May 30, 2016

Disturbed - Indestructible (2008)⚓

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Metal
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© 2008 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
Disturbed's fourth full-length offering announces its arrival with an air-raid siren. It's an appropriate gesture for the popular Chicago-based metal collective, whose rapid ascension from buzzed-about Ozzfest highlight to commercial hard rock juggernaut has been as divisive as it has been impressive. While Indestructible doesn't meddle with the melodic hard-hitting Pantera-inspired formula that fueled its predecessors, the dreaded nu-metal tag that followed the band out of the turn of the century seems wholly eradicated. If anything, Disturbed owe more to early-'90s Metallica and Brian Johnson-era AC/DC than they do Tool or Korn, as each staccato, tech-heavy riff is balanced out by some truly artful soloing and frontman David Draiman's mean and melodious pipes. Standout cuts like "Inside the Fire," "Deceiver, " "The Curse," and the skull-cracking title track, even though they could have appeared on any of the group's first three records, still manage to fire on every cylinder. Like its closest contemporary, Godsmack, this is a band that favors reliability over experimentation, and each piece of Indestructible, whether it's the pseudo-horror/fantasy artwork, the drop-D riffing, or the obligatory "shout-outs" in the liner notes to the purveyors of each member's gear endorsement deals, fits together like the world's most obvious puzzle. That said, there's a reason each of the group's previous albums bested the million mark, and with metal growing increasingly self-aware and divided between hardcore and hard rock, a new Disturbed record seems like a solid foundation on which to duke it out.

tags: disturbed, indestructible, 2008, flac,

May 28, 2016

Various Artists - Flashdance: Original Soundtrack From The Motion Picture (1983)

*First pressing on CD. A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Synth Pop, Disco
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© 1983 Casablanca/PolyGram Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Giorgio Moroder's score for this dance fantasy album turned into a blockbuster (over 20 million copies sold worldwide) due to the title track sung by Irene Cara, Michael Sembello's "Maniac," and a bunch of other modern dance tracks.

tags: various artists, flashdance soundtrack, original soundtrack from the motion picture, 1983, flac, ost,

Various Artists - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Collateral (2004)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Film Score, Alternative Rock, Techno, Pop, Hip-Hop
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© 2004 Hip-O Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Director Michael Mann is known for modifying moods through music, particularly in urban settings. There were all those rain-slicked tracking shots in Miami Vice, for example, accompanied by Phil Collins and Dire Straits. For 1995's Heat it was Moby, Lisa Gerrard, and Kronos Quartet, all contributing pieces that heightened the film's dense, psychological air. And for Mann's return to the crime caper genre in 2004's Collateral, it's a stellar mixed bag of gripping, tense instrumentals and evocative, sonically varied artist contributions. Producer Tom Rothrock gets things rolling in a Mann-ish direction with "Briefcase" -- the track throbs like a power cable buried under a city street. Score excerpts from James Newton Howard and City of God composer Antonio Pinto are equally powerful, offering a mix of knives glinting in shadows (Pinto's "Car Crash") and serviceable chase scene dynamics (the Howard piece "Vincent Hops Train"). Latin-flavored selections by Calexico and Green Car Motel hint at the film's traverse through L.A.'s ethnic patchwork, there's a lovely excerpt from Miles Davis' Bitches Brew classic "Spanish Key," and the Roots with Cody ChesnuTT offer some streetwise, vibey soul with "The Seed (2.0)." The only misstep here is a noneventful remix of Oakenfold's "Ready Steady Go." Its substance-less big beat thump feels like 21st century soundtrack filler; in fact, it fits better with Oakenfold's work on Swordfish. Sequence out "Ready Steady," and Collateral is comparable to Mann's greatest meetings of music and film.

tags: various artists, original motion picture soundtrack collateral, collateral soundtrack, ost, 2004, flac,

The Blues Brothers - Original Soundtrack Recording (1995 Remastered Edition)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Blues, Rock, Rock & Roll
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© 1980-1995 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Bret Adams
Comic actors John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd received a lot of flak for their Blues Brothers shtick -- mostly for the albums, not 1980's beloved classic film. But they should be given credit for exposing many people -- including this reviewer -- to the music of blues and R&B veterans. The Blues Brothers soundtrack was released on Atlantic Records. On the surface this doesn't seem unusual, since the Blues Brothers' Atlantic debut, Briefcase Full of Blues, was a number one album; but the movie was released by Universal, and its parent company, MCA, passed on the soundtrack. The rollicking remake of the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'" was a hit, featuring an arrangement notable for the horn section that replaces Steve Winwood's rumbling organ work. Ray Charles has a good time with "Shake a Tail Feather," and he's helped out by Jake and Elwood Blues (Belushi and Aykroyd, respectively). The cover of Solomon Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" is a lot of fun, thanks to the great overall rhythm and Elwood's lightning-fast stage rap, while James Brown and the Reverend James Cleveland Choir provide a blast of gospel music on "Old Landmark." Aretha Franklin's "Think" is explosive, and Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher" is slyly irresistible. Charles, Brown, Franklin, and Calloway all have small roles in the film, yet so does John Lee Hooker, but he's not represented here.

tags: the blues brothers, original soundtrack recording, 1980, 1995, flac, remaster, ost,

May 25, 2016

Anvil - Hard 'N' Heavy (2009 Reissue)

*Reissued in 2009 by Uni Disc
Contains 10 tracks total.
Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1981-2009 Uni Disc Music Inc.
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Anvil's first album, 1981's Hard 'n' Heavy, may also be their most unique, since it actually predated the band's adhesion (and key contributions) to the up-and-coming speed metal movement, beginning with their seminal sophomore outing, 1982's Metal on Metal. Instead, Hard 'n' Heavy is a transitional record compiling the best fruits of nearly a decade's worth of club shows and basement woodshedding over long cold Canadian winters by inseparable pals Steve "Lips" Kudlow (vocals/guitar) and Robb Reiner (drums), plus, more recently, bandmates Dave Allison (guitar) and Ian Dickson (bass). In fact, prior to its release through Attic Records, Hard 'n' Heavy had already been put out independently under the group's discarded moniker of Lips (where, curiously, their focus had been on S&M-inspired shock rock), so in some respects, it was the work of another band, not Anvil. This S&M connection certainly explains the exceedingly naughty sexual double-entendres gracing the album's numerous frill-free hard rockers -- namely "AC/DC" and "Oooh Baby" (both of which recall the first song's namesake), "Hot Child" (which owes much to UFO), and the self-explanatory "Bondage" (which ironically features searing guitar histrionics right out of Ted Nugent's arsenal). Others still, like Dave Allison's ménage à trois bubblegum boogie "I Want You Both (With Me)," his second lead vocal, "Oh, Jane," and the inordinately laid-back "At the Apartment" barely even qualify as metal, having a lot more in common with the sort of commercial hard rock that Billy Squier and April Wine were topping charts with at the time. But Reiner's impeccable drumming on all of the above is always busier and more aggressive than these non-metal artists would ever mess with (even on Anvil's cover of the Stones' "Paint It Black"), and once he and his bandmates really lets rip on Hard 'n' Heavy's minority of adrenalin-fueled headbangers like "School Love" and "Bedroom Game," Anvil finally latch on to their impending speed and thrash metal destiny. That destiny, as was said earlier, would take immediate shape on the following year's Metal on Metal, and the radical evolution between these first two albums clearly illustrates Anvil's internal transformation, from fans in thrall to '70s metal and hard rock to professional musicians united behind a newly discovered vision of their own.

tags: anvil, hard n heavy, hard and heavy, 1981, 2009, reissue, flac,

May 24, 2016

Black Sabbath: The Dio Years (2007)

Country: United Kingdom/U.S.A.
Genre: Heavy Metal, Doom Metal
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© 2007 Rhino Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The original lineup of Black Sabbath possesses such a mythic quality that it's easy to overlook how far they slid by the time Ozzy Osbourne up and left the band...or how far they rebounded after they hired Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio as his replacement. Countless compilations over the years have preserved the initial part of the story line -- celebrating the innovations of the first four albums with a near fetishistic quality -- but there has never been a good retrospective concerning the Dio years until Rhino released the aptly titled The Dio Years in early 2007. True, the Dio years didn't last all that long -- the singer joined in 1980 for Heaven & Hell, then lasted through one more studio album, the following year's Mob Rules, before departing under a shroud of controversy after 1982's botched live album Live Evil -- but Dio had a powerful impact upon the band and its legacy; these were the last years that Sabbath exerted pull as an active band, and after his departure they stumbled through various singers over the next decade before intermittently reuniting with Ozzy in the '90s. The Dio Years proves that during his brief time with the band, Dio did help Sabbath make music that could hold its own with some of the classic lineup's finest moments. With Dio as a frontman, the band was harder, nastier, and a little faster than the slow sludge of the early Sabbath records, but it fit in nicely with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal at the beginning of the '80s and it's aged very well. Some of it can sound silly -- Dio's lyrical obsessions always do -- but this is harder, heavier, better music than either Technical Ecstasy or Never Say Die! Anybody who's refused to give this latter-day incarnation of the band the time of day might find this compilation revelatory.

tags: black sabbath, the dio years, 2007, flac,

StormWarrior - Thunder & Steele (2014)

Country: Germany
Genre: Power Metal
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© 2014 Massacre Records
Review by Michael "MettleAngel" Francisco for Metal-Temple.com
My iron prayers are answered! The Metallions of the Northe - STORMWARRIOR – redound and rebound, ready to do battle as true defenders of Metal. All hail the return of these Heathen warriors – the glorious heirs to the rights of passage – the true servants of metal and enforcers of steel vengeance. Feel the “Thunder & Steele”. The fifth elemental release from Óðinn's Warriors is quite an achievement. The first five songs are fast and furious powerhouses of scorching speed and fyre, and I swear they leave their indelible mark like a rune inscribed for the iron gods of Valhalla. Each searing cut is emblazoned with an overwhelming intensity of riffs and more abundant soloing. These prolific, plethoric, and terrific guitar dynamics shred with magnificence and might. One will find torrential original recipes of frenetic energy, seldom exhibited by the highly hopeful and anticipated “next best thing” constantly being shoved down our throats, causing us to choke on the bile. It is like what DRAGONFORCE once accomplished, minus all the OTT fretboard fecundity of overzealous insanity. Each exuberant lead is focused, harmonized, and ultimately uplifting. Straight out of the gate, storming the shores of sin, the axe wielders welcome their new drummer Jörg Uken – an iron borne Metal avenger. The title track and those which follow all verify that these servants of mettle are back to their roots. As much as I enjoy listening to “Heathen Warrior”, the songs of their previous effort were more epic and melodic; however, here Lars and Alex strive to recapture the northern rage and reclaim that Heavy Metal fyre which burned in their hearts when they stormed the foreign shores of Japan. The thriving spirit of the debut, the upturned cross-purposes of “Northen Rage”, and the integrity of “Heading Northe” are all ever-present and punishing. With the clash of swords and dueling of axes, in union we stand for what STORMWARRIOR hold true when they defend the sacred oath. Ironclad in leather and spikes, fists held high, thrusting with force, enraged, the scythe seekers have sworn their fealty and vouchsafed allegiance in praise of the Metal age; ever ready to divide and conquer and make the poseurs die! They are the last of a dying breed, indeed! HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY, IRON SAVIOR, IRON FIRE, WIZARD, PARAGON, and REBELLION all once maintained this alacrity, verve, and passion; but all have also put out material which often fails to excite or enlighten. As I enjoin in the throes of aggression and adrenaline, I enthrall myself in the iron wrath of these Metal invaders. Such steely slices as “Sacred Blade” bite, and make you bleed. You can almost feel the chill of a winter storm when you embrace the nobility of “Ironborn”. The magnanimous might of “Metal Avenger” warrants multiple rotations. With pride I accept the Pagan festive frivolity of “Die By The Hammer”. Jamming these songs into my anxious skull allows me to feel as if I am ensconced vicariously in the glories of battle; a passion often evoked when I watch “Vikings” on The History Channel”, “Game Of Thrones” on HBO, or even “Spartacus” on Starz.“One Will Survive” recalls the terrible certainty KREATOR caused with the caustic “One Of Us”. The catchy pace of the pounding metal anvil that is “Steelcrusader” reminds me of PEGAZUS meets early SACRED STEEL. The final cut “Servants Of Metal” sums it up and says it all! As fast as every track is, the album loses its momentum with “Fyre In The Nighte” - one of the few tracks to re-use the superfluous “e” and “y” to deliberately misspell a word for that kitsch, trademark and identifiable effect. - Read the full review here

May 23, 2016

Mötley Crüe - Crucial Crüe (1989)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Glam Metal
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© 1989 Elektra Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

Volbeat - Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies (Limited Edition) (2013)

*Contains a bonus disc with 4 bonus tracks.
Country: Denmark
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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               ****
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© 2013 Vertigo, Republic, Universal Records
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
In the two-and-half years since Volbeat's wildly successful Beyond Hell/Above Heaven, they've traveled some miles, both literally and figuratively. They toured not only Europe but the U.S. and Canada in support for nearly a year, and parted ways with lead guitarist Thomas Bredahl. A permanent replacement was found in Robert Caggiano, formerly of Anthrax, who was enlisted to produce Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies and play on select tracks. His addition has proved integral to the band's ever evolving sound. While the meld of various kinds of heavy metal, country, and rockabilly is still present here -- it is now undoubtedly the sound of Volbeat itself -- the lines between those styles are less pronounced. The sometimes jarring shift from rockabilly to thrash, from death metal to the Johnny Cash-country on previous albums, still happens, but here these sounds often coexist within the same song. While it is accurate to say that this set is more accessible than anything Volbeat has attempted previously, it is also the most ambitious set of tracks they've committed to tape. The songwriting is tight, focused; there are lots of hooks, most of them heavy -- thanks, no doubt, to Caggiano's presence. His playing style is full of insanely catchy riffs, vamps, and intricate melodies. Michael Tomas Poulsen's vocals still blend Elvis, James Hetfield, and Keith Caputo, but they growl less; they're expressive and natural sounding. Hard rock and vintage HM are the prevalent sounds here -- as heard on cuts like "Pearl Heart," the riff-arific "The Nameless One," and the aggressive attack in "The Hangman's Body Count." The slow, doomy chug of "Room 24" melds early Black Sabbath to death metal with King Diamond guesting on vocals. Another surprise is in the cover of Young the Giant's "My Body." Thanks to Poulsen's awesome singing and the blasting guitars, it could pass as a Volbeat anthem. An excellent example of all the band's styles converging at once is in "Black Bart," with death metal, Gun Club-style punk-country, and even Thin Lizzy's twin lead guitars. Former Dubstar and Client vocalist Sarah Blackwood sings with Poulsen on "Lonesome Rider," where slap bass rockabilly and hooky '80s metal commingle. Thin Lizzy also get channeled on the killer "The Sinner Is You," while Civil War-era banjo introduces the theatrical country meets death metal choogler "Doc Holliday." A high lonesome desert harmonica à la Ennio Morricone introduces closer "Our Loved Ones," which is as fine a melodic headbanger as anything the band's ever cut. While it is accurate to say that Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies is more accessible than anything Volbeat has attempted previously, it is also the most ambitious -- and arguably enjoyable -- set they've committed to tape..

tags: volbeat, outlaw gentlemen and shady ladies, limited edition, 2013, flac,

May 20, 2016

Disturbed - The Lost Children (2011)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal
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© 2011 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
The Lost Children, Disturbed's first collection of rarities and B-sides, arrived almost two years after Asylum, with which the veteran metal outfit decided to embark on an “indefinite hiatus.” Boasting a pair of previously unreleased cuts (“Mine” and “3”), solid enough covers of Judas Priest's “Living After Midnight” and Faith No More's “Midlife Crisis,” bonus cuts from extended releases, and a smattering of other high-octane goodies, The Lost Children comes off as surprisingly cohesive for such a grab bag of castoffs, with highlights coming from the searing electro-thrash opener “Hell,” the dark and melodic “Sickened,” the punishing “A Welcome Burden,” and the arena-ready “Old Friend,” any of which could have held their own amidst the roar of their brothers and sisters on the studio albums.

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Neon Pearl - 1967 Recordings (2004)

*Released in 2004 by Acme/Lion Records. 
Contains 2 bonus tracks & 10 tracks total. 
This CD features Mono recordings.
Country:United Kingdom
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
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© 1967-2001 Acme Records
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger
This collection of obscure British psychedelia has a pleasantly foggy, ethereal feel. There are steadily jangling guitars, accomplished subdued distortion and effects, pulsating riffs, dreamy lyrics ("Dream Scream" is one title), and attractive vocal harmonies, with occasional harmonium tossing in an unusual spice. It fits the cliché of being suitable background music for launching into a meditative doze, or for an altered state of consciousness using specific substances. There's also a serious-mindedness to the mood that, while sincere, would probably never be adapted by a post-20th century band unless it was done with a certain amount of irony totally missing here. What's to complain about? Not much, but the songs themselves are on the monotonous and undeveloped side, sounding more like grooves to work off of than fully realized compositions. The tracks could be viewed as vague forerunners of a more modern form of Terrastock-era psychedelic-influenced ambient and trance rock. But the absence of better songs confines this to the realm of specialists, and excludes it from the upper reaches of the better obscure late-'60s British psychedelic music that might be considered for exploration by collectors.

tags: neon pearl, 1967 recordings, 2004, flac,

May 18, 2016

Mötley Crüe - Too Fast For Love (1981)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Glam Metal
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© 1981 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
On their debut album, Mötley Crüe essentially comes across as a bash-'em-out bar band, making up in enthusiasm what they lack in technical skill. Yet that's part of the appeal of Too Fast for Love, a chance to hear the band without the glossy production of their later, most popular work, showcasing their down-and-dirty roots. The fact that pop-metal songwriting was not really a consideration helps the album come off as more genuinely trashy and sleazy, celebrating its own grime with exuberant zest. This is Motley Crue playing it lean and mean, effortlessly capturing the tough swagger that often came off a bit more calculated in later years, and it's one of their most invigorating records. [In 1999, the Crüe remastered and reissued Too Fast for Love on their own Motley/Beyond label with four bonus tracks: three interesting previously unreleased songs and a version of the title track with a different intro.]

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Mötley Crüe - Theatre of Pain (1985)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Glam Metal
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© 1985 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Backing away from the mild pseudo-Satanic posturing on parts of Shout at the Devil in favor of a more glammed-up image, Motley Crue really began to hit their commercial stride with Theatre of Pain, which broke them on MTV with the power ballad "Home Sweet Home" and a remake of Brownsville Station's "Smokin' in the Boys' Room"; the latter also landed them on the Top 40 singles chart for the first time. Overall, the guitar riffing sounds less heavy metal and more pop-metal; similarly, the sound of the record is slicker and more arranged, polished for mainstream acceptance and airplay. A higher percentage of dull filler has crept into the songwriting, but there are still enough high points to rescue the album's momentum. [In 1999, the Crüe remastered and reissued Theatre of Pain on their own Motley/Beyond label with five bonus tracks: demos of "Home Sweet Home," "Keep Your Eye on the Money," and "City Boy Blues," plus rough mixes of "Smokin' in the Boys' Room" and "Home Sweet Home" (the latter an instrumental).]

tags: motley crue, theatre of pain, 1985, flac,

Aaliyah - Aaliyah (2001)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2001 Blackground, Virgin Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Aaliyah waited nearly five years to deliver her third album, but considering that she was essentially growing up -- it was the equivalent of spending time in college -- when she came back with an eponymous record in the summer of 2001, she came back strong. Aaliyah isn't just a statement of maturity and a stunning artistic leap forward, it's one of the strongest urban soul records of its time. Where such peers as Macy Gray and Jill Scott work too hard to establish their ties with classic soul, Aaliyah revels in the present, turning out a pan-cultural array of sounds, styles, and emotions. This sound is entirely unfamiliar -- part of the pleasure is how contemporary it sounds -- but she sounds just as comfortable within the sonicscapes of Timbaland as Missy Misdemeanor Elliott and, possibly, less self-conscious. Aaliyah never oversings, never oversells the songs -- this comes on easy and sultry, and there's a lot of substance here, in terms of the songwriting and the songs themselves. Urban albums rarely come any better than this, and there haven't been many records better than this in 2001, period.

tags: aaliyah, aaliyah album, 2001, flac,

Various Artists - School of Rock: Music From & Inspired By The Motion Picture (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock, Classic Rock
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© 2003 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
The soundtrack to Richard Linklater's Jack Black-starring film School of Rock more or less lives up to its name, collecting textbook examples of what it means to rock out from some of the bands who wrote that book. The Who's "Substitute," the Doors' "Touch Me," Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love," and Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" form a pretty solid curriculum, with T. Rex's "Ballrooms of Mars" and the Ramones' "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)" added on for extra credit. The soundtrack also nods to some newer bands such as the Black Keys, whose "Set You Free" is a fine piece of bluesy garage rock revivalism, as well as the Darkness' proudly glam metal "Growing on Me." Not surprisingly, Black performs on several of the soundtrack's songs, with both the School of Rock band and No Vacancy. Coming up with material for not one but two fictional bands seems to have been a challenge for the soundtrack's songwriters; while Black gives songs like "School of Rock" and "Fight" his all, they don't come close to his work with his own band, Tenacious D. However, School of Rock's cover of AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top" is faithful both to the band's vision -- Black looks and sounds like a plus-size version of Angus Young -- and to the movie's playful spirit. Likewise, the cover of the Stooges' "TV Eye" by Wylde Ratttz -- aka Don Fleming, Thurston Moore, Steve Shelley, Mark Arm, Mike Watt, and Ron Asheton -- which also appeared on the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack, is another affectionate yet creative cover. School of Rock may not be the most visionary of soundtracks, but it is a fun souvenir from a fun movie.

tags: various artists, school of rock music from and inspired by the motion picture, 2003, flac, ost, school of rock soundtrack,

May 17, 2016

Laura Branigan - The Best of Branigan (1995) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, Pop Rock
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© 1995 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Bryan Buss
Laura Branigan's first stateside greatest-hits package has every one of her hits and some of her best tracks that didn't make a dent on the charts. From her breakthrough signature song "Gloria" all the way through to her last Top 40 appearance with "The Power of Love," Branigan's powerhouse voice and career are fairly represented here. Beyond the joy of hearing some of the hits -- "Solitaire," "The Lucky One," and "Spanish Eddie" -- you can hear how her underutilized voice can help bring songs to life. She is remarkably understated on the subtly over-the-top "Over You," while her dramatic appeal is used to its fullest on "How Can I Help You Say Goodbye?" and "Ti Amo." Though her career never had the type of trajectory Celine Dion did, her voice is just as strong and just as full. With cuts like the playful "Is There Anybody Here but Me?," a faithful remake of Donna Summer's "Dim All the Lights," and the pop ballad "Show Me Heaven," you can hear how her voice matured in fullness and timbre and how maturity brought her music and her talent to a new level in the latter portion of her career, though it didn't help bring back the sales she initially enjoyed.

tags: laura branigan, the best of laura branigan, 1995, flac,

Macy Gray - The Id (2001)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2001 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Macy Gray's throaty, somewhat strangled growl was a large reason why listeners were captivated by her debut album. They also loved the way the classicist songwriting was wrapped in fresh, colorful grooves and an idiosyncratic personality, sexy in its bohemian funkiness. On How Life Is became a word-of-mouth smash as much with the traditional urban R&B audience as it was with suburban college kids and NPR listeners, which left her with the freedom to do what she wanted on her second record, The Id. Here, Macy Gray lets her freak flag fly, almost to the detriment of everything else. Layers of overdubs are piled onto the record -- endless backing vocals, bubbling drum machines, loops, glistening synths, and gurgling guitars -- giving the record the appearance of a widescreen '70s soul fantasia filtered through postmodern hip-hop. Unfortunately, it's more appearance than reality, since there's not enough structure to support what the record wants to be. It often sounds good, often like a bright, contemporary take on Riot- and Fresh-era Sly Stone, but plays better in small doses. Over the course of the album, there's just too much effort in demonstrating Gray's "freakishness," culminating in the Germanic stomp of "Oblivion," and she just doesn't seem to have that much to say outside of cheerleading for "freaks" like her. So, it's an uneven second album, but there are moments that live up to the debut, such as "Sexual Revolution," "Boo" and, best of all, the Erykah Badu duet "Sweet Baby," easily the highlight of the album. There are just not enough of them to make this an entirely successful sophomore effort.

macy gray, the id, 2001, flac,

May 14, 2016

Paula Abdul - Spellbound (1991)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop, Pop Rock
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© 1991 Virgin Records
Review by Bryan Buss for Allmusic.com
The reason Paula Abdul was one of the handful of pop-dance artists of her time to actually have a career is that her production is so good that 10-15 years later it stands as the embodiment of late-'80s pop without being a parody of itself. And with this, her second album, she reinforces the upbeat personality she expressed on Forever Your Girl while showing growth as well. "Promise of a New Day," "Rock House," and John Hiatt's "Alright Tonight" are bouncy and joyous, much like some of the bright hits from her debut, but she adds a funky techno edge with "Vibeology," and "Will You Marry Me?" skates that thin line between sweet and precious. Additionally, Abdul adds better and more ballads to this CD. Smartly, her production team has put together sweeping, adult love songs (the hits "Rush Rush" and "Blowing Kisses in the Wind") that help give her strong crossover appeal to adult contemporary without alienating her original fan base. Not many artists hit the mark twice in terms of commercial and critical appeal, but Abdul was savvy enough to choose strong material (much of which was co-written by Abdul herself, Peter Lord, Sandra St. Victor, and V. Jeffrey Smith) and smart producers (including Lord, Smith, and Don Was). This was a safe follow-up to a massively successful debut, and surprisingly enough for a pop star, the baby steps she took toward becoming a respected artist were sure and solidly embraced.

tags: paula abdul, spellbound, spell bound, 1991, flac,

Various Artists - Saturday Night Fever: The Original Motion Picture Sound Track (1995 Remastered Edition) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Disco, R&B
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© 1977-1995 Polydor Records
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder
Every so often, a piece of music comes along that defines a moment in popular culture history: Johann Strauss' operetta Die Fledermaus did this in Vienna in the 1870s; Jerome Kern's Show Boat did it for Broadway musicals of the 1920s, and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album served this purpose for the era of psychedelic music in the 1960s. Saturday Night Fever, although hardly as prodigious an artistic achievement as those precursors, was precisely that kind of musical phenomenon for the second half of the '70s. Ironically, before its release, the disco boom had seemingly run its course, primarily in Europe, and was confined mostly to black culture and the gay underground in America. Saturday Night Fever, as a movie and an album, plus a brace of hit singles off of it, suddenly made disco explode into mainstream, working- and middle-class America with a new immediacy and urgency, increasing its audience ten-fold overnight. The Bee Gees had written "Stayin' Alive" (then called "Saturday Night"), "Night Fever," "How Deep Is Your Love," "If I Can't Have You," and "More Than a Woman" for what would have been the follow-up album to Children of the World, and they might well have enjoyed platinum-record status with that proposed album. Instead, Robert Stigwood asked them in early 1977 to contribute songs to the soundtrack of a movie that he was financing, a low-budget picture called "Tribal Rites on a Saturday Night." More out of loyalty to him than any belief in the viability of the film, they obliged. The group's involvement even survived the decision by the original director, John Avildsen, that he didn't want their music in the film. Instead, Stigwood fired him and brought in the very talented but much more agreeable John Badham, the movie's title was changed to Saturday Night Fever, the Bee Gees' music stayed, and the result was the biggest-selling soundtrack album in history, a 25-million copy monster whose sales, even as a more expensive double-LP, dwarfed the multi-million units sold of Children of the World and Main Course. Strangely enough, for all of the fixation of the movie and its audience on dancing, the Bee Gees' new songs were weighted equally toward ethereal ballads, which may be one reason for the soundtrack album's appeal -- it delivers what its audience expects, plus a "bonus" in the form of the soaring, lyrical romantic numbers that were, as with most ventures by the Gibb Brothers in this area, virtually irresistible. Despite the presence of other artists, Saturday Night Fever is virtually indispensable as a Bee Gees album, not just for the presence of an array of songs that were hits in their own right -- and which became the de facto soundtrack to a half-decade of pop culture history -- but because it offered the Gibb Brothers as composers as well as artists, with their work recorded by Yvonne Elliman ("If I Can't Have You"), and Tavares ("More Than a Woman"), and it placed their music alongside the work of Kool & the Gang and MFSB. In essence, the layout of the soundtrack was the culmination of everything they'd been moving toward since the Mr. Natural album. Even the presence of David Shire's "Night on Disco Mountain" and "Salsation," and Walter Murphy's "A Fifth of Beethoven," don't hurt, because these set a mood and a surrounding ambience for the Bee Gees' material that makes it work even better.

tags: various artists, saturday night fever the original motion picture soundtrack, ost, 1977, 1995 remaster, flac,

May 12, 2016

Heaven & Hell - Live! From Radio City Music Hall (2007)

Country: United Kingdom/U.S.A.
Genre: Heavy Metal
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                 *****
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© 2007 Rhino Entertainment
AllMusic Review by
Here it is, the unholy quartet back in all its glorious ugliness with the name it should have had all along. Heaven & Hell are comprised of guitarist Tony Iommi, fuzz and buzz bassist Geezer Butler, drummer Vinny Appice, and vocalist Ronnie James Dio. The former pair were founding members of doom metal lords Black Sabbath, of course. Dio is best known as the lead singer of Elf, and then Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, and Vinny Appice was Rick Derringer's drummer before joining these three lads in a new version of Sabbath after Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward left. This quartet issued a total of three recordings together, Heaven & Hell (1980), Mob Rules (1981), and Dehumanizer (1992). In between 1982 and 1993, Dio and Appice left to form the Ronnie James Dio Band, and Iommi kept the Sabbath moniker going long after he should have -- sometimes with Butler, sometimes not. In any case, this reunion gig, recorded in front of a packed house at Radio City Music Hall in New York in 2007, is a monstrously loud and proud display of 1970s hard rock and old-school heavy metal. The material comes from the three aforementioned albums, with a pair of new tracks, "The Devil Cried" and "Shadow of the Wind." Most of the material comes from the controversial Heaven & Hell disc, but there are ample contributions form Mob Rules and a track from Dehumanizer.
The verdict? Changing the name was a great thing. Even though some of this material is over 25 years old, it works phenomenally well in the context of this band. The pairing of Butler and Iommi is utterly captivating -- always has been, probably always will be. The noise they make together is wonderfully musical, and at times just devastatingly heavy. Butler's trademark bass throb, all fuzzy and dark, is the perfect foil for the riff-laden, slow to midtempo rock riffing of Iommi. No matter what you say about Ronnie James Dio, the man is one of rock & roll's great frontmen. He may not be Bruce Dickinson, but he's far more versatile and has been around a hell of a lot longer. He can project in his limited range and wail on top of that boisterous trio. Appice is a consummate big rock drummer, basic and powerful when the need arises, but he's taken a few nods from John Bonham and Keith Moon as well; his fills are colorful and dynamic, and project the tunes forward underscoring every big riff, chorus, and post-line wail from Dio. So they run the course of their recordings together and it's wildly obvious from the end of "E5150/After All (The Dead)" that these old guys are having a good time. They play like they mean it, they understand after all this time what a rock show is supposed to be (not what it is any longer), and they give it to the faithful in overdrive. There is crisp fresh energy here and the execution is nearly flawless.
Iommi's wah-wah guitar solo in "Lady Evil" is just plain nasty. "The Devil Cried," one of the new cuts, is among the best in the bunch (at east the first seven of its nearly 12-minute length -- there is a nearly three-minute loooooooong drum solo until nearly the end). Beginning with a growling open-chord guitar riff and a sub-basement bass pummel, it gets the crowd into fist-pumping mode and, if the tape is accurate, keeps them there -- yes, even through the drum solo. Thankfully, this bone and metal-crunching cut turned rock-excess orgy is at the end of the first disc, and it can be halted right as the solo begins (or before you can't stand it any longer, whichever comes first). Disc two is very much like disc one except that "Computer God," a noise-ridden track with lots of feedback that opens it, should have been left off -- just begin at cut two: "Falling Off the Edge of the World." There are no familiar Black Sabbath covers as encores, nothing but pure godless rawk power and orgiastic volume excess that somehow don't seem as menacing as they do rousing, as the freewheeling closer, "Neon Knights," finally fades. Had this band issued this kind of attack in the studio and named itself Heaven & Hell from the beginning, things might have turned out differently for the group in the 1980s. But it's live and learn; the show was reviewed glowingly, and the release of this set marked the beginning of at least a world tour in the summer of 2007. Heaven & Hell are not a guilty pleasure; the band is a riot of the greatest aspects of stadium rock power and glory.

tags: heaven and hell, live from radio city music hall, 2007, flac,

Black Sabbath - 13 (Deluxe Edition) (2013)⚓

*U.S. deluxe edition.
 Contains a second disc with 3 bonus tracks. 
A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal, Doom Metal
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              *****
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© 2013 BS Productions/Universal Records
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas
There's a lot of pressure involved with being the rulers of the underworld, and nobody knows it better than Black Sabbath in 2013. Inarguable legends and at least partially responsible for creating heavy metal as we know it with their classic '70s material, Sabbath have spawned generations of followers and become one of the final words of the genre. There have been countless reunions and mutations of the band following vocalist Ozzy Osbourne's first dismissal in 1978, and even 13 doesn't quite deliver on fans' decades-long desires to see all four original members back together. Original drummer Bill Ward sits the record out due to disputes over the recording contract, with Audioslave/Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk providing beats in his stead. Despite this considerable absence, 13 comes closest to recapturing the desperate feel, plodding grooves, and unparalleled metal magic of those first classic Sabbath records than anything the members of the band have done since, in any permutation or combination. Kicking off with two sludgy tracks, each over eight-minutes long, the Rick Rubin-produced 13 takes a few moments to get its legs. Once warmed up, however, each element falls somewhere between studied re-creation of the past and logical progression, be it Tony Iommi's spooky guitar tone, Ozzy's nasal howl, or the panic attack dynamics and sense of nuclear dread that made the moods of Sabotage and Vol. 4 so thick. Sharp tempo changes and caustic drop-tuned blues metal riffs make up tracks like "God Is Dead?" and the doomy "Age of Reason." Many of the album's eight tracks stretch past the seven-minute mark, full of heavy compositional shifting. The mellower acoustic track "Zeitgeist" rewrites the spacy "Planet Caravan" from second album Paranoid, revisiting the same cosmic motif of that song, complete with Iommi's most Django Reinhardt-influenced soloing. The lyrics, all penned by bassist Geezer Butler, are focused on internal religious and mental conflicts, with final track "Dear Father" tackling living with memories of abuse. The album is heavier, more precise, and more interesting than the past several decades of output from the bandmembers would suggest. Without fully replicating the energy of their untouchable first six records, Sabbath have risen to the unique challenge of not becoming self-caricatures, turning in something new while still reactivating the strengths of their younger days. The backwards-looking tendencies of 13 are something the band is fully aware of, as signified by the reappearance of rain and church bells sound effects on the last track, the same sounds that opened their first album in 1970. The influence of early Sabbath has become so omnipresent that it's come back to influence its very creators four decades later, but the results are unexpectedly brilliant, apocalyptic, and essential for any die-hard metal fan.

tags: black sabbath, 13, deluxe edition, 13 album, 2013, flac,