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Lionel Ritchie – Dancing On The Ceiling (Album Review)

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Lionel Ritchie – Dancing On The Ceiling (Album Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (Album Review)

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Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (Album Review)

Billy Joel has an exceptional back catalogue that would be the envy of many musicians. While Storm Front will always be my personal favourite, An Innocent Man, not unlike Joel's sensational Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2, is about as close to perfection as you can get. Yes, dear reader, An Innocent Man plays like a greatest hits release and should be in all serious music collections.

While it has never made it to my physical collection, I have promised myself the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) double LP release that has been mastered from the original master tapes using MOFI’s patented GAIN 2™ technology. While all the acronyms look impressive, I have a number of these releases and they are simply astonishing and make CD-quality streaming services, like TIDAL Hi-Fi, sound lifeless and flat by comparison. Speaking of TIDAL Hi-Fi, this review is based on listening to and enjoying that edition. I’ve also taken the time to appreciate An Innocent Man on Apple Music and have found the two streaming services are comparable to each other as they are derived from the same master. However, the Apple Music stream, for An Innocent Man, is about five percent louder. The additional loudness could be due to any number of production reasons, but louder volumes do give the faux perception of better quality. Now, I'm not suggesting this is the case, but it would be naive to ignore the possibility. Of course, if the volume is extended too far, the sound will degrade as a result of increased distortion; a key problem in the loudness wars. Correct management of volume, particularly in the recording, mixing, and mastering stages, is a fine line that has sadly been crossed far too often. That all said, both streams sound exceptional, but when an album is of this calibre, it will sound good regardless of lossy or lossless compression algorithms.

Without doubt, An Innocent Man, is one of the greatest albums from the 80s, but the launch window would result in a disappointing result for Joel as Michael Jackson's Thriller won the Grammy for Album Of The Year over An Innocent Man. While Jackson's Thriller is a landmark album, one I thoroughly enjoy, I'd argue that Joel’s An Innocent Man is a better album and has also stood the test of time much better than Thriller which, in my subjective opinion, is starting to sound a little dated. Perhaps An Innocent Man avoided the dreaded dating of its sound as Joel based the writing of the album on his beloved, and arguably timeless, 50s and 60s music styles. The continuous lighthearted Be-bop, Soul, and R&B styling is addictive and remarkably well suited to Joel.

Easy Money has a sensational beat – thank you Liberty DeVito! It’s a fun little song to start the album with, but the chorus isn't compelling as I find it a little distracting with it’s downbeat shift. Nevertheless, Easy Money is a great song that sets the listener up for the music they’re about to hear on the album.

An Innocent Man slows the pace of the album a little, but the transition never sounds out-of-place. When listening to An Innocent Man, you really begin to comprehend what a sensational vocalist Joel is. Joel has incredible control of his vocal and takes it right to the edge, ensuring the presentation is nothing short of a pleasure to listen to. I could listen to this song indefinitely, it is that good.

The Longest Time is, as Uptown Girl is, one of the most enjoyable songs to sing along to. Seriously, tell me you can sit and listen without singing along to this classic. Even if only in your mind, it’s addictive. I love it!

This Night really opens up throughout the chorus. Yes, the whole song is fantastic, but as a Ludwig van Beethoven fan, I really appreciate how Joel merged his vision with that of Beethoven’s. The result is a sonic interpretation that is absolutely timeless. A masterpiece!

Tell Her About It has a fantastic upbeat tempo that will have you toe-tapping and head-bopping from the very first note.

Uptown Girl is my song. It, along with Starship's We Built This City, is responsible for my love of music. Absolutely brilliant!

Careless Talk shifts the style of the album and can sound a little out-of-place following the upbeat sound of Tell Her About It and Uptown Girl. However, as a song on its own, it’s a solid recording, but if there were a B-side on An Innocent Man, it would be Careless Talk.

Christie Lee is a sensational rock tune with an exceptional saxophone element. I love it! You’ll most certainly want to turn the volume up on this song.

Leave A Tender Moment Alone is a stunningly beautiful ballad.

Keeping The Faith is a song I’ve always enjoyed, but it’s a strange song to conclude the album with as it’s somewhat different to the songs that came before it. It sounds too modern for the album’s style, but as a song on its own, it's extraordinary!

Overall, An Innocent Man is an astonishingly good album and one of Joel's best, if not his best. If you want to listen to a flawless album, that is also timeless, then this is the album for you. Pure perfection!

An Innocent Man is available on Vinyl, SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

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

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Mariah Carey – #1 To Infinity (Compilation Review – North American Edition)

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Mariah Carey – #1 To Infinity (Compilation Review – North American Edition)

Throughout the 90s, Mariah Carey’s music was regularly played in my home as I was captivated by Music Box and Daydream, along with Carey’s earlier recordings that I would hear on the radio. I was also a frequent listener of Carey's first Christmas album, Merry Christmas, during the holiday season of course. Yes, longtime readers would undoubtedly remember my dislike of Christmas music, as I seem to reference it every chance I get, yet there was a period in time when this music was important to me. It no longer is, but I don't have any regrets listening to it at the time. Nevertheless, following Daydream, I found myself no longer connecting with Carey's music. Yes, she became increasingly a Diva, but she also shifted styles upon each new album; in my opinion, less successfully than Madonna has done over the years. Mind-blowing ballads such as Hero and Endless Love have become increasingly absent in Carey’s later releases and it's a shame from my perspective as she had the capacity to go head to head with the likes of Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion, but she chose a different creative path. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before she returns to her roots as her vocal range is absolutely incredible and classic ballads will always outlive the current pop trends.

Diva or not, Carey has an incredible back catalogue and as soon as #1 To Infinity was released on vinyl, I had to have it. It's important to note that there are different versions of this compilation; a North American release (the one which this review is based upon), an International version, and a Japanese edition. However, the vinyl edition has only ever featured the North American tracking and subsequently, if you want to enjoy the other editions, from other regions, you’ll have to import a CD as streaming services localise the album to your particular region.

The vinyl release is simply stunning, not only to listen to but to enjoy as a physical counterpart to the music. Presented in a heavy duty gatefold, you get the feeling that much care and thought was put into this production. As you open the gatefold, there is a short message to the fans, from Mariah, which is a nice touch. Carey also pens the inner sleeves, describing a little background of each song prior to the reprinting of the lyrics and production information. It’s wonderful to see this attention to detail as so many career perspective releases are thrown together as nothing more than a sales opportunity by the record label and often without the input of the artist.

Turning our attention to the record cover, I’m not a fan of it. I much prefer the photograph on the rear of the vinyl release as it encapsulates Carey’s innocent era as well as her more provocative era. That said, one can’t argue that the cover is striking and stands out from other records, therefore ensuring it isn’t missed on the shelves of your local record store.

Each record comes in a printed inner-sleeve and while the photographs detail much of Carey’s career, I find it interesting that the selected photographs somewhat conclude with Carey’s Butterfly era, rather than proceeding through to the compilation’s release in 2015. Nevertheless, the selected photographs are fantastic and are a joy to look at while listening to the record.

Vision of Love is the perfect song to commence the compilation on. While I was never fortunate enough to own Carey's self-titled debut album, it was impossible to go for any length of time without hearing Carey's soaring vocals on the radio. It's the kind of song, as many of Carey's classics are, that create the dreaded earworm. Of course, in this case, it’s a song that I'm happy to allow my subconscious to play over and over again as if it were a broken record.

Love Takes Time is a beautiful song and I truly hope Carey will return to her roots, in the future, where her vocal is crystal-clear and front and center. We already have more than enough manufactured and overproduced music. I want these power ballads. Exceptional!

Someday (MTV Unplugged) is a great performance. I would, however, have preferred them to edit the track down to the drumstick count in as the spoken word introduction is cheesy. Carey would probably hate this, but the backing vocalists make this live performance. It’s also a great mix and I don't know about you, but I’ve yet to come across a substandard MTV Unplugged performance, by any artist. While I do question the inclusion of a live track on a greatest hits compilation, Carey explains in the liner notes that she wasn’t completely satisfied with the overproduced version of the studio recording, whereas she found this version more appealing. After comparing both, she’s got a point. The original is substandard when compared to the MTV Unplugged performance. It’s actually difficult to listen to after the live version.

I Don’t Wanna Cry is another exceptional song from Carey's debut album. So well recorded, mixed, and mastered. It’s an incredibly musical song that encourages one to sit back, close their eyes, and turn up the volume.

Emotions has a great beat that compels you to move your body. It’s a little campy, but an absolute classic.

I'll Be There (Feat. Trey Lorenz) is an incredible cover, but I find Carey sings it too similar to the Jackson 5 original, rather than making it her own. Perhaps it was due to the last minute plan to record it for the MTV Unplugged performance that caused Carey to approach the song in this manner. Of course, the similar nature of her version could have been as a direct result of her admiration for the Jackson 5. Regardless, she nails it!

Dreamlover is a great pop song and god only knows how many times I played this song in the 90s, as Music Box was spun repeatedly. It isn't Carey's greatest song, that title goes to Hero, but it’s not far behind and will arguably be present on every Carey career perspective album that will see the light of day.

Hero is the definitive Mariah Carey song. While it has been played ad nauseam, it’s still her greatest recording and I don’t believe she'll ever top it.

Fantasy (Bad Boy Fantasy Feat. O.D.B) is an interesting choice as I've always enjoyed the original studio release, but I must say this remix is compelling and has grown on me the more I have played it. That said, I'm not sure I agree with remixes appearing on compilations. Neil Sedaka's The Very Best Of was somewhat ruined when some of his greatest songs appeared in a medley format. Thankfully I like this version of Fantasy as much as the original album version.

One Sweet Day (Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men) is a beautiful song. Both Carey and Boyz II Men were at their creative peaks when this song was recorded and it shows.

Always Be My Baby has a sensational intro, and while I enjoy the song, I find the verses to be pedestrian. Thankfully the chorus kicks this song into high gear. That said, I'm not sure if this song is compilation worthy. It's good, but is it great?

Honey isn't a bad song, but it’s overproduced and while it isn't dated, give it another couple of decades and the sonic signature will have aged quite badly.

My All is a beautiful ballad and is truly worthy of inclusion on this career perspective compilation. Carey really needs to focus on this style of song, in my opinion. In this category, she has very few peers.

Heartbreaker (Feat. Jay-Z) is fantastic. I don't know about you, but it gets me head-bopping and toe-tapping as I turn the volume up and sing along. Jay-Z really is the spit and polish on this song. His contribution isn't as prominent as I'd like, but it's arguably perfect.

Thank God I Found You (Feat. Joe & 98 Degrees) is a lovely ballad, although I find the tempo to be a little too slow, not dissimilar to the audible slow down on a cassette walkman just as the batteries were beginning to fail.

We Belong Together is a solid pop tune, but I wonder, again, if this song is worthy of a career perspective album.

Don't Forget About Us is in a similar category to We Belong Together. It's good, but perhaps not great.

Touch My Body is one of Carey's newer songs that I truly enjoy. A great song with a great beat.

Infinity is, of course, the only new song to appear on this career perspective release. It isn’t bad and fits in well with the other tracks on the compilation. That said, I feel it’s overproduced and Carey's vocal tracking could have been stronger as her vocal range isn't well represented on this song.

Like many greatest hit albums, length is an issue and I find after the 79-minute duration has elapsed, I'm ready to listen to something else. That said, while listening to #1 To Infinity, I thoroughly enjoy it and don’t for a moment regret picking it up on vinyl.

The song choice for the North American edition is well-considered, but I do miss Without You and that incredible duet with Luther Vandross; Endless Love. Both are included on the International release of the album. At least we didn't get the campy All I Want For Christmas Is You, although it is included on the Japanese edition if you’re a fan of that song.

Sonically, the vinyl pressing is full bodied with a warmth that will appeal to analogue aficionados. If you’re interested in picking up the vinyl release, a download code is also included and the mastering, while not confirmed, sounds identical to the vinyl release, minor the unique analogue sound of course. Overall, the pressing is very quiet, with almost no surface noise, ensuring headphone listening is enjoyable. It’s truly worth owning for fans of Mariah Carey’s music.

#1 To Infinity is available on VinylCD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming #1 To Infinity is available on TIDAL Hi-Fiand Apple Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, let’s get to the actual review. While I would love to embed the album from TIDAL et al, this compilation isn't available on any streaming service. It isn’t even available for purchase on iTunes. However, let’s not be discouraged as I have painstakingly constructed a playlist of the songs. TIDAL will, of course, be embedded below, but I have also made the playlist available for Spotify users.

SIDE ONE

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is an absolute classic!

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

SIDE TWO

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

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

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

Philadelphia Freedom is EPIC!

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

SIDE THREE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SIDE FOUR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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