Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Smallville Excitement!

This picture is courtesy of Wikipedia.  Click image to get more Smallville information

In May, I bought the complete seasons 1 thru to 6 of Smallville!  I’m pretty excited about buying them!  If it wasn’t for the Superman comics, we wouldn’t have great TV shows like Smallville, Superman movies, or the Lois & Clark TV series.   I love the song they use during the opening credits for the series: Save Me by Remy Zero!

Smallville started in 2001 but, when I started watching it, I had already missed some episodes.   I was hooked!  I never missed a week of Smallville, but one day, I noticed that Network Ten (or Channel 10) stopped showing Smallville all together.  I think it was during the 6th season they stopped.  I wasn’t happy at all as I really enjoyed watching it.

This picture is courtesy of Fishpond.com.au.

Then some time in 2008, I heard that Ten HD was showing Smallville, but the terrible thing about that was that we didn’t have a digital TV at the time so I still missed out on more episodes of it.  Now, Ten HD aren't even showing it.  Last week, I read on the Smallville Australia site that one of the possible reasons they’ve stopped showing Smallville is because many Australians were obviously downloading full episodes before they can be put on air in Australia.  I guess people wouldn't have to do that if the episodes were shown at the same time as they are viewed in the States.  It seems a shame to see such a great TV series like Smallville go off air because ratings come down due to people downloading the episodes instead.

Thankfully, the episodes of various TV shows are now being put onto DVD so at least I have been able to catch up.

Smallville has finished showing it’s 8th season in the US, so I’m sure we’ll see that season’s DVD set come out between August and October, but unfortunately, Australia may not get it until sometime next year.  Another great piece of news is that I’ve read on the Kryptonsite website is that Tom Welling and other Smallville cast have signed up to do a 9th Season of Smallville!  I’m so excited about that, I’m already looking forward to it being released on DVD because it obviously won’t be shown on TV here unless something good happens!  From what I’ve also read on the Kryptonsite website, Tom Welling signed up for a Season 10!  I really do hope they do Season 10!  I’m not going to get my hopes too high at the moment, because you never know if they’re going to do it or not as it all depends on the ratings for Season 9!  Everyone keep your fingers crossed that the series will reach Season 10!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

May You Rest In Peace, Michael

This picture is courtesy of Fishpond.com.au.

Mum woke me up on Friday morning with the very sad news that singer Michael Jackson died of a heart attack.  I could not believe what I was hearing.

I still feel shocked with the sad, sad news and yet part of me doesn’t want to believe he is actually dead.  Michael Jackson has been one of my favourite singers for many years, it is just a shame he had do die so young and just days before his final concerts in London as well.  Michael Jackson will be missed by many people the world over.  I feel sorry for Michael’s family, especially even more for his 3 kids; Prince Michael, Paris and Prince Michael II, just imagine how devastated they would be to know their dad will never be there for them again.

I remember when I was much younger, my brothers and my sister watched a video of Michael Jackson’s Bucharest concert back in 1992 and I remember Michelle, Beau and Reece would learn Michael’s dance routines while watching that concert!  Aaahhhh, the good ol’ days!  My first ever Michael Jackson CD was his single “You Are Not Alone”, but my first ever full CD of songs was his HIStory double CD set.  Since then I started getting some more CDs of him, but I’ve still got more to get (the CD pictured above, Visionary: The Video Singles is just one of them)!  Right now while I’m writing this, I’ve got my iPod Classic 80GB shuffling through Michael’s albums and compilations I have put on it.  I don't have one favourite song.....instead I have many and all his hits are among them.  Michael’s video clips are all pretty good too, especially the Thriller one.  Michael didn’t like to call them video clips, he called them films.

I've watching the news reports and tributes for most of the day. It is still very hard to believe, especially when Michael had a lot more years ahead of him.  Michael was and always be a great legend!  From what I read earlier on in the year, Michael Jackson was working on an album, but time will tell if that album was completed or not, because if it was completed, we can expect it to be released, otherwise if it isn’t, Invincible will be Michael’s final studio album.  I really enjoyed Michael’s dancing, especially in concert (even though I’ve only seen him on TV).  Michael’s music will forever be an inspiration and he had a great talent that no one can beat.

MICHAEL, WE WILL MISS YOU GREATLY, BUT YOUR MUSIC WILL LIVE ON FOREVER!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Digital Radio Excitement!

First of all, I just want to express my excitement about Australia becoming the latest country to get Digital Radio!  I’m not talking about the DAB format that other countries are using, which uses the MPEG2 audio codec, nor the format the US is using (I can’t think offhand what that one is), but we are using the DAB+ format, which uses the AAC+ audio codec, similar to the one used in iTunes!  I am hoping to get my very first digital radio sometime either this week or next week!  I’m really looking forward to it, mainly because I’m sick and tired of having AM stations go all distorted on me when I’m trying to listen to a good song on my clock radio.

Right now while I’m writing this, I’m listening to my favourite AM radio station called 4KQ and they’re playing Eric Clapton’s MTV Unplugged version of Layla!  I love that version of Layla better than the rockier version, but I can’t enjoy it at the moment because of the distortion, and the only place I can sit my old clock radio is under my bed for the best sound, and even that isn’t good enough.

For me, Digital Radio has come at a great time!  I’m looking forward to enjoying tuning by station name instead of frequency and being able to find out the name of a song I like instead of having to ring a number or SMS a word to a number I can’t even access, not to mention the crystal clear sound compared to analogue radio distortion!  For anyone who wants to know more about digital radio and the technology it is using, just go to the Digital Radio Plus website.  That website even has a list of digital radios to check out!  Brisbane got Digital Radio switched on Monday, May 25 while Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide got it a week or two before!

Sydney was supposed to have Digital Radio on May 30th, but thanks to the weather situation, will now be delayed until June 10th, unless there are further delays again.  Once Sydney has Digital Radio switched on, then all the major capital cities of Australia will have it.  From what I’ve read on the Digital Radio Plus website, they could be getting rural parts of Australia to go digital as well!  The good thing is no one is being forced to hurry up and get a digital radio yet as normal analogue AM and FM will still be around for some years yet!  That is a good thing because as Digital Radio is still new in Australia, the cheapest radio you can get is at least $130 in Australian Dollars, which in a way is annoying, but then considering the technology going into them, I kind of think it is worth it!

Stay tuned for a review of my Digital Radio experience some time in the coming weeks!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Elton John Deluxe Editions Reviews

 
This picture is courtesy of Fishpond.com.au.  Click image to purchase at Fishpond.

Today I have a review of 2 Elton John albums which must be on their 4th re-release now!  The first one is the self-titled Elton John Deluxe Edition, followed by Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition!  The reason I say that this must be their 4th re-release is because they were originally released in 1970 on LP records, then when CDs first came out in the 80s, they were re-released then onto CD, but with nothing special about them and (from what I’ve read) very poor quality, but then in 1995, they got re-released  with 10 other Elton albums under the series name of Elton John - The Classic Years!  This time they weren't the same as the original CDs of the 80s, they were digitally re-mastered and re-packaged with bonus tracks and sleeve notes done by John Tobler.  After 13 years, in 2008, the Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection albums were re-released yet again, but this time as Deluxe Editions and it is this reissue of those two albums that I am reviewing here!

I think the CDs were released here in Australia back in June or July 2008 and I think earlier in 2008 for other countries.  Anyway, I got the Deluxe Editions of the Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection albums on the week of my birthday in August 2008!  Being a huge Elton fan, I could not wait to get them home to listen to!  I'm going to start with the Elton John Deluxe Edition CD!

The Elton John Deluxe Edition is a double CD packed with many great treats to listen to!  First, Disc One contains the entire track listing for the original album the way it was in 1970 without extra tracks.  My favourite songs from Disc One would have to be Your Song, I Need You To Turn To, Take Me To The Pilot (even though no one knows the meaning of it), Border Song, The Greatest Discovery and No Shoe Strings On Louise!  The first CD of the set contains the following songs:

  1. Your Song
  2. I Need You To Turn To
  3. Take Me To The Pilot
  4. No Shoe Strings On Louise
  5. First Episode At Hienton
  6. Sixty Years On
  7. Border Song
  8. The Greatest Discovery
  9. The Cage
  10. The King Must Die

CD Two, the Bonus Disc of the set is the most exciting thing about the Deluxe Edition of the Elton John album!  Leading off Disc Two is the Demo Version of Your Song!  I have to admit when I bought Elton's To Be Continued... 4 CD box set off e-Bay a few years ago, I never thought they'd bring the Demo of Your Song out any other way.  That is where this great CD set proved me wrong!  I think the Your Song demo on this set is so much better quality than the one on the above mentioned box set!  In fact, Your Song isn't the only demo on the Deluxe Edition, there is a demo version of every song off the original album except First Episode At Hienton and Border Song, which makes me wonder if those two songs don't have demo versions or whether they're holding them off for another future release of the Elton John album.  All the demos of album songs appear in the order they do on the first CD of the set, which is the way the original album was!  I have to say that I like pretty much all the demos made of the album songs although The Greatest Discovery has a bit of a glitch in it where at one part of the song, the tape must have gone a bit wobbly, but then that was the only part and it only lasted for less than a second!  I like how Elton even sings the part that the strings section of an orchestra is supposed to do!

The Piano Demo of Rock And Roll Madonna is, IMO, better than the finished version!  Next is 3 rare and unheard of demos of great songs called Thank You Mama, All The Way Down To El Paso and I'm Going Home!  I think All The Way Down To El Paso and I'm Going Home could have been great album songs had they've been finished with the band, but I like them the way they appear on the set as just demos!  Anyway, what if they did try to finish the songs and the band kind of spoiled the songs?  They wouldn’t be as good then!  Next is the Piano Demo of Grey Seal, which, to be honest, I do like better than the eventually finished 1970 version of the song!  After the Grey Seal Piano Demo is yet another version of Rock And Roll Madonna, but this time it is the Incomplete Band Demo, which I also like better than the version that was eventually put out on a single B-side!  There is someone laughing at the end of the band demo of the song, which I'm sure could have been Elton, but I really don't know!

Next comes the 3 songs that were added as bonus tracks on The Classic Years version of the CD!  Bad Side Of The Moon, Grey Seal and Rock And Roll Madonna (the finished version) got moved onto the 2nd disc of the set!  I love Bad Side Of The Moon, but as I've said above, the Demo versions of Rock And Roll Madonna and Grey Seal are so much better than the finished versions!  The last 3 songs on the bonus CD are from BBC sessions, well, two of them are, but one of them, Your Song, is just the studio version with the orchestra taken out, listen closely and you’ll still hear some orchestra instruments playing.  The other two songs from the BBC sessions are Border Song and Take Me To The PilotBorder Song's BBC session version features a group called Hookfoot, who helped Elton out at the time!  Now that I'm finished giving you the rundown on what I think of all the songs on the Elton John Deluxe Edition CD, I thought I'd put the track listing for that CD as well, so here we go, the track listing for CD Two!

  1. Your Song - Demo Version
  2. I Need You To Turn To – Piano Demo
  3. Take Me To The Pilot - Piano Demo
  4. No Shoe Strings On Louise - Piano Demo
  5. Sixty Years On - Piano Demo
  6. The Greatest Discovery - Piano Demo
  7. The Cage - Demo
  8. The King Must Die - Piano Demo
  9. Rock And Roll Madonna - Piano Demo
  10. Thank You Mama - Piano Demo
  11. All The Way Down To El Paso - Piano Demo
  12. I'm Going Home - Piano Demo
  13. Grey Seal - Piano Demo
  14. Rock And Roll Madonna - Incomplete Band Demo
  15. Bad Side Of The Moon
  16. Grey Seal
  17. Rock And Roll Madonna
  18. Border Song - BBC Session (with Hookfoot)
  19. Your Song - BBC Session
  20. Take Me To The Pilot - BBC Session

 
This picture is courtesy of Fishpond.com.au.  Click image to purchase at Fishpond

The next album I'm reviewing, as you see from the image above, is Elton John's Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition!  Another great re-release packed with many great treasures!  Like the Elton John Deluxe Edition, the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition is a double CD set and, like the Elton John Deluxe Edition, this one has the full, original album on Disc One with no added bonus tracks like The Classic Years version does, this one is just the full album and the songs that were bonus tracks on The Classic Years re-master have been moved onto Disc Two along with other great songs!

Now, I love the fact of being able to play the original album on Disc One, but I also feel a bit sad in a way because from what I've read in the Hercules International Elton John Fan Club forums, people were disappointed that there are some songs missing off the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition Bonus CD, and even a review for the CD at amazon.com was disappointed with the CD as well.  Apparently there are supposed to be really good demo versions of Bern Down The Mission, Amoreena and Where To Now St. Peter and a demo song that isn't on there called Rolling Western Union, which is rather sad, but lets get to the good things about it!

My favourite songs from the Tumbleweed Connection original album (Disc One on the Deluxe Edition) are Come Down In Time, Country Comfort, Son OF Your Father, My Father's Gun, Love Song, Amoreena and Burn Down The Mission.  All the other songs on the album are great too, but these are my absolute favourites!  I love the way Bernie Taupin can get images into your head when you listen to the words of the songs.   The song I like the least is Talking Old Soldiers.  Here is the track listing for CD One of Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition;

  1. Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun
  2. Come Down In Time
  3. Country Comfort
  4. Son Of Your Father
  5. My Father’s Gun
  6. Where To Now St. Peter?
  7. Love Song
  8. Amoreena
  9. Talking Old Soldiers
  10. Burn Down The Mission

The Bonus CD of Tumbleweed Connection’s Deluxe Edition is pretty good and, like the album above, all the treasures are on the bonus CD!  The first 5 songs on Disc Two (the bonus disc) are demo versions of some of the album songs!  One song that has had a name change when the album was released is Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun, which has a piano demo on Disc Two, but under the name of There Goes A Well Known Gun!  I like There Goes A Well Known Gun better than the album version as it has more of a Country-Rock feeling to it!  Come Down In Time is a piano demo of the same track on Disc One and the same can be said about Country Comfort, Son OF Your Father and Talking Old Soldiers.  I love the demo versions of just as much as the original album versions except Talking Old Soldiers, which I prefer the demo for some reason.  Next in line after the piano demo version of Talking Old Soldiers is the piano demo version of Into The Old Man’s Shoes!  That song wasn’t included on the original album, but I think it was the B-side of the Your Song single in 1970 or 1971 and the finished track was included on the 1992 double Rare Masters CD of rare Elton songs, then again in 1995 on The Classic Years re-master of Tumbleweed Connection as a bonus track!

The piano demo of Into The Old Man’s Shoes is followed by a great song called Sisters Of The Cross, a song that must have been recorded during the album sessions, but never finished, therefore we’re treated to the piano demo of the song on Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition, but it hasn’t been officially released, just on bootleg CDs!  I think it is a pretty good song!  That is followed by the original version of Madman Across The Water which is the title track to the follow-up studio album (this excludes a live album and a soundtrack to a movie) after Tumbleweed Connection.  The version of the song on the Madman Across The Water album was done with guitarist Chris Spedding and Davey Johnstone, but this original version was done with Mick Ronson and I think the reason it was included on the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition and The Classic Years re-master of that album is probably because it must have been recorded during the sessions of Tumbleweed Connection instead of the Madman Across The Water sessions. Even though I do like both of the versions, I prefer the final version on the Madman Across The Water album better than this version as, IMO, it sounds so much nicer !  Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that this original version of Madman Across The Water was also included on the double CD set called Rare Masters!

The original version of Madman Across The Water is followed on the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition by the final, finished version of Into The Old Man’s Shoes!  I like both the final and demo versions of Into The Old Man’s Shoes, it is a pretty good song!  In fact, the final version of Into The Old Man’s Shoes and the original version of Madman Across The Water were on The Classic Years re-master of Tumbleweed Connection in 1995 as bonus tracks on the single CD!  I was amazed that they weren’t on the first disc of the set like they are on the 1995 release, but they obviously must have liked the idea of putting no tracks after the original album, which is understandable, but then they probably would have been able to add 2 or 3 more songs on (depending on how short they are), but I still like the way it is now!

Into The Old Man’s Shoes is followed up nicely by 4 songs from the BBC Sessions and they are My Father’s Gun (a pretty good version of the song), Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun (similar to the album version, but not entirely the same, but good!  I think I like this version better), Burn Down The Mission (well, it’s a great song anyway, I like this one and the studio version on the album) and Amoreena (still a great song)!  All four songs from the BBC session are pretty good!  All in all, the bonus disc of the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition is definitely worth the listen!  Here is the track listing for Disc Two of Tumbleweed Connection’s Deluxe Edition:

Into The Old Man’s Shoes is followed up nicely by 4 songs from the BBC Sessions and they are My Father’s Gun (a pretty good version of the song), Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun (similar to the album version, but not entirely the same, but good!  I think I like this version better), Burn Down The Mission (well, it’s a great song anyway, I like this one and the studio version on the album) and Amoreena (still a great song)!  All four songs from the BBC session are pretty good!  All in all, the bonus disc of the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition is definitely worth the listen!  Here is the track listing for Disc Two of Tumbleweed Connection’s Deluxe Edition:

  1. There Goes A Well Known Gun – Previously Unreleased
  2. Come Down In Time – Piano Demo, Previously Unreleased
  3. Country Comfort – Piano Demo, Previously Unreleased
  4. Son Of Your Father – Previously Unreleased
  5. Talking Old Soldiers – Piano Demo, Previously Unreleased
  6. Into The Old Man’s Shoes – Piano Demo, Previously Unreleased
  7. Sisters Of The Cross – Piano Demo, Previously Unreleased
  8. Madman Across The Water - Original Version
  9. Into The Old Man’s Shoes
  10. My Father’s Gun – BBC Session
  11. Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun – BBC Session, Previously Unreleased
  12. Burn Down The Mission – BBC Session, Previously Unreleased
  13. Amoreena – BBC Session, Previously Unreleased

Overall, I think the Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Edition is a fantastic CD re-release of the great album, even better than the 1995 version included in The Classic Years series.  Even the notes in the booklet have a few extra paragraphs and sentences added in here and there, though they are pretty much the exact same notes that are included in The Classic Years re-master and I think even the notes in the CDs of The Classic Years are copied from John Tobler’s Elton book called 25 Years In The Charts.  Likewise, the Elton John Deluxe Edition's booklet is pretty much the same as The Classic Years version's booklet except with a few sentences and paragraphs added here and there, I'm talking about the notes, not the booklet as a whole, at least the booklets of both editions have different layouts and pictures than the original 1995 re-masters!

The Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Editions doesn’t have a normal ordinary CD jewel case, it is in a cardboard case, pretty much designed similar to the old vinyl version with gatefold sleeves (well, I’ve never actually seen the original LP or its case, so I don’t really know what it is like), but it has plastic CD trays for both discs and the booklet slides into a slot at one side of the opened out case.  The Deluxe Edition of the Elton John album is exactly the same CD case layout, some people call them digipacks for some reason, but that doesn’t matter, I don’t care about that!  Both Deluxe Editions look so good!  I just hope they both don’t go the same way my Elton John Greatest Hits 1970 – 2002 3CD set went with its cardboard case (I think it has something to do with air bubbles or something between the CD trays and  the cardboard), but I’m keeping them in their Deluxe Edition labelled plastic, which is tight, so hopefully it’ll stop that from happening, and also the fact that I’ve got them on my computer to listen to means I don’t have to keep taking the CDs out of the cases and eventually wrecking them!

If you are new to Elton’s music and you’re deciding between the Deluxe Editions of these two great albums or the re-masters in The Classic Years, I strongly recommend you buy the Deluxe Editions (although The Classic Years ones are just as good, just not as much bonus tracks), but if you’re an all-time Elton fan and have already got the ones from The Classic Years, it is up to you; the Deluxe Editions definitely have more to offer, but if you’re wanting me to tell you the difference between quality of sound of the Deluxe Editions and The Classic Years versions, I’m afraid I can not help you there.  As I’ve said before, I’m hearing impaired, so I may not be as good at picking up differences in sound quality.  I may be able to notice the difference between the sound of the original CD versions of these albums compared to The Classic Years versions, but that’s because they were both made differently and Gus Dudgeon fixed the problems that existed on the original 1980s releases of the albums for the ones included in The Classic Years re-masters, but that is all.  I give both of these Deluxe Editions 5 stars out of 5 because they are both really, really good to listen to!

I’ve still got a few more Deluxe Edition Elton John CDs to buy, not to mention I’ve still got some of The Classic Years (the 1998 series, just 3 more to get) and Digitally Re-mastered (the 2003 series, only 2 more to go) CD series to finish buying!  From what I’ve read on the Internet, we can expect a Madman Across The Water Deluxe Edition this year too, as well as a box set with duets and other songs and also the other big news for this year is Elton John may bring another album out at the end of this year!  Yikes!!  All these CDs I have to buy is amazing!  One day I will have them all in my collection!

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Reach Out (I'll Be There) - Music of the Four Tops

This picture of The Four Tops courtesy of wikipedia.org

 

As I write this blog post, I'm listening to songs by the group that this post is all about, The Four Tops.  I know that I'm three months late in saying it, but I was very shocked one weekend when I heard that Levi Stubbs, founder and lead vocalist of The Four Tops died in his sleep on October 17, 2008.  I'm sure all fans of The Four Tops were shocked and sad when they heard the news.  The Four Tops, with Levi Stubbs as lead vocalist, had many great hits for Motown back in the 60's, which include the hits "Bernadette", "Standing In The Shadows Of Love", "Ask The Lonely" and so on.

 

My favourite songs by The Four Tops have to be "Baby I Need Your Loving", "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)", "It's The Same Old Song" and "Reach Out (I'll Be There)", but they have so many other great songs.  I've yet to own a Greatest Hits or Best Of compilation, but I will get there eventually.  I've got some of their songs scattered over different CDs, some Motown CDs and some Classic Hits Radio CDs made here in Australia.  For years I have wondered who sang "Baby I Need Your Loving" because for as long as I can remember, I've been listening to a radio station here in Brisbane called 4KQ (I mentioned them in my last post about Elton John), then I eventually found out it was The Four Tops.  I eventually found out they done a lot of other songs I really like (see my list of favourite songs)!

 

I was surprised when I read on a Wikipedia page that Levi Stubbs actually had a baritone voice and that Holland-Dozier-Holland, Motown's songwriting team, wrote The Four Tops' songs so that Levi had to sing in a tenor voice instead of baritone because they wanted him to sound like there is a sense of urgency in the songs.  I thought that was a pretty good idea because that's how we've come to know so many great songs by this great group, and the sad thing is that there is apparently only one surviving member left from the original Four Tops lineup, but I forgot what his name is.  Another great song I really like is the Four Tops and the Supremes duet of "River Deep Mountain High", it is so much different to Ike & Tina Turner's and Celine Dion's versions!

 

In my opinion, The Four Tops' songs are emotionally driven with great music and melodies, fantastic lyrics and amazing vocals and harmonies.  In fact, one of Australia's famous groups, Human Nature, has made 3 albums full of Motown classics, including some of The Four Tops' great music and I do feel they do these songs justice, they are just as good as the originals!  Actually, I've actually been to a Human Nature concert where they have done the whole concert of Motown songs (well...actually, Human Nature did sing some of their own songs, but only acoustically and short versions), which was fantastic, they even got the audience to participate as well, which I thought was great!  I've actually got plans to buy Human Nature's box set containing their 3 Motown covers album and a live concert DVD of the Motown songs in concert!  The box set is called The Motor City Collection!  All I can say here is well done to Human Nature for doing such a great job at covering all those fantastic Motown artists and their songs!

 

It's a shame that many of the members of the Four Tops are no longer with us, but as long as we keep introducing their music to younger generations to come, I don't think their music will ever be forgotten!  Hopefully the music of the 60's, 70's and 80's will be remembered for many years and decades to come, from generation to generation, it's a nice thought to think of!

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