jam session and a demo recording. Yes, by conventional standards and that of the later Alice Cooper band records, Pretties For You is just bad, but as an album on its own, it showcases the era and origins of a band that would go on to have a successful career until, of course, Alice Cooper went solo and created an even larger monster, similar to Rob Zombie's move away from White Zombie. While Cooper was no doubt the pioneer, Zombie’s path a couple of decades later was not all that different to his idol’s as the early White Zombie recordings are also very raw and experimental.

Raw is perhaps the best way to describe Pretties For You and the vinyl re-issue I have is so badly mastered and pressed that it sounds like a beaten-up second-hand edition from 1969. That isn't necessarily a bad thing and the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams aren't much better, they just lack the noisy vinyl pressing, one that is also pressed off centre and has audible drift in the first song where one channel of audio is heard in a ghostly manner for the first few rotations of the record. There is even a broken groove on Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio, causing the album to play like a broken record, akin to a repetitive run-out groove. Nevertheless, I have contemplated replacing the 2009 Warner Bros. pressing with the newer 2017 re-issue, but as strange as it may sound, I kind of like the problems this pressing has as it has a character of its own. When the inoperative run-out groove presents itself, the softest of taps on my Pro-jet Debut Carbon’s plinth gets the needle tracking into the correct groove. Yes, it is a ritual, that's one reason why I love vinyl. Needless to say, it’s an imperfect format. Each and every play of an album will yield a different result, not unlike attending a concert where the performance, for any multitude of reasons, cannot be the same as the night before. No doubt some of you by now are questioning my sanity and wondering why I don’t simply get rid of this album considering it isn’t a favourite. Well, I can’t argue with that thought process, but as a life-long Alice Cooper fan, I find that I do enjoy the album, when in the mood, but I also acknowledge its flaws. Yet, I have been known to play the album on repeat for hours on end as it grows on you. 

SIDE ONE

Titanic Overture is a garbled mess but is an interesting start to the album that really goes nowhere until the piano element comes into the mix. That's a shame as I’ve always wondered what would have been if the piano track didn’t fade out. Seems like we’ll never know unless there are unheard recordings floating around that I'm unaware of.

10 Minutes Before The Worm is just weird. Still, it’s interesting but you wouldn't play it outside of the album format. It also is the first time we hear Cooper's vocal and as you may notice he has remained true to that styling throughout the years.

Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio is a great tune with a divine introduction. However, that high pitch vocal, in places, really takes a solid song and turns it into an experience that isn't quite as memorable as one would have hoped for. Nevertheless, it is one of the best songs on the album and one that I would love to see Cooper rerecord. Interestingly, and as a side note, when listening via Apple Music, the high pitch of Cooper's vocal, that I mentioned earlier, is much more reserved and subsequently less ear piercing. It’s interesting because digital music is normally fatiguing, in that regard, not vinyl. It just goes to show that lossy music alternatives do have their place in a music-first audiophile setup. Plus, for those who don’t appreciate the risk of possibly receiving a broken record pressing, the digital counterpart, of course, plays seamlessly.

Today Mueller is similar to Ten Minutes Before The Worm. Weird, yet strangely compelling. I like it!

Living is a solid rock tune from the era and a valued addition to the album.

Fields Of Regret is a song I thoroughly enjoy. However, I’d love to see Cooper rerecord Fields Of Regret with Bob Ezrin, in the production, chair as there is a solid song hidden here, begging to be brought out into the open.  

SIDE TWO

No Longer Umpire is short but enjoyable.

Levity Ball (Live At The Cheetah) is a great song but it's even more sonically compromised, than the rest of the album, as it's a live recording. Yes, dear reader, this is another song I would love to see Cooper rerecord.

B.B. On Mars is pure filler but works well within the album format.

Reflected is brilliant! Yes, the Alice Cooper band would rewrite and rerecord Reflected and release it as Elected on Billion Dollar Babies. However, I must say as much as I enjoy Elected, I prefer Reflected. Yes, there is a fanbase ready to Lynch me for that comment, but Reflected is, in my opinion, the one song that makes Pretties For You worth owning. Seriously, give it a listen.

Apple Bush is a quirky, but enjoyable, song.

Earwigs To Eternity is rather left of the centre but remains compelling and fits the experimental style of the album perfectly.

Changing Arranging is the final song on the album and is good enough to encourage me to listen to the album again and stay within the Alice Cooper catalogue.

Overall, Pretties For You is a solid debut by a band that had yet to find their sound and synergy. But, is it worth owning? For Alice Cooper fans I would say yes, but it isn't a landmark album and therefore will likely only appeal to the most dedicated fans and collectors. Hence, this is one album that you should consider streaming prior to outlaying the cash to buy Pretties For You on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), or iTunes.

You can stream Pretties For You on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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Elton John – Blue Moves (Album Review)

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Elton John – Blue Moves (Album Review)

Blue Moves is a hidden gem, that is if you give it time to grow on you. Seriously, it wouldn't be far-fetched to claim that Blue Moves is one of John's most disliked albums. However, I'm going to buck the trend and declare it one of his greatest achievements. Sure, the tonality of the album is different from his earlier albums, but from a mere sonic perspective, it’s audible gold!

Volume 1:

Your Starter For... is a short, but pleasant, musical introduction to the album. It has a fantastic rhythm and it’s just a shame the song doesn't go longer, however, I also feel it is the perfect length.

Tonight is symphonically beautiful, with gorgeous piano work. I simply can't help but turn the volume up, in order to be enveloped in the incredible soundstage. Beautifully recorded, mixed, and mastered, this is one song you really need to listen to in a darkened room, with eyes closed, to fully enjoy the complex musicality. Tonight is one of John's greatest recordings!

One Horse Town is a great song with an incredible rhythm, but you have to wait for it as the introduction slowly builds from the more delicate Tonight to the upbeat pace of One Horse Town. I really enjoy John's vocal performance here, especially with those slightly higher notes as he takes his vocal right to the edge before backing off at the last moment. Pure perfection!

Chameleon is gorgeous!

Boogie Pilgrim is a B-side. It works well in the album format, but as an individual song, it’s largely forgettable. That is if you can get the catchy tune out of your mind.

Cage The Songbird returns the album to a style I feel is closer to the overall musicality of Blue Moves. It’s a lovely vocal-driven track. Beautiful!

Crazy Water is a bit of a mixed bag. From a composition standpoint, it works really, really well. I love John's vocal delivery but the musicality sounds a little dated and campy. Nevertheless, it manages to come together and ends up being one of my favourite tracks on the album.

Shoulder Holster is a solid song and a perfect addition to the album. The brass instrumentation certainly makes the song and I dare say without it, Shoulder Holster would be rather bland.

 

Volume 2

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word is, as I've said before, absolutely magnificent!

Out Of The Blue is a musical jolt after the sonic brilliance of Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. It isn't that it is a bad song, just the wrong choice to come after the aforementioned song. Once you get past the musical shift, the song really comes into its own with yet another addictive rhythm.

Between Seventeen And Twenty may sound a little offbeat, but I love it!

The Wide-Eyed And Laughing is quite a different Elton John song. I can understand why some would dislike it, but I find it captivating!

Someone's Final Song is superb. I even detect a little Freddie Mercury as I listen to John's vocal style on this song.

Where's The Shoorah? is lovely and perfectly suited to the album.

If There's A God In Heaven (What's He Waiting For?) is a B-side. Not bad, but certainly nothing to write home about.

Idol is beautiful, although George Michael mastered it on his stunning live album Symphonica.

Theme From A Non-Existent TV Series is another musical interlude that works well, despite the rhythmic shift from Idol. That said, Theme From A Non-Existent TV Series leads brilliantly into the final track.

Bite Your Lip (Get Up And Dance!) gets you moving, although I can't help but think Idol would have been the perfect song to conclude the album on. Nevertheless, Bite Your Lip (Get Up And Dance!) encourages me to play Blue Moves again and stay within John's catalogue.

Blue Moves is, without a doubt, one of the most overlooked albums of all time, I implore you to give it another listen as you will be amazed by just how good this album sounds. Sure, it isn't representative of John's chart hits, but it could be argued that this album was an attempt to do something more bold from an artistic standpoint. If that was the intent, then Blue Moves ticked all the boxes.

For this review, I listened to the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi. The mastering is perfect and while I'll likely pick up the 2017 vinyl reissue, I can't imagine Blue Moves sounding better than it does via TIDAL's CD-quality stream. It is nothing short of absolute perfection!

Blue Moves is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Blue Moves can also be heard on Spotify and Apple Music.

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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Elton John - Madman Across The Water (Album Review)

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Elton John - Madman Across The Water (Album Review)

Madman Across The Water is an unequivocally exceptional album from start to finish. Having listened to the 24/96kHz MQA edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi, there is only one word that can fully describe the album and that would be immersive. The soundstage, performance, and presence of the band is incredible and you really get a sense of being in the studio while the album was being recorded. I have also listened to the CD-quality FLAC on TIDAL Hi-Fi, but it sounds rather flat and uninspiring by comparison. Yes, the MQA edition is really that good! That said, one must remember that MQA is not a cure and a poor sounding master will still sound poor. Sometimes there is little to no difference as readers would have seen in my review of Kalio’s sensational album A/B. It all depends on how the album was mastered. If the same mastering was used then the difference between a well-mastered CD and MQA, or high-res, is minimal at best. However, there are so many poorly mastered CDs that I dare say MQA looks more appealing as it isn’t based upon the CD master, but the original studio mastering that hopefully, in most cases, is not compressed to hell and back. For more information about MQA, check out MQA.co.uk.

Tiny Dancer is an absolute classic and John's vocals are perfectly placed in the mix. Close your eyes and you will swear John and his band are in the room with you. The timbre of the instruments and John's vocals are simply astounding.

Levon is an incredible performance. The vocal build to the choral climax is to die for. It is sonically beautiful and one of John's greatest recordings.

Razor Face is a solid song, but it isn't anything to write home about.

Madman Across The Water is incredible, but as mentioned in my review of Tumbleweed Connection, I do prefer the original over this re-recording. As this is the version most people would be familiar with, I encourage you to check out the original. You won't regret it!

Indian Sunset has an impressive level of musicality. So good, in fact, that it almost steals the thunder from John's vocal delivery which is astonishing in its own right. I specifically love the near acoustic vocal delivery and the gradual layering of musical components, resulting in a more realised composition that will knock your socks off. Music is seldom this good and while I adore my Elton John compilations, Indian Sunset doesn’t feature on any of them. This song is yet one more point of validation that proves John and Taupin are musical geniuses and a collaborative team like no other.

Holiday Inn feels as though it should have been included on Tumbleweed Connection as it sounds a little disjointed with the rest of the songs on Madman Across The Water. As a song on its own, it has some exceptional musical shifts that I simply adore, but overall the song is somewhat forgettable as I don't feel the lyrical delivery is as polished as it could be. Of course, I could merely have this view because it follows the exceptional Indian Sunset.

Rotten Peaches is a B-side. It flows well within the album tracking, but it is pure filler.

All The Nasties is my favourite song from the album. It astonishes me that this song hasn't made any of his career perspective compilations. Elton John is clearly greater than a single compilation will allow. Thankfully in the modern era of the playlist, the individual listener can compile their own quasi-compilation. By the way, the drum depth throughout this song is pure gold. All The Nasties is truly exceptional and will captivate you from the first note.

Goodbye is short but beautiful. It follows on perfectly from All The Nasties and compels me to listen to the album again and stay within John's catalogue.

Overall, Madman Across The Water is an incredibly recorded, mixed, and mastered performance that is simply unforgettable. While I adore the sonic presentation that the MQA edition delivers, the collector in me is compelled to pick up the SACD release as it contains the 2004 Greg Penny 5.I Surround Sound Mix that can only improve upon the immersion provided by MQA. Interestingly, the surround sound version reportedly contains the external version of Razor Face on the surround sound mix. That said, it wasn't my favourite song on the album so I'm unsure if it’s truly of interest. Nevertheless, it is good to know a variant exists, even if it’s only a longer rendition.

Madman Across The Water is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to Madman Across The Water on Spotify or Apple Music.

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

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Deep Purple - 30: Very Best Of (Compilation Review)

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Deep Purple - 30: Very Best Of (Compilation Review)

30: Very Best Of Deep Purple was my first foray into the musical world of Deep Purple. While I can’t remember the compelling reason for picking up the compilation, I dare say it may have been due to hearing Child In Time in the film Twister. Mediocre scene, superb song!

As many of you would be aware, music can be a great conversation starter and this album has certainly had that desired effect as many individuals, some whom I assumed would never listen to Deep Purple, professed their love for these timeless classics.

I have always used music in the workplace and this album was no exception. Music has the power to break down the employer/employee relationship and while it never garners considerable benefits, it does help dilute tension. Seriously, when the CEO starts strumming the air guitar, you have connected with the human behind the façade. While all workplaces aren’t always accommodating, or for various factors can’t permit the playback of music, I truly believe music introduces a more relaxed atmosphere that encourages productivity.

Hush (1998 Remastered Version) was an excellent choice to commence the compilation on. From the howl to the rhythmic instrumental introduction, to the vocal dexterity; the entire song is simply awesome!

Black Night (1995 Remastered Version) has a killer guitar riff and beat that will have you moving uncontrollably. Seriously, that guitar work is exquisite and pushes the distortion right to edge, but never results in a sub-standard sonic presentation.

Speed King (Dutch Single - Piano Version) is a Killer song and the piano elements certainly add depth to the song. This song is one of the reasons why Deep Purple is one of the greatest rock bands in music history.

Child In Time (Single Edit) is a sonic masterpiece. Yes, Smoke On The Water is coming up, but Child In Time smokes any other song in Deep Purple's catalogue.

Strange Kind Of Woman has a great groove with an addictive vocal. Sometimes, that is all a good song needs.

Fireball is perhaps the only Deep Purple song, on this compilation, that I don't have much love for. I've simply never been able to connect with the song.

Demon's Eye has a great groove and is musicality pleasing. I really appreciate the slower pace of this song and the tempo works well for the style of music we recognise as Deep Purple‘s signature sound.

Smoke On The Water (1997 Remastered Version) really needs no discussion as that guitar riff says it all. Exceptional!

Highway Star (1997 Remix) is the complete package and while the soundstage is somewhat concealed, it rocks?

When A Blind Man Cries (1997 Remix) is an absolutely amazing composition. Music doesn't get much better than this.

Never Before is a solid rock song, but nothing to write home about.

Woman From Tokyo (Single Edit) is another example of musical perfection. While not an overly complex composition, it ticks all the right boxes.

Burn (2004 Remastered Version) is a great song, but the chaotic intermingling of vocal and instrumental aspects, especially in the verse, can become fatiguing.

Stormbringer (2009 Remastered Version) has a killer groove. I love it!

You Keep On Moving is strangely the final track on the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition of the compilation as the 1998 CD featured three additional tracts, including Perfect Strangers, Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic, and Any Fule Kno That. It is a complete mystery as to why these songs are omitted, especially considering I don’t feel You Keep On Moving is a solid enough song to close the compilation with. The aforementioned songs are truly missed and I wish I had never sold the CD during my idiotic MP3 rules era.

It is interesting, however, that these songs are available on iTunes, should you purchase the entire compilation. On Apple Music, however, the songs are greyed out. Yet, they are included on Spotify (thanks to their compile from any album feature). Basically, it is a bloody mess! The only saving grace for me is that iTunes Match streams all the songs as they were, on the original CD, when I ripped it into iTunes as a series of MP3 files.

Hence, just for you dear readers, I will review these three additional songs. 

Perfect Strangers is one of the greatest rock and roll songs to have ever been recorded. Turn the volume to 11 and enjoy as the musicality is off the charts!

Ted The Mechanic (sic) has a unique style that won’t appeal to everyone and I tend to have a love/hate relationship with it. Depending on the mastering, the song can sound rather shrill, but following the introduction the soundstage expands, becoming a more complete Deep Purple song that I really dig. Regardless, it was always a welcome addition to this collection. 

Any Fule Know That is superb. What an incredible beat! As the former final song on the compilation, it always encouraged me to listen to the album again and stay within the Deep Purple catalogue. Truth be told, I’d often put this song on repeat as it is simply that good!

What is disappointing is how this compilation has been handled over the years. Originally released in 1998, there is no reason why streaming services should have a version that includes remasters from 2004 and 2009.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

Trust me when I say that the original CD was mastered beautifully. I don't know about you, but this constant meddling really irritates me.

Memo to all record labels and musicians: If the original is substandard, don't release it. If you do release it, leave it alone. We don't want your remasters.

This, of course, isn't the first time I have been irritated by different editions and masterings of Deep Purple records. See Deep Purple - Made In Japan (Thoughts On The Many Editions).

Despite the questionable antics, surrounding the various masterings, this compilation is still one of the greatest in the history of recorded music. The cover artwork is exceptional and I'll never forget the starkness of that space purple CD.

From a sonic perspective, you can certainly hear variances between the tracks. While the remastered songs don’t help the situation, it is also plausible that this is simply a result of songs being recorded at different studios and at different stages in Deep Purple’s career. That said, at no time does this distract from the enjoyment of the compilation. It really is the very best of Deep Purple!

Deep Purple - 30: Very Best Of is available on CD and iTunes. There is also an extended Special Collectors Edition available on iTunes, albeit with a completely different tracking.

If you prefer streaming, the compilation is also available on Spotify (Standard Edition/Special Collectors Edition) and Apple Music (Standard Edition/Special Collectors Edition).

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Deep Purple - Shades Of Deep Purple (Album Review)

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Deep Purple - Shades Of Deep Purple (Album Review)

From the first seconds of And The Address, the iconic, signature, sound of Deep Purple is present, despite Shades Of Deep Purple being the band’s debut album. And The Address may have an annoying cowbell beat throughout, but looking past that one can see a band already at ease with their musical style. I, for one, become thoroughly engrossed with the groove of this song. What an introduction!

Hush is a howling good song and has always been a favourite of mine. I dare you to sit still while enjoying this classic. It is addictive and one of their greatest recordings.

One More Rainy Day doesn’t have one of the most compelling openings. Yes, the thunderstorm effect is a nice addition, but the most distracting element is the first verse. It really sounds out of place with the musicality, but all is not lost as the song develops nicely. It is a B-side, but worthy of inclusion on the album.

Prelude: Happiness/I'm So Glad really shows off the organ talents of Jon Lord. That man could perform an exceptional solo, on the organ, that would rival any guitar solo in music history. Absolutely incredible! Overall, the song is extremely pleasing and while lyrical elements may become a little repetitive, the song is never fatiguing. In many respects, it amazes me that Prelude: Happiness/I'm So Glad is not included on the numerous Deep Purple compilations and live performances. Surely it is popular amongst fans. Prelude: Happiness/I'm So Glad is severely underrated and I implore you to give it a chance. It is that good!

Mandrake Root fits adequately into the tracking of the album, but it is a B-side and offers nothing really compelling. That said, the lower register of the organ is a nice addition and overall, the musicality works. The major failing, in my opinion, is a weak vocal presentation.

Help is simply exceptional! This cover version is significantly better than the original Beatles recording in my opinion.

Love Help Me isn't the greatest song and feels somewhat detached from the other recordings. There are some truly enjoyable elements, but overall I feel the song sounds too shrill and incomplete.

Hey Joe is a great example of the progressive/psychedelic style of Deep Purple. It is a solid tune that encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within the Deep Purple catalogue.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Masters/MQA (24/96 kHz) Stereo Mix. To say it was exceptional would be an understatement. Due to their musical style and remastering with loudness in mind, many Deep Purple recordings have previously been overly shrill. That isn't the case here as MQA has given us a beautiful reproduction that is as close to the master recording as consumers are ever likely to get.

I also listened to the Mono Mix (also TIDAL Masters/MQA [24/96 kHz]) of the album but it didn't appeal to me. Perhaps I'm just used to stereo recordings, but the mono soundstage is just so shallow in comparison to the stereo mix. In a classic what came first, the chicken or the egg? No answer in the mono vs. stereo argument will be agreed upon unanimously. Hence, I will simply say they sound different and I prefer the stereo mix. Truthfully, I'm just glad that we have both mixes available, in MQA, as the listener can select their preferred edition.

Overall, there really isn't a bad thing to say about Shades Of Deep Purple. As far as debuts go, it is one of the better ones in rock and roll and you can clearly hear the origins of what the band would become in the years and decades following this 1968 release.

Shades Of Deep Purple is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (Stereo 16/44.1 kHz FLAC) and (Mono 16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Stereo) and (Mono) (both Mastered For iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Shades Of Deep Purple is also available on Apple Music (Stereo) and (Mono).

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