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Ash Grunwald – Live At The Fly By Night (Live Album Review)

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Ash Grunwald – Live At The Fly By Night (Live Album Review)

As I listen to Live At The Fly By Night, I find myself captivated by the non-stop groove of Grunwald. This man certainly has bucket loads of rhythm to go along with what Ian McFarlane rightly claimed as a guttural resonant vocal styled somewhat after Tom Waits, Howling Wolf, Elmore James, and Robert Johnson. I couldn’t have described Grunwald’s musicality better myself and if you haven’t got a copy, you’ll find a wealth of information in McFarlane’s opus The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop.

Normally when I think of live albums, I have mixed emotions. Many are excellent, others are average at best. It really is a mixed bag. However, Live At The Fly By Night is one of the best live recordings I’ve ever heard. The mix, the dynamics, and the correct levelling of audience interaction make for a compelling listen that I’m certain you’ll love. While I can’t say for certain that some studio mastery hasn’t been applied here, I don’t care because the mastering is utterly perfect and showcases just how good music can sound if recorded, mixed, and mastered with care. 

Sadly, this release has never been issued on vinyl, but to be completely honest, the Apple Music stream, which this review is based on, is stunning with an incredible soundstage and tonality that gets you as close to vinyl as digital ever will. I can only imagine how good the CD sounds but I can assure you that you’re not missing a thing if you choose to listen to Live At The Fly By Night via Apple Music.

Intro helps to set the tone of the performance and while I’m not overly enthralled by the audience inclusion here, there is little doubt that the mix is perfect. The musical elements, and overall soundstage, really put you in a prime position to thoroughly enjoy the performance. If that rhythm doesn’t get you going, I don’t know what will. It is stunningly hypnotic and flows masterfully into Can You Find A Way.

Can You Find A Way is toe-tapping and head-bopping gold, with a guitar riff that will make you want to pick up the instrument. The distorted vocal is equally compelling and while other artists are unable to pull it off, Grunwald delivers it in a non-offensive manner that ensures it enhances the song and overall musicality. 

Skywriter is a great tune. The upbeat tempo and distorted guitar is simply stunning. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I love singing along to the chorus of Skywriter and playing my air guitar during that killer solo. 

Mojo is one of Grunwald’s best. Turn that volume up to 11; you can thank me later! 

Rosie has a brilliant vocal mix and flows perfectly in the live lineup. 

Fish Out Of Water is a moody track with a killer rhythm. I love it!

The Devil Called Me A Liar has a killer introduction but I find the song loses a little of its magic as it progresses. It isn’t bad, but if there is a B-side to be heard on Live At The Fly By Night, then The Devil Called Me A Liar is most certainly it.

1976 Coaster Van reminds me fondly of Chris Isaak’s Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing from Forever Blue; especially in the intro. 1976 Coaster Van is a solid track but I feel the spoken word element in the middle of the song detracts from the experience and the tempo speed-up makes it near impossible for the listener to stay locked into the groove. 

Just Be Yourself starts with a magical guitar introduction and continues with a fat bass track that is as relaxing as it is compelling. It doesn’t matter how still I try to make myself, the rhythm gets into your bones and your body will move even if you’re intent not to. Also, the tempo increase here, unlike 1976 Coaster Van, is perfect, ensuring that I don’t lose track of the rhythm. Returning to the slower tempo towards the end of the song is equally smooth and Just Be Yourself is arguably one of my favourite songs from the album; yes, even with the audience singing along towards the end. Again, the mix is spot on.

Money / Breakout has a magical intro. The killer rhythm will get you as will the lyrical style that is easy to sing along to. Money / Breakout is, without a doubt, an audible experience that you have to hear to believe. A stunning merging of two songs and this is without a doubt one of Grunwald’s greatest live performances and is arguably a fan favourite whenever played live. My only criticism is the slowing tempo at the end as it feels unnecessary.

Give Signs / Serious as the final track on Live At The Fly By Night certainly compels me to listen to the album again and stay within Grunwald’s growing catalogue of music. Sensational!

From start to finish, Live At The Fly By Night is nothing short of pure perfection. There isn’t a dull moment and as far as live releases go, this is up there with the very best that I’ve heard and as happy as I am with the Apple Music stream, I really want a vinyl release to add to the collection because that cover art deserves to be seen and held on the larger canvas. I love it!

Live At The Fly By Night is available on CD and iTunes.

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19-Twenty – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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19-Twenty – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Exceptional music isn’t just the domain of mainstream artists. Independent artists, such as 19-Twenty, are often just as talented, if not superior. Thanks to music streaming, finding these exceptional acts is easier than ever before.

19-Twenty is an Australian-based band with a sound that infuses soft rock, blues, roots, and folk music. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find this blending to be absolutely compelling and addictive to listen to.

The Tavern is a beautiful song, with sensational vocals and overall musicality. It sets the tone of the album and shows just how talented 19-Twenty were at the commencement of their recording career. The Tavern also has an addictive rhythm and the mix, soundstage, and mastering will blow your mind. Exceptional!

Kiama Town is simply stunning!

Lorne picks up the pace in a literal fast-plucking manner. I love it!

Louis Collins distorts and electrifies 19-Twenty's sound beautifully. It reminds me a little of early Rolling Stones and certainly Keith Richards' overall style on his latest solo release, Crosseyed Heart.

45 Degrees is an incredible song. This album just keeps getting better and better.

Wasn't For The Beat, with its frantic guitar strumming isn’t generally an element of acoustic music that I enjoy. Nevertheless, the song grows on you the more you listen to it.

Bucket Of Poison goes the grungy distortion route and interestingly reminds me of Adele’s Rumour Has It. That works for me. A solid 10/10!

1920'S Blues is a B-side and feels a little offbeat when compared to the rest of the album.

16 Hours has a simply stunning vocal presentation. Acoustic-based music doesn't get much better than this!

Slow It Down has a fantastic beat and rhythm that ensures I’ll listen to the album again and stay within 19-Twenty's growing catalogue.

As far as debut albums by Independent artists go, 19-Twenty is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish and the band has proven that a big recording contract, while likely desirable, does not dictate the quality of one's music.

While I would love to own this album on vinyl, I don't believe it was ever pressed to the format. The edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi is sonically perfect, but I’ll be tracking down a copy of the CD as it is certainly worth adding to my permanent physical music library.

19-Twenty can be purchased on CD and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 19-Twenty is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection (Album Review)

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Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection (Album Review)

You'd think that following the Pop/Rock success of John's self-titled album, Elton John, the last thing on his mind would have been a change of style. Well the country-infused concept album, Tumbleweed Connection, cemented the musical skill of not only John but Bernie Taupin. While it isn't Nashville Country Music, it is appealing to a broader demographic with its Roots, Blues, and Country Rock musicality. That said, Tumbleweed Connection is more the merging of the genres, rather than highlighting one in particular. It is unique, compelling, and is classic Elton John.

The artwork for this album is legendary, but you wouldn't know that looking at the basic artwork shown on all streaming services. As numerous albums from the vinyl era do, their cover continues to the rear, thereby creating a captivating landscape. While I don't yet have a physical copy of this album, the website Discogs is a wonderful place to explore all the editions and associated design choices.

While I have Tumbleweed Connection on my Discogs wish list, I aim to pick up the 2004 SACD edition, rather than the Vinyl release as it contains the surround sound mix by Greg Penny. These mixes are generally highly regarded and if my Blu-ray High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) 5.I Surround Sound copy of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is any indication, then I am in for an experience that has to be heard to be believed. By comparison, my Vinyl copy, and all other stereo editions of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sound flat and lifeless by comparison. Yes, I acknowledge the mastering variations of a surround sound mix versus a stereo mix, but the difference is quite profound and more enjoyable. Regardless, when I pick up the SACD release, I'll post a review for those of you who may be interested. In the meantime, this review is based on the 1995 remaster available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Overall, it is a very relaxed and enjoyable remaster that pre-dates the horrors of remastering for loudness alone.

Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun is now a staple in John's catalogue, but as catchy as it is, I just can't get into the tempo as it has always sounded a little too offbeat for my liking.

Come Down In Time is simply gorgeous. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and one of the best songs Elton John ever recorded.

County Comfort is an absolute classic that has been covered numerous times. Of the mainstream covers, I don't believe Rod Stewart did a great job of it on Gasoline Alley. Whereas, I thoroughly enjoy Keith Urban’s rendition on Be Here as I feel it pays homage to the original while being simultaneously modern and perfectly suited to Urban's style. That said, the original is, as most originals are, beyond reproach. John's version is so compelling that I could listen to it repeatedly without tiring of the song.

Son Of Your Father isn't great. Musically it’s interesting, but the lyrical delivery is disjointed until the chorus kicks in, then the song starts to become a little more compelling. Sadly, it isn't enough for me to be captivated and hence I put this song into the B-side category.

My Father's Gun is fantastic. That chorus is really appealing and the overall musically of the song is top notch in my opinion.

Where To Now St. Peter? is really enjoyable. Yet it is somewhat offbeat and shouldn't really work, but it does and systematically showcases the incredible understanding of music and its associated composition by John and Taupin.

Love Song works in well within the album construct. However, as a song on its own, I don't find it compelling. The background real-life sounds also detract from the music, although I am interested to see how these elements will be placed in the surround sound mix.

Amoreena is a B-side for me. It isn't bad, but it isn't a standout either.

Talking Old Soldiers is lovely in its simplicity. A simply amazing performance. Sonic perfection!

Burn Down The Mission is a solid B-side. Musically, there is much to like here, but I find the mix conceals the vocals a little too much.

Into The Old Man's Shoes is a great song that, once again, fits in perfectly with the album and overall style of the recording.

Madman Across The Water is epic! I never tire of this song and I really love this original version. It has such an immersive soundstage, you really need to turn the volume up on this one and be enveloped with sound. The re-recording on the similarly titled album, Madman Across The Water, is also compelling, but I find it to be overproduced and lacking some of the rawness that made this original so special.

Overall, Tumbleweed Connection is a masterful release that adds intrinsic value to Elton John's early era in the recording industry.

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

A Deluxe Edition is also available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Tumbleweed Connection is also available on Spotify (Standard / Deluxe Edition) and Apple Music (Standard / Deluxe Edition).

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

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