September 26, 2021

Rumpletilskinz - What Is a Rumpletilskin? (1993) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Hardcore Hip-Hop
Label Number: 07863 66143-2
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☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1993 RCA/BMG Records
You've got to wonder if the major labels that signed eccentric, unorthodox new-school rap groups like Rumpletilskinz did so as mere tax write-offs, without ever intending to promote them properly, because with a little publicity push, What Is a Rumpletilskin? could have captured many of the same imaginations as the artists who were a part of the Native Tongues diaspora, not to mention commercially successful crews from a couple years down the road like Roc-A-Fella and Busta Rhymes' Flipmode Squad, both of which sound, in retrospect, as if they had carefully cribbed notes from the foursome. As it is, the album vanished from circulation almost before anyone had an opportunity to answer the title question, and it turned out to be the only recording by the Skinz. It's a shame on both counts. Close associates of Leaders of the New School -- the group's three MCs were featured on "Sound of the Zeekers" from LONS' debut outing, A Future Without a Past... -- Rumpletilskinz were, in fact, very much in the same mold as that foursome, zestfully trading off verses like the restless, grown-up nephews of original rap crews like the Furious Five and Funky Four Plus One. They can be just as zany as LONS, too, as each MC brings his own distinctive flavor: the Remedy Man (aka Shanow), loquaciousness carried by a windy, high-pitched whine; Jeranimo and his manic, proto-Ritalin breathlessness, the obvious neurotic id of the group; and The Capital L.S., its raw-throated linchpin. But Rumpletilskinz also projected some of Onyx's menacing, in-your-face smart-mouthing, perfectly exemplified by the larynx-throttling verbal throw-down "Mad M.F.'s," not coincidentally helmed by Onyx producer Chyskills. And with other equally blistering songs like "Attitudes," the buggy "Mushroom Talk," and "Hi Volume," this album deserved much more than its strictly cult reputation.

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tags: rumpletilskinz, what is a rumpletilskin, 1993, flac,

Guadalcanal Diary - 2x4 (1987) ☠

*First pressing. 
Contains 13 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Jangle Pop
Label Number: 9 60752-2
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1987 Elektra
2X4 Review by Mark Deming
After the musical and commercial disappointment of Guadalcanal Diary's second album, the overcooked and overproduced Jamboree, the band took a simultaneous step back and leap forward on their third long-player, 1987's 2x4. 2x4 found the band working once again with producer Don Dixon, who had captured their mingled punch and jangle on their debut, 1984's Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man, and the happy irony was that Dixon was able to give the band the tougher and more detailed sound they failed to get on Jamboree. At the same time, Guadalcanal Diary rose to the occasion with a batch of songs that merited Dixon's more muscular treatment; 2x4 isn't short on pop smarts, but Murray Attaway and Jeff Walls put a lot more weight behind their guitars on this set, and bassist Rhett Crowe and drummer John Poe weren't afraid to keep up with their wall of sound. "Things Fall Apart" and "Litany (Life Goes On)" proved Guadalcanal Diary could have their cake and eat it too, holding on to the obtuse Southern accents of their earlier work while introducing plenty of Big Rock swagger to the mix, as "Little Birds" and "3 a.m." offered reassurance that the band still knew how to turn down their amps when circumstances demanded. If Guadalcanal Diary succumbed to the stereotypical sophomore slump with Jamboree, they managed a far stronger third-inning rebound than the majority of their peers on 2x4, which sounds like the group's strongest and most confident album.

tags: guadalcanal diary, 2x4, 1987, flac,

Madonna - Like a Prayer (1989)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 9 25844-2
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© 1989 Sire Records
Like a Prayer Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Out of all of Madonna's albums, Like a Prayer is her most explicit attempt at a major artistic statement. Even though it is apparent that she is trying to make a "serious" album, the kaleidoscopic variety of pop styles on Like a Prayer is quite dazzling. Ranging from the deep funk of "Express Yourself" and "Keep It Together" to the haunting "Oh Father" and "Like a Prayer," Madonna displays a commanding sense of songcraft, making this her best and most consistent album.

tags: madonna, like a prayer, 1989, flac,

Madonna - I'm Breathless: Music From & Inspired By The Film Dick Tracy (1990)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop, Jazz, Swing
Label Number: 9 26209-2
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© 1990 Sire/Warner Bros. Records
I'm Breathless [Music from and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy] Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
A collection of songs featured or inspired by the comic-book-turned-movie Dick Tracy, I'm Breathless is essentially Madonna's take on popular music from the '40s, particularly big-band pop. Although her singing shows a surprising amount of range, the material tends to be nothing more than cutesy novelty numbers, like the double entendre-laden hit "Hanky Panky." I'm Breathless approaches greatness only on "Vogue," a hit single tacked on to the end of the record. Featuring an endlessly deep house groove and an instantly memorable melody, "Vogue" is a detatched, affectionate celebration of transcendent pop and gay culture and stands as Madonna's finest single moment.

tags: madonna, im breathless, music from and inspired by the film dick tracy, 1990, flac,

Various Artists - In Too Deep: Music From The Dimension Motion Picture (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, R&B
Label Number: 495295 2
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© 1999 Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax
In Too Deep [Original Soundtrack] Review by Keith Farley
The urban thriller In Too Deep starred Omar Epps and LL Cool J, and the soundtrack boasts a similar roster of big names. Leading off, the title track and single feature Nas and Nature in a surprisingly lackluster performance. A much better production, and a better pairing of skilled rappers, comes with second track "Tear It Off" by Method Man and Redman. The pair trade off well and sound genuinely energetic. For better (and often for worse), the rest of the soundtrack has the same hit-and-miss atmosphere evinced by the first two tracks. For every great track and production ("How to Rob" by 50 Cent featuring the Madd Rapper, "Where Ya Heart At" by Mobb Deep), there are a few deadweights that do little to raise the level of quality at all.

tags: various artists, in too deep, music from the dimension motion picture, soundtrack, ost, 1999, flac,

7L & Esoteric - Speaking Real Words: E.P. (2006 Reissue)

*Reissued in 2006 by 
Traffic Entertainment/Direct Records. 
Contains 9 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: TEG-4501
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© 1999-2006 Traffic Entertianment/Direct Records
Speaking Real Words Review by Dan Gizzi
On "Speaking Real Words" Esoteric is joined by Wu-tang member Inspectah Deck, and its beat disappoints. "Bound to Slay"'s beat is better, but still average at best. Production of both songs was done by the Vinyl Reanimators.

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tags: 7l and esoteric, speaking real words, ep, 1999, 2006, reissue, flac,

September 25, 2021

Madonna - True Blue (1986)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 9 tracks total. 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 9 25442-2
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© 1986 Sire Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
True Blue is the album where Madonna truly became Madonna the Superstar -- the endlessly ambitious, fearlessly provocative entertainer that knew how to outrage, spark debates, get good reviews -- and make good music while she's at it. To complain that True Blue is calculated is to not get Madonna -- that's a large part of what she does, and she is exceptional at it, but she also makes fine music. What's brilliant about True Blue is that she does both here, using the music to hook in critics just as she's baiting a mass audience with such masterstrokes as "Papa Don't Preach," where she defiantly states she's keeping her baby. It's easy to position anti-abortionism as feminism, but what's tricky is to transcend your status as a dance-pop diva by consciously recalling classic girl-group pop ("True Blue," "Jimmy Jimmy") to snag the critics, while deepening the dance grooves ("Open Your Heart," "Where's the Party"), touching on Latin rhythms ("La Isla Bonita"), making a plea for world peace ("Love Makes the World Go Round"), and delivering a tremendous ballad that rewrites the rules of adult contemporary crossover ("Live to Tell"). It's even harder to have the entire album play as an organic, cohesive work. Certainly, there's some calculation behind the entire thing, but what matters is the end result, one of the great dance-pop albums, a record that demonstrates Madonna's true skills as a songwriter, record-maker, provocateur, and entertainer through its wide reach, accomplishment, and sheer sense of fun.

tags: madonna, true blue, 1986, flac,

Madonna - Madonna (1983)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 8 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 9 23867-2
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© 1983 Sire Records
Madonna Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Although she never left it behind, it's been easy to overlook that Madonna began her career as a disco diva in an era that didn't have disco divas. It was an era where disco was anathema to the mainstream pop, and she had a huge role in popularizing dance music as a popular music again, crashing through the door Michael Jackson opened with Thriller. Certainly, her undeniable charisma, chutzpah, and sex appeal had a lot to do with that -- it always did, throughout her career -- but she wouldn't have broken through if the music wasn't so good. And her eponymous debut isn't simply good, it set the standard for dance-pop for the next 20 years. Why did it do so? Because it cleverly incorporated great pop songs with stylish, state-of-the-art beats, and it shrewdly walked a line between being a rush of sound and a showcase for a dynamic lead singer. This is music where all of the elements may not particularly impressive on their own -- the arrangement, synth, and drum programming are fairly rudimentary; Madonna's singing isn't particularly strong; the songs, while hooky and memorable, couldn't necessarily hold up on their own without the production -- but taken together, it's utterly irresistible. And that's the hallmark of dance-pop: every element blends together into an intoxicating sound, where the hooks and rhythms are so hooky, the shallowness is something to celebrate. And there are some great songs here, whether it's the effervescent "Lucky Star," "Borderline," and "Holiday" or the darker, carnal urgency of "Burning Up" and "Physical Attraction." And if Madonna would later sing better, she illustrates here that a good voice is secondary to dance-pop. What's really necessary is personality, since that sells a song where there are no instruments that sound real. Here, Madonna is on fire, and that's the reason why it launched her career, launched dance-pop, and remains a terrific, nearly timeless, listen.

tags: madonna, madonna album, 1983, flac,

Madonna - Like a Virgin (1984) ☠

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 9 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 9 25157-2
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1984 Sire Records
Like a Virgin Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Madonna had hits with her first album, even reaching the Top Ten twice with "Borderline" and "Lucky Star," but she didn't become a superstar, an icon, until her second album, Like a Virgin. She saw the opening for this kind of explosion and seized it, bringing in former Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers in as a producer, to help her expand her sound, and then carefully constructed her image as an ironic, ferociously sexy Boy Toy; the Steven Meisel-shot cover, capturing her as a buxom bride with a Boy Toy belt buckle on the front, and dressing after a night of passion, was as key to her reinvention as the music itself. Yet, there's no discounting the best songs on the record, the moments when her grand concepts are married to music that transcends the mere classification of dance-pop. These, of course, are "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin," the two songs that made her an icon, and the two songs that remain definitive statements. They overshadow the rest of the record, not just because they are a perfect match of theme and sound, but because the rest of the album vacillates wildly in terms of quality. The other two singles, "Angel" and "Dress You Up," are excellent standard-issue dance-pop, and there are other moments that work well ("Over and Over," "Stay," the earnest cover of Rose Royce's "Love Don't Live Here"), but overall, it adds up to less than the sum of its parts -- partially because the singles are so good, but also because on the first album, she stunned with style and a certain joy. Here, the calculation is apparent, and while that's part of Madonna's essence -- even something that makes her fun -- it throws the record's balance off a little too much for it to be consistent, even if it justifiably made her a star.

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J. Spencer - Chimera (1993)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, Jazzdance
Label Number: 374 637 004-2
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© 1993 MoJazz
Chimera Review by Alex Henderson
When J. Spencer's debut album, Chimera, came out in 1993, Mojazz/Motown exalted the Oakland saxophonist as one of the people fearlessly bridging the gap between jazz and hip-hop. But truth be told, Chimera is more hip-hop than jazz -- this is essentially an album of rap with jazz overtones. And that certainly doesn't make it bad, although it does mean that the CD should be judged by hip-hop standards instead of jazz standards. Chimera, quite honestly, doesn't have a jazz mentality. Improvisation and spontaneity are the things that make jazz what it is -- that's what Al DiMeola has in common with Django Reinhardt -- and Chimera sounds produced rather than improvisatory and spontaneous. The rappers who Spencer features are really the main attraction; the soprano saxman doesn't get enough room to stretch out and he ends up sounding like a sideman on his own album (to borrow a phrase from keyboardist Jeff Lorber). If you want to hear how different saxophonists can do radically different things with rap, just compare Chimera to some of the albums that saxman Bill Evans (not to be confused with the famous pianist) recorded in the '90s. When Evans featured rappers on some of his '90s albums, he maintained a jazz mentality -- MCs were expected to interact with a spontaneous, improvising fusion band just as a jazz singer would interact with such a band. For Evans, featuring rappers was a lot like a hard bopper featuring Abbey Lincoln; Chimera, however, is really about technology rather than improvisation. But again, that doesn't automatically make it a bad album. Some of the tracks are mundane and pedestrian, but more often that not Chimera is a decent (if imperfect) example of alternative rap with jazz overtones.

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Peanut Butter Wolf - My Vinyl Weighs a Ton (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: COPA004CD
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© 1999 Copasetik Recordings
My Vinyl Weighs a Ton Review by John Bush
Digger of crates, master of tracks, Peanut Butter Wolf has an influences list that stretches into the hundreds (nearly all of them are actually listed in the credits, broken down by year) and a working knowledge of beats and samples that must number in the thousands. There aren't quite that many on his first production album, but he winnowed it down to a cool 75 or 100 to create one of the grooviest, funkiest underground records of the '90s. Unlike fellow NoCal mixer/producer DJ Shadow, PBW has plenty of space for collaborations, with nearly a dozen different rappers stopping by, along with nearly every top turntablist of the era: Babu, Q-Bert, Rob Swift, Cut Chemist, Kid Koala, Z-Trip, Shortkut, and A-Trak (granted, quite a few of them all show up for one gigantic posse track, "Tale of Five Cities"). My Vinyl Weighs a Ton boasts deep beats and choice samples, all of them working brilliantly together, and enough great cutting to keep each track raw and full of energy. Obviously learning a few lessons about sequencing and pacing from classic mixtapes (of his and of others), PBW sprinkles the rappers throughout this record and only recruits the best. Vocal highlights come with Planet Asia's mid-tempo grind "In Your Area," Pablo's feature on "Rock Unorthodox," and a two-part soundclash for the excellent Lootpack crew on "Styles Crew Flows Beats." He name-checked Wild Man Fischer along with Erick & Parrish; got recommendations from rare-groove heroes like Reuben Wilson, Galt MacDermot, and Fred Wesley; and delivered an excellent record that offered just as much to fans of rare grooves, great rappers, and deft DJs.

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tags: peanut butter wolf, my vinyl weighs a ton, 1999, flac,

Grandmaster Mele Mel - Muscles (2007)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: BGE-7862
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© 2007 Big Gunz Enterntainment
Muscles Review by AllMusic
Twenty-five years after the monumental release of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five's "The Message," the dominant MC in the group and the man considered by some to be the best to ever do it, returns with his first solo release, adopting the "Grandmaster" moniker and dropping one "L." Relying heavily on production from the Black Solaris team, MUSCLES's sound presents a dichotomy largely unheard in hip-hop. Though not an old-school album, MUSCLES combines contemporary production trends with recognizable samples and sonic references to the Furious Five's heyday. As a vocalist, Mel is as masterly as ever, flipping a variety of modern styles, while the opening cut, "Blow," works as an effective update to Mel's classic anti-coke anthem "White Lines."

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tags: grandmaster mele mel, muscles, 2007, flac,

Nine - Cloud 9 (1996)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 12 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: PRO-1469-2
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© 1996 Profile Records
Cloud 9 Review by Brad Mills
Nine is one of those artists who's always around but doesn't make a big impact on the charts or in the hip-hop community. Much like his first album, Cloud 9 hasn't seen much attention, yet it's solid from start to finish. Nine's raspy, deep voice is ever present, and, with really simple beats complemented by hard basslines, it's easy to throw this back in for another round. Smoothe da Hustler makes a welcome appearance on "Make or Take," while every other track on the album bangs just as hard.

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tags: nine, cloud 9, 1996, flac,

Necro - I Need Drugs (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Horrorcore
Label Number: PLR-0119
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© 2000 Psycho+Logical-Records
I Need Drugs Review by Jon Azpiri
By his own admission, Necro's music is sickening. The rapper tries to out-Eminem Eminem by unleashing a tirade of songs that are a putrid wash of music, drugs, sex, and bodily fluids. For a project filled with so much bile, the production is remarkably bland. A couple of tracks on I Need Drugs, namely "Get on Your Knees" and "I'm Sick of You," have some musical punch, but Necro's homemade production is mostly an afterthought. I Need Drugs seems to have no other point than to try and offend its listener. While he tries to be part-LL Cool J and part-GG Allin, he comes off as a 12-year-old trying to get the attention of the kids on the playground by telling dirty jokes. Ultimately, the album's unwavering desire to shock us is what makes it so boring.

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tags: necro, i need to drugs, 2000, flac,

September 24, 2021

Bush - Golden State (2001)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Post Grunge
Label Number: 83488-2
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© 2001 Atlantic Records
Golden State Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Like many bands of their era, Bush was sucked into the idea that rock bands are only relevant if they incorporate electronica ideas -- a move that sank their third album, The Science of Things, and effectively derailed their career at a crucial time when post-grunge bands were falling by the wayside in an alarming fashion. This caused Bush to stumble, not just artistically but commercially, and they faded from the mainstream spotlight for a few years before mounting a comeback in the fall of 2001 with Golden State. The simple cover art, looking for all the world like advance art, signals that this a return to basics, which it is -- this is a return to the sound of Sixteen Stone, complete with big, grandiose production propelled by ballsy grunge riffs and real hooks in the guitars and vocals. They never sound as somber or as self-conscious as they did on the Steve Albini-produced Razorblade Suitcase, nor do they sound as out of their element as they did on Science -- they sound comfortable and powerful, rocking hard, turning out songs that are not only catchy, but that hold together and cohere over the course of an album. Though there aren't singles as grabbing as the songs that propelled Sixteen Stone to multi-platinum status, this is as consistent an album as any Bush has ever made, keeping a steady pace throughout its 12 songs and delivering on almost every track. It doesn't sound hip or current in 2001 by any means -- it sounds charmingly retro, as a matter of fact, sorta stuck in 1994 -- but it's better than most records in its vein, and that counts for something even if it doesn't burn up the charts like its predecessors.

tags: bush, golden state, 2001, flac,

The Feelies - Crazy Rhythms (1980)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 10 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Jangle Pop, Post Punk
Label Number: 75021 5319 2
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© 1980-1990 A&M Records
Crazy Rhythms Review by Ned Raggett
Even the cover is a winner, with a washed-out look that screams new wave via horn-rimmed glasses, even more so than contemporaneous pictures of either Elvis Costello or the Embarrassment. But if it was all look and no brain, Crazy Rhythms would long ago have been dismissed as an early-'80s relic. That's exactly what this album is not, right from the soft, haunting hints of percussion that preface the suddenly energetic jump of the appropriately titled "The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness." From there the band delivers seven more originals plus a striking cover of the Beatles' "Everybody's Got Something to Hide" that rips along even more quickly than the original. The guitar team of Mercer and Million smokes throughout, whether it's soft, rhythmic chiming with a mysterious, distanced air or blasting, angular solos. But Fier is the band's secret weapon, able to play straight-up beats but aiming at a rumbling, strange punch that updates Velvet Underground/Krautrock trance into giddier realms. Mercer's obvious Lou Reed vocal inflections make the VU roots even clearer, but even at this stage of the game there's something fresh about the work the quartet does, even 20 years on -- a good blend of past and present, rave-up and reflection. When the group's later label, A&M, finally got around to reissuing the album for the first time stateside, a curious bonus was included: a version of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black," recorded by the later lineup of the band in 1990. Mercer's voice is noticeably different from his decade-old self, but it's an enthusiastic rendition not too far out of place.

tags: the feelies, crazy rhythms, 1980, flac,

The Feelies - Only Life (1988)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Jangle Pop
Label Number: CD 5214
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© 1988 A&M Records
Only Life Review by Mark Deming
After the taut, wired focus of the Feelies' brilliant debut, 1980's Crazy Rhythms, and the more open and pastoral sound of their belated second album, 1986's The Good Earth, the group found a semi-comfortable middle ground on their third LP (and major-label debut), 1988's Only Life. Featuring the same revamped lineup that recorded The Good Earth -- guitarists Glenn Mercer and Bill Million, bassist Brenda Sauter, percussionist Dave Weckerman, and drummer Stan Demeski -- this album rocks decisively harder, but leaves more open space than on Crazy Rhythms. These musicians revel in the joys of their own rhythmic grooves, nerdy but fierce, while the guitars soar above it all. Only Life has a tone of easy confidence that the first two Feelies' albums lacked, but it also sounds absolutely like them. The foggy authority of Mercer's vocals is stronger than ever on numbers like "Higher Ground" and the title track. The complex simplicity of their balance of guitars and percussion sometimes recalls the Velvet Underground, but the Feelies were one of the few bands that built something uniquely their own from Lou Reed's multiple influences, as the sinewy "The Undertow" and the frenetic, joyous "Away" demonstrate. (The closing Velvets cover, "What Goes On," brilliantly sums up where the Feelies' influences end and where their own ideas began.) Only Life isn't as immediately striking as the two albums that preceded it, with the group refining and refocusing their approach rather than offering major stylistic innovations. But it also delivers the Feelies being their own remarkable selves, clear-eyed and strong and unerringly human, and this album features some of their strongest performances on record; very few major label debuts of this era sounded as natural and casually uncompromised as Only Life.

tags: the feelies, only life, 1988, flac,

B. Brown Posse - B. Brown Posse (1993)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
Label Number: MCAD-10785
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© 1993 MCA Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: b brown posse, b brown posse album, 1993, flac,

The Feelies - Time For a Witness (1991)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Jangle Pop
Label Number: 75021 5344 2
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© 1991 A&M/Coyote Records
Time for a Witness Review by Mark Deming
In many respects, 1991's Time for a Witness was the weakest of the four albums the Feelies released between 1980 and 1991. Much of the album was written at a time when the band was fatigued from touring behind 1988's Only Life. In addition, the strongest supporters at their label, A&M Records, had moved on from the company. As a consequence, Time for a Witness is short on memorable songs, and the lyrics sometimes betray a certain resignation about the group's future. Despite this, Time for a Witness is also one of the group's hardest-rocking efforts. The Feelies were well rehearsed and ready to play for these sessions, and the bulk of the material was cut live in the studio, with minimal edits and overdubs. Thanks to this, the best cuts capture the band's frenetic post-Velvets groove with a joyous fury they rarely matched. The choice of the Stooges' "Real Cool Time" as a closer was apt. Time for a Witness captures the Feelies rising into the suburban New Jersey variation of the Stooges' cosmic unconsciousness better than anything since their debut, 1980's Crazy Rhythms. The kinetic force of "Sooner or Later," "Waiting," and the title song is raw and joyous. "What She Said" is a fine country-accented rocker, and "Find a Way" and "For Now" prove even the relatively quiet numbers are well focused and impassioned. Ensemble playing was always vital to the Feelies, and Time for a Witness is a superb document of the musicians' interaction. On Time for a Witness, what the Feelies say isn't as important as how they say it. Their sonic articulation here is outstanding, even when the songs are below their average. The Feelies broke up months after this LP was released. Despite its flaws, Time for a Witness shows they bowed out in proud form.

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Cabaret Voltaire - Micro-Phonies (1984)

*U.K. first pressing. 
Contains 11 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave, Synth Pop
Label Number: CVCD2
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© 1984-1985 Virgin Records
Micro-Phonies Review by Ned Raggett
Following neatly after The Crackdown's aggressive art/funk/electro combination, Micro-Phonies shows the duo taking that combination to a stronger level. Having invented the shadowy, murkier side of industrial/noise experimentation, here Cabaret Voltaire make their equally justified claim at fully kickstarting the beat-heavy crunch such labels as Wax Trax! would pursue shortly thereafter. DAF and the On-U Sound collective deserve as much notice for this, but the Cabs' relatively higher profile in the English/American cultural scheme made them the harbingers as much as anyone. Flood's sympathetic co-production with the band is another feather in his cap, and the album sounds just as strong today as it did upon its release. Micro-Phonies' most noted tracks are the appropriately funky, horn-heavy "James Brown," and the gripping "Sensoria," which makes for a brilliant album closer, with nervous-tension synth signals and a spare but compelling guitar line over another strong beat combination. Subtler moments abound as well -- there's a nice combination of the Cabs' initially understated approach and the greater opportunities available to them in the album's recording. "The Operative" is an unheralded highlight of the release, Mallinder's low-key speak/singing sidling alongside the crisp but not overpowering rhythm, controlled funk bass and guitar and touches of dub melodica sneaking through the mix. Other hints of the dub influences that the band has always embraced crop up on songs like (unsurprisingly) "Digital Rasta." Throughout the album, Mallinder submerges his vocals into the music rather than calling overt attention to them, the reverse of what a lot of later industrial acts would do (often to their detriment). It's a sharp continuation of the Cabs' similar practice from many earlier numbers, here used in a newer musical style. The CD version of Micro-Phonies includes the fine 12" mixes for "Sensoria" and "Blue Heat," a welcome bonus.

tags: cabaret voltaire, micro phonies, 1984, flac,

The Roots - The Legendary: E.P. (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: MCAME-55539

© 1999 MCA Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: the roots, the legendary, ep, 1999, flac,

The Roots - Phrenology (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 088 112 996-2

© 2002 MCA Records
The easy-flowing Things Fall Apart made the Roots one of the most popular artists of alternative rap's second wave. Anticipated nearly as much as it was delayed, the proper studio follow-up, Phrenology, finally appeared in late 2002, after much perfectionist tinkering by the band -- so much that the liner notes include recording dates (covering a span of two years) and, sometimes, histories for the individual tracks. Coffeehouse music programmers beware: Phrenology is not Things Fall Apart redux; it's a challenging, hugely ambitious opus that's by turns brilliant and bewildering, as it strains to push the very sound of hip-hop into the future. Despite a few gentler tracks (like the Nelly Furtado and Jill Scott guest spots), Phrenology is the hardest-hitting Roots album to date, partly because it's their most successful attempt to re-create their concert punch in the studio. ?uestlove's drums positively boom out of the speakers on the Talib Kweli duet "Rolling With Heat"; the fantastic, lean guitar groover "The Seed (2.0)" (with neo-soul auteur Cody ChesnuTT); and the opening section of "Water." The ten-minute "Water" is the album's centerpiece, a powerful look at former Roots MC Malik B.'s drug problems that morphs into a downright avant-garde sound collage. Similarly, lead single "Break You Off," a neo-soul duet with Musiq, winds up in a melange of drum'n'bass programming and live strings. If moves like those, or the speed-blur Bad Brains punk of "!!!!!!!," or the drum'n'bass backdrop of poet Amiri Baraka's "Something in the Way of Things (In Town)" can seem self-consciously eclectic, it's also true that Phrenology is one of those albums where the indulgences and far-out experiments make it that much more fascinating, whether they work or not. Plus, slamming grooves like "Rock You," "Thought @ Work," and the aforementioned "The Seed (2.0)" keep things exciting and vital. If this really is the future of hip-hop, then the sky is the limit. [The two hidden bonus tracks are "Rhymes and Ammo," the Talib Kweli collaboration that appeared on Soundbombing, Vol. 3, and "Something to See," another techno-inflected jam.]

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tags: the roots, phrenology, 2002, flac,